Anyone who plays basketball, whether professionally or recreationally, should consider wearing an athletic mouth guard. Basketball is notorious for elbow and shoulders to the face, which often causes serious dental injuries. Athletic mouth guards can prevent most of the pain and expense associated with basketball injuries.
Why Do Most NBA Basketball Players Wear Clear Mouth Guards?
The color of the mouth guard has no impact on its effectiveness. The choice of clear mouth guards is probably a simple cosmetic preference. What is most important is that they do wear mouth guards during practice and play! Steph Curry helped make the clear mouth guard a popular choice amongst basketball players as he is a bit notorious for chewing on his clear mouth guard. During the course of a season, it is reported that Steph Curry goes through an average of 12 mouth guards. Whoa!
Potential Injuries during Basketball Practice and/or Play
Injuries in basketball typically result from heavy forces or blunt trauma to areas of the face. These can occur when another player’s shoulder or elbow hits someone in the face. They can also occur through a fall to the floor of the court. The most common dental injuries from basketball include:
• Chipped or Broken Teeth – Any blunt force applied to the teeth can cause chipping or breaking. The extent of the damage to a tooth depends on where the fracture occurs on the tooth. Some can extend into the central nerve or root of a tooth, causing it to require expensive dental treatment like root canals or extractions and implant replacement.
• Avulsed Teeth – “Avulsed” means that the entire tooth is knocked out completely. Your dentist can re-implant an avulsed tooth into its socket, but this must occur as quickly as possible for a successful long-term outcome. Obviously, avulsed teeth are quite painful, and when reimplantation is not successful, you must replace the missing tooth with some type of dental prosthetic.
• Lacerations of the Lips, Cheeks and Tongue – Trauma to the face often forces the soft tissues of the lips, cheeks and tongue into the sharp edges of the teeth, causing deep cuts. These may require stitches and can cause visible scars on the lips or surrounding facial skin.
• Dislocation of the Jaw Joint (TMJ) – An impact to the chin can force the mandible (lower jaw) upwards into the joint’s socket and displace the small cartilage disk that is present between the mandible and the skull. This type of injury often causes a permanent dislocation of the disk in the TMJ, leading to chronic joint problems. These can include pain, clicking and popping sounds, limitation in opening and chewing, and ringing in the ears.
• Broken Jaws – Blunt forces to the chin can also break smaller, more delicate areas of the bones of the lower jaw. Fractures of the condyle (near the TMJ) are common in sports injuries.
How Does a Mouth Guard Prevent These Injuries?
Athletic mouth guards provide several important protective advantages that will greatly reduce the risk of serious dental injuries. Here are the most important ways they work to protect you.
• Coverage of the Teeth – An athletic mouth guard fully covers all of the upper teeth. This coverage and splinting together lowers the risk of chipping, breaking, and avulsion. The mouth guard absorbs most of the force of impact and redistributes it evenly among all of the teeth, thus preventing serious injury to one or a few teeth in the area of impact.
• Separation of the Soft Tissues from the Teeth – By placing a barrier between the teeth and the lips, cheeks and tongue, an athletic mouth guard reduces both the likelihood and the severity of lacerations (cuts). Cuts that do occur are typically much smaller and shallower, making them less likely to bleed profusely and require stitches.
• Cushioning of the Upper and Lower Teeth – This function of an athletic mouth guard is very important for protecting the jaw joints. Many injuries cause the lower teeth to close sharply with a heavy force. By acting as a “shock absorber”, an athletic mouth guard dissipates that heavy force so that the TMJs receive less impact.
Custom-Fit Sports Mouthguards for Boxing, Football, MMAProduct on sale
How Thick are the Mouth Guards Basketball Players Wear?
According to the American College of Prosthodontists, athletic mouth guards should be at least four millimeters in thickness for use during contact sports. For scale, this thickness is equal to about one-eighth of an inch or a stack of two nickels.
The thickness may vary depending on the individual’s dental arch shape and bite. For example, someone who has an anterior open bite (where the upper and lower front teeth do not touch when the back teeth are biting together), a greater thickness would be necessary to provide adequate protection.
The best way to determine the appropriate thickness for your specific situation is to see a dentist for evaluation.
What Material Makes Up a Clear Basketball Mouth Guard?
Athletic mouth guards come in a variety of materials. The type of mouth guard determines the material, so we will start with describing the different types of mouth guards available to consumers today.
A stock mouth guard is a rubbery, soft material that comes in a generic one-size-fits-all form. These are over-the-counter options you can purchase at most pharmacies and grocery stores in the dental care aisle. Most of these stock mouth guards are made from polyurethane or ethylene. They are inexpensive and may require some trimming to adapt to the shape of each individual’s mouth.
By “self-adapting”, we mean that you shape and mold this guard yourself. Most of these are made from a thermoplastic material that becomes soft and moldable when heated. The most common material in this type of guard is ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). Some people refer to these as “boil and bite” appliances. These are also relatively inexpensive and available over the counter.
A custom-made mouth guard is not available over-the-counter because it requires an exact replica of each individual’s teeth. Custom-made athletic mouth guards are made by dentists and dental lab technicians to fit the patient’s mouth intimately. Dental labs use a variety of materials to create custom fitted mouth guards. The most common materials in use today for athletic guards are EVA copolymer, soft acrylic resin, polyvinyl chloride, polyvinyl acetate-polyethylene (pEVA), and elastomers.
The lab can make single layer guards or dual layer guards, and the dual layer ones are most popular because they provide the highest level of protection. They consist of a soft, rubbery inner layer against the teeth covered by a harder, more rigid shell on the outside.
Where Can I Buy a Clear Basketball Mouth Guard?
You can purchase non-custom guards over-the-counter at your local drug store. Custom-made guards are usually only available through your dentist or a certified dental lab. Sentinel Mouthguards is a dental laboratory that creates custom-made athletic guards from impressions you take on yourself at home.
What is the Difference between a Store Bought Mouth Guard and a Custom Made One?
Both stock and self-adapting mouth guards are much less expensive than custom guards. They use a cheaper quality of material and do not require any professional oversight. These tend to have less retention (they are more likely to fall out of the mouth) and do not fit against the teeth closely. They also tend to be bulky and less comfortable. The thinner material may also distort over time, causing the guard to lose its shape.
Custom guards, while more expensive, provide a much longer lasting and higher level of protection than stock and self-adapting types. The intimate fit of the material against the teeth leads to a better fit with great retention. The thicker, higher quality material reduces the impact of forces to the mouth and jaws. There is no question that a custom-made athletic mouth guard provides better protection against dental injuries during contact sports than the cheaper options do.
Does a Custom Mouth Guard Last Longer than Store Bought, One Size Fits All Types?
Custom-made mouth guards are made from a higher quality of materials that are thicker than store bought types. Often, they are created with two different materials layers, which increases the longevity of the guard.
People who wear store bought guards often throw them away relatively early in their life span due to a lack of retention or a lack of comfort. The thinner material of store bought guards also makes them less capable of resisting the wear and tear of a mouth guard. Often, you can bite right through the soft, thin material.
How Long Does a Custom Mouth Guard Last?
The lifespan of a mouth guard depends on how often you use it and how often you subject it to heavy forces. For example, someone who plays recreational basketball once per week and suffers relatively few injuries can have an athletic mouth guard that lasts many years, even decades.
A professional NBA player may have a new mouth guard made each year because his has suffered a high level of wear and tear due to constant use and force. If you are not sure whether you should replace a custom mouth guard, ask your dentist or lab technician to inspect yours. If it shows evidence of tearing, cracking, or small teeth imprints, it may be time for a replacement.
How Do I Keep my Clear Mouth Guard from Turning Yellow?
Cleaning a mouth guard is an essential part of its maintenance. After wearing your mouth guard, you should remove it from the mouth, clean it with soap and water, and dry it thoroughly. You should also store it in a cool, dry location. Do not leave these out on the counters because pets love to destroy them!
If your clear mouth guard begins to discolor, you can use a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water to clean it. A simpler method of cleaning is using an approved dental appliance cleaning solution or tablet. You should confirm with your dentist or dental lab that the cleaning solution you have is approved for the specific material of your mouth guard to avoid degradation of the material.