During game 1 of the 2017 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards Isaiah Thomas tried to fight over a screen and got caught by the flying elbow of Otto Porter. Thanks to HD footage and slo-mo replays you could actually see one of his front teeth flying out of his mouth!
Isaiah Thomas completely fractured one tooth and almost lost two more. After the game, he looked like a (pretty small and less scary) hockey player!
Injuries like that are not restricted to the professional level – they happen all the time in high schools and AAU games and can easily lead to hefty dentist bills. In fact, a study conducted at USC shows that an average basketball player has a 10% risk of sustaining a dental injury during a season. Fortunately, injuries like that are easily preventable!
Using a mouthguard will protect your teeth from the impact of hands, elbows, and other collisions – there is a good reason why more and more NBA player are wearing mouthguards these days!
Let’s take a closer look at some popular options:
- Very affordable “boil-and-bite” guard
- Unnecessarily thick
- Comes with a handy case
- Comes in different flavors
- Might take a few tries to get a good fit
- Bulky fit makes talking difficult
- Great bang for the buck
- “Boil and Bite” delivers great fit
- Allows you to talk and breathe easily
- Custom made from an impression of your mouth
- Perfect fit and very good protection
- Much cheaper than a custom mouthguard from your dentist
What do you need to know when buying a mouthguard?
In this article, I want to show you what you need to look for when buying a mouthguard and how you can find the best one possible.
There are three different styles of mouthguards:
1. Stock mouthguards
Stock mouthguards are the cheapest option and come in a limited amount of predetermined sizes. They are not specifically fitted for your teeth so you have to keep your mouth closed to keep them in place, which makes them very impractical for basketball games. As such I can NOT recommend buying a cheap stock mouthguard.
2. “Boil-and-bite” mouthguards
A bad fitting mouthguard is worse than useless. It falls out of your mouth easily, distracts you from the game, provides less protection or even hurts your gums. Fortunately, the boil-and-bite method used in most modern mouthguards makes it easy to create a custom mouthpiece that fits your teeth perfectly. Every mouthguard comes with slightly different instructions but it works pretty similar for all models:
- Put the mouthpiece in hot or boiling water
- Take the mouthguard out of the water and insert it into your mouth and bite on it
- Suck in the air and use your fingertips to create a snug, perfect fit.
You can see the before and after of this method especially visible in the Sisu Aero:
Even if the molding doesn’t work out perfectly, you can remold most models up to 20 times!
3. Custom fitted mouthguards from your dentist
Produced from an impression of your mouth, these mouthguards provide perfect fit and therefore the best protection. Unfortunately, they are also by far the most expensive mouthguards and your dentist will easily charge between $300 and $500. If you can afford this price tag, then you get a light and very comfortable mouthguard that lets you talk and breathe normally but also delivers very good protection.
In the last few years, companies like Impact Custom Mouth Guards started to offer kits that allow you to make your own impression and send them directly to the lab. This way it is possible to create a custom mouthguard a lot cheaper.
Can you talk and breathe with your mouthguard?
Communication is one of the keys to being a successful basketball player. Especially on defense, you have to be able to call out picks, switches, cuts, and shots. Because of that, having a light and comfortable mouthguard that doesn’t hinder your speech can be very important!
If you want to be able to speak without any difficulties you should check out the Sisu Aero. It is only 1.6mm thick and so light I almost forgot I was wearing a mouthguard at all! Other models like the ShockDoctor are much bulkier, less comfortable and make speaking and breathing a lot harder.
A mouthguard protects the teeth by absorbing and redistributing the forces of the impact before they reach the teeth. This protects athletes from chipped or missing teeth and also protects the soft tissue from cuts. In fact, the American Dental Association reports that wearing a mouthguard makes it up to 60 times less likely to suffer a dental injury!
The effectiveness of mouthguards is widely documented and many sports like boxing, hockey and football have made them mandatory. Today, the American Dental Association recommends using mouthguards in 29 sports including basketball!
Most well-known companies provide a warranty that provides dental insurance if you wear a mouthguard and suffer an injury to your teeth anyway. Shock Doctor, for example, covers up to $10,000 and SISU goes one step further and covers up to $35,000. However in both cases insurance is limited to $313 (ShockDoctor) or $940 (SISU) per tooth, which should be enough to repair a chipped tooth but probably doesn’t cover more expensive dental surgery.
In the case of an actual injury make sure to report the incident within 30 days with a written statement by your dentist and an official report from the game officials/coaches. Click on the links to find out more about the dental warranties of SISU and ShockDoctor.
If you clean your mouthguard after every game and let it dry before putting it back in its case you should have no problem with germs or a bad smell. Also, make sure to never leave it in your gym bag in a hot car as the moldable mouthguards lose their form quickly when they become too hot!
Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad role models in the NBA that can be seen constantly chewing on their mouthguard. Replicating this will dramatically decrease the life time of your mouthguard. However, if you treat your mouthguard well it should last at least a full season. After that, you probably want to buy a new one as the dental warranty only lasts for a year and you lose your dental insurance afterwards.
Best Mouthguards for Basketball Players
The thicker material delivers excellent protection and can take the impact of elbows without a problem. But this comes at the expense of being able to talk and breathe normally. If you play in the post and get hit in the mouth often, the Redline Mouthguard is an effective and affordable option, otherwise, I would opt for a slimmer less annoying mouthguard.
Shock Doctor is one of the most well-known companies when it comes to protective sports gear. As such, they also offer a wide variety of mouthguards. You can buy their most popular model, the Gel Max Flavor Fusion, in different flavors like lemon-lime, bubble gum, or sour apple. And while this might be a good way of persuading your kids to wear it, I prefer the regular unflavored version.
The Gel Max is built from a sturdy plastic frame that is lined with a gel that becomes moldable when hot. The gel is very soft and comfortable when biting on it, but I had problems getting a fit that securely locked to my teeth on the first try. Fortunately, you can remold the mouthguard multiple times until you get a satisfactory fit. My tip: Really make sure to bit down hard and use your fingertips to press the edges of the mouthguard onto your teeth.
But the #1 reason why I am not a big fan of the Gel Max is the bulky frame which made it impossible for me to close my lips (annoying!) and made it really hard to talk and breathe normally. I have also heard a lot of complaints that the Gel Max runs rather small and doesn’t fit for people with big a big mouth, however, I can’t confirm this from my own experience. But if your kid is close to the age of 11 I would play it safe and opt for the adult size.
The Aero Guard really stands out compared to the competition. Akervall, the company behind the Sisu product line is one of the fastest-growing companies in Michigan and won several prices for their ingenious approach to mouthguards. Unlike other mouthguards, the Sisu Aero comes as a completely flat piece of plastic that barely resembles the shape of a jaw. Behind this simple piece of plastic, however, is one of the most innovative approaches to teeth protection currently on the market.
Put the Sisu Aero mouthguard for 60 seconds in 140°F water and it becomes incredibly moldable which allows you to fit it perfectly to your teeth. As soon as I bit on the Aero mouthguard for the first time I immediately noticed just how thin it is. The material is only 1.6mm thick which makes it by far the most comfortable mouthguard I have ever used. And to me, this is a big deal!
A mouthguard only protects you when you are actually wearing it. I would often have to force myself to use other, more bulky, and uncomfortable mouthguards. But with the Sisu Aero, speaking and breathing couldn’t be easier and you really tend to forget you are even wearing it which is perfect for a sport like basketball where you have to communicate at all times!
You are probably wondering whether you lose protection with such a thin mouthguard?
Overall the Sisu Aero is the mouthguard that I use myself and would recommend to other basketball players. However, if you are afraid because of how thin it is, you can also take a look at the Sisu Max which is 50% thicker and offers even more protection.
In the past, if you wanted to get a custom-made mouthpiece you had to go to a dentist and pay hundreds of dollars. The Impact custom mouthguard changes that!
When you buy this mouthguard you get an impression kit sent to you which allows you to make an impression of your teeth right at the kitchen table. The process is pretty straightforward and there is a great instruction video on youtube. Once you have created your impression, you send it back to Impact using the prepaid postage label and you will receive your finished custom-made mouthguard within 8 days.
It’s really great to have a custom-made mouthguard that “clicks” into your mouth and allows you to talk, breathe, and even drink water without fearing that it might come loose. And thanks to the impression kit, the Impact mouthguard is a very affordable alternative to an expensive mouthguard made by your dentist.
My recommendation for any basketball player is to go with the Sisu Aero : it offers good protection, an incredible warranty and it’s only 1.6mm thick which makes it much more comfortable than any other comparable product.
If you have a little more money to spare, then the Impact custom-made mouthguard is a very interesting option as it delivers the best fit and excellent protection at a price that is much cheaper compared to what a dentist would charge for a similar mouthpiece.