Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What's the Best Mouth Guard for Basketball?

Associated Press

After my post lamenting the fact that many NBA players still "don't get it" when it comes to wearing a mouth guard, one of my readers asked a great question - which mouth guard would I recommend?

A while back, I wrote about the most common types of mouth guards out there.
A little while later (and after more than 35 years of playing basketball without one- yeah, I'm old) I decided that I'd have to buy my own mouth guard to avoid being a hypocritical "do as I say, not as I do" advice-giver.

I knew that a simple plastic mouth guard wouldn't work (I'd seen too many people gagging and drooling while wearing one) so I went and bought a Shock Doctor brand "boil and bite" type mouth guard from the local Dick's Sporting Goods store . After following the directions to make a custom fit, I used it for the next month or so. It was OK, but not completly comfortable and sometimes made it hard to call out picks/switches, etc.

Finally, I went to my local dentist and had them make an impression of my bite. They sent this out to a company and a few weeks later, I returned to their office to have my custom-molded mouth guard fit. At first, it felt pretty much like the boil and bite I was using before, but, after they trimmed it a few times, it slipped over my upper teeth, fell easily into place, and hardly felt like it was there. Total cost was around $150.

Needless to say, I've been most happy with my mouth guard, wear it when I play, and have been thankful that I was wearing it on several occasions when an errant(?) elbow hit my mouth.

Now I know that not everybody can afford a custom molded mouth guard from their dentist, and I know that younger players might outgrow several pairs of mouth guards, having to buy new ones every so often. I also know there are other options, like Sportsguard Custom Mouthguards where you make your own mold, send it off to the company, and then get your personalized mouth guard in the mail a few weeks later. It's less expensive ($55-$65), and is an option for those do-it-yourself ballers.

So what's the best option for you? Every dentist will tell you that the only one that works well is the custom-made guard from your dentist's office. While I agree with them, not everyone can afford this. Bottom-line - "The best mouth guard is the one that's worn".

So, while I'd recommend getting a custom-made mouth guard from your dentist, you've got to try the different types out yourself and decide.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tough Break

Ric Tapia/Icon SMI
Best wishes for a speedy recovery go out to Aussie guard Patty Mills, a good person and an excellent ballplayer who broke his right 5th metatarsal bone last week before the NBA Summer League even began.
While Portland Trailblazer releases stated that they wouldn't know how long he might be out until after his surgery (performed yesterday- no news yet), I'd hazard a guess that he sustained a Jones fracture (one of three ways/locations where you can break the 5th metatarsal bone), which can require placement of a screw followed by 6-8 weeks of recovery before returning to the court.
Mills, who had an unrelated metacarpal (bone in the hand) fracture earlier this year, is still young, relatively small and light (less pounding over time) and still has great potential. Here's hoping this unfortunate break only delays an eventually successful NBA career.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Lakers Have No 'Guards

Mouth guards, that is.

A few weeks ago, a reader wrote " Hi. I've seen a few of your blog posts on the importance of wearing mouthguards. I even got one myself a few months ago. Now, in watching the NBA Finals, I made a point of counting the number of players who were wearing mouthguards. And.. I only counted two: Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis. I didn't see anybody else. What gives?

Knowing that several players wear clear mouth guards that aren't easy to spot, I decided to first find out if this reader's count was true.

After speaking with the Head Athletic Trainers for both the Lakers and the Magic (special thanks to Gary Vitti and Tom Smith for their time), I was disappointed to hear that only 4 players on the Magic (Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis, Adonal Foyle & Tony Battie) wear mouth guards on a regular basis. (I was also impressed by the readers astute observation).

Worse, NONE of the LA Lakers wear mouth guards! (Not even Pau Gasol who has braces on his teeth and is just one elbow away from some severe lip shredding).

I learned that several Lakers (including Kobe) have tried wearing mouth guards but have chosen not to wear them.

So What gives?

If they're like their counterparts in other countries (where research has been done to better understand why professional basketball players choose to not wear mouth guards), it's either because they feel they can't breath, speak, or play as well when their mouthguards in place.

And what about professional football players (who all wear mouthguards), boxers, and other sports where everyone uses mouthguards? They wear them because they are required to and, more importantly, have worn them since they were young (and hence, they've gotten used to the feeling).

To be honest, I'm disappointed that so few players on these two teams wear mouth guards. I wish they had the foresight to protect themselves from some serious harm, but it's a free country and, for now at least, the NBA, NCAAA, NHSAA and AAU don't require it (but maybe they should start - Research has shown that dental injuries in basketball happen 13 times more often than dental injuries in football).

It would be interesting to do some research on NBA players and their use (and feelings about using) mouth guards during practice and games. If there are any aspiring dental researchers out there, send me an e-mail at