If you watched the 2017 NBA playoffs then you probably remember the game between the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards where Isaiah Thomas is trying to fight over a screen and gets 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 and after the game, he looked like a (pretty small and less scary) hockey player!
Injuries like these are not restricted to the professional level - they happen all the time in high schools and AAU games and often 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 mouth guard 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 mouth guards these days!
In this article, I want to show you what you need to look for when buying a mouth guard and how you can find the best one possible.
There are three different styles of mouth guards:
Stock mouth guards 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 mouth guard.
A bad fitting mouth guard 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 mouth guards makes it easy to create a custom mouth piece that fits your teeth perfectly. Every mouth guard comes with slightly different instructions but it works pretty similar for all models:
1. Put the mouth piece in hot or boiling water
2. Take the mouth guard out of the water and insert it into your mouth and bite on it
3. 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!
Produced from an impression of your mouth, these mouth guards provide perfect fit and therefore the best protection. Unfortunately, they are also by far the most expensive mouth guards 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 mouth guard 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 mouth guard a lot cheaper.
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 mouth guard 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 mouth guard at all! Other models like the ShockDoctor are much bulkier, less comfortable and make speaking and breathing a lot harder.
A mouth guard 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 mouth guard makes it up to 60 times less likely to suffer a dental injury!
The effectiveness of mouth guards is widely documented and many sports like boxing, hockey and football have made them mandatory. Today, the American Dental Association recommends using mouth guards in 29 sports including basketball!
Most well-known companies provide a warranty that provides dental insurance if you wear a mouth guard 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 mouth guard 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 mouth guards 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 mouth guard. Replicating this will dramatically decrease the life time of your mouth guard. However, if you treat your mouth guard 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.
Alright, now that you know what to look for, let's take a closer look at some popular options:
Basketball Mouth Guard
The Redline Sportswear is one of the more affordable boil-and-bite mouth guards on the market. The quality of the product is excellent and fits your teeth nicely. However, I feel that this mouth guard was developed more for contact sports like Jiu Jitsu, boxing or hockey and might be a bit thicker than necessary 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 mouth guard.
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 mouth guards. 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 to get a fit that securely locked to my teeth in the first try. Fortunately, you can remold the mouth guard 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 mouth guard onto your teeth.
Overall, the Shock Doctor Gel Max makes a very sturdy impression and should deliver great protection. 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 mouth guards. Unlike other mouth guards, 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 Areo mouth guard 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 mouth guard for the first time I immediately noticed just how thin it is. The material is only 1.6mm thick which makes is by far the most comfortable mouth guard I have ever used. And to me, this is a big deal!
A mouth guard only protects you when you are actually wearing it. I would often have to force myself to use other, more bulky, and uncomfortable mouth guards. 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 mouth guard?
Fortunately, Sisu has done their research and created a mouth guard that they claim to be 32% stronger than your average (much thicker) EVA mouth guard. I didn't punch myself in the mouth to find out, but the mouth guard makes an incredibly strong impression and in case something goes wrong Sisu offers by far the best warranty with a dental insurance of $35,000 and up to $913 per tooth!
Overall the Sisu Aero is the mouth guard 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 mouth piece you had to go to a dentist and pay hundreds of dollars. The Impact custom mouth guard changes that!
When you buy this mouth guard 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 mouth guard within 8 days.
It's really great to have a custom made mouth guard 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 mouth guard is a very affordable alternative to an expensive mouth guard 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 mouth guard 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.
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