Mouth Guards Basketball Players Need: A Guide

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For your parent's generation, using a mouth guard for basketball was largely unheard of. Nowadays, it's common to spot famous pro league players with them dangling from their mouths as they make exciting layups or engage in tough defense.

As a parent, getting your young basketball player to agree to wearing a mouth guard may be a hard sell. Discover the types of mouth guards basketball players use, why they're a good idea during a game (as well as in practice) and what you can expect to spend.

Types of Mouth Guards for Sports

A mouth guard is a piece of pliable oral care appliance that typically fits over your upper teeth, says the American Dental Association. The guard helps protect your mouth, lips, jaw and teeth from injury. They are mostly only worn on your upper teeth and not your bottom because the upper teeth have a higher risk of exposure to injury during sports because they protrude further than the bottom set. Check out these four types of mouth guards:

  1. Custom-made mouth guard. A custom-made mouth guard requires a dental visit where your dentist will take an impression of your teeth. It will be designed to fit your teeth. These are the most expensive, but typically work the best in allowing you to speak and breathe more comfortably.

  2. Boil and bite guard. However, if you don't have the budget for a custom-made protector, a boil and bite guard is a good compromise. These are boiled to soften the material and then placed on your teeth to fit their shape. You can pick up this type of protector from a sporting goods store.

  3. Stock guard. These types of guards are the least expensive and most clunky to use since they don't always create a great fit over your teeth and can be uncomfortable. If you're in a pinch, it's best to have any kind of mouth guard for sports than none. You'll usually find stock guards in a drug store.

  4. Lower teeth guard. While it's most common for mouth guards to only be worn on your upper teeth, there are times a lower guard is a needed addition. If your child wears braces, your dentist might advise that he or she wears a guard on the lower teeth to protect the braces, says ADA. A hit or blow to a mouth full of braces is not only harmful to your teeth but to the soft tissue in the area.

Guards can cost anywhere from $1 for a stock guard or $30 for a boil and bite guard, and a custom-made one may range from $190 to $500, reports the Consumer Guide to Dentistry. In a specialty prosthodontic practice, a mouth guard may be as costly as $895. Generally, these aren't typically covered by insurance.

Making the Case for a Mouth Guard

Whether you're playing a game or in practice, the chance of mouth injury is high if you don't use a mouth guard. ADA reports that athletes are 60 percent more likely to have a dental injury without one. In fact, according to The New York Times (NYT), one pro basketball player now wears one every game after an injury resulted in four broken front teeth and required four root canals.

In fact, more and more basketball stars are opting to wear guards, perhaps making the safety equipment "cooler" to wear. Find out if you can have it customized with your child's number or favorite color, too.

Wearing a guard may even boost performance. Mouth guards basketball players use help lessen muscle tension in the body, so athletes can stay loose when playing, reports NYT

Keeping the Guard Clean

Protecting your child's teeth with a mouth guard is only part of his or her dental care. Keeping the protector clean is equally important. Rinsing and brushing the guard after each use is necessary upkeep. Using products like Colgate Total Advance Deep Clean toothpaste, which fights germs for 12 hours, is one way to safeguard against bacteria. Bring your mouth guard to your next dental visit. In addition to a teeth cleaning, you may also be able to have your mouth guard cleaned, too.