Mouth guard usage rises in NBA
According to The New York Times, mouth guards are being used more frequently among NBA players for a wide range of reasons. Protective mouth gear gained momentum in basketball, as the design of mouth guards has become less cumbersome over the past couple decades, and many players are noticing the benefits beyond being a shield against an errant elbow. With sleeker designs, sponsorships and unique attributes, mouth guards are slowly becoming a means for basketball players who want to add nuance to their game.
For example, the Golden State Warriors' point guard Stephen Curry represents a line of flavored mouth guards that offers flavors such as lemonade, blue raspberry, mint and fruit punch, among others. Whether the flavoring has any effect on his mentality during gametime is unclear, but some of the other benefits are a bit more straightforward. Besides reducing the rate of mouth injuries, mouth guards also can potentially relax muscle tension.
"Everything is connected, so relaxing your jaw has an overall relaxing effect on your muscles," Washington Wizards' Martell Webster told the Times. "Your body is looser, and in sports, especially basketball, you want to be as loose as you can."
The Times states that the Brooklyn Nets' Mason Plumlee is working with a company called GuardLab, which is developing mouth guards for athletes that serve different functions. GuardLab not only offers a guard designed for protection, but it also provides models that encourage performance and recovery. However, these guards come with an expensive price tag, and require a 3-D digital scan so that each one can be custom created by a 3-D printer for optimal precision.
A note on hygiene habits
SB Nation noted that many players don't employ the most sanitary habits in regard to mouth-guard usage. Cole Aldrich of the New York Knicks has made a signature move of wrapping his mouth guard around his ear, and The Times reported that Plumlee tucks his mouth guard into his sock. SB Nation added that Al Harrington, also of the Knicks, tucks his mouth guard into his headband. Such habits put the mouth in contact with a lot of external bacteria. Mouth guards should be regularly cleaned and not put in contact with unsanitary areas. Regular brushing, and flossing, and the use of a good mouth rinse will also help deter cavity-causing bacteria.