Do All NBA Players Wear Mouthguards?

Table of Contents

If you’re an NBA fan like myself, you may have noticed a lot of the players wear mouthguards. But why is that?

NBA players wear mouthguards to protect their teeth and gums from damage. They reduce the risk of injury from accidental hits to the face or impacts from a fall by absorbing some of the shock. 

This article will inform you what mouthguards are, what they do, and why NBA players wear them.

What Do Mouthguards Actually Do?

Basketball has a lot of contact. Think about players hustling for rebounds and playing tough defense. An impact from another player to the mouth can chip, break, or remove a tooth and cause bone damage. Like airbags in a car, mouthguards cushion the teeth to help protect them from impact and reduce the likelihood of a severe injury.

What Are Mouthguards Made Of?

Most amateur or semi-professional athletes use mouthguards made of Ethylene-vinyl acetate (commonly known as EVA), which is molded onto the teeth after heating it in hot water. 

However, NBA players use custom-made mouthguards. These are made using a cast taken from a dentist’s impression of their teeth. Although they are the most expensive, these custom-made mouthguards offer the best fit and protection for world-class professional athletes.

Shock Doctor Pro Mouth Guard, Shock Absorbing Mouth Protection,...

Are NBA Players Required To Wear Mouthguards?

You may have noticed that not all NBA players wear mouthguards. That’s because there aren’t actually any rules requiring NBA players to wear mouthguards, and it is the athlete’s choice whether or not they wear one.

Who Are Some NBA Players Who Wear Mouthguards?

Steph Curry is probably the most famous NBA player who currently wears a mouthguard. The mouthguard Curry uses is quite thick, offering the best protection but often making it difficult for his teammates to understand him with it in. Curry’s mouthguards are so iconic that one even sold at auction for over $3,000.


One of his trademarks is chewing on his mouthguard during free throws and throwing it when he is frustrated. In fact, he has been ejected twice for throwing his mouthguard. In 2017, he was fined $50,000 for throwing his mouthguard at a referee in frustration.

However, the NBA chose not to suspend him as they deemed it likely to be an accident. Similarly, in 2016 he was fined $25,000 for throwing his mouthguard into the crowd, accidentally hitting a fan. 

Curry, not necessarily known for being a heated player, was understandably remorseful, saying, “At the end of the day, it’s not about the money, it’s about me not doing stupid stuff and losing my cool like that…it’s more about me recognizing how to handle myself on the court.”

Some other famous NBA players who wear mouthguards are Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Rajon Rondo, and Tim Hardaway Jr.

Some NBA Players Who Probably Wished They Wore Mouthguards

These NBA players weren’t wearing a mouthguard when they took elbows to the face, but they probably wish they had.

In 2019, Dennis Smith Jr from the Dallas Mavericks took an elbow to the face from Patrick Beverly, a notoriously rough defensive player from the LA Clippers. Luckily for Smith Jr, it was a fake tooth, and he was able to have it replaced. He was in good spirits for the post-game interview saying, “I’m still pretty. I’m good.”

Another elbow-to-face collision occurred back in 2009 between NBA Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki and Houston Rockets forward Carl Landry. After fouling Nowitzki, Landry was left with five teeth chipped and was immediately taken to the hospital emergency room. 

After shooting his free throws left-handed, the Mavs found pieces of Landry’s teeth stuck in Nowitzki’s right arm. They removed the teeth and cleaned the cuts, but the medical team decided not to let him play in the fourth quarter as he required stitches.

Two-time MVP, Steve Nash, was frequently defended closely by his opponents, as he was known for his flashy passes and drives to the basket. Nash was also known as one of the toughest players in the league.

In 2004, against the LA Lakers, Nash had his mouth bloodied by the elbow of fellow NBA Hall of Famer and giant Karl Malone. Nash had to receive two stitches to his mouth, and Malone was suspended for one game, including losing $16,666 pay.

Should Everyone Wear A Mouthguard While Playing Basketball?

Although most basketball associations don’t mandate it, the majority of dentists and orthodontists recommend wearing a mouthguard during basketball because there is such a high rate of oral injuries.

You should make your own choice when it comes to wearing a mouthguard, but just remember, a mouthguard is a lot cheaper than a visit to the dentist. Take a look at our article on the amount of physical contact in basketball to help make your decision.

Keep On Smiling

So, now you know that although it isn’t required for NBA players to wear mouthguards, some of them wear them because it offers the best protection to keep their smile looking priceless. You can be on the lookout to see if your favorite NBA player wears one (or if they should).

You can use the information in this article to decide if you want to use a mouthguard while playing basketball, too.

Justin D. Johnson
Justin D. Johnson
Justin is a PhD student at Stanford University and has been a basketball youth coach for over ten years. He is passionate about sports, cinema, astronomy, and sharing knowledge.