As the Toronto Raptors square off against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, some of the greatest stars in basketball are in the spotlight — Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and, of course, Steph Curry’s mouthguard.
The Warriors star’s oral protector has become quite the celebrity in its own right. Over the past few years, Curry has made a habit of flipping the guard around in his mouth and chewing on it while taking key shots.
It’s admittedly kind of gross watching the star point guard dangle a hunk of plastic out of his mouth and gnaw on it like a carrot. Frankly, the only basketball player who should be chewing carrots on the court is Bugs Bunny in Space Jam.
For years, fans have noticed Curry’s habit with varying degrees of disgust and horror.
Curry has said the habit helps him shoot better, and even the New York Times agrees. According to a fan who tracked Curry’s shots both with and without the mouthguard, it does help, he sinks two per cent more shots while chewing.
But you know what it’s not helping? Steph Curry’s teeth. And dental professionals warn that Curry’s habit isn’t only bad for his teeth, it’s a bad example for kids.
Cindy Hernandez-Sturrock is a dental hygienist who runs an independent practice in Hamilton, Ont. She calls Curry’s mouthguard habits “horrible.”
“When he’s chewing it like that, he’s destroying the integrity of the mouth guard,” she told HuffPost. “So it’s not going to be beneficial for him, it’s not going to protect him properly.”
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Mouthguards are designed to protect the teeth, tongue, lips, and inside of the mouth from many of the impacts that occur in sports. They can also help absorb blunt-force head trauma.
The World Dental Federation mandates mouthguard use in boxing, hockey and football. But the organization does also highly recommend using mouth guards in other sports, including basketball.
Hernandez-Sturrock said chewing on a mouthguard wears the device down and eventually it won’t work anymore. With proper use, a mouthguard can last years. But she said that based on what she’s seen of Curry’s habits, she hopes he’s replacing his often if he wants any hope of it actually providing protection.
“He shouldn’t be wearing a chewed-up mouthguard for every game,” she said. “He should hopefully have more than one.”
She also said that Curry’s habit of touching the mouthguard, taking it out and moving it around is cause for alarm.
“His hands are dirty, right? And if he takes it out with his hands, he’s introducing bacteria from whatever he touched — like the sweaty bodies, basketball, whatever,” she told HuffPost. “Imagine how much bacteria that is. And he’s putting it in his mouth.”
Hernandez-Sturrock worries about how many kids look up to Curry and are imitating his habit. She said besides hygienic concerns, good mouthguards are expensive and a generation of kids taking a chomp out of them could financially burden their parents.
“A lot of kids are seeing him, especially during the NBA Finals shooting with his mouth guard on the side of his mouth,” she said. “But these guards are expensive, and when parents are buying them or getting them custom-made, kids are just destroying it.”
She said that Curry can probably afford to replace his mouthguard often, or a tooth if he’s injured as a result of a malfunctioning mouthguard. But most athletes can’t. She said if you don’t chew on your mouthguard, a good one can last a lifetime.
“The only way to protect your teeth is to keep it in your mouth, and let it stay in your mouth,” she said.