Following his surgery, Thomas was put back in play for Tuesday's Game 2 against the Wizards. This time, he was wearing a custom fitted mouth guard.
"The tooth that was knocked out was not the only one that was affected," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, according to ESPN's Chris Forsberg. "So he had some other issues there ... he was in getting oral surgery."
"Sometimes when guys are strongly encouraged to wear those, they wear them [custom fit mouthguards]," Stevens said. "And sometimes they throw them. So we'll see."
In a league of flying elbows and close contact, basketball remains as the sport with the highest number of dental injuries. Basketball sees 10.6% dental injury rate, while football see just 2%.
Research proves that wearing a custom fit mouthguard would help bring these rates down. In a 2001 study, 301 Australian football players reported that wearing a custom fitted mouthguard had a significantly lower rate of injury than those wearing an over the counter mouth guard. This is because custom fitted mouthguards are able protect all the corners of the teeth that a typical boil and bite can't get to.
It also works to the players' advantage too. It's a lot easier to breathe, communicate, and drink, when you don't have a bulky piece of plastic getting in the way.
Getting players to wear custom fitted mouthguards is an essential step to lowering injury rates. But thats going to be a challenge of itself when they are not mandated. Mouthguards are not mandated by the NBA nor at the high school level.
We're happy to see that Thomas is back in the game and that he's making moves to prevent future injuries. Hopefully his teammates and the league itself are taking note!