A Mouth Guard (or Gumshield) is one of the most important bits of kit for any fighter. People normally associate mouth guards with protecting teeth from being knocked out. What most people don't know is that they actually provide protection against head trauma.
By locking the jaw together into a single piece, and by providing a cushioning effect, a mouth guard actually minimises the trauma of punches to the head. This padding effect between the upper and lower teeth has been shown to reduce the likelihood of suffering a concussion.
All too often do teeth get knocked out in training due to people skipping on putting in the mouthguard. The price of a quality mouthguard is nothing in comparison to the dental work required if you have teeth knocked out.
How Do Mouthguards Protect You?
A punch produces a shockwave upon impact with your body. When directed at the head or jaw that shockwave travels through your skull. If the punch lands directly on the jaw i.e. an uppercut then your jaw and teeth are slammed together. Banging the teeth together over and over will cause chipping or even fractures in the teeth.
Even relatively light hits in training can cause unexpected damage. If you are receiving hits (even light ones) you should be wearing a gum shield.
A hard hit to the jaw can cause dislocation, fracture or even worse cause a concussion. A mouthguard spreads the force of the impact out over a wider area. The rubber cushions the lower jaw from the upper jaw helping to reduce the shock and preventing the teeth from crashing together and fracturing.
Using A Mouthguard
There is more to using a mouth guard than just putting it in. They are only effective if you are biting down on the guard when you take the hit. If you are hit with a loose jaw then you run the risk of a jaw injury or concussion. Your teeth should be protected by the guard but the cushioning effect is lost.
You need to ensure that the mouthguard you purchase is specially designed for combat sports. There is a wide range of mouth guards available for different purposes. These range from mouthguards some are intended to stop you grinding your teeth through to some designed for sports like basketball. These are generally thinner as they don't require as much impact protection.
MMA/Boxing/Muay Thai mouthguards are thicker. They are designed to provide as much cushioning between the jaws and possible. If you use a thinner mouth guard then you increase the risk of damage to your teeth and increased likelihood of concussion.
It is important that you look for the correct type of mouth guard when purchasing. The greater the impact protection the safer your sparring will be.
You need to consider the physical size of the mouthguard you purchase. There is an element of personal preference here. If you want added shock absorption you may want a larger mouth guard. The downside is that the front may stick out making it less comfortable and stop you fully closing your mouth.
These days you can but mouth guards in nearly any colour, pattern and design. It is even possible to buy them custom printed with logos or names on. There are even ones with vampire teeth on which I think is hilarious.
Boil and Bite Mouthguards
This is the most common type of mouthguard. To fit them you soften the mouthguard in boiling water, then put the guard into your mouth and bite down hard. After a few moments, the gum shield will have formed to your mouth. You can then remove it and leave it to cool.
The fit is usually pretty decent as long as you follow the instructions carefully.
These are certainly OK for light sparring and occasional use. This type is very inexpensive and will do the job.
- Easy to fit. Buy it, mould it and you are ready to go.
- Relatively inexpensive
- Provides good protection if designed for combat sports.
- The fit may not be perfect meaning the mouth guard is loose.
- Can be knocked out by a big impact.
- If the boil and bite process is done incorrectly there is no way to recover.
Custom Fit Mouthguards
This is the next level of mouth guard. The moulding on a custom fit is so tight that you will have to take the guard out of your mouth. You can even hold a conversation whilst the guard stays in place.
The custom fit mouth guards completely eliminate the possibility of error when moulding the guard using the bite and boil method. They will send you an impression kit. You use this to take an exact mould of your gums and teeth. Once the kit has hardened you post it back to the company. A short time later you will receive you finished mouth guard in the post.
The difference between the two is massive. A custom fit mouth guard will always stay in place. Even with the hardest hits, you will find that the mouth guard stays in place.
If you are sparring regularly or competing in competitions then you really need to be looking at a custom fit mouth guard.
- The most precise fit possible.
- The mouthguard will stay in place even when talking.
- Much harder to dislodge with a hard hit
- You will be able to speak and breathe through it far easier since you won't have to worry about it dropping off your teeth.
- A must for the serious fighter or people who train and spar frequently.
- More Expensive
- More time consuming since you must first make an impression, then send it off to the lab to be produced.
Conclusions and Recommendations
When choosing a mouthguard (gumshield) make sure you purchase one designed for combat. You want the maximum amount of thickness available.
If you are in the ring or spar regularly you may want to invest in a custom fitted one. For occasional use, you may want to go with a 'boil and bite' style one. There are some good options available. We are not currently stocking gumshields so I have put links to some of the best ones available on Amazon below.