If you train Muay Thai, Boxing, or MMA the most important piece of equipment you will use is a combat mouthguard. Without a proper mouthguard, you can end up suffering more head trauma and even fracture your teeth. Whenever you are sparring or clinching you need to wear a mouthguard. It doesn’t matter if you are light sparring with big gloves on, all it takes is one small punch to knock a tooth out.
While you might think, “it will never happen to me,” I have seen dozens of guys lose teeth in training. Not only is it extremely uncomfortable to have a tooth knocked out, it also costs a lot of money (thousands) in dentist fees. I had my own tooth chipped once in training, and it was simply because I forgot to put in my mouth guard.
The price of a quality mouthguard is nothing compared to how much money you will end up saving by protecting your teeth from the dreaded dentist. Healthy teeth and a nice smile are two things you take for granted until you lose them. So it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be afraid to invest in money to keep them protected.
Purchasing a mouthguard is essential if you plan on doing any sparring. They are available online and from viable manufacturers of boxing and Muay Thai equipment. Several features standout as most important when purchasing your mouthgear and they include comfort, fit and how well it absorbs shock. You also want to make certain you can breathe effectively when it is in place. A good fit means it is secured firmly and not at all loose. The Shock Doctor Power Ultra Mouthguard is a great option.
How Mouthguards Work
When you get hit by an impact to your face the impact of the punch or kick sends a shock wave from your jaw to the rest of your skull. A direct impact to the front of the teeth can even cause a fracture to your teeth. Often when you receive a hard uppercut hits your lower jaw it will cause your teeth to slam together, resulting in the bottom teeth pushing the front teeth from underneath. Essentially your teeth will bang together, which is the leading cause of a chipped or fractured tooth.
In cases of extreme impact, the force of the impact can cause a fracture of the lower jaw or it can cause a concussion if the brain receives a strong enough ‘jolt’ from the force.
The mouthguard is designed to be a shock absorber and spread the impact of the force throughout a much larger area, which helps decrease the particular impact to a particular area. Be distributing of the blow, it will reduce the amount of damage which will prevent and vastly reduce the amount of injuries your receive. The outer cushion of the mouthguard will also prevent the lower jaw and upper jaw from colliding together, which can cause the teeth to fracture.
In essence, mouthguards are not only good for your teeth, they also prevent jaw fractures and help reduce the chance that you get a concussion when you spar. This is the most important piece of equipment that you can use when you spar.
Combat Sport (MMA, Muay Thai, Boxing) Mouthguards
Mouthguards are generally placed into two different categories: Light Impact Mouthguards and High Impact (combat sport) Mouthguards.
Someone who is looking to purchase a mouthguard to stop grinding their teeth at night is going to need a completely different guard than someone who is taking full impact punches to their face. Similarly, someone who plays a non impact sport like basketball, will require a thinner mouthguard than a Boxing, MMA, or Muay Thai Fighter.
Using your Mouthguard Effectively
The key to using mouthguards effectively is to make sure you bite down on the guard before you take an impact. If your jaw is loose and you take a punch, it will protect your teeth but it will shake your jaw which will lead to feeling ‘rocked.’
Keeping your teeth clenched together before a strike to the face will keep your jaw tight, which will prevent you from taking more trauma then necessary. Some of the worst hits I have taken in sparring was because I was relaxed and playing around with my jaw loose, and I got hit with an unexpected punch. When you brace for the impact, it will allow you to distribute the shock throughout your jaw.
MMA, Boxing and Muay Thai mouthguards are designed to be thicker to help absorb the shock to your face. You will often find that some of these mouthguards have a few layers EVA material designed to absorb excessive shock to the teeth. If you use a thinner mouthguard when you are sparring, there is always that chance that you can damage your teeth because mouthguard may not disperse the impact of the punches throughout your face.
The thicker mouthguards allow more shock absorption and dispersal of the direct impact of a punch. This is something that you have to look for when you are purchasing a mouthguard. The downside of the thicker mouthguard is that it takes more time to get used to wearing. This is one of the reasons why I always recommend you purchase a custom mouthguard over the typical boil and bite guards.
Boil and Bite Mouthguards
The first type of mouthguard that you will encounter is the boil and bite mouthguards. These mouthguards are the do-it-yourself mouth guards that require a bit of work to ensure that you get the right fit. If you manage to walk through the process correctly then you should have a guard that will offer you good protection.
Boil and bite mouthguards are made from a gel like plastic that is designed to soften when they are heated in water and then harden up after they cool off. This process allows the wearer to boil the guard and press it to their teeth. This creates an outline of the teeth that allows the mouthguard to fit snug to the wearer.
I should point out that 95% of people who use mouthguards use the boil and bite option because they are cheap and they work if done correctly. Getting a custom mouthguard will cost more money and will often require you to go to a dentist to get it fitted or do your own impression.
So if it comes down to keeping your teeth protected and you don’t want to spend more than $50, then a boil and bite is by far your best option.
- Cheapest mouthguards available
- Fastest and easiest option (10 minutes and your ready to go)
- Provides adequate protection – I used a boil and bite for 3 years and never had any problems
- Requires you to mold the mouthguard to your own mouth
- The fit may not be as tight as it should be
- May come loose if you take a big impact
- A lot of people don’t mold them correctly resulting in ineffective guards
If you want to give yourself the best protection then you can go with a custom mouthguard. The benefit of the custom mouthguards are that you get an exact fit and you don’t have to try and mold the mouthguard to your teeth. To create a custom mouthguard it requires you to take a mold imprint of your teeth which is then used to make the mouthguard based on your exact dimensions.Custom mouthguards solve the problem that shows up with boil and bite guards with fit. I often see people with boil and bite mouthguards fall out of their mouth if they get hit, which is not good. If you have a little patience and money to spend on a custom mouthguard, I recommend you get one. These mouthguards offer the best proteciton, fit, and will ensure that they stay put in your mouth when you take a hard strike to the face. You can purchase custom mouthguards online for less than $90 depending on the size, print and brand that you choose. When you order the mouthguards they will send you an impression kit that you use to take a mold of your own teeth. You take this mold and send it back to the manufacturer who will then create your mouthguard for you.
- Exact fit – So tight that you have to pull it off with your fingers. You can’t take it out with your tongue
- When you get hit it won’t get knocked out of place
- Breathe and speak with ease compared to boil and bite guards that come out easier
- Ideal for people who train seriously and want the most protection
- You either need to see the dentist to get your teeth imprints or you need to do your own mold
- More Expensive than boil and bite
Factors to Consider
Fit and Comfort
The most important factor that you should consider when selecting a mouth guard is the fit and comfort of the guard. If you are purchasing a guard that doesn’t fit you properly, it can actually cause issues when you get hit. If you are using a boil and bite mouthguard you need to ensure that you spend the time required to mold it to your mouth.
A well fit mouthguard will mold to your teeth so that when you open your mouth it will stay in place. In combat sports it is very important that your mouthguard is a tight fit so that when you take a strike to the face it doesn’t fall out.
Another factor that you should look at is the size of the mouthguard. I personally like to have a little bulkier mouthguard because I find that it gives better shock absorption. The side effect of having a larger mouthguard is that it is not as comfortable and sticks out a little bit when you close your mouth.
Depending on the mouthguard, your breathing may also be affected if you get a mouthguard that is too obstructive. Make sure that the mouthguard has a design that you like and offers enough protection.
Design and Style
The last factor that can be considered when you purchase a mouthguard is the design of the mouthguard. If you order a custom mouthguard you can often get your name or logo imprinted on the guard. Depending on what you like, you can get custom text, images, and colors on the front of the guard.
If you want to have a customized color or text you should expect to pay more money for the mouthguard. Since you will probably use your mouthguard for your life, this is something that you may want to consider.
Popular Mouthguard Brands
Since all boil and bite mouthguards are made from the same material, it really comes down to the best design and brand that you like. All of the top brands offer boil and bite mouthguards and most even offer a custom mouthguard option as well.
I am pretty sure that everyone has owned a Shock Doctor at some point in time. This is by far the most common mouthguard that you will find in the market.
Shock Doctor specializes in mouthguards that range for every sport and activity that you can imagine. If you purchase a Shock Doctor mouthguard you should make sure that you choose a model that is appropriate for more impact. They have a few mouthguards that are designed for MMA/boxing.
Shock doctor was my first boil and bite mouthguard that I ever purchased and they did a good job of protecting my teeth/jaw. If you can mold the mouthguard correctly to your mouth, it will provide a good level of protection for a low price.
A mouthguard is the most important protective piece of equipment that you will use in training. I don’t ever spar or clinch unless I have my mouthguard. I have seen so many people lose their teeth in training that I am very conscious about always wearing protection.
The only time I chipped a tooth was when my trainer threw a punch at my while he was holding pads. The uppercut ended up catching me on the chin, which caused my teeth to clash together. This is a danger that you will encounter if you are going with a trainer who is striking you during pad rounds.