Monday, August 22, 2011

3 Reasons You Should Wear a Mouth Guard When Training.

You need me. You want me.
To be honest I didn't really think I'd ever have to explain to any martial artist or combat athlete WHY wearing a mouth guard is important.

But a recent email has changed that and I thought my response might be helpful to some of you out there.

You see, this individual was a new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu student. His instructor makes all students wear a mouth guard during training: warm ups, solo drills, partner drills, rolling, and even conditioning.

This new BJJ student just couldn't understand why he had to wear this uncomfortable piece of soft plastic every time he stepped on the mat.

So I gave him a reply which consisted of basically three main reasons wearing a mouth guard is important to all martial artists.

Below is a "church-ed up" version of my reply.

You NEED A Mouth Guard Dumb-Ass!

1. Mouth Guards Protect Your Teeth! - This one is obvious. It's the main reason people started wearing mouth guards in the first place.

Losing teeth sucks.

Let's do our best to prevent that - wear a mouth guard!

2. Mouth Guards Help Prevent Brian Damage! - I touched on this in an earlier post. But I'll explore the topic a bit here too.

You see, getting hit with a loose jaw is a recipe for a knockout. Your jaw will literally slam into your skull, cause your brain to bounce around inside, and you will lose consciousness.

All that "brain bouncing" isn't good for you and can have serious repercussions.

Biting down on a mouth guard helps keep your jaw in place during impact and the tension generated from the bite radiates down to the musculature in your neck, further stabilizing the skull. Both these factors work together in preventing your brain from slamming into your skull, which prevents brain injury.

A definite plus if you like feeding yourself and wiping your own ass.

3. Mouth Guards Can Improve Performance! - This one is actually a two-parter so bear with me.

Generally speaking, mouth guards impair normal breathing in some way. Some studies have shown this induces a mild hypoxia which is a good thing as hypoxia has been linked to several beneficial adaptations for athletes (think training at high elevations).

Though, while some studies discount the hypoxic effect of wearing mouth guards the researchers noted that there were still positive psychological effects to wearing a mouth guard.

Basically wearing a mouth guard can toughen you up mentally because it acclimates you to increased stressors.

Not such a bad thing considering how stressful fighting can be.

Conclusion -

So, there you have it: 3 pretty damn good reasons to get yourself a mouth guard.

You'll stay pretty, you'll be less likely to become a vegetable, and you may even notice an improvement in performance.

Not too shabby.

Train Hard,
Josh Skinner


  1. This is interesting! I didn't know of #2 and #3. I thought it was just obvious from a safety perspective.

  2. Yeah it's funny most of the people I've talked to about this are initially unaware of the fact that wearing a mouth guard may improve performance.

    You may want to do some research into the "Pure Power Mouth Guard".

    There is at least one independent bit of research to suggest that the custom fitted mouth guard may help improve power generation.

    I'll warn you ahead of time that the research is controversial. So far most of the research is funded by the PPM people. But, like I said, one university did some independent research and came up with similar results.

    I found it interesting, but chose not to include in this article. I think once you look into it you'll understand why.

    Train Hard,
    Josh Skinner

  3. I have trained BJJ for almost 14 years. I am a BB and have my own school. I have NEVER trained with a mouthguard. Only used one while competing.

    Last night (before seeing your article) I broke down and bought one mainly to protect my teeth. Rolling with new guys brings unexpected things. Anyhow, good info!

    Reason #'s 2 and 3 are also very interesting! Thanks.

  4. @Indianapolis Jiu Jitsu, Thanks for the comment.

    Working with newbies can be "challenging" :)

    The BJJ guys I work with down here in SC always wear mouth guards. The primary reasoning is that they are very sport oriented and they train the way they compete (specificity).

    However, I've noticed that gyms/dojos/ect... that start off by focusing on self defense tend to avoid using the mouth guard. Perhaps because the more sportive aspects are put off until people gain experience. By that point it's more of a habit not to wear one.

    Either way, obviously, I think there are benefits to wearing a mouth guard and I'm glad to hear you started using one (even if it wasn't my article that convinced you) :)

    Thanks again.

    Train Hard,
    Josh Skinner

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