Are you a martial artist? Do you train with a mouth guard? If not, it’s time to consider investing in one.
A properly fitted mouth guard might not be the easiest piece of protective gear to fit into your selection of martial arts supplies. It can feel a little weird or uncomfortable at first. Learning to breathe while working out in one can also take some time. But this small piece of moulded plastic has the potential to change — and maybe even save — your life as a martial artist.
Whether you’re participating in full-contact sparring in a striking art like boxing — where your mouth and your jaw are at constant risk as part of the game — or participating in a “soft” art where an innocent slip or mistake can still knock your teeth or yourself out, mouth guards can protect your health and improve your game. This small but vital piece of martial arts equipment can prevent everything from minor annoyances to career-threatening injuries. It can be the difference between you getting right back in the ring or having to spend months on the sidelines due to injury — or worse.
If you’re still not convinced, let’s get into a little more detail about the benefits of mouth guards. Here are five reasons that you should always wear a mouth guard during martial arts training:
1. Mouth guards protect your teeth.
When it comes to striking sports, the risk to your teeth is obvious. Any punch, kick, or elbow you take to an unprotected mouth could cost you a tooth or two. But accidents can happen in grappling and non-contact combat training as well. If you’ve been participating in martial arts for any period of time, you probably know at least one person who rolled or held pads without a mouth guard and lost a tooth to a stray knee or something similar. The best way to ensure that all of your teeth stay in your mouth — regardless of what martial art you participate in, or what drills you might be doing — is to train with a properly fitted mouth guard at all times.
2. They help prevent injuries to your jaw and the surrounding area.
The benefits of a properly fitted mouth guard don’t stop at the the immediate area that the guard covers. In addition to protecting your teeth, wearing one will also help to keep the bones that support them strong, safe, and in the right place. Worn correctly, a mouth guard will cushion and distribute the force of any blows or shocks to the face that you might take during training, reducing the impact to your jaw. This will help protect you against trauma to the area, like fractures and jaw displacement.
3. Mouth guards protect your soft tissue.
While they’re protecting your teeth from your training partners and opponents’ fists, shins, and knees, mouth guards are also protecting the rest of your face from your teeth. A properly fitted mouth guard, worn correctly, will cover the sharp surfaces of your teeth, preventing them from digging into your cheeks, gums, and lips if you’re hit in the face Which will, in turn, prevent any abrasions and cuts that could otherwise occur upon impact.
4. Using a mouth guard can save you money.
According to the ADA, an athlete is 60 times more likely to suffer injuries to their teeth when they train and compete with an unprotected mouth than they are if they use a properly fitted mouth guard. And those potential dental appointments can add up very quickly. Which means that an investment in this reasonably-priced piece of protective gear can end up saving you thousands and thousands of dollars in emergency care and reconstruction.
5. Using a mouth guard is a long-term investment in your martial arts career.
Wearing a mouth guard won’t necessarily guarantee that you won’t get injured while training and competing in martial arts. Current studies now suggest that they aren’t as effective at preventing or minimizing concussions as we once assumed they were, for example. But wearing one is still a significant investment in your safety. In addition to saving you all of that money on dental care mentioned above, protecting your teeth, soft tissues, and jaw with a properly fitted mouth guard means that you will probably feel a lot better when you train. And you won’t have to miss any time tending to any of the above injuries that could be sustained if you try to train without one. Investing in a mouth guard — and always wearing it to training and competition — is one small but smart step you can take toward making sure that your martial arts training really is a sustainable lifelong journey.