How To Pick The Best Mouthguard For Martial Arts

Japanese mixed martial artist Itsuki Hirata smiles with her mouthguard showing

When you first start training in martial arts, you might not think a mouthguard is necessary – after all, the thought of sparring or competing is a long way off.

But you never know when your coach is going to ask you to jump into a sparring session, so you might as well be prepared.

Even if you do something as simple as pad work or rolling, you will benefit from having a mouth protector.

Here is what you should consider when buying a mouthguard for martial arts.

Why You Need A Mouthguard

Brazilian mixed martial artist Alex Silva bites down on his mouthguard and hits Joshua Pacio

Having the right mouthguard will prevent most serious injuries from happening to your mouth. You might think mouthpieces only protect your teeth, but they also protect your lips, tongue, face, and jaw.

This makes them useful for competition and sparring. In competition, you are bound to get hit in the face. But even in sparring, which should be a toned-down style of competition, mistakes happen and you may get hit harder than expected.

Without a mouth protector, you could have a tooth loosened, knocked out, or chipped. If your tooth is chipped, it can cut into your lips or tongue.

In the picture above, Evolve MMA representative Alex “Little Rock” Silva displays his mouth protection as he lunges at Joshua “The Passion” Pacio during their ONE Strawweight World Title bout.

Types Of Mouthguards

American grappling stud Garry Tonon screams in joy bout his quick submission win

Generally speaking, you have three choices for mouthguards for martial arts: stock, boil-and-bite, and custom made.

Stock mouth protectors are preformed to the shape of either an adult’s or child’s mouth.

Because they cannot be formed to the shape of your mouth, you should avoid these kinds of mouthguards, especially for sparring in Muay Thai or other striking arts.

Boil-and-bite mouthguards are a step-up from stock mouthguards. After you buy one of these mouth protectors, you have to boil it in water, let it cool, and then bite into it and apply pressure until it forms around your teeth.

These mouthguards are less expensive than custom-made mouthpieces, and therefore, they do not last as long and may not provide the same level of protection. But they are good for most sparring occasions.

Custom mouthguards are made specifically to the shape of your mouth. Because they are made just for you, they offer the best level of protection. If you compete or spar harder than usual, this is the mouthguard you want.

There is no doubt mixed martial arts superstars like Garry “The Lion Killer” Tonon have experience using all of these types of mouthpieces.

What To Look For In A Mouthguard

Reece McLaren looks at the referee with his mouthguard showing

When you buy a mouthguard for martial arts, you have to consider three things.

First, can you breathe while wearing the mouthguard? This is a big one. Since you will be getting your heart rate up while training, you will be breathing through your mouth quite a bit. Make sure your mouthpiece does not restrict airflow.

Second, does the mouthguard stay in place? A mouth protector does no good if it keeps popping out of your mouth.

Third, does it feel good? If you have to train with a mouthguard in for hours at a time, then make sure it is comfortable – otherwise, you might not want to wear it.

Former ONE Bantamweight World Title challenger Reece “Lightning” McLaren is used to wearing his mouthpiece during long training sessions and martial arts competitions.

Buying A Mouthguard

Thai mixed martial arts pioneer flashes her mouthguard in Tokyo, Japan

Sports equipment stores and martial arts stores may carry stock and boil-and-bite types of mouthguards.

But if you want to buy a custom mouthpiece, then you have to shop online or see a dentist.

In most cases, a company sends you a mouth mold for you to make at home. You then send the mold back, and when they have made your mouthguard, they mail it to you. You can also go to select dentists to complete the same process.

Thai star Rika “Tiny Doll” Ishige flashes her mouthguard just before she competes in the ONE Championship Circle.

Caring For Your Mouthguard

Stamp All Smiles Before Her Match Against Janet Todd

Mouthguards are not meant to last forever. Every athlete, including ONE Atomweight Muay Thai World Champion Stamp Fairtex, knows this. However, you can do a few things to keep them in good shape.

One of the best things you can do to keep your mouthguard clean is to brush it like you would your own teeth. If you do not have your toothbrush, then you can wash your mouthpiece in cool water with a little soap.

Whichever method you choose to clean your mouthguard, always store it in a cool, dry place when not in use. Never store it in direct sunlight or in hot places.

Finally, always inspect your mouthguard before each use. If it is showing signs of cracking, or it does not fit snuggly anymore, replace it.

Read more: How To Train Martial Arts While Traveling For Business Or Pleasure

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