Since their invention, athletic mouthguards have been a must-have for those in combat or contact sports. Coaches require mouthguards for their athletes during practice and competition to prevent or mitigate severe injury. But, how tight should mouthguards fit?

Your mouthguard should fit tight enough to completely cover the teeth and gums without affecting speech or breathing. The fit should be snug enough that you cannot move the mouthguard with your tongue. 

Let’s discuss why you should wear a mouthguard and how to ensure that yours fits your mouth perfectly.  

How a Mouthguard Works

The mouthguard used to be a sports accessory but is now considered an essential piece of sports equipment. 

A football player wouldn’t think of taking to the field without a helmet. A mouthguard, by all standards, is equally non-negotiable. 

Mouthguards form a protective layer over your teeth and attenuate trauma upon impact by absorbing shock and dissipating force. 

Mouthguards significantly decrease the trauma sustained by the teeth, gums, tongue, lips, and inner cheeks. 

You will only need a mouthguard for your upper teeth unless you have braces. Those with braces will need a mouthguard for the lower teeth as well.

Do You Have To Wear a Mouthguard for Fighting?

The American Dental Association recommends using mouthguards for various sports, including fighting. 

You have to wear a mouthguard for fighting. Most fighting gyms and clubs require all members to wear mouthguards during competitions or practice, and it is safer to do so.

Combat sports require players to inflict deliberate blows on their opponent. Some sports have strict rules of engagement to minimize injury. Some combat sports limit how much force you can use and where you can hit. 

Still, other combat sports can get quite aggressive and brutal. 

Examples of combat sports where mouthguards are a must are:

  • Martial arts (Traditional & MMA)
  • Boxing
  • Wrestling

Why You Should Use a Mouthguard

Mouthguards absorb force sustained by the teeth, gums, tongue, and mouth’s soft tissues, such as lips and inner cheeks. Some dental injuries that mouthguards may help prevent are:

  • Fracture: May mean a tooth fracture, broken or chipped tooth
  • Avulsion: The entire tooth and root come out.
  • Luxation: Tooth remains in its socket but in a wrong position

In addition, a well-fitting mouthguard may also protect the jaw and the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). 

Some critics might argue that the presence of a foreign object in the mouth could act as a force multiplier. However, many studies have proven that mouthguards protect rather than make things worse.

One of the studies conducted was published in the National Library of Medicine. Through a series of tests, researchers were able to quantify the potential of mouthguards to absorb shock and dissipate force. 

The study concluded that the different mouthguards tested all offered protection. 

Types of Mouthguards

Mouthguards come in 3 main types that vary in degree of efficacy in protecting the mouth. They’re custom-fitted, boil-and-bite, and stock.

Custom-Fitted

Custom-fitted mouthguards provide the best fit and highest protection. To make a custom mouthguard, a dentist takes an impression of your bite. Then the dentist will use the impression as a mold to create the perfect fit. 

Boil-and-Bite

These mouthguards provide the next best fit to the custom-fitted mouthguards. However, you can make your own boil-and-bite mouthguard at home. 

Here’s how to make a boil-and-bite mouthguard:

  1. Submerge the mouthguard in hot water until it becomes soft.
  2. Put the softened mouthguard into your mouth. 
  3. Press it onto the molars and front teeth using your fingers.
  4. Bite down on it for 20 seconds, making sure the bite is as natural as possible. 
  5. Remove the device and run under cold water to harden it.

An excellent example of a boil-and-bite mouthguard is the SafeJawz Mouthguard Slim Fit (available on Amazon.com). It comes in sizes for both adult and junior athletes. Their gel fit technology follows the contours of the teeth and allows for multiple remouldings. 

Stock

Of all the mouthguards mentioned, stock mouthguards offer the least protection. They’re the most affordable, but their affordability comes at the cost of safety. They come preformed, and one size fits all– or doesn’t fit at all. 

Mouthguard Fit Test

An ill-fitting mouthguard is as good as having no mouthguard at all. A mouthguard can only protect the mouth if it actually covers your teeth gums and doesn’t unnaturally realign your bite. Here are some ways to check if your mouthguard fits well:

  • Tongue check. If you can manipulate the guard with your tongue, it doesn’t fit. That means it’s too loose or poorly aligned.
  • Alignment. Your mouthguard should feel as natural as possible inside your mouth. If it causes your bite to change alignment, then your mouthguard doesn’t fit.
  • Speech and Gagging – A mouthguard that causes speech difficulties or irregularities doesn’t fit well. If you suddenly have a lisp when wearing your mouthguard, then you should consider getting a new one. The same goes for mouthguards that cause you to gag.

Keeping Your Mouth Guard Clean

You’ll need to clean your mouthguard to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that could cause infections. 

So, let’s look at the best ways to keep your mouthguard clean:

Replace Your Mouthguard Every Six Months

Even the best mouthguards break down over time. The material can lose its thickness, reducing its capacity to protect you from injury. 

Mouthguard materials also break down over time. As this occurs, it becomes more porous, which means bacteria can embed themselves into the very tiny nooks and crannies.

Replacing your mouthguard ensures that you get the optimum level of protection. In addition, it will prevent mouth-guard-related infections.

Wash Your Mouthguard After Every Use

Washing your mouthguard will protect you from infections. It’ll also keep your mouthguard from developing an unpleasant taste and smell. 

Always wash your mouthguard before storing it away. Simply brush it with your toothbrush, rinse with cold water, and then keep it in a dry container. 

Practice Oral Hygiene Before Using Your Mouthguard

Before putting on your mouthguard, always make sure you’ve brushed and flossed your teeth. Keeping your mouth clean minimizes the risk of developing infections when you use the guard. Brushing and flossing will also make your mouthguard last longer.

Final Thoughts

Mouthguards are indispensable in modern sports, especially in combat sports. 

Your mouthguard should fit tight enough that you cannot move it with your tongue. You should be able to speak without a lisp when you wear it. 

If your mouthguard is not tight enough, it will not protect you from impact. So, always be sure to test your mouthguard size before fighting.

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