As a BJJ beginner I had so many questions, one of them was whether I should, or whether I needed to wear a mouth guard for BJJ training? Here’s what I found:
Some BJJ schools will ask you to wear a mouthguard, however, you do not need a mouthguard in all BJJ schools. In general, many BJJ students choose to wear a mouthguard anyway to protect their teeth. This is because BJJ is a full-contact sport and can carry some risk of injury.
So why would some students choose to wear a mouthguard while others not to? In this article, you will learn about all the things to consider before making your decision, including:
- Different training intensities & how to protect your teeth in each
- 2 ways to overcome mouthguard breathing & discomfort
- Different types of mouthguards & which to avoid
Should You Wear A Mouthguard in BJJ Training?
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a full-contact grappling sport and martial art, meaning during your training you will be getting hands on experience with your training partner.
This will involve all aspects of grappling from takedowns to ground fighting to submissions. Although BJJ is not a striking martial art, as you can still imagine, there is a potential risk of injury during training.
When it comes to our teeth, it would only take one quick, accidental, hard impact from a stray knee or elbow, and you could have a tooth permanently knocked out.
How To Protect Your Teeth in BJJ Training
Although injuries can happen in life at any time, BJJ training has different levels of risk based on the level of training intensity. This usually works as a guide for students as to whether they need to wear a mouthguard or not.
Most BJJ classes start with technique drilling. This is where you practice a technique on your training partner, then they practice on you. At this level the intensity is pretty low and therefore, the risk of losing a tooth is relatively low too. Many students choose not to wear a mouthguard during this part of training.
Most BJJ classes will end with live rolling. This is where you go head to head with your training partner trying to put together everything you’ve learnt, while your training partner does the same. At this level the intensity can get pretty high, and therefore the risk increases. It is very common to see students wearing their mouthguards during live rolling.
The question you need to ask yourself is, is it worth the risk of not wearing a mouthguard? If you were unfortunate enough to have a tooth knocked out, it could be permanent. While this may not bother some people, for others it could have a real negative impact on their self-esteem and confidence.
The cost of dental treatment to repair the damage with implants can vary massively too. Is the risk really worth it when it’s so easy and inexpensive to throw a mouthguard in your training bag before practice?
Can Wearing a Mouthguard Affect Your BJJ Training?
If you’ve decided that you would like to wear a mouthguard during your BJJ training, great! But are there any negatives to wearing a mouthguard?
I personally don’t have a problem while wearing a mouthguard, but after a little bit of research I found that some people do struggle.
So, just in case you run into some bother too, here’s what I found out about the main issues and a few tips on how you can overcome them.
Discomfort & Restricted Breathing
The two most common problems people say they have with wearing a mouthguard is either; it restricts their breathing or it is uncomfortable in their mouths.
Breathing: After a bit more researching, it seems that the main cause of breathing difficulty with a mouthguard isn’t actually the mouthguard itself. Normally, it turns out to be an issue with the person having a lack of experience of training with their mouthguard in and not feeling comfortable with the increased breathing rate through their mouthguard.
When you’re working hard in training and start to breath harder, panic can start to creep in and then the feeling of a mouthguard in your mouth just makes everything worse. So, the first instinct is to spit it out.
Discomfort: Unlike with breathing, this does seem to be much more of an issue with the mouthguard itself.
2 Ways to Overcome Mouthguard Breathing & Discomfort in BJJ
I found a few suggestions to help overcome mouthguard breathing and discomfort issues from people who had also struggled wearing a mouthguard in BJJ.
1. Wearing Your Mouthguard
The first thing that helped overcome the problems was to wear your mouthguard around the house or while watching TV, this helped them get used to the feeling of wearing a mouthguard to the point where they said they hardly noticed it in their mouth.
2. Training in Your Mouthguard
Then once comfortable with the feeling of a mouthguard, they suggested to wear your mouthguard while doing some other form of exercise to get used to an increased breathing rate while wearing a mouthguard. They suggested starting light, put your mouthguard in, and do some push-ups each day for a few weeks, then progress onto high-intensity training like running. Again, after some practice, they hardly noticed their mouthguard.
It appears that some people struggle much more than others with mouthguards. If you find that you too struggle with a mouthguard during BJJ training, then maybe give these suggestions a try and see if it improves, or ask others at your BJJ school for some advice too.
If you see the value in wearing a mouthguard and want to use one during your BJJ training, but are having issues with it, don’t be put off. Think just how many athletes have to wear one in their sport, but are still able to successfully perform at a high level. And how often do we see a fighter being interviewed after a fight but still with their mouthguard in? It bothers them so little; they forget it’s even in there!
With the tips outlined above, and with practice, you too can get to the point of being able to train and perform without your mouthguard bothering you, and with your teeth protected during your BJJ practice.
Different Types of Mouthguards & Which to Avoid for BJJ
When it comes to mouthguards, it can be difficult to know which one to go for, what to look out for and what to avoid. A quick Amazon search brings up hundreds of results, but not all of which are suitable.
There are three types of Mouthguards. Only two of which are generally recommended for BJJ training though. Let’s break it down.
Stock Mouthguards (Not Recommended)
Stock mouthguards are generic-sized and fitted mouthguards with very little, to no room at all, for moulding or adjusting their fit. They don’t provide much protection and, although they are very cheap to buy, they are not recommended by dentists or contact sport players. It’s best to avoid stock mouthguards and invest slightly more for a much better-quality mouthguard.
Boil and Bite Mouthguards (Best Option)
The best mouthguards for BJJ are boil and bite mouthguards. Once placed in hot water, they are easy to mold to your mouth and teeth using your tongue to push them into shape. Once molded to your mouth and teeth, boil and bite mouthguards provide enough protection for BJJ.
To mold your boil and bite mouthguard, you simply place the mouthguard in some boiling water, carefully remove it, let it cool for a few seconds and then put it into your mouth, using your tongue to push it into the roof of your mouth and teeth.
Once your mouthguard is fitted to the shape of your mouth and teeth, it will provide much better protection than stock mouthguards, against the type of potential impact that can happen in BJJ training.
Boil and bite mouthguards are the best option for what we need in BJJ.
Custom-Fitted Mouthguards (Advanced Option)
These mouthguards provide the most comfort and protection but are generally only used by professional athletes. They are individually designed and made by dental specialists to the exact dimensions and fit of your teeth and mouth. They take much longer to be made and come with a premium price tag.
Custom-fitted mouthguards go far beyond what is generally needed for BJJ training and are not necessary while starting out. In the future, if you want to commit to the extra cost though, they are the most advanced, comfortable and protective option.
Mouthguard to Avoid
The final thing to look out for are mouthguards designed to protect against teeth grinding. Some people suffer from a condition where they cannot help but biting down and grinding their teeth while they sleep.
There are mouthguards to help stop the issue called nocturnal bite plates or bite splints. While they look identical to other mouthguards, they are not designed for the same shock-absorbing mouthguard we need in BJJ. There are loads listed on Amazon but are easily identified as sleep-teeth-grinding mouthguards. It’s best to avoid these.
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