They were first designed and produced in London, specifically to prevent lip lacerations in boxing contests. While they’ve remained as a vital part of boxing gear, today mouthguards are used in various sports, such as rugby and hockey, primarily to protect teeth and gums.
In this article we’re going to take you through everything you need to know about mouthguards for boxing and combat sports.
How to use a mouthguard
While many mouthguards or gum shields come with instructions, it’s a good idea to have a good basic understanding of how to use a mouthguard in the correct fashion before you start moulding it. Here’s our quick and easy rundown.
Get all the essentials in one place at the start
Although fitting a mouthguard isn’t difficult, it is easy to mess up if you haven’t got everything you need before you start. Running around looking for a pair of scissors whilst trying to mold a mouthguard is not only a bad idea for obvious safety reasons, but it’ll also mean you can’t fix and fit the mouthguard in the way you want to.
The necessary materials to fit a mouthguard are the following
- A bowl of boiling water deep enough to submerge the mouthguard in.
- A bowl of ice water
- A pair of scissors
- A towel
Get it to the correct length
It can sometimes be an issue that if mouthguards stretch too far, they can irritate the back of your mouth.As a mouthguard is mainly used to protect your vulnerable front teeth, not the molars, some wiggle room at the back is fine. While certain athletes like to have a shorter guard that just covers the front teeth, others feel more comfortable having one that can go as far as covering the first molars. Before you start moulding your mouthguard, try putting it on your mouth, and if it feels like it's poking you, it may need some altering. You can do this by carefully trimming the mouthguard using a pair of scissors. Obviously don’t go overboard, just make sure it’s the right length for you.
Put the kettle on, then cover your mouthguard in boiling water
There needs to be enough boiling water to keep the mouthguard submerged for between 30 and 60 seconds(if you have braces or any other dental prosthetics, don’t do it for any longer than 30 seconds). However it’s also important to be able to fish the mouthguard from the water, so make sure it’s not too deep.
Keep the mouthguard submerged in the water by the end strap, allowing it to soften for the correct period of time. If the mouthguard has no strap or you’ve already removed it when getting the correct length, you can use a table spoon to keep it under water.
Take the mouthguard out and pop it in your mouth
Using the strap or soon, carefully remove it from the boiling water.
- Quickly dab the mouthguard with a towel so it is dry, but still soft.
- Then put it in your mouth and adjust it against your upper teeth. It should be hot, but not uncomfortably so.
- Take your thumbs and push the mouthguard up and back against your molars, then bite down firmly to create the impression of your teeth at the bottom and suck so the guard presses against your top teeth.
- After that, place your tongue against the roof of your mouth to create pressure, which will achieve a tighter fit around your teeth. This part of the process shouldnt take more than 15-20 seconds. Be careful to not chew the mouthguard or move it round whilst fitting it.
Why Use A Mouthguard?
For such a small and simple accessory, the mouthguard, also known as a gum shield, goes some way to protecting your mouth and jaw.
One of the most common uses of the mouthguard is to protect your teeth and gums. Our teeth are so fragile that even a very small impact can easily dislodge them. A standard mouthguard covers our upper teeth and gums. As our upper teeth naturally overlap our lower teeth, they also become protected.
In full-contact combat, the mouthguard is also effective in stopping mouth lacerations. Your teeth can easily cut the inside of your cheeks and lips if you have been struck, so the mouthguard acts as a cushion between them both.
Biting down on your gum shield strengthens your jaw and reduces jaw movement in contact. If your teeth are not clenched when being punched, your jaw will be very frail. Even in light sparring or pad work it's good practice to bite down when throwing combinations in attack or defence.
What Are The Different Types Of Mouthguards?
The most effective mouth guards are moulded to the form of the user’s teeth. Here are the most popular options –
Boil and Bite
These are the most commonly used mouth guards on the market. They’re affordable and effective. Boil and Bite gum shields are standard in size, so you’ll need to use scissors to cut away parts that feel uncomfortable or irritate your mouth. After this, you’ll need to place the gum shield in boiling hot water for 30-60 seconds depending on the model. Place it into your mouth and bite down, shaping the shield around your teeth.
Be sure to push the mouthguard up against your back teeth and around your gums. A well-applied gum shield should stay in place whilst your jaw is open, helping you breath more naturally.
Follow the instructions on each gumshield before boiling and biting, as the application can vary.
If you’re regularly practicing full contact boxing, getting a customised gum shield is more efficient against injury, as well as being super comfortable. Most dentists can construct a custom mouthguard, although you will pay more.
A double mouthguard protects both the top and bottom teeth. They’re very good for people who might need extra protection or have sensitive gums. The one negative to a double mouthguard is that they are restrictive to breathing due to its larger size in your mouth. If you are going to take part in full contact boxing, blows to the nose can make breathing difficult. If a double mouthguard is restricting your only other airway, you will tire quickly and become easier to hit.
How Often Should I Change My Mouthguard?
It’s important to change your mouth guard once a year. This is to ensure that you always have the best protection.
Cleaning And Storage
A simple rinse with hot water after each use is recommended to clean away bacteria. The mouthguard should then be dried and stored in its original box.