If you’re serious about training BJJ or MMA, you need a mouthguard.
We get it – you’re tough. Everyone is. But while cuts and bruises make for cool battle scars, damage to your teeth is never fun. It looks awful, it hurts like hell, and you’ll end up owing a fortune in dentist fees.
You’ll avoid a whole lot of pain, inconvenience, and money for the pretty small investment of a decent mouthpiece.
In this post, we’re going to go over the biggest reasons to go out and get a mouthguard, as well as the best options on the market today.
Why Do I Need a Mouthguard?
Imagine yourself, with no teeth.
Is that a good enough reason?
When you’re an adult, teeth don’t grow back. That’s why you need to take the utmost care of them, unless you want thousands of dollars in medical bills, or you want to go with a fashionable “missing tooth” look.
I mean, who knows, maybe this look is going to be in fashion soon:
In martial arts, particularly BJJ and MMA, it’s really easy to catch an accidental strike that does damage to your teeth. Even in BJJ, where there are no strikes. Being around explosive movements all the time means you’re always at risk of stray elbows and knees. If you’ve trained a while, you’ve probably been on the receiving end of a few unintentional headbutts to the chin as well.
Not everyone will take a shot to the mouth bad enough to knock out a tooth, but it’s not something you want to risk. On the lower end of the scale, it’s very easy to chip a tooth from the impact of your upper and lower teeth coming together.
In MMA (or any striking discipline) the reason for mouthguards is a little different. You want to protect your teeth from direct punches and kicks, of course. But more dangerous than damage to your teeth is damage to the brain.
Mouthguards act as a shock absorber, protecting you from head injuries like concussions. Without a mouthguard, the shock from a well-placed strike rattles through the jaw and up to the brain, leading to nasty after-effects.
Even if you don’t care about your teeth, you should care about your brain. You’ve only got one.
A mouthguard, as long as it’s of decent quality and well-fitted, eats up a lot of the power, protecting the brain more so than the teeth. It also helps prevent injuries to the neck, jaw and surrounding joints.
Do I Need a BJJ-Specific Mouthguard?
Luckily there’s no need to get a mouthguard specific for BJJ. Mouthguards are worn in many sports, from rugby to basketball to lacrosse. Generally speaking, they all work the same and will protect you just the same for BJJ.
The main thing to consider for BJJ is that you don’t want a mouthguard that is too bulky. Football mouthguards are usually quite large, covering the top and bottom rows of teeth. That makes it an awkward fit for BJJ or MMA, as there is a lot of cardio, and you need to be able to breathe freely for a 5+ minute round.
What To Look For In A Mouthguard
Not all mouthguards are created equal. And buying a low-quality or ill-fitting one can be dangerous. Not only will it fail to give you the protection you need, it will give you the illusion that you are protected. This can lead to putting yourself in more dangerous positions, putting you even more at risk.
Here are a few characteristics of a good quality mouthpiece.
Feel & fit
It’s incredibly important that the mouthguard fits correctly. It should be firm and tight to the teeth, not moving around or falling out all the time. Your head will be making some fast movements, and you need the mouthguard to stay in place throughout this.
At the same time, it should feel comfortable. You shouldn’t be gagging or choking on it. It should also be easy to breathe through. The last thing you want is to be thinking about an uncomfortable mouthpiece when someone is trying to pull your arms off.
Obviously, the mouthguard needs to keep you safe. This means finding the right balance between comfort and protection.
Generally, a thicker mouthguard will provide more protection, assuming the fit is correct and it’s made from high-quality material. Just don’t sacrifice comfort and the ability to breathe.
Ok, the last point isn’t going to affect your safety, but it’s a consideration in your final choice. A lot of us like to put fashion on display when we fight, and mouthguards these days have a ton of crazy design options.
You might be fine with the stock black or clear variety. But for the more style-conscious, you can get a mouthpiece with your country’s flag, or something crazy like Andrei Arlovski’s fanged mouthpiece. It’s all up to you!
Just remember that style comes last – protection and fit are much more important.
Custom Fit vs Boil and Bite
There are a couple of different types of mouthguard you can buy. There’s generally a substantial difference in price, but also quality.
If you want the best, and are willing to shell out for it, get a custom-fitted mouthpiece. These are molded specifically for your own mouth, fitting around your teeth and jaw for superior comfort and protection.
A dentist needs to make an impression of your teeth, which means either going into a dentist’s office or sending an impression in with a special kit. Custom mouthguards bought online generally send a kit out to you, which you send back to the company after making your impression.
The standard “off the shelf” mouthguard you’ll get is a “boil and bite”. These are mass-produced and can be shaped to your teeth at home, by placing it in boiling water, temporarily softening the rubber so you can mold it around your teeth.
Boil and bite mouthguards are significantly cheaper, but don’t provide quite the level of protection as a custom-fit one. Still, with the high production quality today, there are some boil and bite mouthguards that provide enough protection for a serious martial artist.
The Best Mouthguards for BJJ and MMA in 2019
So let’s get down to it. This is a list of the very best options out there today, for anyone who wants to train martial arts and have a killer smile too.
Shock Doctor Sport Mouthguard
Shock Doctor are a big name in the protective equipment game. They’re well known for making high-quality, reliable mouthpieces, as well as a few other things.
The Shock Doctor mouthguard is a gel boil and bite mouthguard, made to professional dental standards. The best feature is the heavy duty Exoskeletal Shock Frame, which is designed to withstand impact from multiple angles.
The material of the mouthguard is quality and durable, so you won’t need to replace it every few months, even if you’re training full time.
It comes in two sizes, one for youths (10 and under) and one for adults (11+). There’s a wide range of colors available, as well as a few flavor options, if the taste of a mouthguard bothers you.
Venum Challenger Mouthguard
Venum is one of the biggest names in combat sports. And if you want a comfortable, affordable mouthguard, the Challenger is the best you can get.
At first look, it appears small and weak, but it’s designed especially for grapplers and martial artists, to withstand the specific impact we’re most likely to come across.
The lightweight design makes it super comfortable and easy to breathe. You won’t even realize you’re wearing a mouthpiece – perfect for people who are easily bothered.
The design is classic Venum. Stylish, sharp and professional.
If you want a step up in protection, you can go for the Venum Predator – bulkier, but stronger and even better at absorbing big impacts. Great fit for the heavyweights out there.
Sisu Aero NextGen Mouthguard
Sisu makes an amazing ultralight mouthguard, offering protection without any discomfort. The ultralight feel is due to the 1.6mm thickness, significantly smaller than almost any other mouthguard, extremely easy to talk, breathe and drink while wearing. Yet it still provides top of the line protection.
The science behind it is “Diffusix Technology”, a way of distributing the force from impact over a large area, meaning less impact gets through to your teeth and jaw. What’s more, Sisu puts their money where their mouth is, with a $35,000 dental warranty should you damage your teeth while using one of their mouthguards.
NXTRND Rush Mouth Guard
The NXTRND Rush is built to provide superior protection for athletes. Their mouthguards are a boil and bite, which are designed to have a “snap-in” fit after molding it to your teeth. The Rush is a little thicker than others, but the added thickness ensures solid protection, while the design leaves room to breathe freely.
OPRO Power-Fit Mouthguard
OPRO is the official mouthguard of the UFC, as well as sporting organizations like USA Wrestling and New Zealand Rugby. The Power-Fit is a boil and bite, but it’s really easy to make a near-perfect fit and wind up with a super comfortable mouthguard. The high-quality material doesn’t break down, and feels like it holds up well upon impact. A great mix between comfort and protection.
With the OPRO Power-Fit you have a ton of design options to choose from – including stars and stripes, camo, “O Canada” and UFC – in case you’re looking for something to complete the look your new rashguard started.
Impact Custom Professional MMA/Boxing/Muay Thai Mouthguard
If you want the very best you can get, go with Impact. Their mouthguards are made specifically for martial arts, particularly Muay Thai and MMA fighters who expect a lot of punishment coming their way.
This is the only one on the list that offers a custom fit, which is a big advantage if you’re a serious fighter. When you buy it, you’ll receive an impression kit, which you use to make a mold of your teeth at home. Just send it in and their professional dental lab will build a mouthguard that’s just right for you.
It’s a little more pricey to go a route like this, but if you’re a serious fighter, it’s more than worth it.
How to Mold a Boil and Bite Mouthguard
Setting a boil and bite mouthguard is super easy. And if you’ve grown up with rugby and other contact sports like me, you can just about do it in your sleep.
Here are the steps to fitting your new mouthguard:
- Boil some water.
- Leave the water for 30 seconds to cool slightly (you want it just below boiling).
- Pour the water into a bowl or large cup, and put your mouthpiece in the water.
- Leave it in for 90 seconds, then carefully take it out with tongs or a spoon.
- (Check the instructions that come with your product, as different sizes and thickness may require a shorter or longer time in the water)
- Give the mouthguard a few seconds to cool, just enough so it doesn’t burn your mouth.
- Place it in your mouth, against your upper teeth. Press the outside firmly against your gums, and use your tongue to press it against the roof of your mouth.
- Bite down as you normally would while molding it, and suck in to ensure it’s tight to your teeth.
- Once complete (this should take around 15-20 seconds), carefully take it out and submerge it in cold water for around 30 seconds.
- Put the mouthguard in and test how it feels. You should have a firm, comfortable feel, without gagging or choking.
- If the fit is not right, if you can feel the mouthguard moving around at all, do the process over. Most mouthguards should be able to be re-fitted without a problem.
- If necessary, you can cut away a little of the material from the back or edges. Though be careful not to cut too much, or to leave jagged edges.
The process generally takes just a few minutes, and can be done at home. As long as you bought yourself a quality mouthguard (like the examples above), you’ll be able to step on the mats, in the ring, or on the field with confidence.