Safe Sparring: Best Mouthguard for MMA, Boxing, and Muay Thai
One of the simplest, yet important pieces of safety equipment you’ll purchase is a combat mouthguard. If you’re sparring or clinching, a good MMA mouth guard is a must to protect your teeth, jaw and neck. Even if you’re sparring using big gloves and keeping it light, all it takes is one stray punch to knock out a tooth.
A mouthguard is a cheap insurance against taking a trip to the dentist. It’s better to be safe than under the drill. In fact, the price is negligible when compared to how much money a fighter could spend on extensive dental work.
This guide will walk you through the different types of mouthguards, how to use them, and why. You’ll learn everything you need to know about the best boxing mouthguards before you buy. Fighters should value their teeth and the overall health of the jaw, now is the time to learn how to protect them.
Every time you get hit or kicked in the face, a shockwave is sent throughout jaw to the rest of your skull. If it’s a direct hit to your mouth, it may even cause a tooth to fracture. This is especially true if you are hit with an uppercut that hits your lower jaw, causing your teeth to slam together, which causes the bottom teeth to push the upper teeth from below. In situations with intense impact, the force can actually cause the lower jaw to fracture. The resulting shockwave can cause a serious brain injury as well.
Mouth guards are designed to absorb the impact and distribute the kinetic energy throughout a larger surface area. This decreases the amount of force felt in a specific area, greatly reducing the severity of any injuries that may be sustained. Additionally, the outer cushion of the mouthguard will prevent the upper and lower teeth from slamming together, preventing teeth fractures.
Essentially, mouthguards are ideal for preventing tooth and jaw injuries. They also reduce the chances of sustaining a concussion when you’re sparring by stopping the impact of a blow before it echoes throughout your skull. Without a doubt, wearing a mouthguard is the best decision you can make to protect yourself from injury and lengthen your MMA career.
Your mouthguard works to protect you in five distinct ways:
1. Cushions Teeth to Impact
When used properly, a mouthguard will create an ideal cushion for your teeth to rest upon when you receive a hit or kick to the face. This cushion prevents tooth fracture by distributing the incoming force throughout a wider area. Mouthguards are composed of a shock absorbing material that adds extra protection to your teeth.
2. Protects Soft Tissues
The front of your face is home to a plethora of soft tissues, on the outside as well as on the inside. A mouthguard absorbs the shock that would otherwise be distributed into your soft tissue.
3. Protects Jaw Joint
Your jaw is an impressive (and important) machine made out of bones, muscles and tendons. Every part of your jaw is susceptible to injury when sparring. The act of using a mouthguard engages your jaw muscles and tendons, providing a sturdier foundation to receive a punch or kick.
4. Protects Neck
The act of using a mouthguard protects your neck by strengthening your entire head. As with your jaw and soft tissue, the impact of a hit or kick would normally travel throughout your entire head. Fortunately, a mouthguard stops the force of a hit from traveling, even from traveling down to your neck.
5. Contributes to Head Protection
Studies are inconclusive about concussion prevention, but common sense indicates force of a hit can be spread out and dissipated by wearing protective gear. A mouthguard alone will not save a fighter from concussion, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. If you have any concerns, please consult a doctor.
How to use Your Mouthguard
First, whether you’re practicing clinching or engaged in full impact sparring, you should always use your mouthguard in conjunction with good headgear. Get in the habit of biting down before you’re hit or kicked and clench your jaw. Clenching your jaw unites all the moving pieces in your jaw, forming a sturdier surface and mitigating unnecessary trauma.
If your jaw is loose and you take a kick or punch to the face, the mouth piece will protect your teeth, but the hit will shake up the rest of your jaw, neck and sensitive face muscles. Some of the most devastating hits that you’ll receive in MMA or boxing are due to having a loose jaw. Conversely, if you brace for the impact by clenching your jaw, the impact will be distributed throughout your jaw.
There are multiple types of mouthguards on the market, typically separated into two different fields: light impact and high impact. A high impact mouth piece is for combat sports. Someone who purchases a mouthguard to stop them from grinding their teeth at night has much different needs than someone who regularly gets punched in the face. Thus, you should purchase a high impact mouthguard.
A high impact mouthguard is thicker and designed to disperse energy more effectively than a light impact mouthguard. This is one of the main characteristics to look for when shopping for a mouthguard – thickness. You’ll protect your teeth, jaw and neck more effectively. The only downside to a thicker mouthguard is that it may take a while longer to get used to wearing.
There are two types of mouthguards: custom and boil and bite. Each type of mouthguards has benefits and drawbacks.
Custom Fit Mouthguards (Best for MMA)
These provide the best fit and protection possible. You’ll receive a mouthguard designed specifically for your teeth and you don’t have to mess around trying to mold the mouthguard to your teeth. Creating a custom mouth guard calls for making a mold of your teeth, which is then used by specialists to create a mouthguard catered to your exact dimensions.
The typical process for obtaining a custom mouthguard involves receiving a kit that contains everything you need to create the impression of your teeth. Then, you send the mold back to the manufacturer to await your completed mouth guard. Alternatively, you may visit a dentist to have them create a mold. Some may even create the mouthguard for you, too.
You receive an exact fit that’s so tight you must remove it with your fingers; you can’t pull it off with your tongue.
It won’t fall out of place when you get hit in the face.
Breathing and speaking is easier compared to a boil and bite.
The best boxing mouthguards for any serious fighter.
Significantly more expensive than boil and bite mouthguards.
It takes more time to receive, since you must make a mold.
Potentially have to visit a dentist to have a mold made.
Impact Custom are professional level custom fit mouthguards. The plastic is is free of BPA chemicals and comes in either 5mm or 6-7mm thick for excellent absorption of blows. Despite the thickness, the fit is tight and prevents the breathing difficulties lesser high impact mouthguards are known for.
The nice thing about Impact Custom is that it’s a kit and doesn’t require a visit to the dentist (and way more money) for fitting. The kit includes everything you need to take an exact impression of your teeth. The impression gets returned to Impact where your new mouthguard is formed.
The Impact Customs Professional Sports version is 5mm thick, and is great for all kinds of contact sports, including boxing and BJJ. The thinner plastic makes drinking water and breathing easier. For more intense training and competition, the Impact Custom Professional MMA mouthguard is the best choice. It is thicker (6-7mm) for more resistance to direct blows. This is the best mouth guard for MMA athletes, as well as serious boxers.
Boil and Bite
These are by far the most common type of mouthguard. These mouth pieces are significantly more affordable than custom guards. However, they require more skill and touch to create the right fit. Fortunately, if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, you can end up with a mouthguard that provides you with adequate protection.
Boil and bite mouthguards are made out of a specialized plastic that are designed to soften in water, conform under pressure, and then solidify. This unique function allows for the owner to bite the mouthpiece while it’s soft, conforming around the teeth and gums creating a semi-custom mold.
Most people select boil and bite mouthguards because they are relatively cheap and can work great if the molding process is followed correctly. They are the best boxing mouthguards for protecting your teeth on a budget.
Provides adequate protection if done correctly.
By far the fastest and easiest way to start having protection.
Cheapest type of mouthguards available.
Some models have included dental insurance.
Requires work and skill to mold the mouthguard to your mouth.
The resulting fit may not be as tight as it should be to adequately protect your mouth.
Has the potential to loosen if you take a heavy hit to the face.
Some people don’t mold them correctly, which limits the benefits a mouthguard provides.
The Venum Predator is one of the best mouth guards for the money. It is very easy to mold to your mouth and the fit has been proven to be excellent. Some boil style mouth pieces are made form cheaper material and they just don’t hold their shape. The Predator has a proven track record for creating a tight fit and keeping it over time.
The mouth piece is made from three layers of material, an outer rubber layer, a thin intermediate coating, and a gel inner material. Comparing the Predator vs Challenger models, and the main difference is the extra middle layer on the Predator. This makes it a little thicker and better for the more intense activities.
The Battle Flag mouth guard is one of the Extreme Impact models from Damage Control. DC focuses almost exclusively on making great mouth pieces for contact sports. The Extreme Impact series is made from a proprietary “Damprotech” material that is supposed to be very shock resistant.
The black and white design is understated but stylish. It makes a statement of respect, with a reverse American flag signifying the fighter striding forward into the fight. Each DC mouth guard comes with a carry case, and a $15,000 limited dental warranty.
The Venum Challenger is the little cousin of the Predator. This mouth guard is a little thinner, but still has a nice high density rubber exterior and gel padded interior. The outer frame has small ridges and features that help hold your bottom teeth to the top. It also promotes easy breathing and speaking while wearing it.
The Challenger is a sharp looking mouth piece, coming in an array of colors to match your personal color scheme. This would be a great mouth guard for sparring and MMA grappling. Keep a Venum Predator as your competition guard.
The UA ArmourGuard is a quality mouthguard designed for all contact sports. It is not all that unlike the two Venum models, it just has a more all around sport design to it. It comes with a $32,000 dental warranty. The packaging says the warranty excludes martial art sports, so this may be a good boxing only piece even though it should work fine for MMA.
The Shock Doctor Convertible is another good all purpose mouthguard. Like the top pick Predator, this model has a three layer design for ultimate shock absorption. The outer layer is a durable rubber skeleton, an intermediate layer, and a Gel-Fit liner.
Gel liners really do seem to provide the closest fit of all the boil and bite boxing mouthguards reviewed. The other common problem with boxing mouth guards is breathing. Shock Doctor has made that less of a concern with some integrated channels that allow air to flow more naturally.
Other Selection Criteria
Deciding between a boil and bite and custom mouthguard is only the beginning of the decision. There are other criteria that you should consider when shopping for a new guard.
Quality and Fit – This is an important criterion to consider when purchasing a mouthguard. It must fit your mouth and be comfortable at the same time. In fact, if you purchase a mouthguard that doesn’t fit you, it can cause further problems instead of providing the protection that you need.
For those who have decided on a boil and bite mouthguard, pay special attention during the molding process so that you create a close-to perfect fit on your mouth. An ideal fit will allow you to open your mouth comfortably, yet will still stay in place when you do so. This type of fit will allow you to take a kick or punch to the face without it falling out.
Size vs Protection – Which size of mouthguard should you purchase? If you’re looking at the best MMA mouthguards, you need a bulkier piece that will provide better shock absorption. There is a choice, as a thicker mouthguard will be less comfortable and may even stick out when your mouth is closed.
One factor to consider is the impact of the size of your mouthguard on your breathing. If the mouthguard is too obstructive, it can make breathing more difficult, something every boxer knows is detrimental. Ideally, you’ll want a larger mouthguard that offers excellent protection without obstructing your breathing.
Style vs Function – Even though mouthguards are almost never seen when in use, they actually come in an array of different styles. Maybe it’s a marketing ploy to make a “boring” piece of equipment more attractive to fighters. You should always prioritize function over style, but style is still something to consider since you’ll be using your mouthguard regularly.
If you order a custom mouthguard, you can often select the colors and even have your name or logo printed upon it, however this may cost much more. If you’re choosing a boil and bite mouthguard, pick whatever style and design you prefer as long as it is functional.
The mouthguard is an important piece of sparring equipment. Take the time to sort through listings, examine different sizes and choose the right design. Many fighters lose their teeth and sustain jaw injuries due to not having a properly fitted mouthguard. Avoid this fate by choosing in the right mouth piece for you.