Before I began my Jiu Jitsu journey well over 8 years ago, I spent many years getting punched and kicked in the face.
What I mean is that I started my martial arts journey as a Striker learning and fighting in Muay Thai. It is said that Muay Thai is the science of 8 limbs, more like the science of 8 limbs striking you!
The only thing it didn’t have was head butts (Lethwai), but a man must have his limits.
All this to say when I started my BJJ journey, I came at it with a MMA/Striking mindset for safety. You will get hit, elbowed & kneed in your head & groin during your career whether inadvertent or malicious and no matter how careful you are.
Sh$t will happen.
After a combined 20 years of getting head kicked, kneed and punched in the face (and even eye gouged a few times), I have had ZERO issues with my teeth.
I have come to an understanding on the perfect mouthguard, what it takes to protect my choppers and wanted to share what mouth protection works best for BJJ.
I DON’T NEED TO WEAR A MOUTHGUARD
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While this is true, accidents can happen on the mats, you could get kneed, kicked and elbowed to the face.. Train long enough this WILL happen to you so don’t dismiss it as a slim chance.
Dental work (especially cosmetic work) can be expensive if you need it (and if you are lucky to have insurance in the first place).
Whatever minor inconvenience it is to wear a mouthguard versus serious dental work it is a no brainer.
WHAT I LOOK FOR IN A MOUTHGUARD
What I look for in a mouthguard is the ability to conform and protect my upper row of teeth such that if I open my jaw, the mouthpiece will stay fitted with my top row of teeth and stay in place over the top row even when opening and closing my Jaw.
However if someone is applying a choke (like a rear naked choke) I want my mouthguard to protect both upper and lower teeth from the pressure.
The second thing I look for is a beefier mouthguard that includes slits or opening between the top and bottom rows. I like this feature as it allows for breathability when you are clenching your teeth.
MY TOP CHOICES
There are a ton of options on the market place and you can boil down the options specific to mma, boxing etc to 2 types:
Single Row/Top Mouth Guards / Single Bite / Gum Shields
These types of mouthguards offer protection for the top row of teeth but offer very little bottom row of teeth protection. Some believe that when you clench your teeth with these types of mouthguards it offers a solid unified protection.
However you are constantly adjusting your mouth, clinching, tightening of the jaws and relaxing the jaws so that you are always in a state of flux.
For this I think specific for BJJ and any other combat sports, these single row mouth guards offer inferior protection.
The trade off for many is that in general wearing a mouthguard is uncomfortable and cumbersome so naturally a single row mouthguard is the best of comfort and some protection.
For this reason single row mouthguards are popular, but overall I do not recommend them.
Double / Double Bite Mouth Guards
Double Row or Double mouth guards offer superior upper and lower jaw protection.
The main visual difference you will see is an upper and lower guard lip barrier over your front row and bottom row of teeth (at least in the frontal area).
The trade off with double row mouthguards is that they are generally less comfortable (at least when you are not used to it) and can be a little more expensive than single row mouth guards.
However for the protection afforded the added cost is minimal. The discomfort goes away once you start wearing them regularly.
Mine are fitted so well they stay on my upper jaw freely but allow added protection when I clench my teeth.
MY CURRENT FAVORITE DOUBLE ROW MOUTHGUARD
Shock Doctor Nano Double Mouthguard
- High-impact technology for high-impact sports
- Protects, stabilizes both upper & lower teeth/jaw
- Dual arch structure absorbs and disperses impact away from point of contact
- Gel-Fit liner custom molds to teeth for tight, comfortable fit
- Tri-bite stabilizers properly align upper and lower jaw which may increase strength and athletic performance, known as MORA performance enhancement
I rock a double mouth guard from Shock Doctor called “Shock Doctor Nano Double Mouthguard”
I love this mouth guard as it has both upper and lower jaw protection. It’s light and relatively comfortable once fitted. I have worn bulkier double bite mouth guards but these are the most comfortable by far.
I loved them so much that I bought an extra pair right away.
The advantages to the nano is that it is lightweight, conforms with a nice fit on my top row of teeth – which allows me to have the mouth guard stay in place with my top row of teeth when I move my lower jaw up and down while giving me lower teeth protection when I clench my jaw.
The disadvantages are they are a little more pricey than single row mouth guards, if you are not used to wearing a mouthguard or a double row mouth guard, you will need to adjust to it in the beginning.
Everlast Evershield Double Mouthguard
- Double layered frame
- Shock-absorbent inner layer surrounded by a more rigid outer shield
- Specifically engineered for upper and lower jaw protection
- Boil and bite design provides custom molds for a tight, comfortable fit
- Sport type: Martial Arts
Another mouthguard that looks to be similar to the Nano from Shock Doctor is the “Everlast Evershield Double Mouthguard”. This is a double row mouth guard and protects the lower and upper rows of teeth.
Even though Everlast is a boxing company, they design these mouthguards for getting punched in the face…. So these should be good for BJJ.
- AeroFlow Clench and Breathe technology enhances breathing and endurance, breathe through the mouth even while clenching, actually opens Glotis airway 100%
- Fits over braces and can be worn with or without a strap and Aligns jaw to allow muscles to work at 100-Percent restoring lost strength (M.O.R.A. Effect)
Another option is the brain pad series of double mouth guards. I have used these in the past and they are great for when I was doing MMA and BJJ. They offer maximal protection while allowing for air to pass through the clenched jaw through a middle airway.
I would say they are the most cumbersome for a double mouth guard and may be a bit too much for BJJ only applications but they do offer really great protection from my experience so if you are really worried about your teeth definitely try them out.
FITTING YOUR MOUTH GUARDS
IMPORTANT!!!! FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS!
You may have settled on the perfect mouthguard but out of the box you must customize it for your teeth.
Usually the instructions call for some sort of boiling the mouthguard in water to have it soft and malleable to conform to your unique teeth/jaw set up.
PLEASE FOLLOW the instructions to the “T”. Meaning you must time the boiling and mouth fitment correctly. You do not want to re-boil the mouthguard to have it fit because the first time you did it it did not work.
Have your phone or stop watch ready to time to the exact time listed in the instruction manual.
You will want to get this right the first time! I have found re-boiling your mouth guard to get it to fit correctly usually weakens it.
I have never had any success with boiling the mouthguard a second time and not having the integrity of the guard get weak and worse unusable.
So really don’t be afraid to bite down in order to get the perfect fit after it comes out of the boiling water phase. It’s not really that hot and whatever discomfort there is a minor thing compared to getting the right fit.
SO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR FITMENT TO THE T!
CARE AND MAINTENANCE OF YOUR MOUTH GUARD.
Your mouth guard will get gross with regular usage (any usage haha) so you MUST care for it and treat it like a dirty Gi (or NoGi gear) and clean after each use…you do wash your gear after every training session right??
Here is my care regime for my Mouth Guard
- Always wash your mouthguard with at least clean water (under a faucet) after each use and place in area to air dry
- Before/After use – dab a little toothpaste on your toothbrush and brush the top and bottom of your mouth guard to really clean it.
- Once a week or every other week place your mouthguard in dishwasher cycle to really give a thorough cleaning (never had any issues with the heated cycle melting my mouthguard)
Bonus – I like transporting my mouthguard in a small sealed container filled with a little mouthwash (antiseptic) to give it an extra freshness before wearing for class. I don’t let it sit in it after class when I get home just during the commute back and forth to training.
BUY MULTIPLE MOUTH GUARDS WHEN YOU GET ONE YOU LOVE
I can not over emphasis this point enough. When we do find a mouth guard that works well for us, alway have a replacement of the same kind ready just in case you lose your old one.
Having a mouth guard that fits you perfectly, its value is like gold. You may think that you can buy another when needed but you can not be certain the manufacturer didn’t change something about the guard or even discontinue it.
As the old saying goes “1 is none, 2 is one, 3 is better…” always have multiple mouth guards of the same brand and type that you love ready to go. At least one that is fitted and one that you can fit later. (Sometime mouth guards my fit different as we get older and our teeth alignment make micro shifts)