The first mouth guard in the UK was developed in 1890 by a British dentist as a protective measure for the teeth, lips and gums of boxers (1). Since then it has been used extensively by a range of athletes in contact sports such as football, rugby and hockey.
So if mouth guards help protect you whilst playing sport, what’s the big deal? Well, there is a concern amongst athletes that mouth guards can have an adverse impact on their performance. As such, a recent study by Dunn-Lewis et al (2) was conducted to assess the impact of using a mouth guard on various types of physical activity.
26 young men and 24 young women performed a serious of tests including a 10m sprint, a vertical jump as well as tests to measure visual reaction time, medial-lateral balance and heart rate. Participants were randomly placed into one of three conditions: i.) using a customized mouth guard, ii.) using a standard, boil and bite mouth guard and iii.) using no mouth guard.
The use of a customized mouth guard significantly improved performance on upper-body exercises for both men and women compared with the use of standard mouth guard and using no mouth guard. Furthermore, the use of a mouth guard significantly improved performance on lower-body exercises for men compared with the conditions where a standard mouth guard and no mouth guard were used.
Contrary to the fears of many athletes, the use of a mouth guard does not have an adverse effect on physical performance. The use of a customized mouth guard, can actually offer significant benefits in physical performance.
Although the study used a fairly small sample size, the methodology was robust as participant performance was measured on no fewer than seven different types of physical activity. This offers good validity as these exercises reflect the numerous types of activity performed by athletes in their respective sport.
Although expensive, a customized mouth guard could prove to be a worthwhile investment.
In addition to rigorous training, a top notch diet and a strong mental attitude, utilising equipment like a customized mouth guard is one more thing that athletes can utilise to equip themselves with a competitive edge, whilst of course protecting their pretty (or not so pretty) smiles.
Author: Mandy Johal
1. McCrory, P. (2011). Do mouth guards prevent concussion? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 35, 81-82.
2. Dunn-Lewis, C., et al. (2012). The effects of a customized over the counter mouth guard on neruromuscular force and power production in trained men and women. The Journal of Strength Conditioning & Research, (published ahead of print, 25 Jan).
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