Yes. Thanks for reading this article, goodbye.
Just kidding, let’s answer this question for real! We’ll look at why you should wear a mouthguard for jiu jitsu and dive into what kind is best to keep your teeth protected while training. This article is not written to sell you a particular mouthguard, but to provide you with information.
Why do I wear a mouthguard?
A few weeks after I got my blue belt I was sparring this super-heavyweight in the gym. I got him to turtle and was starting to take his back. Then he threw his arm behind his back as my head was coming towards the back of his neck.
I don’t know what he was trying to do, but he might as well have been intent on hitting my front tooth with the point of his elbow with maximum impact.
I heard a crack, one of those coming from inside my skull (the scary kind). My tooth, which had previously been damaged some years back, was now 90% broken in half, just barely holding together.
The crazy thing about this? I WAS wearing my mouthguard. A cheap, thin, boil-and-bite, a loosely fitting mouthguard that wasn’t up to the task.
Had I not worn it the damage could’ve been worse, but there I was left without a very prominent tooth. I tried to rock the Paulo Miyao look, but it wasn’t working out.
Thankfully I lived nearby the best dental implant center in my country and $4500 later I had a titanium screw drilled into my jaw, a new crown and a professionally made mouth guard.
Warning, the photo below is a bit graphic, but it also illustrates the consequences of not wearing a mouthguard.
At the time I was doing MMA and jiu jitsu. I asked the dental surgeon when I could resume sparring and he said: “With this mouthguard right here, you can start right away.”
I was a little bit skeptical, but also young and itching to scrap. The first training back, a black belt was passing my guard and he accidentally dropped his hip bone right on top of my mouth when passing…
Despite the initial panic, I was totally fine and this was an extreme example (that I don’t recommend) that made me vow to always rock a pro mouthguard.
What are some other reasons for wearing a mouthguard for jiu jitsu?
Before “the incident” I had a long period of training without a mouthguard or gum shield as it’s commonly called in British English. One thing I noticed is that back then I had frequent cuts appear on my mouth. Mostly from getting hit with a knee or elbow or foot here and there, opening up a tiny wound in my mouth. Often those cuts would turn into painful sores. Wearing a mouth guard for jiu jitsu has been very effective at preventing those. I will do you a favor and not include an image of this.
Not bitting your tongue and grinding your teeth
Grinding your teeth is not a good idea. However, if you’re serious about defending chokes, both from the back and guillotines, arm-triangle chokes. You will often find yourself bitting down hard, tucking your chin and sometimes using your jaw as a last line of defense. The pressure on your jaw and your teeth are immense and bitting into a mouth guard will protect your teeth from getting ground down like your guard under an elite smash-passer.
Confidence when rolling
On the rare occasions when I forget to bring my mouthguard to jiu jitsu, I am much more hesitant to wrestle or do any movements where I’m leading with my head. Having a good mouthguard will make you more confident, especially when doing standup or smash passing.
What kind of mouthguard should you get?
There are 2 main options:
Boil and Bite
These affordable mouthguards are sold at just about every sporting store, as well as online. You grab them out of the package, put them in boiling water per instructions and bite down hard, then let them cool. This is Keenan’s signature mouth guard:
Pros of boil-and-bite:
Quickly Available (can be “made” in minutes)
Reasonably Effective (if sturdy enough)
Cons of boil-and-bite:
The molding process can be botched easily
Known to loosely fit and can be uncomfortable
Does not protect the gums
Can be difficult to breathe while wearing it
Professional Custom Mouthguard for jiu jitsu
Pros of custom mouthguard for jiu jitsu
Incredibly comfortable fit, because it’s made based on molds that the dental technician takes
Great protection of all of your teeth
Comfortable biting down
They last longer
Easier to breathe
Cons of custom mouthguard for jiu jitsu
Expensive (400-800 USD) *still a lot cheaper than dental surgery or new teeth
Takes a while to get (at least a week normally)
Stressful if you lose it.
How to care for your mouthguard?
I recently received a new mouthguard for jiu jitsu from Guard Ya Grill here in San Diego. The best tip I got from Ryan S. who made the mouthguard is to always rinse the mouthguard immediately after use. The best way to end up with a nasty mouthguard is to let said saliva harden into tartar on it. This is the best way to prevent your mouth guard from getting super gross. Obviously having a nice case is important too. Not putting the mouthguard behind your ear or in your gi/shorts will also keep some bacteria off of it.
Any mouthguard is better than no mouthguard and the integrity of your teeth will thank you for it. It doesn’t matter if you go with Keenan’s trusty pink boil-and-bite or my custom mouthguard fo jiu jitsu, protect your grill so you don’t have to take time off the mats and spend $6000 dollars on a dental implant. You can get like 5 Shoyoroll gis for that money!