It’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Literally. Many of you have played or are playing contact sports such as MMA, Muay Thai or football. One of the most important pieces of equipment is what you use to protect your pearly whites. Even though protecting your smile seems to be the most obvious reason to use a mouth guard (MG), it can be used for more including decreasing the effects of stress on the body, pain management and even improved performance.
The stress reducing effects of a mouth guard is tied to the simple and natural act of mastication or chewing. Active chewing has been tied to improved performance on memory, learning, long-term recall and mental reaction time. It can make you a Genius! Well, not really but you get the idea.
What does all this have to do with your MG, considering that you don’t actually chew it? Well, some of the effects of biting down, in this case your MG, have been found to suppress a rise in blood pressure, cause a drop in core body temperature, and changes hormonal markers related to stress in the body. So, the next time you get into an argument with your better half, consider having her chew on something before it really gets heated. Research on MGs has been occurring since about the 60’s but it really had not been looked at seriously until the late 80’s. Initially researchers found some positive effects on strength, endurance, and breathing when using custom made MG.
In a recent study, conducted at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Lab, testing the effect of an MG on power production, the authors found that subjects wearing the MG during a high speed power and force test involving a bench press, throw and vertical jump were able to sustain power production over the course of the test. That means that they were able to continue to push harder, faster and stronger without an increase in strain. The authors demonstrated that using a custom MG might help with performance in sports that require upper body power in a loaded task such as in football or rugby. The same effects were also seen in sports not typically associated with loading such as basketball, throwing or combative sports.