You have certainly heard that mouth guards will protect your teeth and jaw against injury when you are playing sports, but have you heard that they can also improve your athleticism? There have been rumours that wearing a mouth guard can help make you faster and stronger, but how can this be?
We were curious, so we asked the staff at Markham Dental to find out the truth.
The Purpose of Mouth Guards
Let’s start by taking a quick look at why athletes need to wear mouth guards to begin with. A mouth guard can be a device picked up from your local pharmacy or they can be custom made by your dentist. Their primary purpose is to protect your teeth from harm.
Teeth are particularly vulnerable in contact sports, where the risk of mouth injury is high. But beyond contact sports, mouth guards will prevent you from clenching or grinding your teeth during sports as well, in addition to preventing your jaw from locking up from the pressure.
Still, this does not answer our main question: what do mouth guards have to do with your strength and speed?
Oxygen and Lactic Acid
Many athletes will clench their teeth when they are working out hard. This is because of the force of doing intense cardio or strength training causes you to grind and clench your teeth with effort. Naturally, a mouth guard will save your teeth from the wear and tear of working out, but they do more than that as well. A mouth guard also affects where your tongue is inside of your mouth. If your jaw and tongue are more forward, there is more room to breathe in the back of your mouth.
If your teeth cannot clench down during an intense workout, your mouth is going to be more open than it normally is during exercise. The muscles in your jaw line also will not be put under the same strain, which means that they will not build up lactic acid. This all means that you will be getting more oxygen in your blood stream and throughout your muscles when you wear a mouth guard.
More Oxygen Equals Better Performance
The thought behind this concept appeared back in 2009 when football player Derrick Dockery had reported having more energy and breathing better when he wore his mouth guard while playing. He stated that he became winded in games he did not have it in, but performed better in games when he did wear it.
When you breathe heavily during an intense workout, your body is asking you to give it more oxygen. As your muscles receive that oxygen, they can build and perform better, meaning that they are far less likely to cramp on you as well. Stronger muscles and better airflow are going to make you a stronger and faster athlete, simply by relaxing the mouth and allowing the oxygen in where you need it.
Early Stages of Research
The science behind this theory is still in its early stages, meaning there is not yet definitive scientific evidence that mouth guards will increase your overall performance. That said, wearing a mouth guard during sports is still a great way to protect your jaw and teeth. Clenching your teeth can lead to breaks, periodontal disease, migraines, and even tooth loss. So even if a mouth guard is not going to make you a better athlete on its own, they certainly are known to help protect your teeth as much as possible when you are in danger of harming your mouth. Wear a mouth guard to keep your body and your teeth as safe as possible.