Athletic Mouthguards and Endurance

Does a mouthguard enhance performance during strength and endurance exercise?  The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends mouthguards to protect against tooth and mouth damage during sports.  But there is a recent trend of increased use of mouthguards for performance enhancement.  Some endurance athletes feel that they recover more quickly after training and can run at a higher intensity when they wear a mouthpiece than if not wearing one.  Another study showed that football players had increased muscular strength when they wore a mouthguard adjusted kinesiologically as opposed to an unadjusted mouthguard.

Several other studies have tried to determine if there is a positive effect and if so, what is the physiological mechanism.  There is evidence that there is improved airway dynamics in athletes who wear a custom-fitted mouthguard.   There may be improved gas exchange and improved lactate levels.  Intriguing – and more research is needed.

April is National Facial Protection Month.  It is the time for dentists to remind people about using safety devices to protect their face, head, and mouth against injuries.  Mouthguards should be worn while engaging in any sport that could involve injury, such as basketball and volleyball, as well as football and hockey.  Several years ago I treated an adult hockey player who played for a Long Island hockey team. He had all of his front teeth knocked out.  He then recommended me to the rest of his team.  I saw so many dental injuries that could have been prevented with a mouthguard.  Helmets are also crucial to reduce the risk of head and brain injuries.  And don’t forget protective eyewear and face shields when appropriate.  A mouthguard usually covers the upper teeth and can cushion a blow to the mouth, limiting the risk of fractured teeth and soft tissue injuries.  A properly fitted mouthguard stays in place and allows the user to talk an breathe easily.

The ADA has more information on mouthguards at including discussion of dental emergencies and the advantages and disadvantages of stock, boil-and-bite, and custom fitted mouthguards.  Also look at my blog entry about mouthguards.



Athletic Mouthguard

A letter to the editor in last week’s New York Times was written by a woman who played college ice hockey in the 1970’s at Brown University, the only women’s college ice hockey team in the U.S at the time. She relates that she encouraged her brother, a varsity hockey player at Colby College, to “get some girls out onto the ice for us to play.” He did, and one of them was their friend Linda Krohn. When Linda’s mother found out she insisted that Linda stop playing hockey so she wouldn’t lose her teeth. The letter adds: “Now I smile with glee that Linda’s daughter, Lindsey Vonn, races down mountains at world-class speeds and that women’s ice hockey is in the Olympics, too.”

And Lindsey still has her teeth! After a recent accident on the ice that left blood streaming down her face she said: “I was just confused. At the bottom I didn’t know what had happened and I was hoping I hadn’t lost any teeth. I am just glad it wasn’t anything major, just a cut.” Vonn said she wears a protective mouthguard which saved her teeth and saved a huge dental bill. Read more about athletic guards on my blog entry Mouthguards.

After her shin injury at the Olympics she said: “My shin was still very painful, but I feel like the injury is finally progressing a bit. The pain level has gone down from a sharp debilitating pain to something that I feel I may be able to grit my teeth through. So that really puts a smile on my face!:)”.  I find it intriguing that she used the term “grit my teeth through” because when I look closely at her teeth I see signs of tooth wear – likely from gritting her teeth.