By Tom Olson
When training with a partner where impact to the head is possible, it only makes sense to wear a mouth guard. Now, mouth guards have come a long way from a piece of plastic that covers the top part of your mouth. In fact they have become integral in the safety of the teeth, upper and lower jaw, the tongue, and believe it or not, a force to aid in the prevention of concussions.
When we are punched in the head, not just the mouth, there is a good chance for our lower and upper jaw to collide. This can cause any number of injuries. Teeth can be chipped, the inside of the mouth can be pinched and or cut, the tongue can be caught in between and be cut, if not severed. Not to mention the obvious injury which is the lip being cut from contact with the teeth.
The not so obvious benefit of a mouth guard is the effect it has on the prevention of concussions. A mouth guard that has an upper and lower section, that slightly moves the lower jaw forward, and prevents the teeth from impacting each other stands a good chance to help prevent these injuries. According to an article written called “Concussion Prevention and Athletic Mouthguards” found at www.sportsdentistry.com, there are three main theories as to how it works.
The first is that a properly fitting mouth guard dissipates force of an upward blow to the jaw. So in essence, when the mouth guard is made from material that is strong enough, yet have the shock absorption qualities, it will decrease the amplitude of intracranial pressure after a blow to the chin by 50%. That percentage is a very powerful testament to the importance of wearing the proper protection alone.
The second theory is that by moving the jaw slightly downward and forward, the mouth guard creates a space in between where the jaw meets the skull, thereby making room for the jaw to move in the case of impact. This would also aid in the first theory by giving the mouth guard room to absorb the impact.
The third and final theory is that by biting down on the mouth guard, the neck muscles are aiding in keeping the head from moving as much. By doing this, the brain is less likely to be sloshed around inside your skull after an impact to your head.
All of these points can only show that it is so important to not only purchase a good mouth guard, but wear it during any activity where impact to the head is a possibility. Even if your not necessarily at a danger of direct impact to your face or jaw. A concussion can put a person out of training, out of work, or even in the hospital for a stay. A mouth guard can help make it safe to train when head impacts are a possibility. And its always smart to make safety first!