Performance Enhancing Mouthguards
Do they really work?

Article By Bernadette MacKay
July 18, 2011

A few months back, I saw a picture of the world’s number-one skier, Lindsay Vonn, in the sports section of a newspaper. She had just finished a run and the picture showed her with her mouth open in celebration. As I looked closer, I saw a mouthpiece on her lower teeth and the article was talking about Under Armour performance mouthguards. Under Armour is a performance guard that is supposed to make an athlete stronger and perform better.

The mouthguard is designed with a reverse wedge on the top of the teeth that pushes the lower jaw forward when the athlete clenches his or her teeth.

The whole basis of this theory is that when an athlete clenches his or her teeth, which is an automatic reaction when one is going to strike a ball, lift a weight, etc., the condylar space, which is a space where the point of the lower jaw meets the upper jaw, closes. The theory is that, when this space closes, the athlete loses strength by producing cortisol and lactic acid, which can result in decreased strength and fatigue.

The ancient Greeks used to place a leather strap between the teeth as they found it enabled them to perform better, so the theory has been around for thousands of years. Only in the last 50 years have researchers, scientists and dentists worked to try to prove this theory.

The two performance mouthguards available are the PPM Pure Performance Mouthguard and the Under Armour mouthguard.

The Pure Power Mouthguards require a visit to a neuromuscular dentist who uses a TENS machine, which is an electronic neuromuscular device that allows the dentist to find the optimal opening of the jaws at which they are most relaxed. This procedure requires 90 to 180 minutes in the dental chair, but the result is a more exact optimal opening.

The cost is anywhere between US$500 and $2,200.

Under Armour Mouthguards require a visit to a dentist for upper and lower impressions and a bite registration. Chair time approximately 15 minutes. Cost is CDN$550 to $750.

Under Armour has recreated putting something on only the back teeth by incorporating a reverse wedge in an appliance that fits on the entire arch and a wedge pushes the lower jaw forward, creating an even larger space. Research provided to date has been performed at the Bite Tech Research Institute.

The guard is based on the original appliance called a MORA (mandibular orthopedic repositioning appliance), which was first used in 1958 on a football player at the University of Notre Dame under Stenger et al., who suffered a concussion and subsequently Meniere’s disease. It was believed that the player suffered from TMJ problems, contributing to his equilibrium issues. A special mouthguard was made and the patient wore the splint continuously for two weeks, and his equilibrium returned to normal and was able to resume playing. Stenger and his dental colleagues documented other cases in which jaw position was able to enhance football players’ abilities. However, these case reports are anecdotal, rendering them scientifically suspect although the results appear impressive.

Since then, several people have performed studies but the common problem seems to be the lack of science behind the studies.

Dr. Harold Gelb from NYC has been using the MORA for decades to help patients with TMJ and other issues. He has reviewed many of the claims and counterclaims published in the area of jaw posture and strength throughout the decades of the 1970s and 1990s. Gelb noted that studies that found improved performance were flawed, and claims refuting improved performance were flawed. He observed that if proper statistical analysis were applied, there were actual statistical improvements in performance in the studies.

The New Orleans Saints entire team was fitted for these mouthguards at the start of the 2009 season and went on to win the Super Bowl championship.

There are not enough independent studies to prove that performance enhancement is consistent with these devices. In order to understand the MORA effect, more research should be undertaken to ensure there are no biases in these tests.

All Sports Mouthguards

Pricing Starting at $45.00.
Call or Email Us Today to Discuss your Specific Mouth Guard Needs.