Like many people, I had braces as a teenager and still participated in sports growing up. While I did not do martial arts while I had braces, after doing some research on the topic, I think that I would have done them while I had braces if I was given the opportunity.
Having dental braces should not stop you from training in martial arts. Using an appropriate mouth guard and avoiding strikes to the face can mitigate most of the issues associated with training with braces.
Let’s take a look at some of the oral injuries that could occur during martial arts training if you’re wearing dental braces and how you might handle these situations if they come up.
Will Wearing Dental Braces While Doing Martial Arts Cause Injuries?
Dental Braces do not cause injuries but make them somewhat more likely to happen since the force can be concentrated into a smaller area like the brackets and wires that make up braces. The most common issues are minor cuts and popped brackets.
Orthodontists recommend that you use mouthguards to protect your braces and your mouth whenever you are doing contact sports.
Using effective mouthguards and tapping quickly to pressure across your face can effectively mitigate much of the injury risk to your mouth.
Common Injuries From Dental Braces During Martial Arts
Some injuries that can occur while you have dental braces and are training martial arts are oral cuts and lacerations or tooth fractures. Popped brackets on your braces can also happen, but that can be fixed with a trip to the orthodontist.
Oral Cuts and Lacerations
Impacts from striking, as well as pressure to the mouth, can cause cuts on the gums, lips, tongue, and cheeks. If you have not popped a bracket then you simply need to let it heal on its own. If your cuts get infected or are healing slowly you should get medical help.
Tooth fractures are one of the more common injuries in BJJ that can happen with dental braces, similar situations can happen in other grappling-based martial arts. A crack or break in the tooth structure is more likely since having braces can focus pressure into the tooth at a concentrated point instead of being spread out across the whole tooth or multiple teeth.
How to Reduce Oral Injuries From Dental Braces During Martial Arts Training
Conscientiously training martial arts and picking up a good mouthguard are both effective in reducing your risk of oral injury with braces. Avoiding pressure and impacts to your face during training sidesteps risks entirely. Mouthguards spread out the force and prevent brackets and wires from cutting you.
How to Train Martial Safely with Braces
A mouthguard is helpful to keep your braces and mouth safe during martial arts training, but you can also change the way you train in order to increase your safety as well. Tapping early or moving to relieve pressure helps in grappling. Training without strikes to the face help in striking arts.
A simple solution that some people overlook is simply asking for your partner to avoid pressure across the face or strikes to the face during training. It doesn’t really work in a tournament setting, but you can usually control your training environment to some extent. Talk to your coach about it too.
Tapping Out Early
Dental braces magnify pressure across your face and mouth full of braces. Tapping early or getting out of that type of situation entirely will be both safer and more comfortable. Shoulder pressure and cross-faces are tapping situations when you have dental braces.
Less Power More Flow
When people are training with high power and intensity, accidental impacts and more pressure generally get used by default. Sidestep that and try to use less power and encourage your training partners to look for more movement and less force.
Using training strategies like flow rolling in grappling or doing more movement and less striking in a striking martial art whenever possible will maximize skill development while bringing down injury risk. For striking arts you can also ask your partner not to hit your face.
Picking the Right Type of Mouthguard for Martial Arts Training With Braces
Picking the right mouthguard solution is important for protecting from oral injuries and needless trips to the orthodontist to get your braces fixed. Let’s take a look at the most common options available for mouthguards so that you can make the decision for yourself.
Stock mouthguards are standard sizes and come pre-formed and are the least expensive and most widely available. You can find them in sporting goods stores, but they rarely fit well and can be bulky and uncomfortable.
It’s possible to wear them with dental braces and they can do a reasonably good job of stopping injuries.
Boil-and-bite mouthguards are also relatively inexpensive, and you can purchase them at sporting goods and drug stores. The term “boil-and-bite” comes from the fact that you have to boil them to allow them to soften before placing them in your mouth.
This is unfortunately a pretty bad option for people with dental braces. If the mouthguard forms around the bracket you might get pieces of the mouthguard stuck in the bracket or even pop the bracket when you take it out.
Custom-made mouthguards designs for braces are the most expensive and naturally the most effective type. Orthodontists can provide this service for you, or you can use other services like Game On to get a mouthguard that works well for braces.
An impression of your teeth is created and is used to create a snug and more comfortable effective mouthguard that can be placed safely over your braces. A good custom-made mouthguard for braces will allow for alignment changes, so regular replacements are not required.
A regular mouthguard can be worn with braces and will help to protect your mouth, but it isn’t an optimal solution. The best type of mouthguard to wear with dental braces is one designed for braces. These custom-made mouthguards offer the best protection.
You can definitely train martial arts while you have dental braces. Just be smart about taking care of your mouth by using a mouthguard designed for people with braces.
Braces are temporary and skill development will stick with you, so tapping early to avoid pressure, avoiding training with strikes to the face, and training sparring rounds with lower intensity can give you plenty of skill development without risking your braces or the health of your mouth.
It’s very achievable to manage dental braces and do martial arts, so don’t let braces stop you from training if that is something that you want to do.
For more check out Can You Do Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu With Dental Braces?