Mouthguards are hard pieces of rubber that are usually form-fitted to your teeth. Most professionals and serious fighters have them custom-made from a specialist dentist. However, you can opt to use the generic variety that you can make yourself.
These “boil-and-bite” models are cheap (especially compared to the dentist-made variety) and work just as well. As the name implies, a boil-and-bite mouthguard is made by dropping it in boiling water to make it pliable and then biting down on it to mold it to your teeth. It will harden as it cools. Some novices may be concerned with getting burned when making the boil-and-bite mouthguard. Doug Werner assures us however: “The mouthpiece is made of material that doesn’t retain heat and won’t burn you.”1
There are two main varieties of mouthguard. The first, more common variety is placed only on the upper teeth. The second variety is made to go over both the upper and lower teeth. This kind of mouthguard has a space in the middle to allow you to breathe deeply through your mouth while still biting down.
Most casual boxing observers incorrectly believe that mouthguards are for protecting a boxer’s teeth. While they do provide some measure of protection for the teeth, its primary purpose is to prevent cuts in the mouth from the lips and cheeks slamming into the teeth as a result of getting punched.
Many trainers advise their fighters to work out with their mouthpiece in. The reason for this is that the fighter needs to get comfortable with breathing heavily with the mouthguard in place. It is also essential to get used to always biting down on it firmly to reduce the chances of getting your jaw broken. Joe Frazier says, “When you’re in the ring, it’s essential that you keep your mouth closed, especially when you’re within punching range. The easiest way to get your jaw broken is to get hit on it while your mouth is open.”2
Peter DePasquale says, “Many pros store their mouthpiece in a small plastic butter tub filled with mouthwash. As a result, the mouthpiece gradually loses its ‘rubber’ taste and assumes that of the fighter’s favorite mouthwash brand.”3 Personally, I just wash mine before and after use.
1. Werner, Doug. Boxer’s Start-Up: A Beginner’s Guide to Boxing. San Diego: Tracks Publishing, 1998.
2. DePascale, Peter. The Boxer’s Workout. New York: Fighting Fit, Inc., 1990.
3. Frazier, Joe. Box Like the Pros. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.