Can Mouth Guards Boost Sports Performance?

Lebron James wears a mouth guard when playing.

Athlete LeBron James uses a mouth guard to protect his mouth. Could it also help make him play better?

Some mouth guard manufacturers have claimed in the past that their appliances could boost sports performance and now there is evidence supporting this statement. A recent article published on Medscape Dentistry and Oral Health and a study published by the Journal of the American Dental Association claim that mouth guards worn during athletic activity may do more than just protect the teeth.

One study found that athletes wearing a mouth guard inhale more oxygen and exhale more carbon dioxide with each breath than athletes who do not wear a mouth guard, whether the athletes without a mouth guard breath through their noses or mouths. Another report claims that biting on something hard helps to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, potentially improving the ability to exercise without fatigue. In yet another study, testing the Pure Power Mouthguard brand “mouth guards were custom designed to put each athlete’s teeth in ideal occlusion. The effect…is similar to wearing orthotics, and getting the user’s jaws aligned can improve the alignment of the rest of the body.” In this study athletes wearing the mouth guards were able to jump a bit farther, bench press slightly faster, and score somewhat higher on Wingate anaerobic tests than those not wearing them.

I have actually seen several demonstrations where improvements in strength and flexibility are seen just by repositioning the jaw. That must be why many professional atheletes like LeBron James wear them. And the ideal jaw position is the same one that we use when treating patients who have TMJ problems. Regardless of the ability of mouth guards to boost athletic ability, they are important to protect against injuries to the teeth during sports activities.

If you currently use or are considering getting a mouth guard, the American Dental Association recommends a custom-made guard from your dentist for the most protection and the best fit. They are more expensive than stock types or boil-and-bites because they are created from a custom dental impression so they fit better, are more comfortable and are more likely to stay in place.

Click to read more basic information about the use of mouth guards on the ADA website. 

Considering getting a custom-made mouth guard? Have questions for Dr. Nadler about mouth guards? Please give us a call at 908-359-6655 or visit our website @

NOTE: Originally posted December 2nd, 2011