Friday, October 27, 2017

Avoiding Smash Mouth

Who needs a hobby, or even a lifestyle, that requires getting punched in the mouth? We do! We martial artists are likely to be intentionally or unintentionally smacked in the face many times over the years. We owe it to ourselves to protect the investment our parents made in our braces and trips to the dentist! If you managed to avoid the orthodontist, you have an ever higher duty to protect what your creator gave you!

Throughout my martial arts career, I've worn the same mouth gear. When I entered basic training at the Air Force Academy, military dentists took a cast of my teeth and made a form-fitting guard. It sat on my front teeth and helped me avoid injuries during the basic assault course, boxing, and combatives. I was not smart enough to wear it playing pick-up ice hockey (or a helmet, for that matter), resulting in some damage that is a story for another day. (I gave the other guy a scar, too.)

Last month I decided to upgrade my protective gear. My old mouth guard was serviceable but uncomfortable. I contacted Impact Mouthguards and ordered a kit for their MMA model. I ordered a clear guard, trimmed, with the standard six mouth impression retention. Looking back, I might have ordered the three year impression retention, although I do not really expect to order another guard in the next three years.

I received a kit in the mail a few days later. I watched the instructional video before doing anything. The key to creating the mouth guard is realizing that Impact provides dentist-quality clay to take the impression. You, the customer, have to pick the right-sized tray from the three that Impact ships in its kit, combine and roll the compounds, fill the tray properly, and put the resulting product in your mouth for the right amount of time. It's more involved than a "boil and bite" version, but the finished product is so much better!

I followed the process and first created the mold that you see on the right. You may notice that I am missing some molars! I had six removed during my senior year in high school, during cross country season. That was unpleasant but apparently necessary.

If you look closely at the image, you will see that the lower right side of the mold is essentially non-existent. This worried me, because I doubted that Impact would be able to create a model of my teeth with this deficiency. Fortunately Impact ships two sets of modelling compounds in every kit, because many people have trouble creating a good impression on their own.

Beyond relying on my visual inspection, I was able to email the photo shown here to an Impact representative. He or she confirmed that I should take a second impression. Their advice was to put more compound on the lower right side, and to be very careful with placing my teeth. I blamed my orthodontist and the palette spreader he gave me, and then took another impression.

The mold at the left shows the second attempt. It has barely enough compound on the lower right side, but it did the trick. The Impact rep confirmed that it was ready to ship, so I packed it in the appropriate box mailed it to them on September 25th.

On October 19th I received the equipment shown at the very top of this page. It looks similar to my military guard, but the fit is perfect. Impact guarantees that their products will fit perfectly, and they lived up to that promise!

I have not yet used the new mouth guard sparring, but it is now in my Krav Maga gear bag. I am very impressed by what seems like a "vacuum seal" created by the exceptional fit of this new gear. It just does not budge, and it takes a concerted effort to remove it.

If you are in the market for a new mouth guard, I recommend Impact. In no way did they sponsor this process. I just did some research, bought their gear, and reported my findings.

What do you use to protect your teeth? Let me know here on on Twitter!

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