Anybody who watches NBA games has likely seen multiple players chewing on their mouthguards between plays. It makes sense; basketball involves lots of elbows flying and other mishaps that could lead to unplanned trips to the dentist. In baseball, however, mouthguards are more of an open secret among MLB players.
Mouthguards in baseball?
People who watch professional sports may see athletes biting down on mouthguards. The devices serve a variety of purposes, from helping people breathe to preventing further damage to other injuries. Whatever the case, many pro athletes swear by their mouthguards.
A look at the science of baseball shows that mouthguards can help with a variety of issues that come with playing America’s favorite pastime. From simple stress relief to the ability to control breathing, everyone who takes the field with one of these guards has a reason to do so.
These reasons provide a fascinating look inside an aspect of baseball that doesn’t get much coverage.
Helping baseball players breathe
Whatever the case, players have their reasons to use these guards. Some, like Jose Bautista, swear a mouthguard is crucial to their games. GuardLab, the brand which Bautista uses religiously, provides custom mouthguards that not only protect teeth but also provide other benefits, as Bautista explains on GuardLab’s website.
I never knew that a mouthguard could impact training, recovery, and performance,” Bautista said. “The lower guard I wear helps me get into alignment, breathe better and create less tension throughout my body during movements.”
Bautista serves on GuardLab’s advisory board. The mouthguards are designed from a scanned image of an individual’s bite and sent to a 3D printer, where a unique piece is engineered for its owner’s teeth. Not only does the guard help with breathing, but it also optimizes bite and gets the lower jaw into its natural position. This stabilizes everything above the neck and aiming to align its wearer’s entire body.
Just like a bat, glove, and pads, Bautista claims his mouthguard is a piece of sporting equipment, and he cannot take the field without using it.
Do mouthguards relieve stress?
Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price reportedly credits his mouthguard with helping him relieve stress while out on the pitcher’s mound. Athletes are a superstitious bunch; many taking precautions like this simply to make themselves feel better. However, this isn’t necessarily the case with Price and those who use mouthguards.
In a piece about the benefits of mouthguards, Fabio Comana of the American Council on Exercise told the New York Times there could be benefits to a mouthguard beyond protection and superstition. “There is research to support improved breathing mechanics and reduced jaw fatigue,” he explains.
Mouthguards, like the ones made by Makkar and Under Armour, come with claims that they can help everything from stress to breathing. Top-of-the-line mouthguards can even cost thousands of dollars.
Dentist Kathrina Agatep told the New York Times that a properly-placed jaw can have positive effects on one’s entire body. “When you have the jaw in relaxed position, the rest of the body can be more relaxed. It’s a domino effect,” she says.
Whatever the case may be, mouthguards’ function goes beyond the basics. Next time an MLB player flashes a strangely-covered smile, they’re showing the world what might actually be a key to their success. With careers like Bautista and Price’s, these results speak for themselves.