This is the first of what I hope to be a series of product reviews that are critical to the avid grappler. So here goes:
Why Wear a Mouthguard?
This really should be a rhetorical question, but sadly too many people are training without any mouth protection (even me at times in the past). I've known many grapplers who've lost teeth on the mat. It's quite simple - jiu jitsu/grappling is a rough sport and your face and teeth are constantly at risk. So, protection is essential.
What Mouthguard is Best?
A grappler needs something light and comfortable, offering good protection. At the same time, it's not mma or boxing, and concussions and head trauma are not big concerns.
I've worn all sorts of mouth protection over the years, even dating back to my days in karate. My basic assessment of the so-called "boil n' bite" $5 sporting goods store variety is that they are all pretty much the same - they are uncomfortable and offer questionable protection. I have worn the Brain Pad (http://www.brainpads.com/) brand (approx. $15) and found that to be similarly dissatisfying. And when they are not comfortable, I just don't wear them.
About 4 years ago, a a teammate and friend of mine discovered OPRO (http://www.opro.com/), and since then my grill has been exceptionally protected! So What is an OPRO Mouthguard? OPRO is a British company that offers custom fitted, dental quality mouthguards for about $60. Basically, after your online purchase, the company sends you a kit. You create a custom mold of your teeth/mouth by following an instructional CD recording. It takes about 10 minutes (maybe less). After that, you return the mold to OPRO via mail (they provide all of the shipping materials and postage). Within weeks (and no more than a month), you are shipped back your custom mouthguard.
I've gone through this process twice (only because I lost one) so far, each time purchasing two mouthguards (the second one is $39.95 if you buy two at the same time). In each case, the company has been reliable and efficient and the product has been superb. I'd go with the "Medium" impact level; it's prefect for jiu jitsu and grappling (I tried the "Heavy" level , and it was too cumbersome). They also come in a variety of designs and colors, so you can make whatever statement you want. I chose ironic.
I have also recommended this product to other teammates, and all of them have been likewise satisfied and impressed. Some of the more expensive brands that I did not try may actually make great a product, but my opinion is that the expense is unnecessary when you have a product like this. I have heard of at least one other company (http://www.customguards.com/)doing something similar to OPRO for a similar price , but haven't tried the product.
I know dentists make custom ones, and I know they cost a lot of money. Also, I haven't tried, but have heard some good things about these more expensive guards:
- StarsGuards (http://www.starsguards.com/): Starts at $110.
- Jawzz (http://jawzz.com/): Starts at $145.
- Python Guards (http://www.pythonguards.com/. Starts at $130.
For total clarification, I will say that I am in no way associated with OPRO, nor do they know I am reviewing their product. I do this for good of grappling dental care everywhere.
In closing, I highly recommend OPRO. But, whatever product you end up choosing, please heed the warning and protect your chompers.