The thought of grappling with braces on can seem like an impossibility, given that braces already feel like a limitation on their own, let alone when being used in grappling sports.
However, it is very possible to practice grappling, wrestling, or BJJ with braces on.
The solution is to use mouthguards. In this article, we’ll discuss dental braces in grappling, the risks they pose, and how to avoid them.
A dental brace is an orthodontic fitting that is used to straighten and align the teeth.
They are a treatment for crooked or misaligned teeth. Braces can be made of metal, ceramics, or plastic.
They are fitted according to the type of brace.
Some of them stay on for extended periods, requiring regular appointments for the orthodontist to make adjustments to them.
It is these adjustments that move the teeth into position.
Different materials of braces require different levels of maintenance. Some of them are more viable than others for grappling.
Types of Braces
These are the traditional; braces.
They are usually made of metal and wires which lay across the teeth gently pulling them into alignment and holding them in place.
However, they create the most room for injuries when grappling.
Quite similar to metal braces, they are made of tooth-colored ceramics instead.
Though typically more expensive than traditional braces, they are not much more accomodating for grappling.
These are also closely related to traditional braces, the difference is that they make use of clips instead of elastic bands.
It also leaves a lot of room for injury during grappling.
These braces are fixed on the inside of the teeth.
They are barely visible from the outside but less effective than regular braces.
They take longer to realign the teeth and pose more threat of injury to the tongue.
Clear Aligners (Invisalign)
These are the best braces for engaging in grappling.
They are easy to remove and do not cause much of a hindrance.
However, they are only ideal for minor dental problems.
While braces do not affect your grappling ability, it creates room for a range of injuries.
The injuries are usually minor but can occur over and over again in similar areas, becoming a serious inconvenience.
Injuries from using braces in grappling
Cuts in the mouth
Imagine having razor cuts on the insides of your lips.
That’s not something you would want to feel over again.
Due to uncontrolled pressure and erratic motions, your tongue and cheeks will also be at risk of lacerations from contact with braces.
Cuts to an opponent
When wearing braces in a grappling contest, your opponent also risks getting injuries caused by grazing their skin against them.
Braces work by applying concentrated pressure on certain points in the teeth.
This can easily go wrong when accidental force is applied, thus overloading areas in the teeth where it cannot be distributed, giving rise to cracks and breaks.
How to deal with it if you have braces
If you have braces and you plan to start grappling, or you are already training grappling and you’re about to get braces, it is recommended that you get custom-made mouthguards, specially designed to fit your braces.
Custom mouthguards immensely reduce the chances of getting injured or cutting your training partners during grappling.
Regular mouthguards are not advisable because they have been made without consideration for the dental fittings you have on your teeth.
Using them can still lead to injuries or complications.
Another measure to be taken is to inform your coach and would-be training partners that you have braces fitted and to negotiate training methods that will avoid putting too much pressure on your face area.
This is not applicable in tournament grappling, but at least will keep you from getting injured in everyday training.
With the right precautions and investments, having braces will not overly interfere with your grappling experience.