Fighting With Braces (Good Idea?) Do's & Don'ts Revealed

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: February 15, 2024
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I work with several MMA fighters and also have amateur boxers as clients. What I never realized, though, is that it was more common than I thought for some of them to have braces and still get in the ring.

As it turns out, there is a real risk if you get hit hard in the mouth when you’re fighting with braces.

But there are a few solutions a boxer or MMA fighter can choose to avoid some pretty nasty injuries to their teeth and jaw.

Just don’t assume that a standard mouth guard will do the trick.

Quick Summary

  • Fighting with braces is possible provided you wear a standard mouthguard, orthodontic mouthguard, or headgear.
  • A standard mouthguard might not suffice for braces, and an orthodontic mouthguard, molded around the braces, provides optimal protection.
  • The National Institutes of Health highlights that boxing poses a high risk of dental trauma, underscoring the importance of proper mouth protection for those with braces.
  • As someone who has worked with several MMA fighters and amateur boxers with braces, I believe that the right protective measures can significantly reduce the risk of dental injuries.

Should You Fight With Braces?

teeth model with braces

Yes, fighting with braces is entirely possible, but you have to put in a bit of research and invest some more money in the mouth guard you choose.

While teenagers are the most common people to have braces, you’ll find many adults choosing to fix their teeth later in life.

And that doesn’t mean you need to give up your favorite combat sport.

The main issue is that your standard mouthguards might not fit well enough. If they slip, then you could get some nasty lacerations inside your mouth.

And if it slips, then you could get some nasty lacerations inside your mouth.

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Best Ways To Protect Your Mouth

Based on research from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), shows that boxing involves a high risk of dental trauma due to the impact of enormous external forces against the head [1].

Mastering effective blocking techniques, such as maintaining a high guard and quickly tucking in the chin, is essential in sparring, offering an additional layer of defense to safeguard braces against potential impacts.

I spoke with a boxing coach, and he gave me some feedback based on his experience. It’s something he’s very strict about at his gym, no matter how old his boxers are.

1. Standard Mouthguard

person holding a mouthguard

A standard mouthguard is a perfect solution for most people as a way to protect their teeth from cracking and getting knocked out, but also to avoid cuts to the lips and inside of the mouth.

Anyone that has used mouthguards before knows that they need to fit snug against your teeth and ideally would be molded for your jaw and teeth alignment.

Advantages

The only one I could think of is that it’s the fastest and cheapest solution. But when you’ve spent thousands of dollars on braces, is it really a good idea to scrimp on mouth protection?

Disadvantages

The first problem is that mouthguards have to fit snugly, and they shouldn’t move between your lip and teeth. But the braces on your teeth take up space as well, which you have to account for.

A standard mouth protector will simply not be able to give you a snug fit no matter how much you experiment with different shapes and sizes. 

The second issue I got from an orthodontist who pointed out that even if you find a mouthguard that seems to fit, now the force of a punch will travel through the device and directly onto small pressure points of each individual bracket.

2. Orthodontic Mouthguard

dentist holding a Orthodontic Mouthguard

An orthodontic mouthguard is the absolute must-have for any boxer and UFC fighter, and there are even some professional fighters who continue their careers with braces.

The key is that the mouthguard has to be molded around your braces to provide protection for your teeth, mouth, and orthodontics.

Let me show you why this is the only solution.

Advantages

First of all, a properly molded and fitted mouthguard will feel so much more comfortable than anything else you try. It won’t slip or cause pressure on your gums, which will allow you to focus more on the fights.

But the main advantage comes from the actual protection you gain, not the comfort.

When the guard is appropriately molded around your teeth, braces, and jawline, it reduces any chance of slipping out of place.

Mouthguards shouldn’t be able to move freely, not through your own movements and fighting style, nor a punch or kick to the face.

One thing you should notice is that you shouldn’t even be able to pull them off too easily with your hand.

Disadvantages

There’s no way to butter this up, but these types of mouthguards will cost a few hundred dollars.

Ideally, you would talk to your orthodontist when fitting the braces, as it might be possible to reduce the price by having them molded at the same time.

As someone whose parents spent over $4,000 on my braces, I can tell you the few hundred dollars could be a minor investment.

3. Headgear

man boxing with a headgear

Look, headgear is a great way to avoid damage and injury to your head, but they are no replacement for mouth guards.

Even the ones that offer protection to the front of the face and your cheekbones won’t stop a punch from connecting with your mouth.

You’ll never see boxers wearing headgear and no mouthguards, so don’t think this would be a good idea just because you wear braces.

“Mouthguards can also act as a barrier between teeth/braces and the cheeks, between the lips and tongue, thereby limiting the risk of soft tissue damage.”

- YourDentistry.com

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FAQs

Can You Box With Braces?

Yes, you can box with braces as long as you wear a suitable protective mouthguard. It should not only protect your teeth but also mold to avoid damage to the braces themselves. It’s never a good idea to avoid using a properly fitting guard.

Can You Use a Regular Mouthguard With Braces?

No, you shouldn’t use a regular mouthguard with braces. They are not designed to fully protect your teeth and braces at the same time. In many cases, they could do additional harm to your mouth and even crack your teeth.

Can You Do Martial Arts With Braces?

Yes, you can do martial arts with braces, but it requires a properly molded mouthguard. The guard should form to the shape of your jaw, teeth, and the individual brackets attached. It’s the only way to avoid damage and injury during fights.

Can You Box With Invisalign?

Yes, you can box with Invisalign, but it would be recommended to remove the aligners before you fit your mouthguard. As your teeth alignment will gradually change, it might also be a good idea to get a boil and bite guard to get a better fit.


References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26678302/
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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One thought on “Should You Be Doing Martial Arts With Braces On?

  1. Fighting with braces on can be safe if you buy the right protective gear. I’ve invested with some of them, and my purchase is worth it.

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