Mouth guards are common in sports like ice hockey, where contact with other players can mean lost teeth. But there may be a reason for athletes in other sports to give them a try: improved performance. At least that's the theory from Bite Tech, which makes affordable customized mouth gear that's said to provide an athletic edge.
How can what happens in your mouth improve your golf swing? It's because athletic activity often makes you clench your teeth, which pinches the nerves in your jaw and stirs up the flow of hormones, including cortisol — all of which triggers a flight-or-fight response. That can be distracting when you're trying to, say, aim a football pass.
Bite Tech's mouth guard prevents you from fully clenching and moves your lower jaw slightly forward, which means those nerves don't get pinched and your throat opens up a bit to help you breathe. The result? The company's studies say subjects' response times improved by 10 milliseconds. A tiny increase, to be sure, but if you're skeptical whether such differences matter, ask Michael Phelps.
While customized mouthguards currently cost in the hundreds of dollars and require the help of a dentist, Under Armour plans to start selling a Bite Tech guard in January that you can custom-fit at home for $60. Just boil the mouthpiece, bite down for 30 seconds, and it's ready. For that cheap, it opens up the idea to anyone looking for an edge, and not necessarily just in athletics. Want to improve your driving, cooking or, uh, nocturnal activities? The answer might be in your teeth.