Why Do Hockey Players Chew On Their Mouth Guards?

by Alaina Johnson | Updated On: June 1st, 2022
Hockey Player with Mouth guard

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If you’ve ever been to a hockey game, whether professional or amateur, you’ve likely noticed that some of the players can’t seem to keep their mouth guards in their mouths. Why is this? Why do some players prefer to chew on it or keep it hanging out of their mouth during play?

Players may chew on their mouthguard because the fit isn’t quite right, which makes it uncomfortable to wear properly. Some players find that chewing on their mouth guard helps to increase focus — similar to chewing on a stick of gum. This is a common practice among hockey players and it can actually lead to the mouth guard not being able to function properly.

One Size Does Not Fit All

There can be a variety of reasons that a hockey player may chew on their mouth guard or let it hang out of their mouths during a game. Usually, the culprit ends up being an ill-fitted guard that feels bothersome to the player.

If a player is constantly having to rearrange their mouthguard because it becomes out of place, this can be a distraction. Sometimes, it may be easier to wear it improperly or chew on it to keep it from being uncomfortable.

Mass-produced mouth guards can’t fit all of the players across the league. It’s just not realistic as everyone’s teeth are different. What ends up happening, is the mouth guards feel too large since they’re being made to try and “fit” everyone.

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The solution to this is for the player to get a custom-fit mouthguard — which is created by allowing a dentist to take an impression of the player’s teeth so that they can then create a mouthguard that fits them perfectly. This eliminates the issue of the guard feeling out of place and being loose on the teeth.

Why a Well Fitting Mouth Guard is Important

Ideally, a mouth guard will be hardly noticeable and a player can forget it’s even there while they’re playing. Instead of becoming a distraction, it should be a relatively comfortable piece of equipment that a player can rely on to protect them.

When a mouth guard becomes distracting to a player and they feel the need to remove it, they’re leaving themselves susceptible to hurting their jaw or suffering damage to their teeth.

After all, it’s no secret that hockey players famously are missing at least a few of their front teeth.

While a properly fitting mouth guard won’t avoid chipped or broken teeth in all scenarios, they certainly help in absorbing some of the impacts to the jaw and mouth area. They help to ensure that a sudden impact won’t directly hit a single part of the mouth and instead, it’s more evenly distributed.

Does Chewing On A Mouth Guard Damage It?

Yes, chewing on a mouth guard will inevitably damage it and leave it looking mangled and hardly functional. You can look into “chew-resistant” mouth guards which are made to be thicker and more sturdy or you could go ahead and invest in a custom fit one.

Since mass-produced mouth guards tend to be too large for most players, this means there will be a sacrifice in the level of protection and comfort that they can offer.

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If you’re concerned about the price of a custom mouthguard — you may find that a custom mouthguard can be more cost-effective for you in the long run. If you find yourself consistently chewing on your mouthguard and having to replace it frequently, finding a more comfortable one will mean you’ll need to replace it less often.

How To Stop Chewing On Your Mouth Guard

Hockey is a risky sport for teeth — next time you’re at a game, try counting how many missing teeth you can spot. This may be enough of an incentive to stop chewing on your guard and remind you of the importance of wearing it properly and at all times on the ice.

A chewed-up mouth guard won’t protect against chipped and broken teeth — as it’s no longer able to properly absorb the impact when a player inevitably gets hit.

Dental reconstruction surgeries can be uncomfortably and costly — so it’s best to give your teeth and jaw the most amount of protection that you can. Wearing a mouthguard properly can literally save you thousands.

Mouth guards can also protect you against biting down on your tongue during play or smashing your teeth together if you get pushed into the boards. This can be a painful injury and one that can result in lingering pain and discomfort to your jaw.

How Often Do You Need to Replace a Mouth Guard?

Toronto Maple Leaf’s player Van Riemsdyk says that due to his incessant chewing a mouth guard may only last him “about 10 games.”

If you’re a habitual chewer, you may find yourself constantly going through mouth guards. Whether the team is providing the mouth guards or you’re purchasing them — it can add up financially either way.

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A custom-fit mouthguard can last several years if you take care of it. However, a good rule of thumb is to replace it once every year if you’re playing hockey regularly. There is an inevitable amount of wear and tear that it will be susceptible to.

Kick the Chewing Habit and Get a Comfortable Mouth Guard

It’s fairly common to see hockey players chewing their mouthguards — even while they’re in the middle of playing a game. This can become a bad habit and they’re more prone to chipped teeth if they get hit by a puck or pushed into the boards.

For younger players, it’s best to not pick up this habit just because your favorite NHL player does it. A mouthguard is an integral piece of your equipment and not an accessory to leave hanging outside of your mouth.

You’ll thank yourself later for wearing your guard properly and at all times during a game. You’ll be less likely to have a “hockey smile” that features a couple of missing teeth.

Hockey Smile
Photo by Berend Stettler licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Simon, the founder of Brave Stick Hockey, started playing hockey in 2003. He launched this website in 2018 to help new hockey players and fans learn more about the game and have more fun while learning.