Why does my mouthpiece make me gag?

Why does my mouthguard make me gag? 

When wearing a mouthguard, one of the biggest complaints athletes have is that the guard makes them gag. Particularly true for those who deal with gag reflex issues. Gagging of any kind is going to be uncomfortable, and it’s certainly something players don’t want to experience on the gridiron, court or ice.

Nxtrnd Mouthguards understands how debilitating your gag reflex issues can be. However, we believe that this problem has a simple solution. When a mouthguard makes a player gag, something is clearly wrong with the mouthguard they are using.

This article will detail the 2 main causes behind mouthguards that trigger the gag reflex, plus, look at the type of mouthguard you should be considering if this is a regular issue for you.

But what is a gag reflex?

The gag reflex (also known as a laryngeal spasm) is a natural contraction of the back throat region caused when something touches; the roof of the mouth, the back of the tongue, the area around the tonsils, the uvula, and the back of the throat. This reflex prevents unwanted objects from entering the throat and helps prevent choking. (WedMD)

A common myth about sport mouthguards is that they must completely cover the upper teeth and reach all the way to the back of the mouth. But that is actually false and is part of the reason why mouthguards cause gagging.

There are two primary reasons mouthguards cause your gag reflex to trigger:
  • Length or height of material:
  • Material thickness

How do I stop my mouthguard from gagging?

Reduce Material Height and Length:

The first question you should ask yourself is: is the materal cut too high or too long causing unwanted material where it is not needed? In this case, the mouthguard comes in contact with what is called the soft palate — the fleshy, flexible region toward the back of the roof of the mouth leading into the gag reflex.

In order to avoid triggering the gag reflex, provide better protection and comfort, the players mouthguard must end between the end of the first molar and midway through the second. In fact, protective material in the soft palate region actually provides no protection from injury which is why material in this region is useless and should be avoided. Any additional material surpassing the molars, creates an uncomfortable experience and provides minimal additional protection. That being said, a properly cut mouthguard is always a better choice.

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Reduce Material Thickness:

The second factor that leads to gagging is the thickness of the mouthguard. Maintaining proper material thickness is important for protection but anything beyond the recommended maximum thickness of 4mm could cause uncomfortable gagging.

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When the material is too thick, it may make it difficult for a player to open or close their mouth while speaking and breathing, which will again interfere with the athletes performance by triggering the gag reflex. A well designed mouth guard should fit snugly against your teeth without needing to bite or clench.

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In many situations, gag reflex issues take place with badly designed mouthguards. These mouthguards are designed to fit directly out of the packaging and usually bear too much material in the wrong areas.

While it varies from sport to sport, a mouthguard should generally have the most thickness of material in the most common impact zones — the areas in front of the teeth and under the molars.

Since regular OTC sport mouthguards are always designed with in proper material thickness and can simply never fit well due to the lack of proper fitting instructions, the gag reflex is triggered in almost all cases.
Here at Nxtrnd Mouthguards, we know how important it is to have a mouthguard that fits perfectly. We offer a wide variety of mouthguard options that allow trimming, provide high protection and will help avoid triggering your gag reflex. 

For more on correcting gag reflex mouthguard issues, or to learn about any of our football, boxing or wrestling mouthguard options, speak to the Nxtrnd Team today.
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