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Integrating practical and scientific information for elite performance
Bite-aligning
1. Please introduce yourself to the readers (how you started in the profession, education, credentials, experience, etc.).

My name is Charles Allen, and I’m a Ph.D. candidate in Kinesiology/Biomechanics at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).  I received my master’s degree in exercise science from Ole Miss in 2004, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education from Coastal Carolina University in 2002.  I have experience in many capacities on the sport and fitness industry ranging from high school teacher and baseball coach to my current position as Fitness Coordinator for the Department of Campus Recreation at Ole Miss.  I hold several certifications through various organizations including the Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA).  I regularly write programming for and coach CrossFit, power lifting, and recreational athletes.


2. You recently published an article on bite-aligning mouth pieces.  What was your article looking at?
We sought to examine the effects of a commercially available, boil & bite performance mouthpiece on applied measures of human performance in a sample of recreationally resistance trained men.  The mouthpiece manufacturer suggests that use of the mouthpiece will result in improvements in strength, power, and other variables so we simply wanted to test these claims.  To do so, we chose a very common and easily assessed measure of power (maximal vertical jump) and strength (1RM bench press).  This research was essentially a pilot study for my upcoming dissertation research.

3. What is the proposed mechanism/s for improving performance with the bite-aligning mouthpiece?
The manufacturer proposed mechanism of action for the particular mouthpiece we examined is proper alignment of the jaw.  We know from patients with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders that correcting any issues with jaw position (i.e. mal-occlusion) via oral realignment appliances can alleviate symptoms of TMJ.  This suggests that there is an optimal jaw position, and the mouthpiece attempts to bring the jaw into that position.

Another mechanism, not specifically proposed with the mouthpiece examined in this study but pertinent nonetheless, is clenching of the jaw.  Similar to the way the Jendrassik maneuver leads to an increased patellar reflex response, it is thought that clenching of the jaw during maximal and near maximal exertion, which is quite common, can lead to improved performance.     

4.  What did the previous literature on strength, power, and endurance with bite-aligning mouthpieces suggest?
There is considerable literature regarding the use of bite-aligning mouthpieces for potentiating performance.  Much of the early published research shows improvements in force production of various muscle groups while wearing such mouthpieces when compared to no mouthpiece use, however, many of these studies have been questioned in regards to their validity, as well as experimental and statistical design.  More recently, published research from institutions such as The Citadel and The University of Connecticut show significant improvements in performance variables of cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and power output. 

Additionally, research on remote voluntary contractions such as jaw clenching, and the Jendrassik maneuver suggests a potential benefit during acute strength and power activities.  This ergogenic effect has been termed concurrent activation potentiation, or CAP. 

5. What were the results of your study?
We saw no statistically significant difference in any variable of strength or power output that we measured when comparing the use of the mouthpiece to no mouthpiece conditions.  The variables we examined included vertical jump height, rate of force development (RFD), peak force, and relative peak force during the maximal vertical jump assessment as well as maximal strength during the 1RM bench press assessment.  Of note, we did not ask our participants to clench their jaws, so the efficacy of clenching versus jaw alignment was not fully explored.  This will be the focus of upcoming research from our lab.

6. How can coaches and athletes use these results?
The results of a single study cannot be taken as complete indication of the efficacy for use of mouthpieces to enhance performance.  Clearly, from the volume of published research that is present on this topic, something is happening physiologically, but still more research is needed to determine exactly what that is and how useful it may be for coaches and athletes. 

In regards to our study in particular, an isometric strength assessment may have been a better strength measure to examine as opposed to the 1RM bench press, in order to determine any potential differences between mouthpiece conditions (i.e. with vs. without); less practical, but more advantageous in examining potential differences in strength variables. 

The bottom line is that more research is necessary to determine both the efficacy and mechanisms of action for the use of mouthpieces for potentiating performance.

7. Do you see any potential use of these devices?
I think, as a researcher, I have to remain unbiased.  However, as I stated earlier, there is compelling published research showing that the use of a performance mouthpiece may prove beneficial.  As more research is completed and the exact benefits, if any, as well as the mechanisms of action are determined, these mouthpieces could be used readily for training, practice, and competition.

I believe it’s important to note that there are multiple versions and types of performance mouthpieces on the market, some of which are quite expensive and require custom fitting by a dentist.  The mouthpiece used in our study was a commercially available, boil-and-bite model. 

8.  What do you recommend for athletes and coaches when it comes to new products promising performance enhancement?
I would just recommend being educated consumers.  Don’t rush out and buy something simply based on the claims of the product manufacturer.  Remember, the companies behind these products are businesses and their primary goal is to make money, so do your homework.  First of all, read consumer reports, product and customer reviews.  Read coaches’ blogs and talk to athletes and coaches who are familiar with and have used the product for their opinions on the product’s effectiveness.  Finally, read peer-reviewed research articles on the products, if any.  If there are none, read the published research regarding the performance variables the product claims to improve so that you have a better idea if such a product can affect those variables.

9. What other sporting equipment do you know of that is unwarranted in the research?
This question gave me a chuckle.  I could write a very opinionated and long winded rant on quite a few such products that I see used regularly by people in the name of improving performance or appearance, however, I will abstain as my level of experience and expertise with such products is limited. 

10.  What research or projects are you currently working on or should we look for from you in the future?
Currently, I am in the process of proposing my dissertation which is a further examination of the performance mouthpiece from the previous study along with concurrent activation potentiation (CAP) facilitated by jaw clenching. 

Thank you for contacting me.  I appreciate your interest in my research.  If I can ever be of further assistance, please let me know. 

  • coacherik

    Moral of the story: If you are going to buy $100 goggles, you better have exercised every other available way to be fast OR at the elite level already where these fractions make the difference.

    I have seen these too many times at the age group level on kids who need a whole lot more then a fancy pair of goggles to improve their results..

    Then again, I am of the opinion that nothing beats a $3 dollar pair of Sweds…

  • John Mullen

    The there is a dearth of research on this subject, so less expensive is likely as good.

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