Review: Bridge Dental Lab custom gumshields

( Também disponível em Português! )

A couple of months after I started doing BJJ I felt the need to protect my teeth, as the vast majority of practitioners of every martial art do. As most of them, I went to a regular sporting goods store and got a 'boil and bite' mouthguard since that's what everyone I knew used without much problem. Some people can't really get it to stay in place after it's on, some have to cut some pieces in order for it to fit right, some just find it awkward but otherwise good. Others complain of a combination of these and other problems and others don't complain at all.

I had more problems than that. I did get it boiled, I did bite it, I even mold it and it didn't stay in place for long. Also, it felt awkward but with all that I could probably have lived with. What I really couldn't live with was the fact that even not getting hit one single time, my gums were bleeding bad after every roll. Maybe my maxillae are awkward, maybe it's my teeth, I just had to find a better alternative so I wouldn't risk hurting my teeth.

The only solution was to get a custom made gumshield, and this is my review of the process.

Happy late Halloween!

. The Process

After analyzing what was going on I remembered a dentist told me my (upper) maxilla was kind of receded and I believe that's at least part of the reason why regular boil and bite mouthguards are no good for me. No matter what the reason was I started doing some research.

Many websites offered what I needed. Some looked like they were companies specialized in that sort of dental devices with in-house labs and equipment, some looked like they ordered the guards from a 3rd party lab. I set aside links to five of those websites through reports and continued researching.

Many people from the UK and USA also mentioned they had their dentists do it for them. Some said it was extra-expensive (in the vicinity of €100 each, or even more!) while some said the price was similar to online companies (or companies with an online presence). I also learned that custom made guards provide a much higher level of protection than boil & bites, even if you choose the lowest thickness.
One of the several reasons why custom guards fit better and protect more. (C) Dr Anthony Lovat BDS

Later, I went to talk to my dentist. As it turns out, here in Portugal there isn't a way to get it done without having to go through an international dealer. There are only custom made acrylic nightguards/anti-snoring/teeth grinding (bruxism[]) protections and that sort of thing. He agreed the best way to proceed was for me to get it done internationally and he offered to help me with the molding process which was what I was afraid I'd mess up.

After emailing every company I had previously bookmarked (of which only three replied :)) I ended up choosing to go with Bridge Dental Laboratory, Ltd which is the company responsible for the mouthguards of none other than Dan 'The Outlaw' Hardy. He had previously been using Opro's custom mouthguards but wasn't happy with them. He then tried BDL's and liked them so much he got them to endorse him. So goes the tale.
The reason why I didn't go with Opro myself was that not only were they more expensive, there also was no way to get rid of their logo in every single guard they do. It would mess my wish to have a plain pink guard and moreover, I pay full price for the guard and then I go on giving them more business weather I want to or not? Don't think so.

Anyway, after inquiring about levels of protection, extra guards made off the same mold - because the most expensive aspect of the thing is the impression kit and turning it into what is used to mold the actual gumshield - I ended up deciding on a regular Pink mouthguard plus an extra-thickness one in Lilac for £20 - a fraction of what the first one costs and without aggravating the shipping costs.

After about 5 back and forth emails I paid through Paypal the amount of £52 (at the time €61) and received the impression kit 2 days later on my mailbox. This is very fast.
After opening the package I was pleasantly surprised to find it was very professionally done and organized. I had everything I needed to properly take the impression and mail it back.

Three different sized trays, putty mix to spare, instructional DVD and catalogues, jiffy bag and order sheet.

A couple of days later I was at the dentist to get the mold done. Before going I watched the instructional DVD and thought that maybe I did not need my dentist's help to get it done and I was right. It is very straight forward and hard to mess it up if you pay attention to the video. Don't be put off because you don't have a friendly dentist available!
After it was done I mailed it back (I spent less than €3 on it, on top of what I had already paid. It's free post for those living in the UK) and 4 working days later they had received it and confirmed so by email. Another 9 working days after, I was receiving my brand new custom gumshields by registered mail.

The package included:
- the two gumshields plus respective carrying boxes;
- instructions flier plus receipt/invoice;
- complimentary keyring;
- the plaster cast of my beautiful teeth resulting from the mold (which I can use for any future orders thus not having to pay that cost again). That's the Halloween present by the way.

Of course my immediate reaction was to jump up and down like a little kid as part of my early Christmas presents had arrived and I had to try them asap. But first I rinsed them with peroxide (my antiseptic of choice) and then with running water (peroxide on your mouth will not be pleasant ;) ).

. First Thoughts

Wow. The thing you see in combat sports where they have to grip and yank the guard out of the mouth? That's exactly what happens with these. They are molded perfectly and to get them on I have to pop them in, not just slide them into place. I usually go with front first and then each side.

I can speak, breathe and drink with it on without a problem. If never comes off unless I want to and then I really have to pull them out for that matter. As such I now use them even when drilling techniques and not just when I'm rolling - it's really no trouble at all.

As a nice extra touch, both gumshields come with a name tag which may come in handy in case someone else gets a custom pink/lilac gumshield here ;)

. Normal vs. Extra-Thick

The difference isn't too dramatic but it's definitely there. If I had to guess I'd say it is about 2mm thicker in most places. I can feel it is a bit bulkier mostly beneath the upper lip and below the teeth but that's about it, in the other places it's less noticeable. As far as added protection I'm sorry but I don't know and I hope I never have to find out.
I have to say it does not fit as perfectly or at least it does not feel as natural as the regular thickness one. It's probably due to the fact that it just feels so perfect in the first place and as such I'm kind of spoiled.

All in all it's good to have the piece of mind of knowing that if I ever need it for whatever reason, I have the choice of having extra protection. For BJJ, the regular thickness takes the prize since it's more comfortable and I guess it still can withstand everything that can happen during sparring.

. In Conclusion

I spent close to €65 on two gumshields that fit me perfectly. One might think it's just too much, but I'll strongly disagree. I can't put a price on the integrity of my teeth and after knowing how well this protection fits me, I think it's worth every cent. Unless there's no way you can afford it, get it!
Then again, if you do not use any gumshield at all, then don't come crying when you have a €1000+ dentist bill to pay. Seriously, I can't pay your bills, I'm a poor guy.

. More

. Notes
  • I paid full price for these gumshields. I am not endorsed nor was I compensated to review them. These are my personal views and opinions and they apply only to the products I tested.
  • Prices at the time of my order may not be current at the time you read this. Check with BDL before counting your pennies.
  • All photos and text are copyrighted. Do not use them (in part, entirety or modified) without permission.


Dental Handpiece said...

Thanks for providing a lot of useful information about gum shield. Teeth bleaching process usually includes some sort of gum protection or gum shield. These guards provide a much higher level of protection than boil & bites.

Anonymous said...

When I went to the dentist last, he told me that I will need to get a dental bridge. Would anyone happen to know where I could go in Monroe, NC to get a customized dental bridge? I should probably get one soon.

Isabella said...

It is good to have unbiased views because most of the reviews are paid, thus, making it difficult for the patients like me to trust them. I have got quite a lot help from your blog as I am a sports person myself. I also focus on going to the dentist who has Evolution dental lab management software in place.

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