Mouth guards can be of great value when it comes to protecting your teeth and gums. If your dentist suspects that you need one, it will be recommended in order to prevent future damage.
Once you get a mouth guard, it’s important that it’s cared for properly so that it can continue protecting your teeth for as long as possible. Your daily oral health routine should include cleaning your mouth guard and storing it properly when not in use.
This article highlights the proper guidelines to follow when cleaning yours.
What Is A Mouth Guard?
Before we talk about how to clean and take care of a mouth guard, we need to understand what it is and what it is used for.
A mouth guard is a protective device for the mouth that covers the teeth and gums to prevent injury to the teeth, lips, and gums. It is most often used in contact sports to prevent injury, also used as a treatment for bruxism, disorders of the jaw joints, or as part of certain dental procedures.
Depending on its use, it may also be called a mouth protector, mouthpiece, gum shield, gum guard, night guard, occlusal splint, bite splint or bite plane.
How To Clean A Mouth Guard
If you use a mouth guard, you need to know how to clean it. Apart from your daily oral hygiene practices, cleaning of your device is also very important so as to prevent bacterial contamination.
Follow these complete instructions for cleaning your mouth guard and it should stay in great shape for years to come.
1. Warm Water
Each time you wear your night guard it should be rinsed with warm water as soon as it is removed from your mouth. This will help to remove food debris and dirt that may be stuck to it.
2. Toothpaste and Toothbrush
Cleaning your mouth guard with a non-abrasive toothpaste and a soft bristle toothbrush is also a good option. Use a separate toothbrush from the one you use to brush your teeth. Rinse thoroughly with water after cleaning.
3. Hydrogen Peroxide
Disinfect the mouth guard thoroughly using 3% hydrogen peroxide. Soak the guard in the solution for no more than 10 minutes and then rinse with water afterward.
4. Soap And Water
Simply washing your guard with anti-bacterial soap will help keep the guard clean and prevent bacterial contamination. Rinse with water afterward.
5. Mouth Guard Cleaners
These are non-alcohol based cleaners that are specifically formulated for cleaning your mouth guard. Your guard can be easily sanitized by soaking it in the solution.
6. Mixture Of Mouthwash And Water
Pour a capful of mouthwash into a glass or bowl and then dilute with water until the mouth guard is submerged in the solution. Let your guard soak for about 30 minutes and then rinse off and allow to dry.
It’s important to allow it to dry completely before storing it as to prevent rapid growth of bacteria. Dry on a clean, flat surface for about 15 to 30 minutes.
Keep Your Case Clean
When not in use, it is important that you keep it stored in a case. It is recommended that you keep the mouth guard stored in your bedroom or on your nightstand in a well-ventilated case.
Ensure that your it is kept in a clean case because putting a clean guard into a dirty case becomes a wasted effort. Keep the case clean by hand washing it every few days with regular dishwashing soap.
After washing, allow the case to dry out completely. The cases are usually plastic which wears out over time, so it is recommended that you replace them every 6-12 months or as needed.
• Soak your guard overnight. Leaving your mouth guard soaking in anything for longer than one hour can damage the material it is made out of.
• Use alcohol or alcohol-based cleaning agents to clean your it.
• Put it in hot water, hot surfaces or expose to direct sunlight to prevent distorting its shape.
• Use hand sanitizer, dishwashing soap or bleach to clean it.
Occasionally check your device for general wear. If you find holes or tears in it or if it becomes loose or causes discomfort, it needs to be replaced.
Bringing your mouth guard with you to your dental appointments is a good idea because it gives your dentist an opportunity to inspect it for signs of wear and to help ensure that it continues to fit properly. In some cases, they clean your mouth guard professionally for you as well.
Types Of Mouth Guards
Generally, mouth guards are made to cover only your upper teeth but in some instances such as wearing of braces on your lower teeth, your dentist will make one for the lower teeth as well. They are usually made of thermoplastic materials, for example, acrylic.
An effective product should be comfortable, resistant to tears, durable, easy to clean, and should not restrict your breathing or speech. Below are the various types available for use.
1. Stock Mouth Guards
These guards are pre-formed and come ready to wear. They are inexpensive and can be bought at most sports and department stores. They are usually bulky and very little can be done to adjust the fit. They make breathing and talking difficult, and provide little or no protection to the teeth. Not recommended for use by dentists.
2. Boil And Bite
These can also can be bought at many sports stores and provides a better fit than a stock one. The “boil and bite” mouth guard is made from thermoplastic material It is placed in hot water to soften and then placed in the mouth and shaped around the teeth using pressure from your finger and tongue.
These are individually designed and made in a dental office or a professional laboratory based on your dentist’s instructions. An impression of your teeth is first made by your dentist in the clinic and then the mouth guard is molded over the model using a special material.
Due to the use of the special material, the extra time, and the work it takes to be made, this custom-made one is more expensive than the other types. But it provides the most comfort, protection, and best fit. It is widely recommended by dentists.
Although mouth guards are readily available over the counter at sports stores and other retailers, it is better to get a customized mouth guard from a dentist. Professional dental guards provide the most accurate fit when compared to the store bought ones.
Buying an over-the-counter dental guard that is improperly fitted may cause pain and more complications with prolonged usage. These guards are also typically made of inferior materials, meaning they need to be replaced more often.
If you become a candidate for a mouth guard due to any of the reasons stated earlier, your dentist will analyze your needs and make a proper recommendation. Also with the professional supervision and oversight that a dentist provides, you can quickly identify any adjustments that may need to be made over time.
When Is A Mouth Guard Used?
1. In Contact Sports
They are used in sports where there is a high chance that the face and jaw may be hit, for example, baseball, boxing, mixed martial arts, rugby, wrestling, and football. They may also prevent or reduce the extent of a concussion in the event of an injury to the jaw. A lot of these sports make the use of a mouth guard compulsory.
2. To Reduce Strain Over The Joint
Dentists utilize night guards as a means to reduce strain over the joint in the jaw region (temporomandibular joint) in patients with joint disorders. This helps in correcting the condition and also for alleviating pain and other symptoms.
With regular use of a night guard, the symptoms are less severe. There are fewer headaches, less clenching, less popping and clicking of the jaw.
3. To Prevent Wearing Down Of The Teeth In Bruxism
This is usually worn at night and is called a night guard. Individuals who suffer from bruxism(teeth grinding) benefit from using a night guard because it helps achieve a better quality of sleep.
It also helps prevent sore and tense muscles around the jaw from constant biting during the night. A night guard can also protect the teeth from wearing down due to grinding and pressure.
A mouth guard may be used during dental procedures like tooth bleaching so as to protect the teeth.
Mouth guards are used to treat snoring and some sleep disorders.
Mouth guards are essentially important especially in contact sports because they provide protection to the teeth and gums. They can be gotten over-the-counter at sports stores and also custom made at the dental clinic or laboratories.
In order to get the best and most effective use of a mouth guard, proper cleaning and care are very essential. It also needs to be stored in a clean, well-ventilated case when not in use.
If the cleaning guidelines are properly followed, your mouth guard should last for a long time.