Sports mouth protectors don’t really require a whole lot of care. But, as we outline on this page, there are a few pointers that you should always keep in mind and follow.
Cleaning is a different issue. If you don’t give your mouthpiece proper attention, it probably won’t take long for it to become smelly and unsightly.
A) Cleaning instructions for mouth guards.
You should always clean your appliance after every time you wear it. The same dental plaque and debris that tend to accumulate on your teeth will build upon it too.
1) Scrub it.
At a minimum, you should always rinse your guard off with cool water after wearing it. And, ideally, you’ll take the time to scrub it too.
A little brush, like a kids toothbrush, makes the best tool for this job. But if you don’t have one handy, using your regular brush, a Q-tip, a corner of a towel or even just your finger can be better than nothing.
2) Let it dry out.
After you’ve scrubbed your guard, let it dry out thoroughly. If you don’t, it can become an active breeding ground for bacteria.
3) Soak it.
Besides just brushing, you may find that using a soaking solution helps to keep your mouthpiece fresh and clean.
Most sports guards are made out of imperious plastics.
But just in case your appliance is the exception, it’s not a bad idea to get an OK from your dentist or check your product’s instructions. If you don’t have these sources available, short test-soaks make a good idea.
All soaks should be used at room temperature.
As discussed below, the types of plastics used to make mouthguards typically will distort when exposed to hot temperatures. For that reason, only use the soaking solutions we discuss at room temperature. And only rinse your appliance off afterward with cold tap water.
Soaks / Cleaners for mouth guards.
a) Commercial cleansers.
A number of manufacturers make products for cleaning dentures and orthodontic retainers. They’re easy enough to find in the dental section of your local grocery or drugstore.
Most of these products are effervescent (they bubble) and this activity is supposed to create a “scrubbing” action that helps to clean your appliance.
These types of soaks are fine and do serve a purpose. But as far as scrubbing goes, don’t just rely on the action of the cleaner itself. Scrubbing with your toothbrush is always more effective (and therefore should always be done either before or after soaking).
b) Homemade cleaners – Bleach based.
A mild cleaning solution made by mixing 1 part household bleach (Clorox®) to 10 parts water can help to disinfect and deodorize your mouthguard.
It will also help to remove stains. But note, in some cases it’s conceivable (although unlikely) that using this type of soak over the long term might slightly fade the color of your appliance.
c) Homemade cleaners – Vinegar based.
The hard deposits that accumulate on dental appliances are usually dental tartar.
Soaking your mouthguard in a mildly acidic solution (a mix of 1/2 water and 1/2 white vinegar, like that found in your kitchen) will often dissolve it away.
If it doesn’t, try scrubbing your guard with a toothbrush after using this soak. It may have softened up the deposit to the point where it can be brushed off.
B) Care Instructions.
Sports mouthguards are generally pretty rugged but there are some best practices that you should keep in mind.
1) Keep it away from heat.
Since they’re made out of plastic, a mouth protector has the potential to distort or deform if exposed to heat.
- Never allow your guard to sit in direct sunlight for extended periods of time, be stored or left in a hot environment (like the inside of your car on a summer day), immersed in hot water, or placed on any hot surface.
A mouthguard should be stored in a hard, ventilated case.
2) Store it in its case.
- The hardness of the case will protect it from physical damage.
- The ventilation holes will allow it to dry out thoroughly between each use (which is important, see above).
3) Use it but don’t abuse it.
When you wear your mouthguard, don’t chew it. Doing so can create rips, tears or holes that may compromise the level of protection it provides.
4) Don’t alter it.
Making minor fit or comfort-related alterations can be acceptable but be careful about trimming large sections off (like areas covering your back teeth or gums). Doing so may significantly alter the level of protection your guard provides.
5) Prevent staining.
Clear or light-colored plastics may pick up stain when exposed to chromogenic agents such as colas or tea. So to avoid staining, minimize your intake of these types of beverages when wearing your guard. (A bleach-based soak can help to remove staining, see above.)
6) Keep it away from your dog.
Sure, it sounds silly, but more than one dental appliance has become the victim of the household pet (they’re probably attracted to the smell). These appliances can make for one expensive chew toy.
C) Bad habits can place you at risk for cavities.
A regular habit of allowing bits of sugary foods (candy bars, chocolate) to remain on your teeth when your guard is inserted, or to seep inside it while it’s being worn (soda, energy drinks), can place your teeth at increased risk for cavities.
This same type of scenario can occur with other types of dental appliances too. We cover this issue in detail here.
All mouthguards should be routinely inspected for fit and function, ideally by a dental professional.
The frequency of inspection should be based on factors that include:
- The level of risk of injury associated with the sport.
- The ability/willingness of the athlete to care for their appliance.
- Age considerations – Dental growth, Ability of the child to perceive problems with their guard.
E) Mouthguards are supposed to wear out.
You should expect that as time goes by your sports protector will show signs of wear and tear. For example, you may find holes or notice that it has a looser fit.
If you do discover any changes, it’s likely that the effective lifespan of your appliance is coming to an end.
Even with high-end dentist-dispensed guards it’s often not possible, practical or cost-effective to attempt a repair. The usual solution is to be fitted for a new one.