Cleaning Mouth Guards to Avoid Mouth Disease
A mouth guard is a dental device worn to protect the teeth and gums from trauma while playing sports or other recreational activities. A night guard is a mouth guard specifically designed to prevent bruxism, or grinding of the teeth, while sleeping. Both types of guards must be properly and frequently cleaned in order to prevent the growth of bacteria, yeast and fungus, all of which can lead to oral disease if not promptly addressed.
Mouth Guard Care and Cleaning
Proper maintenance and care of a mouth guard play a key role in preventing contamination and infection. Dental professionals strongly recommend that their patients with mouth guards follow these guidelines to keep their teeth and gums healthy:
- Avoid biting and chewing the mouth guard, as this may create indentations where bacteria may grow
- Always brush and floss teeth thoroughly before and after wearing the mouth guard
- Keep all mouth guards separate from other sporting equipment or accessories to minimize the risk of contamination
- After every use, wash the mouth guard with lukewarm, soapy water (very hot water may distort its shape)
- Before replacing the mouth guard into its case, soak in mouthwash to prevent bacteria growth
- Ensure that the mouth guard’s case is ventilated to prevent mold growth inside
- Never share a mouth guard with another person
Consequences of Improper or Infrequent Cleaning
Publicized case studies determine that mouth guards should be sanitized on a daily basis in order to avoid possible bacteria growth and oral disease. Athletic and recreational mouth guards demonstrate potential for acute contamination illness when not properly cleaned daily. Symptoms of mouth disease and general illness associated with a contaminated mouth guard include:
- Tooth decay
- Recession of gums
- Gum disease
- Oral lesions
- Bacterial infection, which may cause fever, nausea, wheezing and diarrhea
- Staph infections, which may spread to the lungs and heart
Certain types of fungus and bacteria may also affect existing wounds, such as those sustained during physical activity. Individuals who experience these or any other unusual symptoms are encouraged to contact their dentist as soon as possible for a full oral evaluation.
The wide range of health issues that occur due to improperly cleaned mouth guards can be prevented entirely with the right disinfection techniques. If you or your child uses a mouth guard on a regular basis and have questions regarding its proper use or cleaning procedures, ask your dentist for detailed information on how to prevent oral disease and other health problems with a regular disinfection regimen.
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