Living in the world is stressful, so it’s no wonder so many people unconsciously clench and grind their teeth. Known medically as bruxism, the condition puts unconscious pressure on the teeth and jaw, and can cause headaches, dental problems, and even disrupt sleep, potentially leading to disorders such as sleep apnea.
Night guards, or mouthguards, exist to serve as a barrier and ultimately mitigate the effects of clenching. But since they are designed to be used every night, it is important that they are cleaned regularly. The problem is that many people are not quite sure how to clean a mouth guard.
Don’t worry if you’re one of those people—we talked to two dentists about their tips for keeping your night guards in tip-top shape. Read on to learn more.
What is the best way to clean a mouth guard?
While you can brush your night guard like you would your teeth (with a toothbrush and toothpaste), cosmetic dentist Daniel Rubinshtein, DDS, says the easiest way to clean a night guard is to soak it in a non-alcoholic mouthwash, such as Hello Bye Bye Bacteria Mouthwash, for at least 30 minutes. (Don’t worry just yet! You can take it out as soon as you wake up and let it soak while you go about your morning routine.)
“After soaking, rinse off the night guard with room temperature water,” he says. Then, if you find any residue left behind, you can use a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush to clean it off. The most important thing is that you want to place it in a hygienic place. After all, there’s little point in washing your night guard if you’re then going to place it in your bare sink where your toilet is only a foot away. One option is to purchase a night protection case (such as the Quist Orthodontic Retainer Case); just be sure to keep it clean too.
Why is it important to clean a night guard?
Since night guards are worn throughout the night, you don’t want to continually put them in your mouth with bacteria from the day before. “Bacteria in the mouth can collect on the mouthguard,” says cosmetic dentist Brian Kantor, DDS. “Without regular cleaning, bacteria can multiply and cause infections or bad breath.”
Dr. Rubinshtein adds that night guards can develop mold if they are not regularly cleaned and stored in dry, sanitary areas. “This, in turn, can lead to dangerous health risks, such as colds, flu, strep throat, and even chest infections,” he warns.
So if you needed a little extra motivation to make time for daily 30-minute baths, there you have it.
Can you clean a night guard naturally?
If you don’t want to soak your night guard in mouthwash, Dr. Rubinshtein says you can opt for a more natural cleaning method with hydrogen peroxide. Again, he suggests letting your night guard soak for at least 30 minutes to ensure proper cleaning.
Dr. Kantor says you can also swap your mouthwash for distilled white vinegar. However, he also recommends a 30-minute bath, so no matter whose advice you follow, you’ll need to get used to spending a little more time looking after your night watch.
What should/shouldn’t you use to clean a night guard?
In addition to never using a hard-bristled toothbrush (which can scratch and dent night guards), Dr. Rubinshtein recommends avoiding whitening or charcoal toothpaste. “They will scratch your night guard and create a surface area for bacteria to attach to,” he warns.
In addition, it says that the night guards must never wash with hot water, as it can distort the shape of your mouthguard and make it look bad in your mouth.
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