Living in the world is stressful, so it's no wonder that so many people unconsciously clench and grind their teeth. Medically known as bruxism, the condition puts unconscious stress on the teeth and jaw, and can cause headaches, dental issues, and even disrupt sleep, potentially leading to disorders like sleep apnea.
Night guards, or mouth guards, exist to serve as a barrier and ultimately mitigate the effects of clenching. But since they’re designed to be worn each and every night, it’s important that they’re cleaned regularly. The problem is that many people aren’t quite sure how to clean a mouth guard.
No worries if you're one of those people: we chatted with two dentists about their tips for keeping night guards in tip-top shape. Keep reading to learn more.
What’s the best way to clean a mouth guard?
While you can brush your night guard much like you do your teeth (using a toothbrush and toothpaste), cosmetic dentist Daniel Rubinshtein, DDS, says that the easiest way to clean a night guard is to soak it in alcohol-free mouthwash, like the Hello Bye Bye Bacteria Mouthwash, for at least 30 minutes. (Don’t stress over the timing! You can pop it out as soon as you wake up and let it soak while going about your morning routine.)
“After soaking, rinse the night guard with room temperature water,” he says. Then, if you find that any residue remains, you can use a clean soft bristle toothbrush to wipe it away. Most importantly, you want to place it somewhere sanitary. After all, there’s little point to washing your night guard if you’re then going to set it on your bare sink where your toilet is just a foot away. One option is to buy a night guard case (like 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 all night long, you don’t want to continually put it in your mouth with the previous day’s bacteria. “Bacteria in your mouth can build up on your mouthguard,” says cosmetic dentist Brian Kantor, DDS. “Without regular cleaning, the bacteria can multiply, causing infection or bad breath.”
Dr. Rubinshtein adds that night guards can grow mold if not regularly cleaned and stored in dry, sanitary areas. “This can in turn lead to dangerous health risks such as colds, the flu, strep, and even chest infections,” he warns.
So, if you needed a little extra motivation to make time for daily 30-minute soaks, 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 that you can opt for a more natural cleaning method using hydrogen peroxide. Again, he suggests letting your night guard soak for at least 30 minutes to ensure adequate cleansing.
Dr. Kantor says you can swap the mouth wash for distilled white vinegar, too. He also recommends a 30-minute soak, though—so no matter whose advice you take, you’ll have to get used to spending a little extra time caring for your night guard.
What should you use/not use to clean a night guard?
In addition to never using a hard-bristle toothbrush (which can scratch and dent night guards), Dr. Rubinshtein says to steer clear of whitening or charcoal toothpaste. “They will scratch your night guard and create surface area for bacteria to latch on to,” he warns.
Additionally, he says that night guards should never be washed in hot water, as it can distort the shape of your guard and become ill-fitting in your mouth.
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