You only wear your mouthguard during a game or practice so it can’t really be that dirty right? Your teeth grinding guard goes in after you brush your teeth at night, so it’s clean right? WRONG!! Whether you wear an athletic mouthguard for sports or a nighttime guard for teeth grinding, proper care is essential in order to prolong the life of your guard, reduce the risk of dental decay, and help reduce your risk of getting sick.
Your Mouth is a Breeding Ground for Bacteria
While it may surprise you, your mouth is loaded with bacteria. Scientists are still working to identify some of the more than 500 different species of bacteria that live in the mouth. Yes, that’s over 500!! These bacterial colonies change throughout your life and are affected by a variety of different factors, including nutrition, hygiene, smoking, dehydration, and even stress. Some bacteria are beneficial and aid digestion. However, bacteria also cause tooth decay and can even make you sick.
In order to keep the bacterial levels under control, you are taught to brush and floss your teeth. Good oral hygiene helps keep these bacterial colonies under control and reduces your risk of dental decay.
Now that you know your mouth is full of bacteria, just think for a second about what happens when you add a mouthguard to this bacterial party! While your mouthguard may look like a solid piece of plastic, it is actually very porous. Bacteria love these little pores and take residence as soon as your mouthguard enters your mouth. And, any bacteria that was on your mouthguard now enters your mouth. So, if you have kept your dirty mouthguard in your gym bag with your dirty socks, just imagine the bacteria that you are introducing into your mouth!! YUCK!!!
A damaged mouthguard can increase your risk of exposure to bacteria and should be replaced. Visit SportingSmiles to learn more about our high-quality, custom-fit mouthguards.
To highlight just how common it is for mouthguards to collect bacteria, let’s look at a 2011 study published in Sports Health. This study examined the mouthguards of 62 Division I football players and their examination revealed 21 gram-negative cocci, 31 gram-negative bacilli, 154 gram-positive cocci, 150 gram-positive bacilli, 22 yeasts, and 107 molds. Some common species were Staphylococcus and Micrococcus, including Staphylococcus aureus. Their study did, however, reveal that regular cleaning and sanitizing can reduce the bacterial load on the mouthguard. They also recommended that you replace a mouthguard that becomes sharp or jagged.
A Dirty Mouthguard Can Make You Sick
Unfortunately, all that bacteria can make you very sick. And we aren’t just talking about a common cold and sniffles. Two case studies published in Sports Dentistry in 2007 showed the connection between mouthguard bacteria and medical infections and/or conditions. In the first case, a 13-year-old football player developed an infection in his leg after suffering an injury. The infection was antibiotic-resistant and eventually connected to bacteria found in his mouthguard. The bacteria entered the bloodstream through small cuts in his gums. In the second case, a bacteria-laden mouthguard contributed to exercise-induced asthma in a 13-year-old. This asthma did not respond to regular inhaler treatments. Doctors believe the inhalation of yeasts and molds from the mouthguard during games contributed to these breathing issues.
A Dirty Mouthguard Increases Risk of Dental Decay
Not only can a dirty mouthguard make you sick, but it can also contribute to dental decay, gum disease, and even tooth loss. A dirty mouthguard, especially one worn overnight for teeth grinding, helps trap bacteria against the surface of the teeth. This contributes to bacterial growth, especially if you do not follow good oral hygiene practices.
Proper Care and Cleaning Is Essential
Regularly cleaning and sanitizing your mouthguard is essential in order to reduce the bacterial load. This includes cleaning, brushing, and soaking. In addition, regular mouthguard replacement (when the mouthguard becomes worn or every season) helps to reduce the risk of increased bacterial growth. How you store your mouthguard when you are not wearing it is also important. A dirty mouthguard stored in a closed container, for example, will continue to breed bacteria. After cleaning, store your mouthguard in a vented case for the best results. For more information, visit our blog Mouthguards: How to Clean Your Mouthguard.
At SportingSmiles, we know how expensive custom-made mouthguards can be, especially if you need to replace them on a regular basis. The good news is that, with our self-impression kit, you can bypass the dental visit and get the same high-quality custom mouthguard without the high costs your dentist charges. For more information, visit our Athletic Mouthguards or Teeth Grinding Guards pages today.