Mouthguard Maintenance Is Important for a Healthy Mouth

You've been protecting your active child’s smile by having her wear a mouthguard during sports activities.

So make sure she not only wears a mouthguard, but that she keeps it clean. Thorough cleaning and care is as important for your child's mouthguard as it is for their teeth, researchers say.

A recent study in the journal General Dentistry found ice hockey and football players' mouthguards have large numbers of bacteria, yeasts and molds that can cause illness and infection.

The mouthguard of one patient in the study, a junior high school football player, showed the same bacterium on both his mouthguard and in abscess cultures taken from a leg wound. A second patient's mouthguard, researchers found, had five different types of mold, which exacerbated his exercise-induced asthma so much that his inhaler didn't control his symptoms during competition.

Researchers warn that the rough edges of worn-out mouthguards can cut oral tissue and any bacteria, yeasts and molds contained on the mouthguard can be transmitted through the small wounds in the mouth. They also theorize that increasing incidence of exercise-induced asthma could be related to use of contaminated mouthguards.

Study authors recommend replacing mouthguards more frequently.

The American Dental Association Web site offers a variety of mouthguard care tips:

  • Before and after each use, rinse it with cold water or with a mouthrinse. You can clean it with toothpaste and a toothbrush.
  • Occasionally clean the mouthguard in cool, soapy water and rinse it thoroughly.
  • Place the mouthguard in a firm, perforated container to store or transport it. This permits air circulation and helps to prevent damage.
  • To minimize distortion, avoid high temperatures, such as hot water, hot surfaces or direct sunlight.

Like any other sports gear, a mouthguard will wear out, making it less effective. If your mouthguard has holes or tears or becomes loose, it can irritate the teeth and oral tissues. Occasionally check the mouthguard's condition and replace it as necessary.

The ADA offers information online ("www.ada.org") to help parents and dentists choose the best mouthguard for a child.

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