This article has been updated for accuracy on 02/25/20
What is a dental night guard?
A night guard is a plastic device designed specifically for your smile’s shape. It is worn while you sleep to reduce damage and discomfort caused by nighttime bruxism (clenching and grinding your teeth).
What is the best way to clean a dental night guard?
PREVENTING YOUR DENTAL NIGHT GUARD FROM TURNING YELLOW
Your mouth is the perfect place for bacterial plaque and other microorganisms to thrive. And so is your night guard since you wear it directly over your teeth. The moist, warm environment is the perfect breeding ground for residue buildup and stain. But cleaning your dental appliance regularly can prevent that from happening!
Although some bacterial buildup is normal, dental devices such as night guards should be cleaned and thoroughly dried between uses.
That way you can avoid problems like bad breath (halitosis), discoloration of the dental night guard, and accumulated debris from food particles and plaque.
In a nutshell
How to Clean Your Dental Night Guard
You might run across recommendations to use baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, soap, denture cleaner, and toothpaste to clean your night guard. But some of these are too harsh and abrasive, which can lead to permanent damage to your dental appliance.
While basic hygiene principles are universal for all night guards, it is important to speak to your dentist or the dental appliance manufacturer about specific care recommendations on particular types of appliances. Especially since night guard materials can vary from one design to the next.
Here’s a quick summary of basic cleaning concepts that apply to all night guards:
- All dental night guards should be cleaned immediately after use and before storing them.
- Allow your night guard to completely dry prior to storage.
- Clean your night guard case/holder regularly, as it may harbor dust and bacteria.
- Do not use harsh chemicals, hot water, or abrasive products to clean your appliance unless directed to do so by your dentist.
Don’t let your dental night guard turn yellow!
Not cleaning your teeth before wearing your night guard can cause food stains and bacteria to transfer to your appliance. Additionally, allowing saliva and water to sit in your guard can lead to changes in the way it looks.
“Why does my dental night guard turn yellow and how can I prevent it?”
Example Cleaning Regimen (May Vary by Guard Brand):
1. Brush your night guard thoroughly with non-abrasive toothpaste, antibacterial hand soap or dish liquid.
Use a separate toothbrush than what you do for your teeth. Thoroughly clean the appliance both inside and outside to lift away plaque residue. Rinse your mouthguard under lukewarm tap water. Do not use hot water as this can permanently alter the fit of your dental night guard.
2. Dry it with a soft, clean cloth.
If possible, allow it to air dry approximately 30 minutes before storing it.
3. Store the guard in its case.
Example weekly regimen
1. Once per week, soak your appliance in an antiseptic mouthwash or denture cleaning solution. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
Clean out your storage case, using hot water and dish soap.
Night Guard Cleaning Options
Ideally, you want to clean your mouthguard with a gentle toothpaste, antibacterial soap, or liquid dish detergent. Baking soda can occasionally be used if there is heavier residue but using it regularly can lead to surface scratches in your appliance, which may lead to additional bacterial and stain buildup. As such, we recommend avoiding it unless absolutely necessary.
You can also soak your night guard in an effervescent denture cleaning solution (which is safe for things like partials and orthodontic retainers) to loosen residue, then brush it clean several hours later.
Always follow manufacturer’s recommendations as night guards are made from various types of materials and will respond differently to cleansing solutions.
Harsh abrasives, hot water or bleach may permanently damage your dental night guard. Only use them as directed by your dentist or mouthguard manufacturer.
“Forget turning yellow! My dental night guard has little black spots on it. I think it’s mold!”
Finding buildup that looks like mold on your dental night guard?
Black, green or brown spots may start to appear on your appliance if not cleaned or stored properly.
If too much moisture is left on your mouthguard, it may gradually start to harbor bacterial growth. Especially when it’s stored in a sealed retainer case when it’s still wet.
Remember, mold is a microscopic, living organism. It is not a disease or a virus.
Regular, thorough cleaning can prevent mold buildup. But at times, it may be necessary to take further steps to remove the deposits. It is safe to dilute household bleach in a glass of tap water (a 1:10 ratio) and soak your appliance for about half an hour, then brush and rinse it thoroughly. Although too harsh for everyday use, bleach can be used on an infrequent basis when deep cleaning of dental appliances is necessary.
Bring your dental night guard with you to dental checkups to see if it needs to be professionally cleaned. As with other types of dental appliances, night guards need occasional replacement every so many years.
Does my night guard need to be replaced?
Even with proper care, dental night guards wear out over time, so it’s important to check yours for signs of aging.
You might start to notice that it doesn’t fit as well as it used to or that certain areas are starting to wear out, from the constant pressure of your teeth. Both of these scenarios are completely normal. In fact, the wear means your night guard is doing it’s job to protect your teeth, cheeks and tongue!
When in doubt, check with your dentist, night guard lab, or other dental health provider.
A dental night guard may become gross pretty fast if it’s not cleaned or maintained properly. Fortunately, you can avoid buildup, smells and color changes by taking the time to learn how to thoroughly clean, dry and store your appliance. “Clean and dry is key”.
Just like your teeth, your dental night guard needs daily care. Aside from the information above on how to clean your night guard and the storage case, you can also speak with your dental health care provider or lab for more information. With proper care, your night guard can last as long as possible.
Looking to replace your existing dental night guard?
Sentinel Mouthguards offers three different types of custom made dental night guards; hard, soft, and dual laminated. We also provide a 100% satisfaction guarantee, replacement warranty, and free, all-inclusive shipping in the US.
Medically reviewed by:
Sharon Boyd, MA, BS, RDH has over 20 years of experience in the dental health industry. Her focus on preventative care techniques helps empower patients to reduce their need for extensive treatments and extend the lifetime of their natural teeth. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sharonboydrdh/Website: https://www.dentaspeak.com/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Dentaspeak/
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