Ewww! Did you just put that in your mouth?
It’s hard not to have this reaction when we hear of people never cleaning their sports guards and just throwing them into their smelly equipment bags after use, then the next week, retrieving said guard from same bag and popping it in their mouth again.
Sick, sick, sicker…
Many words may come to mind about this gross habit, but thrush mouth, oral lesions, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and mold-induced asthma are probably ones you have never thought of.
When we think of dental sports guards we think of the teeth they are protecting, yet the cheapest part of your protective uniform can be dangerous and actually make you sick.
When was the last time you cleaned your dental sports guard?
At a recent soccer practice this summer, one of our staff members took a survey and asked members of both teams this question. Surprisingly, only 1 of the 33 children routinely cleaned their guard and did it properly!
When questioned further about the care of their guards during other sports throughout the year, the answers were the same. Although shocking, it was just something they had never thought of. In fact, conversations with other people failed to find anyone who cleaned their guards properly or consistently.
…and you’re putting it in your mouth! After only one use, without cleaning, germs will begin to accumulate. So imagine the germ growth over time!
Additionally, during activity you move, bite and grind into the guard’s flexible thermoplastic material causing it to wear down over time. The crevices and cracks that develop in the guard will provide breeding grounds for more bacteria, viruses and fungi which can contaminate your mouth. Even rinsing it in water doesn’t truly get it clean.
If you’re not keen on putting a petri dish-like container full of germs back into your mouth, at Your Smile Dental Care, we suggest that after your activity you rinse it thoroughly before placing it in a well ventilated container until you can clean the guard and container properly at home. Use one of the methods below to thoroughly clean your guard before storing it until next use.
Cleaning your Sports Guard
There are several methods of cleaning that we suggest:
Rinse – Always rinse your sports guards with water immediately after use or as soon as you get home.
Soap and Water Method – Using antibacterial soap with lukewarm water in a sudsy mixture along with your toothbrush or fingers to clean your guard is also a common method. Be sure to rinse well with clear water so that you don’t end up with a soapy tasting mouth.
Toothbrush and toothpaste Method – Using a soft toothbrush and a non-abrasive toothpaste as you would to clean your teeth is an easy way to clean your guard. Use a gentle action to prevent scratching the material and make sure to rinse it well afterwards to remove toothpaste that can get stuck in any crevices already present. Allow your guard to air dry before placing it back into it’s clean, ventilated container
Mouth Rinse Method – Another good choice is antibacterial mouth rinse. Use products that boast about being 99.9% effective at killing germs. However, rinsing will not be sufficient enough to rid your guard of bacteria and saliva without using your toothbrush to gently work the rinse around and into all areas of your guard. Again, rinse well with lukewarm water afterwards and air dry the guard before storing.
Final Rinse – Give your sports guard a final rinse before allowing it to air dry.
By using one of, or a combination of methods above to keep your guard clean you can reduce your risk of mouth sores and bacterial infections that can grow to become more serious conditions affecting your heart and lungs.
We have been told that some patients have been advised to clean their guard using denture cleansers, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, vinegar or with a sanitizing unit. We have found that many of these methods are too strong or abrasive for the guard and can cause them to wear more quickly and their colour to fade.
Just keep it simple and replace the guard as needed.
Placing your sports guard into a clean, well-vented container will protect it from damage and contamination after cleaning. Ensure that your guard is dry before storing and keep it in a section of your activity/equipment bag that is also clean.
Be sure to keep your container clean by using the same methods above. You can also place it in a good quality dishwasher to cleansing.
Sports guards aren’t meant to last forever. Be sure to check your protective sports guard regularly for signs of breakage and wear and consider replacing it with a new one if it becomes very worn, warps or you are beginning a new athletic season. Chewed up guards can pose an even higher risk since that may have sharp edges that can cut mouth tissues and allow a portal of entry for bacteria into your bloodstream.
Sports Guard Special
Dental sports guards are a wise investment for your oral health, but improper care can have a tremendous affect on your overall health.
Each September, Your Smile Dental Care offers offer a Sports Guard Special where you and your family can get sports guards made that will provide a custom fit for the protection you need.
Play Safe ~ Use Protective Face Gear
A word about the benefits of using protective dental guards, helmets, face shields etc.
Ultimately, we want our patients to have fun, but understand that injuries to the mouth are often severe and costly. Losing a tooth is a common dental injury. Some sports groups/teams offer insurance to their players that include dental. The cost is not usually not too expensive and the benefits of having this added insurance can help you reduce your costs significantly should an accident occur.
Lastly, you may want to decline signing off permanently with your insurer after your injury has been repaired and consider asking your dentist for their advice regarding the long term future care for this tooth/teeth. Oftentimes, an injury will require future maintenance, repair and replacement that can cost much more than the initial repair’s cost in terms of frustration, discomfort and associated fees.
We have one patient who is very glad that his parents enrolled in his school’s optional medical/dental policy and did not settle permanently with the insurer after he had a playground accident involving his front tooth. Years later, he needs to have the tooth replaced and the insurer will be paying. Another, purchased the insurance offered by his adult men’s team. He got a stick to the mouth and lost his two front teeth. The insurance company is picking the full cost for two dental implants and crowns.
Accidents ~ they’re unpredictable so be prepared,
The Your Smile Dental Care Team