Many patients wear nighttime mouth guards made of durable plastic. If you have a new mouth guard, what should you expect? What’s the best way to clean it? Dental assistant Julie Tavenner discusses what you need to know for optimal mouth guard wear and care.
Do clean your mouth guard properly.
When you remove your mouth guard each day, use your toothbrush and mouthwash to scrub it. This will remove germs and keep it fresh between uses. Rinse it off before you put it back in your mouth. This will help you position it more easily—and comfortably!
Soak your mouth guard periodically in Efferdent or Polident. How often should you soak it? That depends on how fast tartar builds up on your teeth, because it can also build up on your mouth guard. If your teeth accumulate a lot of tartar between hygiene appointments, you’ll want to soak your mouth guard once a week. If you build up tartar more slowly, you can soak your mouth guard less frequently—every two weeks or once a month. When you soak your mouth guard, you’re soaking off the tartar buildup.
Do store your mouth guard properly at home, safely away from pets.
Keep your mouth guard in its case when you’re not wearing it. If you have pets, put the case away in a drawer or cabinet where your pets cannot reach it. When pets find mouth guards, they often chew and eat them. Even pets that don’t typically chew things will chew a mouth guard because they can smell your mouth on it, no matter how well you have cleaned it.
Don’t leave your mouth guard in a hot car if you’re traveling.
Extreme heat affects the mouth guard’s plastic and can change its shape. The trunk of your car can become hot while you’re driving in warm weather, and the interior of the car itself can heat up quickly when the car is parked on a hot day. If you’re traveling in warm weather, keep your mouth guard in the car in your purse, briefcase, or backpack, and take it with you when you park.
Don’t lose sleep!
Most patients adjust easily to their new mouth guards in a short period of time, but if you find that your mouth guard keeps you from sleeping, don’t keep yourself up. Take it out and try it again the next night, and keep on trying until you can sleep comfortably through the night.
Do remember that wearing a new mouth guard will increase your saliva production.
Our brains automatically react to any new object in our mouths the same way they do with food. Putting anything new in your mouth will cause you to produce more saliva. It will take about two weeks for your brain to retrain and realize that the mouth guard is not food. This means that for the first two weeks or so, you’re probably going to drool on your pillow. That goes away, so don’t worry! It won’t be a lasting thing. In the meantime, spreading a clean washcloth or small towel over your pillow while you sleep can help to keep it clean.
Do call us if your mouth guard causes your bite to change.
If you have an underlying TMJ condition, your mouth guard could cause your bite to change. When you remove your mouth guard in the morning, your bite may feel a bit unusual for 10-20 minutes, but then it should go back to normal. However, if you notice that an unusual bite pattern lingers any longer than an hour, stop wearing your mouth guard and call us for an appointment, because we may need to modify it for you.