Mouthguards worn during sports, biteguards for sleep to prevent grinding, and Invisalign trays inserted to straighten teeth – there are lots of people wearing plastic in their mouth. Can these devices cause cavities? The answer isn’t a simple yes or no.
What Causes Cavities?
First, here’s a little refresher on what causes cavities. The Mayo Clinic puts it rather well:
“Cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of your teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes. Cavities, also called tooth decay or caries, are caused by a combination of factors, including bacteria in your mouth, frequent snacking, sipping sugary drinks and not cleaning your teeth well.”
If you have invested in a mouthguard to protect your teeth, or Invisalign for a better smile, you obviously care about your teeth and dental health. The last thing you want is to wear something that contributes to more dental work.
First, the Sacramento Dentistry Group wants to reassure you that there is no need to worry about any of these devices. There is no “flaw” in their design that inherently leads to tooth decay. Nevertheless, there are some easy steps to take that ensure your dental device does not contribute to tooth decay.
It’s All About Bacteria
Anything that comes in contact with the insides of the mouth picks up bacteria. Forks, spoons, chopsticks, pacifiers, that pen you’ve been chewing on, if something’s been in someone’s mouth, it has bacteria on it. Mouthguards and aligners are no different. They are designed to protect or improve your teeth, but you are the one responsible for keeping these devices clean!
When you remove a mouthguard, both your teeth and your mouthguard need attention. Here are the steps you can take:
- Wash your mouthguard with cool water and very mild soap, or with a toothbrush. You can use your personal toothbrush or one designated for this task.
- Rest your mouthguard in the case it came in, taking care to let it air dry in a non-humid environment. If your bathroom never allows your mouthguard to completely dry out, keep it in a different room.
- You can use over-the-counter denture cleaner tablets to clean a mouthguard, using the instructions included. Do not leave it in the solution longer thirty minutes. In a pinch, a mild solution of hydrogen peroxide or mouthwash can be used for the soak mixture, but avoid solutions containing alcohol. This deeper cleaning is advised once a week.
- Never use hot water to wash your device.
- Brush your teeth thoroughly after removing your mouthguard and before inserting it. At night, this would include flossing between all your teeth before inserting a nighttime biteguard.
- For oral devices used in sports, keep your mouth guard away from dirty sporting clothes, and use an over-the-counter spray designed to disinfect your mouthguard after each use.
- Only drink water when your mouthguard is in. If you remove it to eat or drink, at least rinse your mouth thoroughly with water and rinse the guard with water before putting it back.
When you keep to these practices, mouthguards and aligners can do their primary job — protecting and improving your teeth. Excellent oral hygiene throughout the day, and especially upon arising and before retiring each night, is of the best habits for your teeth. On your next visit to the Sacramento Dentistry Group, remember to bring your mouthguard in and we can take a look at it for you and provide it with a superior cleaning. As a team working together, our dentists ensure that your mouthguard and your teeth are in the best shape possible.