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A mouthguard, or night guard, is a removable oral device that covers your teeth. The device is worn to separate your top teeth from your bottom teeth while sleeping. This can reduce teeth grinding or clenching at night, a condition known as sleep bruxism.

Mouthguards may also be used to manage temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

Some people also wear mouthguards when playing sports like football, hockey, and boxing. In these cases, the mouthguard protects your mouth and minimizes the risk of dental injuries.

Since you wear mouthguards in your mouth, it’s important to keep them clean. That’s because bacteria in your mouth can build up on your mouthguard.

Without regular cleaning, the bacteria can multiply, causing infection or bad breath.

Read on to learn how to clean your mouthguard and how to recognize the signs that it’s time to get a new one.

There are many ways to clean your mouthguard with supplies you have at home.


You can clean your mouthguard with a soft bristle toothbrush and nonabrasive toothpaste. It’s best to keep a separate toothbrush just for this purpose to avoid cross contamination of bacteria.

Avoid hard brushes and abrasive toothpastes, which can damage your mouthguard.

Here’s how to clean your mouthguard with a toothbrush:

  1. Rinse your mouthguard in cool water.
  2. Apply a small amount of toothpaste to the toothbrush.
  3. Gently brush the mouthguard.
  4. Rinse off the toothpaste.
  5. Let the mouthguard dry.

Soap and water

Another option is to use soap and water. Use a mild, alcohol-free soap to avoid damaging your mouthguard.

Examples include:

You’ll also need a toothbrush for this method. To wash your mouthguard with soap:

  1. Rinse your mouthguard in cool water.
  2. Apply a small amount of soap to your mouthguard.
  3. Gently brush the mouthguard with the toothbrush until soapy.
  4. Rinse the mouthguard to remove all the suds.
  5. Let the mouthguard dry.


Mouthwash has antimicrobial properties, making it ideal for cleaning your mouthguard. Use alcohol-free mouthwash to avoid damage.

Here’s how this technique is generally used:

  1. Rinse your mouthguard with cool water.
  2. Add a capful of mouthwash to a clean glass.
  3. Dilute with water until there’s enough liquid to cover your mouthguard.
  4. Soak your mouthguard for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove and rinse with cool water.
  6. Let the mouthguard dry.

Baking soda

Baking soda removes debris and reduces bad odors.

Below is a common technique for using baking soda:

  1. In a clean bowl, combine equal parts baking soda and water to create a paste.
  2. Dip a toothbrush into the paste. Gently brush your mouthguard.
  3. Rinse your mouthguard with cool water.
  4. Let the mouthguard dry.

Hydrogen peroxide and vinegar

For a deeper clean, use hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. Both ingredients are inexpensive and natural.

Here’s how to clean a mouthguard with this method:

  1. Rinse your mouthguard in cool water.
  2. Place it in a clean glass. Add enough vinegar to cover the mouthguard. Let sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove and rinse your mouthguard with cool water. Rinse the glass, too.
  4. Return the mouthguard to the glass and add hydrogen peroxide until it’s covered.
  5. Let the mouthguard sit in the hydrogen peroxide for 30 minutes.
  6. Rinse your mouthguard with cool water.
  7. Let the mouthguard dry.

If you feel like your mouthguard needs a deeper clean, try an over-the-counter (OTC) nonabrasive denture cleaner.

Typically, OTC denture cleaners contain sodium hypochlorite, a chemical bleach. When used according to the product’s directions, it’s considered safe for you and your mouthguard.

It’s worth noting that OTC cleaners may have synthetic fragrances and artificial dyes. If you’re sensitive to fragrances or concerned about these ingredients, chemical cleaners may not be the best choice.

Avoid soaking your mouthguard in the cleaner for too long. This can damage or degrade your mouthguard.

Here’s how OTC chemical cleaners are usually used.

Soak your mouthguard

Chemical cleaners are available as tablets and powders in small packets. When added to water, the cleaner will dissolve.

Most cleaners require the following steps:

  1. Fill a clean glass with warm water.
  2. Add the tablet or powder.
  3. Put your mouthguard in the solution.
  4. Soak for 5 to 10 minutes (or according to the package’s directions).
  5. Rinse with cool water.
  6. Let the mouthguard dry.

Brush with cleanser solution

Some cleaners can be used to brush your mouthguard. This method is meant to be used in addition to soaking.

To use this technique:

  1. After soaking your mouthguard, rinse with cool water.
  2. Dip a toothbrush into the solution. Brush your mouthguard.
  3. Rinse your mouthguard with cool water again.
  4. Let the mouthguard dry.

You should clean your mouthguard after every use.

The following cleaners are appropriate for daily cleaning:

  • toothpaste
  • soap and water
  • mouthwash
  • baking soda

Stronger cleaners are best for deep cleaning, which you should do at least once a month. This includes OTC denture cleaners and vinegar with hydrogen peroxide.

Most mouthguards are made of silicone or plastic. These materials are strong yet soft, which makes the mouthguard more comfortable to wear.

The best material depends on what you’re using the mouthguard for. Common materials include:

  • Silicone. This is a soft rubber typically used for mild or occasional bruxism.
  • Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA). This thermoplastic material is used for “boil and bite” mouthguards, which you dip into hot water then bite. It hardens to the shape of your teeth and can be used for moderate to severe bruxism or growing athletes.
  • Acrylic. This is a hard plastic used for custom-made mouthguards, which are typically best for athletes.

Generally, the same cleaning supplies and methods can be used for all types of materials. However, use extra caution if you have a thermoplastic mouthguard — it can warp if you clean it with hot water.

In addition to cleaning your mouthguard, you can follow certain tips to keep it clean.

To care for your mouthguard:

  • Let your mouthguard dry completely after cleaning it. This will help minimize bacterial growth.
  • Store your mouthguard in a durable vented container when you’re not using it. The vents will help it dry.
  • Clean your storage container every few days.
  • Avoid exposing your mouthguard to hot water, hot air, or excessive sunlight. High temperatures can warp your mouthguard, making it less effective.
  • Store your mouthguard away from pets that might chew on it.
  • If your mouthguard falls on the ground or floor, clean it before putting it back in your mouth.
  • Brush and floss your teeth before and after wearing your mouthguard.
  • Never share your mouthguard with anyone.
  • Bring your mouthguard to your dental checkups. Your dentist can give it a deep clean.

The lifespan of your mouthguard depends on many factors, including:

  • the material of your mouthguard
  • how often you use it
  • how well you care for it

On average, a mouthguard will last for about 5 years. But if you use it often, you’ll likely need to replace it once per year.

OTC mouthguards might need to be replaced every few months. They’re less durable than custom-made versions.

Signs you need a new mouthguard include:

  • cracks
  • tears
  • holes
  • a loose fit
  • reduced thickness
  • deformed shape
  • causes gum or teeth irritation
  • persistent bad odor, even after cleaning
  • discoloration

Your dentist can check for these signs at your routine dental appointments.

If you’ve recently been sick, it’s recommended to deep clean your mouthguard. Get a replacement if it has cracks or tears, which can harbor infection-causing bacteria.

If you have bruxism or TMJ, you can try the following instead of mouthguards:

  • Mouth splints. Mouth splints are made of harder plastic than mouthguards are. They last longer, but they’re also more expensive.
  • Stress management. If your teeth-grinding symptoms are related to stress, try stress management methods like cognitive behavioral therapy and yoga.
  • Botox injections. Botox can help teeth grinding or TMJ.

There are no alternatives for sports mouthguards. If you’re an athlete, a mouthguard is the only device that can properly protect your mouth.

Before wearing your mouthguard, brush and floss your teeth. When you take it out, clean it with alcohol-free mouthwash, antibacterial soap, or gentle toothpaste.

Let your mouthguard dry before storing it. Leftover moisture can promote bacterial growth.

Deep clean your mouthpiece at least once a month with an OTC denture cleaner or vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

Your dentist can also clean it during your regular checkups. If your mouthguard has cracks, holes, or doesn’t fit properly, it’s time to replace it.