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by JS Dental Lab |

Is it Okay to Boil Mouth Guards?

While you’re doing research or wondering if you need one at all, it’s common to be a bit confused about whether or not you should boil mouth guards. 

The array of options available can make it challenging to figure out how to use, care for, and maintain different products. 

If you need some clarification, we’re here to help. 

Let’s discuss some mouth guard basics, and how to know if (and when) it’s safe to boil them.

What is a Mouth Guard?

Mouth guards offer a variety of benefits and address a few different needs. 

One of the most common reasons people need a mouth guard is to protect themselves from teeth grinding and jaw clenching. Unintentional habits like these can lead to serious problems with dental and physical health. 

Whether teeth grinding occurs during the day, or at night while you sleep, this condition (called bruxism) can disrupt your sleep, damage your teeth, and cause jaw problems. If these issues become severe over time, patients often require orthodontic services or surgery. 

Some doctors and dentists recommend mouth guards for people who suffer from sleep apnea or snoring, posing health risks and sleep disturbances. 

Others use specific mouth guards to protect against tooth injuries during contact sports or simply to maintain the alignment of their teeth if they begin to shift and crowd. 

Different Types of Mouth Guards

There are distinct types of mouth guards, so it’s always crucial to understand the pros and cons of each before you commit to a purchase. 

There are three main mouth guard types for different needs:

Boil and Bite Mouth Guards

Boil and bite mouth guards are inexpensive and usually available at pharmacies and retailers that carry a comprehensive selection of health products. 

Manufacturers do not sell these by size. As the name implies, you place the mouth guard in hot water to soften the material, remove it with tongs, and mold it to your teeth once it’s cool enough. 

Some manufacturers advise letting the product rest in cold water after this process. 

Boil and bite mouth guards can make achieving the proper fit challenging, so following the directions closely is essential. 

If it's your first time using a boil and bite mouth guard, you may need to purchase multiple kits and make several attempts to create a successful mold.

Ill-fitting mouth guards may not provide the benefits you're hoping for. 

Custom Dental Mouth Guards

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), custom-fit mouth guards offer the best protection and are most effective in accommodating your individual needs. You can use them for your top teeth, bottom teeth, or both simultaneously, depending on your concerns. 

Typically, custom mouth guards address issues like teeth grinding (bruxism), jaw pain, and shifting smile alignment. 

These are created using impressions of your teeth for a custom fit and are far less bulky or uncomfortable. They tend to offer the most benefit to those who opt for this type. If you're looking to invest in the best mouth guard you can, this is your best bet. 

You can see a dentist or orthodontist about custom mouth guards. They can be expensive if you pay out-of-pocket, but some insurance policies do cover orthodontic devices. 

A few custom mouth guard companies (like JS Dental Lab) have created innovative, easy ways for you to get one right from the comfort of your own home. 

The fitting process is usually straightforward, with plenty of information available to make sure everything goes smoothly. This method is almost always the most affordable way to get a custom mouth guard that will be effective and last. 

Stock Mouth Guards

Stock mouth guards (also called sports mouth guards) don’t require any fitting. They come in several sizes to suit just about every mouth. 

Many contact sports athletes opt to use them to protect their front teeth and upper teeth during competitions. 

The American Dental Association (ADA) uses specific criteria to determine the safety and efficacy of various mouth guards in preventing dental injury during contact sports. 

If you're considering this option, it's a good idea to make sure the ADA has given the product a stamp of approval. 

While they are the least expensive type and available at sporting goods stores and pharmacies, stock mouth guards are typically bulky and not as comfortable as custom mouth guards. 

It’s vital to note that stock mouth guards only protect the teeth from trauma. They are not an adequate replacement for mouth guards designed to protect you from teeth grinding (bruxism) or jaw clenching. 

Is it Okay to Boil Mouth Guards?

Close up of a young woman smiling while holding up a toothbrush and a mouth guard

Whether or not it’s okay to boil a mouth guard depends on the type of product and how and why you do it. However, it’s not always okay to boil a mouth guard, so be sure to read this section before you proceed. 

There are two reasons people might boil mouth guards: for the initial fitting process of boil and bite products, and to sanitize a mouth guard. 

Let’s discuss both of these reasons and whether or not you should boil your mouth guard next. 

Boil and Bite Mouth Guards

In most cases, it’s okay to expose the boil and bite mouth guards to boiling water. However, you should never start the process without reading the product’s instructions. 

Despite the name, some mouth guards aren’t safe to actually submerge in a pot of boiling water. 

The manufacturer will provide specific instructions, so pay close attention if they caution you to allow hot water to cool down and pour over the mouth guard in a bowl instead. 

Some require that you submerge the product in cool water immediately after making the impression so it can set. 

Placing the material directly in the boiling pot can sometimes melt the mouth guard (and ruin your cookware). 

After the initial exposure to boiling water to create the mold, most manufacturers advise against ever boiling a boil and bite mouth guard again. 

The material becomes soft for fitting purposes only. 

Remember: Attempting to sanitize a boil and bite mouth guard with hot water can warp, alter, and destroy the product. 

Sanitizing Other Types of Mouth Guards

Stock mouth guards typically comprise rubber, plastic, or a combination of both. Boiling these materials (particularly inexpensive products) has the potential to melt them or release toxic chemicals that can be harmful to your health. 

Again, read the instructions that accompany a stock mouth guard to find out what they recommend. If there is no specific information about boiling their product, it’s best to play it safe and sanitize it a different way. 

When it comes to custom dental mouth guards, you should not boil these products at any time for any reason. They are fitted using molds, so there’s no reason to soften the material and risk damaging your investment. 

The manufacturer or a dental professional will explain how you should care for your mouth guard in a way that won’t cause warping or possibly destroy the product. 

What are the Best Ways to Care for Mouth Guards?

Close up of a young woman flossing her teeth

Though boiling water is a great way to sanitize many surfaces and products, it’s not great for keeping your mouth guard clean or ensuring its longevity. 

Here’s what you can do to take great care of your mouth guard.

Use Ventilated Cases

When you’re not using your mouth guard, it’s crucial to store it in a case with ventilation to stay dry and not promote bacteria buildup. 

Replace When It’s Time

There are a few signs that it’s time to replace your mouth guard:

  • Holes or cracks
  • Tearing
  • Poor fit
  • Mouth sores or irritation
  • Discoloration
  • Diminished protection

If you acquired your mouth guard from your dentist, you could replace it by giving them a call or scheduling a visit. 

Some custom night guard companies like JS Dental make it easy to reorder your night guard online at a discount, with no appointment necessary. 

Keep It Clean

Keeping your mouth guard clean is essential for making it last longer and protecting your teeth and gums. Always, always brush and floss your teeth before and after using it to keep your mouth guard free of harmful bacteria.

We’ll discuss a few easy ways to safely clean a mouth guard in the next section. 

How to Safely Clean a Mouth Guard 

Follow these ideas to safely clean your mouth guard: 

Brush With Toothpaste

You can clean your mouth guard by brushing it with your toothbrush and paste. 

Here’s how:

  1. Rinse your mouth guard with cool water.
  2. Squeeze a pea-sized dab of toothpaste onto a toothbrush.
  3. Brush your mouth guard thoroughly but gently.
  4. Rinse your mouth guard again with cool water until it’s clean.
  5. Repeat steps if necessary.
  6. Allow the mouth guard to dry on a clean surface fully or in a clean, well-ventilated case.

Brush With Soap

Similar to brushing with toothpaste, you can also clean a mouth guard with soap.

Try one of the following, as long as it’s alcohol-free:

  • Dish soap
  • Antibacterial hand soap
  • Natural castile soap

It’s simple and effective; here are the steps:

  1. Rinse your mouth guard with cool water.
  2. Apply a small drop of soap to a toothbrush solely for cleaning your mouth guard.
  3. Brush your mouth guard thoroughly but gently.
  4. Rinse your mouth guard again with cool water until there’s no longer any traces of soap.
  5. Repeat steps if necessary.
  6. Allow the mouth guard to fully dry on a clean surface or in a clean, well-ventilated case.

Use Hydrogen Peroxide and Vinegar

Hydrogen peroxide and distilled white vinegar are both affordable, natural cleaning agents that are safe for your mouth guard and highly effective. 

You can clean a mouth guard with hydrogen peroxide and vinegar by following these steps:

  1. Rinse your mouth guard with cool water.
  2. Find a clean, unused glass and place the mouth guard inside. 
  3. Pour just enough distilled white vinegar over your mouth guard to cover it. 
  4. Wait 30 minutes, then remove your mouth guard and rinse with cool water. 
  5. Thoroughly rinse the glass or find a fresh one. Place your mouth guard inside. 
  6. Pour just enough hydrogen peroxide over your mouth guard to cover it. 
  7. Wait 30 minutes, then remove your mouth guard. 
  8. Repeat steps if necessary.
  9. Rinse the mouth guard with cool water once more and allow it to dry.

Use Mouthwash and Water

Mouthwash is an excellent way to maintain your oral health, but it’s also effective for cleaning your mouth guard when combined with water. 

To clean a mouth guard with mouthwash and water:

  1. Rinse your mouth guard with cool water. 
  2. Find a clean glass and pour in approximately 1/4 cup of mouthwash. 
  3. Place the mouth guard in the glass and add just enough water to cover it. 
  4. Wait 30 minutes, then remove the mouth guard and rinse it with cool water.
  5. Allow your mouth guard to dry on a clean surface thoroughly. 

What Not to Do

Never clean your mouth guard with products containing alcohol or anything that isn’t safe if swallowed. 

Some examples of what not to use include:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Household cleaning products

Attempting to clean your mouth guard with these or similar products can pose serious risks to your health, even if you use a small amount or rinse it thoroughly afterward. 

Additionally, alcohol-based cleaners and harsh chemicals can cause damage to the mouth guard materials. This may result in warping or breakage, making your mouth guard less effective and requiring immediate replacement. 

Why Is It Important to Keep Mouth Guards Clean?

Keeping your mouth guard clean has obvious benefits, like avoiding unpleasant odors and residue. 

But it’s also better for your health: unclean mouth guards create the ideal environment for bacteria to build up and put you at risk for tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and infections. 

Properly caring for a mouth guard can also help make it last longer. When you spend time, money, and effort to maintain your oral health, you want to make sure that investment is protected. 

Conclusion

You’re already making a great decision by considering using a mouth guard to protect your oral health. Naturally, you want to care for it as best you can. 

If you aren’t confident about whether you can or should boil your mouth guard, reach out to JS Dental Lab today to ask us your questions.