8 Ways to Extend the Lifetime of Your Dental Guard or Aligner

Whether you spent a fortune on a dental aligner, retainer or night guard from the dentist, or $20 on a sports mouth guard from the supermarket, you’ll want to know how to keep your dental appliance in good shape to make it last as long as possible.  

8 Tips to Extend the Lifetime of Your Dental Guard or Aligner

1. Choose the right night guard or mouth guard for your needs.

With aligners and retainers, a dentist or orthodontist typically advises patients on the right material and appliance for their needs. But for nighttime dental guards and sports mouthguards, there are over-the-counter options that many people prefer. If you’re going that route, it helps to do some research first to make sure you find the right fit for your mouth and the right material to hold up through teeth grinding (bruxism) or protect your teeth from your sport.

The sports mouth guard you choose for yourself or your child to wear should fit properly and comfortably, be tear-resistant, and able to absorb impacts without losing its shape. A night guard, which is meant to protect your teeth from grinding while you sleep, should be made from a material that is suitable for the level of teeth grinding you exert. The more you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, the harder and more durable the night guard should be. The Sleep Foundation can offer recommendations.

2. Use your aligner, retainer or other dental appliance as directed.

Aligners, retainers, night guards and mouth guards all have one main thing in common: you need to use them as directed to get the corrective, restorative, or protective benefit they’re made to provide. Aligners, specifically, come with a set of instructions to follow to ensure you progress from one stage to the next until your teeth are fully straightened. If you don’t wear aligners for the prescribed amount of hours each day, the straightening effects will likely take longer. If you don’t wear your aligners (or even your post-aligner retainer) enough, you might even regress, with previously straightened teeth moving out of alignment.

3. Brush your teeth before inserting your aligner or retainer.

When wearing aligners, you’re typically instructed to remove them before eating or drinking, and brush your teeth before putting them back in. If you’re not able to brush your teeth—like when you are at school or work— you should at least rinse your mouth as best you can and make sure you do not have any food stuck in your teeth. If you leave food stuck in your teeth, it may become trapped inside your aligners and cause oral health issues. Plus, if you drank coffee, tea or another drink that can stain teeth, that residue can stain clear aligners and retainers, as well.

Most people brush their teeth before going to bed, so inserting a night guard or overnight retainer into a clean mouth is usually easier than with aligners, but really anytime you put a mouth guard or other dental appliance in your mouth, your mouth and the appliance should be clean.

4. Clean your aligner or dental guard after each use (as directed).

Our mouths are full of bacteria so any appliance you use in your mouth should be cleaned after each use. This helps reduces your risk of tooth decay (cavities), gum disease and getting sick from a dirty aligner or mouth guard. Proper and regular cleaning also helps prolong the life of your dental appliance.  

Be careful when cleaning your appliance with a toothbrush -- some appliances are made out of a plastic that could be easily scratched by a toothbrush’s bristles. Also, certain toothpastes are abrasive and can also cause damage. Scratches in the guard can then become hiding places for bacteria. Instead, we recommend soaking your appliance with Efferdent® dental appliance cleansing tablets.

5. Deep clean regularly.

You may be wondering how to clean clear retainers, aligners and night guards so they don’t turn cloudy or yellowish. Keeping aligners clean and clear is especially important when you have to wear them and interact with classmates or coworkers throughout the day. Regularly deep cleaning your aligners or guards will help prevent and remove stains.

While Efferdent® Complete Clean and Minty Fresh & Clean are great for everyday use, Efferdent® Coffee & Tea and Overnight Clean are great options to deep clean and remove stubborn stains. Though our brand became known initially as denture cleaning tablets, these tablets are for retainers, aligners and mouth guards too.

We recommend a deep clean once a week to help keep your dental appliances clean and stain free.

6. Let the night guard, mouth guard or retainer air dry.

After you clean your dental appliance, be sure to let it air dry for at least 15 to 30 minutes before storing them inside a protective, preferably vented, case. If you store dental appliances while wet, that could cause bacteria growth.

7. Store your dental appliance in its case when not in use.

When your aligners, retainer, night guard or mouth guard are not being used, be sure to put them in their protective case. This will help you keep them clean and help prevent them from getting lost or accidentally thrown away. Plus, if knocked off a shelf or nightstand or stored in a purse or bookbag, when you store your dental appliance in a hard case, it’s less likely to get damaged.

By the way, you will want to clean the case regularly as well. You may need to clean it more often or even daily if you use it to temporarily house unclean aligners while you’re eating or place a mouth guard in it after participating in sports.

8. Keep it out of the reach of pets and small children.

If you have pets or young children in the house, you will want to keep your mouth guards, retainers and aligners out of reach to avoid accidental damage or misplacement. The best place would be a shelf you can reach but they cannot.

Keeping Your Aligner or Mouth Guard Clean Is Good for You Too!

Following these tips can help you extend the lifetime of your dental appliance, but that’s not all.  Knowing how to keep dental appliances clean is one way to help maintain fresh breath, a healthy mouth and a confident smile.