July 1, 2015
by Ira Hoffman, DDS
The good news is that many sports participants, both young and old, have been educated (or perhaps required) to wear sports mouth-guards during contact and non-contact games. These guards prevent countless impact and shock injuries to the teeth and the TMJ. Only decades ago, it was unusual to see a hockey player with unbroken front teeth; today, an intact anterior dentition is the norm.
The bad news is that these same protective mouth-guards can act as bacterial pools that infect and re-infect the wearer’s mouth, with a host of microbial and fungal organisms. Think of the typical care for a mouth-guard after the game: removed from the mouth with unclean hands, covered with saliva and oral microorganisms, it is tossed into the equipment bag, or perhaps a plastic carrying case, and left to grow bacterial colonies until the next game, when the mouth-guard is taken out and inserted directly into the wearer’s mouth. Rarely are these guards rinsed or otherwise cleaned.
The potential for the buildup of harmful bacteria or fungi is obvious; any organism left on the mouth-guard can propagate virtually unchecked. For example, cold and flu viruses can be re-introduced into the mouth after the wearer’s body has fought and eliminated them, causing recurrent episodes, and/or prolonging existing ailments. The close quarters of a locker room are also an ideal environment for inadvertent cross contamination between individuals.
Micrylium, a Toronto-based disinfection company, has developed Mouth Off, a player-friendly spray for sports mouth-guards, orthodontic appliances, snore-guards and dentures. It is easy to use; simply spray the chlorhexidine based product on the appliance upon removal, let stand overnight or until the next game, and rinse before inserting the mouth-guard again.
The small spray bottle (60ml) is convenient for home and sports bag, always visible and available for use. A quick spray over the entire surface area is all that is needed to help prevent the buildup of bacteria and fungi on oral appliances. Not only does Mouth Off help protect the wearer from appliance-borne oral and systemic infections, it also leaves a fresher taste in the mouth. Once sports participants begin to spray their mouth-guards on a regular basis, they become accustomed to the enhanced feeling of cleanliness, and compliance tends to follow.
Active sports are associated with numerous risks for bodily injury, but oral infection should NOT be one of them.OH