Athletic mouthguards or mouthpieces are critical pieces of equipment in contact sports like football, hockey, and boxing. The American Dental Association recommends them for all contact sports. But despite the fact that mouthguards are important protective equipment in these sports, athletes often pay little attention to their care and sanitation. A new study published in the May-June 2011 edition of Sports Healthsheds light on the microorganisms that can contaminate protective mouthguards.
Richard T. Glass, PhD, DDS et al. divided 62 Division I football players into four groups and then performed microbial analysis on the mouthguards of players in those groups. Group A practiced but did not compete in games, while group B practiced and competed in games. Players in groups A and B wore their mouthguards all season. Group C players wore mouthguards for practices and games but switched them at midseason. Group D players wore their mouthguards for practices and games and switched them at midseason but placed them in sanitizing solution after each practice or game until the next opportunity to wear them.
The authors found that the mouthguards became very contaminated with use. 81 mouthguards grew out 485 microbial isolates. Changing the mouthguards midseason helped but not significantly. However, soaking the mouthguards in a sanitizing solution did decrease the numbers of bacteria, yeast, and mold isolates significantly. Keeping the mouthguard outside of the mouth can lead to bacterial contamination.