First, let’s review some daily maintenance and cleaning tips to help prolong the lifespan of your sleep apnea mouthguard. Then, we will talk about weekly maintenance.
Over time, it is normal for dental sleep devices to discolor and show signs of age. But following some basic cleaning routines can help keep your device in tip-top shape and odor-free and minimize negative oral effects of bacteria (cavities, bad breath, etc.).
Always check with your dental sleep apnea dentist for the best cleaning and storage tips for your particular device. There are over 100 types of oral sleep apnea and snoring mouthguards.
These instructions are common for most devices, but it is best to follow instructions given to you personally by your providing dentist.
Daily Cleaning Tips
You are pretty safe with these daily cleaning tips for your oral sleep mouthguard. Just about all of the 100 devices that exist would likely follow these daily tips. And for many of the denser types, these are all the tips you need, omitting the weekly cleaning.
STEP 1: Brush and floss your teeth
BEFORE putting in your oral device, make sure to brush and floss your teeth first. Don’t forget to clean your tongue as well!
This step is crucial. Leftover plaque can quickly accumulate onto your device and harden over time. When this happens, ‘movable parts’ may become stiff and susceptible to breakage. Keeping your device free from hard buildup is the most important tip to help your oral appliance sleep device’s longevity.
Skipping brushing can also lead to plaque and bacteria trapped onto your teeth under your mouthguard. This, in turn, can increase the risk for cavities and infections.
Some patients like to rinse with mouthwash before bedtime. That is typically okay. Just remember to rinse well and avoid soaking your oral appliance device directly in mouthwash. It is also best to avoid mouthwashes that contain alcohol.
DID YOU KNOW? Being a dentist for over two decades, I have found that many patients do not know how to brush and floss correctly until shown by a dental professional.
To learn more about basic mouth cleaning, watch the American Dental Association’s brushing and flossing videos. I have also found these videos to be even more helpful:
STEP 2: Brush your oral appliance device daily after removing
AFTER removing your sleep apnea mouth guard in the morning, it’s time to clean your device. You will need a SOFT tooth or denture brush.
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or denture brush. If you are just getting started, mild liquid detergent like dishwashing soap or hand soap is recommended.
As an alternative, you may be able to use Dr. Berland’s Cleanadent Crystals, it is suitable for daily use for many but not all devices.
First, Scrub all of the device’s sides and crevices, including any advancement mechanism if present.
These may be tubes, straps, bars, etc. Warm or room temp water is best. Avoid hot water. Once cleaned, rinse with water and shake off excess moisture.
Do not use toothpaste on your sleep appliance. Toothpaste can be too abrasive for many devices and cause microscopic scratches that can be an ideal environment for bacteria and debris.
STEP 3: Air dry or soak
Depending on which device you have received, you may have been directed to shake off excess water after cleaning, keeping the lid open to allow for air drying. Not all, but the majority of the devices I give to my patients follow this air-drying routine.
It is best to avoid having trapped moisture on your device in its enclosed storage container. This can provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and cause your device to smell.
With other devices, you may have been directed to store your cleaned device submerged in clean water in between uses. Note: Even for these devices, for short intervals or during travel, it is okay to NOT submerge it into water.
Whether to store your device in clean water or allow air drying in between uses depends on the device you have. If you do not remember, it is best to ask your providing dentist. Some devices storage requirements may be listed on our Specific Appliance Cleaning blog.
You can have two identical-looking devices, but the substructure may be made of different materials, and the instructions may differ.
STEP 4: Clean the storage boxes
Don’t forget to clean your storage box periodically to help prevent odor and bacterial growth.
At least weekly, remove the contents of your device. Clean the inside with soap and water, rinse and dry well with a paper towel or hand towel.
It is always best to NOT store any adjusting tools if provided in the device container. They will rust and corrode over time.
Over time these containers may break. It is not uncommon to need to replace old worn containers.
If you need a new oral sleep retainer container, see Cleaning and Replacement Parts for Oral Sleep Apnea Appliances.
Some retainer storage boxes on Amazon claim to be dishwasher friendly. Those will be listed on this resource as well. IMPORTANT REMINDER: Your device is NOT dishwasher safe.
STEP 5: Have your device checked by your sleep dentist annually
The American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine strongly recommends, as do I, that you see your sleep apnea dentist at least annually.
During these visits, your device can be evaluated for correct advancement, overall wear, and potential patient side effects can be addressed or prevented. Small device fractures are best discovered early and often repairable.
Many oral sleep appliances do not need more than the daily cleaning listed above.
Usually, devices made from more of a denser material or less porous do not benefit from the weekly tips below. So if that’s you, STOP HERE. If you are not sure, check with your sleep dentist.
If your sleep apnea dentist has recommended a weekly cleaning tablet, go on to the next section. Otherwise, STOP here with DAILY CLEANING.
Weekly Cleaning Tips
If your dental sleep specialist has recommended a weekly cleaning tablet, the following tips will help walk you through this deeper weekly cycle.
In case your prescribing dentist was unclear of weekly cleaning cycles for your appliance, we have created a list. Many of the more common sleep dental appliance cleaning recommendations have been included in our resource article How to Clean & Care for SPECIFIC Oral Appliances.
STEP 1: Choose a cleaning product
The best cleaning product may be the one your dentist had recommended originally when you received your device. So please ask your sleep dentist for recommendations before using any cleaning products. If you don’t, your device may get damaged. Ask first, act second!
A few good weekly cleaning agents are Retainer Brite, Dr. Berland’s Cleanadent, Somtabs, DentaSOAK or a denture-type cleaner like Efferdent or Polident.
Dr Berland’s Cleanadent is a new favorite with oral appliance cleaning products.
This unique product is not only mild enough to use daily, but it is also very potent (more so than regular denture cleaning tabs) in cleaning a large variety of odor-causing bacteria and disinfects against candida, strep, E.Coli and more. It also helps prevent infections: oral thrush, cheilitis and pneumonia.
You can find some of these in your local drugstore, Amazon, or directly from the corresponding company. For a quick source to all of these products see Cleaning and Replacement Products.
STEP 2: Soak for 10 minutes, no longer
Whichever cleaner you choose, do not soak for more than 10 minutes once per week.
Soaking your oral device regularly for longer than that or more frequently with these types of cleaners can have ill effects on the device or cause mouth irritations.
STEP 3: Brush all surfaces of the device
After soaking, use a soft toothbrush or denture brush to clean all crevices and sides of your device, just as in the daily brushing. Make sure to rinse away the cleaner at room temperature or warm water and store it in the case as recommended. Do not use hot or boiling water.
STEP 4: Store oral appliances to air dry or submerge
Just as we talked about in the daily brushing instructions make sure to confirm how to store your oral sleep device when not in use with your sleep apnea dentist.
Are home ultrasonic cleaning devices safe for your sleep apnea mouthguard?
For some oral sleep devices, it is safe to use a home personal ultrasonic unit. But, always check with your sleep disorders dentist.
An ultrasonic unit uses high-frequency sonic waves to loosen debris at a microscopic level.
There are several ultrasonic units available. The only one that I have used personally is Dr. Berland’s Personal Sonic Cleaner. It has suction cups on the bottom to prevent movement on the counter and a removable container that makes it easy to fill with water.
First, add whatever cleaner is recommended by your sleep dentist or one of the products listed above. Next, turn the unit on for 10 minutes. Then, remove from water and brush the device with a soft brush. Finally, rinse well and store as directed with the lid open or submerged in clean water.
What cleaning products should you avoid for your sleep apnea appliance?
Here’s a list of cleaning products that can harm your sleep apnea oral device. I would NOT recommend using these with any cleaning routine directly onto your appliance:
- Baking soda
- Hydrogen peroxide
Additional general care tips for your oral appliance device
- Usually, once per year, follow-up visits are recommended. In some cases, more frequent visits may be advised.
- Bring in your device to your annual dental sleep apnea check-ups. We can inspect your device and use our tools to clean it for you, especially if “tough build-up “ has accumulated.
- Keep your sleep apnea appliance away from the reach of pets. They like to chew on retainers! Especially dogs.
- Don’t wrap your device in a towel, napkin, or tissue – it could get accidentally thrown away.
- Avoid very high and very low prolonged temperature extremes (air or water). Don’t leave in a hot car during travel for extended periods. Prolonged temperature extremes can warp your device.
- Be careful when handling your sleep apnea snoring oral mouthguard. These devices are very strong, but they can fracture if dropped, especially on ceramic floors or counters.
- To prevent discolorations of your device, avoid drinking anything but water when you are wearing your dental sleep device. Do not drink warm or hot water with your device in your mouth.
- The quality of your tap water can influence the discoloration of your device over time.
- When traveling, keep your device with other carry-on valuables to prevent loss of the device
- If you typically store your device in clean water, please remove all water from he container when traveling. The device will be fine without submerging for short intervals, even several nights.
- When traveling, cushion the inside of your device’s container to help from shifting or dropping and possibly breaking while in the container.
And remember to ask your sleep disorders dentist for more specific cleaning and storage recommendations before cleaning your device.
Cleaning recommendations for specific oral devices
It can be confusing for dentists and patients to remember which oral device manufacturers recommend which of the instructions above for specific devices. To help find more details of recommended cleaning for your device, see How to clean and care for specific oral appliance devices.
A good cleaning routine will help your sleep apnea mouthguard and oral health stay in tip-top shape and help you get the most out of your oral appliance device.
We hope you will find this instruction and caring guide helpful, and it makes your oral appliance therapy treatment even more successful.
Make sure to check out our Patient Resource page for even more helpful products that can help you have a restful night’s sleep.