It's important that your child keeps his mouth guard clean. Find out why and how here.

Young soccer players and any kids who play contact sports should always wear a mouth guard to reduce the chance of oral injuries and concussions, but it can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, according to a study in General Dentistry. Tossing a mouth guard into a dirty gym bag is a particularly dangerous habit: It can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and even staph and other dangerous infections.

Teach your child to scrub his mouth guard with a toothbrush and toothpaste, and then rinse and store it in a container after each use. However, the study authors say that since bacteria can seep into the plastic, it's actually best to replace mouth guards every week or two (stock up on the inexpensive "boil and bite" type).

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the May 2008 issue of Parents magazine.

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