Young football and soccer players, or any children who play contact sports should always wear a mouth guard to reduce the chances of fracturing a tooth, oral injuries and concussions. However, possibly even more important than the trauma that could ensue from a collision while playing sports is the risks of unseen bacteria within a mouth guard. A mouth guard can become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria that can create long term problems, according to a study in General Dentistry. Tossing a mouth guard into a dirty gym bag or a carrying cases is a particularly dangerous habit: It can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and even staph and other dangerous infections that could have untold long term ramifications. Teach your child to scrub his mouth guard with a toothbrush and toothpaste, and then rinse and store it in a clean, dry, container after each use. Tell your children not to let their friends try on their mouth guard as this can be more common than one might think. However, in this study the authors say that since bacteria can seep into the plastic, it's actually best to replace mouth guards every month (so stock up on the inexpensive "boil and bite" type). Another thought is to invest in a more expensive custom-made mouth guard that utilizes different materials and use special disinfectant soaks to cut down or remove bacteria from the appliance. Ask your dentist for recommendations on a custom fabricated mouth guard and antibacterial soaks and rinses.