Invisalign is a great alternative to traditional braces since the trays are clear and removable, but with these perks comes extra responsibility. You don’t have to deal with the annoyance of brushing and flossing around metal wires and brackets, but you do need to carefully clean your aligners. Here are some tips for keeping them free of odors, stains, and bacteria.
The “Do”s and “Don’t”s of Cleaning Your Invisalign Aligners
DO clean your aligners thoroughly every morning and evening.
Hopefully, brushing your teeth is already a part of your daily routine. While you’re in the bathroom, clean your aligners with a clear, unscented anti-bacterial soap. Apply the soap and brush them gently with a toothbrush – not the same toothbrush you use for your mouth, unless you like the taste of soap – and rinse them off in lukewarm water.
DO rinse them every time you take them out.
Ever wonder why you get morning breath? It’s because the bacteria in your mouth get exposed to all that air you breathe in while you’re sleeping, particularly if you breathe through your mouth. During the day, your saliva washes the bacteria away, so they don’t have as much of a chance to cause odor. But saliva production decreases at night, allowing the bacteria free reign. Your aligners don’t have the protection of saliva when they’re out of your mouth, so you need to rinse them yourself. Even if you’re only removing them for a quick meal, take the time to rinse the trays as soon as possible to keep them from building up a bad smell.
DO brush and floss before wearing them.
In addition to putting clean aligners in your mouth, you want to have clean teeth and gums to put in those aligners. Thoroughly brush and floss every time you put your trays in, particularly if you have just been eating. Food particles that become trapped between the aligner and your teeth are breeding grounds for bad bacteria that could cause gum problems or tooth decay. A clean mouth plus clean aligners equals a healthy smile.
DO rinse your mouth if you don’t have a toothbrush.
Sometimes life happens and you end up having a meal without your toothbrush handy. Even if you carry one as part of your daily routine, when that routine gets interrupted – hopefully by something like a vacation – you can be caught unprepared. If this happens, just be sure to rinse your mouth thoroughly before putting your aligners back in. This isn’t ideal for everyday cleaning, but in a pinch, it will do until you can brush properly.
DO soak them regularly.
While your aligners should be in your mouth most of the time in order to work properly, they can benefit from a weekly soak. There are cleaning tablets made just for this purpose, including Retainer Brite, Invisalign cleaning crystals, and plain old denture cleaner. These fizzy cleaners can get into tiny crannies in the trays that brushing alone might miss, so sanitizing them once a week or so keeps them as clean as possible. Just make sure you use water no hotter than lukewarm; otherwise, the aligners may warp until they no longer fit your teeth. Also, be sure to rinse them off in plain water before putting them back in your mouth.
DON’T clean them with toothpaste.
It may seem like what’s good for your teeth is good for your aligners, but that doesn’t apply to toothpaste. Toothpaste contains tiny abrasive particles that do a great job getting plaque off your teeth, but those same particles can scratch the material of the trays. All those tiny scratches not only give bacteria a better place to hide, they also make your aligners look cloudy and therefore more visible in your mouth.
DON’T eat or drink (anything but water) while wearing your aligners.
Did you know that when you bite down on something, you’re exerting anywhere from 150 to 200 pounds of pressure per square inch? That’s great for beef jerky, but not so much for your aligners. Chewing with your aligners in can damage them, creating dents or scratches where bacteria can hide. There’s also the possibility that food can get trapped between the tray and your teeth. And remember that, while drinking water is just fine, you shouldn’t drink any other beverages with your aligners in. They might make the trays stained or smelly.
DON’T leave your aligners out in the open.
In addition to exposing them to viruses or bacteria, leaving your aligners out of their case also greatly increases the possibility you’ll lose them. It’s a good habit to carry the case with you so you never end up shoving your unprotected trays into your pocket or purse. If you do accidentally end up leaving your aligners out, it’s a good idea to rinse them off, soak them, and rinse them off again before putting them back in your mouth.
DON’T use colored or scented soaps.
It may be tempting to use your favorite lemony-fresh soap on your aligners, but it’s not going to make them taste like lemon. In fact, dyes and fragrances can give the material of your aligners a bad taste, and no one wants to keep something that tastes bad in their mouth all the time. Dyes can also stain the trays, making them more noticeable in your mouth.
DON’T attempt to clean them with bleach.
Hopefully this wasn’t your first instinct when you thought about cleaning something that goes in your mouth, but there’s no doubt that someone, somewhere has tried it. If your aligners become discolored, bleach or other harsh chemicals won’t fix that. They can even break down the plastic, and besides, you don’t want bleach in your mouth. Just clean your stained aligners as best you can and promise yourself that when you get the next set, you’ll take better care of them to prevent staining.
The amount of time you wear each set of aligners is specific to you, but even if that’s only a week or two, you’ll want to take care of the aligners to keep them clean and free of odor and stains. You got Invisalign because you wanted to fix your teeth without drawing too much attention to them, so don’t let the aligners announce themselves to the world by not being clean.
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