"Why is it important to clean my aligners? Will they really get that dirty?"
Yes, yes they will. Listen, you're going to be wearing these things for 22 hours a day, seven days a week. If you don't care about the color of your clear aligners, you can stop reading right now and go about your day. We won't judge you!
But if you're looking to keep your clear aligners clear, read on. Not only will these tips clean your trays, they will promote general oral hygiene to help you avoid bad breath and stinky trays.
1. Use a Toothbrush
When using aligners, they can start to develop and grow bacteria. To help reduce this use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean them at least once a day.
Use gentle motions to remove debris from both the inside and outside of your aligners to avoid damaging or scratching. Find a good toothbrush (or two) to be your friend and companion throughout the smile journey. We're obsessed with Boka’s minimalist travel toothbrush. The bristles are made with Binchotan activated charcoal, which naturally reduces odor-causing bacteria while providing a soft, gentle cleaning.
2. Avoid Staining Drinks
Staining of the clear aligners is an issue for people who change trays every two weeks. That's a long time to have to wear one set of trays. Obviously, teas and coffees will stain the trays over time, but so will soft drinks and some flavored waters. Early on in your tray cycle is the best time to be diligent, but a good rule of thumb is to stick to clear liquids like water, white wine, and vodka. Just kidding about those last two (sort of).
Some people claim that using a straw to drink coffees and teas with your aligners in will mitigate the staining. There's a lot of conflicting content about whether this actually helps (AskTheDentist blog says absolutely not, SpoonUniversity blog says most definitely), or whether it just causes wrinkles, so you'll just have to go with your instinct on this one! We say it probably can't hurt.
3. Clean your trays the safest way
Sometimes your invisible braces need a little more attention than rinsing with water. Here's a quick cleaning trick that you can do every time you take out your trays: Brush your teeth as you normally would, then use the paste left in your brush for a quick aligner cleaning.
But don't be too harsh, as some toothpastes can be abrasive and scratch your trays. Scratched aligners are much easier to notice when they're on your teeth, not to mention that the scratches are an ideal place for staining bacteria to accumulate.
4. Give them a good soaking
Clear aligners aren't like dentures, where you can take them out and soak them in peroxide or whatever overnight. Nope, you're wearing those trays day and night, for 22 hours a day, so you're going to need a soaking cleanser that works fast.
We're big fans of Retainer Cleaner from M3 Naturals, which you can buy on Amazon for $29.99. It works in 10 minutes to remove plaque and tartar while killing germs and bacteria that can lead to bad "retainer" breath. It comes in tablet form, so you can throw a few in your go bag and soak on the go!
5. Rinse, Foam, Seat, Repeat!
Even if you can't find 10 minutes for a soak, or aren't able to brush your teeth and use the method we described above, rinsing your aligners in cold water as often as possible will help remove food particles and other staining agents from the trays. But never, ever use hot water! It will warp your trays, which can have a negative impact on your treatment journey.
Your saliva is already a sanitation agent for your mouth, so while it may make sense to use hot water as a disinfectant (works for hands, right?) it is not a recommended technique for invisible braces.
After rinsing, try a pump of EverSmile WhiteFoam in each tray before you reinsert. This wonder-substance cleans and whitens your trays AND your teeth while you wear them, how cool is that??
6. Do the Floss (the actual thing, not the dance)
Stains come from food particles, sugars, and other substances that can attach to your teeth. Clean teeth have healthy enamel, which naturally shields your teeth from such agents of stain. So brush regularly, if you aren't already.
But don't forget about the food and agents that can get stuck between your teeth. This is a common culprit for discoloration, but also bad breath, so giving your teeth the flossing they deserve (once a day, please!) pays so many dividends. It's one of the healthiest things you can do for your teeth. Our founder, Dr. David Pechersky, believes flossing is so important, he wrote an article about it!
Flossing after lunch can also be helpful, especially if you're one of those people that's too tired at the end of the day to do much more than brush. Check out FlossSingles, they make a single use pack of dental floss that's perfect for your purse or pocket, and ideal when you're on the go.
If you follow these six tips and practice good oral hygiene, you won't find yourself on day 11 of a cycle wondering if that slight yellow tint is due to bad lighting (it isn't); you can be confident that your clear aligner trays will stay clean and clear all the way through your smile journey!
Got any tips you'd like to share about cleaning and caring for your clear aligners? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!