Clear aligners help people straighten their teeth without the aesthetic drawbacks of metal braces. And to preserve that "clear" aesthetic advantage, a common question patients have is how to clean Invisalign retainers.
Whether you’re waiting on your first set or on the journey to your new smile, this blog explains how to clean plastic retainers, starting with the basics and finishing with some techniques to keep your aligners clean.
- What is an Invisalign Aligner?
- How to Clean Invisalign 101
- Tips to Keep Your Invisalign Clean
Follow these tips and it’s a guarantee you’ll end up with a healthier, whiter smile.
What is an Invisalign Aligner?
There are actually many types of clear aligners; Invisalign just happens to be the pioneer, so they get the "kleenex" treatment when it comes to brand recognition. The beauty of clear aligners, as you likely know, is that they are a transparent form of braces that get the job done without anyone knowing they’re there. That is, as long as you care for them properly. Otherwise, they can become noticeably discolored, scratched, and smelly.
How to Clean Invisalign 101
Clear aligners not only boost your confidence, but allow you to keep your confidence while working towards the smile you deserve. If you keep them clean and sanitized, they'll do all this work while being hardly noticeable to the world around you.
Use A Soft-Bristled Toothbrush
To straighten teeth effectively, you have to wear your clear aligners for 22 hours per day, so it's inevitable they're going to develop and grow bacteria in them. To help eliminate this odor and stain causing bacteria, use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your retainers at least once a day. Use gentle motions to remove debris from both the inside and the outside of your aligners with a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid scratching the trays. Stiffer bristles won't create a visible scratch, but they are abrasive enough to scuff up the plastic just enough to give more spaces for bacteria to accumulate and hideout.
One popular technique is to brush the retainers every time you brush your teeth, and we can't deny the convenience of this cleaning method. But keep in mind toothpastes have abrasives in them that don't harm your teeth, but do scuff up your retainers. So try this: brush your teeth as you normally would, then use the paste leftover in your (soft-bristled) brush to gently clean your Invisalign.
The Best Way to Clean Invisalign: Soak Your Clear Aligners Daily
Gentle brushing is important, but the best way to clean your plastic retainers is to soak them in an Invisalign cleaner each day. But since you're wearing them all day and all night (you can't soak them overnight like dentures, or during the day like nighttime-only retainers), you’re going to need a powerful cleanser that works fast during the two hours per day that you don't spend wearing your aligners. If you’re looking for the best soaking solution, we recommend the Invisalign Cleaning System that is designed specifically for your aligners. Soak during breakfast, lunch or dinner, and then use the aforementioned toothbrush method to remove any extra plaque or food before putting them back in your mouth.
Use an Invisalign Cleaner Spray
Soaking every day is an important, albeit ambitious, goal. You should do it as often as possible, but for a more convenient, on-the-go Invisalign cleaning you can use a product like Smile Saver Spray™, a peroxide-free cleaner that works in just 60 seconds. A couple spritzes onto your trays will kill up to 99.9% of odor-causing bacteria, and there's no need to rinse them off before you put them back on.
It's also a great product to use first thing in the morning, because bacteria builds up inside the trays while you sleep. This makes SmileSaver a godsend for people who need a quick cleansing right when they wake up, and it's another one of the six must-have products we included in our Invisalign accessories kit.
Floss Once a Day (At Least)
Flossing is one of the healthiest things you can do for your teeth, and it is especially important during Invisalign treatment. Food agents get stuck between your teeth and attract odor-causing, stain-inducing bacteria that will discolor your aligners and give you bad breath. To make it easier to do on the go, we recommend using floss picks like these amazing and eco-friendly ones from Knotty Floss. They are made with cornstarch, not plastic, and the floss is infused with grapefruit seed extract. We love them so much we included a 30-pack in our ultimate clear aligner accessory kit so you can keep a few in your purse or pocket to floss on the go.
Tips to Keep Your Invisalign Clean
The advice above is all about how to clean Invisalign, but what about how to keep those trays clean? Follow these tips and your job will be a lot easier!
Never Eat with Your Aligners In
Every Invisalign patient is tempted by the quick snack, and sometimes the temptation to consume it without going through the hassle of removing your trays is tough to overcome. But you must be strong! Your plastic retainers are not built for chewing and could easily damage over time if you don’t remove them while you eat. Not to mention, eating with your aligners in will make them dirtier and less hygienic.
Forget the fact that food and drinks (other than water) will stain your trays; eating while wearing your Invisalign can lead to tooth decay and cause really bad breath. So don't do it. But you can eat Movemints with your trays in, because they are 100% sugar-free and sweetened with xylitol which is beneficial for oral health. They'll help you wear your retainers with confidence while they freshen your breath and fight dry mouth!
Refrain From Using Toothpaste and Hot Water Rinsing
We touched on this above, but it bears repeating: the abrasive ingredients in toothpaste can also cause damage or even create a dull sheen to the trays, making them more noticeable in your mouth. It's okay to use the diluted toothpaste leftover after you brush, so long as it's on soft bristles. And when you rinse your aligners, never use hot water. It will warp your trays by weakening their constitution, which can have a negative impact on your progress. They're already thin plastic to begin with, so it won't take much heat to soften them up. Rinsing is good, but only with cold or lukewarm water.
Be Mindful About Staining Drinks
This is a tough one. Telling most adults to avoid coffee is a non-starter, so you're going to have to be strategic with your consumption. Try to get your fix during the two hours of the day when you don't need to have your trays in, and then brush your teeth afterwards.
Other drinks can stain as well, like tea, soda, alcohol and even some flavored water. This is why orthodontists do not recommend drinking anything other than water with your aligners in your mouth. But who follows every doctors order? We recognize it's hard to be perfect (not to mention, no fun), so if you are going to cheat, do it smartly. Rinse your trays and hit them with the Smile Saver Spray after a cheat, then brush your teeth before you reinsert. And try to save your cheating for later in the tray cycle, which is normally two weeks. There's a big difference between cheating on day 10 than on day 1, and you'll keep your trays clearer.
Your time with Invisalign is short lived so wear them responsibly and take good care of your trays. In just a few weeks, you could cause a lot of damage to your teeth if not cared for properly. If you’re teeth aren’t healthy, then why bother trying to straighten them? Allow your trays to work their magic and keep them in good condition!