Clear aligners have many advantages over conventional fixed braces, but one of the main reasons that people choose them is that they’re incredibly discreet. In other words, once inserted over the teeth, friends and family won’t even know you’re wearing them unless you tell them.
In some cases, the material that gives aligners their invisible appearance can also change colour. Unfortunately, the material is prone to staining, and once that happens, the aligner can adopt a cloudy hue, becoming more visible.
Due to their removable nature, clear aligners require a different kind of maintenance compared to fixed braces, so we’re going to look at the various methods of how to clean clear aligners properly, not only to avoid tell-tale staining but also to keep them bacteria-free. So let’s dive in and take a look.
Method #1 – Eradicating bacteria using antibacterial soap and water
Did you know that over 700 species of bacteria are present in the mouth at any time? Unfortunately, not all of them are good. The nooks and crannies of clear aligners, combined with the moist environment, make it the ideal place for oral bacteria to thrive. Additionally, saliva can dry on the aligner, which, in turn, attracts bacteria. Bacterial build-up can lead to bad breath or increase the risk of tooth decay.
The good news is that soaking in an antibacterial solution is an easy and efficient way to clean aligners. Add a small amount of gentle antibacterial soap to a bowl of cold water. Note that hot water can distort the aligner and make them ineffective. This is also one of the reasons you shouldn’t drink hot coffee or tea while wearing them.
Mix until the soap has dissolved and bubbles begin to form on the surface. Drop the clear aligner into the solution and leave for around 20-30 minutes. Then take them out and rinse thoroughly with cold water.
Remember! – Don’t be tempted to clean aligners with super-hot or boiling water. Hot water can easily warp your custom aligners, so ensure the temperature is tepid at most.
Method #2 – Killing microbes with vinegar and water solution
Household vinegar is an inexpensive and accessible product that everyone has in their kitchen. Moreover, it’s incredibly effective at killing microbes, including bacteria. Let’s take a look at how to clean clear aligners with vinegar.
Fill a cup with tepid water and add a tablespoon of white vinegar. Mix, then submerge your clear aligners in the solution. Leave for twenty minutes, then remove and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Finally, let the clear aligners dry naturally before returning them to your mouth. Rinsing is really important as vinegar is acidic and will damage your precious tooth enamel.
Method #3 – Stain-busting with baking soda
Another household product that everyone has in their kitchen is baking soda. Baking soda and water are a potent duo for stain removal. Baking soda produces fizzy carbon-dioxide bubbles that lift or dissolve surface stains on most surfaces, including clear aligners. To clean aligners efficiently, mix a paste using one tablespoon of baking soda to one tablespoon of cold or tepid water and apply to the aligner liberally using a clean finger or very gently using a non-abrasive toothbrush. Let the mixture work its magic for around 30-60 minutes, and rinse off with cold water.
As a top tip – Brushing clear aligners with a regular toothbrush can damage or scratch the plastic. Scratches or grooves provide the ideal place for bacteria to hide and can be difficult to remove. So if you do use a toothbrush, use it as a last resort with very gentle movements, making sure the bristles are non-abrasive.
So now you know how to clean clear aligners properly, it’s a good idea to look at what not to do and what to avoid.
You may be tempted to rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash, and that’s fine but ensure it’s a clear variety. Coloured mouthwashes contain artificial colourants such as chlorhexidine gluconate, cetylpyridinium chloride, (Colgate Savacol) or essential oils that can cause superficial staining to your tooth enamel and, ultimately, your clear aligners.
Cetylpyridinium chloride, for example, causes staining in around 3% of users. Not enough to worry unnecessarily, but sufficient to know that there’s a problem. Mouthwashes containing Chlorhexidine fare worse because they will stain teeth in most people with prolonged use. Ultimately, if you want to keep your aligners pristine clear, so too should your mouthwash.
Okay, so this may seem a radical way to clean aligners, but you’ll be surprised by the lengths people go to make their lives easier. And why not? What’s good for pots and pans is great for your aligners, right?
In truth, a dishwasher causes more harm than good because it uses very hot water, which, as discussed earlier, can damage or warp your aligners. Instead, if you want clean aligners without damage, stick to the proven methods above.
It may seem an obvious point, but clear aligners are worn in the mouth, so you don’t want to apply anything that could be detrimental to your health. With this in mind, avoid cleaning products containing bleaches, alcohol and other harsh chemicals. Always opt for gentler, or wherever possible, natural ingredients.
Never consume food and drink with your clear aligners in
If you want to keep your aligners clean and pristine for longer, avoid eating or drinking anything but water when aligners are in place.
They can easily stain, and food particles can get caught between the aligner and the mouth, so get into the habit of removing them before you snack or eat.
While it may seem a hassle at first, it soon becomes second nature.
So there you have it, how to clean clear aligners safely and what to do to preserve their life.
If you’re considering discreet orthodontics with Invisalign or want more advice on how to clean aligners, come and talk to CP Dental. We have three locations across Queensland and Brisbane with highly experienced dentists who love creating or restoring beautiful smiles. Presently Invisalign is available at our Mater Hill Clinic.
Contact our clinic today and schedule a smile consultation with our experienced team.
Healthline – How To Stop Bacteria In Your Mouth From Migrating To Your Brain
News Medical.Net – Does Vinegar Kill Bacteria?
Teeth Talk Girl – Is Your Mouthwash Staining Your Teeth?