When it comes to dental hygiene, cleanliness is key! And it's no different when you're wearing clear aligners. But how exactly should you clean your clear aligners, how often should you do it, and why is it so important?
You may be wondering if it's essential to clean your clear aligner trays. After all, you have to remove them to eat and drink, and brush your teeth before putting them back in. But brushing alone cannot rid your teeth entirely of bacteria and food residue. That’s why it's important to floss and clean your aligners too.
You should be even more diligent in your dental cleaning routine when you wear clear aligners, as they’re the perfect hiding place for food and bacteria. When such debris gets stuck inside your aligners, it's not only visible (and embarrassing), it also poses a danger to your health.
It's not just gum disease, tooth loss, and bad breath you have to worry about. Many far-reaching health problems can be caused by poor oral hygiene, such as pneumonia and coronary artery disease. According to recent studies, Your mouth is home to over 700 strains of bacteria, all of which are consistently building up around your aligners every time you wear them.
In short, brushing your teeth simply isn’t enough to maintain good oral hygiene when you wear clear aligners.
Clear aligners are made from an ultra-thin plastic material that helps them remain almost invisible to the naked eye. Although this material is sturdy, improper care cause the aligner to warp and stain. Replacement retainers and aligners can be a costly inconvenience, so it's best to take simple measures to ensure they don't get damaged.
Just like your teeth, it's recommended that you clean your aligners twice a day. It’s good practice to make cleaning your aligners a part of your tooth-brushing routine. Doing so will make it easier to keep on top of your oral hygiene.
Where possible, you should also rinse your aligners out with lukewarm water* when you remove them. This will help minimize bacteria, food and saliva buildup, and keep them clean and clear. It will also help prevent a bad taste from developing.
*You should never run your clear aligners under hot water, as the extreme temperature can warp the plastic and result in you needing a replacement!
Now that we’ve covered why and how often you should clean your aligners, here are the four best ways to do so:
One of the best ways to clean your aligners is to use specialist cleaning crystals. Not only do they help get rid of bacteria, but they also help prevent the aligners from becoming discoloured with stains.
To use this method, simply fill a container with lukewarm water, and stir in a packet of aligner cleaning crystals until they have dissolved. Let your aligners soak in this solution for around 15 minutes, then brush and rinse them off before putting them back in your mouth.
You don’t need specialist crystals to keep your aligners clean. Clear antibacterial soap* will do the job just as well.
*Please note that you should never use scented or colored soaps, as these can stain the aligner trays and leave a perfumed taste!
To use this method, simply create a soapy solution with lukewarm water and let your aligners soak for around 15 minutes. Then give them a good scrub with a toothbrush, and rinse well to eliminate all soapy residue. Antibacterial soap isn’t suitable for consumption, so rinsing is extra important!
Vinegar is renowned for its household cleaning power, and it’s able to clean your aligners too! But before you go reaching for the balsamic, please note that you should only ever use distilled white vinegar for this method. Any other kind of vinegar can stain your aligners.
Simply mix 1 part vinegar with 3 parts water, and let your aligners soak in the solution for around 15 minutes. Again, it’s essential to give your aligners a good brush and rinse after to get rid of trapped debris and avoid lingering flavours.
Another household cleaning favourite - baking soda can simultaneously kill bacteria while helping to lift stains on your aligners.
To use this method, mix one tablespoon of baking soda in 200ml of lukewarm water, then let your aligners soak for at least 30 minutes. After that, remove them from the solution, give them a brush, and rinse them well.
While there are several effective methods you can use to keep your clear aligners in good condition, there are also some things you should never do. Here’s what you need to avoid:
Sometimes your aligners can get discolored, start to feel slimy, or cause bad breath. If none of the above cleaning methods fixes the issue, you should consult an expert. You can visit SmileStories to find a local dentist or orthodontist who can advise you.