For many years, there was only one way to straighten your smile: metal braces. And not the modern version we use now! These were much clunkier and not a lot of fun to wear. Thankfully, those days are in the past. Orthodontic treatments have made significant improvements over the last few decades and patients now have more choice than ever when it comes to achieving a confident smile! We’re here to tell you about how to care for your Invisalign clear aligners.
Here at Hamer & Glassick Orthodontics, we’re able to offer families a variety of affordable treatment options, including traditional metal braces, clear braces, and Invisalign clear aligners. Invisalign is the most popular alternative we have to braces, and with good reason! Patients of all ages love the extra measure of flexibility the removable aligners give them as they straighten their teeth.
If you’ve recently been fitted for Invisalign clear aligners, there are some basic guidelines you’ll need to follow to keep them clean and in good condition. Unlike braces, aligners are removable. That means it’s up to you to ensure they’re cared for and able to function as designed. For a review of the basics and a few tips on keeping your Invisalign aligners in great shape throughout your orthodontic journey, keep reading below!
All about Invisalign
Although orthodontists have used similar trays as retainers for a long time, the Invisalign system really picked up steam around twenty years ago. They may look very different, but traditional braces and clear aligners work in much the same way. Both appliances put gentle pressure on the teeth, which moves them into the desired positions over time. They differ in one crucial aspect, however—while braces use brackets and wires to shift misaligned teeth, the Invisalign system relies on a series of clear removable aligners to get the job done.
Invisalign aligners are made of a special thermoplastic material that is customized to fit firmly but comfortably over your teeth. When orthodontists first began using them, it was mainly to correct simple spacing issues or mild crowding. Over time, the technology involved has gotten more advanced. That means our current aligners can successfully treat many of the same orthodontic issues that braces do. While Invisalign is a relatively simple treatment option, you’ll need to take good care of your aligners to ensure they’re able to function the way they’re meant to. Here’s how you can do that!
Follow the recommendations you’re given
Traditional braces are what we refer to as a fixed appliance, which means the brackets are affixed to the front surface of the teeth and can only be removed by a trained specialist. In contrast, Invisalign aligners are a removable appliance. Their success depends on patient compliance. That means you need to be wearing them the recommended 20-22 hours each day, and switching each aligner out for the next in the series every 1-2 weeks. This allows them to keep up with the movements your teeth are making! Failure to hold up your end of the treatment bargain can delay your progress and may even affect the final results.
Rinse your Invisalign aligners whenever you take them out
Your Invisalign aligners are designed to be removed any time you eat or drink anything other than water, so they’re in and out of your mouth pretty frequently. Any time you take an aligner out, it needs to be rinsed immediately. We have a lot of bacteria in our mouths, and it can easily be transferred to aligners! Rinsing them as soon as you remove them will help prevent a dried-out film of bacteria from building up and causing problems.
Careful rinsing of your aligners will keep them clean and help extend the lifespan of each aligner. Be sure to only use lukewarm water, though, as the material each aligner is made of is subject to expansion and contraction when exposed to extreme temperatures. Extreme temps, like hot water or very cold water, can warp them.
Be mindful of basic hygiene rules
Washing your hands is the first line of defense against germs and bacteria. To keep things clean, we recommend washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before removing your aligner. Take special care with your fingernails and fingertips, since they’ll be coming into the closest contact with your mouth. Hand sanitizer can also be used if soap and water are unavailable, just be sure it’s at least 60% alcohol.
Once your aligner has been removed, place it in a clean sealed container or leave it to soak in an approved solution. This keeps your clear aligners safe from bacteria and also prevents them from being accidentally misplaced or thrown away! Before putting the aligner back in your mouth, wash your hands again and rinse it off with water. If you’re able to, brushing and flossing before wearing your clear aligners will help boost your oral health and keep your mouth feeling fresh!
Clean your aligners carefully
Since you’ll be wearing your aligners for at least 20 hours a day, it’s important to keep them clean and free from bacteria. We recommend brushing your clear aligners twice a day, but for the best results, you’ll want to be sure you’re doing it properly. Toothpaste is abrasive to plastic and can scratch the smooth surface of your aligners, leaving tiny grooves that are susceptible to bacteria. This can also make the aligners uncomfortable to wear.
For this reason, you should avoid using toothpaste to clean your aligners. Opt instead for a very small amount of clear, unscented antibacterial soap or a 1:1 solution of white vinegar and lukewarm water. Brush your Invisalign aligners gently, rinse them, and allow them to dry before putting them back into your mouth.
We also recommend soaking your Invisalign aligners at least once a week, using denture cleaning tablets or a special solution designed for use with clear aligners. If you use denture tablets, just be aware that you will not need to soak your aligners as long as the packet instructions say; about half an hour at a time will be sufficient. Remember to use only lukewarm or room temperature water to avoid misshapen aligners.
Keep your smile feeling good with Hamer & Glassick Orthodontics
Invisalign clear aligners can be an excellent option for patients who are looking for a subtle way to achieve a straighter smile. If you have any questions about how to maintain a healthy smile and sparkling aligners during the treatment process, our team is here to help! Get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss any concerns.
If you’re not a current patient but would like to learn how Invisalign aligners can give you a more confident smile, we’d love to hear from you! Contact us today to schedule your FREE consultation with our Charlottesville or Crozet office.