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How to clean your aligners and retainers

Invisalign is a modern-day blessing. Before the days of clear tooth aligners, many of us had middle-school nightmares of banded braces and all the associated complications — food stuck in brackets, yellowing teeth and a metallic smile.


Believe it or not, Invisalign comes with similar issues, minus the "brace face." Invisalign trays require daily cleanings for health and hygiene. Not sure about the right ways to keep your Invisalign and your smile clean? 

Here, I'll cover how to clean Invisalign trays, as well as the proper preventive measures to make cleaning your Invisalign a breeze.

Do you need to clean your Aligners?

Yes, absolutely. Think of your Invisalign tray like your smile's partner in crime. You wouldn't go weeks, or even days, without cleaning your teeth — so why wouldn't you clean your Invisalign aligners?

Your mouth is home to millions of bacterial families. Plaque and biofilm are particularly harmful to your oral health and Invisalign aligners, causing unsightly effects if left unaddressed.

Without proper oral hygiene, plaque buildup breaks down your tooth enamel, causing:

Cavities.
Tooth decay.
Gingivitis.
Teeth discoloration.
Bad breath.


Your Invisalign aligners live in the same bacterial environment. And, when they're in your mouth, they create a mini-environment for plaque bacteria to thrive, increasing your teeth's exposure to these harmful effects.


Methods for cleaning aligners......

1. Dedicated aligner or retainer cleaner

Both Whitefoam and Retaner Brite are both excellent products that have been created to help clean aligners. 

With Retainer Brite a tablet is dissolved in warm water and the aligners are left in the solution for 20-30minutes. Over that time the plaque and bacteria that has accumulated on the surface of the aligner. 

Whitefoam, from Eversmile, is used slightly differently in that a foam is sprayed on to the aligner. While the foam can be left for a few minutes before rinsing, it is also doubles a gentle whitener so they can be popped straight back in the both without rinsing. Absolutely fantastic to use after having a coffee (speaking from experience!).

After requests from patients I have imported these products from the U.S and they can be ordered here: https://www.britealigners.com/


2. White Vinegar

You may already have white vinegar in your pantry. If not, it's inexpensive. When cleaning your Invisalign aligners with this method, follow these instructions:
Add one part white vinegar to three parts of warm water to your cleaning glass.
Dunk your aligners into the mixture.
Let them soak for 20 to 30 minutes.
Grab your soaked Invisalign aligners and rinse them thoroughly with clean water.
White vinegar is acidic, so it works well at penetrating the bacteria and other particles on your Invisalign trays.


3. Denture Cleaning tablets (eg Sterident)

Though they're not dentures, Invisalign aligners experience the same bacteria buildup dentures do. It's always best to go with the other cleaning methods mentioned before using denture cleaning tablets. Additionally, some tablets have layered formulas, with one of the layers being coloured. While it doesn't affect dentures, there is a chance your aligners can become discoulored over time with use.

I find these sorts of tablets can work OK with aligners after a week or so. I would strongly recommend not using them with retainers as I often find it destroys the plastic if used frequently.

4. Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another natural Invisalign aligner cleaner you can find at your local grocery or convenience store. Clean your Invisalign trays with hydrogen peroxide by:
Filling your cleaning glass with one part hydrogen peroxide and equal part warm water.
Putting your Invisalign trays in the mixture.
Letting them soak for about 30 minutes.
Taking your Invisalign aligners out of the mixture and rinsing them with cold water.
Hydrogen peroxide is antimicrobial and antibacterial, making it one of the best methods to clean your Invisalign aligners because of its stain-fighting power.


5. Soap & Water

Sometimes the old ways work best - and a little soap and water can often do the trick! When wearing aligners I used to use a soft bristled toothbrush and some hand soap twice a day and Whitefoam when out-and-about and I found that my aligners were always lookng (and smelling) great even after a week or two of continuous use.



How not to clean your aligners....

Toothpaste: Though toothpaste is effective at cleaning teeth, it can leave a sticky film on your Invisalign and cause it to discolor over time. Toothpaste can give your aligner a funny taste, too. Most importantly, toothpastes are abrasive, which means they can cause microscopic scratches in your aligners. These scratches will collect plaque and other stains, and make your Invisalign hard to clean. 

Mouthwash: Mouthwash isn't powerful enough to penetrate food particles or remove bacteria from your Invisalign, and it also causes discoloration, especially red-toned mouthwashes.


Using boiling or hot water: Water that's too hot can deteriorate the integrity of your Invisalign aligners, causing them to deform and impact the way the trays shape your smile.


In the dishwasher: Dishwasher has scalding water that can distort your trays, similar to the effects of boiling water. Plus, harsh cleaning agents like dish soap strip away food particles from plates, not your Invisalign.


If someone tells you to clean your aligners using these methods, run far, far away.