How to Take Care of Aligners: All You Need to Know
Written by Dr. Febin Mary George, BDS | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Zein El Hammouz, DDS, MFD/RCSI.
Clear aligners are appliances that gently correct the alignment of your teeth. They fix misaligned or crooked teeth without the hassle of metal wires or hooks.
Here are a few simple tips to help you take care of your clear aligners and keep them clean:
Tip #1: Remove Your Clear Aligners
When should you remove your aligners?
You should wear your clear aligners for at least 22 hours a day and remove them only in certain cases, such as: (1).
You can remove your aligners before brushing your teeth. Once the aligners are removed, you can brush and floss as you normally would.
Before eating and drinking
Clear aligners are appliances made of strong and flexible material. However, they are not strong enough to withstand your chewing forces. Hence, you must remove your aligners before eating or drinking anything other than plain water. Undue forces can break the aligners and interrupt the progress of your treatment.
How to take care of aligners when eating out
Here are some tips on how to take care of aligners and stay prepared when eating out:
- Always carry a clean aligner storage case with vent holes where you can keep your aligners after removal.
- Use a washroom to remove your aligners in private if needed.
- Brush your teeth and rinse your mouth properly before wearing the aligners back. If you are running short of time, a thorough rinse only with water should suffice.
- Rinse your aligners with warm water and soap, or soak them in an aligner cleaning solution before putting them back on.
How to remove aligners?
You can easily remove clear aligners without the assistance of a dentist. The key is to master the proper removal technique so that you do not break or deform your aligners every time you remove them.
How do you remove aligners easily?
Here are some tips you can follow to remove your aligners easily:
- Start from the back and work your way towards the front. Try to detach the aligners from the back teeth first. Then, gradually move your fingers towards the front teeth until the aligners snap off.
- Additionally, you can use an aligner removal tool with a soft hook that helps draw the aligners away from the tooth.
Should you use an aligner removal tool?
You may need an aligner removal tool in the initial days of your treatment when you are still figuring out how to wear and remove your aligners. Additionally, aligner removal tools are helpful if your aligners have attachments. You will not need them once you have mastered how to remove them.
How often should you take out your aligners?
You can take your aligners out before eating or brushing your teeth, on average 3 or 4 times a day.
Tip #2: Store Your Aligners
Make sure to store your clear aligners in a clean and dry protective case with vent holes for air drying. Keep the storage case on a top shelf or at a height, so it remains protected from children and pets.
Can you leave your aligners in water?
No. You should not leave your aligners in water as their physical properties can change, resulting in unnecessary damage.
How do you maintain clear aligners?
Here are a few quick tips for keeping your invisible aligners clean :
- Always rinse them once you take them out of your mouth. Never skip this step because rinsing prevents bacteria from the mouth from building up on the clear aligners.
- Use normal or lukewarm water to clean your invisible aligners. Using hot water can cause warping, permanently damaging the aligners and modifying their fit.(4)
- Brush your teeth before placing the aligners back into your mouth. This ensures that your aligners come in contact with only clean teeth surfaces and also reduces the chances of bad breath.
Tip #3: Clean Your Invisible Aligners
The best way to clean your aligners is using effervescent cleaning tablets and a soft toothbrush. (3) Dip your aligners in a solution formed by mixing 1-2 cleaning tablets in a bowl of water. Soak the aligners in this solution as per the manufacturer’s instructions ( fifteen to twenty minutes), then rinse with water before popping them back in. Alternatively, you can use a soft toothbrush to clean your invisible aligners under running water.
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What should you not do with aligners?
If you wish to keep your clear aligners in optimal condition, here are some things that you should NEVER do:
- Never leave them out in the open- After removing your aligners from the mouth, clean them and store them in a protective case that is exclusively meant for your aligners—leaving them in the open increases the chances of your aligners getting lost, damaged, or accidentally discarded (especially when you are out in public places).
- Never remove your aligners for more than two hours- For optimal tooth movement, wear your aligners for at least 22 hours a day.
How can I remove aligners painlessly?
The technique of removing aligners may differ from one person to person. Nevertheless, you become better with practice.
Work with dry hands to enhance the grip, and always begin from the back. Some individuals find an aligner removal tool quite handy as it can painlessly slide and engage the gap between your teeth and the aligners. It will be able to reach the places your fingertips may not be able to reach.
Do I take my aligners out to eat?
Yes, you should remove your aligners before eating, so that food particles don't get trapped between the teeth and stain the aligners.
What happens if you eat with aligners?
You should not eat with your aligners as they may crack under chewing pressure. Moreover, food particles may cause discoloration and staining of the aligner. (4)
How do you store aligners in a case?
Aligners must be stored in a protective case with vent holes that aid air drying. Before putting your aligners back in the case, you must rinse and clean them with water. Additionally, you can brush them with a soft toothbrush under running water.
What can you use to clean your clear aligners?
You can use cleaning tablets and a soft toothbrush to clean your invisible aligners.
Can you put wet aligners on?
No, avoid putting wet aligners in your mouth, as they can become excellent breeding grounds for harmful bacteria.
How often should you change aligners?
Your dentist is the best person to advise you on how often your aligners should be changed. Generally, each aligner step is worn for one or two weeks. (2)
Do I have to brush my teeth every time I put my aligners back in?
Doctors highly recommend brushing your teeth before popping your aligners back in. Brushing removes the leftover food particles inside your mouth and ensures that your aligners stay fresh and clean.
How often should you clean your aligners?
You should clean your aligners at least twice a day. Regularly rinsing your invisible aligners under running water will ensure that your aligners stay fresh and clean.
Can I brush my teeth with aligners?
No, you shouldn't brush your teeth with aligners on. But since aligners are removable, you can remove them, then brush and floss as you normally would.
Can you eat and drink with aligners?
The biggest benefit of clear aligners is that they are removable. Therefore, they give you the freedom to eat and drink whatever and whenever you want, unlike braces where you cannot chew hard or crunchy foods. Before eating or drinking, simply remove your aligners and enjoy your meal. Once you are done, brush your teeth, rinse your aligners, and put them back in your mouth.
Can you drink coffee with clear aligners?
No, you should not drink coffee with your aligners. If you try to have coffee or any other warm drink with your aligners on, it will damage the shape and structure of your aligners.
How can I remove aligners painlessly?
You can use your fingertips or an aligner removal tool to remove your aligners painlessly. First, ensure that your fingertips are dry. Now, try to detach the aligners from the back of the mouth and work your way slowly towards the front until they come off.
How do you remove aligners easily?
Apply moderate force to pull your aligners off with ease. If the pressure is too less, it will be inadequate for removal, whereas excessive force can damage your aligners and teeth. It is always recommended to remove the aligners from the back and then gradually move towards the front side.
Should the aligners be completely dry before putting them back?
Try to dry your aligners thoroughly before putting them in. Wet surfaces attract bacterial growth and multiplication, which may hurt your oral health.
1.Marya, A., Venugopal, A., Vaid, N., Alam, M.K. and Karobari, M.I. (2020). Essential Attributes of Clear Aligner Therapy in terms of Appliance Configuration, Hygiene, and Pain Levels during the Pandemic: A Brief Review. Pain Research and Management, [online] 2020, pp.1–6. doi:10.1155/2020/6677929.
2.Bollen, A.-M., Huang, G., King, G., Hujoel, P. and Ma, T. (2003). Activation time and material stiffness of sequential removable orthodontic appliances. Part 1: Ability to complete treatment. American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics: Official Publication of the American Association of Orthodontists, Its Constituent Societies, and the American Board of Orthodontics, [online] 124(5), pp.496–501. doi:10.1016/s0889-5406(03)00576-6.
3.Charavet, C., Gourdain, Z., Graveline, L. and Lupi, L. (2022). Cleaning and Disinfection Protocols for Clear Orthodontic Aligners: A Systematic Review. Healthcare, 10(2), p.340. doi:10.3390/healthcare10020340.
4.Macrì, M., Murmura, G., Varvara, G., Traini, T. and Festa, F. (2022). Clinical Performances and Biological Features of Clear Aligners Materials in Orthodontics. Frontiers in Materials, 9. doi:10.3389/fmats.2022.819121.