There’s never been a better time to be an orthodontic patient! Modern techniques and innovative technology have made it easier than ever to achieve a straighter smile, with numerous treatment options to fit every need and budget. Here at Murray & Olson Orthodontics, we’re proud to offer traditional metal braces, clear braces, and the Invisalign clear aligner system. Invisalign is the most popular alternative to braces, and it’s not hard to see why—patients love the freedom the clear, removable aligners offer them! We’re here to help you know how to care for your Invisalign clear aligners.
If you’ve recently been fitted for Invisalign aligners, you’ll already be aware that patient compliance is necessary for the system to work. But there are some additional guidelines you’ll need to follow to keep your aligners in good shape as we straighten your smile! Unlike braces, which are a fixed orthodontic appliance, Invisalign aligners are a removable appliance. That means it’s up to you to ensure they’re cared for properly and able to function as designed. Let’s take a closer look at how to do that.
Back to basics: how Invisalign works
To understand why it’s so important to properly care for your aligners, it helps to know a bit about the Invisalign system itself. The treatment method first began gaining popularity among orthodontists around twenty years ago, but similar trays had been used as retainers long before that.
Although they look very different, traditional braces and Invisalign aligners actually work in much the same way—each appliance exerts gentle but continuous pressure to the teeth, gradually moving them into the desired positions over time. But instead of brackets and wires, Invisalign moves misaligned teeth with a series of aligners that are clear, customized, and removable.
Invisalign aligners are made of a special thermoplastic material that is custom-designed to fit firmly but comfortably over your teeth. In the beginning, orthodontists tended to only use these aligners to correct simple spacing issues or treat mild crowding. The technology and designs have evolved, however, and today’s aligners can successfully treat many of the same orthodontic issues that braces do.
While we love the simplicity of the Invisalign system, there’s still a certain amount of care that needs to be taken with your aligners. This will help ensure they’re functioning as they should be, giving you the best results in the shortest amount of time possible.
Follow the guidelines for your Invisalign aligners
As we mentioned above, patient compliance is essential to the success of the Invisalign system. For the aligners to do their job, you’ll need to keep them in for 20-22 hours every day throughout the treatment process. You’ll also be responsible for 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 follow these guidelines can result in longer treatment times and may even affect your final results.
Rinse your Invisalign aligners any time you take them out
Invisalign aligners are designed to be removed any time you eat or drink anything other than water. Any time you take an aligner out, it needs to be rinsed immediately. This is because our mouths are chock-full of bacteria that 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 Invisalign aligners will also keep them clean and extend the lifespan of each aligner. Be sure to only use lukewarm water, though. 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 and cause them to lose their shape.
Maintain good hygiene when handling your Invisalign aligners
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 (which happens more than you might think.) 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 can improve your oral health and keep your mouth feeling fresh and clean!
Clean your Invisalign aligners properly
Since you’ll be wearing your aligners for over 20 hours a day, it’s important to clean them properly. We recommend brushing your clear aligners twice a day. You can usually do this at the same time you’re brushing and flossing your teeth, but how you clean your Invisalign aligners is as important as how often you clean them, too!
For example, toothpaste is abrasive to plastic and can scratch the smooth surface of your aligners. This can leave tiny scratches and grooves that are susceptible to bacteria and may make the aligners uncomfortable to wear, as well. For this reason, we recommend that you avoid using toothpaste to clean your Invisalign 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 the aligners gently, rinse them, and allow them to dry before putting them back into your mouth.
We also recommend soaking your clear aligners at least once a week. This can be done with 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! They only need to be soaked for about half an hour instead of overnight. Remember to use only lukewarm or room temperature water to avoid misshapen aligners.
Invisalign is the clear choice at Murray & Olson Orthodontics
Invisalign clear aligners can be an excellent option for patients looking to straighten their smile without brackets and wires. If you have any questions about how to keep your aligners sparkling clean 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 more about how Invisalign clear aligners can help transform your smile, we’d love to hear from you! Contact us today to schedule your FREE consultation with our Visalia office.