Aligner Care 101 – Look after your aligners and they’ll look after your teeth!
Invisible aligners truly are one of the technological wonders of 21st century dental medicine, but the fact that they are made from thin, practically invisible, yet highly durable plastic, means that an aligner care regimen must be properly followed. This way, you’ll ensure your treatment plan goes according to…well, plan!
#1 Daily Aligner Care
Our mouth is by no means an easy environment for orthodontic appliances; quite the contrary! With bits of food getting stuck here and there, sugary treats causing all sorts of havoc, and nightly teeth clenching that produces enough force to bite through bone, aligners are confronted with a rather difficult setting. That’s why we’ve created this aligner care guide, with top tips to ensure your dental health, teeth straightening success and aligner survival.
1) Aligner storage
When you receive your aligners, you will get a little hard plastic case to store them in. You should always try to store your aligners in a protective case instead of just wrapping them up in tissue paper, as they can break if something falls on them or if they’re sat on. They might even be thrown in the rubbish as a mistaken used tissue! This is the case you’ll receive in your StraightBox™:
As you can see, it is the perfect size for storing your aligners and chewies, and handy for day-to-day life at the office or out and about.
Keeping them in when eating or drinking something else than water could make them cloudy, distort them if in contact with heat or worse, could cause them to crack and become ineffective.
When it’s time to eat, just pop the aligners out, rinse them off with water and keep them in their case (you can rinse them off after taking them out or before putting them back in or both, depending on your level of hygiene and lifestyle routine).
The little holes at the bottom of the case ensure that the water can escape and your aligners will be nice and dry, as a wet environment is less hygienic – especially considering the natural bacteria that build up in your mouth and on the aligners. Bacteria can spread quite quickly, so making sure the aligners are clean every time you put them back in is a big hygienic must! Speaking of which, that leads us to the next point …
2) Hygiene & cleaning tips
Keeping your aligners clean is so very important, and maintaining proper dental hygiene is just as essential! Luckily it’s so much easier with removable aligners to keep ideal oral health during the process than it is with fixed braces as you can literally take them out to properly brush and floss.
> Hygiene for your teeth
With this method you must brush your teeth after every meal or snack before putting the aligners back in your mouth. Just chewing on some minty gum might do the trick in everyday life, but when using aligners we need to go the extra step and brush after each meal.
The aligners are made to press accurately and precisely on your teeth. The teeth surfaces need to be clean to have the right forces on them. This is why your teeth need to be brushed and cleaned thoroughly after eating before placing the aligners back over your teeth. Wearing aligners with food inside could damage them and stop the tooth movement delaying your progress.
> Keeping the aligners clean and fresh
Just like your dental routine, it’s good to have an aligner care routine. Whenever you remove them, make sure to clean aligners with a soft toothbrush and some water. This will remove plaque from invisible aligners and leave them clean, ready to wear again. However, sometimes the natural bacteria and plaque build up can be difficult to clean using only water, and toothpaste can sometimes make your aligners cloudy. You also want to avoid scrubbing them with force, or the aligners may get scratched and damaged.
An easy and effective solution to this is to use an aligner cleaning tablet every few days to keep aligners fresh and sparkly. To start you off, we include a complimentary sample of 3 premium aligner cleaning tablets in your StraightBox™ aligner kit whenever stocks allow. These pair perfectly with your teeth straightening treatment routine. Just pop a tablet into a glass of water with your aligners, let them soak for 15-30 minutes before gently brushing and rinsing with water. Do this once or twice a week (or as much as you feel is necessary) to keep them sparkly clean!
If you’re already on your teeth straightening journey and like the sound of these aligner cleaning tablets, we have good news for you: Through our new partnership with an aligner cleaning tablet service, you can now get free shipping and maintain aligner hygiene throughout your treatment in the most effective and convenient way possible! For more information, send us a message through your secure Straight Teeth Direct™ app account.
#2 Best oral care practice during aligner therapy
At-home teeth straightening with invisible aligners usually takes between 5-9 months, though some straightening movements can take over 12 months to complete, depending on your individual case. We’ve created this pyramid to help you visualise the best practices that you can stick to throughout the course of your aligner treatment to get the best results while maintaining your healthiest smile:
- Daily practices
As explained above, it’s important that you clean your teeth and aligners every day. You should also use your chewies as specified in your treatment plan, and wear the aligners for the recommended daily duration (22h per day).
- Weekly practices
Apart from flossing regularly, it’s also a good idea to invest in an oral irrigator, also known as a water flosser. It allows you to propel liquid through all your teeth gaps to thoroughly clean your teeth in the surfaces hard to reach with a toothbrush. If you have any specific oral hygiene concerns, such as gum problems or sensitivity, the oral irrigator can be filled with part water and part targeted mouthwash to treat your individual needs. This can be done on a weekly basis, just like soaking your aligners in a cleaning tablet solution.
Wondering where to find an oral irrigator? For your convenience, we’ve done a lot of research and testing to put together two oral care packs that perfectly compliment your aligner journey at an unbeatable price. They include an oral irrigator, as well as an Instant Dentist™ Smartpower Ultrasonic Toothbrush, which removes up to 70% more plaque than a manual brush, perfect for the daily practices outlined above. Currently, these bundles are exclusively available to our members, so send us a direct message through your app account to get your hands on them. Not only are they an ideal way to maintain best oral care practices during your teeth straightening experience, but the oral care devices included in your pack will ensure you maintain optimum gum health for years to come.
- Monthly practices
This step is easy and required minimal effort on your part: Every month, the Straight Teeth Direct™ team will get in touch to remind you about your monthly progress reviews. All you need to do is snap 5 pictures of your teeth from different angles without wearing the aligners and one showing how the current aligner fits, then submit them for the clinical team to review them via the Straight Teeth Direct™ app. They will compare your results with your predicted progress, track your tooth movement and aligner fit and order your next batch of aligners accordingly.
- Bi-yearly practices
No matter how well we stick to our at-home dental care regime, it’s important to visit a dental hygienist regularly to get our teeth professionally cleaned. During this process, they can also check for any dental concerns that may have started arising, such as gum disease, so that appropriate action can be taken immediately. Another way that you can easily and affordably check-up on your oral health is by using a teledentistry platform like Instant Dentist™: By completing an online consultation and sending in some images and a video of your mouth, a dentist can accurately evaluate your oral health and recommend any specific products or regimes you may require.
If you have already completed your aligner therapy and are (hopefully!) using retainers to keep your smile nice and straight, it’s important to renew them twice a year. Just like aligners, plastic retainers are only meant to be used for a certain amount of time before being replaced, otherwise they may wear and allow your teeth to move again. For more information on retainers and why they’re necessary, check out our blog on keeping your teeth straight for life.
- Yearly practices
Last but not least, don’t forget to visit your local dentist once a year for a full dental health checkup. This routine face to face examination can be complemented with x-rays if deemed necessary to identify any possible underlying issues, as well as an evaluation of your gum health.
#3 Aligner Care and Special Occasions
Whether it’s a holiday, first date or a formal dinner, sometimes we spend the whole evening or even day snacking away and drinking at social occasions. And that’s perfectly fine!
1) Special Occasions
Though aligners should be worn 22 hours a day to work as your treatment plan predicts, life isn’t always so accommodating. Aligners, on the other hand, were made to accommodate our modern lifestyle – just take them out for the occasion and pop them back in afterwards. As long as you make sure to follow your regimen properly the rest of the time, there’s no harm in leaving your aligners in their case a little longer once every so often – just don’t make it a habit!
Here are some tips and tricks for those occasions:
> Keep your aligners safe in their case
> Make sure they’re clean before storing them for a longer period
> Floss and brush your teeth thoroughly before putting them back in
> If you absolutely don’t want to take them out when drinking you could protect them using a straw
> Compensate by wearing that set of aligners for an extra day or more before moving onto the next set to ensure the full movement has been achieved for that stage
2) The 22 hour rule
Why the 22 hour rule, you may ask? It’s actually very simple: Every aligner is made to move your teeth by up to 0.2mm over a period of about 2 weeks. Though that may not seem like much movement, over time it’s what ensures your dream smile is achieved. Did you know that in ancient Egypt that ancient orthodontics was performed by finger pressure – simply pressing on a tooth for long enough every day will make it move.
This is why sucking your thumb can cause crooked teeth. Teeth move in response to constant forces. The key being are they good targeted forces to straighten teeth, or unwanted forces that make teeth crooked.
Straight Teeth Direct™aligners are designed with pressure points to directly press and guide teeth gently on the exact movement path to a straighter smile. This is why the aligners need to be worn 22hrs a day to make sure not only are they pushed into the new place, they also start to remodel their foundations around them to keep them there.
If the aligners aren’t worn enough then the force activation is incomplete and the movement can’t happen fully. This can actually result in slower tooth movement – as the issue is the amount of time daily the forces are acting on the teeth
If there isn’t enough time the teeth simply can’t move.
If you have any doubts, the Straight Teeth Direct team is just a message away through the app, so feel free to send your questions or pictures so we can ensure you’re still on track 😉
As you can see, aligner care is quite straightforward when you break it down. If you’re interested in finding out more about aligner care and at home teeth straightening, check out our Straight Teeth TV channel full of useful info, like this video on aligner tips and tricks!