These are some of the best tips about wearing and using invisible clear aligners that we have compiled from our readers, various web sources, dentists, and orthodontists. Before reading this article, you may want to read What You Need To Know Before Getting Invisible Aligners or Mail-Order Invisible Aligners: Worth The Risk?
1. Wear Your Aligners Almost 24/7
No matter what brand of invisible clear aligners you get, you will be told to wear them a minimum of 22 hours each day. You only take them out to brush your teeth, or eat and drink (except for drinking clear plain water). If you don’t wear them the specified number of hours, your treatment will be slowed down, and may not work as well. As a rule, less than 20 hours per day is still not enough.
The aligners apply force to your teeth to move them. Without the force (without the aligners in), your teeth won’t move. Imagine pushing a large heavy ball up a hill — if you don’t keep pushing it, it will roll back down the hill. The same goes for your teeth and your aligners. If you don’t wear them, your teeth won’t shift into their new positions.
If you find that you are wearing them less than 22 hours per day, you may need to wear each set of aligner trays for more than the usual two weeks to accomplish the necessary movement. Also, don’t lie to your dentist or orthodontist about the amount of hours you wear your aligners. You need to be honest (after all, you are paying for this treatment and need it work properly).
2. Brush And Floss After Every Meal And Snack
You need to take out your aligners when you eat or drink (except for plain clear water). Between meals you need to brush and floss your teeth before you put your aligners back in. You also need to clean your aligners (at least by rinsing them in warm clean running water). Never put your aligners onto dirty teeth because it will promote tooth decay and gum disease. Never put dirty aligners back into your mouth because bacterial buildup on your aligners could make you sick.
3. Never Put Your Aligner Trays In A Tissue or Napkin
The number one way to lose your aligner trays is to put them in a tissue or napkin when you’re eating out. Chance are, you’ll get distracted and forget that you put them there. Next thing you know, the table is cleared, and so are you valuable aligners! Always have a retainer case with you to store your aligners. Your dentist or orthodontist will give you one when you begin treatment. Buy a few extra to ensure that you always have one with you wherever you go. Or, use these special bags instead.
Speaking of taking your aligners in and out of your mouth, it’s best not to do it in front of other people. The aligners are usually accompanied by a copious amount of saliva. You are used to it, but other people might find it really gross. Discretely remove them when you are alone in your car, or in the bathroom. (Unless your friends or loved ones tell you that they don’t mind).
4. Make A Few Travel Dental Kits
You probably don’t eat all of your meals at home, so you will need to keep a few dental travel kits stashed for easy cleanups. Keep one in your car, at your office, in your backpack or briefcase — you get the idea. That way, you’ll never be caught off-guard when the opportunity comes up to eat out when you are wearing your aligners.
A dental travel kit should include:
- A toothbrush (full sized or travel sized)
- A tube of toothpaste
- A container of dental floss
- An aligner removal tool
- Antibacterial wipes or gel to clean your hands
- A retainer case
- Lip balm
- Aligner Chewies (if you are using them)
- A folding cup or some small paper cups (optional)
- Oral pain relief gel (optional)
- Mouthwash or breath strips (optional)
- Mints (optional)
- A small pack of tissues (optional)
- And a bag, pouch, or container to store it all in
If you want to make your own dental travel kit, these stylish pouches work well, this one is more plain, and these are see-through durable plastic. A plastic Ziploc bag is a quick solution, but after a few uses they wear out rather quickly. Another choice is to buy a pre-made dental kit, such as the one made by DentaKit.com or the Capsule Case.
5. Clean Your Aligners With An Anti-Bacterial Retainer Cleaner
You should not brush your aligners with a toothbrush. A toothbrush, no matter how soft, will put microscopic scratches onto your aligners which will turn them cloudy and provide more surfaces to accumulate harmful bacteria. In between meals, wipe your aligners with Cleanse Freshen Go Wipes, rinse them with soap and water, or at the very least, rinse them under clear running warm water. Once a day, give them a deep cleaning with a retainer cleaner such as Retainer Brite, OAP Foam, Steraligner, or Dentibrite. All of these cleaners are formulated to work on clear invisible aligners, and kill 99.9% of harmful bacteria.
6. Put In A New Set Of Aligners Before Bedtime
A new set of aligners can be tight and uncomfortable. If you put them in before going to bed, you will sleep through most of the initial discomfort. You can even take a couple of Tylenol beforehand to ensure that you’ll get a good night’s sleep. By the morning, your new set of aligners should be a little more comfortable.
7. Use Aligner Chewies To Seat Tight New Trays
When you get a new set of aligner trays, they could be so different and tight that you have trouble seating them properly on your teeth. That’s where Aligner Chewies come in. An Aligner Chewie is a little cylinder made of a soft spongy plastic-like material called Styrene Copolymer. It looks like a small roll of gauze or cotton. You use Aligner Chewies to help close any air gaps between your teeth and your aligners. Biting on the Chewie helps your trays to fit tighter on your teeth, which helps your treatment progress faster. Your dentist or orthodontist may give you some Aligner Chewies, or you can buy them online. In a pinch, some rolled-up gauze can also do the trick.
8. Always Keep The Previous Set Of Aligners
Keep your last set of aligners in case you lose or break the current set. While you wait for a replacement set (which usually takes about one week), wear the previous set of aligners to ensure that your teeth don’t shift. Once you get the replacement set, restart the two week wear period.
9. Vibration Really Helps
Your dentist or orthodontist might want you to use a product called AcceleDent, which generates specific types of vibrations that help to move your teeth faster by increasing the circulation in your gums. The vibrations also help to seat a new set of aligners and make them less painful. AcceleDent is available by prescription only from a dentist or orthodontist. You cannot buy the product in stores or online, and should never buy it used (because the dentist sets it to expire and stop working after a certain period of time). The cost of AcceleDent varies from dentist to dentist, and can run anywhere from $800 to $1,200.
If you can’t afford AcceleDent but want to use vibration to help seat new aligners and reduce their pain, try the more affordable PulsatePro, which costs less than $200. It does not claim to move teeth faster, but it still produces helpful vibrations that may make your aligner treatment more comfortable.
10. Expect A Little Pain And Frustration
- Each new set of aligners moves your teeth a small amount. This may make your teeth hurt, feel sensitive, or feel loose. It may hurt to chew or bite into some foods. Don’t worry, this is all perfectly normal. Usually the pain and discomfort subsides after a few days. If your teeth get sensitive, ask your dentist whether you should use an anti-sensitivity toothpaste like Sensodyne. Avoid chewy crunchy foods for a few weeks until your teeth get used to being in the aligners.
- Sometimes the aligner trays might rub the insides of your mouth, near the edges of your gums. This can be uncomfortable and could lead to mouth sores. Ask your dentist or orthodontist to file your aligner trays smooth until they feel comfortable. In a pinch, you can use a nail clipper or a pair of nail scissors to trim your aligner trays. Finish by smoothing them with a nail file. But be careful! Remove only a tiny bit at a time — you don’t want to ruin your aligner by taking a big chunk out of it!
- If the insides of your mouth get raw, soothe it with a warm salt water rinse (add ½ a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water). You can also buy Rincinol PRN, a mouth rinse that helps to cover the sores so that they heal. It tastes awful but works really well. You could also use an analgesic gel as needed.
- If your lips swell, your throat gets sore, your gums bleed, and you just don’t feel right after starting treatment, you may be having an allergic reaction to the clear aligners. Read this article for more information about that.
- You may have trouble speaking correctly when you first start your invisible aligner treatment (for instance, you S’s might whistle or you might lisp). It takes time for you to get used to the feeling of the aligners in your mouth. Just take it slow. After a few weeks, you’ll adjust to the aligners and begin to speak normally again.
- Let’s face it, brushing your teeth so much is a hassle. But that’s the trade-off for having healthy teeth during your aligner treatment.
- You might lose some weight because you don’t snack as much. But you will probably still miss snacking. When your friends ask your weight loss secret, tell them that you’re on the Invisible Aligner Diet.
- You might find yourself drooling more than usual in your sleep. Elevating your head with an extra pillow or a bed wedge might decrease the drool.
11. Don’t Be Surprised If You Need Attachments Or Elastics
Unless your treatment is simple, your dentist or orthodontist might add Attachments or Elastics to move your teeth or correct your bite. Not sure if these are part of your treatment plan? Ask your dentist or orthodontist if they think that these might be in your future.
Attachments (also called Engagers) are little bumps of tooth-colored composite material that are bonded onto your teeth with a curing light. They act as knobs and help the aligners to grip your teeth and move them in specific ways. Sometimes an attachment called a Button (also called a Hook or a Bracket) is necessary to attach orthodontic elastics. Buttons are can be made out of plastic, composite material, or stainless steel. Your dentist or orthodontist decides how many Attachments or Buttons you need to accomplish your treatment goals.
Attachments and Buttons may feel uncomfortable at first — like you have something stuck to your tooth (because you do). You will feel them on the insides of your gums or behind your teeth, and you will see them on the outsides of your teeth, even with your aligners in. They may make it a little harder to insert and remove your aligners. After a week or two, you will get used to feeling them and dealing with them.
12. Never Expose Your Aligners To Intense Heat
Your aligners could melt or get warped if you keep them in a hot car, near a window in the hot sunlight, or near any source of intense heat. If you live in a very hot climate and must have your aligners out of your mouth for more than a few minutes, consider putting them into the refrigerator while you are not wearing them. Never expose them to extremely hot water (and certainly, never boil them!)
13. Keep Your Aligners Away From Pets
Pets love to chew on and play with invisible aligners. They seem like the perfect toy! Get into the habit of always putting your aligner trays into a proper retainer case. Make sure it’s the type that snaps shut, so that it won’t come open if your pet begins playing with it. If your pet does get ahold of your aligners (and they are not damaged), be sure to rinse them well, then soak them in an antibacterial retainer cleaner before putting them back into your mouth.
14. Don’t Skip Your Semi-Annual Teeth Cleanings
It’s important to stay on top of your oral hygiene when you are getting any type of orthodontic treatment. Make sure to go to the dentist and get your teeth professionally cleaned twice a year. Even if you have excellent habits, you could still accumulate plaque and tarter on your teeth.
15. Finishing Could Take Longer Than You Think
Don’t be surprised if your treatment takes slightly longer than the one year or six months that you were quoted. You might need a few extra sets of aligners near the end to make your teeth absolutely perfect. Sometimes dentists call these extra trays Refinements. It can be frustrating or disappointing to continue to wear aligners for a few more weeks or months, but in the end it will be worth it.
16. Wear Your Retainers….Foreverrrrrrrrr
After your treatment is done (yea!) you still need to wear retainers (boo….but necessary). Your periodontal ligaments are loose from your aligner treatment, and they need time to solidify into their new positions. Your dentist or orthodontist will give you a custom-made retainer to wear. You usually need to wear it 24/7 for up to six months. Then, you can wear it only at night. You will need to continue wearing your retainer at night for the rest of your life, or your teeth will begin to shift. It’s a harsh reality, but part of the truth of any type of orthodontic treatment.
If you lose your retainer, tell your dentist or orthodontist immediately. They can make new set of retainers for you. The new set might not be free. Some dentists or orthodontists charge for a new retainer after a certain number of sets have been made (it can cost up to $250 per set). While you might not be prepared for such an unexpected expense, consider how expensive it would be to go back into aligners after your teeth have shifted.