Clear aligners, technically known as Invisalign aligners and sometimes referred to as retainers, are made of smooth, clear, BPA-free thermoplastic material. The custom, removable appliance slips over your teeth and most people won’t notice you’re wearing it.
Invisalign aligners have definitely become the more popular option with our Sioux Falls patients. Yet, despite the prevalence, patients still occasionally have questions. Are clear aligners more expensive than braces? Can you chew gum while wearing Invisalign? How do you clean an Invisalign retainer?
Here are 7 things to know about Invisalign clear aligners.
Clear Invisalign Aligners Give You a Life Long Smile
Invisalign relies on a natural process known as bone remodeling to move your teeth. Your appliance exerts a gentle force, which causes the supporting bone and tissues to break down, allowing the teeth to move where they’re directed. However, this also means the teeth have a tendency to shift back to their old places after treatment is complete.
The only way to prevent teeth from shifting after Invisalign is to wear a retainer. Your retainer will hold the teeth in place as new bone forms around the teeth and the ligaments tighten back up to secure the teeth in place. Your retainer essentially locks in your bite. Clear retainers are effective at preventing the teeth from shifting and are a great option for helping you maintain your amazing Invisalign results when you finish treatment.
They’re More Comfortable Than Braces
Clear aligners are smooth and custom-molded for a perfect fit. They slip over your teeth and offer less discomfort through treatment. The lack sharp edges, so there are no poking wires or brackets that can cause mouth sores, and patients often report less pain after adjustments.
That doesn’t mean Invisalign is completely painless. Getting new aligners or being fitted for a new set can cause pressure and some discomfort as your teeth adjust.
You’ll Want to Take Your Retainer Out Before Eating or Drinking
Eating or drinking with a clear retainer in your mouth isn’t a great idea. First, any hot beverages or food can warp the plastic, which will affect the fit and can lead to your teeth shifting. Also, when you eat or drink with clear retainers in, food and liquids can get trapped between your retainer and your teeth, which makes you more susceptible to cavities and staining (both stains on your teeth and discolored retainers).
Okay, we’ve covered food and drinks but can you chew gum with a clear retainer? Yes, you can chew gum with a clear retainer if you take it out first. That’s the simplest solution so you don’t run the risk of the gum sticking to your appliance and causing a mess. Since you’ll likely only wear your retainer at night, it’s easy enough to chew gum during the day when you’re not wearing it.
What about if you wear your clear retainers full-time and you’re an avid gum chewer? Sugarless gum is much less sticky, has a few oral health benefits and some patients swear you can chew gum with a clear retainer mess-free if you stick with brands like Freedent or Biotene. So, if you find that it doesn’t get all over your appliance and the gum doesn’t contain sugar, there’s probably nothing wrong with it.
Invisalign Aligners are About the Same Price as Braces
Are clear aligners more expensive? No, not usually. There is a myth that Invisalign treatment is more expensive than braces. That does depend person to person, as each Invisalign case is different and is customized to each smile. Also, since they don’t have components like wires or an acrylic piece that can break, you don’t have to worry about them getting damaged, which would require you to purchase a replacement. That being said, clear aligners are more expensive if you lose them frequently and have to buy new ones on a regular basis, which brings us to our next point about using your case!
Your Retainer Case Will be Your BFF
Problems with clear aligners are few and far between and for most patients, they’re an amazing choice. That doesn’t mean, however, that problems with Invisalign aligners are non-existent. The main challenge is that because clear retainers are, well, clear, if you put them on a napkin while you eat or leave them on the edge of the sink, they could end up being overlooked and accidentally thrown away. To prevent this, whenever you take your clear retainer out of your mouth, store it in its retainer case.
Knowing How to Clean Your Invisalign Aligners Effectively is Key
Keeping your Invisalign aligners clean is important. As you wear them, spit and plaque will build up on the plastic. Not only will this make them look cloudy and no longer virtually invisible, they’ll also start to smell. Additionally, plaque is made up of bacteria and every time you put your dirty clear retainers in your mouth, you’re basically putting extra bacteria in your mouth with them and allowing the plaque to sit against the surface of your teeth.
So, how often should you clean your retainer? During the day, clean it in the morning when you brush your teeth and again before you go to bed. You’ll also want to clean it, or at least rinse it, before you put it back in your mouth after meals or snacks.
Sometimes, people have a few misconceptions about how to clean Invisalign aligners. When you look up how to clean Invisalign retainers, you’ll probably see mentions of the Invisalign retainer cleaning system with cleaning crystals. Of course, you can absolutely purchase the cleaning crystals and they’ll be effective, but it’s not a requirement, and there are more affordable options.
The easiest solution for cleaning clear retainers is to simply brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and then rinse them with lukewarm water. You can also use a mild dish soap. We don’t recommend using toothpaste because it can be abrasive, leading to scratches on the plastic.
You will want to deep clean your retainers at least once a week to get rid of any stubborn plaque deposits and keep them nice and clear. There are several ways to deep clean clear retainers, including:
- Soaking your retainer in a mixture of one part distilled white vinegar and three parts warm water for 15 to 30 minutes. You can also use a cotton swab to get into the nooks and crannies before rinsing.
- Making a DIY retainer cleaner with hydrogen peroxide. Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and warm water in a container and deep clean your clear retainers by letting them sit in the solution for 30 minutes and then rinsing them.
Clear Invisalign aligners are a virtually invisible, comfortable, and convenient way to correct your smile without drastically interfering with your life. Once you get the hang of how to clean your aligners and keeping them in their case when you’re not wearing them, you and your Invisalign aligners will have an excellent relationship.
Source: “7 Things You Must Know About Clear Retainers,” Dr. Chan, Richard Chan Orthodontics