With the uprising of digital advancements in the 21st century, dental professionals have had the opportunity to integrate modern technology into dentistry, especially with orthodontic treatment. Though some may believe that clear aligners are a relatively new orthodontic treatment option, they’ve actually existed for multiple decades.
Depending on the severity of your case, clear aligners offer a more discreet option to achieve a straight smile, rather than years of dealing with traditional metal brackets and wires. With minimal lifestyle changes and a variety of treatment options available, clear aligners provide patients with the flexibility they need for a more simplified and enjoyable orthodontic journey.
But even with this flexibility, patient compliance is still necessary to achieve optimal results. Clear aligner treatment is an investment, and similar to traditional braces, there are guidelines that patients must follow diligently for relatively quick, effective, and safe treatment.
Before we get started, let’s remember the benefits of clear aligner treatment. First off, it’s a more discreet alignment option with many positive advantages. Clear aligners are removable, easy to clean, and offer the ability to maintain the health of your teeth with regular brushing and flossing. Even though clear aligner treatments are designed to be as simple as possible, it’s important to remember some simple dos and don’ts. In addition to wearing your aligners for at least 22 hours a day, be sure to follow these guidelines to ensure your treatment is effective.
Always remove your aligners to brush, floss, eat, and drink
Unlike traditional braces, having the ability to remove your aligners is a game-changer. One of the most beneficial aspects of clear aligner treatment is that you can brush and floss your teeth easily, navigating those hard-to-reach areas where bacteria hide. You should always remove your trays before eating and drinking anything other than water.
Take proper care of your clear aligner trays
Maintaining a regular and proper oral hygiene routine is critical while undergoing clear aligner orthodontic treatment. To prevent bacteria growth, plaque buildup, and infection caused by improper dental care, be sure to brush your teeth after each meal or snack, and after drinking anything other than water. To effectively clean the trays, soak them in a special solution designed for aligners, use a denture cleaner, or simply rise the trays thoroughly with cool water.
Change to your next set of trays before bed
While clear aligners are a great option for straightening teeth, they can cause soreness, discomfort, or pain. Typically, clear aligner trays are changed every two weeks on average. Though the pain is less when compared to traditional braces, and can vary in intensity based on each individual’s case, the pain is usually described as pressure since teeth are shifting into their new position. There’s no way to fully avoid this discomfort but an easy tip is to switch to your new set of trays before bed. Taking over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen, can help you sleep throughout the initial adjustment process and avoid dealing with discomfort throughout the day.
Continue regular dental checkups and cleanings
Those undergoing clear aligner orthodontic treatment should typically visit their orthodontist every four to six weeks based on your treatment plan and the recommendation of your orthodontist. The point of these follow-up appointments is to monitor the progress and ensure that the treatment is going as planned. It’s still crucial to maintain regular checkups and cleanings as well. Oral hygiene is important at all stages, and you'll want to take extra good care of your teeth during the course of your treatment.
Avoid cleaning your aligners with a toothbrush and toothpaste
Since your aligners are removable, you may think it’s completely acceptable to simply pop them out and brush the trays with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Though it may seem like the most convenient method, toothpaste contains ingredients that are too abrasive and can cause the aligners to build-up stains and scratches. As previously mentioned, it’s more effective to use a cleaning solution that’s specifically designed for clear aligners or dentures.
Never leave your aligner trays laying around
Orthodontic treatment is an investment and replacing clear aligners can be expensive. It’s important to develop a habit of always keeping your aligner case with you. When removing your trays to eat, drink, or brush your teeth, be sure to always place them in the accompanying case. Do not wrap your clear aligners in a napkin, as this is a recipe for being tossed in the trash by accident. By not placing your aligners in the case when not in use, airborne bacteria will likely end up on the trays, and subsequently, in your mouth. Yuck!
Don’t immediately throw out your previous set of trays
In the unfortunate case that you do misplace or damage your clear aligners, it’s important to have a backup set. Though you may be tempted to immediately toss your previous set after you insert your new trays, it’s smart to keep them on hand for those just in case moments. This will allow you to continue with your treatment until you can visit your orthodontist for a new set of trays.
Avoid hot liquids while wearing your aligners
Aligners are custom-made from a flexible, clear plastic material. Exposing your aligners to heat, including hot water or direct sunlight, can distort or melt the material. Since they are custom-made to fit your teeth and are part of an extended treatment plan, warping the material will render the aligners ineffective. Again, it’s important to remove your clear aligners before drinking hot beverages and always keep them in their case when not in use.
At the end of the day, you’re taking action towards having the smile you’ve always wanted. Be sure to follow these simple guidelines to ensure your orthodontic journey is as safe and effective as possible.