Tips for Your Clear Aligner Treatment

Clear aligners are an alternative to traditional braces that straighten your teeth using a series of clear, customized, removable aligners. This system combines advanced 3-D computer graphics technology with traditional orthodontic techniques.

You will wear several aligners, as each uses a controlled force to move your teeth into new placements. Clear aligners manipulate the timing of the force that’s applied, so only certain teeth move at one time.

Clear aligners offer the patient more convenience than treatment with permanent braces, as they are removable for eating and drinking, brushing, and flossing. This eliminates the lengthy list of food restrictions typical of orthodontic treatment and allows for regular brushing and oral hygiene care.

Clear aligners are one of the more discreet options for braces, as the aligners are made of a thin, transparent, thermoplastic material that fits securely over the teeth. This makes them practically unnoticeable from most distances. In most cases, clear aligners are just as effective as traditional orthodontic treatment but significantly reduce hassle and visibility.

Here are some ways to make sure you maximize the efficacy of your clear aligner experience.

Know Your Clear Aligner Schedule

Most patients will wear a new aligner every one or two weeks. It is essential to stick to a precise schedule to avoid slowing down your treatment time. Mark the dates on your calendar or set reminders on your phone to switch your trays.

If your new aligner is uncomfortable or you have a concern, let your orthodontist know immediately. Do not continue to wear an old aligner for a longer time. Likewise, do not put in a new aligner ahead of schedule. You can cause damage to the roots of your teeth if you try to move them too fast.

Keep Your Orthodontist & Dental Appointments

Your orthodontist will ask you to schedule regular appointments every four to six weeks to ensure that treatment progresses as expected. While your orthodontist has a roadmap of your treatment plan from the beginning, she needs to determine whether adjustments are necessary to keep your improvement on track.

It is also important to attend your regular dental checkups and cleanings while wearing clear aligners. Your orthodontist might recommend that you attend hygiene appointments more frequently than once a year while wearing clear aligners. The aligner’s warm and moist environment helps breed harmful bacteria and increases your risk for tooth decay.

Dealing with Discomfort

It is normal to feel discomfort from the aligners when you change them. This is similar to the sensation patients experience after the orthodontist adjusts their traditional brackets. Your teeth have newly applied pressure, and it will cause a few days of soreness.

One way to avoid some discomfort is to change your aligners at night. Typically, the first several hours are the worst, and this will (hopefully) allow you to sleep through them. You also can pre-empt the pain with over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Avoid crunchy and chewy foods for the first few days. During the day, in addition to medication, you can apply heating pads or ice packs to help alleviate unpleasant symptoms. Because discomfort during the adjustment period should be mild to moderate, contact your orthodontist if you are experiencing significant pain that these methods do not remedy.

Wear Your Aligners As Directed

With all types of orthodontic treatment, it is crucial to follow directions for wearing your appliances and caring for them. This is especially true with clear aligners, as they are removable by nature they can make bad habits more tempting.

For the first two days of each aligner tray, only remove your aligners for a few minutes at a time while you eat and brush your teeth. After that, you will need to wear them for at least 22 hours every day.

Your teeth have an excellent memory and will quickly begin their journey back into their old placements if you go for an extended time without wearing your aligner. Even taking one day off can have significant consequences for your treatment plan.

Drink Enough Water

Your saliva acts as a buffer to neutralize acids, raise the pH of the environment in the mouth, protect against harmful bacteria, and guard against viruses that contribute to gum disease.

Wearing your aligners can cause an initial over-secretion of saliva, leading to subsequent lack of it and causing dry mouth. Dryness weakens your mouth’s defenses and makes you more susceptible to cavities and gum inflammation or infection.

The standard recommendation for water intake is two liters per day. However, depending on your body chemistry, the foods and other beverages you consume, and your activity level, you might need to adjust that amount.

Just remember that if you choose other fluids as hydration sources, you should rinse your mouth with water after drinking them before putting your aligners back in.

Never Eat While Wearing Aligners

Aligners are not designed to withstand the pressure of biting and chewing. You must always remove the appliances before eating, whether a tiny snack or a big meal. Besides causing chewing to become an uncomfortable experience, you risk breaking them.

It is OK to drink water while wearing your aligners, but you need to remove them for all other beverages. Drinks such as coffee, tea, soda, and other dark drinks will stain the aligners. Sugars from sweetened drinks can become trapped under the aligners and harm the teeth.

Floss Every Day

The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once per day, yet only 30 percent of people follow these instructions. If you are one of the other 70 percent and are wearing clear aligners, now is the time to start a new habit.

Your aligners hold plaque and food debris against your teeth and prevent the saliva from doing its job. The bacteria that accumulate can cause tartar and plaque to form on the teeth, which results in tooth decay.

Overgrowth of harmful bacteria can also cause a variety of oral health issues. Gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath are the more notable results of not flossing regularly, but more serious conditions can also develop.

For example, chronic inflammation of the gums can lead to periodontal disease, which can result in tooth loss. In some cases, the bad bacteria that form in your mouth can spread to other parts of your body and contribute to diabetes, auto-immune diseases, and even heart disease.

Keep Your Aligners Clean & Secure

The quickest way to clean your aligner trays is with warm water and antibacterial soap. Alternatively, you can soak them in mixtures of warm water and either hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, or distilled white vinegar. Avoid using toothpaste to clean your clear aligner, as it is often abrasive and can scratch the plastic.

Remember to use your case to store your aligners whenever you are not wearing them. This helps keep them clean (you don’t want to put an aligner back in your mouth that’s been sitting on a dirty surface) and prevents them from becoming lost or damaged.

Hold onto Your Old Aligners

If you lose or damage your aligners, wearing an old one is better than none at all while you await a replacement. Getting a new set typically takes about a week, which can become a major setback if you don’t have a backup. Save your previous pair of aligners rather than discarding them when you start wearing your next set. When you receive your replacements, you’ll need to restart the calendar and adjust your reminders for when to put in future aligners.

Use a Whitening Toothpaste

Many patients find that whitening toothpaste is more effective during orthodontic treatment. The aligner holds the toothpaste remnants, including the fluoride and the whitening agent, up against the teeth. So, what works against you with food and beverages works to your benefit when it comes to toothpaste. You should hold off on other whitening treatments until you complete your treatment.

For more information on clear aligner treatment, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified orthodontists.