Since clear aligners are removable, you may assume that removability means less maintenance than fixed appliances. After all, you aren’t constantly picking out food debris from any wires or brackets, so that means easier, more effortless care, right?
Clear aligner care demands a responsible, highly-disciplined care regimen that you shouldn’t neglect. Conversely, it’s equally (if not more) important to care for them out of your mouth as it is to care for them within your mouth.
Aligner damage and losses can sometimes be an unavoidable occurrence, but the risk of this happening can usually be mitigated by following necessary storage precautions and avoiding simple mistakes.
Even the most trivial slip-ups in a two-hour timeframe could set your treatment back several more hours. Here are some dos and don’ts behind proper aligner storage and removal care.
If you live with any furry friends at home, then you’re probably familiar with their desire to chew everything in front of them. Puppies, in particular, engage in intense teething, and they engage in this habit:
This isn’t vastly unlike the rationale of human babies who teeth, but a human baby won’t have the agility and dexterity needed to possibly reach the edge of a table. It’s good to aid your animal’s oral health, but don’t let that come at the expense of your own.
Unless you’re keeping them in a pocket, always store your aligners at an elevated, heightened position, out of a pet’s reach, and have your fuzzy pals stick to real chew toys.
If your aligner tray drops on the floor, don’t take any chances, and don’t hesitate to clean it ASAP.
Researchers have identified over 700 different species of bacteria that live inside the human mouth. Most of these species are harmless, but saliva can sometimes transmit numerous infectious diseases, including:
You don’t want your aligner appliances to become a Petri-dish for these germs, nor for plaque. That’s why it’s so crucial to follow a three-step process every time you remove your clear aligners:
It’s not good to let moisture stay on the appliance, as bacteria thrives in moist environments. To prevent this, it’s a good practice to let the aligner tray air-dry before storage. Additionally, stick to using aligner containers with small vent holes, as those can also help facilitate air drying before storage.
If you don’t have a case on hand to remove your aligners, that’s obviously a problem. For the best results when out and about, it’s always good to keep your aligners stored in a pouch or go-bag with:
A spare container
Travel cleaning supplies
Pain relief wax
A clear aligner removal tool
Your aligners can be tight and strenuous to remove at times, especially within the first few days after wearing a new tray. An aligner tool can make the process of removal for storage considerably easier, using a small hook or level to gently, delicately jostle the aligner out.
For additional good measure, color code your container cases; this can be a useful way to discern containers for home use and containers for travel. If you struggle to remember packing your container in a school, work, or travel bag, store that spare case in that bag and nowhere else. Just be sure to put it back when you get home.
This is fairly common sense but one that can easily be taken for granted. Leaving aligners out in the open flippantly leaves them exposed to be lost, stolen, stepped on, misplaced, contaminated, or damaged. You might think you’re immune to mistakes like this but there is a myriad of scenarios where clear aligners could be left out in the open and misplaced:
If you’re a new clear aligner patient, your first instinct might be to store your aligner trays in the bathroom; after all, that’s where most of your toiletries and cleaning gear are likely stored, so it would make logical sense to store the clear aligner nearby, right?
Not necessarily. High heat and humidity can damage and deform the clear aligner material, as well as the container. If it’s a bathroom where hot showers and baths often happen, then that would NOT be an ideal place for aligner storage. Likewise, storing your appliance in a hot car during the summer months could also lead to problematic plastic warping.
This is the same reason why placing aligners and/or containers in a dishwasher machine is a bad idea. General Electric lists the optimal dishwasher water temperature range as 120-150 degrees Fahrenheit; those heat levels won’t give your products a deep clean, and will only serve to irreparably misshape them.
Excess moisture will let bacteria fester, and excess humidity will let damage fester.
This standard is common sense, but still remarkably easy to overlook and unconsciously ignore. After all, most people probably don’t monitor their precise aligner removal over a stopwatch. But if you’re a frequent snacker, smoker, or non-water drinker who would constantly remove trays to do so, then you could overstep that two-hour removal time limit without realizing it.
Storing them out of your mouth any longer than that will impede treatment compliance and can set progress considerably far back. Additionally, if you are a frequent snacker or smoker, then the orthodontist may conclude that you aren’t an ideal clear aligner candidate to begin with. It’s advisable to work on curtailing those habits before seeking clear aligner treatment, if possible.
If your clear aligners get lost or broken, don’t stress! It’s not the end of the world, nor is it the end of your treatment success. Depending on the case and context, you may move to the next set in the aligner sequence, or use the previous set of aligners for the time being. If the next set of aligners are not available and you do not have the last set of aligners, you need to let your orthodontist know ASAP. Ordering new sets may cost you somewhat extra, but if you hesitate, the teeth will shift and the gain in alignment will be lost.
In any case, it’s always good to hold on to your last set of removable clear aligners as a precautionary backup just in case, stored in a spare container. Aligner loss isn’t a grievous enough mistake to throw off your treatment entirely, though it can be a highly annoying and pricey nuisance. It’s best to avoid this nuisance entirely by cleaning diligently and storing conscientiously.