When you opt for clear aligner treatment, your provider will mail you everything you need for your treatment – your initial impression kit, and then all of your required aligner sets, usually along with your first set of retainers to use when your treatment is complete.
However, while you’ll get all the basic necessities, there are a range of accessories that can make your clear aligner treatment run even more smoothly. We’ve compiled the top 7 essential accessories to ensure your smile is given the absolute best care.
An aligner case is the perfect piece of kit to ensure your aligners stay safe when they aren’t in use. You might think it’s not really needed – after all, for 22 hours every day you’re going to be wearing your aligners (unless you’ve opted for nighttime-only treatment), but then they still need to be cared for in those two hours where you’re eating, drinking and brushing your teeth.
Leave them on the sink or a bathroom shelf and they could get dirty, or knocked off onto the floor. You risk them picking up hidden bacteria or, worse, getting damaged and potentially not fitting your teeth correctly. This doesn’t just have a minor immediate impact but it could mean that all of your remaining aligners aren’t going to fit correctly.
A case is an inexpensive purchase that gives you somewhere clean and secure to store your aligners when you need to. It’s also a godsend if you travel a lot – try finding somewhere secure on a plane to put your aligners while you eat your inflight meal if you don’t have a carry case with you. You can pick one up on Amazon for just a few dollars and the potential savings, compared to having to spend on replacement aligners, make them a sound investment.
Straightening your teeth is worthless if you don’t take proper care of them, and any reputable dentist will be making sure you’ve moved onto an electric toothbrush by now. Manual toothbrushes are nowhere near as effective at removing bacteria and plaque build ups, which is vital when you’re using clear aligners. If you don’t clean your teeth effectively then, for 22 hours per day, that bacteria is trapped against your teeth where it can do the most damage.
Make sure you don’t pick the cheapest option either. Basic electric toothbrushes costing $20 or less just aren’t worth your time – you might as well stick to a manual one for all the good they’ll do. Pick a toothbrush from a named brand and aim to spend at least $50, although the best models will cost more than $100.
Remember that again it’s an investment, not just against future dentist fees but even simply because replacement heads don’t cost a lot of money – you can usually buy them in bulk for a few dollars – so as long as you keep it in good shape your toothbrush should last a few years, compared to the three months your old one would’ve done.
It’s also worth noting that some aligner providers will recommend you clean your aligners with your toothbrush, another reason why you would want a good one. Make sure to check with your provider though as some actively tell you not to.
You should already be flossing your teeth too, in order to keep them in the best shape. But a floss pick might now be a wise purchase. A pick is long-lasting and can stop you from needing to buy dental floss on a more regular basis, ensuring you’re never caught with food stuck between your teeth for longer than you need to.
If you don’t properly brush your teeth before re-inserting your aligners, food can easily get pushed deep into gaps. A reliable floss pick – ideally metal – will ensure you can quickly remove the food and replace your aligners before it sits in place for too long and causes damage to your moving teeth and gums.
You could also use a floss pick to remove any debris that gets lodged within your aligners, although be careful. While we would recommend a metal pick due to their durability, they are strong and could damage your aligner if you aren’t gentle. You should always try to remove food debris from your aligners by rinsing them before you resort to any floss pick.
When you receive your clear aligners from your chosen provider, you’ll be given instructions on how best to clean then. Some will recommend simply rinsing or soaking in warm (but never hot) water, while other providers may suggest you gently brush them using your toothbrush to ensure they stay clean and free of bacteria.
However your aligners are carefully shaped to a mold of your teeth and so will have small nooks and crannies that your toothbrush may not be able to clean properly. Instead, look at retainer cleaner. These are soluble tablets that you place in water (again, always warm, never hot – you don’t want to warp your aligners). They’ll create a cleansing fizz, which you can then leave your aligners sat in for around 20 minutes – perfect while you eat and brush your teeth.
Retainer cleaner tablets tend to come in boxes of 28 or 72 and only cost around $15-25 per pack so are great value if you want to make sure your aligners are properly cleaned and sanitized before you put them back into your mouth. They are more effective than rinsing or brushing alone and can keep your aligners sparkling clear and smelling fresh.
Your clear aligners are made in a laboratory and designed to provide the maximum reasonable pressure to move your teeth in your mouth, without causing you pain. As such, they will often be an extremely snug fit – particularly every time you switch to a new set. You might find that you have trouble getting them quite into place the first time you wear each set.
That’s where chewies can help. They are a soft, sponge-like item that you chew on once you have inserted your aligners in your mouth. The chewing action helps to force the aligners into place, making sure they find their correct home and get to work with moving your teeth. You simply pop in a chewie and chew for around 10 minutes, and you should find your aligners are snug once you’re done.
They also have flavors, to make the experience a little more pleasant if you don’t like the idea of chewing on a spongy plastic. You can get them in mint or sometimes even bubblegum flavor, depending on where you buy them. Packs on Amazon start from just a few dollars.
Clear aligner removal tool
As difficult as clear aligners can sometimes be to get into place when you first wear them, they can be equally difficult to remove when it’s time to eat or brush your teeth – particularly if you’ve used chewies to ensure they are tightly held in place.
Your aligners may sit flush against the bottom of your gums and so getting a grip on them to remove them, without damaging them, may feel tricky. Avoid this by purchasing an aligner removal tool. They cost around $7 standalone on Amazon, but sometimes come packaged with chewies to give you everything you need to insert and remove your aligners safely.
The tool is a small plastic product with a ridge that you can use to carefully lever your aligners away from your teeth, without risking slipping and hurting your gums or the roof or base of your mouth. Make sure you keep your aligner removal tool cleaned too – it’s no good cleaning your aligners if you’re then using a tool that is a breeding ground for bacteria.
It is usually easier to delay any whitening treatment on your teeth until your clear aligner course is complete. You’ll have more options available on how to whiten, and fewer problems whitening each tooth once they’re correctly aligned.
However, if you’re a little impatient and you want a whiter smile whilst your teeth are straightened, consider a whitening foam that you can wear with your aligners. With these, it’s best to stick to the gels provided as optional extras by your aligner provider – that way you know the foam is suitable to use at the same time, and it won’t cause damage to either your gums or the aligner itself. Candid and byte are two providers of clear aligners who offer optional whitening foams, at a cost of around $25-30 per bottle which will usually last you for around one month.
Whitening foams won’t be as strong as strips or a gel, but they will certainly make a difference as your teeth are undergoing alignment treatment and your dazzling smile will come together at once.