How to keep your aligners clean

Written by Chris Pearson GDP Registered Dentist

When you’re using clear aligners, it’s important to keep them clean. Cleaning your aligners improves hygiene levels and removes invisible bacteria. This helps to keep your aligners in top condition, so that you’ll stay healthy and your teeth won’t be at risk of damage. Cleaning your aligners will also keep them smelling fresh and looking great, so they’re free from stains and don’t turn yellow.

There are several different ways to clean your aligners. Which is the best?

Ways to Clean Your Clear Aligners

Simply using water

Many providers of clear aligners recommend that you just rinse them with water. This option is quick, easy and free.

Rinsing your aligners doesn’t take long. It should be enough, as long as you rinse them thoroughly several times a day. This is because aligners don’t last long, so only need to be in good condition for about two weeks before you move on.

Using toothpaste

Some people recommend brushing your aligners with toothpaste, just like you’d brush your teeth. This can be an effective way to clean aligners, but is likely to cause other problems. Many toothpastes are quite abrasive, so they’re likely to scratch your aligners.

From a hygiene point of view, brushing your aligners with toothpaste could be a great idea. However, you’re likely to scratch your aligners and leave them looking foggy and discolored.

Using soap

Some providers of clear aligners recommend cleaning them with soap. This is another easy and cheap option, slightly more effective than rinsing your aligners with water.

A mild, everyday liquid soap is the perfect choice for cleaning your aligners. The soap will help to clear away bacteria, removing the risk of lasting stains. Just remember to rinse your aligners so you’re not left tasting soap.

Using special cleaning tablets…

One of the best ways to clean your aligners is to use aligner cleaning tablets. You can also get retainer or denture cleaning tablets, which are similar products under different names to appeal to a different audience.

Cleaning tablets are convenient, effective and thorough. They’ll remove the bad bacteria, keeping your aligners clear and clean. These tablets aren’t damaging, will minimize staining and work well in a short amount of time.

There are many brands of aligner, denture and retainer cleaning tablets available. Check reviews and decide which brand will suit you best.

…or special cleaning crystals

Just like cleaning tablets, denture and aligner cleaning crystals can be dissolved in water very easily. These are the same as tablets, but you’ll use a sachet of crystals.

Crystals are less common than cleaning tablets, though they’re the same in everything but shape. Use either option for a thorough clean.

Using household items

If you haven’t got aligner cleaning tablets but don’t want to rely on plain water, you can clean your clear aligners with other well-known household products. Baking soda, mixed with water, makes an effective cleaner. Vinegar is another option, though you’ll want to rinse your aligners well before you put them back into your mouth.

Household products won’t be as effective as actual aligner cleaning tablets, but they’re great if you’re trying to save money or want to use items from your kitchen.

Using a clever sonic cleaner

A sonic cleaner doesn’t keep your aligners clean on its own. Instead it can be used alongside other products for a more effective overall clean.

Put your aligners and their cleaning solution into a sonic cleaner, then wait as the sonic cleaner’s small and fast vibrations work towards a more thorough clean.

Sonic cleaners mix the water around, so it reaches every part of your aligners. They’ll help to clear any stubborn pieces of dirt that might be stuck to your aligners. Often we can’t see the bacteria that builds, but sonic cleaners can help to break it down.

Sonic cleaners aren’t essential if you want to clean your aligners well. They’re not a ‘must have’, but a nice addition if you’ve got enough dollars spare. They can also be a great tool once you move onto retainers, as these need to last a lot longer than aligners and will require even more care.

Specialist aligner toothbrushes

When you clean your aligners with your everyday toothbrush, it can be hard to fit it into narrow spaces. An aligner cleaning brush, or interdental brush, can help with a more detailed clean.

You can use any manual or electric interdental brush. There are several electric toothbrushes that come with pointed interdental brush heads. Another option is to buy a toothbrush from Smile Direct Club. The Smile Direct Club toothbrush is specifically designed with a clear aligner cleaning head, so you can use it to get into narrow gaps that your standard toothbrush can’t reach.

The cleaning process

Make sure that you rinse your clear aligners every time you stop to eat or drink. Remove your aligners when you’re consuming food, then rinse them before you put them back. Always make sure that you’ve also cleaned your teeth before you reinsert your clear aligners. Trapping bits of food against your teeth is a fast-track to cavities and problems.

Every day, take some time to clean your aligners more thoroughly. Rinse them well, or clean them with soap, before you get into bed at night. If you’re using clear aligner or denture tablets, you might want to clean your clear aligners whilst eating your evening meal. Most tablets take around 15-30 minutes to do their work effectively, and it’s better that this happens when you’re eating so you don’t keep your aligners out too long. The longer you wear your clear aligners each day, the faster your treatment will progress.

Hot water isn't the best!

Warm water is better for cleaning your aligners, but make sure that it’s not too hot. Hot water can melt and warp plastic, so your custom-made aligners won’t fit your teeth the way they should.

Always check that water’s only warm, not so hot that it’ll damage your aligners.

Which is the prefered option?

There are many different ways to clean your aligners, and you’ll need to find the one that works for you. Clear aligners only need to be used for two weeks, so rinsing with water (if it’s done often) should be enough to get by.

If you want to make sure that your aligners are clear and stain-free, and if you want to be absolutely certain that they’re free from harmful bacteria, the best thing you can do is invest in some aligner cleaning tablets. These aren’t expensive but are designed for your aligners, so they’re effective and non-abrasive.

A sonic cleaner is a great choice if you’ve got the spare cash to buy, but don’t feel that you need this high-tech gadget to look after your trays of clear aligners.

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