Common Pitfalls in Clear Aligner Usage
Taking the step to wear clear aligner orthodontics reflects a desire to improve one’s oral health and appearance. However, when faced with the everyday routines required of wearing an aligner system, many patients find themselves inadvertently adopting habits that may be harmful to the treatment. No one does this intentionally, but unless you have advanced knowledge of the chemistry of the mouth environment, you may be more likely to make some common mistakes in judgment.
As a provider of Invisalign, OrthoSnap, or other clear aligner systems, you can encourage patients to stay vigilant in their treatment by reminding them of the importance of the following specific steps. These steps are some of the easiest to forget, yet are critical to maintaining good oral health and ensuring a positive outcome.
1. Clean the Aligners in the Morning
It’s common for patients to overlook the need to clean aligners after a long night of sleep. If one’s teeth were clean when the aligners were put into the mouth—and no food was consumed—doesn’t it thereby follow that the aligners will still be clean in the morning? Unfortunately, that’s not how mouth bacteria work. Bacteria can never be fully removed from the mouth with home-based oral hygiene. During the night, even small amounts of bacteria will grow and multiply, even in the absence of a new food source.
You can remind your patients of the need for a morning cleaning of the aligners by pointing to the presence of “morning breath.” When saliva is reduced during sleep, mouth bacteria proliferate and cause this common phenomenon. If your breath is bad, this indicates the presence of bacteria that need to be cleaned (not just rinsed) from the aligners, as well as the teeth. Overall, if the teeth are being cleaned in the morning, the aligners should be cleaned as well.
2. Protect the Aligners When Not in Use
Clear aligners should never be placed on a napkin or a tray (or shoved into a pocket or desk drawer) during lunch or dinnertime. This leaves the aligners open to cross-contamination and can introduce new bacteria into the mouth. Patients should have a clean, reliable case for holding the aligners whenever they are not being worn. Even if meal times may seem too brief to put the aligners at risk, those periods of exposure can add up over a period of weeks. Aligner cases should be cleaned regularly, as well, if not as frequently as the aligners themselves.
Careless placement of the aligners can lead to other problems beyond contamination. Leaving them in a car on a hot day can lead to warping; putting them in one’s pocket can lead to accidental pressure and cracking; and putting them on a napkin on a cafeteria tray can lead to accidentally throwing them in the trash. You can help your patients protect their aligners by reminding them that the aligners should always be in something. If they aren’t in the mouth, they should be in a case.
3. Brush and Floss Before Wearing Aligners, Even After Beverages
It’s not a challenge to see the value of flossing after a meal. Food gets stuck between the teeth and flossing is a great way to make sure it all gets removed. After drinking a cup of coffee, however? Or a fruit smoothie?
Patients might assume that purees and beverages don’t require flossing, as the teeth have not been chewing or grinding anything. However, the purpose of flossing is to remove bacteria and residues as much as it is to remove obvious bits of food. Remind your patients that even liquids can leave residue on the enamel in the small spaces between the teeth and at the gum line. Flossing reaches the spaces toothbrush bristles miss. Coffee residue left between the teeth before wearing aligners can cause staining and enamel damage. You can save your patients time (and whitening treatments!) by reminding them of this distinction.
4. Clean the Aligners Regularly and Correctly
Everyone loves the feeling of just-cleaned teeth. Brushing with a generous dollop of toothpaste is a very satisfying way to make the teeth feel smooth and clean again. Could you imagine cleaning your teeth with anything else? However, with the heavy consumer focus on whitening in recent years, toothpastes have become more abrasive. Patients may be tempted to apply that belovedly-effective abrasive cleaning method to their aligners. The problem with cleaning aligners with abrasive toothpastes is that it can damage the finish, make the fit less precise, and reduce their effectiveness at shifting the teeth.
Aligners should never be cleaned with abrasive toothpastes. Given how many products are labeled as “whitening” these days, patients may not be able to tell the difference between a toothpaste that is gentle enough for aligners and one that may damage them. The best way to help your patients avoid this potential mistake is to encourage them to follow a daily aligner-tray cleaning regimen that is safe and effective. This can include cleaning the aligners with a clear hand soap, soaking the aligners in an approved cleaning solution, and using a soft-bristled brush that does not have abrasive toothpaste residue on it.
Stay Connected for More Helpful Tips
Stay connected with OrthoSnap for more tips on giving your patients a great experience with their clear aligner treatments. Many companies provide aligner orthodontics nowadays, but OrthoSnap is unique because we use a patented molding system to create a better-fitting product. You can hear it in the snap of a perfect fit. Our system moves the teeth faster than 3D printed trays and costs less to manufacture. Learn more about OrthoSnap by contacting us at 516-606-7606.