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7 Tips On How to Clean Invisalign Trays and Retainers

By April 1, 2021April 28th, 2022Blog, Orthodontics
tips to learn how to clean invisalign trays

7 Tips for How to Clean Invisalign ® Trays and Retainers

We talk a lot about how to take care of braces. While, yes, dental braces do require a little more maintenance than Invisalign aligners and clear retainers, caring for a removable appliance is still important. As Abbotsford, Langley and Surrey Invisalign providers and certified specialists in orthodontics, Dr. Sharma, Dr. Lin and Dr. Koo are well versed in everything patients need to know in order to keep their appliances and smiles in tip-top shape all throughout their treatment.

In this post, we’ll be covering:

  • The importance of cleaning Invisalign aligners and retainers
  • How often to clean your orthodontic appliances
  • Our top tips for how to clean Invisalign trays and clear retainers

The Importance of Cleaning Invisalign Trays and Retainers

Invisalign and Invisalign Teen aligners, as well as clear, plastic retainers – technically called Essix retainers and sometimes referred to as Invisalign retainers – fit snugly over your teeth like thin, comfortable mouthguards. The tight fit is necessary in order for the aligners to exert pressure to move the teeth into place and for your retainer to hold your teeth in their new positions. Yet, it also means that anything on your teeth or on the inside of your aligners (i.e., bacteria, plaque, liquid, food particles, etc.) will be trapped between your aligners and your teeth.

Your saliva can’t flow freely beneath the aligners to wash away the bad stuff and it will linger on your enamel. This can increase your risk for tooth decay and lead to stained teeth. So, it’s really important to ensure your appliance and teeth are clean before you put your aligners or retainers back in your mouth after eating and drinking. To do this, you should brush your teeth after meals and snacks and rinse your aligners or retainers off before wearing them again. If you drink something that’s staining or sugary, you’ll want to rinse your mouth out really well prior to putting in your appliance.

Aside from the oral health concerns, dried spit, bacteria and plaque will build up on the aligners and retainers as you wear them. They can get pretty smelly and develop a cloudy or discolored appearance. While this might not matter as much for a retainer if you’re only wearing it at night, it definitely puts a damper on your Invisalign experience because your aligners will be much more noticeable.

Knowing how to clean Invisalign trays and retainers and putting that knowledge into practice will ensure your appliance stays clear and fresh, and it will keep your teeth and gums healthy too.

How Often Should You Clean Your
Invisalign Aligners or Clear Retainers?

Before we dive into the best way to clean Invisalign and clear retainers, first, let’s go over how often you should do it. We tell our Abbotsford, Langley and Surrey Invisalign patients to clean their Invisalign trays a minimum of twice a day, in the morning and before bed, and at least rinse the aligners really well with water before putting them back in after eating and drinking.

You can occasionally deep clean your Invisalign aligners, which we’ll get to shortly. However, it’s not always necessary. You’ll only wear each set of Invisalign aligners for about one to two weeks. By the time they start needing a deep clean, you’re on to the next set. However, if you do feel like they need some extra TLC, giving them a deep clean once a week should do the trick.

As for how often to clean your Invisalign retainer, or clear retainer, it will depend on the schedule you were given for wearing it. If you have to wear your retainers full-time at first, clean them just as you would your Invisalign aligners. Since you won’t be changing to a new retainer every few weeks, you probably will want to give them a deeper clean at least once a week.

If you only wear your retainer at night, you can clean it once a day. We’d recommend cleaning it in the morning after you take it out so that it’s free of plaque and bacteria when it goes in your case. This will cut down on any bad smells and build-up. It’s a good idea to give it a thorough rinse before you put it in at night too.

7 Tips for How to Clean Invisalign Aligners and Retainers

1. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Your Toothbrush

If you look up how to clean Invisalign trays or Invisalign retainers, you’ll find a slew of products on the market just for that purpose. However, while these products can be effective, the most affordable, simple and best way to clean Invisalign aligners and retainers is to simply brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and rinse them with lukewarm water. Can you clean a retainer with toothpaste?

No. Don’t use toothpaste for aligners or clear, plastic retainers as it can be abrasive and cause scratches on the plastic (you can use toothpaste to clean a Hawley retainer).

You can also use a colorless, unscented, gentle liquid soap along with your toothbrush if your appliance has a lot of plaque or is starting to smell. Just make sure you rinse all of the soap off before you pop your aligners or retainer in your mouth. Also, never rinse with hot water as it can warp your aligners and interfere with how they fit.

2. Use the Invisalign Cleaning System

Invisalign sells a cleaning system that contains Invisalign cleaning crystals. Obviously, it’s advertised as one of the best ways to clean Invisalign retainers and aligners. If you do decide to purchase the Invisalign cleaning crystals, we have to say, they work well, especially if your aligners are discolored or stained. That said, they’re not a necessity.

Like we mentioned earlier, since you’ll change your Invisalign aligners every one to two weeks, you can save money by using your toothbrush to clean your aligners. As for how to clean Invisalign retainers or other clear retainers, regular deep cleaning will be more important because you’ll have your retainer for years. In that case, if you don’t want to use a DIY solution, the Invisalign cleaning crystals may be worth it.

To clean your Invisalign with the cleaning crystals, remove your aligners or clear retainer and rinse with water. Place your appliance in a container, covering it with lukewarm water. Add a packet of the Invisalign cleaning crystals to the container and then shake it up to distribute and dissolve the crystals. Let your aligners or clear retainer sit for about 15 minutes. Shake the container one more time, take your aligners out and rinse them with water.

3. Keep in Mind Most Retainer Cleaner Brands Will Work

There are other retainer cleaner brands that will also work to give your aligners or retainers a deep clean. For example, Polident retainer cleaner is a popular option. We do recommend that you run any products by Dr. Sharma, Dr. Lin or Dr. Koo before using them just to ensure they’re safe for the thermoplastic material.

4. Drop Retainer Cleaning Tablets in Water and Soak Your Retainers or Aligners

While there are specialized retainer cleaning tablets, you can also opt for denture cleaner. As for how to clean Invisalign retainers or aligners with retainer cleaner, put your appliance in a container and cover it completely with lukewarm water. Place a retainer cleaning tablet in the water and stir it up or shake the container to dissolve it. Let your appliance soak for 15 minutes, or whatever length of time is indicated on the package, and then rinse with water.

5. Make a DIY Invisalign and Retainer Cleaner With Distilled White Vinegar

After brushing with a toothbrush and clear, liquid soap, making a DIY cleaner is the next best way to clean Invisalign aligners and clear retainers on a dime. Not only is white vinegar safe, it will also remove plaque build-up and bacteria and deodorize your aligners or retainers. Mix one part distilled white vinegar with three parts lukewarm water in a container and stir well. Put your aligners or your retainer into the container, ensuring they’re completely submerged in the water and vinegar solution. Let your appliance soak for 15 to 30 minutes and then rinse well with water.

6. No Vinegar? Clean your Appliance With Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is another ingredient that can be used to make an effective DIY retainer cleaner. Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water in a container and stir. Drop your Invisalign aligners or clear retainer into the container so they’re completely covered by the solution. Let the appliance soak for 15 to 30 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with water.

7. Splurge on an Ultrasonic Cleaner

For our final tip on cleaning Invisalign aligners and retainers, you can purchase an ultrasonic cleaner. Again, this isn’t a necessity, especially for aligners that you’ll be wearing for a short time. Yet, if you want to spend a little more money, these devices are excellent for deep cleaning retainers, clear aligners, mouthguards and other appliances. Even if you do use an ultrasonic cleaner, be sure to rinse your appliance off before putting it back in your mouth and continue to regularly brush your Invisalign aligners or clear retainers in between deep cleans with your ultrasonic gadget.

Now that you’re an expert on how to clean Invisalign trays and clear retainers, if you’d like to kick-off your smile journey, schedule a consultation at Aura Orthodontics today! Our Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford Invisalign providers will assess your bite and determine if Invisalign is the best option for your unique needs. If it is, we’ll go over everything you need to know about caring for your Invisalign aligners to ensure you get the Invisalign results you’ve always wanted.