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How to Care for Your Clear Aligners in Seven Steps

Clear aligners like Invisalign and Clear Correct are an innovation in dentistry. They allow people to straighten their teeth invisibly and, in some cases, in less time than with traditional orthodontics.

Even though you only wear a set of trays for a couple of weeks before moving on to the next set, you still must take care of them.

Here are some tips for keeping your clear aligners looking good:

1. Rinse your trays whenever you take them out – Clear trays should be rinsed each time they are removed. This helps keep them wet to prevent plaque and saliva from drying on the trays, which can cause them to become stained and discolored.

2. NEVER brush your aligners with toothpaste – Using toothpaste can scratch the resin of your clear aligners, causing discoloration. With a separate toothbrush, use a clear, liquid anti-bacterial soap and rinse thoroughly in lukewarm water before putting your trays back in your mouth.

3. Brush your trays whenever you brush and floss – Both in the morning and before bed, brushing your aligners (without toothpaste) when you brush your teeth helps prevent bacteria and plaque buildup. Removing any leftover food particles helps keep your aligners looking new and prevents odor-causing buildup that can make your breath smell bad.

4. Soak your aligners once a day – Using a special clear aligner soak, denture cleaner, or a mixture of one part vinegar and one part water will help kill bacteria on your trays. Soak for about 30 minutes once a day (ideally while you are eating) and be sure to rinse them well before putting them back in your mouth!

5. Brush and floss after each meal – In addition to your morning and bedtime brushing routine, you should also brush and floss each time you eat. This helps remove food particles that might otherwise get stuck between your teeth and the aligner, allowing bacteria to eat away at your tooth enamel. This also causes discoloration of your trays that will make them not-so-invisible.

6. Don’t eat or drink with your clear aligners in your mouth – Water is the only thing you should consume while you are wearing your aligners. Food and drink can get stuck between your tray and your teeth. Clear aligners aren’t made to withstand chewing forces and could crack under the pressure.

7. Plan for the unknown – Spur of the moment day trips, unexpected errands, or an impromptu lunch out with friends might be a problem for you and your aligners if you’re not prepared. Make a small kit that goes with you every day and keep it in your book bag, car, wallet, or purse. Don’t forget to include an extra case for your aligners, a spare toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, and floss. In a pinch, you can brush your trays with your toothbrush but remember to use only water.

By following these simple steps, plus any advice from your dental team, you can keep your mouth decay-free and your trays sparkling and undetectable from their first day to their last.

Dispelling the Myth’s About Orthodontics

Despite more than 4 million Americans currently undergoing orthodontic treatment, there are still many myths about orthodontics floating around. Let’s look at some of the most common rumors and gain a new perspective on braces.

You’ll Always Be at the Dentist – Newer technology and the advent of computer models to guide orthodontic progress means that depending on the difficulty of your case, you may be able to spread evaluations out as far as 8 to 10 weeks. This doesn’t mean you can miss scheduled appointments and wait until a bracket pops off to been seen. Your doctor has checkups timed with your treatment progress and missing scheduled appointments no matter how close or far apart can be detrimental to your treatment plan.

Braces are expensive – It’s true that orthodontic work isn’t cheap. But you get what you pay for! Dentists undergo years of training and must take yearly continuing education courses to keep their licenses up to date and to make sure they offer their patients the latest techniques and technology available. Some cases are more difficult than others requiring more equipment or expertise. Many orthodontists offer payment plans spread out over the course of treatment and many dental benefits companies now cover orthodontic treatment – even if it covers just a small part of the total cost.

Braces Are Just for Kids – According to recent studies, more than 1.5 million adults are currently undergoing orthodontic treatment. We now know that teeth can be moved at any age and insight into the role that proper bite and aligned occlusion have on the head, neck, and jaw have encouraged many adults to get braces. Clear aligners have also taken away some of the cosmetic stigmas associated with being an adult with braces.

You’ll Have to Wear Braces for YEARS – We all have flashbacks to that one kid who had braces from middle school until high school graduation. While some treatment is very complex and does require a couple years of treatment, modern technology and computers give us the ability to treat simpler cases in as little as a few months.

Orthodontic Treatment is Just Cosmetic – Braces do more than make a pretty smile! While that’s a nice added benefit, more and more people are going through treatment to straighten out uneven bites and reduce the frequency of headaches, migraines, TMJ issues, and other problems that can develop when your teeth don’t come together correctly.

In today’s age of information, it’s hard to believe that the positive impact orthodontic treatment can have is still being overshadowed by these myths. Orthodontic treatment can be much more than just a means to get straight, pretty, front teeth. It can help give people back a life without pain, boost their self-confidence, and help them live a happy, fulfilled life.

DIY Ortho: Is it Safe?

It seems like the do-it-yourself fad has infiltrated every industry and dentistry is no different. From Facebook to YouTube, videos for at-home, no-dentist-required orthodontics are all over the place. But DIY-ing it can lead to more severe and more costly problems down the line.

Proper orthodontic treatment requires a trained professional. And that expertise costs money. You wouldn’t DIY your eye surgery or hip replacement, so why take such a risk with your mouth? You know, the thing you speak with, eat with, and rely on EVERYDAY to keep you alive? Taking orthodontic treatment into your own hands, without the professional guidance, is a recipe for disaster.

The dangers of at-home orthodontics are so high that the American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedists felt compelled to write about one particular case.

Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t try to straighten your own teeth:

Risk of Infection- Many online personalities have put tutorials online using 3D printers or other household items. But these materials are seldom sterile and can cause severe infections if you cut yourself while using them or already have an open sore in your mouth. If left untreated, oral infections can spread to the rest of your body causing sepsis, an infection that may require hospitalization to treat.

More Pain- Without the watchful eyes of your orthodontic team, you could experience more pain and discomfort. Your team is trained in the most efficient way to move teeth with as little pain as possible.

Relapse- While relapse may also happen under the care of the most qualified dental team, specially-designed retainers are made to keep post-orthodontic shifting to a minimum. Without this knowledge, your teeth will likely move back to their original position.

More Damage Than Good- Without proper guidance and monthly check-ins, you may do more damage resulting in tooth loss. If your bite is off, you could also develop a speech impediment or have trouble chewing food.

In the long run, do-it-yourself braces may be more expensive than seeing an orthodontist for proper treatment. Between the risk of infection, the cost to make the at-home braces, and the expense of having to correct the damage done, you’re better off paying a trained professional right from the start. The damage might not be noticeable at first, but the long-term risks are great and potentially life-threatening. The health of your teeth is so much more than just the appearance of your smile. Without proper monitoring or periodic x-rays, you have no way of telling what’s going on below the gum line.

If you or child need braces, check with a trained professional. Many insurance plans provide orthodontic coverage, and many offices accept payment plans for the remaining cost. Your dental team is here to work with you and make sure you get the care you need that fits within your budget.

Five Tips to Make Your Orthodontic Adjustments More Comfortable

Anyone who’s had braces can tell you the initial appointment to have your braces put on is just the beginning. Monthly appointments for adjustments and tightening can be a real pain in the, well, mouth. Some changes cause less discomfort, especially as treatment nears the end, but some can make your teeth so sore that it hurts to eat mashed potatoes (true story). While it’s all worth it in the end, it can be tough to keep your eye on the prize month after month.

Here are five ways to combat discomfort and get you back to your regular routine:

  • Take a pain reliever/anti-inflammatory before your visit – To help prevent discomfort, get proactive and try taking the recommended dose of whichever over-the-counter pain reliever you prefer (or whichever your orthodontist recommends) before your adjustment appointment. Be sure to follow all doctor recommendations and always follow packaging instructions. Remember that children should NEVER take aspirin because of the risk of Reye’s Syndrome.
  • Try an oral anesthetic – If you have one or two sensitive spots try using anesthetic gel that is sold in pharmacies and supermarkets. A small amount works wonders and can supply some much-needed relief. For larger areas, try an ice pack wrapped in a towel, so the ice pack is not directly in contact with the skin.
  • Eat soft food for a few days – While your mouth is recovering, take it easy and don’t expect to chew anything tough like steak for a bit. Soft, nourishing foods can keep you healthy until you can use your full bite again. After an adjustment, you might want to eat ice cream for a week, but foods like tofu, scrambled eggs, chicken or egg salad, cottage cheese, soups with soft or pureed vegetables, oatmeal, hummus, and pasta are all healthy, nutritious options that will help keep your strength up and allow your body to heal faster.
  • Use orthodontic wax liberally – Ortho wax can be a post-adjustment lifesaver. Brackets rubbing against the delicate tissue of the cheeks and lips can cause sore spots. When placed over the bracket or against an archwire, it can give your tissue some time to heal while the rest of your mouth adjusts to the new position of the braces.
  • Rest – Sometimes overlooked in today’s rush to do EVERYTHING, rest is an essential part of our body’s ability to heal. Be sure to take it easy after your visit and let your body do its thing.

The most important thing to remember after your orthodontic adjustment is to be patient. You’re asking your teeth to move in the bone, it’s no small feat. You should allow yourself and your mouth the time it takes to feel better. Keep looking to the future and keep in mind that in no time your braces with be a thing of the past and you’ll be left with a functional bite and a beautiful smile for all the world to see!