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How to Clean Stained Invisalign Trays

Invisalign aligners are a popular choice for people who want to straighten their teeth in a discreet fashion, but they can be surprised to learn about stained Invisalign. When wearing a set of aligners for up to two weeks before changing out for the next set, it's useful to know how to clean stained Invisalign trays to avoid embarrassment and defeat the purpose of using invisible braces in the first place.

With that in mind, we sourced our dental experts to compile these tricks to solve your stained tray problems. Much of what we found describes how not to get stained retainers in the first place, but for those with an already yellowed tray, and a few more weeks of keeping it in your mouth, do not despair. These are practical, easy to use solutions you can apply today.

How often should you clean Invisalign trays?

While this shouldn't really need its own subsection, this is important advice that you shouldn’t take for granted. CLEAN YOUR TRAYS EVERY TIME YOU TAKE THEM OUT. Your mouth is full of bacteria, enzymes, and moisture...it's not the cleanest environment. You don't put a spoon back in the drawer after you've eaten your morning cereal, so don't put your trays back in your mouth without cleaning them first.

When it comes to keeping your retainers clean, the best offense is a good defense. Regular cleaning is, by far, the best way to avoid getting stained Invisalign trays.

How Does Stained Invisalign Trays Happen?

You're doing the routine maintenance to keep your Invisalign retainers stain free, but are there things that you should eliminate from your diet to keep them as invisible as the first day you put them in? Of course. Dental professionals have been telling us for years that coffee, tea and wine are staining your teeth. The same goes for colored sodas and fruit drinks, even if they have real fruit!

Hip new health trends are also a common culprit. Turmeric (especially lattes) contains a powerful natural yellow dye. Acai berries might as well be purple ink. But that doesn't mean you have to cut them out of your diet to prevent Invisalign stains. Just as with your teeth, proper care goes a long way. Having beets with dinner, and a coffee with dessert? Excuse yourself after the meal to rinse your mouth, brush your teeth, and give your aligners a pump or two of our Smile Saver Spray™ to help eliminate germs and odor-causing bacteria, and help prevent staining.

How to Properly Clean Stained Invisalign Braces

As this article is primarily about cleaning your trays to remove bacteria and prevent stains, we will not go too deep into general cleaning methods. For that, you can read our entire blog on how to clean your retainers.

But there are some things you shouldn’t do to clean your trays, because if you do you’ll actually create more opportunities for them to become stained in the first place. Going against what seems like common sense, many dental professionals recommend against cleaning with toothpaste, as many brands on the market are much too abrasive for the plastic trays. A lot of modern toothpaste contains either baking soda or other fine particulates that are designed to scratch plaque and other bacterial debris off of the hardened enamel coating of your teeth. As Invisalign is much softer than your teeth, this can not only cover them in scratches, but the new scratches will make the perfect home for pesky bacteria to hide and multiply, yes, leaving stains behind.

Another tray cleaning no-no is mouthwash. This can also be harmful to your Invisalign as some contain chemicals (like alcohol) that can harm or otherwise deteriorate your trays. Additionally, most mouthwashes on the market have artificial dyes in them. While they won’t permanently stain your teeth, they can tint your clear aligners and make them not-so-clear.

Other Techniques for Cleaner Retainers

If you want to take your cleaning to another level, you can always go out and buy some retainer cleaner. These come in all shapes and sizes, and are available as soaks or just simple pastes. They are widely available, and most do exactly what they were intended to. But again, mild soap and warm water are things you likely already have, and will work almost every bit as well.

Beyond cleaning, make sure you rinse off your retainers and put them in their case every time you take them out. When plaque and saliva are allowed to dry on the outside of your trays, more effort is required to scrub it off. When a retainer is left to dry straight out of your mouth, it can become cloudy. The more you do so, the more it builds up, and the more staining and discoloration will occur. So after you wake up or before you eat, at a minimum you must rinse it under the tap before stowing it away. Seconds of preventative care will save you hours of corrective maintenance.

Whether you’re at home or on the go, you can use an Invisalign cleaner spray like Smile Saver after the rinse to kill bacteria growing on your trays. You’ll appreciate the freshness when you reinsert them, because the peroxide-free formula doesn’t require a rinse! Now that you have your clean, rinsed retainers safely put away in its case, let's talk about what to do before putting it you reinsert them. At MINIMUM you should rinse your mouth to get food particles out from between your teeth, or wash the coffee residue out of your mouth. Ideally, you will follow the instructions we have all been getting from the dental community for decades: brush and floss when you wake up, when you go to sleep, and between meals.

While we fully understand that this is more work than most people are willing to put into their dental health, it is extremely important to overachieve when using invisible braces. That piece of broccoli or sweet morsel from dessert that got stuck between your teeth might not normally be a huge problem. But when you trap it against your teeth with plastic retainers, it cannot go anywhere, and will feed and breed bacteria, causing damage to your teeth and gums.

You are likely using Invisalign because you want to improve your smile, and want to feel more confident in your teeth. If you are careless about how you implement the system, you might straighten your smile, but if you damaged your teeth in the process, you'll have done more harm than good. So don't get lax with brushing and flossing, because the hard work you've done to get this far shouldn't go to waste.

How to Remove Stains From a Stained Invisalign Tray

In spite of your best efforts, your trays can still get cloudy or stained. In order to remove stains from Invisalign aligners, you have several options (but note: some retainer cleaners are not formulated for the Invisalign system, and using them can actually lead to discoloration). Here are a few options.

Invisalign Cleaning Crystals

The first is a professional grade clean. Invisalign themselves make soaking crystals that were designed in a lab to do this one task. You can get them online or from your dental professional, and they work very well. Simply use the individual packets of crystals with the recommended volume of water, and soak for the recommended time. It's as simple as that. There are also products like Retainer Bright that can do almost exactly what the branded Invisalign crystals do, and might be a bit less expensive.

Homemade Retainer Cleaning Solutions

If you don't want to shell out the extra expense to buy the name-brand cleaners, we recommend two homemade soaking solutions. Some of these have been previously covered in our blog post on the best way to clean your retainers.

The first is a 50% vinegar solution (1 part water to 1 part distilled white vinegar). Using warm water, simply submerge your Invisalign tray in the solution for up to 30 minutes at a time. Remove the tray from the water, gently brush it (with its own brush, remember?) and return it to the soak up to three times to remove any stubborn material. This vinegar solution is great for cloudy retainers that have a build up of calcified plaque.

The next soak on our list is a chlorine bleach solution. While this is certainly a bit more serious than a vinegar or peroxide soak, when properly and safely mixed, it can work wonders to clear up your retainers. Start by mixing a tablespoon of unscented chlorine bleach into a cup of water (15ml bleach in 240ml water), and place your invisalign inside. Soak for about 30 minutes, up to two times a week to keep your aligners bright and clean. Be sure to carefully rinse your trays after soaking before reinserting them into your mouth. Additionally, you can soak it again for about 15 minutes in distilled (or tap) water to remove any lingering taste of bleach.

So that’s a wrap on our recommendations for cleaning stained Invisalign trays, and then dealing with them when they inevitably occur. Remember, you only have to wear your trays for two weeks at a time, so there’s a good chance that by the 13th or 14th day, the aligners aren’t going to be at their cleanest. Taking proactive, preventative measures early in the process is the best way to get all the invisible benefits of your Invisalign retainers!

Continue Reading: 12 Tips and Tricks to Clean Your Retainers

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