If you have recently spoken to your general or cosmetic dentist about wearing clear aligners to move the teeth, then you may have started to learn about some of the tips and tricks to ensure the quick and correct movement of your teeth. One of these tricks is making sure that you wear the aligners for a full 22 hours every day. If you want to wear your aligners as much as possible, then you may think that you can keep them in the mouth when you eat or drink. However, this is a huge mistake. If you want to know why, then keep reading.
You Can Destroy Your Aligners
If you have started the clear aligner process, then you may know some basics about how to care for the trays. One tip you were likely given was to use warm water when cleaning them. Hot water should never be used. This also means that hot beverages and foods should never come into contact with the trays because they can be warped by the heat.
Clear aligners are made out of an elastic thermoplastic material. Specifically, they are constructed out of a clear and biocompatible form of polyurethane. Thermoplastic polyurethane is not only clear and flexible, but it resists damage from friction and degradation from oil, grease, and saliva. However, the thermoplastic cannot resist breakdown when in the presence of heat. The plastic will oxidize and melt if it is exposed to heat, and the material will lose its flexibility when this happens. This means that the aligners will become completely unusable if you wear them when eating or drinking hot items.
It is wise to always take out your aligners when you consume anything other than water. If you are concerned about leaving your aligners out for too long, then prepare meals fully before you take out the trays. When you take the aligners out, set a timer on your phone or a stopwatch that tracks the amount of time that the aligners are out. Keep a running tally throughout the day to make sure the trays are only out of the mouth for a total of two hours. On average, you should be removing the aligners for about 20 to 25 minutes at meal times and about 10 to 15 minutes for snack times.
You Can Get Cavities
Another reason to remove your aligners when you eat and drink is to cut down on the number of cavities that can form on your teeth during the straightening process. If you eat any item made with sugar or a complex carbohydrate, then you will be providing the bacteria in your mouth with a direct food source. The plaque created when you eat and bits of food left behind afterwards can work their way underneath your aligners. Bacteria get under the trays too and produce acids as they eat.
While bacteria will produce acids normally when your teeth are exposed, your saliva will work to keep bacterial activity at bay. One of the main jobs of your saliva is to rinse out the mouth. The rinsing moves acids, food, and bacteria away from your teeth. When you wear aligners though, saliva cannot rinse the teeth, and this leaves your teeth exposed to higher levels of acid.
You should always remove your aligners when you eat or drink and you should also brush or rinse your teeth afterwards. If you drink soda, tea, coffee, or another type of drink, then a quick swish with water and a rinse with a small amount of mouthwash will be enough to clean your mouth. If you eat any solid food, then you should brush or floss. To make this easy for you, consider buying some miniature portable toothbrushes that you can slip in your purse, bag, or a desk drawer at work.
For more information, talk to your orthodontist.