“What happens if I eat with my aligners in?” It’s a thought that many adults may be too afraid to ask their dentist or ortho.
The short answer which no one wants to hear is… it depends.
But the long answer is that you should try to avoid eating with your clear aligners in – as much as possible.
Of course, there are exceptions. This post will cover:
1) Why you should remove your trays before eating/drinking anything, besides cold water
2) The few special cases that may require you to keep your aligners in during mealtime
3) Tips on removing your aligners safely and making your permanent retainers last for years to come
Let’s dive in.
The Logic Behind Removable Clear Aligners
Clear aligners aren’t designed to withstand brute force or high temperatures. In fact, general bruxism (clenching/grinding) can cause the trays to become less pliable, putting extra stress on their rigid outer layer.
Unless advised by a cosmetic dentist or orthodontist, patients should refrain from eating or drinking with their clear aligners in. Clear aligners differ from dentures and tooth implants given that their purpose is to replace an extraction. With clear aligners, however, the root, dentin, and enamel still need to be preserved and cared for.
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Eat or Drink With Your Clear Aligners In
- They’ll have an unnecessary buildup of bacteria and plaque
- They’ll be prone to breakage and cracking
- Over time, the sugars and starches from food residue may lead to tray discoloration and attachment staining
In 2019, a group of patients from Reddit’s r/Invisalign community shared their feedback on “Invisalign cracks.” Although some people ran into these issues during their first week with Invisalign, the results varied. You wouldn’t want this happening at the beginning or end of your clear aligner journey because frequent delays can add additional time to your treatment plan.
How so? Food particles that get stuck between your teeth have the potential to develop tartar and plaque. When left untreated, these areas may progress into tooth erosion, demineralization, and ultimately, cavities. Your dentist or ortho can’t continue to correct your smile until your oral hygiene is in excellent condition.
Be sure to rinse your mouth or brush your teeth before snapping your trays back into place and carry your clear aligner case with you wherever you go. You’re much more likely to drop and step on your clear aligners when they aren’t tucked away in a safe compartment.
The Only Exceptions to Eating With Your Clear Aligners In
Although it’s an unusual request, certain professionals instruct their patients to eat with their clear aligners in. Why? The extra wear time can accelerate a complex dental case and it's common for these individuals to change their trays every 4-5 days vs. every 7-10 days. A shorter recourse with the same aligners reduces the probability of severely damaging them.
Separately, those who are relying on clear aligners to treat an open bite or cross bite may have specifications to keep their trays in during mealtime. The added pressure is beneficial for chewing and breaking down food into bite sized pieces, especially as one’s molars aren’t making enough impact.
When in doubt, remove your trays if you’re having something other than cold water and confirm with your clear aligner provider before making any changes to your treatment plan.
The Proper Way to Insert and Remove Your Clear Aligners
Use your fingers (or an orthokey) to pull down on a tray – closest to your back molars, before approaching the other side. This may be more uncomfortable if you have attachments or clear aligner elastics.
The same “back-to-front” method applies when reinserting your trays. Go from one side at a time and push the edge of your trays firmly to ensure that they’re properly affixed.
This video from Straight Teeth Direct gives easy to follow steps on inserting and removing your clear aligners with ease.
Never try to put both aligners in at the same time and double-check that your tray in hand matches the correct dentition. Mistaking your bottom aligner for your top aligner can lead to an inflamed gum line or dental injury, i.e. a chipped tooth or root fracture.
An easy way to care for your aligners is soaking them in lukewarm water, then adding a few drops of clear dish soap. Once ready to wear, rinse the trays with cold water and use a soft bristled toothbrush to gently scrub off any remaining residue.
There are only a few exceptions to eating with your clear aligners in. Unless your dentist or orthodontist specifies that you will need to wear your aligners for more than 22 hours a day, it’s necessary that you err on the side of caution by removing them before meals and cleaning them thoroughly.
Well+Aligned by NutrishMe helps adults with clear aligners gain control over their meal patterns in the limited amount of time they have to eat. Learn more about Well+Aligned here.