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How Do Oral Hygiene Routines for Braces and Aligners Differ?

By Michael Howard
The primary difference between braces and aligners is aesthetic. However, the two types of orthodontia also require different hygiene routines for optimal dental health.

Braces and aligners are both orthodontic appliances used to treat a variety of dental issues. While braces tend to stand out, aligners are nearly invisible. But the differences don’t end there. If you have aligners, your oral hygiene routine is going to differ from that of someone with braces. Keep reading to find out what it takes to keep each type of appliance clean.

How to Clean Braces

Cleaning bracesproperly involves using a combination of products as part of your home care,” Vick Gupta, DDS, MSD, Orthodontist at Gupta Orthodontics in Plano, Texas, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

First and foremost, he says, remember to brush your teeth for two minutes after each meal.

“This will remove the majority of debris stuck in and around the brackets. In addition, one can opt for adding the use of a water jet to supplement the removal of debris stuck to the wires and brackets.”

Gupta adds that “another important component to cleaning braces is flossing in between teeth. To do this effectively with braces, you need a floss threader to feed the floss underneath the wire and through the contacts between the teeth.”

You may also elect to rinse your mouth with a fluoride-containing mouthwash, although Gupta says this is not necessarily required.

How to Clean Clear Aligners

Whereas braces consist of brackets and wires, aligners are clear plastic trays that fit snugly over your teeth. You’ll wear a series of these devices to complete a teeth straightening plan, and they are generally only removed while eating or brushing your teeth. 

“Keeping aligners clean involves maintaining a proper oral hygiene regimen,” Gupta says. “Patients are advised to brush and floss after each meal, before putting their aligners back on. This helps prevent bacteria from developing on the surfaces of the teeth and aligners. If not done properly, the close contact of the aligners and the teeth becomes a breeding ground for bad bacteria.”

Additionally, Gupta notes, the aligners themselves should be cleaned every night with a toothbrush and toothpaste.

“This helps prevent foul smelling microbes from developing on the aligners. Also, I encourage all my patients to scrape and clean their tongue and inside of their cheeks regularly as bacteria accumulation on these surfaces can be a source of bad breath.”

Lastly, Gupta emphasizes that you should not eat or drink anything—with the exception of water—while wearing your aligners.

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