Clear aligners or clear braces as they are commonly called, are arguably one of the most popular orthodontic options for teens and adults looking to straighten their teeth. The treatment involves a series of clear plastic aligners which are worn over the teeth, a little like a mouthguard. These exert pressure to the teeth to gradually move them into the right position. Each aligner is customised and worn in sequence for the allotted time for the treatment to be successful.
Why clear braces are popular
There are several reasons for the popularity of clear aligners in the UK. These include:
- Clear aligners are barely visible as they’re made from clear plastic, leading to the nickname of ‘invisible aligners.’ Unless someone stares at your teeth from up close, they’re not likely to be noticed at all
- Aligners are more comfortable than conventional fixed braces since there are no wires or brackets to chafe the inside of your cheeks or lips
- Fewer dental visits unlike metal braces that require regular alterations
- Aligners are removed for brushing and flossing the teeth, meaning that it’s easier to maintain good oral health during your treatment
- Clear braces are removed for eating and drinking
The last reason is one of the most significant benefits for those aligner wearers concerned with food restrictions during their treatment.
Eating and drinking with clear aligners
One of the best things about clear aligners is that they are easily removed enabling patients to take them out of their mouth at mealtimes. This is hugely beneficial when compared to conventional braces that are permanently attached to the teeth and remain in the mouth when a person is eating or drinking.
When a person wears conventional braces, there are lots of foods that they can no longer eat for fear of damaging their device. This includes hard, sticky and chewy foods like toffees. Patients are also advised to lower their consumption of sugar because it can be challenging to clean and floss teeth thoroughly when wearing fixed braces. Improper cleaning while wearing fixed braces can lead to dental neglect.
Although aligners make it easier for patients to eat during orthodontic treatment, it doesn’t mean they can eat just what they like while wearing their ‘invisible braces’. Clear braces must be removed before eating and drinking anything other than water. Eating with aligners in place could damage them and prevent them from working properly.
Thankfully, it’s easy to remove aligners and place them in the provided container during mealtimes. But don’t forget to replace them in the mouth as soon as possible after your meal.
Wherever possible brush your teeth before placing the aligners back in your mouth to remove any food particles. If you can’t brush your teeth then drink a glass of water to wash away any residue.
Please bear in mind that your clear braces need to be in your mouth for at least 22 hours a day to be effective.
While, in theory, a person can eat or drink anything when not wearing their aligners, adopting a healthy diet is key, particularly when undergoing aligner treatment and this does entail steering clear of certain foods and drinks.
So, what foods should you not eat with clear braces treatment?
Hard foods and boiled sweets – Foods like seeded breads, popcorn and raw carrots are foods you may want to avoid during treatment. Even boiled sweets that you suck in the mouth should be avoided because the sugary residue they leave behind attracts harmful bacteria which can lead to gum disease and tooth decay – the last thing you want when straightening teeth.
Crunchy vegetables and fruits are a healthy option but should be cut into smaller pieces to avoid cracking or chipping a tooth. Where possible, stick with soft fruits like bananas and grapes.
Chewing gum – Chewing gum is at the top of the list of foods to avoid for people with metal braces but what about clear aligners?
Never be tempted to chew gum, sugar-free or otherwise, when wearing aligners as it may pull and tug at them causing damage or breaking them. The excess saliva caused by chewing gum may also stain your teeth or aligners if it seeps inside. While you can take your aligners out now and again to chew a piece of sugarless gum, it’s not recommended to remove your aligners more than the recommended time since it can delay the progress of your treatment or prolong its duration.
Avoid specific beverages – Don’t be tempted to drink anything other than water without removing your aligners. Coloured beverages like coffee, black tea and red wine will stain, leaving your aligners looking dirty and tinted, so rather than being ‘invisible’ they’re quite the opposite.
Soda, too, is extremely acidic and can break down the tooth enamel. So, while it’s fine to remove your aligners now and again to drink anything other than water, be aware that this habit will quickly reduce your daily wear time to less than 22 hours. Best stick to water. Not only is drinking water healthy for your body but your oral health will thank you too.
To sum up:
While you can eat what you like (within reason) with your clear aligners removed, adopting a healthier diet will help keep your oral health on track and prevent the need for further dental treatment once you have completed treatment. Not only will avoiding snacking help your waistline but it will also help you comply with the allotted 22 hours a day required for aligners to work their magic.
Finally, avoid smoking with clear braces. Smoking is harmful for your overall health and when clear aligners are worn while smoking, tar and nicotine can quickly stain the trays. Even if the trays are removed for smoking, the tar and nicotine that lingers in the mouth can cause discolouration to the trays giving them a yellowish hue.
Want to find out how easy it is to achieve your dream smile?
If you’re frustrated with your crooked teeth, we’d like to invite you to our Smile Studio for a 3D scan. All it takes is 3 easy steps to achieve the smile you long for. In 4-6 months you could be showing off your beautiful new smile.
Alternatively, visit Straight my Teeth for our array of personalised invisible braces in the UK. Once you contact us, we will send you a dental impressions kit that comes with disposable gloves.
Once you approve the treatment plan and get on board, your invisible aligners will be delivered to your doorstep. Our direct-to-consumer at-home teeth straightening kits correct misaligned teeth and help create the smile of your dreams.
So, don’t delay. Take our free, no obligation assessment and move one step closer to a straight and healthy smile.
Tamer, İ., Öztaş, E., & Marşan, G. (2019). Orthodontic Treatment with Clear Aligners and The Scientific Reality Behind Their Marketing: A Literature Review. Turkish journal of orthodontics, 32(4), 241–246. https://doi.org/10.5152/TurkJOrthod.2019.18083
Pereira, D., Machado, V., Botelho, J., Proença, L., Mendes, J. J., & Delgado, A. S. (2020). Comparison of Pain Perception between Clear Aligners and Fixed Appliances: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Applied Sciences, 10(12), 4276. doi:10.3390/app10124276
Pandey, V., Chandra, S., Dilip Kumar, H. P., Gupta, A., Bhandari, P. P., & Rathod, P. (2016). Impact of dental neglect score on oral health among patients receiving fixed orthodontic treatment: A cross-sectional study. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry, 6(2), 120–124. https://doi.org/10.4103/2231-0762.178752
Liu, Chen-Lu & Sun, Wentian & Lu, Wen-Xin & Li, Qi-Wen & Jeong, Yunho & Liu, Jun & Zhao, Zhi-He. (2016). Colour stabilities of three types of orthodontic clear aligners exposed to staining agents. International Journal of Oral Science. 8. 10.1038/ijos.2016.25.
Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting. (2017, December 19). National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/tobacco/cessation-fact-sheet
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Kishor Kumar Pradhan