College can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking journey to embark on! With so many new names, faces and places to get accustomed to, adding an orthodontic appliance to get used to can feel like too much at once. Or if you are already in college and need braces, it can feel like an afterthought amidst your busy schedule and assignment deadlines.
Whether you are going away to college with aligners or trying to figure out how to care for aligners at college, here are some things you can do to help that process go as smoothly as possible!
Why You Need to Take Care of Your Aligners
With all of the cosmetic and practical benefits of invisible aligners, it can be easy to assume that dental care will be smooth-sailing from start to finish until your smile is perfected. And while care for aligners is fairly straightforward, there are some definite pitfalls you will want to avoid to ensure your aligners do their job properly! We have provided a list of four common pitfalls people experience with aligners and what you can do to avoid them.
1. Is it Halitosis or is it My Aligner?
One thing about aligners is their tendency to gradually give off an unpleasant odor the longer you wear them, especially if certain cleaning habits are not followed. When you start to notice this smell, your first instinct is likely to brush your teeth, use mouthwash, take a mint — whatever it takes to get your breath smelling minty fresh again. When this does not help, you may start to wonder if you have a chronic case of halitosis! However, not to fear, the smell is likely coming from your aligners and there are easy ways to prevent and get rid of the smell.
Since aligners press tightly against your teeth, they can trap bacteria and food particles with no way for your saliva to wash them away. Furthermore, bacteria thrives when your teeth are dry, so things can get a little funky inside the aligners with no saliva flow or rinsing! For this reason, it is important to be disciplined with cleaning and rinsing your aligners on a daily basis, while also practicing regular dental care habits like brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash.
2. Speaking of Bacteria Buildup... Cavities
As if the bad smell was not reason enough to keep bacterial growth inside your aligners at bay, that bacteria can lead to even worse problems! When bacteria and food particles are trapped against your teeth, they contribute to the development of plaque, tartar, tooth decay and eventually, dreaded cavities as the acidic bacteria from tartar buildup eats away at your teeth. You will want to make sure you consistently clean your aligners to avoid cavity development.
3. Not So Invisible Aligners
The purpose of invisible aligners is that no one can see them when they are on your teeth (hot take alert!). So if they start to get discolored or yellow-looking, it sort of defeats the purpose!
However, aligner discoloration can occur if you do not follow regular aligner cleaning practices or if you commonly drink colored bevies with your aligner in, such as coffee, tea, red wine or good ol' Coca-Cola. With that in mind, make a habit to keep your aligners clean, and if you are going to drink a colored beverage, make sure you take your aligner out first!
4. Wearing Out Your Aligner Tray's Welcome
If you don't replace your aligners at the proper times — usually once every week or two — they can start to wear out and develop holes, cracks and other damage. Continuing to wear your aligners past that point can make them uneven and uncomfortable or even painful. Exposing your aligners to heat or direct sunlight or employing improper cleaning practices can also cause damage to your aligners. So make sure you replace your aligners when it is time do so and care for them correctly!
To summarize, here are some tips to ensure your aligners stay fresh, bacteria-free, invisible and intact:
- Use an aligner cleaning product like WhiteFoam by EverSmile, which cleans your aligners while you are wearing them
- Try some safe cleaning methods, such as lukewarm water and baking soda, dish soap or white vinegar
- Replace your aligners when it is time for the next tray
- Take out your aligners when you are eating
- Rinse your aligners before and after each use
- Brush and floss your teeth after eating and before wearing your aligners
How to Care for Aligners On the Go
1. Try an On-the-Go Aligner Cleaning Product
When you are in between classes or studying for an exam that is looming over you like a dark cloud, remembering to take out your aligners and soak them in a cleaning solution can feel like the least of your concerns. An on-the-go aligner cleaning product like WhiteFoam was made for such situations. Simply pump the foam into your aligners, put them on, and WhiteFoam will keep your teeth fresh and white while preventing bacterial growth as you go about your day.
2. Aligner Storage On the Go
Say you are eating in the cafeteria at a table full of other students. You go to take out your aligner but before you do, you realize you have nothing to store your aligner in except for the napkin on the table in between your plate and the person's sitting next to you. Going back to your dorm for your case is out of the question. Do you bite the bullet and eat with your aligners in? Or do you ruin your appetite and the person's sitting next to you by placing your aligners on the table? In a moment of rashness and regret, you think, I should have just gone with the wires and brackets.
Hopefully this has not happened to you and never does! If it has, we extend our condolences. While traditional braces can be a great choice, there are other ways to avoid such awkward situations. For instance, it can be helpful to have an extra aligner case that you take with you on the go in your purse, pocket, backpack, fanny pack or whatever kind of pack you've got.
In addition to avoiding awkward situations, proper storage of your aligners is key to their longevity and your success with them! Besides being a tad unappetizing, placing or wrapping your aligners in a napkin or the like while eating is an easy way to lose them. You may leave the table and forget you placed them there or accidentally dispose of the napkin with the aligners inside! Moreover, improper storage of your aligners can damage them and increase bacterial growth.
3. Remember to Remove Your Aligners Before Eating or Drinking Anything Other Than Water
While you will likely find out quickly that eating with aligners in is much worse than taking them out before you eat, there may be times when you forget to take them out or can't be bothered, like the nights of limitless coffee, uninterrupted snacking and paper-writing (we get it —you need the fuel!). However, doing so can damage and discolor your aligners. Your aligners are not designed to withstand the pressures of chewing, unfortunately.
With that in mind, here some tips to keep the foods and fluids to a bare minimum with your aligners in:
- Limit coffee consumption (as much as possible!)
- Snack strategically (this can also apply to your coffee consumption)
- Plan your meals out so you know when and how long you will be eating
- Drink colored beverages with a straw (unless they are piping hot)
- Try to drink water whenever possible instead of other beverages — also important for staying hydrated as aligners can dry out your mouth
4. Choose Breath Mints Over Gum
You might assume that invisible aligners are kinder to gum than traditional braces, since they are so smooth and discreet. We are sorry to break it to you, but chewing gum is a nightmare with aligners! The gum will stick to the aligners and the aligners will wear out fast with all of the chewing and grinding of teeth. So, if you are a big gum person or need to freshen up your breath for a date or meeting with the professor, you may need to make a temporary switch to breath mints.
5. Carry a Compact Toothbrush and Toothpaste on You
While you may spend a lot of time in your dorm or apartment, you probably spend an equal amount of time in the classroom, college campus, library, friends' rooms and other places. That can make things tricky with aligner care. Since you will want to be brushing your teeth and flossing every time you take your aligners out, you will want to make sure you have what you need, as we are sure you would not be okay with using someone else's toothbrush!
At the same time, no one wants to carry around their entire bathroom with them everywhere they go, so having some compact essentials that fit nicely in your pocket, purse, pack or bag is a great way to care for your aligners on the go.
Must-Have Items for Your Aligner Care Bathroom Kit
In addition to your aligner trays, there are several items that you need to survive the college and aligner experience unscathed. Here are nine must-have aligner accessories to bring along with you to college:
1. Aligner Cleaning Product
Have we mentioned WhiteFoam yet? Well, we will bang that drum one more time! An aligner cleaning product like WhiteFoam is essential for your aligner care bathroom kit, especially if you are a college student. WhiteFoam is made from a hydrogen-peroxide formula, so it kills 99.999% of bacteria while also being gentle on your teeth and aligners.
2. Aligner Cases
Whether you want a spare in case you lose your main one or want one for home and another when you are out and about, it is always a good idea to have a couple of aligner cases so you can store your aligners properly wherever you are when you need to take them out. You will likely receive two cases when you first get your trays. However, one is for your current tray and the other is for your last tray. As such, having a third case is the responsible choice!
3. Orthodontic Wax
While aligners are more comfortable than traditional braces, you can still develop some mouth-sores as the edges of the plastic rub against your gums. Having a ready supply of orthodontic or dental wax can help minimize any discomfort you experience with your aligners. Orthodontic wax will protect your gums and the linings of your cheeks from sores and discomfort.
4. Aligner Removal Tools
While aligners are removable, they are also snug against your teeth, so it can take some effort and maneuvering to get them out without any retrieval tools. Whether you are in public or having friends over, you probably want this process to be about as discreet as your aligners look. You will eventually improve your skills at removing your aligners with ninja-like stealth. In the meantime, however, there are some aligner retrieval tools you can buy that make this process significantly easier.
5. On-the-Go Aligner Care Kit
Fill this bad boy with a compact toothbrush, tiny toothpaste, some floss, aligner removal tools and whatever else you need to care for your aligners as you take on the world.
6. Aligner Seaters or "Chewies"
If you are having trouble fitting your aligners on correctly, you can get a pack of aligner seaters, also known as "chewies,' that help your aligners fit to your teeth nice and tight. All you do is chew on them! If you love chewing gum, they can also be an admittedly lesser substitute while your aligners do their magic. Some even have a minty flavor to them!
7. Lip Balm
If you don't normally carry around lip balm, you will want to do so while you have aligners. Wearing aligners will dry out your lips and mouth, so having a ready supply of lip balm on hand can keep your lips smooth and free from cracking.
8. Floss Picks or a Water Pick
Since you will be flossing more than the average human, it is probably best to find a convenient tool that helps you remove food particles quickly and easily. Floss picks can be a handy tool to have on the go when you don't have a mirror in front of you.
While a water pick cannot adequately substitute for flossing entirely, it can be helpful if you have already flossed and don't feel like going over that process over and over again throughout your day. If you are unaware of what a water pick is, it is a handheld device that aims a steady stream of water at your teeth to remove food particles. They aren't generally effective at removing plaque, but they are less invasive and won't cause your gums to bleed.
9. Compact Mirror
When you are on the go and need to floss or remove or reapply your aligners, having a compact mirror can make the process less awkward and more streamlined, especially when you don't have immediate access to a bathroom mirror.
Why Aligners May be More Convenient at College Than Traditional Braces
When traditional braces are applied to your teeth, they are there for the long haul. In some ways, that fact means there are less things to think about and do to care for your braces. In other ways, it can make things way more frustrating! While traditional braces have their benefits, there are several reasons why aligners may be more convenient for college students, which include the following:
1. Removable for Sports Events or Public Speaking
If you are a member of one of your college's varsity teams or student government and often speak in front of the student body, removable braces can be a huge advantage!
For student athletes, there is no need for a mouth guard to protect your gums and cheeks from the metal wires if your mouth is impacted during play. Simply remove the aligners before play, put them in your case or allow them to soak in a cleaning solution during the game, and then put them back on after the game.
If you often speak in front of other students for presentations or announcements, you can have the confidence to do so without feeling that people may be distracted by your braces. Moreover, you will probably want to remove your aligners if you are speaking in front of a crowd, as aligners are sometimes known to affect your pronunciation of "s" and "th" sounds.
2. You Can Eat Whatever You Want
Since invisible aligners are removable, you can take them out before eating and drinking, and when they are out, you are free to eat and drink as you please! When you are in the grind mode of your schedule with exams and assignment deadlines all around you, sticking to a "braces-friendly" diet can feel like more trouble than its worth —until you have to pick all the leafy greens out of your brackets, that is. Wearing aligners as an alternative to traditional braces can eliminate the added stress of avoiding certain foods so you can zero in on your studies!
3. Treatment is Typically Faster
The average length of aligner treatment is around six to 18 months. Compare that to the average time of traditional braces treatment of 18 months to three years — that is a lot of time saved! Instead of having braces for half or most of your college life, aligner treatment will likely take one year out of the time you are there. With that being said, the treatment length will inevitably vary from patient to patient, according to how well you stick to the treatment plan and the extent of the work you need done.
4. Graduation Photos
While anyone can make traditional braces look great when worn with confidence (looking at you, Billie Eilish!), others may prefer to let their natural teeth shine when they smile for important milestone photos, such as graduation! If you are in your senior years and considering getting braces in college, invisible aligners can help you smile with confidence when you turn the tassel to the left side of your cap.
5. Looking for Work Post-College
If both graduation and a need for braces is looming, invisible aligners can boost your confidence in both your smile and appearance as you prepare to head into the workforce with job interviews and first impressions. By the way, here is a guide to help you figure out what aligners will work best for you.
The benefits of invisible aligners are obvious, whether you are preparing for college or already there. However, the necessary care and maintenance of aligners can easily be forgotten, especially amid the hectic and exciting college days! To help make aligner care easier at college, EverSmile is proud to offer WhiteFoam — the perfect aligner cleaning product for multitasking and making the most of your time. Give it a try and see what WhiteFoam can do for you!