The Facts on Funk: Why Is My Clear Aligner Yellow?

The Facts on Funk: Why Is My Clear Aligner Yellow?

You got clear aligners so that no one would notice them—and that only works if they stay clear.

And yet you know that many things can stain your aligners. Coffee. Wine. Mustard. Tea. If you’re into Indian food (or golden milk lattes)- watch out for turmeric! But how about the not so obvious stain agents? Has your aligner ever looked cloudy or yellowish? Did it smell funky? Don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone—it makes us self-conscious too. We’re here to tell you how that happens, and what you can do about it!

The Stains You Know

Coffee and Tea and Mustard, Oh My....

First, the obvious culprits.

Not all aligners are made from the same plastic, and although all aligner plastics are porous (like a sponge, microscopically), they are not all equally so.

StraightSmileSolutions did a test with three different aligner materials (Invisalign, ClearCorrect, and Invisacryl) to see how well they held up to common stains: mustard, red wine, hot sauce, and coffee. See the video to the right for results:

As you can see in the video, mustard was worst for Invisalign and coffee for Invisacryl and Invisalign.

The International Journal of Oral Science did their own rigorous testing of Invisalign, AngelAlign, and Smartee in order to create this chart, showing differing staining levels from coffee, black tea, and red wine (compared to water). Coffee really leaves a mark, though red wine and tea build up too.

Now that you're familiar with the most common stain-causing agents and which are the worst culprits for your aligners, let's move on to some you may not have thought of...

Sneaky Stain Agents

Mouthwash and retainer soak may not be your best friends...

There are also a couple of sneaky staining agents you might not have thought of:  

  1. Colored Mouthwash
  2. Colored Retainer Cleaner

Depending on how porous your aligner material is, the color in colored mouthwash and colored retainer-cleaning soaks can begin to tint your aligners, which is why these are not recommended. Keep it clear!

Getting Funky

But why is my aligner turning yellow if I brush?

Now, if you’re brushing after every meal or beverage, you might think you’re in the clear. And yet… what is that funk? How is your clean aligner getting yellow or cloudy? What is that…aroma?

Your aligner fits your teeth very tightly- that pressure is how it moves your teeth into their final position. That tight fit, though, also traps in place anything between your aligner and your teeth: bacteria, plaque, dried saliva, food particles, and staining molecules from drinks. Those things are held fast against your teeth where they can do the most damage.

So even without staining food and beverage, you’ve got dried saliva, plaque, and bacteria trapped between your aligner and your teeth. This is inevitable.

Dried saliva and plaque are not clear. They are also inevitable.

  • Dried saliva has a color- if you’ve ever drooled on anything in your sleep (your secret is safe with us!) you know it’s not quite clear. Though it’s 99.5% water, that .5% contains enzymes, mucus, and lipids.
  • Plaque is a soft, sticky film that builds up on your teeth and contains millions of bacteria. It can range from colorless to pale yellow. When not removed, plaque builds up into tartar, which is very difficult to remove and can leave your teeth yellow or brown.
  • Bacteria secrete acids that can decalcify your teeth, leaving white spots. These bacteria also cause bad breath (and that funky aligner smell).

Your tight aligner is making sure these substances are jammed into every microscopic nook and cranny in your teeth and in your aligner, where buildup becomes cloudy fast.

Un-Funk Yourself

What can you do? First, you know you need to brush. Now you know *exactly* why. After every food or drink in particular, because trapping staining color molecules is the most obvious route to unclear aligners. But what about when you’re on the go? What about when you don’t need a full brushing, or you can’t brush? It happens.

Your secret weapon? Hydrogen peroxide, in EverSmile WhiteFoam!

Hydrogen peroxide works by breaking up color molecules into compounds that can’t stain. It also kills the bacteria in plaque that cause decalcification and odors.

EverSmile WhiteFoam has created a hydrogen-peroxide based foam designed to get into every space that saliva, plaque, and bacteria can reach, where it eliminates stains and gunk, leaving you clean, clear and minty.

SmileDirectClub aligners in a case next to a bottle of EverSmile WhiteFoam

You spread this foam on your aligner and insert it, where that tight aligner fit now works FOR you, getting the foam everywhere it needs to go. There’s no need to brush or rinse it, so you can use it anywhere you like, up to four times per day. That’s perfect in between brushings, before a meeting, or while you’re out in the evening.


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