Invisalign® - Issues with aligner staining. -

Will consuming coffee, black tea, red wine or soda stain your aligners? | General rules and precautions. | Other stain-formation complications - With teeth, With Invisalign® attachments. | Solutions for staining.

How big of an issue is Invisalign® aligner staining?

For most people, the issue of their aligners discoloring during the short two-week period that their appliances are worn will be just a minor concern.

But for those who insist on consuming beverages like coffee, black tea, soda (colas) and/or red wine, without regard to any precautions or guidelines, the crystal clear nature of their aligners may be soon lost. And the dingy appearance that results can be a tip off to others that they are wearing some type of appliance over their teeth.

What's the solution?

This page provides details about what you can expect in regard to Invisalign® aligner staining. And outlines ways you can still enjoy your usual beverages without stain buildup becoming a major issue.

What's the official word from Invisalign® on this issue?

While Align Technology, Inc., the company that makes the Invisalign® system, shares more information about staining concerns with their dentist providers as opposed to consumers (discussed below), they are clear in stating that patients should remove their aligners before drinking beverages other than just plain water.

Section references - Invisalign.com

Is that level of abstinence really needed to prevent staining?

While their recommendation may seem astoundingly limited, we will say that following it makes a best practice. But our comment here isn't just based on the issue of aligner staining alone. There are other concerns involved too.

(Use this link for a discussion about the host of issues associated with drinking different kinds of beverages with your aligners in. This especially applies to hot or sugary drinks, and is information you must be familiar with to keep yourself out of trouble.)

In regard to just stain formation, it would be our opinion that there may be some possible wiggle room with exactly what you do. This page explains below.

Note: The staining effect you experience may not just be limited to your aligners alone.

Probably the most forgiving aspect of wearing Invisalign® is that you usually advance to your next set of aligners every two weeks. So whatever level of staining they pickup during their brief period of service is soon past history.

But consuming dark-colored beverages (black tea, cola, coffee, red wine, etc..) can also cause discoloration issues with other aspects of your mouth, and these will persist. This specifically includes the formation of surface staining on your teeth, or the discoloration of any Invisalign® attachments required by your case.

And your potential for this effect may be amplified by the fact that your teeth and attachments are covered over by your aligners most of the time. (We explain below.)

Staining issues associated with wearing Invisalign®.

1) Aligner staining.

Consuming beverages that have a strong or bold coloration can cause aligner discoloration. This effect can be expected to be a gradual one that worsens as repeated exposures to the chromogenic agent take place. (An issue of slight or moderate exposure vs. a prolonged or excessive one.)

What type of beverages are most likely to cause staining?

As you'd expect, dark beverages tend to cause more of an effect than lighter color ones. This includes soda (cola), black tea, coffee and red wine. But really, any type of beverage that has a strong tint, and especially if consumed frequently or sipped from for extended periods, will have the potential to cause aligner discoloration.

Research findings.

A study by Liu evaluated the staining effect of coffee, black tea and red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon) on several removable aligner systems and commented that of these coffee was the one that tended to be the worst offender.

Section references - Liu

The new Invisalign® plastic.

In 2013, Align Technology began using a new plastic ("SmartTrack® aligner material") to fabricate their Invisalign® aligners.

As compared to the previously used plastic (EX30®), the company stated that the SmartTrack® material was found to deliver a more constant force to the patient's teeth. They also stated that patients found aligner's made out of the new plastic more comfortable to wear.

Issues with staining.

While reading through Align Technology, Inc. communications to dentist providers, we noticed that information sent in March of 2015 included a statement reporting that some dentists felt that staining was more noticeable with the new SmartTrack® material (vs. the EX30®).

In fact, the study mentioned above seems to have confirmed this issue, at least in part. Its findings were that the Invisalign® SmartTrack® material was more prone to pigmentation (picking up stain) than the plastic used to make aligners for two competing brands. However, they only identified this issue in regard to coffee, and not exposure to black tea or red wine.

Section references - Liu

What can you expect?

Each person's experience with aligner staining will vary according to their specific consumption habits (beverage involved, duration of exposure, number of exposures).

And remember, if you simply follow Invisalign's® recommendation and remove your aligners when consuming all beverages other than cool water, aligner staining will be a nonissue for you.

But if you can't abstain totally, for many patient's the degree to which their aligners discolor over the short two-week time span that they're worn may not be readily apparent, and therefore not a significant problem.

For most people, this will probably be the case. But beyond just hoping so, there are some things you can do proactively.

Picture of an Invisalign® tooth aligner.

It doesn't take a lot for the crystal clear nature of your aligners to be degraded by staining.

Prevention / Minimizing aligner staining.

a) Creative scheduling.

The staining caused by drinking dark beverages only deepens when these items come into contact with your aligners. So, what you need to do is figure out ways of minimizing this type of event.

The compromise.

Your dentist probably expects you to wear your aligners on the order of 22 hours per day. So, after assessing your daily routine, you may be able to come up with a schedule that allows for both wearing your appliances as directed, and removing them while you enjoy your favorite beverage.

  • We'll admit that the scheduling you're forced to adhere to may not offer as much time for enjoyment as you might like. But that seems to be the price that's required to have your treatment go smoothly and predictably, while also guaranteeing that your aligners stay clear and invisible.
  • Keep in mind when you make up your routine that before putting your aligners back in you'll need to rinse your mouth with water, so to remove any residual amounts of the beverage. You'll need the facilities for that, or at least a bottle of water or nearby drinking fountain.

b) Using a straw may help to prevent staining.

If you plan to drink beverages with your aligners in, you might try using a straw. Doing so doesn't necessarily provide a perfect solution but it may help to minimize the amount of staining that forms on the front aspect of your appliances, which is the side that poses the greatest concerns in terms of appearance.

Positioning.

When using a straw, your goal should be to position it so it shunts as much of the liquid as possible directly to the rear-most portion of your mouth, and then on down your throat.

The problem.

The general difficulty with this technique is that no matter how far back you're able to position the straw, the oral cavity is a wet environment. That means that maintaining total separation of the beverage from your aligners won't be possible because it will co-mingle with the saliva in your mouth, and subsequently disperse throughout it and linger.

Possible benefits.

In terms of stain prevention, using a straw may have the potential to provide some positive effects:

  • Whatever amount of the beverage your mouth is exposed to will at least be in a diluted form, thus reducing its ability to cause staining.

Another possible benefit of using a straw is related to the portion of your aligners' plastic that's most likely to become stained.

  • The front side of your front teeth is a comparatively drier, less connected portion of your mouth. So when a straw is used, not only does the beverage in its full-strength totally bypass this region, but any diluted amount of the dark liquid that remains in your mouth will have some difficulty in migrating up to this front location.
  • Since this is the portion of your appliances that shows the most, the assistance that a straw provides in preventing staining in this region may be all that you really need to help to keep the appearance of your aligners reasonable for the few weeks each set is worn.

c) Better aligner home care should help.

In some cases, it may be a film of debris that has accumulated on the surface of your appliances (like tartar) that has picked up the stain from the dark beverage.

  • In terms of prevention, the remedy for this problem lies in being more diligent when cleaning your aligners, so there is no debris buildup to stain. (For details how, visit our page: Best practices for cleaning Invisalign® aligners.)
  • Keep in mind, it's not always just a matter of doing a good job that's important. You must also perform your cleaning routine frequently enough so that the formation of the debris (especially tartar) is kept at bay.
Possible remedies for aligner staining.

If your aligners have already discolored (either their plastic has stained, or debris on them has), there are some types of soaking solutions that may be able to help make an improvement in their appearance. For details, here's a link to our page that addresses remedies for aligner discoloration.


2) Stain formation on Invisalign® attachments.

There is some potential that a person may experience some degree of staining with their Invisalign® attachments. Although, for most people this should be a nonissue.

Attachments are generally fairly resistant to staining.

While the specific material used to make a patient's attachments is selected by their dentist, they'll generally choose a type of restorative referred to as "dental composite." This is the same kind of material used to make "permanent" white fillings.

As it happens, it's the nature of dental composite to discolor over time, specifically due to exposure to agents like colas, tea, coffee or red wine. But what's different with the application where it's used to form Invisalign® attachments is simply the time frame involved.

Treatment time with Invisalign® cases is usually measured in months to a year or two, with attachments possibly only utilized for a fraction of that period. As such, the degree of staining that occurs with a material intended to provide service for much longer than that should be just minimal and probably not noticeable.

Attachment stain prevention.

Just in case you want to take every precaution possible, do whatever you can to minimize your attachments' exposure to the dark beverages you drink.

Things to do.

When your aligners are out, using a straw can be beneficial. Doing so will help to shunt the liquid past your front teeth (where your attachments that show the most are), thus minimizing its contact with them.

If you choose to drink beverages while your aligners are in:

  • The fact that they create a plastic barrier covering over your attachments will generally help to protect them from staining influences.
  • It's logical to assume that any time you drink a beverage that at least some fraction of it will seep into the internal aspect of your aligners. So rather than just letting it pool there and potentially stain your attachments, rinse your mouth and appliances out with water.
Remedies for stained attachments.
  • Your dentist may be able to polish the attachment's surface. And if only some type of surface stain has formed, doing so may completely resolve the issue.
  • At-home whitening products typically will not create a significant whitening effect for dental materials.
  • For staining that's become incorporated into the dental composite itself, there may not be an easy solution.

    That's because each attachment has a specific shape specially designed to key into your aligners, and your dentist is probably going to be very hesitant to want to do anything that will alter it.

  • You'll probably also find that your dentist is hesitant to offer to replace stained attachments.

    It represents added time and expense for them. The stent used to create and precisely position each attachment may no longer fit (due to case progress), making replacement difficult or impossible. And generally, they're going to be hesitant to make any changes with something that is otherwise working well.


3) Teeth staining associated with wearing Invisalign®.

It's possible that the issue of tooth staining might be amplified by a person wearing Invisalign® aligners in a couple of ways.

Illustration warning that sugary beverages can seep inside Invisalign® aligners.

Beverages can seep into your aligners.

a) Your teeth aren't as protected as you might think.

While the way a person's removable orthodontic aligners fit snugly over their teeth does create somewhat of a barrier that isolates them from the rest of the mouth, it's not a waterproof seal.

And that means that any dark-colored beverages you drink may seep into them (see illustration).

b) How an aligner's presence might promote tooth staining.

Once a chromogenic agent has seeped inside an aligner, the tables are reversed. The appliance now acts as protection for the liquid from the washing and diluting effect of saliva. And due to this protection, the beverage may have an exposure to tooth surfaces that's more pronounced than would otherwise exist.

Preventive steps you can take.

Rinse out with water afterward.

If you must drink a beverage while wearing your aligners, afterward take them out and rinse both them and your mouth with water so to dilute and wash away any remaining portions of the drink. And the sooner you do so the better.

Using a straw may help.

Just as discussed above, the use of a straw may help to minimize tooth staining by way of directing the most concentrated form of the beverage on down your throat as opposed to into your mouth.

Performing effective oral home care will help.

Much of the tooth staining that occurs in a person's mouth is of the surface-stain variety. With this phenomenon, it's not really the tooth that has discolored but instead a thin film of tartar accumulation on its surface that has. (This is the type of stain that polishes off when your dentist cleans your teeth.)

The protected environment created by wearing aligners can lead to the increased formation of surface debris on teeth when proper home care is not practiced, and therefore can have the effect of contributing to the person's tooth staining problem.

 
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