Invisalign® : Issues and concerns with drinks & beverages. -

General rules and precautions. - Is drinking coffee, tea, red wine or soda permitted? What drinks are acceptable? | Issues. - Aligner warping from hot beverages, Staining (of aligners, attachments, and/or teeth), Increased risk for tooth decay.

What beverages can you drink while wearing Invisalign®?

Drinking anything other than just water is not recommended.

What's wearing
Invisalign® like?

You might be surprised to learn that Align Technology, Inc., the maker of the Invisalign® system, states that you should remove your aligners before drinking pretty much any type of beverage other than just plain water (cool or room temperature, not hot).

And while that recommendation may seem disappointingly limited, this page outlines some of the reasoning that lies behind it.

Understand the concerns, then make your own decisions.

We will say that blindly following their advice does make a good choice. But we'd also say that once you understand the issues and concerns their recommendation is based on, you'll probably find that there can be a little wiggle room in exactly what you do. We explain below.


 

Reasons why you shouldn't drink beverages other than water while wearing Invisalign®.

In general, the kinds of problems associated with the different types of beverages you might choose to consume fall into one of two main categories. They are:

  1. Adverse effects that the drink might have on the parts of the Invisalign® system, like your aligners (warping or staining) or attachments (staining).
  2. Or else effects that the drink may have on your teeth, such as staining or increasing your potential for tooth decay.

Possible adverse effects caused by consuming beverages -

1) Aligner damage.

a) Dark beverages may stain Invisalign® aligners.

If while wearing your aligners you drink beverages that have a strong color, you may find that it tends to stain them. The change is seldom immediate but instead forms gradually as repeated exposures to the drink occur.

Common culprits include cola, tea, coffee and red wine. But really, any type of beverage that has a tint, especially if consumed frequently or nursed over a long duration, will have the potential to cause this problem.

The newer Invisalign® plastic.

In 2013, Align Technology began using a new plastic to make their Invisalign® aligners. And while its physical characteristics are superior to the old in many ways, the company has stated that some dentists feel that it tends to stain more easily.

If this is true, that means this issue may be more of a problem now than it has been in the past.

You'll need to judge how much of a problem this is for you.

Each person's experience with aligner staining will vary according to their specific consumption habits. So you'll simply have to see how much of a problem this becomes for you.

For some, the degree to which their aligners stain over the short two-week time span that they're worn may not be readily apparent, and therefore not a significant problem.

Prevention / Minimizing aligner staining from beverages.

Creative scheduling.

The staining process caused by drinking dark beverages only advances when these items come into contact with your aligners. So, what you need to do is figure out ways of avoiding that.

  • 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 will admit that the scheduling you're forced to adhere to may not offer as much time for enjoying your beverages as you might like (like having a leisurely cup at your favorite tea or coffee bar, or a soda during a break). But that seems to be the required price for having your treatment go smoothly and predictably, while also guaranteeing that your aligners stay clear and invisible.

Keep in mind when you make up your schedule 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. So you'll need the facilities for that, or at least a bottle of water or a drinking fountain.

Using a straw may help to prevent staining.

If you plan to drink beverages while leaving your aligners in, you might try using a straw. This isn't a perfect solution but it may help to minimize the amount of staining that forms on the front side of your appliances, which is the side that poses the greatest concern in terms of appearance.

  • When using the 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 on down your throat.

The general problem with this technique, no matter how far back you're able to position the straw, is that the oral cavity is a wet environment. That means 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 and linger.

However, in terms of helping to prevent stain formation, using a straw may provide some benefits:

  • Whatever amount of the beverage that remains in your mouth will be in a diluted form, thus reducing its ability to cause staining.
  • Another consideration is which portion of your aligners' plastic will tend to pick up stain.

    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 aligners that shows the most, the assistance that a straw provides in preventing staining here may be all that you really need to help keep the appearance of your aligners reasonable for the few weeks each set is worn.

Better aligner care should help.

In some cases, it may be debris that has accumulated on the surface of your aligners (like tartar) that has picked up the staining caused by drinking dark beverages.

  • 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 (which will vary from person to person) that the formation of the debris (especially tartar) is kept at bay.

Remedies for aligner staining caused by beverages.

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, visit our page that addresses remedies for aligner discoloration.

Picture of an Invisalign® tooth aligner.

Removable tooth aligners may warp when exposed to hot beverages.

b) Hot beverages may warp your aligners.

It's possible that drinking hot liquids (coffee, tea, even soup) while wearing your orthodontic aligners will warp them. Here's the basis of this concern:

  • Invisalign® appliances are just made out of thin plastic.

    This goes for other brands too (ClearCorrect®, ClearPath®, eCligner®, Simpli 5®), as well as clear plastic orthodontic retainers (Vivera®, Essix).

  • When they're made, a sheet of the plastic is first heat-softened and then vacuum-formed (sucked down) over a model, thus giving the aligner the shape it needs.

That means exposure to an elevated temperature environment, like that created in your mouth when you drink hot coffee, tea, coco, etc..., might heat up your aligners enough to distort them.

Prevention / Minimizing your potential for aligner warpage.

Abstinence

Obviously, the surest way to prevent damage to your aligners from exposure to hot drinks is simply to avoid the situation all together.

  • When you do plan to enjoy a hot beverage, either cool it down (iced coffee is a thing, and clearly iced tea is too), or just take your Invisalign® aligners out (as you really should anyway).
  • As a very safe rule of thumb, when wearing your aligners be hesitant to place anything in your mouth that's warmer than your body's temperature.
Using a straw probably isn't a safe alternative.

Some people might be tempted to use a straw when they drink hot beverages, thinking that that offers a solution. The problem we imagine with this plan is simply that it still seems possible that the tongue-side portion of a person's aligners covering their rear-most teeth (molars) could still be exposed to the beverage's elevated temperature.

Solutions for aligner warpage.

Unfortunately there really aren't any. Once the problem has been discovered (possibly the fit of your aligner has noticeably changed, or your next set of aligners doesn't fit as expected/planned), new aligners will need to be made. That will be an expense for you.


2) Effects of beverages on Invisalign® attachments.

Some people may wonder how susceptible the "attachments" that are a part of their Invisalign® treatment are to the staining effects of beverages. For the most part, for most people, this should be a nonissue.

They're made out of pretty durable materials.

While the specific compound used to make a patient's attachments is chosen by their dentist, generally speaking it's a dental restorative that might also be used to create white fillings for a patient.

And while it's characteristic that that type of restorative (termed "dental composite") will pick up staining as years pass (like from exposure to cola, tea, coffee or red wine). During the course of your orthodontic treatment, the degree of staining that occurs should not be significant.

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.

When your aligners are out, using a straw can be beneficial:

  • It will 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 generally helps to protect them from staining influences.

    But rather than just sipping your soda or coffee in normal fashion, using a straw so the liquid is drawn totally past your front teeth makes a good idea too.

  • 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 with water after consuming cola, coffee, tea, etc...
Remedies for stained attachments.

Short of replacement, there is no solution for stained orthodontic attachments.

  • At-home whitening products typically will not produce a significant whitening effect for dental materials.
  • In theory, your dentist might be able to polish the surface of the attachment so to freshen up its surface. The problem with doing so however is that each mound has a specific shape specially designed to key into your aligners. So your dentist is probably going to be very hesitant to want to do anything that will alter this needed shape.
  • In fact, you'll probably also find that your dentist is hesitant to offer to replace any stained attachments at all.

    It represents added time and expense for them. The stent used to create and precisely position each attachment may no longer fit, 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) Potential effects of beverages on your teeth as your aligners are worn.

When you wear Invisalign® appliances, they create a barrier between your teeth and the rest of your mouth.

And due to the isolation that this creates, the harmful effects of some types of drinks may be amplified.

A) Problems with sugary beverages.

Background.

Saliva provides some beneficial effects for your teeth:

  • It creates a washing and cleansing effect for them.
  • It also dilutes and buffers bacterial byproducts that can cause cavities (tooth demineralization).

Unfortunately, when plastic orthodontic aligners are worn, the barrier they create inhibits these beneficial actions.

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

Sugary drinks that seep inside your aligner can promote tooth decay.

An example.

Take the situation where a sugary drink (soda, juice, alcoholic beverage, sweet tea, sweetened coffee, etc...) is consumed while a person is wearing Invisalign®.

  • At least some of the beverage will seep into the internal aspect of their aligners ...
  • And once it has, it becomes a food source for the cavity-causing bacteria living in the dental plaque on and around the encased teeth.

Since the presence of the aligner acts as a barrier and therefore tends to inhibit the flow of saliva, the tooth-damaging acids created by the bacteria won't be diluted and neutralized as effectively. And the net effect can be one where the environment within the aligners is tipped towards active tooth decay formation.

The time and cost involved with repairing this type of damage can be substantial.

Preventive steps you can take.

Rinse out with water afterward.

If you must drink a sugary 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 amounts of the drink.

The plot of the Stephan Curve illustrates that within just a very few minutes following an exposure to sugar oral conditions swing toward one of favoring cavity formation, so be prompt.

Issues concerning the use of a straw.

Some people may be under the impression that using a straw helps them to avoid the risks associated with drinking sweetened beverages when their orthodontic aligners are in.

In agreement with this thought, we can see how if the straw is positioned far enough back that a large percentage of the beverage might be funneled directly past their oral cavity. And we don't see how that could be a bad thing.

But it must be kept in mind that the oral environment is a wet one. And despite the use of a straw, in all cases there will be some co-mingling of saliva and the sugary beverage. (The sugar, even in this diluted form, may create a substantial increase in the level of food available for the bacteria that cause tooth decay, therefore substantially increasing the person's risks for cavities.)

Continuing with this scenario, the normal flow of saliva throughout the person's mouth (including ultimately even inside their aligners) will now be a delivery system for the sugar, thus placing all regions at at least some increased risk for decay.

B) Problems with acidic beverages.

Acidic drinks, like soda and some kinds of fruit juices, can leach mineral content from teeth. A person's potential for experiencing this type of damage is simply a function of how acidic the drink is and how long the tooth is ultimately exposed to it.

In those cases where an acidic beverage is consumed while a person is wearing their orthodontic aligners, at least some amount of it will pool inside them. In regard to whatever amount does:

  • Because the aligners act as a barrier to the flow of saliva around the teeth they cover, the drink's concentration will not be as effectively buffered and diluted by it.
  • Once inside the aligners, the acidic drink will be held in close contact with the teeth, possibly for a prolonged period of time.

Both of these issues mean, at least in theory, that drinking an acidic beverage while wearing aligners will tend to amplify the tooth-eroding potential of that beverage.

Preventive steps you can take.

Rinse out with water afterward.

If you must drink an acidic beverage while wearing your aligners (soda would be a common concern), 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.

Remember, the level of damage that occurs is simply cause and effect (higher acid levels + longer exposure = more erosion). So the sooner you dilute and/or rinse away the drink's remnants, the better.

Using a straw may help.

When you consume an acidic beverage, your goal should be one of minimizing your mouth's exposure to it, both in terms of duration and concentration. And towards this goal, we can see how using a straw might help.

Especially if positioned toward the rear of your mouth far enough, the straw will help to shunt a great amount of the acidic solution on past your oral cavity. The thought being, the less total volume of acidic drink in your mouth, the less acidic it will become.

Even with the use of a straw there will still be co-mingling of acid with your saliva (just like with our sugar example above). So you'll still need to take your aligners out and rinse both them and your mouth afterward so to remove and dilute all traces of the drink. But overall, it seems that the use of a straw could lessen the full damaging potential of the beverage.


Drinking water when wearing Invisalign® is encouraged.

Sipping cool water while wearing your Invisalign® aligners is OK and, in fact, makes a great idea.

There is no potential for it to stain or warp your aligners. And any water that does seep inside will only help to dilute and flush away bacteria and bacterial byproducts that might cause damage to your teeth or inflame your gums.

You don't have to give up your favorite beverages.

Of course, you can still continue to enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, a soda or even some red wine whenever you want. Just take your aligners out first.

Then, once you're finished, clean your teeth as is appropriate (brush and floss if you've eaten something, and rinse out with water) and then reinsert your appliances.

 

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