How Can I Clean My Son’s Crusty Invisalign Tray?

I’m a little horrified about the condition I just found my son’s Invisalign aligners in. I thought for sure he was cleaning them like he was supposed to be. They don’t look bad when he wears them and I haven’t noticed any smells or anything. However, we went out to the mall today and had a snack at the food court. He took out his Invisalign aligners and they’re totally caked in white crud. I don’t even know how to explain it. I’ve never seen anything like it. Is this normal? How can I go about cleaning them? To be clear, this is not normal everyday food stuff that will just wash off. It really is hard and crusty- totally glued onto the aligners. I’m afraid I’ll damage them if I start scrubbing. What I’d really like to do is to take a Brillo pad to them, but I didn’t want to do that without confirming it was ok.



Dear Delilah,

Generally speaking, no, that’s not “normal,” but it’s not a major cause for concern either. It sounds like what you’re looking at is mineral deposits. Just like you’ll wind up with them on the faucets and such around your home, and even your dishes will grow cloudy over time, hard water can make dental appliances start to look grungy after a while.

This isn’t seen with Invisalign trays too much because they get changed out so frequently. Most of the time, they don’t have the time to build up anything before the person moves on to the next round. So, it’s worthwhile finding out how long your son has been wearing his aligners and if he has been changing them out like he’s supposed to.

When it gets this bad, regular brushing won’t remove the gunk and using abrasive things like Brillo pads can put micro-scratches on the plastic, which will attract stains and give bacteria places to thrive. What you really want to do is to loosen the crust up or dissolve it away as gently as possible. Regular white vinegar from the grocery store is acidic enough to remove the hard water residue, but be mindful with how you use it. Do a 50/50 mix with some warm water and allow the aligners to soak for about 30 minutes before you brush them. If that doesn’t get them all the way clean, you can soak them for a little while longer or repeat it another day. You’ll want to stow this tip away for when he has a retainer, too. If he’s getting buildup now, the water will probably cause issues with his retainer later as well, but vinegar should be safe to use on anything.

This blog is sponsored byElgin dentist, Dr. Steve Sirin.

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