After Invisalign treatment, your smile will definitely be straighter, but you might be wondering if your clear aligners will cause tooth discoloration. In this guide we will explore the causes of tooth discoloration and how Invisalign may affect this process.
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What Causes Tooth Discoloration?
There are a few possible causes. You’re probably familiar with the tooth-staining potential of beverages like coffee or red wine. But a process called demineralization is another common culprit. Demineralizaiton occurs when plaque (a sticky film on our teeth made of bacteria and food particles) eats away at the minerals in your enamel—the shiny, protective layer of your teeth.
Demineralization is an early stage of tooth decay, and can create white or brown spots on your teeth. It can eventually lead to cavities, so it’s important to catch it in the early stages. It’s possible to remineralize your enamel, but once the enamel is completely worn through, there is no regenerating it.
Can Invisalign Lead to Tooth Discoloration?
Invisalign doesn’t cause tooth discoloration, but it does require you to stay vigilant with your oral hygiene. If you don’t keep good oral hygiene during Invisalign treatment, plaque can accumulate under your aligners and potentially lead to tooth discoloration.
The good news is that much of your oral health is determined by your own choices. If you decide to prioritize your oral health during treatment, it’s unlikely you’ll have any tooth discoloration.
How Can I Prevent Discoloration From Invisalign?
We’ve covered how discoloration can occur, but how can we prevent it? Here are some tips on avoiding demineralization and staining during your treatment.
Maintain Great Oral Hygiene
Your best defense against tooth demineralization is a great oral hygiene routine. Invisalign aligners are removable, which makes it easier to keep your teeth clean than treatments that are physically attached, like braces. You’ll need to brush and floss after every meal before putting your aligners back in.
Your saliva helps keep your teeth clean by washing away plaque. But your Invisalign clear aligners are designed to fit snugly around your teeth, preventing saliva from performing this important job. If you don’t brush and floss before putting your aligners in, your teeth will be trapped with all of your food’s acids and bacteria without any intervention from saliva.
Your oral hygiene routine with Invisalign will closely resemble the one you probably already have—just done more frequently.
Make Dietary Changes
Diet has a huge impact on your oral health. You’ve probably heard dentists air their grievances about sugar, but do you know why? When we eat sugars, they turn into acids that wear through our enamel. The more sugar you eat, the more difficult it is for saliva to keep your mouth clean.
For this reason, avoiding foods with added sugar during your Invisalign treatment can help prevent plaque buildup.
There are certain foods you’ll want to avoid, but also foods you’ll want to include in your diet during Invisalign treatment. Whole, plant foods are your best bet for good oral health. Their high fiber content requires more chewing than processed foods, increasing saliva production, which will help keep your mouth clean.
Know Which Foods Will Stain
If you’re concerned with external stains on your teeth, you’ll want to avoid dark, acidic foods and beverages. It isn’t as simple as healthy foods versus unhealthy foods. Berries are incredibly healthy, but they tend to stain teeth.
And keep nutrition in mind as you’re deciding which foods and drinks to eliminate. Though soda and tea both stain your teeth, if you only give up one, let it be soda so you can avoid the high added sugar content.
Make Regular Dentist Appointments
Regular dentist appointments are an important part of your overall oral health. These deep cleanings can help get rid of plaque that you can’t reach on your own. When plaque sits on your teeth too long, it can harden into tartar, which is more challenging to remove with a toothbrush.
Dental appointments are also important because of oversight. Your dentist will be able to notice enamel wear before it escalates into other more severe problems and detect tooth decay before there is any visible discoloration on your teeth.
There are a number of compelling reasons to quit smoking. It can harden the plaque on your teeth, creating tartar, which acts as a protective shield over the bacteria, giving it ample opportunity to wear through your enamel.
Smoking cigarettes can also turn your teeth yellow as tar and nicotine stain your enamel. If tooth discoloration is something you’d like to avoid, quitting smoking is a great place to start.
Beyond cosmetic problems, smoking can also increase the chances you’ll get periodontal (gum) disease.
How Do I Fix Discoloration After Invisalign Treatment?
If you catch demineralization before it has fully worn through your enamel, you can reverse the process. Since demineralization means removing minerals from your enamel, remineralization is the process of adding them back. You can remineralize your teeth in a number of ways, but sometimes just getting back to excellent oral hygiene is enough to reduce the spots on your teeth.
You can also get fluoride treatments from your dentist. Fluoride helps keep our enamel strong by giving it the minerals it needs. This is why dentists recommend fluoride toothpaste both during and after orthodontic treatment.
If you have some external stains on your teeth, talk to your dentist about whitening options. You should also check with your dentist about any additional remineralization treatments that may be appropriate for you post Invisalign treatment.
Do All Teeth Straightening Options Present This Risk?
No orthodontic treatment causes tooth discoloration, but some make it harder to prevent than others. All teeth straightening options require you to maintain excellent oral hygiene. Since Invisalign’s aligners are removable, it’s easier to keep up your routine than with other teeth straightening options.
Traditional braces make it more challenging to keep plaque off your teeth. The brackets attached to your teeth create hiding places for plaque, and the wires complicate flossing. This doesn’t make tooth discoloration inevitable, but it means you’ll need to commit more time to your oral hygiene routine.
Braces present opportunities for other tooth discoloration as well. Since the brackets are attached to your teeth, any stains during treatment will only affect the exposed parts. This can cause a contrast on your tooth when you get your braces removed.
Ceramic braces are lighter in color so they can blend in with your teeth. However, that lighter color means they can stain easier too, so you’ll need to be extra cautious about what you eat and drink.
Lingual braces are attached to the back of your teeth. It can be harder to brush and floss when brackets and wires are out of sight, so this option requires a big commitment to oral health. Even if demineralization happens on the backs of your teeth, it can still lead to more severe tooth decay.
At-home clear aligners provide treatment similar to Invisalign from the comfort of your own home, and require the same oral hygiene diligence. However, most at-home clear aligner providers offer a nighttime-only treatment plan, requiring only 8-10 hours of wear a day. This means your brushing and flossing responsibilities are less intense during the day.
Invisalign will not cause tooth discoloration. However, if you don’t maintain excellent oral hygiene during your treatment, plaque can wear down your enamel, potentially leading to discoloration. If that worries you, take comfort in the fact that you have a great deal of control over this situation. If you take great care of your teeth, you’ll likely avoid discoloration, or at least you’ll catch it in its early stages.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I whiten my teeth before Invisalign treatment?
Dentists typically advise against whitening your teeth before Invisalign treatment. Whitening before treatment will exclude the surfaces that are crowded together. After treatment, when these parts of your teeth are revealed, the whitening may appear uneven.
Are there faster ways to straighten my teeth with clear aligners?
Yes: at-home clear aligners. Since home aligners typically treat milder cases of misalignment than Invisalign, their treatment times are often shorter. The average treatment time for at-home clear aligners is 6 months, compared to Invisalign’s 18-month average timeline.
What is the difference between stained teeth and demineralized teeth?
External stains from coffee or red wine are usually easily remedied with whitening. Discoloration due to demineralization is a little more complicated. Demineralization occurs from plaque eating away at the minerals in your enamel. This is an early stage of tooth decay, and it can be reversed if caught in time. If caught too late, plaque can completely wear through the enamel as tooth decay progresses.
Does demineralization lead to cavities?
Demineralization is a part of the tooth decay process, which can lead to cavities if left untreated.
Which is worse for tooth discoloration: soda or black coffee?
Black coffee merely stains teeth, which a whitening treatment can fix. Soda, on the other hand, helps the acids inside plaque eat away at your enamel, potentially causing demineralization and further tooth decay if left untreated.
I am willing to change my diet for my oral health, what should I give up?
Give up processed foods and foods with added sugar. Both of these make it hard for your saliva to keep your teeth clean. A diet of whole plant foods is the best way to ensure good oral health. These fiber-rich foods require more chewing, which produces more saliva. Remember, beyond your own brushing and flossing, saliva is an important component of a clean mouth!
Are my teeth more likely to be discolored by Invisalign or braces?
Most people find it easier to stay on top of their oral health with clear aligners than braces. Braces require a great deal of patience and added care, since you’ll need to thread your floss between the wire for each individual tooth. You’ll also need to learn to brush in a new way to keep the brackets clean.
How soon can I whiten my teeth after Invisalign treatment?
This is something to ask your dentist or orthodontist. It’s likely you’ll be able to start whitening right away, but they’ll need to ensure your overall health before giving you the green light.
Can I drink tea and coffee while wearing my aligners?
You can only drink water while wearing clear aligners. Hot coffee or tea can warp the aligner plastic. This would mean you’d need to get replacement aligners, which cost more money and time.