Invisalign is a great way to address alignment and crowing issues with your teeth. But many patients want to brighten their smiles at the same time. So is it safe to use whitening strips with Invisalign?
You can use whitening strips with Invisalign, but there are risks. It’s best not to do so because your teeth won’t evenly whiten since they’ll move throughout your Invisalign treatment. Also, if your aligners have SmartForce attachments, the buttons will get in the way, causing uneven whitening.
Keep reading to learn how whitening strips interact with Invisalign trays. You’ll also learn about other options you can explore to whiten your teeth during treatment.
How Invisalign and Whitening Strips Work
Before examining how whitening strips and Invisalign work together, we must understand how they function individually.
According to Healthline, Invisalign is part of the “aligner” family of orthodontic treatments. Aligners work similarly to braces by correcting alignment issues like gaps and crowding. The advantage to Invisalign, however, is that they’re less invasive and harder for others to see.
Invisalign aligners are custom-made from flexible plastic to fit your teeth. These unique fixtures slide over your teeth. They come in pairs—one for your top teeth and another for the bottom. They realign your teeth by applying small amounts of pressure over time.
Your orthodontist will fit you with a new set of aligners every few weeks. The overall length of time needed for an Invisalign treatment depends on the severity of the problem you’re trying to correct—Dentaly.org estimates between three months and two years.
Whitening strips also work by covering your teeth. Humana describes whitening strips as a “thin, elastic type of plastic” coated in peroxide. When applied to your teeth, they go to work bleaching your teeth.
Much like aligners, whitening strips cover your teeth. Ideally, they’ll help brighten the enamel they come in contact with by reducing the appearance of stains. How long one should wear the strips varies between brands. For example, Crest recommends wearing their 3DWhitestrips for 30 minutes a day for 14 days.
It’s Best To Use Whitening Strips Without Invisalign Aligners
Whitening strips are an attractive solution if you want to whiten your teeth at any time during your Invisalign treatment. You can purchase them without a prescription, and they’re generally inexpensive, though some brands command a higher price. Just make sure your orthodontist doesn’t have any objections or concerns first.
To use whitening strips during your Invisalign treatment, apply them only when you aren’t wearing the aligners. Typically, you’ll remove your aligners for up to four hours a day, every day. Then, follow the directions included with your whitening strips and remove them before putting your aligners back in. There is no need to wear strips and aligners at the same time.
Invisalign Aligners Can Cause Whitening Strips To Move
Both cover your teeth, but only the strips need to come into direct contact with enamel to work. So it only makes sense to wear your whitening strips under your aligners, right?
If Invisalign trays were single components, that might be true. However, to better control the movement of your teeth as they realign, Invisalign treatments use SmartForce attachments. As outlined on Invisalign’s website, these are small buttons or studs placed on the face of specific teeth, secured with a cement bond.
Only severe circumstances warrant using SmartForce attachments, so your treatment may not need them. If you’re required to use them, however, whitening strips won’t be able to make complete surface contact because of these buttons.
Even if you don’t have attachments, using whitening strips while wearing Invisalign trays isn’t recommended. The pressure from the aligners may cause the strips to move after application. When this happens, it leaves enamel exposed, risking discoloration.
Whitening Solutions With Invisalign
More practical solutions are available if you don’t want to risk uneven whitening with strips during your Invisalign treatment. As always, discuss your options with your orthodontist first.
Use Whitening Toothpaste and Mouthwash
Your oral hygiene routine doesn’t change just because you’re wearing aligners. Switching your everyday tooth care products to those formulated with whitening power is an excellent substitute for over-the-counter whitening strips.
In addition, as Modern Dental Health Hygiene points out, aligners may increase the effectiveness of whitening toothpaste and mouthwash by keeping them in contact with your teeth. It’s also the least expensive of whitening solutions.
Consider the Invisalign Professional Whitening System
If you’re unfamiliar with whitening gel, it’s a cleaning agent applied inside teeth trays or retainers. Invisalign users will sometimes use gel with their aligners because they function similarly to trays by both spreading the gel and holding it against youth teeth.
However, using whitening gels with your aligners isn’t recommended. Chemical reactions can cause the aligners to become discolored, ruining their near-invisible appearance. Of course, discoloration won’t be noticeable if your clinic changes your trays each week—some clinics let you change your trays weekly, while others don’t.
As an alternative, the makers of Invisalign have produced a whitening kit available through orthodontists. It works like whitening gel but without any negative interactions with the aligner.
Use the Invisalign Teeth Whitening Pen
The last option—recommended by Invisalign—is the whitening pen. This pen applies a cleaning agent directly to your teeth. After it dries (around fifteen minutes), you reapply your aligners. The Invisalign Teeth Whitening Pen is available through Amazon.com. Since this pen is gentle, you can use it up to four times a day.
Please note that none of these whiteners work well if you have Invisalign accessories. As with strips, the accessories will prevent full coverage. Additionally, whiteners can weaken the cement bond between the accessories and your teeth.
What Is the Risk of Using Whitening Products With Invisalign?
There are risks to using whitening products with Invisalign—even if you don’t have SmartForce attachments.
Teeth discoloration is the risk of using whitening products with Invisalign. Invisalign trays move your teeth, exposing new surface areas that didn’t come into contact with whiteners previously. Such can leave teeth looking spotty.
Even if you apply whiteners throughout your treatment, some areas will appear duller than others because they received less exposure. That’s why the best time to use whiteners is before you begin Invisalign or after you’ve finished. If you can’t wait, however, your orthodontist may recommend starting a whitening routine before your Invisalign treatment ends.
Will Invisalign Stain My Teeth?
A common concern new patients have is if their Invisalign treatment will worsen the appearance of stains if they don’t undergo a whitening routine while wearing the trays. However, this fear is misplaced.
Invisalign won’t stain your teeth. While uneven whitening can make stains more prominent, the Invisalign components themselves won’t discolor your teeth.
The misconception likely comes from patients not keeping their aligners clean. Dental Health Society explains failing to remove your aligners before you eat or drink can lead to dark stains on their surface. In addition, since Invisalign trays are nearly invisible, it can look like the teeth beneath are dirty.
The trays’ insides need regular cleaning, too. Even a tiny amount of bacteria in your aligners can cause extensive harm to your teeth.
Another common issue is patients not cleaning their teeth properly during
treatment. As GQ explains, wearers should thoroughly brush their teeth whenever they remove their aligners. Any food left stuck between teeth will essentially be trapped when you wear your trays again.
The design of your Invisalign trays will render whitening strips ineffective by limiting the amount of contact they make with your teeth. Additionally, Invisalign treatments will realign your teeth, exposing once-hidden surfaces, leading to an uneven whitening treatment.
Given how long it can take to complete Invisalign, waiting until you’ve completed treatment might be the best option. But if you’re uncomfortable with waiting, your orthodontist can make the best recommendations for you.