Smoking with Aligners? Here’s What You Should Know.
Considering the average daily wear-time for clear aligners is 20-22 hrs, we know that there are folks who smoke, and do so with their clear aligners in. That being said, it’s important to also note how smoking can put them not only at risk for cavities, but it also stains their aligners! It can also be somewhat embarrassing to walk around with brown or yellow stained aligners for the next 7 days!
Here are some suggestions I have given patients in the past for preserving their aligners & preventing stains:
Since clear aligners are worn for an average of 20-22 hours per day, it's no surprise that some people smoke with them in. However, smoking can stain aligners and put you at risk for cavities.
In order to prevent yellowing of your aligners and your teeth, the best tip I have is to remove your aligners when you smoke. It’s annoying and low-key laborious, I know. When you smoke with clear aligners in, the smoke coming in and out of your mouth can get stuck in between your teeth and aligners, causing the staining.
The hard truth is that the ingredients involved in smoking cigarettes or vapes, such as tobacco, tar, and nicotine, inevitably cause staining (similar to highly pigmented foods like wine, coffee, tea, mustard, curry, etc.). Tar and nicotine can get trapped in the tray and it basically becomes a staining tray!
On the upside, I have heard that this can be mitigated by using e-cigarettes. Although the nicotine still present in e-cigarettes can cause staining, cigarettes tend to have both tar and nicotine. Both stain, but in theory, one stains your teeth less.
In addition to staining, smoking can also increase your risk of cavities. The reason being there is a considerable risk of tiny bits of tar and tobacco getting trapped between the teeth and aligners, which serves as breeding ground for cavities.
To prevent cavities (and staining), as mentioned earlier, it's best to remove your aligners when you smoke, and to brush your teeth after a smoke break. If brushing is too big of an ask, I’ve recommended patients do a quick floss to remove any residual tar or tobacco, swish vigorously with water, and then "wipe" their teeth with a napkin. The goal is to get your teeth as clean as possible before putting your aligners back in.
Lastly, I always recommended that patients be diligent about cleaning their aligners. This can be made more convenient with cleansing tablets, but it’s important in general to mitigate staining from the tar and nicotine. Daily cleaning will prevent heavy accumulation of residual smoking stains on your aligner trays; realistically, it won’t remove or prevent discoloration entirely.
Here are some additional tips to help you stay on track:
See your orthodontist/dentist regularly for check-ups
Hopefully this post provided a little bit more information behind the precautions you should take if you choose to smoke with your clear aligners in.
Best of luck with your clear aligner journey!