Can You Eat with a Teeth Aligner In? Impact & Tips

Clinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
Last Modified:

Table of Contents

  1. What to Do With Your Aligner When You Eat
  2. What Happens If I Eat with It In?
  3. Will It Affect the Straightening Process?
  4. Which Foods & Drinks are the Worst
  5. Is Alcohol Bad?
  6. Frequently Asked Questions
  7. References

Clear aligners have grown in popularity in recent years, particularly among adults looking for minor dental improvements. Designed to straighten teeth and correct your bite for a better smile, most aligners on the market today are clear and nearly invisible to the naked eye.

For adults, clear aligners are particularly attractive since they don’t carry the potential social stigma of more visible braces. Aligners do require a certain amount of care however, leaving many people wondering what they can eat or drink.

Use this guide to learn more about eating with an aligner in and why it should be avoided. You’ll also pick up some basic tips you can use like what to do with your aligner while you’re enjoying a snack or meal.

what to do with your aligner when you eat

What to Do with Your Aligner When You Eat

Eating with your aligner in your mouth is generally considered a no-no. While many people risk it for a quick snack or sip of coffee, it’s not recommended for a variety of reasons.

Most aligners are designed to be worn 20 to 22 hours a day. That means that your aligner is going to be in your mouth almost every second you’re not eating a meal, enjoying a snack or drinking any beverage that isn’t plain water.

That leaves many people, particularly people who enjoy meals in restaurants or need to eat lunch at work, wondering what to do with their aligner. Placing it on a table or tossing it into a bag certainly isn’t a sanitary option.

The ideal choice for storing your aligner while you eat is to put it in the form-fitting case that it came in. It will provide proper protection and keep the aligner clean until you’re ready to wear it again.

Here’s the basic process of taking your aligner out and what to do with your aligner when you eat:

  1. Wash your hands before touching your aligner. Clean hands will keep you from spreading germs to your aligner.

  2. Remove your aligner and rinse it with clean water. Use a cleaner recommended by your orthodontist and a soft-bristled toothbrush before thoroughly drying it.

  3. Store your aligner in its case. This will help protect it.

  4. Place your aligner somewhere out of reach or away from foot traffic. Falls and accidents can damage your aligner.

  5. Wait 30 minutes before brushing and flossing so you can put your aligner back in. You should wash your hands before touching your aligner again as well.

What Happens If I Eat with My Aligner In?

problems eating with your aligner can cause

Eating with your aligner in is never recommended. Even soft foods and sugar-free gum with xylitol, which can help clean your teeth under normal circumstances, can be problematic when you’re wearing an aligner.

You can cause food particles to get trapped, leading to potential tooth decay and cavities. Starch-rich and sugary foods are particularly problematic, but any food stuck between your teeth and your aligner can cause decay to develop.

You also run the risk of staining your aligner.

Aligners are not designed to withstand the bite force your teeth put on them when eating, and doing so can warp your aligner, making it much less effective and jeopardizing its ability to do its job.

Will It Affect the Straightening Process?

While your aligner is not likely to crack or break, damage is a serious issue that could impact your dental treatment. The worst part is that you might not notice warping or minor damage until your orthodontist checks your aligner during a routine appointment.

If you damage your aligner because you choose to eat it with it, it could mean that you have to wear it longer. While aligners are certainly more comfortable than traditional braces, few people would choose to double or triple their time with them!

Will Certain Foods and Drinks Affect It?

No aligner system is designed with eating in mind. That means that anything you choose to eat could cause damage to your aligner or impact your teeth negatively.

Starch-rich foods like potato chips, bread and pasta are particularly problematic, as are sugary foods like cookies, cakes, candy and ice cream. These foods can lead to tooth decay and cavities if they’re trapped between your teeth and aligner for any length of time.

Hard foods like nuts and apples can also warp your aligner due to the bite force required to chew them. The same goes for biting into remnants of hard candy or even cough drops and throat lozenges.

When it comes to beverages, all drinks besides plain water should be avoided. Sugary sodas, juice and sweet coffee and tea drinks are particularly problematic, as are acidic drinks like energy drinks and some sparkling water beverages.

While you can enjoy ice water, it’s important to note that extremely hot and cold beverages can damage your aligner. Dark beverages like coffee and tea – even if you don’t add sugar -- can stain your aligner.

Is Alcohol Bad?

You’re out on the town with friends, and like a good patient, you’re wearing your aligner for the recommended 20 to 22 hours. It’s natural to think that you’re doing your teeth a favor by wearing your aligner in these situations.

Unfortunately, alcohol shouldn’t be consumed with your aligner in.

That’s because alcohol, just like soda or juice, contains sugar. Add in a mixer like tonic water, soda or juice and you’ve got a beverage that’s packed with sugar even if the powerful taste of alcohol might mask it.

Even beer and wine have a considerable amount of sugar, though not necessarily as much as a mixed drink. If you’re wearing your aligner, it’s not the time to sip a cocktail or enjoy a beer.

If you must imbibe, take your aligner out before having a drink, following our best removal practices. Just know that if you’ve taken your aligner out for multiple meals and snacks, you may be getting close to having it out for more than the recommended two to four hours per day.

Teeth Aligner & Eating FAQs

You might break or warp your aligners if you eat while they are still in place. Aligners are not designed to withstand the additional tension or pressure from chewing, so you might break the plastic, warp the mold, or damage the aligner in other ways. You can also get food trapped in the aligner, which puts you at higher risk of plaque buildup and tooth decay.

Even though you only wear each aligner for about two weeks, it is important to keep them in good shape so they can properly align your teeth.

Drinking water with aligners in place is fine, as long as the water is not too hot or cold. Aligners can warp with extreme temperatures, which means they will no longer shift your teeth into proper alignment.

Other beverages, like coffee, tea, red wine, or soda, can stain aligners. Although this does not damage them directly, it will mean your teeth might look stained or dark while you wear the aligner, which can be unpleasant.

Any extreme temperature will warp your aligners. If you drink hot tea or soup, or drink a milkshake or iced coffee, you risk warping your aligners.

You should never chew with aligners in. Always take them out, rinse them off in cool water, and then, enjoy your meal or snack. Before you put your aligners back in, rinse your mouth out or brush your teeth to prevent food particles from being trapped inside the aligner.

No, you should not chew ice with your aligners in. Not only is chewing bad for your aligners, but the cold temperature of ice can damage the aligner further.

Anything that might change the shape of your aligner during the two weeks that you wear it can hinder the process. As a result, you will not get the results you want.

No, you should not chew anything with your aligners in place. Even though some gums are made with alternative sweeteners that might not contribute to cavities as much, the act of chewing can cause damage to the aligner itself. Gum is very sticky, and this might damage the aligner more than eating food.

Be sure to take your aligners out before chewing anything, including gum. While you are being treated with clear plastic aligners, consider avoiding gum. If you need to freshen your breath on the go, choose sugar-free mints instead.

Try to avoid anything that requires chewing while you have your aligners in. Be sure to rinse them off thoroughly when you take them out before you eat. Additionally, brush your teeth before putting them back in.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.