When you finish braces or Invisalign treatment, you’ll be a lot less susceptible to bad breath, technically called halitosis, because straight teeth are easier to clean. But, while you’re in treatment, it’s a different story since orthodontic appliances create more hiding places for bacteria and food.
The good news is, with a few simple steps, you can avoid it and keep your mouth smelling fresh as your teeth shift into place.
In this post, I’ll be covering everything you need to know on the subject and sharing tips for getting rid of bad breath with Invisalign or braces.
Do Braces Cause Bad Breath?
The bacteria in your mouth, not your braces, cause bad breath. Your braces themselves don’t smell bad.
That said, having braces makes you more prone to the issue. When food debris gets trapped in your brackets and wires, oral bacteria feed on it and multiply, creating a less-than-pleasant smell. If the food stuck in your braces is pungent (i.e., garlic, onions, etc.), that won’t help matters either.
The bacteria also mix with food, saliva and acids to form plaque, a sticky bacterial film. Plaque often builds up around your brackets, and if it’s not brushed away, it will lead to a bad odor.
Plaque buildup increases your risk of cavities and gingivitis too, both of which are common causes of halitosis, regardless of whether you have braces or not.
The bottom line: If you don’t brush your teeth after eating and maintain excellent oral hygiene throughout your treatment, you’ll likely experience bad breath with braces.
What’s Causing Bad Breath With Invisalign?
Clear aligners are removable and you take them out to eat and brush your teeth, so you shouldn’t have bad breath with Invisalign, right? Well, the smelly bacteria and plaque that can cling to braces brackets, also adhere to your aligners while you’re wearing them. Unless they’re regularly cleaned, your aligners – and your breath – will smell.
If you eat or drink with Invisalign aligners in your mouth or you put your aligners back in after eating without cleaning your teeth first, food, liquid and bacteria will get trapped between the plastic and your teeth. As these odor-causing bacteria feed on the food and form plaque under your aligners, you’ll end up with bad breath and, again, increase your risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease.
Lastly, another cause of Invisalign bad breath is dry mouth. Some patients find they have dry mouth with Invisalign when they first start treatment. Saliva is essential for washing away the funky stuff and neutralizing odor-causing bacteria, which is why dry mouth is a culprit behind halitosis.
How to Get Rid of Bad Breath With Braces or Invisalign
- Become a Brushing Pro (And Brush After Meals and Snacks)
Brush your teeth for two full minutes in the morning, after meals and snacks, and before bed using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Brush around your braces and all surfaces of your teeth, giving every tooth attention. Brush your tongue too since it can harbor debris and bacteria.
The same holds true with Invisalign. You’ll want your teeth to be clean before you put your aligners back in. This will prevent food from getting stuck under your aligners.
So, brush your teeth and rinse your aligners off after meals, snacks and beverages. If you have Invisalign attachments, clean around them carefully to remove food and plaque.
Regardless of which appliance you have, if you’re out and about and forget your toothbrush, rinse your mouth out really well with water after eating and brush your teeth when you get home.
- Floss Your Teeth Every Day
Flossing once a day banishes food and plaque in between your teeth and around your gumline. Invisalign patients will floss as they normally do.
Flossing with braces takes a little extra effort, however. In order to get under the wire and in between your teeth, you’ll need to use a floss threader, a product like SuperFloss or a special orthodontic flosser.
Once the floss is in between any two teeth, floss up and down the side of one tooth, getting under the gumline, and then up and down the side of the other tooth. Floss between all of your teeth, as well as around your back molars.
- Add Mouthwash to the Mix
Swish with mouthwash after flossing and brushing. The best mouthwash for braces and Invisalign wearers is an antibacterial and/or fluoride formula. This will zap any lingering bacteria and help remove food and plaque you may have missed.
- Clean the Tight Spaces With an Interproximal Brush
It can be hard to clean around your braces brackets with a regular toothbrush, which means food and plaque can remain there. If you’ve been dealing with halitosis, or even if you haven’t, use an interproximal brush to get the nooks and crannies around your appliance really clean. The small, flexible tool is also helpful for dislodging any food that gets stuck in your braces.
- Use a Waterpik for Extra Cleaning Power
Though a Waterpik for braces isn’t mandatory, if it’s in your budget, it’s effective at rinsing away bacteria in between the teeth and your brackets, as well as for stimulating and cleaning your gums.
You will want to use a Waterpik, or water flosser, in addition to flossing with dental floss, but many of my Oak Ridge and Wayne braces patients find the added step well worth it.
While Invisalign doesn’t have hardware that’s difficult to clean, I’d still recommend incorporating a water flosser into your daily oral hygiene routine if you’re suffering from halitosis. You’ll achieve a next level clean and potentially get rid of more plaque, improving your oral health and your breath.
- Be Mindful of What You Eat
If your breath is a concern, enjoy foods with strong odors like garlic and onions in moderation. And, since oral bacteria feed on sugars and starches, limit the amount of sugar and simple carbohydrates you consume.
Instead, focus on eating a well-rounded diet with lean protein, fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, dairy (or dairy alternatives) and complex carbohydrates.
- Speaking of Food, Take Your Invisalign Aligners Out Before Eating and Drinking
When it comes to how to prevent bad breath with Invisalign, the simplest thing you can do, aside from practicing excellent oral hygiene, is to take your aligners out of your mouth before eating or drinking anything except water.
When you’re in a rush, it can be tempting to sneak in a sip or bite with your aligners in. But, as noted earlier, this often causes food and liquid to get trapped under your aligners. With something to feast on, bad breath bacteria will multiply.
- Clean Your Invisalign Trays Regularly
Cleaning your Invisalign aligners in the morning and before bed will stop them from smelling and keep them looking nice and clear.
Here’s how to clean Invisalign trays if you’ve been experiencing halitosis:
- Rinse your aligners with lukewarm (not hot) water.
- Lather them up with a mild, odorless, antibacterial dish soap.
- You can gently brush the aligners with a soft-bristled toothbrush to get rid of any stubborn plaque and saliva.
- Rinse them off again with lukewarm water.
While you can clean your Invisalign with just a toothbrush and water, using antibacterial soap will ensure they’re free of bad-smelling bacteria.
- Stay Hydrated
Dry mouth inevitably causes bad breath. The reasoning? Saliva is necessary for cleaning any food and germs clinging to your teeth and for neutralizing odor-causing bacteria.
Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help rinse away food bits and bacteria and ward off dry mouth by getting your saliva flowing.
- Continue Seeing Your General Dentist During Orthodontic Treatment
When you’re straightening your teeth with braces or Invisalign, you’ll continue to see your general dentist for an exam and cleaning every six months (or more often if they recommend).
During a professional dental cleaning, the hygienist uses special tools to remove hardened plaque (tartar) that you can’t get rid of at home. Regular exams ensure your dentist can catch and treat little problems, including those behind bad breath like gum disease and tooth decay, before they become big problems.
Your dentist will also let you know if there are areas of your oral hygiene routine you should improve and provide you with homecare recommendations. If you’re experiencing bad breath, let your dentist know, so they can pinpoint the cause and treat it.
- Have a Sugarless Xylitol Mint When You’re in a Pinch
Knowing how to prevent bad breath with Invisalign or braces and dealing with the underlying cause is always better than covering up the odor. However, if you happen to eat something heavy on the garlic and your breath isn’t smelling great, suck on a sugarless mint with xylitol.
A mint with sugar will temporarily freshen breath but, ultimately, make it worse by feeding odor-causing bacteria. Xylitol, on the other hand, is a sugar substitute thought to help prevent cavities and kill the bacteria that cause bad breath.
If you’re one of my Oak Ridge or Wayne, NJ Invisalign patients, you might want to give a product like Movemints® a try. These xylitol mints not only freshen breath and fight Invisalign dry mouth, they also help seat your aligners for a better fit.
Reach Out to an Oak Ridge and Wayne Orthodontist
Still have bad breath with Invisalign or braces after trying these tips? Book a visit at Smile Experience Orthodontics in Oak Ridge or Wayne, NJ. My team and I will help determine what’s causing your bad breath and work out a plan to address it.
Not a patient yet? Let’s change that! Schedule a complimentary consultation to learn about your teeth-straightening options.