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How To Clean Whitening Trays: Dos & Don'ts

Your teeth whitening trays are not one time use because they are reusable. That means in order to keep them working well you should know how to clean them so that they last as long as possible. The good news is that the cleaning process is simple and short.


customized teeth whitening trays
customized teeth whitening trays

Table of Contents:



Cleaning instructions

Cleaning and taking care of your bleaching trays is a simple process that takes a minute to do.



How to clean teeth whitening trays:

  1. Remove trays from your mouth.

  2. Rinse them out with cool water (not hot water).

  3. Brush the inside and outside of trays with a wet toothbrush.

  4. You may use a little bit of dish soap.

  5. Rinse out the trays very well.

  6. Place trays back into case with the lid OPEN.


An alternative way to clean the trays would be using a retainers or clear aligners cleansing tablet. These come in a tablet form where you soak the trays in water for a stated duration of time. It has some bubbling or effervescence effect which helps to clean it.


trays in container for soaking

How often should I clean it?

You should be cleaning your whitening trays after every use. The entire process should take no more than a minute to do so you don't have an excuse not to do it.


You don't have to use soap everyday but you should strive to do so at least 2-3x a week. The soap is very effective for removing calcium build up that may form on the tray.


lower whitening trays

What about disinfecting the trays?

A combination of brushing with soap and using the effervescent tablets should be sufficient in disinfecting your bleaching trays.


They shouldn't be getting that dirty in the first place because you're supposed to brush and floss prior to whitening your teeth. Essentially the only materials which touch the trays are the peroxide gel and your saliva.


take home peroxide whitening gel by kor

As an interesting fact, we hope you realize that the whitening gel is extremely toxic to bacteria. The hydrogen peroxide within the gel is significantly more potent than that little brown bottle found at pharmacy stores which you use to disinfect wounds.


3% hydrogen peroxide

Dare we say that the whitening trays practically "clean themselves". Honestly, we're not sure how any bacteria can survive through the bleaching process.


The Dos

Proper care of your teeth whitening trays will extend their longevity, meaning you can continue to reuse them. You may run out of bleaching gel but buying refills is significantly less expensive than having new trays made.


The bulk of the cost is due to the fabrication of the customized trays which only fit your mouth.


Tips for proper care:

  • Store them in their case. The safest place to keep the trays when you're not actively using them is in the case that they came in. We've had instances where our patients had their trays chewed up by their dog or lost.

  • Clean them regularly. Keeping them clean prevent them from becoming covered in plaque and tartar. Yes, calcium build up can form and develop on trays, similar to how dentures get them.

  • Keep them away from humid areas. Storing the trays in the bathroom isn't the best idea. There tends to be a lot of humidity which encourages bacterial or fungal growth.


whitening trays in their case

Good maintenance practices will allow you to keep reusing the trays but there is an exception you need to watch out for. If your teeth happen to shift for whatever reason, they will most likely not fit anymore. Of course this isn't something that you have control over.


The Don'ts

Whitening trays should last for a long time when taken care of properly but improper care can shorten its lifespan by damaging them.


whitening trays stored in open air case
stored in open air case

Wrong ways to clean whitening trays:

  • Using a dishwasher. Please do NOT put your precious bleaching trays for your teeth into the dishwasher. While it does have soap and will clean them, it will also melt them due to the hot water. Therefore you may end up with clean but melted trays.

  • Brushing with toothpaste. We recommend against cleaning the trays with toothpaste because it can be abrasive. Most of these dentifrices contain abrasives which helps remove extrinsic stains. Unfortunately your trays are too delicate for it. The toothpaste abrasives can scratch up the trays which can harbor bacterial growth in it.

  • Storing wet trays in a closed lid. Most tray cases do have air holes in them like in the images below. However, the safest thing to do is to leave the case open for the trays to air dry. Closing the lid can create a lot of humidity which encourages fungal or bacterial growth.


closed case with whitening trays
closed case with whitening trays

All of the above cleaning methods can potentially ruin your bleaching trays to the point where they become unusable. If that happens you will need to have a new pair made by your dentist which will be an additional cost which you could have avoided.


Takeaway

All you really need to clean your whitening trays is just cool water and a wet toothbrush. Although it is beneficial to brush them with some dish soap and soak them in a cleansing tablet every once in awhile.


Taking proper care of them will permit them to be reused and that can bring down the total cost of whitening treatments. You can purchase professional strength refills from your dentist at a fraction of the initial cost.


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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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