At Designer Smiles, we have been creating beautiful smiles with Invisalign for over a decade. Using clear aligners to straighten the teeth provides an attractive alternative to the unsightly metal brackets and wires of traditional orthodontics. The benefits of straight teeth are not simply cosmetic. Straight teeth have a lower risk of cavities and gum disease than crooked teeth, so straightening your teeth improves your oral health!
On average, most Invisalign treatment for adults takes between twelve to eighteen months. So what is life in aligners like during that year to year and a half period?
Aligners and Eating
When you are wearing Invisalign aligners, you remove them for meals and any other snacking throughout the day. This is why keeping the aligner case on you is so important. Countless people have lost aligners by wrapping them up in a napkin at a restaurant and forgetting them on the table. Another common problem is placing them into a pocket or purse without the protective hard case, which puts them at risk for breaking. If the aligners are not in your mouth, they should be in a hard case.
Before placing the aligners back into your mouth, you should remove as much food debris from the teeth as possible. If you can, brush and floss before reinserting the aligners. If you cannot, a thorough swishing with water will suffice until you get to a point where you can brush and floss.
In some cases, your dentist will recommend that you actually leave the aligners on your teeth while eating. This is because the chewing forces can actually aid in moving the teeth. If Dr. Ann or Dr. Lauren instructs you to do this, make sure to remove them, cleaning both the aligners and your mouth, after you eat. And only do this if instructed.
Aligners and Drinking
In general, the only thing you can safely drink while your aligners are in place is water. Because almost every other beverage option either contains sugar or an acidic pH, it is not safe to drink them with the aligners on your teeth. The nature of liquid allows it to seep underneath the aligner, contacting the teeth. By wearing your aligners while drinking, you essentially trap that liquid against your teeth. If the drink is either sugary or acidic, it can increase your risk for cavities.
Another important factor to consider in the choice to drink while your aligners are in place is the ability of the beverage to stain the plastic aligners. Patients who drink coffee, tea, dark soda, or red wine with the aligners in place end up with dingy, darkened aligners. This means they are no longer “invisible” and actually make your teeth look worse!
Stick to water only (not even sparkling water is okay!), and you will keep both your teeth and your aligners in tiptop shape.
Aligners and Oral Hygiene
Perhaps the biggest health benefit of aligners over traditional orthodontics is the ability to remove them to clean your teeth. Braces have a plethora of hiding spots for plaque and bacteria that are almost impossible to clean. Because aligners are removable, you can brush and floss normally.
The risk for cavities and gum disease with aligners is less than that with traditional braces, but it is still slightly higher than without aligners at all. This is because aligners block the teeth from the health benefits of constant bathing with saliva. For this reason, oral hygiene becomes even more important while you are straightening your teeth.
At night, make sure you brush properly and floss so that your aligners are not trapping any food debris or plaque against the teeth. Cleaning your teeth as thoroughly as possible after every meal is also important to keeping your teeth healthy during the straightening process.
Aligners and Speech
The aligners are made from the thinnest possible material that can still affect tooth movement. Even as thin as it is, the plastic material can cause some people to experience changes in their speech. These changes are temporary in the vast majority of cases. It is important to take the time to “train” your lips, cheeks and tongue to talking with the aligners in place.
The easiest way to do this is to talk as much as possible. Talk to yourself while you are home alone, have a conversation with your podcast, and talk to the radio in the car. The more you practice speaking with the aligners in your mouth, the less noticeable any speech changes will become. The worst thing you can do is remove the aligners anytime you have to talk to someone. This only prolongs the speech changes.
Aligners and Dental Visits
While you are undergoing teeth straightening with Invisalign, you will have consistent evaluations scheduled with Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren. These “Invisalign Checks” are relatively quick visits during which we confirm the proper fit of your current aligner and the correct movement of the teeth. These evaluations are an important part of your teeth straightening process. They allow your dentist to closely monitor your progress and catch any areas of concern as early as possible.
In general, we see each Invisalign patient every six weeks, but we never take a one-size-fits-all approach. Dr. Ann and Dr. Lauren customize each patient’s treatment plan to his or her specific needs, so your interval between visits may be shorter or longer.
Helpful Hints for Life with Aligners
Over our many years of helping people achieve their dream smile with Invisalign, we learned many valuable tips to achieving the best results with aligners.
- Aligners only work to move the teeth when they are on the teeth. Accurate, predictable tooth movement occurs when you wear your aligners diligently for a minimum of 22 hours each day. Wear your investment!
- We offer a tool called Munchies to help the aligners work. These are small rubbery pieces that you chew on to stimulate and accelerate movement. Use them for at least 10 minutes each day!
- Always keep your aligners in a hard case when they are not in your mouth. Dogs love aligners, and they make a very expensive chew toy.
- You can clean your aligners by brushing them first in your mouth, and then removing them to brush the inside surface. Soak them in a 50:50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water for 15-20 minutes, or use a great produce called Eversmile Foam (available over the counter or in our office) to freshen aligners.
- Remember, each aligner usually only needs to last for about two weeks, so you do not need to worry about difficult to clean stains. You should simply consider what you can do on your net aligner to reduce the staining (i.e. cut out dark beverages).
- Assign your cases for specific aligners. Keep your current aligner in the blue case and the most recent aligner in the red case.
- You only need to keep one set of aligners as a backup. There is no need to keep your entire set of aligners. Just hang on to the set you finished most recently. If something happens to your current aligner, wear the last set and call our office immediately for a replacement.
- Take Tylenol only for any pain or discomfort while straightening your teeth. Advil (or Motrin) are not good because they can interfere with the actual tooth movement.
- If you see any air gaps or distortions in your aligners, call us right away. This means the aligners are not “tracking” and therefore not applying the correct forces for movement. Don’t simply keep wearing them. This is a situation that requires intervention by the dentist.
More Questions about Life in Aligners?
Call Designer Smiles today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ann and Dr Lauren. They have both worn aligners themselves and know exactly what you are experiencing! To see a patient testimonial about her own Invisalign journey with Designer smiles, click here.