By Dr. Rajwani of University Calgary Dental Choice
Invisalign® clear aligner therapy can be an excellent orthodontic option for patients who want to realign their teeth without using traditional metal braces. If you and your dentist decide Invisalign® is the right option for you, your dentist will help to determine your individualized treatment plan and guide you through the process. To take full advantage of your Invisalign® treatment, it is imperative that you carefully follow the regimen your dentist prescribes. We at Dental Choice also have some tips for how you can minimize issues and maximize results to get the most out of Invisalign®.
Keep Track of Your Invisalign® Schedule
Invisalign® trays are typically changed out every one to two weeks. You should make sure you follow the intervals specified by your treatment plan. Your dentist can determine how often you should change trays to move your teeth at a manageable pace and get you closer to achieving the results you desire. To stick closely to the plan your dentist has laid out, make sure you are aware of what day you should switch to your next set of Invisalign® trays. Write it down in your planner or calendar, or set a reminder on your phone. You can also download a mobile app specifically designed to set reminders for following your Invisalign® treatment plan.
Determine what calendar or reminder system you regularly check to figure out what tracking method will work best for you. If you write it down on a desk calendar that you don’t consistently check, that’s probably not going to be helpful. No matter how you do it, make sure you’re staying on top of your Invisalign® schedule and using new aligners when it’s time. Delaying putting in a new tray won’t necessarily set you back, but it will slow you down and we know you want to achieve results as rapidly as you can. Also, make sure to faithfully attend your follow-up appointments so your dentist can check in with you regarding your progress.
Put in New Aligners at Night
A new set of aligners will put pressure on your teeth that will usually cause some pain or discomfort. This discomfort means Invisalign® is working. The pressure of the trays gradually shifts your teeth. While knowing your aligners are doing their job may bring you some comfort mentally, you will likely still want to minimize the pain. One way to do this is to wait until bedtime on days when you are scheduled to put in a new set of aligners. This allows you to sleep through those first several hours that are typically the most painful. When you wake up, your teeth will likely feel sore, but the worst of it passed while you were dreaming about your new smile. You can take over-the-counter pain medications to help minimize pain throughout the day, particularly during the first few days of a new set of aligners. As with any orthodontic treatment, living with Invisalign® isn’t always comfortable, but it is definitely worth the reward.
Keep Your Aligners in 22 Hours per Day
For Invisalign® aligner trays to work, you have to wear them. This may seem obvious, but there are times when you do have to remove your aligners, including when you eat or clean your teeth. You can also remove your aligners for special occasions where you would prefer to have them off, such as a job interview or a wedding. You should limit these instances, however, since taking your aligners off for more than just practical necessities could cause you to quickly exceed the maximum time you can leave them out each day. Some patients may be tempted to remove their Invisalign® trays too often or for too long because they feel insecure about their appearance. The truth is that it is very unlikely people around you will even notice you’re wearing anything on your teeth since aligners are clear and fit tightly around your teeth. Another common reason for insecurity is that many patients speak with a slight lisp in the early days of treatment. This goes away as you get used to having your aligners in, so frequently removing them is not the answer.
Invisalign® recommends keeping your aligners in for 20 to 22 hours a day, but we urge you to stick as closely to 22 hours as possible. This is especially important for the first two days of a new set of trays. Successful Invisalign® patients track the time they have their aligners out so they can make sure their trays are not out for more than two hours collectively throughout the day. One convenient way to do this is by setting a stopwatch or timer on your phone or watch. Wearing your aligners as much as possible will help you get the most out of your treatment.
Monitor Your Diet
You may not expect one of the tips for Invisalign® to have anything to do with your diet, but the reality is that Invisalign® can affect your diet in a number of ways. For one, when you only have two hours of leeway throughout the day to spend on meals and cleaning your teeth, you may find that you naturally avoid snacking, which could lead to weight loss. You will especially want to avoid snacking since removing your aligners, brushing your teeth, and putting your aligners back in can feel like more time and work than it’s worth for something like a cookie in the afternoon. Some patients refer to this as “the Invisalign® diet.” If you want to lose weight, the Invisalign® diet may help you achieve that goal as a side benefit. However, if you are currently at a healthy weight or are underweight, you may have to take some extra measures to keep weight on. This could include eating more calories at meals or drinking protein shakes periodically. Talk to your general health care provider or nutritionist to determine an effective diet plan.
When it comes to drinking, you should try to drink extra water. This is because your mouth may salivate excessively with aligners in, which could dehydrate you. Since you shouldn’t drink other beverages with your aligners in, you may find yourself drinking more water anyway.
Keep a Retainer Case With You
When you have to take your trays out, you should put them into a retainer case. If instead, you wrap up your trays into a napkin, it is all too easy for them to get accidentally lost or thrown away. A retainer case will keep your Invisalign® aligners safe while you have them out and will ensure that you know right where to find them when it’s time to put them back in. Since you will likely have times when you have to remove your aligners while you are out — whether it be at work or a social gathering — it is smart to have a retainer case on hand, ready to go. You may want to keep it in your briefcase or purse. You may even want to have more than one case so you can keep them where you’ll need them without bringing one back and forth from home to work or other places you go. Consider keeping one at home and one at your desk, for instance.
Hold on to Backup Aligners
You never want to risk being without aligners to wear since your teeth could quickly start to shift back to their previous state. This could happen if your current set of aligners get lost or damaged somehow. It typically takes about a week to get a new replacement set, which is a long time to go without any aligners. To make sure a momentary crisis like this does not allow your teeth to shift back and cause you to lose the valuable progress you’ve made, you should use your previous set of aligners as a backup. This means you need to save your previous set of aligners rather than get rid of them when you start wearing your next set. When you get your replacement set in, you’ll need to restart the planned period for that set and adjust your reminders for when to put in future aligners. A mishap with your aligners could set your treatment plan back by a week, but you could experience much worse if you don’t have your last set of aligners ready just in case.
Keep Your Aligners Clean
Invisalign® clear aligners can lose some of their clarity if they aren’t cleaned properly or are subjected to foods or beverages that can stain them. In addition to appearing cloudy, aligners that need to be cleaned can develop an odor and feel icky in your mouth. One way to clean your aligners is with the Invisalign® Aligner Cleaning System. This method takes about 15 minutes to remove plaque from your aligners using special cleaning crystals. You can also clean your aligners with antibacterial soap and warm water. Make sure the water is not hot since it could cause your aligners to become soft and to warp. You can also use toothpaste to clean your aligners, but you should be careful with this method since some kinds of toothpaste contain abrasive substances that could scratch your aligners. These scratches will take away from the clear appearance of your aligners and could even create little nooks and crannies for bacteria to live in if they are deep enough.
While you’re wearing your aligners, avoid smoking since it is likely to stain them. The only food or drink which can be consumed while the aligners are in place is water. Take care to ensure that the water is not hot as it can damage the thin plastic your aligners are made of. Drinks such as coffee or tea cannot be consumed with the aligners in as it can increase cavity risk, cause staining of the aligners or even warp the aligner material. Don’t chew gum with your aligners in, since it could stick to the plastic.
Keep Your Teeth Clean
While proper dental hygiene is important for everyone, it is especially crucial for Invisalign® patients. Since your aligners fit tightly around your teeth, anything on your teeth is going to be kept there by your aligners. Your saliva won’t be able to do its usual job of trying to wash away bits of food, plaque and bacteria. To keep your teeth clean and healthy and minimize your risk of cavities, you’ll need to brush and floss every time you take your aligners out to eat or drink something other than water. This is also an important step to prevent colorful foods and beverages, such as spaghetti or a berry smoothie, from staining your teeth and aligners.
Use Whitening Toothpaste
The fact that Invisalign® aligners keep substances held right up against your teeth without letting them wash away isn’t always a disadvantage. In fact, when it comes to teeth whitening, it’s a huge advantage. There’s no better time to whiten your teeth using a whitening toothpaste than when you’re undergoing an Invisalign® treatment. Your trays will keep remnants of the toothpaste, including fluoride and the whitening agent, from washing away after you brush. Orthodontic patients who have metal braces are typically encouraged to wait until their braces come off to whiten their teeth to prevent uneven coloring on their teeth. Invisalign® patients, however, don’t have to wait. You can begin whitening now, so your smile becomes brighter as your teeth align.
Use a Retainer After You Finish Treatment
To get the most out of Invisalign®, you’ll need to maintain that new smile. Teeth have a pesky way of shifting back after you’ve gone through the work to straighten them out. Your dentist will talk to you about what needs to be done at the conclusion of your treatment to prevent this. Usually this means wearing your final set of Invisalign® clear aligners for a bit longer and then transitioning to wearing a retainer. Your dentist can discuss with you how often your retainer should be worn everyday. Invisalign® recommends using a Vivera retainer. As you approach the end of your Invisalign® treatment, talk to your dentist about the best way to maintain your new smile.
We’re Here to Help
We hope you’ve learned something from some of our best Invisalign® tips in this post. Here at Dental Choice, we strive to make patient care our top priority. If you are interested in learning more about Invisalign® or other types of cosmetic dentistry, feel free to browse our blog or contact us today. We are happy to answer your questions and serve you however we can. You can also request an appointment with Dr. Rajwani at our University Calgary Dental Choice location. We have a total of 16 locations across Airdrie, Calgary and Edmonton. Our dedication to bettering our patients’ lives is demonstrated by our 20 years of service and our ongoing push toward continuous improvement.