So you just got your Invisalign® aligners and you want to make sure that you are using them correctly. To ensure a smooth and efficient treatment, follow these steps:
1) Wear them 22 hours a day
Unlike braces that are “glued” to your teeth and thus working 24 hours a day, Invisalign® is a series of “retainers” (technically called aligners) that go in and out of your mouth. The key is to wear them as long as possible, or 22 hours a day. Yes, you can have a “bad day” when it comes to aligner wear, such as having an important event like a wedding, etc., but you do not want to have many “bad days” or your treatment will be negatively affected.
2) Chew on something hard like the handle of your toothbrush or a tongue depressor
Each aligner has a small amount of activation or tooth movement built into it. For this reason, you may see mini gaps between the edge of the aligners and the edge of your teeth when you first put them in. A small amount of gap in the beginning of the aligner wear is normal, but it should be completely gone by the time you switch to your next aligner (usually 2 weeks, but follow the instructions given to you by your orthodontist). To get rid of any gaps you should work on “seating” which means chewing on something hard like the handle of your toothbrush a couple of times a day (think 2-3 minutes after each time you brush) while the aligners are in your mouth. We have found seating is the most important and also the most difficult for our patients. Many do not realize when an aligner is not fully seated, making it an important reason to check in with your orthodontist for them to monitor you during your treatment. A problem area our patients often miss is the lower front teeth, so pay extra close attention to this spot! If a gap is not gone, you should not move on to the next aligner. Keep wearing an aligner until all the gaps are gone.
3) Do not eat or drink with them in
You cannot eat or drink anything besides “boring” water (only tap and bottled water, no flavored water or seltzer!) with the aligners in, so you have to take them out during any snack or meal, brush your teeth, clean the aligners, and then put them immediately back in your mouth. If you do eat or drink with the aligners in, any food debris that normally would get washed away with your saliva will get sandwiched between the aligner and your tooth causing it to sit there all day and create a cavity quickly. It will also likely discolor your aligners!
4) When the aligners are not in your mouth, put them in their case
Aligners are expensive to replace! In addition, losing them will add time to your treatment. In order not to lose them, make sure you place them in your case when they are out of your mouth while eating or drinking. Do not put them in a napkin – they will end up in the trash! Do not put them in your pocket – they will end up in the laundry! Lastly, dogs love to chew both the aligners and your case, so make sure if you are around a dog that you put them in their case and out of reach of any curious snouts.
5) Keep all of your aligners until instructed to discard them
If you do lose an aligner, you never want to go without something in your mouth. This is one of the reasons we instruct our patients to hold onto their old aligners just in case there is a fit issue or they lose a new aligner; then you can go backwards to the previous aligner so you do not lose all of the movement that we have achieved so far until we create a plan around the missing aligner. Teeth have “memory”, so if you are not wearing your aligners for a period of time, they will begin to move backward to their old position. This is the reason why your retainers will be so important after you complete your Invisalign® treatment. You can read about the 4 Golden Rules of Retainer wear here.
Hopefully these guidelines will help you when it comes to your Invisalign® treatment. Remember it is normal to be achy the first couple of days with a new aligner, especially your first one. Take over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol on an as needed basis. Do not hesitate to check in with our office for us to help address any questions or concerns you may have. We are here for you each step of the way!
Congratulations again on starting your Invisalign® treatment and your journey toward your dream smile!