What you Need to Know
Are you one of the many individuals choosing the option of wearing invisible braces for straightening your teeth?
Known by their brand name, Invisalign®, these popular clear braces are the new modern way for your dentist to rearrange crooked, misaligned teeth.
Although, this modern choice for braces seems like a miracle solution for those who would rather have their teeth straightened discreetly, it nonetheless comes with its own set of complications that we will address today.
Like anything that is accomplished over a period of time, there is a process involved which takes time to become accustomed to. Understanding and dedicating yourself to this process will help you achieve the end results you are looking for.
How does Invisalign work?
Patients wear a series of clear, plastic, custom-made trays over their teeth 20 to 22 hours a day. This leaves you with 2 – 4 hours for eating and oral hygiene. Each set of trays are designed to gently exert pressure on the teeth to rearrange their positions. As teeth move, the trays are replaced with new ones every two to three weeks until treatment is complete.
Invisalign are worn almost all day long – 20 to 22 hours – everyday. The trays are changed every 2-3 weeks to accommodate tooth movement depending on the complexity of treatment and wearing time may be evaluated as treatment progresses. You will be shortchanging yourself in terms of time and money if you neglect to understand the importance of the mandatory wearing time.
Pros: By wearing them for the recommended time, your teeth will move as expected and your aligning trays will not feel uncomfortable doing movement.
Cons: If you leave your aligners off for extended periods of time, they will feel tighter and more uncomfortable when you put them on your teeth again. If you do not commit to wearing them for the recommended hours per day, treatment time will take longer than initially planned and you may not get the results you were hoping for.
For the health of your teeth, gums and other parts of your mouth, cleaning your aligners throughout the day, especially after eating, is an essential part of treatment.
Pros: The upside to keeping your aligners clean is a healthy mouth.
Cons: Bacteria, plaque, food debris and staining can easily accumulate unnoticeably if you forget to keep your trays clean. Dirty trays can lead to sore and bleeding gums, tooth decay, bad breath, tooth stains and sore throats. Your dentist will advise you on how to keep your trays clean. One patient told us that they use Listerine to rinse their trays after cleaning as it stains any residue or buildup that was not cleaned off.
A higher risk of Tooth Decay is one of the major
drawbacks of Invisalign
When you decide that you want great looking teeth, you are making an considerable investment in time, money, and most importantly, in your personal appearance and the health of your teeth. Your journey with orthodontic braces requires you to make a commitment, not only to the process of wearing and caring for your trays, but to being diligent about your oral hygiene.
Pros: Caring for your trays and your teeth during the process will ensure that your new smile is a healthy one!
Cons: If you have found that avoiding cavities in the past has been a challenge for you, wearing clear braces will only complicate your efforts. Saliva cannot get to the tooth surfaces to naturally cleanse your teeth when they are covered with the trays all day long. Tooth decay is one major drawback to these braces and there have been many, many, disastrous cases where patients have not only achieved the straight teeth they were dreaming of, but a mouth full of cavities also! You MUST understand that there is a high incidence of tooth decay that can occur with covering your teeth for upwards of 22 hours a day if you do not have a strict oral hygiene routine.
You have to remove your trays to eat then clean your teeth and trays before placing them back on again.
Pros: Confining your eating to 3 square meals a day will certainly help with the habit of snacking and the consequence of cavities that result from frequent eating. If the idea of losing weight and eating more healthy appeals to you, this will be a good opportunity to arrange how you will implement your plan during the Invisalign process.
Cons: There will be little or no time for snacking when wearing clear braces. The time you take to snack will take away from the mandatory wearing time and you must make time to clean your teeth and the braces properly after eating. This will be a huge adjustment for many people which can result in some weight loss. You may need to adjust your caloric intake accordingly when you are eating a full meal and preplanning is beneficial. People who have medical issues where meals are a significant factor, like diabetes, should discuss the use of Invisalign with their physician before committing to the process. You should also be aware that during tooth movement your bite will likely not line up properly which can make your chewing feel “off.” You may have to get in the habit of chewing slowly and carefully.
Note: Drinking – Some people may tell you that it’s okay to drink any liquids during wearing time without having to remove your braces, but only regular water is safe. Other beverages usually contain the sugars and acids that can break down enamel and over the time of treatment can result in tooth decay. The clear braces also stain and pick up odours easily.
Chewing – Some people have the urge to chew on these clear braces simply because there is something new and constant over the teeth. Chewing can roughen up the surface material, but the trays are replaced every couple of weeks so it usually doesn’t damage or affect effectiveness of the trays. In time, you may become used to wearing them and this adaption may help reduce this chewing habit.
Clenching and Grinding – Again, if you suffer from clenching and grinding, it will likely not damage the trays before they have to be replaced again, in fact, some orthodontists say that the constant pressing down on the trays can actually help the teeth move more efficiently. However, some people exert such heavy forces during this habit that it may affect the trays somewhat. While others with existing TMJ issues say that wearing the trays tend to aggravate the condition. Speak to your provider about this before deciding on this type of orthodontia. If you typically wear a night guard for your grinding habit, you will not be able to during your Invisalign treatment.
Note: If your trays begin feeling loose towards the end of each two week period, it is usually not an issue and is actually a sign that your teeth have moved into their new positions. Habits like chewing, grinding and clenching may make them feel looser, but usually not to the extreme that it could affect the effectiveness of the trays.
Oral habits – Feeling and probing the retainers with your tongue or heavy muscular action using the insides of your mouth can cause tissue irritation. Resist the habits of developing any oral fixations and before long you will not even notice the trays in your mouth.
Drooling – Some patients report excessive saliva when wearing the trays. This can be difficult especially since the urge to suction the saliva using the mouth muscles then swallowing or spitting out can become annoying. If you find yourself drooling at night, just place a towel over your pillow. It is normal for your mouth to treat the trays as something foreign and produce excess saliva to dispel the object. Overtime this should become less of an issue
Lisping – Speaking can be difficult when you are first becoming accustomed to the new trays. This will subside within time if you try hard to be deliberate and slower with your speech and become conscientious every time you notice yourself slipping into this lisping habit.
Pros – Teeth tend to move more quickly with Invisalign than with traditional braces. This shortens the overall treatment time so that you can enjoy the benefits of straight and aligned teeth sooner.
Cons – There is a balance that must be considered when moving teeth so that the roots of the teeth do not shrink away. The roots of the teeth are important as they anchor and hold your teeth in your jawbone. If they wear away, your teeth will become loose and mobile. Your dentist may suggest that you have x-rays taken periodically so that the health of your roots can be monitored.
Tension – Some people develop sore jaws and tension headaches since the jaws do not match up during tooth movement and their teeth are not settled into the bite they have become accustomed to over the years. You can massage and/or place ice packs wrapped in a towel over the affected areas in a 20 minute on/off cycle to help reduce aches and inflammation. Switching to your new trays before you go to bed along with an ibuprofen is also a good idea. Speak to your dentist if the aches persists so that a pain relief can be suggested and treatment can be re-evaluated.
Locked jaws – Again, because the bite is ever changing, your jaw muscles and joints can become affected – even locking sometimes. Invisalign treatment can also aggravate a pre-existing TMJ issue. Massages and ibuprofens can reduce the tensions and inflammation that can cause this to occur, but you need to bring this situation to the attention of your dentist for evaluation.
Dry Mouth/Chapped lips – While some people develop excessive drool, others find their mouths have become dry and irritated. This can cause mouth sores, chapped lips and increase the likelihood of tooth decay. Using a lip moisturizer, drinking a lot of water and/or chewing sugar-free gum may help.
Mouth sores – The mouth can become irritated and develop sores if your oral hygiene is poor, your mouth is dry, your trays are dirty or from tissue action against the trays. Sometimes the trays need to be trimmed if there is some excess material that is irritating your mouth tissues. You can file these area down at home if you are careful and don’t overdo it. Bring it to the attention of your dentist so the source of your irritation can be addressed or oral hygiene instructions can be reviewed.
The great thing about Invisalign is that you can get great looking teeth without anyone knowing that you’re wearing braces, but you must do your homework and be truthful with yourself about your ability to commit to the treatment recommendations. Nothing worth having comes easy! Weighing the above pros and cons will help you decide if you are a good candidate for these types of braces.
It is also important to choose your healthcare provider carefully. The movement of teeth is very complex in terms of the physical, biochemical, and cellular processes that take place. Treatment requires the care of a competent dentist who has the education and experience to move things along with careful planning and consideration of all the likely variables.
A lot can go wrong in a short time if you are tempted by a quick fix with a cheap price tag!