I’ve been wearing my Invisalign about six months now, and I think I’ve build up enough “cred” as an Invisalign patient to speak with a bit of authority on the process of living with aligners.
Entering the Invisalign process, I was worried least about the pain. I knew it was going to hurt sometimes; if my teeth are moving, they’re going to be sore. Having worn Invisalign through 15 aligner cycles, I can say that the pain is about what I expected, and most of the time even less. In 15 cycles I’ve had to pop Advil maybe twice, three times at the most. I find actually like a little soreness. Sore teeth tell me that my aligners are working when the visual evidence is often frustratingly incremental.
The aligners hurt most (if at all) during the first couple days of a new cycle. Makes sense, right? A new set of aligners means new tooth movement. Usually the soreness lasts a day or two, but each aligner is different. Some hurt more than others, some don’t hurt much at all. With set 14, I experienced residual soreness for almost a whole week, but with 15, my teeth are pain-free only two days after the new aligner.
Using my powers of observation, I’ve managed to come up with some strategies to minimize the pain of a new aligner set. The most painful set was, oddly enough, the first. That was because I got it on in the morning before work and had to take it out for lunch only a few hours later. In my experience, the new aligner set doesn’t hurt going on, but rather, it hurts the most the first time you take it off. The sooner you remove a new aligner for the first time, the more your teeth will hurt… especially when you put the set back on.
In order to minimize the pain of the new aligner set, my very successful strategy has been leaving the new set on as long as possible. Once, I even left a new set on almost 24 hours before taking it off for the first time (I was on vacation). Ordinarily, though, I can manage to wear a new set 14 to 16 hours before taking it off the first time. My job is second shift, so my hours are a little skewed, but the same strategy could easily be mapped to a 9-to-5 schedule.
When I get home from work, I make dinner, I take my aligners out and I clean them in a Polident bath with the new aligner set while I eat. I get home around 10:45pm, so I’m usually done with dinner and ready to put the new set in by midnight. I pop in the new set, gnaw on my aligner chewies awhile to make sure it’s good and tight (a note on chewies below), I go to bed and then I endeavor to leave them on as long as possible. Yes, this means eating no breakfast. I’m not a big breakfast fan to begin with, though I do enjoy coffee most mornings. I skip it the morning of my new aligners and drink hot water instead. This strategy also means I can’t brush my teeth in the morning. Oh the humanity! Actually, it’s not really a problem. I do an extended rinse with hydrogen peroxide (with the aligners still in) to kill bacteria and then do a light brush over the aligners with a wet toothbrush. If I need to get close to people during the morning and early afternoon (e.g. if I have a lesson or meeting), I pop a mint and get no complaints.
I’m usually ready for lunch (remember, my schedule is second shift) around 3:00pm or 4:00pm. I take out my aligners for the first time, and while my teeth are usually a little sore, it’s much better than if I had taken them out earlier (I once removed a new set for my morning coffee and regretted it). As I said earlier, I’ve only taken two or three doses of Advil over 15 sets. Once was the very first aligner, once was on the first day of the aforementioned aligner 14, and once was… well, I don’t remember specifically, but I’m allowing for the possibility of a third just for the sake of over-estimation.
Otherwise, the aligners are comfortable… okay, I’ve said that before, but after adjusting to them as a way of life, I think it bears repeating. If asked about the precise sensation of wearing Invisalign on a daily basis, I would be most inclined to compare the wearing of aligners to the wearing of shoes. Wearing shoes is comfortable, but noticeable (unlike, say, the wearing of soft contacts). If we’re not thinking about the fact that we are wearing shoes, then it’s not in the front of our brains, but if we stop to think about it, then we can definitely feel our shoes. They’re not uncomfortable, but they’re there. Same with the aligners. They don’t disappear onto my teeth like contact do onto my eyes, but they’re comfortable.
The only significant trouble I’ve had with comfort is my own bad habit of grinding the aligners when I’m tense. It’s not bad for my teeth (the aligners are protecting them, after all), and it’s not bad for my aligners (some doctors online even say grinding your aligners helps the Invisalign process), but it’s not a picnic for my jaw. I don’t realize when I start doing it, but once I start it’s hard to stop until I have an opportunity to take them out and start over. I’ve trained myself not to grind so much, but on occasion I still do. It’s a bigger problem toward the end of the aligner cycle when the aligners aren’t so tight. I don’t grind when the aligners are new and the fit is hard (i.e. the aligners feel “hard” on my teeth because they are tight), but as my teeth move and adjust to the new set, the aligners feel “softer” and I am more prone to grinding them.
Otherwise, my Invisalign process has been smooth sailing. After 15 aligners, I have really experienced no problems, save for my own grinding and an occasional rough edge (which can just be filed down).
One note about new aligners, however. I remember when I was first researching Invisalign, one blogger said that from one aligner set to the next, they just stopped fitting. One aligner fit, the next one didn’t. In this instance, the orthodontist has to retool his/her strategy, take new impressions and order a new set of aligners. I know this can happen, and I’m not worried about it, except insomuch that it may add additional time to my overall treatment schedule.
That said, I can’t help but wonder if such retoolings can be avoided with the avid use of chewies. For at least the last four aligners, they have not fit my teeth when I first put on a new set. I pop them on as best I can, but with my fingers alone, I can’t get them to sit snug to my teeth and snap to my attachments. Perhaps an Invisalign retool is on the horizon for me, but for now, I have had great success simply chewing the aligners in place with my aligner chewies. I say once again, I’m not sure how people go through Invisalign without the chewies. If it weren’t for chewies, I would probably not be able to get my new sets for fit right away. So, hooray for chewies once more!