Invisalign braces are advertised as a straightforward, discrete replacement for traditional metal braces; however, you might not be aware that your treatment could not go as smoothly as you had thought.
For instance, your initial treatment may require 40 trays or so, worn over a period of 1-2 weeks. So ideally, after the 40 trays you should be finished with the treatment if you follow the instructions to the letter. But what you might not expect is the need for a refinement aligner.
But if reality doesn’t matchup to the expectation, does it mean that it’s time to quit the treatment?
Not necessarily. One of the benefits of Invisalign is that it takes a shorter time compared to conventional braces. So even with refinements, the total time of treatment should still be a little over a year, and you have your perfect smile.
If your orthodontist recommends refinements, you may need to get your attachments debonded from your teeth, the teeth scanned again, and a new treatment designed. This would require you to get a new set of Invisalign refinement aligners and attachments bonded to your teeth for the few weeks of refinement.
Generally, these refinement aligners can be designed in-house if your orthodontist has a lab, or ordered from Invisalign, though you might have to wait for about a month to get them.
Invisalign expectation vs reality
There’s no way to know for sure what to expect during your teeth straightening process. But working with an orthodontist will help you maintain optimal progress towards achieving your perfect smile.
Here are some things to expect during your Invisalign orthodontic treatment:
Your Teeth May Require Attachments or Buttons!
Using Invisalign doesn’t simply mean wearing transparent retainers. In some cases, your orthodontist may recommend getting “buttons,” or Invisalign attachments, to straighten your teeth.
Buttons / Invisalign attachments
These buttons are lumps that adhere to your teeth and are colored like enamel. The buttons are supposed to stay on your teeth until the end of the time of refinement, however they are removed once your aligner treatment is complete.
Thankfully, not everyone needs them. The number required also varies from one person to the other. Invisalign trays can only move teeth left, right, forward, and backward. When your teeth need to move up, down, or in very complicated ways, adding a button to press on makes those movements possible.
Rubber bands may also be used with Invisalign
You can stretch a rubber band across your mouth thanks to unique rubber band connectors that are connected to the bases of some teeth. To make it more “invisible,” the front one is clear. The one behind it is made of metal.
Even when you take out the trays, both hooks are still anchored to your teeth. They are adhered directly above or beneath the aligners. The one in the front may rub against your lip making it a little uncomfortable, but you get used to it like you would with metal braces.
Swap Out Your Trays at NIGHT!
When you get Invisalign, your orthodontist will print out a chart that tells you exactly which days to change your trays. If it tells you to change to a new tray this coming Monday, swap the new one in on Sunday NIGHT!
Do NOT change aligners in the morning!
Generally, the discomfort becomes the most intense the first few hours after changing to a new tray. If you switch them at night, you can sleep it off!
Many people manage their pain and soreness with pain relievers. You absolutely cannot take any NSAIDs while correcting your smile. These include Advil, Motrin, and Aleve. If the pain becomes bad enough for you, they say it’s safe to take Tylenol to reduce the pain. Only Acetaminophen can be used with Invisalign
Studies have shown NSAID drugs hinder the chemical reactions that are necessary during the process of applying pressure to teeth with Invisalign.
Switching Sort of Tickles
Each tray has such a small alteration that the soreness is almost negligible. The pain from adding rubber bands to pull the lower teeth back could be 100x more painful than the tray-based tooth movements. Sometimes when you push the new tray on, it tickles your bottom front teeth in a very unexpected way.
Invisalign Must Be Worn for 22+ Hours
At first, you may stress over this rule. (It’s actually really important you follow this guideline. As crazy as it may seem, if your trays aren’t on for at least 22 hours per day, the necessary shifts may not happen on schedule.
They Have a Built-In Wear Detector
Each upper Invisalign tray has two blue dots printed onto the back molars. Wearing your aligner for the full specified time all week is the only way to fade the blue ink off to the point where it becomes clear.
The Invisalign Blue Dots: Wear Detectors are the how your orthodontist will know if you’re really complying with their treatment plan or not.
In effect, you basically have to wear your trays all day every day with the exception of when you are eating.
You could allocate your time each day as follows:
- 30 minutes for breakfast and cleaning
- 30 minutes for lunch and cleaning
- 45 minutes for dinner and cleaning
- 15 minutes for tea and cleaning
Track Your Progress With TrayMinder
The TrayMinder iPhone app has a ton of features for Invisalign users. You can time how long the trays are in, how long they’re out, and set reminders so you don’t forget!
Everyone’s schedule is a bit different. Some people change their trays every 5 days, 7 days, 10 days, or 14 days. You can program the app calendar and it will remind you when it’s time to progress onto the next one!
You can also take photos of your teeth each week (or as often as you wish) and track your progress!
Kissing Is Awkward
There’s nothing graceful about removing the trays.
If you have Invisalign buttons, the trays really hug those. You basically have to pull and pry at the plastic to pull it down tooth-by-tooth. You may find they really only slide off easily if you start from one side or the other.
You can hold up a napkin or try to be discreet, but there’s really nothing you can do that will make it any less awkward as you tug those trays off. You might prefer to turn away momentarily or briefly excuse yourself to visit the bathroom.
If you’re planning on having any romantic dates or hookups, it’s kind of… not fun having Invisalign to deal with. A lot of people say Invisalign gives you a lisp. So that too could happen.
Invisalign Stains Extremely Easily
Consuming the following items could result in staining your aligners:
- Red: Red Wine
- Orange: Carrot Juice
- Yellow: Orange Juice
- Green: Mint Polident Denture Cleaner. [DON’T USE IT.]
- Blue: Cool Mint Mouthwash
- Purple: Grape Juice
- Pink: Lipstick [According to a friend haha]
Don’t bother with Efferdent or Polident denture cleaner. It has the potential to stain your aligner. There are also Invisalign whiteners if you want them. But they’re a bit unnecessary because by the time the aligners start to look like they’d need it, you’re replacing them and moving onto the next set anyway.
No more Coffee, Tea, & Anything Hot
Coffee is actually one of the most infamous ways to stain your Invisalign. Unless you want brown teeth, avoid it. Tea is slightly less likely to stain, although I still would not risk it. More importantly, you can’t drink anything hot with Invisalign without the risk of warping them. It is best to remove your trays, chug the drink (don’t burn yourself), then pop them back in after.
Sipping With a Straw May Help
There are stories of people using straws for their lukewarm coffee to drink without staining or warping the trays. Though this sounds like more trouble than just removing them.
Prepare to Reshape some Teeth
Your treatment may require something called interproximal reduction (IPR). It’s a mildly terrifying procedure that takes all of 5 seconds to perform which permanently reshapes your teeth by shaving off a very small amount of your enamel off the sides of specific teeth.
IPR Before Invisalign Treatment
The gaps are not as noticeable as you might feel. When your treatment is over, you’ll be glad they did it. Besides, if they say you need it, it’s necessary. When teeth are touching one another, it’s difficult for them to move. By temporarily creating a space in between, new movements can occur.
IPR has been done for ages. It’s nothing new. They’re only supposed to take off a small amount of enamel (I believe it’s usually half of a millimeter.) Using the small space it makes, they are able to pull your teeth together, closing up any avoidable gaps at the bottom of the teeth and fixing your bite in the process.
Each sequential new Invisalign tray is about 0.25 millimeters more “correct” than the one before itR
You Will Brush & Floss Constantly
You HAVE TO brush your teeth after every single time you eat anything or drink anything (besides water.)
- You also need to floss using little dental flossers that are more convenient and easy to work with. Wearing Invisalign aligners makes you more prone to cavities so good hygiene is quite important.
- You should brush the trays too, but don’t use any toothpaste on them.
- Buy an Ultrasonic Electric Toothbrush by Oral B – with Invisalign or not!
- Invisalign Isn’t Very Travel Friendly – it is a lot easier when you’re home.
Invisalign Storage Case
Eating out with Invisalign while on the road and trying to stay on top of your hygiene seems like it would be difficult. You’d probably need to carry an Invisalign storage case, a travel toothbrush and case of floss with you if you’re out a lot. How would you handle the orthodontist office checkups while traveling long-term because you’d likely need to schedule one every 6 to 8 weeks or so?
“Movemints” are great tasting, sugar-free mints that freshen breath, help dry mouth, and assist with setting Invisalign aligners and retainers. Get them on Amazon if you’re on the go a lot.
Invisalign Utilizes Fancy 3D Tech
Unlike traditional metal braces, the process of preparing for Invisalign involves a very high-tech process of scanning and 3D modeling your teeth.
iTero Scanner for Invisalign Scan
When preparing to get Invisalign, your orthodontist will use an iTero scanner to create a 3D scan of your teeth in real-time which are later studied, engineered, and then forwarded to Invisalign’s factory in Mexico where they manufacture the custom trays.
Those gross-tasting impression molds are now a thing of the past!
The 3D Custom Treatment Plan
You receive a custom-made 3D model online showing the way your teeth will change throughout the entire process. It helps motivate you to see the progress you’re making with each sequential tray that you put on.