There’s a moment every August when the heat breaks, the air turns crisp, and people begin to think of Fall. For parents of children, they think about celebrating, because it also means their kids will soon be returning to school.
But if you’re little happens to be an Invisalign teen, the celebration may be tempered with questions of how to make sure they stick with the program when they aren’t under your watchful eye. So, dear parents of Invisalign teens, this blog is for you! We’ve done the research, interviewed the Orthodontists, and sourced the best tips, tools, and tricks to help your child make the grade on their clear aligner treatment.
We’ll cover the following questions:
- Eating during school with Invisalign
- Maintaining good oral hygiene during the school day
- Meeting the recommended daily wear time for Invisalign teen braces
- Keeping your child’s aligners safe when you aren’t there to do it for them
Eating at school while wearing Invisalign
Keeping your child well fed and nourished is super important for children, and wearing clear aligners can make things more complicated. Your first concern may be simply making sure they eat, especially at the start of new tray cycles when the mouth and teeth tend to be very sore. This discourages even the most disciplined (and ravenous) adult patients from wearing their trays (and why many people joke about an “Invisalign diet”).
So what can a parent do? First off, if your child is complaining about sore or sensitive teeth, take that into consideration and pack them a lunch with soft foods that are easy to eat. Yogurts, oatmeals, soups and smoothies are great choices. Here are some other great tips for kid friendly meals that are also easy on the aligners.
Another thing that might hinder your Invisalign teen from eating at school is the challenge of removing their trays. Removal is most difficult early in the tray cycle when aligners fit the tightest, and removing them can be quite a chore and at times even painful. Proper, prompt and painless removal here is crucial, since the absolute last thing you want them doing is eating while wearing their Invisalign.
For these reasons we recommend OrthoKey, the best aligner removal tool on the market. It makes removing trays a breeze, with a few added benefits. First and foremost, your child won’t go sticking germy fingers into their mouths (especially important to avoid during cold and flu season). Second, improperly removing trays can warp or break them. Although Invisalign teen offers six sets of replacement trays with the package, you don’t want to waste them on something avoidable like damage related to improper removal. Finally, OrthoKey has an ergonomic shape and compact design that fits inside the retainer case, so it’s always there as a reminder for good habits when your child needs to remove them.
Maintaining good oral hygiene
You know it’s important for your child to practice good hygiene, but it’s even more important when they are wearing Invisalign (the last thing you want is a straight smile filled with cavities). But that’s exactly what will happen if you don’t step up the oral care, something kids aren’t exactly keen on in the first place.
At minimum, it is crucial they brush their teeth after each meal, just before they reinsert their trays, in order to brush off foreign agents that cause plaque and cavities. Pack them a toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste, then monitor how much paste is in the tube. After a week, a new tube should have a noticeable depression and should be nearly used after 2-3 weeks. If you aren’t seeing progress, you’ll need to figure something out to encourage brushing.
As important as it is to brush, it’s equally important to floss after each meal. We’ve got an entire blog dedicated to flossing, but we know it can be extra hard for your kids to floss at school. Dealing with ribbon floss adds extra time and effort, so we recommend floss picks, like these from Knotty Floss. The biodegradable handles are made from cornstarch and the floss itself is infused with grapefruit seed extract and charcoal for extra benefit. They work like a charm and are easy for a quick floss on the go, and more importantly, limit the amount of contact between germy fingers and mouth.
Good oral hygiene also applies to the trays themselves. Gunky, yellow trays just trap bacteria and transfer it back to the teeth, causing odors and promoting other maladies. Give your kid a bottle of Soluria SmileSaver spray-on cleaning solution to use on their trays before they reinsert. All it takes is 60 seconds to work its magic, and the peroxide free formula is super kid friendly. No need to rinse, because it tastes great!
Meeting the recommended wear time
There’s a lot of flexibility that comes with wearing clear aligners, but one hard truth: they don’t work if you don’t wear them. It’s challenging enough for disciplined adults to meet the 22 hours of daily recommended wear time. For Invisalign Teen, that number is 21 hours, but still; getting your kid to wear hard plastic over their teeth for 90% of the day is no easy task. Especially considering the myriad reasons why teens might not wear them in the first place. Here’s a few tips for overcoming some of the more common wear-time barriers.
Dealing with Self-Consciousness
Even though Invisalign is less noticeable than braces, it certainly isn’t invisible. One “signal” your child may be anxious about is the lisp some develop when wearing their trays. It’s true, speech patterns change when you wear any orthodontic device, but fortunately it’s only temporary. That may be of no consolation for daily teenage angst, so plan to work with your kids at home to overcome temporary speech impediments. Tell them to slow down their speech and practice enunciation, especially with words and sounds that are more likely to trigger the lisp. This may also be a good time to remind them that back in your day, you could only talk with friends by phone and in person, so at least they have texting and snapchat as an option!
Another self-consciousness barrier is the dulling of your teen's natural white teeth which may occur, especially if they aren't as sharp on their oral hygiene as they should be. Use a gentle whitening pen or strips to keep those pearly whites pearly! Whitening pens are especially useful, and can be applied underneath the clear aligner trays which actually helps them work more effectively. Between this and better oral hygiene, their smile might be whiter at the end of treatment than it was going in!
Read More: How to Keep Clear Aligners Clean & Clear
Bad Breath & Dry Mouth
Another common issue with Invisalign is bad breath and dry mouth. Hopefully your child will heed the hygiene tips shared above, which will help to control the symptoms, but unfortunately there’s nothing you can do to cure bad breath and dry mouth. We’ve got an entire blog devoted to eliminating bad breath during Invisalign treatment, but here are some quick tips:
- Drink lots of water
- Brush and floss after every meal
- Don’t forget to brush your tongue
- Stock up on sugar-free Movemints, the only mints you can eat with clear aligners that also freshen breath and fight dry mouth!
Pain and Discomfort
Another common barrier to the 21 hours of daily Invisalign teen wear time is pain and discomfort, which can compel your child to remove their aligners every chance they get. Trays can hurt, plain and simple, especially at the beginning of a new cycle. Stock up on dental wax to cover any rough edges that may be irritating your child’s mouth, and keep a bottle of a peroxide-based mouthwash like Colgate Peroxyl in the medicine cabinet. It will help to soothe the pain of mouth sores. Also, when it’s time to change to a new tray, do it at night so your kid has a full night’s sleep to adjust to new tightness.
Read More: Dealing With Invisalign Pain
Another way to deal with the pain of Invisalign is to do the chewing exercises many Orthodontists recommend to their clear aligner patients. While it may seem counter-intuitive, gentle chewing stimulates nutrient-rich blood flow to the teeth and gums, providing natural pain relief. Have your child practice at home with the chewies that Invisalign provides, and know that Movemints are another handy tool especially when they are at school. The patented grooves will help your child wear their trays comfortably while they freshen breath and fight dry mouth...a real triple threat!
Try these tactics and hopefully your child will wear their aligners for the appropriate amount of time. But how can you be sure? You may have heard your provider talk about the “Invisalign blue dot” or “Invisalign compliance indicator” when you left your first appointment. This is literally a blue dot on the trays of your child’s aligners that will fade from blue to clear over the course of that tray’s cycle, provided they wear them for the appropriate amount of time. So keep your eye on that; it should fade gradually from the first day of wear and be almost completely clear by the end of the cycle.
Keeping Your Child’s Aligners Safe
A lot of technology goes into those thin plastic trays, and at significant cost to your provider and your own pocket. Protect your child’s trays, and you will protect this investment. While Invisalign teen does provide six replacement sets as part of the base package, you don’t want to burn one of them on something that’s easy to prevent with just a little care.
You will probably get one retainer case from your orthodontist, but that’s just not going to cut it. Invest in a few more so your child always has a place to securely and safely store their trays when they aren’t wearing them. We wrote about six of our favorite retainer cases in a recent blog, and we particularly like these styles from Zumoe because they have a built-in clip for attaching the case to bookbags, lunchboxes, and gym bags. The youthful designs are fun too, and can keep them from getting mixed up with other classmate’s retainer and mouth guard cases.
You may also want to consider a mirrored retainer case, perfect for teens who like to make sure everything is looking 100 throughout the course of their day. We offer a mirrored version in our Best Clear Aligner Starter Kit, but if you buy using coupon code INVISATEEN, we’ll throw in an extra case from Zumoe and give you $5 off your purchase! Just use the link in the discount code to automatically apply your savings.
A final note about keeping your child’s retainers safe. Teach them how to properly remove them, because there is a right way and a wrong way, and the wrong way can result in cracks and warps that render the aligners useless (and consume another of your 6 free replacement sets). Show your child this video tutorial from the founder of OrthoKey (which is also included in our Best Clear Aligner Starter Kit!) and practice together to instill good habits.
So parents, hopefully this blog has given you some ideas on how to help your Invisalign teen wear their aligners at school. Maybe it even relieves some of the angst you are feeling about the new school year. Practice these techniques and load your child up with all the accessories they’ll need to be confident and comfortable during the smile journey, and they’ll repay you with more efficient and effective treatment!