Issues With Invisalign Tracking Can Complicate Your Smile Journey
Throughout my career as an orthodontist, I’ve had the pleasure of helping my patients straighten their teeth with clear aligners. It’s a long and costly process, and patients always ask how to tell if Invisalign is tracking correctly.
It’s a very important question, because if the Invisalign trays are loose they aren’t going to move teeth as effectively. While we have remedies like Invisalign attachments or buttons, there are techniques patients can do on their own before we have to take those measures. In this blog, we’ll take a look at why your Invisalign trays may not be fitting correctly, and what you can do to resolve the issues. Here’s what we’ll cover:
- How to Determine if your Invisalign is Tracking
- What are the Causes of Poor Invisalign Tracking
- What to do If your Invisalign Trays Aren’t Fitting Correctly
How to Determine if your Invisalign is Tracking
One of the simplest methods to determine if your Invisalign trays have stopped fitting properly is to track them with your teeth. Teeth tracking simply means checking how well the invisible trays align with the bottom and top of your teeth. Common indicators of poor tracking are if Invisalign is loose on the back teeth, or you see a gap between the tray and teeth, or you notice they are not fitting one tooth.
On the other hand, you can tell if your Invisalign is tracking properly if the trays align closely with the outline of your teeth. Properly tracked trays feel tight on your teeth, and may even produce a degree of Invisalign pain. This is how you know they are working! While you may observe some small gaps or air pockets, these are only an indication of poor tracking if the trays feel particularly loose or move slightly when you talk or swallow.
What are the Causes of Poor Invisalign Tracking?
There are several possible causes behind improperly fitting Invisalign trays, and they often cause patients to think their Invisalign doesn't work. This is usually not the case, and understanding the causes of poor Invisalign tracking can help you remedy these issues.
First, understand that Invisible aligners follow the Goldilocks rule — they shouldn’t be too tight or too loose. “Too tight” is a relative term, so keep in mind that all new sets of trays will feel really tight and probably uncomfortable when you first put them on. Again, Invisalign requires a lot of force to straighten teeth into their new positions, so before you consult your provider, try some of these tips for Invisalign pain relief. Should you experience intolerable pain or discomfort, or you simply need extra assistance in dealing with this discomfort, do not hesitate to reach out to your orthodontist with questions.
“Too loose” is more of a concern for your treatment. There should be no gaps between the trays and the incisal edges of the teeth. Gaps typically indicate that the trays are too big or too little, and are usually caused by inaccurate impressions or the teeth’s inability to expand or move at the expected rate. These issues can be resolved with Invisalign refinements, attachments, or simple chewing exercises which we’ll discuss later in this blog.
While it can be frustrating to realize that your teeth aren’t moving as quickly as you wish, it is important to consider why your Invisalign is not tracking. These are some common causes of poor tracking.
- Your teeth need some extra help in the form of Invisalign attachments or buttons
- You aren’t complying with Invisalign guidelines
- Your teeth are moving ahead of schedule
Invisalign Tracking Issues Related to Stubborn Teeth
Sometimes your teeth just don’t move as quickly as your orthodontist expected. This is because teeth are set in bone, not stone, and some are just more stubborn than others. It is quite common for orthodontists to recommend Invisalign refinements or mid-course corrections when teeth aren’t tracking and the cause isn’t due to patient non-compliance. Before we recommend refinements or corrections, your orthodontist might try using attachments or Invisalign buttons to help your trays track properly. These are adhered to either your teeth or your aligners, and provide an extra bit of grip to improve fit and help move your teeth more effectively.
Invisalign Tracking Issues Due to Patient Non-Compliance
Another reason your Invisalign might not be tracking is due to non-compliance. If you aren’t wearing your trays for the recommended 22 hours per day, they aren’t going to move in the manner we envisioned when we created your treatment plan. This doesn’t always show up right away, and can lead to downstream impacts where future sets of aligners don’t track. Or, if you ate with your aligners in (a big no-no), you could have warped or damaged your trays, and thus they won’t fit properly. Warping and damaging can also happen if you don’t remove your aligners properly, so we recommend using an aligner-removal tool called OrthoKey which we offer as part of our essential Invisalign accessories kit.
Invisalign Tracking Issues Due to Accelerated Straightening
While improper tooth movement can contribute to the formation of ill-fitting aligners, so too can successful tooth movement. For instance, if you have worn your aligners for a while and they begin to feel loose, that could mean it’s time to move onto the next set. While you typically move to new sets of trays every two weeks, your provider may recommend you move forward early if your teeth are moving faster than planned. But you should only do this under direction of your orthodontist.
What to do if Your Invisalign Doesn’t Fit Properly
If you have determined that your Invisalign trays are not tracking, you need to take action. Fortunately, there are some easy and effective solutions to correct the fit of your trays and get your smile journey back on track.
Make Sure Your Trays Are Tracking with Chewing Exercises
When you start wearing a new set, you might have a harder time snapping the new trays into place. This is normal, but you need to make sure the trays are still tracking. Even if you feel like your trays are fitting correctly, you still need to do the chewing exercises that I and many of my orthodontic colleagues have recommended to our patients for years. Chewing gently on an Invisalign chewie can remove air pockets and gaps between the tooth and aligner to properly seat your aligners.
Chewing exercises are also good to treat Invisalign discomfort, but chewies aren’t a great option when you’re on the go or in public. That’s why I created Movemints® clear aligner mints, an edible alternative to Invisalign chewies. Movemints are aligner-friendly mints that feature my patented groove to help seat your aligners. They’re sugar-free and sweetened with xylitol to fight Invisalign dry mouth and prevent issues from Invisalign not tracking throughout your journey.
Keep Better Track of How Long You are Wearing Your Trays
Remember that you need to wear your Invisalign trays for at least 22 hours a day. Forgetting to do so can prevent you from moving forward with the treatment in a timely manner, and its easy to lose track of your wear time when you remove your trays to eat, drink, brush your teeth, or when you clean your Invisalign aligners. Consider using an app like TrayMinder®, which was created by an orthodontic colleague of mine to help patients stay on track with clear aligner wear time.
Inquire About “Backtracking” to a Previous Set of Aligners
In extreme cases, you might have to backtrack to one of your previous sets of aligners. This usually occurs when patients experience extreme pain or difficulty wearing a new set of trays. This can be an indication of improper tooth movement, meaning that your teeth need a bit more time in the old set of trays to get moving. But before you consider backtracking, we recommend consulting your orthodontist for additional guidance.
Invisalign tracking issues are a common concern of patients, and a recurring part of the smile journey. If you follow the guidance provided in this blog, you should be able to determine if your Invisalign is tracking correctly without having to consult your provider. But if you can’t resolve tracking issues on your own, then you and your orthodontist can create a plan to get back on track and enjoy a more comfortable, effective smile journey!