Does Invisalign hurt? How bad? For how long?
I hear these questions from my patients all the time. But truthfully, most adults experience more significant aches and pains in other parts of their bodies than we do with clear aligners. Because we've been dealing with these discomforts for so long, we've just learned to cope with them. The same will be true with your clear aligners...in time.
Until then, you can follow my advice for Invisalign pain. Let's start by understanding the "root" causes (dental humor at it's best, folks!) and finish it off with these five tips:
- Protect your tongue
- Embrace the pain
- Switch before you sleep
- Be smart about the food you eat
- Use cold compression
What causes Invisalign pain?
Clear aligners work quite literally by forcing your teeth into new positions using a succession of hard plastic trays for 22 hours each day. Think about it: If there wasn't some pain and discomfort, you may wonder if the treatment is even working.
Another reason pain occurs during the clear aligner journey is because our eating, drinking, chewing and swallowing habits all change quite radically. As your teeth move, your bite changes. As your bite changes, you chew differently, and as you chew differently you put pressure on teeth that aren't accustomed to that pressure. Because your gums are like your muscles, new activity in strange places leaves your mouth tired and achy in the morning.
Finally, those cold plastic trays are just kind of a nuisance, and one that hangs with you for 22 hours each day. You will undoubtedly experience some irritation as your gums and tongue rub against the aligners, especially in the first few days of a new set.
Okay, so what can I do about the pain?
The good news is that the pain will subside with time, as you get used to this new reality. It might flare back up whenever you switch to a new set of retainers, but within a few days you'll be doing just fine.
Until then, use my tips for dealing with the pain of clear aligners and invisible braces.
Protect Your Tongue
Especially during your first week with clear aligners, the plastic trays will irritate you, and may produce small cuts in your tongue and cheeks. These mouth sores are not fun, so be proactive in preventing them. Learn how to use dental wax (like this GUM Orthodontic Wax) on some of the rougher edges, which can be a real easy fix especially if you're on the go. If dental wax doesn't cut it, an emery board or nail file can be used to smooth out any really rough patches, or ask your Orthodontist to file it down for you.
Still, all this maintenance won't prevent every sore, so I recommend keeping a bottle of peroxide-based mouthwash in your medicine cabinet. It is specially formulated to heal minor oral irritations during orthodontic treatment, and provides Invisalign pain relief with a refreshing, foamy effect that really hits the spot
Embrace the pain
Think about how and why your muscles ache after a good workout or activity. It's painful, but there's a certain pride in having earned it. I hope you'll feel the same way about your clear aligner treatment, because it's worth it to achieve your ideal smile.
What's the best relief for sore muscles? Deep tissue massage, which stimulates the flow of nutrient-rich blood into our sore muscles. Or at the very least, a shoulder or foot rub from a significant other...but I digress.
Your mouth can use a massage as well, which is exactly why your orthodontist may have recommended biting or chewing exercises for you to perform. At my practice, we recommend at least 3-4 times for several minutes each day (especially when re-inserting).
Chewing has two benefits. First, your trays will seat properly on your teeth for maximum effectiveness. And second, the increased blood flow will reduce the pain you may experience from wearing your invisible braces.
Your orthodontist may have given you foam "chewies" to assist with these exercises, but they aren't the most convenient (or discreet) way to do your chewing exercises. That's why I created Movemints, the mint that fits your clear aligners! Each mint is specially shaped to fit your trays, and the great taste freshens breath and fights dry mouth.
Make the switch before you sleep
In my experience, clear aligner patients experience the most pain when trays are tightest, and trays are tightest at the beginning of treatment and when we switch to new trays (typically every two weeks, or one week for some patients). Therefore, I recommend making the switch an hour or two before you go to bed to give your mouth a chance to adjust to the tightness while you sleep.
Falling off schedule can bring pain back as well, so do your best to create a routine that you can stick to throughout your smile journey. Use an app like TrayMinder for your smartphone to remind you when it's time to make the switch, and also to track time when you aren't wearing them (like during meals or quick snacks).
Be smart about the food you eat
The smile journey is all about making sacrifices in pursuit of your perfect smile. Your pain and discomfort may discourage you from eating certain foods, especially those that require a substantial amount of crushing or chewing to digest.
The farther you go into your journey, the more used to the pain you will become, and you'll find that cravings supersede the discomfort. But until then, stock up on soft favorites like oatmeal, apple sauce, pastas and cheeses. Make tuna or chicken salad with shredded chicken, and drink plenty of water with your meals. Make a big batch of your favorite soup and switch out crackers for soft bread.
But no matter what (and this should go without saying), don't eat anything (except Movemints) with your aligners in and brush your teeth before you reinsert the trays.
Get some cold compresses (or frozen peas)
Another general pain relief technique is to apply cold compresses to the points of discomfort. You'll appreciate being able to numb your jaws while also soothing your gums and teeth. Cold compression really does work, and I highly recommend it as a way of surviving your first week with clear aligners.
Don't have any ice packs? Frozen peas will do (and are also easy to chew with achy jaws). Whatever you use, make sure you wrap it in a cloth so you won't redden the skin around your mouth!
Hang in there, and do not be afraid!
Everyone is nervous about the aches and pains of clear aligners, but nearly all of my patients say it decreases over time and is absolutely worth it for their brand new smile. Don't let the fear of discomfort prevent you from making a positive change for yourself and your confidence level.
If you follow my recommendations in this post, you'll find that the pain is tolerable and you may even begin to relish the tightness and discomfort of invisible braces. That's how you'll know they are working!
Got a treatment option that you would recommend that we didn't cover in this post? We'd love to hear from you - and I'm sure that others on the smile journey would as well! Post in the comments below, and we may reach out to you with a surprise.