Invisalign: 7 things you should know before getting clear braces

Something of an orthodontic revolution, clear, removable braces have never been more popular. But if you’re thinking about getting them yourself, here are a few things to bear in mind.

Like going to sleepovers and buying your first mobile phone, getting braces was something of a right of passage for many teens. Uncomfortable, painful and just straight up annoying, if you had braces growing up, you might look back on the experience and shudder. But the funny thing is, in 2020, adult braces have never been more popular. In fact, I know multiple grown women with fixed train track braces, but I know even more that have opted for the clear retainer kind, such as Invisalign.

And you can see why: practically invisible, removable braces, clear aligners are a far cry from the uncomfortable train tracks you might have experienced the first time around. Plus, they take far less upkeep, so you won’t find yourself in and out of the orthodontist’s clinic every couple of weeks.

Seems like a pretty sweet deal, right? Well, I certainly thought so, which is why I got Invisalign braces to try and fix the result of 10 years of failing to wear my retainer.

Four months on, and I don’t regret the decision one bit. My teeth are moving faster than I could imagine and I’ve finally gotten used to wearing the aligners day in, day out. But, if you are considering clear braces for yourself, I feel it’s my duty to share some vital information. Below, my dentist, Dr Krystyna Wilczynski at White and Co dental clinic, and I share the seven things every Invisalign newbie needs to know.

1. You might need little hooks called attachments      

Despite having Googled Invisalign many times before, one thing that was complete news to me when I first sat in Dr Wilczynski’s chair was the idea of attachments. These are like little tooth-coloured hooks bonded to certain teeth to help grip the aligner in place and ensure the teeth move effectively.

At first, they feel pretty alien, like little stones attached to your teeth. But considering they’re usually covered by the aligners, you hardly notice them at all. Visually, they’re practically invisible (unless you’re standing super close to someone, of course) but it helps that Dr Wilczynski meticulously tinkered with my treatment plan so I didn’t need them on the very front teeth. If you do, don’t sweat it. It’ll just make the aligners work better.

2. It can be painful to start off with     

Having once experienced the pain of train tracks (the rubbing! The ulcers! The cut tongue!) I can 100% vouch that Invisalign is nowhere near as painful. But that doesn’t mean it’s totally without discomfort. “Initially, you will feel pressure which can cause discomfort and ulceration,” explains Dr Wilczynski. “This eases as the treatment progresses.” At the beginning of my treatment, my teeth severely ached for around two days after every aligner change, but now I’m on tray seven, and my teeth have loosened up a little, putting a new aligner in doesn’t hurt at all.

3. You’ll find yourself brushing your teeth a lot 

The biggest shift in my daily routine was accounting for all the extra brushing time. After eating or drinking anything, you’ll want to brush your teeth to ensure nothing gets trapped in the aligner where it can potentially damage your teeth. Of course, I’m not giving up my excessive tea drinking habit, nor am I planning on cutting back the snacks, so in the past four months, I’ve spent a lot of time brushing my teeth. Easy if you’re working from home like I’ve been through lockdown, a little trickier if you’re at work.

4. You need to be really strict with yourself

The good thing about fixed braces is that once they’re on, you can pretty much forget about them. But when it comes to removable aligners, it can be all too easy to take them out for a cup of tea and then, two hours later, realise you haven’t been wearing them. Problem is, in most cases, you need to wear the aligners for at least 22 hours a day, removing them only to eat, drink and brush your teeth.

“As the aligners are not fixed to your teeth some people may forget to wear them which would disrupt the treatment progress,” Dr Wilczynski. “Invisalign will not work when it’s not in the mouth but once the teeth start to move this is a good enough motivator to keep them in!” Your in-dentist check ups will be as much about checking whether you’ve stuck to your end of the deal, as much as ensuring the aligners are working correctly!

5. It won’t necessarily be any quicker than other types of brace

This was a key thing Dr Wilczynski stressed to me: when it comes to orthodontics, there’s no quick fixes. “It is not going to get your teeth straight quicker,” she explains. “You want to take time to move your teeth as any fast movements can actually cause severe pain or nerve damage to the teeth.” The length of treatment is very much dependent on the exact case, but can be anywhere between four months and two years.

6. Invisalign will work for most people 

As my teeth had moved quite a lot since my teenage train tracks, I had a suspicion that Invisalign wouldn’t work, but turns out, I was wrong. “Do not rule yourself out,” asserts Dr Wilczynski, “Invisalign can be used on many cases but its down to the dentists experience.” Clear braces can be used to tweak everything from issues of crowding or spacing, under or overbites and orthodontic relapses. 

7. The end is not the end

As I already knew all too well: teeth have an in-built memory system, and after any orthodontic treatment, they’ll want to move back to their original position. “Your teeth will need to be retained with retainers, either fixed or removable, after the Invisalign process to prevent teeth moving back, which is known as relapse,” Dr Wilczynski explains. These retainers will either take the form of clear aligners (the same as the ones used to move the teeth) that you wear every night, or a fixed wire attached to the back of the teeth, which is what I’ll opt for.

Images: Getty images/ Shannon Peter.

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