How to Do Invisalign Right

Roughly everybody wants straight teeth, but nobody wants to wear braces in order to get there. For that reason, those clear, corrective trays—like Invisalign, the best-known brand—have become more and more popular. Now it’s easier to get a straight smile without a mouthful of metal. (Though I sure did like changing my braces bands to different color schemes in high school. Who doesn’t love a Green Bay Packers-themed mouth?) 

Before you get started with these convenient, transparent teeth straighteners, there are a few things to know about the options available to you—plus some advice on aligner hygiene and safe storage.

1. You Probably Want to Go to the Orthodontist 

Telemedicine is in the process of revolutionizing medical care—not always in a good way. So it was only a matter of time before orthodontia became available direct-to-consumer (like teeth whitening, acne prevention, anti-aging, and hair retention before it). It’s way more affordable: At-home routes like Smile Direct Club, the best-known of the DTC companies, might run you $2000 instead of $6000 for Invisalign. But we still recommend doing this one in-person. 

Dr. Keri Barrow of Horner Barrow Orthodontics in Sioux Falls, SD, like seemingly all orthodontists we connected with, advises strongly against self-monitored aligners. (Her view is in line with that of the American Association of Orthodontists.) “It is important to have a trained professional evaluate the tooth movement because the function and health of the teeth is just as important as their appearance,” she said. “If not managed by a professional with periodontic check-ups, the bite can change, resulting in functional problems.” Aligners can amplify existing problems like tooth decay, too. 

She added: “You may want to ask yourself, ‘what other transformative medical treatment would you be willing to undergo without an in-person, pre-treatment examination and ongoing in-person supervision from a medical professional?” Makes sense to us—and DTC aligners also only work for more-minor corrections. 

You should feel free to do your own research, but this is a case where we recommend professional help.   

2. You’ll Need to Keep the Things Clean 

Get ready to brush your teeth—a lot. You need to take out the trays to eat or drink anything, and Barrow and other experts recommend brushing your teeth after every time you eat or drink something—seriously. “There is a significant risk of decalcification and decay from not cleaning your teeth or rinsing the trays after eating or drinking,” she said. 

And while the aligners are only only worn for one or two weeks at a time as you graduate from one to the next, they can get gross quickly. You’ll want to brush the aligners themselves, and might consider investing an an ultrasonic cleaning machine. 

Dental Pod Ultrasonic Cleaning Machine

After you finish with the aligners, you’ll be given a more-permanent retainer. In this case it’s even more important to have a routine to keep the hardware clean. Some types of retainers might allow for boiling; many people brush their retainers every night and morning; like people with dentures, many retainer wearers will use decalcifying tablets to keep retainers clean. 

3. Watch Wear You Set Them

Given their short life spans, those aligners aren’t too durable. It’s not like they’ll easily split in half; after all, they’re durable enough to stay in your mouth for 22 hours a day, for 14 days on end. However, they won’t withstand high heat, Barrow says. She’s seen a number of aligners lost to melting under the hot sun. 

Another common enemy to aligners (even when they’re in their safe haven case)? The family dog. So keep an eye on it to keep them from becoming chew toys. 

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