Beginning aligner therapy
Your aligners are on their way and you're excited to get started. Here are a few important things you should keep in mind as you step onto the path to straight teeth and a more confident smile...
As your teeth begin to move, you'll likely experience some mild soreness. This will usually be most pronounced with your first set of aligners and during the first few days of each subsequent set. Many times patients won't notice the soreness until they take the aligners out to eat. All of this is normal. If the discomfort level is too high, a simple over-the-counter pain reliever should take care of it.
Some patients may develop sores on their cheek and/or tongue where they touch the edge of the aligners. This may lead you to conclude that the edge of the aligners are sharp. They aren't. The aligner edges are trimmed, buffed, and polished during the fabrication process. They are still edges, however. And they are edges that the soft tissue in your mouth isn't used to. Like a canker sore, the sores will usually go away after an adjustment period of about two weeks.
NOTE: It is possible (but highly unusual) for a sharp edge to remain after the trimming and buffing processes. The best way to tell is to run your finger along the edge of the aligner while holding the aligner in your hand. If you can't detect a sharp edge with your finger, there isn't one.
This stuff is magic. It'll be your best friend throughout your aligner journey. It helps keep your aligners clean. It gently whitens your teeth. And it keeps your breath fresh.
But please keep in mind that a little bit goes a long way... don't waste it! You only need about half of a pump per aligner. Use your finger to spread the foam along the length of the aligner. If you 'fill' the aligner with foam, most of it will just be forced out the side when you snap the aligner onto your teeth.
Wear your aligners as often as possible
The heading says it all: wear your aligners as often as possible. Your compliance as a patient will directly affect the treatment outcome. Even if you select one of the 'nighttime only' options, you should still try to wear your aligners for as many hours out of each 24 hour period as possible. Teeth like to move continuously and they move best with momentum. Stop-start movements are not ideal. Teeth tend to be quick to revert back to their old positions and slower to adopt new positions.
Schedule, Stabilization & Communication
Your treating doctor will set up a schedule for changing your aligners during your treatment. For patients that are wearing their aligners around the clock, the typical schedule will be 2 weeks per aligner. However, it may be necessary to adjust the schedule based on how your teeth are actually progressing. Everyone's biology is different. The aligners can tell the teeth where and how to move, but it is up to the teeth to listen. And some people's teeth may be slower to listen than others.
YOU SHOULD NOT MOVE TO THE NEXT SET OF ALIGNERS IF YOU DO NOT FEEL THAT YOUR TEETH HAVE STABILIZED IN THIER CURRENT POSITION...
So what is stabilization? Here are two simple indicators that your teeth have stabilized:
You shouldn't feel any tenderness when you are biting on something with your front teeth.
You should only feel light, even pressure from the aligners when you put them on. There shouldn't be 'hot spots' where one or two teeth are experiencing significantly more pressure than the other teeth.
If you don't feel that your teeth have stabilized at a certain stage during the treatment, you should not move to the next aligner and contact your treatment coordinator. Good communication between doctor and patient is essential to achieving the desired outcome.
Your bite will feel 'off' during the course of your treatment. There are two main reasons for this:
Your teeth are moving so it is expected that things are going to feel different
The 'new normal' for your teeth will be to have two thin pieces of plastic between them. When those pieces of plastic aren't there (like when you're eating) that equilibrium will feel off... the teeth won't feel like they are coming together exactly right.
It is important to understand that this is a normal part of aligner therapy treatment... don't get freaked out by it! At the conclusion of your treatment your teeth will naturally return to a new equilibrium - a comfortable, natural bite. This may take several months after your treatment is completed. We've written more on this topic in this article.
You'll realize really quickly that wearing aligners may require you to change your routine a little. For example, you'll want to make sure you always have access to a toothbrush after you eat. You don't want to put the aligners on after eating without brushing because those little food particles can irritate your gums. Many patients discover that wearing aligners actually helps them resist their snacking habit because the hassle of taking the aligner out and brushing your teeth just isn't worth it for a handful of potato chips. If you're a big soda drinker, it may also help you to dial back that habit (water is the only thing you should drink with your aligners in).
It isn't all bad!
At this point you may be second-guessing your decision to undergo clear aligner therapy. But don't worry... it isn't all bad. Any pain or soreness subsides quickly. You will start noticing progress after your very first set of aligners, and that progress becomes addictive. Your teeth will be noticeably whiter within a couple of weeks too. And, if you're like a lot of people, you may even shed a few unwanted pounds because your snacking habits will almost certainly improve. Straighter teeth and a smaller waistline? Sign me up!