The holiday season is here and it’s time to start gearing up for all the office parties, family gatherings, and get-togethers with friends. Opportunities to eat, drink, socialize, and perhaps even travel can be a lot of fun, but they also tend to get us out of our normal health routines.
People who choose Invisalign to straighten their teeth often like the fact that it’s nearly invisible and removable. But wearing Invisalign requires sticking to a routine. They consist of clear plastic trays that fit over the teeth and gently move them into position. Each tray is worn for about two weeks and should stay in the mouth for 20-22 hours a day.
How can you keep up with that kind of schedule (and other good health habits) and still enjoy the holidays? Follow these tips and it’s possible to indulge a bit—even with Invisalign.
Prevent Damage to Trays and Teeth
One of the most important rules about Invisalign is that the wearer should always take them out before they eat or drink. This is for the protection of both the aligner trays and the teeth. This can be particularly difficult during the holidays. Instead of three regular meals, snacking can go on all day. Add to that parties in the evening and special treats like cookies and candy canes, and it might be tempting to cheat. But breaking this rule can also break your trays.
Invisalign trays are made of durable plastic, but that doesn’t mean they are indestructible. The plastic is thin. Something hard like candy or a popcorn kernel can crack a tray or even snap it in half.
Drinks can be problematic too, especially for the teeth. It may be tempting to sip a beverage without taking out Invisalign trays. Liquids can seep under the trays and stay trapped underneath. The longer decay-causing sugars and bacteria stay in contact with the teeth, the better the chance for cavities to form.
There are other problems with beverages and Invisalign too. Tea, coffee, or red wine can permanently stain the plastic. And believe it or not, hot beverages can actually melt them.
Damaged Invisalign trays won’t do their job to straighten the teeth, and can even move them in the wrong direction. To keep them in the best shape possible, take them out every time you snack or sip. Every single time.
Keep Invisalign Trays Sparkling Clean
Not only must Invisalign trays come out for eating and drinking, but wearers need to follow strict oral hygiene rules too. Trays should be rinsed with cold water when taken out of the mouth. Doing this helps them stay fresh by removing saliva. Skipping this step can collect bacteria and cause bad breath.
Invisalign should never pop the trays back in over dirty teeth. Food left on and between teeth won’t only cause decay but can also make the Invisalign trays fit incorrectly. After eating or drinking, wearers should brush and floss their teeth before replacing their trays. Dentists recommend carrying a kit during the holidays that includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, and special cleaning crystals for Invisalign. You should never brush the trays with regular toothpaste or soak them in mouthwash. Both of these things can deteriorate the plastic.
If it’s not possible to brush, or if the wearer hasn’t come prepared, the mouth should at least be rinsed out with water. It isn’t ideal, but it’s better than nothing.
Avoid Lost Trays
Taking out Invisalign trays every time you eat unfortunately allows for plenty of chances to misplace them. Not to mention forgetting them in relative’s homes or hotel rooms during holiday travel.
Remember to take along a case to keep trays in when they’re not in the mouth. They may accidentally get thrown out if they’re put in a napkin. And dropping them into a purse or pocket isn’t only a good way to damage them, but it’s just plain gross!
When traveling, it’s also a good idea to bring along extra trays. Packing the next trays in your treatment, or hanging on to the previous set will give you some options if you lose or break the ones you’re scheduled to wear. Contact your dentist or orthodontist as soon as possible. They will be able to let you know if it’s best to put in your old set or move on to the next one. Or, if it’s best, they can reorder the lost set for you.
Preserve Invisalign’s Progress
The very reason why many people choose Invisalign to straighten their teeth—their easy removal—can become a hassle during the holidays. Taking them out every time you’re offered a treat, then brushing and flossing before putting them back in is tedious. Instead of that “remove, clean, replace, repeat” routine, many people end up leaving them out for hours, or even days, at a time. They feel it’s just too much trouble.
Holiday events and parties also mean more socializing, which might make people want to leave their Invisalign at home. They may not want them in while they are meeting new people, doing a lot of talking, and taking photos. Even nearly invisible Invisalign can make some people self-conscious.
Invisalign is meant to be worn for 20-22 hours a day. Keeping them out too long can undo the work they have done to straighten the teeth. It can be a setback to the treatment schedule. In some cases, when the trays are put back in, they can be uncomfortable because the teeth have moved back to their previous position.
Everyone is different, so the effects of leaving Invisalign out will vary. To prevent too much disruption, wear the trays whenever you can. That might mean wearing them up until the moment your guests arrive, or in the car on the way to an event. The closer you can get to the 20-22 hour goal, the better.
It is best to check with your dentist or orthodontist if you miss several hours or days, especially if there is discomfort when you put them back in. They may want to adjust the treatment plan and may even need to order new trays to get you back on track.
Straight Teeth and Happy Holidays—You Can Have Both
Just because you have Invisalign aligner trays doesn’t mean you need to restrict your enjoyment of the holidays. With a little pre-planning and care, you can eat, drink, and be merry along with everyone else!