Thousands and thousands of patients have had a positive experience using Invisalign to straighten their teeth and get the smile they want. There are times, however, when the aligner trays cause some pain and discomfort. It’s not typical, but it’s also not impossible. What, then, can an Invisalign patient do to lessen their pain and discomfort with Invisalign aligner trays?
What Sort of Pain and Discomfort to Expect
Knowing what sort of pain to expect can help a person manage it.
Invisalign, like traditional metal braces, slowly “move” teeth within the gums. (See here for more on how Invisalign works.) This can cause some pressure or tenderness, especially during the first few weeks, or for the first couple of days after a new aligner tray is started.
Patients mostly describe the pain as a pressure or tenderness—usually related to the removal of the aligners in and out of your mouth.
Some patients also report that aligner trays have rough edges that can cause irritation in the gum tissue. This is usually a manufacturing defect found in much older cases of Invisalign use, or 3rd party off-brand clear plastic aligners. In other words, rough edges are rare these days. If they do occur, they are typically easy for your Invisalign specialist to correct. Until then, a little orthodontic wax can help relieve the rubbing.
Tips for Avoiding or Reducing Pain and Discomfort
If you find that your mouth is especially sensitive to your Invisalign trays, especially when you transition to a new tray, there are plenty of things to try:
- Avoid foods that put additional pressure on your teeth and gums. This includes anything with a “crunch” or that takes excessive chewing (crunchy fruits and vegetables, nuts, potato chips, etc.). Do not chew ice.
- Although you shouldn’t chew ice, you can suck on ice chips. This can help numb your mouth.
- When it is time to switch aligners, make the switch before bedtime. Patients report the most discomfort during the first day or so with new trays. By switching at bedtime, you spend the first eight hours or so unconscious, meaning fewer waking hours with discomfort.
- Try over-the-counter pain relievers. For more intense pain, pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin, and tylenol can help. Just be sure you are not exceeding the recommended dosage. If the pain does not go away after a few days, check in with you Invisalign provider. It could be that there is a more serious issue going on that is not related to your aligner trays.
Here are some other ideas for relieving pain when you have clear aligners.
Can I Really Expect Pain with Invisalign?
For the most part: No. Independent studies have shown that Invisalign causes less pain than other treatments, especially during the first few weeks of treatment. When pain does occur, it is usually because something unusual has happened to cause the aligner tray to become deformed.
In fact, 35% of people report no pain at all, and for 54% of patients there is only mild pain. In short, Invisalign is nearly painless, and for that reason people are much more likely to stick with their treatment routine.
That said, everyone is different. If you experience unusual pain or discomfort, it might be time to have a conversation with your provider. If he or she cannot help your situation, it’s OK to seek out a second opinion–after all, pain is the body’s way of indicating that something is wrong. Patients should take reasonable steps to manage pain with the help of a professional.