Making the choice to transform my smile was an exciting moment. I suffer from an extreme overjet with a slight gap in my top row of teeth. I wore braces as a kid but failed to use my retainer consistently, causing my teeth to revert to their naturally uneven state. As a result, I found myself unhappy with the smile my parents worked so hard to fix during my childhood. I vowed to never revisit the metal braces treatment and decided to try Invisalign instead.
I am just over a month into my Invisalign treatment program, and despite reading up on all there is to know before making the commitment, I’ve discovered a few surprises about my plastic aligners after living with them for a while. If you’re in the process of reconstructing your teeth with Invisalign or plan to try the treatment some day, I’ve put together a list of essential tricks that will come in handy during your journey to a new smile.
1. Purchase a Brand-New Nail Buffer. You probably wouldn’t think to go out and purchase a manicure tool when starting a new dental treatment, but a nail buffer ($6) comes in very handy. While the plastic material is less irritating than the metal wires of traditional braces, it still can irritate your mouth. My first set of trays were extremely sharp around the edges and left tiny painful cuts around my gums, tongue, and cheeks. Though my dentist did not advise me to buff the sharp corners with a nail buff, I found immediate relief when I used the smooth side of the tool on the irritating sides of my aligners.
2. Soak your Trays in Diluted Mouthwash Twice a Week. Keeping the same plastic trays in your mouth for two weeks can result in a taste that isn’t very fresh (especially if you’ve skipped brushing in between meals). To ensure your trays stay as fresh as possible, soak them in diluted mouthwash for five minutes or less. Soaking your trays in the watered-down mixture for a few minutes will not only leave your mouth feeling clean but also aid in keeping your trays polished. I like to use a clear moisturizing rinse from Biotene to further avoid staining the plastic.
3. Keep a Care Kit with You at All Times. Making a commitment to Invisalign comes with a healthy amount of upkeep, including brushing and flossing diligently — more than twice a day. In order to make sure your teeth stay in tip-top shape, invest in a set of miniature dental tools. You can purchase a basic dental kit, like the Glo Science Travel Kit at Sephora. However, I suggest making a portable care kit that contains a toothbrush, floss, chewies, a retainer case, and mini interdental brushes. Keeping these items with you in a travel-size pouch will make it easier to take care of your teeth on the go and save you from having to purchase items at the drugstore in the event of a special occasion or emergency.
4. Get a Tool to Help Remove Your Trays. One of the unfortunate downsides of having Invisalign is that it’s bad for your manicures. It’s nearly impossible to take off your trays without using the tips of your nails, so having a tool to remove your aligners will help keep your nail polish from chipping. You can order the Outie online to add to your care kit. The Outie is plastic clamp with a tiny hook that will easily remove your plastic attachments. Not only will you save your manicure, but you can also avoid constantly putting your fingers in your mouth.
5. Never Insert Your Trays After Eating if you haven’t Brushed your Teeth. Recommended wear of Invisalign is 22 hours daily, so you might be tempted to pop your trays back in immediately after eating to meet your goal. But no matter how determined you are to keep your trays on, never put them back in your mouth without brushing. Putting your trays in without cleaning your teeth puts you at risk for developing cavities and staining your aligners with the remnants of your food.
Set a Timer. Set a timer as a reminder to put on your trays after eating. It might feel obsessive to count the amount of time you’re leaving your trays out of your mouth to snack, but the closer you come to meeting your 22-hour goal each day, the closer you come to the smile of your dreams.