Invisalign offers a relatively invisible alternative to traditional orthodontic braces. Its popularity has soared, especially among school kids who see an alternative to all the “brace face” comments and the unsightly wires of traditional braces. Not only is it more cosmetically pleasing, Invisalign doesn’t place restrictions on food during realignment where traditional braces have strict guidelines. It also costs about the same amount as traditional braces.
As the mother of three children and “adviser” to a number of teenagers, I set out to learn about this promising alternative to those horrid wires that have plagued so many for decades. Basically, trays are custom fitted at each stage of realignment, they’re virtually invisible, and they can be taken out while eating and whenever else is necessary. The only real downside Invisalign seems to have compared to wire braces is that they do cause some pain and discomfort in the days following the introduction of each new tray. Luckily, pain management is usually relatively easy.
Diminish mealtime pain
Orthodontists report that the most common Invisalign complaint is that teeth hurt at mealtime. You remove the trays to eat, but that may allow more movement around sore areas. The teeth have recently been forced into a new position, so they may settle back to their previous place when the newly-fitted tray comes off. Luckily, this type of pain is short-lived; if you’re experiencing it, try waiting 15 minutes after you take the tray out to start eating. You may also want to consider a menu of softer foods in the first several days after getting each new tray, reducing the force needed to chew.
Pick your introduction times
The aching and discomfort from a new Invisalign tray is usually the worst in the first few hours. Many orthodontists suggest waiting until bedtime to put the new tray in place, allowing you to sleep through the worst of the pain. It might not work if you’re a light sleeper, but can otherwise reduce the impact of pain on your active daytime hours.
You may have had teeth drilled or extracted to make room for proper alignment. This process usually leaves teeth very sensitive. Extracted teeth are the worst; the remaining teeth are repositioning themselves around a raw wound. In most cases, there’s nothing wrong with waiting a few days before using the Invisalign tray. This allows sensitivity from drilling to fade, and takes the edge off of extraction pain.
Use topical numbing techniques
Suck on ice cubes if your teeth aren’t cold sensitive. This will help numb your mouth during the worst times of discomfort without introducing additional systemic medications. It won’t take long to figure out when that is, but Invisalign users report that it’s usually right after meals when replacing the trays. Alternatively, talk to your dentist about over-the-counter numbing products designed for teeth and gums. Oral numbing products are generally short-lived, but can effectively knock out pain for a little while when you know a painful event is coming up.
Find relief with over-the-counter pain relievers
For mild to moderate everyday Invisalign pain, there are few things quite as effective as over-the-counter NSAIDs. Your dentist may recommend Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen or Aspirin to help manage the persistent aches. These are sold under a number of different brand names, some with different mixes of chemicals, so make sure you are clear about which products are recommended. If you have bleeding gums, a fresh extraction or may need oral surgery, your dentist may recommend against Aspirin for its anticoagulant properties.
The most important part of pain management is to be honest with your dentist or orthodontist about your level of discomfort. It may seem like your pain isn’t significant enough to bother with management, but if it’s negatively impacting your life then it needs to be fixed. Oral pain is tough to ignore, so talk to your care provider for a pain management plan that works for your needs.