After your initial consult and impressions, it usually takes about 4 weeks for your clear aligner trays to arrive. Then, it’s time to get started!
My trays conveniently arrived just before the Christmas holiday, so I selfishly decided to hold off until after the vacation be begin my treatment. The reason? Honestly, I partly didn’t want to have to worry about taking them in and out during all of the fantastic snacking that happens during a holiday at Mom and Dad’s house and partly I was nervous that they would be visible in all of our family Christmas photos…as if those aren’t already awkward enough. 🙂
The Christmas tree is down, the decorations are put away, and the snacking on treats is done (or at least it should be) so today was the big day. Plan on an hour appointment to get everything in place before you walk out with that first set of trays in your mouth. Also, plan to eat lunch beforehand (I’ll explain later.) We had an extra helper in the chair today, our eight-month-old son, so this speaks volumes to the difficulty, or lack there of, involved in getting the treatment started. I leaned back in the chair and he sat on my lap, mostly trying to tear off my green bib and taking a break to play with his toys once in awhile. For my case, two things had to be completed before the tray was popped in for good and I was ready to walk out the door.
- Buttons: Several places around your mouth, there are small “buttons” that need to be adhered to your teeth. These buttons help the trays get more leverage in certain areas to move the teeth they need to move and keep those they don’t need to move in place. My case required 4 buttons, all on my upper teeth. Adhesive is placed on top of your tooth and then the buttons, tiny clear bumps made of a composite material, are essentially glued on. My first question: How do you get these buttons back off? Answer- They have to grind down the button and then polish the adhesive off the surface of the tooth. My next question: How noticeable are these going to be because they feel pretty huge in my mouth? Answer- After looking in the mirror, I realized they feel a lot more noticeable than they actually are. I can live with the buttons.
- Polishing the Sides of My Teeth: There were two places on my bottom teeth that needed to be polished down so that when my teeth straighten out, they can fit together nicely. This was quick and painless, although the buzzing sound did scare our little one a bit. The weirdest part wasn’t the actual polishing with the drill, but the second phase where he slid what felt like a tiny piece of sandpaper in between my teeth to finish shaving off what was necessary.
After that, they trays were popped in and I was all ready to go with the following instructions:
- Wear trays for 22 hours a day. Basically, this means only remove trays to eat, drink, or brush/floss your teeth.
- Don’t eat or drink with the trays in. Cool water is okay to drink while wearing the trays.
- Brush and floss after eating or drinking and before putting trays back into your mouth. If you are unable to brush and floss your teeth, be sure to at least rinse your mouth out with water prior to reinserting the trays.
My questions and concerns at this point:
- How do I get them in and out? I could tell, even from the first few minutes, that the trays fit very snugly. When I mentioned to eat lunch before coming in to get your first trays, here is why: They are hard to get in and out at first! In fact, when we initially got home and went to eat lunch, neither one of us could get them off of my teeth. After several minutes of pulling and prying and experimenting, I did find a way to get them out and now, at the end of the day, I am not struggling nearly as much. That first time is hard, though. I would imagine that what approach you take depends on the shape of your teeth and the location of your buttons. For me, I found that I had to reach all the way to my back teeth and pop down the corners of the tray. From there, I could continue working my way around the inside edge of my arch (closest to my tongue) until they were totally free. Pulling and prying on the front part of the trays did not budge them.
- Can I whiten my teeth using these trays? Our office does not recommend that you do any whitening during active Invisalign treatment. This makes sense because I wouldn’t want darker spots left on my teeth where the buttons are currently covering a small part of my tooth surface.
- Can they break? Yes, but not easily.
- How long do I have to wear these trays before I switch to my next set? Two weeks. I have a total of 5 trays, at 2 weeks each, which means the treatment will be concluded in 10 total weeks. Let the countdown begin!
- How do I take care of the trays? Brush them with a soft bristled toothbrush at least once a day. You do not need to use toothpaste, but can use an alcohol-free mouth rinse for brushing or rinsing the trays if you want to freshen them up.
by Jessica Hagedorn