What is it like to use clear aligners? Is it uncomfortable? Can they cause damage to teeth? Let’s dispel a few myths and find out how clear aligners really work.
A comparison with braces
Traditional braces have been used to correct misalignments for more than 100 years. Comparatively clear aligners have been around for 20 years, but in that time they have had a meteoric rise. Why? Aligners like Invisalign London using 3D printed, simulation led, computer-aided design are considered simpler, more affordable and more comfortable by many dental patients.
The brackets and archwires of traditional braces have always been optimised to provide the most efficient movement of teeth by transferring force on to them. This leads to excellent realignment, but at the cost of discomfort, particularly to the soft tissues of the gums and inside of the lips.
What about with sensitive gums?
Sensitive and inflamed gums can be more prone to being further aggravated by rubbing; even the tension bands used in orthodontic treatment can become a source of continued irritation.
Clear aligners help to reduce the gum aggravation in two ways. The first is a general hygiene advantage; clear aligners can be removed at any time and it is not recommended that you eat while wearing them. This makes them far easier to keep clean; just brush your teeth after eating so that food particles and debris are unlikely to become trapped beneath the aligner. The next is by simply not making contact with the gum tissue, aligners deliver force directly to the teeth and when well fitted, they should not be applying pressure to the soft gum tissue.
Managing mouth ulcers
Recurring ulcers on the inside of the mouth are not uncommon. Our lips become normalised to the existing position of our teeth; as the teeth move, ulcers can intensify in localised areas, which can result in commensal bacteria invading the inflamed tissue and causing an ulcer. Treatment at home should be attempted with over-the-counter products, but if not resolved in 2 weeks or if the ulcer has expanded above the size of a 5 pence piece, please get in contact with your dental clinic as there are prescription alternatives for severe and chronic ulcers.
What to do if you are in discomfort
A degree of discomfort should be expected when wearing a new aligner. This is because the next step in the treatment will be trying to take your teeth further in a new direction and, unlike the previous aligner that you have just finished wearing, your teeth will not have it adapted to their new position yet, so they will experience the maximum quantity of force. This is usually at its peak for the first few hours of wearing the new aligner.
It is highly recommended that you do not put it on either immediately before trying to go to sleep, as whilst you’re trying to get to sleep, it could be particularly difficult to ignore. It is common to also use over-the-counter pain relief if distracting levels of discomfort continue after the first few hours, but if the sensation becomes prolonged with a new aligner, get in contact with your provider or local dentist.