Can you eat while wearing Invisalign® aligners? How about chewing gum? -

Reasons why you shouldn't eat while wearing your aligners. (And reasons why your dentist might suggest that you should.) | How having Invisalign® treatment may change your eating habits. | Ways to minimize eating discomfort.

What's Invisalign®'s recommendation about eating?

The official word stated on Invisalign.com is that your aligners should be removed "for all meals and snacks, including gum."

Section references - Invisalign.com

Why this recommendation?

While the Invisalign® website doesn't go into detail, the underlying basis of their recommendation has to do with the risks involved. Some of these risks involve potential damage to your aligners. Others are related to possible risks to your teeth and gums. We explain scenarios associated with each concern below.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes, possibly. Despite Invisalign's® blanket recommendation, some dentists feel that the risks involved with wearing your aligners while you eat are overshadowed by the benefits that doing so can provide (we explain below). So per your dentist's instructions, possibly eating while your aligners are in is OK.

Other things to know about eating and Invisalign®.

Whether you end up eating with your aligners in place during your treatment or not, there are some basic food-related issues that will tend to affect you either way.

This includes things like the way you eat, when you eat, or the types of foods you'll likely want to consume. There's also the issue of eating discomfort, once again, whether your aligners are left in or out.

This page covers all of these issues, and provides tips and pointers that should be able to help you out.


1) Reasons why you shouldn't eat with Invisalign® in place.

a) You might damage your aligners.

This is probably the reason that's most obvious to most people. While Invisalign® tooth aligners are durable and strong, they're just made out of thin plastic. And when they're exposed to chewing forces, it's possible to crack, break or distort them.

Other issues.
Beyond just obvious damage, subjecting your aligners to chewing forces may affect them in other ways too:
  • A study by Schuster suggested that aligner exposure to chewing forces led to an increase in appliance stiffness (due to a resulting change in the crystalline structure of its plastic). With this stiffening effect resulting in a weakening of force exerted by the appliance to the patient's teeth.
  • A study by Bradley found that constant aligner exposure to the forces generated by opposing teeth led to aligner deformation, which resulted in a weakening of force exerted by the appliance.

 

Admittedly, at a practical level it's not known if these effects actually affect a patient's treatment progress. But as a best practice, these findings do support the stance that your appliances should be taken out while eating.

Section references - Schuster, Bradley

The fit of each and every aligner is important.

Any type of damage that does occur that affects an aligner's fit will also affect the effectiveness with which it's able to create tooth movements. And when an aligner has been seriously compromised, the aligner will no longer be able to accomplish the specific aspect of your treatment process that it was designed to accomplish.

If that's what's happened, the aligner will have to be replaced because no other one can substitute. And a patient's pre-made series of aligners doesn't come with spares.

Having the new one made means you'll experience treatment delay and added expense. So if aligner damage happens often enough, the progress of your case can really start to bog down, and become just that much more expensive.

 

Why look for trouble, just take your aligners out when you eat.

One of the biggest advantages of the Invisalign® system is the fact that you can take your aligners out anytime you want, which means that you can maintain your regular diet no problem at all.

With the additional benefit being that doing so helps to protect your aligners, therefore helping to ensure that your case progresses as smoothly as possible.

b) Eating with your aligners in place isn't that pleasant.

If you do try to eat food while wearing your aligners, it's unlikely that you'll find the experience all that easy, or satisfying.

  • You'll probably find that the food wants to stick to them, or gum them up in a significant way.
  • You may find that eating at home is passable. But doing so in public tends to create a bit of a spectacle.

c) You'll still need to clean your aligners.

Even if you don't take your aligners out to eat, once you've finished your meal or snack you absolutely will have to remove them so you can clean them, along with your teeth too.

If you don't ...

  • Any debris that's accumulated in and around your aligners will be unsightly and foul.
  • If your aligners and teeth are not cleansed thoroughly, the accumulated food debris in them, and the associated dental plaque that will ultimately form, will place you at increased risk for cavities and gum tissue inflammation.

This latter point, especially in regard to tooth decay, is a big issue. Being embarrassed by food that's trapped in your aligners is one thing. But if you allow cavities to form, doing so will have permanently affected your teeth for the remainder of your life. That's a tragedy considering how easily the situation could have been avoided.


Why do some dentists say it's OK to eat with your aligners in place?

Despite the concerns we've mentioned above, some dentists specifically tell their patients that it's all right for them to wear their aligners when they eat, and in fact that they should.

While this recommendation may seem curious to you (considering the risks involved), doing so can provide some benefits. They include:

  • You'll be able to wear your aligners just that much more each day. - While the amount of time you spend eating may not be a lot, anytime your aligners aren't being worn your case can't progress. So by eating with them in, you'll gain a little extra treatment time each day.
  • Chewing with your aligners in place helps them to seat better. - It's the fit of your aligners over your teeth that creates and directs tooth movements. And the pressure you place on them as you eat tends to force them down and therefore helps to ensure this fit. As a result, your case will tend to progress more rapidly and predictably.

 

Make sure you follow all of your dentist's instructions.

Some patients are quick to hear their dentist say it's OK for them to eat with their aligners in but fail to hear the remainder of the instructions they have been given.

  • You'll still need to remove your aligners after you eat and clean both them and your teeth. - There is no exception to this rule. Eating foods with your aligners in place is a risky proposition in regard to maintaining your oral health.

    Cleaning up after eating with your aligners in will probably be more of a task than if they had been removed. And it needs to be performed promptly (the longer you wait, the longer the conditions that form cavities will persist). So if this is the approach you are using, be prepared to bring your 'A' game.

  • Ask your dentist if there are some types of foods you should avoid. - Comparatively hard foods (raw carrots, nuts, etc...), and the forces needed to chew them, will place your aligners at comparatively greater risk for damage, so your dentist may ask you to avoid them.

 

2) Can you chew gum while wearing Invisalign®?

You'll find that chewing gum with your aligners in place makes a poor choice.

  • The gum will tend to stick to their surface. It will be time-consuming and messy to remove.
  • In no way were your aligners designed to withstand the kind of abuse that chewing gum creates. And doing so will likely end up ruining one or both of them.

    (Keep in mind, if you damage even just one aligner, replacing it is an involved and costly process.)

  • The official word on Invisalign.com is that your aligners should be removed "for all meals and snacks, including gum."

    Section references - Invisalign.com


3) Wearing Invisalign® will likely change the way that you eat.

One of the great conveniences of having Invisalign® treatment is that you can simply take your aligners out. So as compared to traditional braces, your eating activities may not have to change all that drastically.

However despite this convenience, most patients still find that they need to alter their standard eating habits, at least somewhat.

Research.

Subject responses to a questionnaire in a study by Azaripour found that 70% of respondents who had fixed (traditional) braces reported that their eating habits had changed (no surprise). But 50% of subjects undergoing removable aligner therapy reported the same thing.

A study by Shalish polled Invisalign® patients on the issue of "eating disturbances." On a scale of 0 to 5, the average response was around 2.3 on day 1 of wearing their appliances. But by day 14 this response had fallen to a level of around 1.2.

Section references - Azaripour, Shalish

While neither of these studies elaborated extensively about what types of eating changes were experienced, here are some of the issues you may discover.

a) You may decide to eat less frequently.

Having Invisalign® may change your mind about how often you choose to eat. That's because after every meal or snack you'll need to clean both your teeth and aligners, and that can take a bit of time and effort.

So to make your life simpler, you may decide to change your eating habits from frequent snacking to a routine of larger, less frequent, meals.

b) At times, softer foods may be needed.

Teeth tenderness.

During the course of your treatment, you'll probably find that there are periods when your teeth are especially tender and sore. (Like during those first few days when you switch to a new set of aligners.)

During these periods, you may need to shy away from hard foods (that require relatively more biting pressure) in favor of comparatively softer foods.

Food packing.

A study by Pacheco-Pereira found that 25% of patients who wore a removable aligner system reported that food packing between their teeth when they ate was a problem.

Our assumption here would be that during orthodontic treatment tooth mobility increases, therefore making it easier for food to pack between the patient's teeth. (The teeth shift minutely when the pressure of chewing occurs.) It seems likely that choosing a softer diet would help to minimize this effect.

Section references - Pacheco-Pereira

Food temperature may be an issue.

Having orthodontic treatment can result in periods when a person's teeth are more sensitive to hot and cold temperature extremes than they otherwise would normally be.

The Pacheco-Pereira study cited above found that this occurred with 16% of removable orthodontic aligner patients. For this reason, you may find that you need to moderate the temperature of foods and beverages before consuming them.


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4) Suggestions for minimizing eating discomfort.

Here are two suggestions for Invisalign® patients who find that they experience (at least from time to time) tenderness with their teeth when trying to eat.

  • Start the use of each new set of aligners at bedtime. This way your teeth will have several hours to get used to their fit, and settle down, before your next meal.
  • During those periods when the pain associated with eating is especially severe, you may find that taking an OTC analgesic is needed.

    Generally, Tylenol makes a more appropriate choice than most other OTC pain relievers. (We discuss how your choice of an analgesic might affect the progress of your case here.) So check with your dentist to see what they recommend.

Section references - Karthi

 

Comments

eating

my orthadontist told me to eat with them in because it cuts down treatment time by 45%

tt

We've added a section above that explains the advantages that your dentist is trying to gain by having you wear your aligners when you eat. Just remember, as discussed above, there are risks associated with doing so, so keep them in mind so you don't cause yourself some problems.

Eating with Aligners in

My orthodontist told me that I should eat with aligners in and that it should be okay to do so. This is because as a student, morning tea and lunch situations are difficult because I can't exactly whip out my toothbrush in the middle of the school, and also because eating with aligners mean you eat a lot less, and so for someone like me, it could become unhealthy to only eat when the aligners can be taken out, as I can't eat all that much in one sitting (e.g a big breakfast and dinner) and so in order to stay physically healthy it's better to eat with them in.
I just wanted to point out that this could be another reason! :)

Jm

For anyone reading, it's important to understand that any debris that accumulates inside their aligners, at least theoretically, places them at increased risk for the formation of tooth decay. A best practice is to always remove your aligners after eating and cleaning them and your teeth.

* Comments marked with an asterisk, along with their associated replies, have either been edited for brevity/clarity, or have been moved to a page that's better aligned with their subject matter, or both. If relocated, the comment and its replies retain their original datestamps, which may affect the chronology of the page's comments section.


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