Does wearing Invisalign® hurt? -

Remedies and solutions for managing the discomfort of Invisalign® treatment. | Understanding aligner fit and tooth movement pain. | Controlling pain using OTC anti-inflammatory analgesics. | Soft-tissue (gums, cheeks, tongue, floor of mouth) irritation.

You don't necessarily have to expect that having Invisalign® treatment will be painful. But at the same time, it's not realistic to presume that your aligners, or the tooth movements they create, won't cause some minor aches or pains from time to time.

What types of discomfort are common?

So to give you an idea of what to expect, we've broken this topic down into categories. Each one includes a description of the source or cause of the pain, and then some simple remedies and solutions for it.

  1. Aligner fit and tooth movement pain.
  2. Soft tissue irritation (gums, cheeks, tongue, floor of mouth).
  3. Discomfort when eating.

1) Aligner fit / tooth movement pain.

About half of all Invisalign® patients report that they experience at least some minor pain or discomfort during the course of their treatment. It's often described as a sense of pressure or tenderness.

  • That type or level of pain you experience while wearing one set of aligners may be different with the next. Any one aligner may irritate all of the teeth it covers, groups of adjacent teeth, or just individual ones in isolated locations.
  • The discomfort may be something that you notice while you wear your aligners...

    ... or it may just be triggered when you take them in and out.

What's wearing
Invisalign® like?

Feeling pressure is a sign that your aligners are working.

For the most part, the discomfort that you notice is simply evidence that the pressure needed to realign your teeth is in fact being generated. Experiencing it may not be fun, but it's a needed part of the process.

[Use this link for more details: How do Invisalign® aligners create tooth movement?]

a) What are the chances that you'll have pain?

To give you an idea of what to expect, here's what one study (Nedwed 2005) reported [page references].

  • A group of Invisalign® patients were evaluated during their initial three to six months of treatment.
  • 35% of the patients reported that they had no discomfort related to wearing their aligners.
  • However, 54% did experience what they considered to be mild pain.

b) You'll probably have the most discomfort when you switch to a new set of aligners.

The discrepancy between the shape of an aligner and the current alignment of your teeth will be greatest when you first start wearing it.

Then, over time as your teeth begin to shift and conform, the fit of the aligner will become more relaxed and comfortable and your pain should subside. (Use the link above for details about how aligners work.)

That's exactly what the study above found.
  • Nedwed (2005) determined that a patient's pain was typically associated with the initial use of a new aligner.
  • In most cases, this discomfort subsided within 2 to 3 days.
  • Overall, 83% of the study's participants reported that they got used to wearing aligners within a week's time.

c) This remedy should help.

Make your switch to a new set of aligners at bedtime.

One thing you can do to help to minimize the amount of discomfort you notice is to switch to your new set of aligners right before you go to bed. That way you'll be asleep during those first several painful hours while your teeth begin to adjust.

This approach can be especially effective in combination with the use of a bedtime over-the-counter analgesic (see below).

Also, it may be the act of taking your new set of aligners out that's the most uncomfortable part. If so, if you'll make your switch from one set to another at night, your teeth will have some hours of adjustment before your aligners have to be removed.

Picture of anti-inflammatory analgesics.

Anti-inflammatory analgesics like ibuprofen may help to alleviate orthodontic pain.

d) Try using an OTC pain reliever to manage your pain.

Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory analgesics (NSAID's) can be an effective way to help to control aligner discomfort. Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), or even aspirin, can make a good choice.

These drugs work by inhibiting the formation of some of the compounds that help to stimulate body pain receptors. You can get a head start on this inhibitory effect by taking a dose of your selected NSAID an hour or so before you switch to your next set of aligners.

  • One study (Steen Law 2000) found it beneficial to take ibuprofen 60 minutes before some types of orthodontic procedures (ones not dissimilar to switching to a new set of aligners).

Ask your dentist for their advice. And of course, you will need to read and follow the directions and warnings that accompany any product that you consider.

2) Invisalign® aligners may cause gum or tongue irritation.

It's possible for the edge of some of your aligners to have a length, positioning, roughness or sharpness that irritates your gums, cheek, tongue and/or the floor of your mouth. The amount of irritation created can be significant, especially if the situation is not brought under control early on. Persistent irritation can result in the formation of an ulcer.

The Nedwed study referenced above determined that 6% of its participants experienced some type of soft tissue irritation. Despite this finding however, wearing Invisalign® aligners is typically considered less irritating than wires-and-brackets braces.

Check with your dentist before adjusting an aligner yourself.

Obviously the needed remedy for this problem is to smooth off or trim down the offending aligner edge. But who will perform the adjustment, you or your dentist?

Before attempting to make an adjustment on your own (at least for the first time) you should contact your dentist's office for advice. Let them explain (or show you) what types of changes are acceptable.

How to adjust an aligner.
  • Your overall goal will be one of reducing the offending edge. But not so much that it compromises the aligner's fit over your teeth or its ability to create the tooth movements it was intended to produce.

    (If you do damage an aligner, it will have to be remade. This will impose an added cost and delay to your treatment.)

  • You'll probably be surprised at how little reduction is needed to make a giant improvement.

A good tool for trimming the length or thickness of an aligner's edge can be a single-edged razor blade.

  • Use a new one, so you have a good sharp edge to use.
  • Think of using the blade as a plane (reducing just as minute amount as possible with each stroke) as opposed to a cutting knife.
  • Instead of pushing the blade straight into the plastic using a knife stroke (which might easily bite in and cut off too much), try holding the blade perpendicular to the aligner's surface and firmly scraping it across the offending edge.

Remember these two things: Trimming off just a little bit is often all that's needed. And you can always come back and trim more but you can't put the plastic you've trimmed off back on.

3) Eating discomfort.

We now discuss this topic here: Invisalign® and Eating - Problems / Remedies.



Topic Menu ▶  Dental Braces


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