Does Invisalign Hurt?

What is Invisalign? 

Invisalign is a brand of in-office clear aligners that discreetly straightens misaligned teeth for an improved smile. Unlike braces, Invisalign does not use traditional metal wires and brackets. Instead, the aligners are virtually invisible and can be removed at any time for eating, cleaning, and brushing.

Invisalign trays are custom-made for your teeth. Every few weeks, you will visit your Invisalign doctor to receive your next set. Each tray is worn for up to two weeks or more.

Depending on the complexity of your case, you may complete Invisalign treatment in less than six months. However, you will start seeing results within weeks.1 

Invisalign treatment can be an excellent solution for both adults and teenagers seeking a virtually invisible way to improve their smiles. Invisalign’s technological advancements make it possible to address nearly all common teeth-straightening and bite problems. These include simple to complex issues, all without interrupting your daily life.5 

Unlike traditional braces, there are no wires or brackets, so you do not need to adjust the way you brush and floss while wearing clear aligners. You can continue to eat all your favorite foods.

Is Invisalign Treatment Painful?

In the beginning, Invisalign treatment may result in mild pain because the device is designed to help gradually straighten your teeth. Any pain or discomfort you experience from Invisalign tends to be temporary. The most significant risk of pain is during the first week of wearing your aligner trays.

One study from 2005 discovered that 83 percent of clear aligner users grew used to wearing dental aligners within a week.2 However, it can take up to a month.

Those who experience Invisalign pain typically report it as mild and temporary. The same 2005 study reported that 54 percent of invisible aligner wearers experienced mild discomfort. Thirty-five percent did not experience pain.

One of the biggest complaints from Invisalign customers was discomfort during chewing. The 2005 study reported that 44 percent of wearers reported this symptom. These statistics suggest that Invisalign leads to mild and temporary pain overall, yet not every user experiences pain.

You may be more likely to develop pain from aligner trays if you have:

  • A lower pain tolerance
  • Sensitive teeth or gums
  • Gingivitis 

What Does Invisalign Pain Feel Like?

Invisalign pain is typically described as tenderness or pressure. Usually, the discomfort is only noticeable while wearing the aligners. It can also occur when you take them in and out of your mouth to eat and clean.

How Long Does the Discomfort Last?

As Invisalign requires new trays every two to three weeks, it is possible to develop mild pain and discomfort within the initial few days of each Invisalign cycle.

However, as you grow used to wearing your new aligners, these symptoms can become less noticeable.

Why Do I Feel Pain in Just One Tooth?

It is possible to experience temporary pain in one tooth with Invisalign. This is typically an indication that your aligners are working by gradually adjusting your teeth positioning. 

You may not experience pain in the same tooth with each aligner tray. Any discomfort should lessen within a few days.

How to Treat Invisalign Pain

While any pain from Invisalign trays tends to be mild and temporary, some users may find it too uncomfortable. However, there are some solutions to alleviate Invisalign pain.

4 Tips for Reducing Invisalign Pain 

Here are some tips for reducing Invisalign pain:

1. Use Dental Wax

If you experience gum pain from Invisalign, you may help lessen it with the help of dental wax. To do this, use a small amount of wax on the top edges of your invisible braces (where they tend to be the roughest). Lubricating the edges of your aligners can help lessen any friction that may be causing your gum pain.

2. Take OTC Medications

You may also think about taking over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for pain relief during the first few days of wearing Invisalign aligners when the pain is most severe. OTC options include acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), or aspirin.

Always ask your doctor if it is safe to take OTC pain relievers, especially if you currently take any other medications or have underlying medical conditions.

3. Change How You Eat

For pain isolated to a single tooth, you can prevent placing more pressure in the area by stopping eating on that side of your mouth. Continue to eat in this way until the pain goes away.

4. Keep Your Trays In

You should avoid removing your invisible braces for an extended period unless otherwise suggested by your orthodontist. Invisalign is designed to be worn for at least 22 hours a day. 

While it is tempting to remove your aligners if you are in pain, this could decrease your pain tolerance to the trays. It is also recommended to change your aligner trays at night time before bed. 

When is Invisalign Pain a Problem (& When to See Your Orthodontist)?

It is possible to experience mild pain and discomfort in the following parts of your body within the first week of putting on your new clear aligners:

  • Jaw
  • Teeth
  • Tongue

However, the pain should not be bad enough to affect your daily activities.

You should speak with your orthodontist or dentist immediately if you experience:

  • Bleeding teeth or gums
  • Hot or cold sensitivity
  • Pain or discomfort when eating, drinking, or swallowing food
  • Pain accompanied by facial swelling

You should also speak with your orthodontist if your Invisalign trays continue to result in pain after a week’s use. They may be able to fix the aligners themselves by filing down the top edges if they are affecting your gums, for example. 

Consider that there may be a risk of mild discomfort every time you change to new trays. However, if your pain is worse than your last set of aligners, or worsens after a few days, speak with your orthodontist.

Do Braces or Invisalign Hurt More? 

It is generally thought that Invisalign hurts less than traditional metal braces. Invisalign helps move your teeth with plastic instead of metal wires and brackets. The clear plastic used in Invisalign braces may be more comfortable to wear.

One small orthodontic treatment study assessed adults wearing traditional metal braces and Invisalign. Researchers discovered that those wearing metal braces experienced more pain overall.3 Likewise, the first group was more likely to require medications for pain relief during the first week of wearing metal braces.

A 2020 study determined that the pain linked to Invisalign and traditional braces generally decreases after three months of use.4

Even if you experience pain at the beginning of wearing your new trays every couple of weeks, the whole Invisalign process does not take as long as metal braces. Invisalign typically takes 12 to 18 months to complete compared to about two years for traditional braces.

Additionally, some people find the metal and wire used in traditional braces to be considerably uncomfortable due to sharp edges and protruding components. These features may also result in pain against your gums.

Is Invisalign Worth it?

Whether Invisalign is worth it or not depends on your unique circumstances. Traditional metal braces and Invisalign both have their pros and cons. 

Any dental appliance can lead to pain and discomfort, including Invisalign. However, unlike traditional braces, Invisalign is known to be less painful overall. These devices may also fix teeth alignment quicker than metal braces. Not everyone is a candidate for aligners, though, especially if you have severe jaw misalignment.

If you are concerned about pain with dental appliances, Invisalign may be a better solution than traditional metal braces. 

Individual experiences vary. Any pain and discomfort with Invisalign aligners is most likely within the first few days of wearing new trays that you switch out every two to three weeks.

If you are still wondering whether Invisalign is worth it, consider visiting your orthodontist for an honest evaluation of your teeth. If Invisalign is suitable for you and your requirements, your orthodontist will let you know.

Resources

How does Invisalign® treatment work?, Invisalign

Nedwed, Verena, and Rainer-Reginald Miethke. “Motivation, acceptance and problems of invisalign patients.” Journal of orofacial orthopedics = Fortschritte der Kieferorthopadie : Organ/official journal Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Kieferorthopadie vol. 66,2 (2005)

White, David W et al. “Discomfort associated with Invisalign and traditional brackets: A randomized, prospective trial.” The Angle orthodontist vol. 87,6 (2017): 801-808

Cardoso, Paula Coutinho et al. “Pain level between clear aligners and fixed appliances: a systematic review.” Progress in orthodontics vol. 21,1 3. 20 Jan. 2020

FAQ, Invisalign

Galan-Lopez, Lidia et al. “A systematic review of the accuracy and efficiency of dental movements with Invisalign®.” Korean journal of orthodontics vol. 49,3 (2019): 140-149

Miller, Kevin B et al. “A comparison of treatment impacts between Invisalign aligner and fixed appliance therapy during the first week of treatment.” American journal of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics : official publication of the American Association of Orthodontists, its constituent societies, and the American Board of Orthodontics vol. 131,3 (2007)

Almasoud, Naif N. “Pain perception among patients treated with passive self-ligating fixed appliances and Invisalign® aligners during the first week of orthodontic treatment.” Korean journal of orthodontics vol. 48,5 (2018): 326-332

Papadimitriou, Aikaterini et al. “Clinical effectiveness of Invisalign® orthodontic treatment: a systematic review.” Progress in orthodontics vol. 19,1 37. 28 Sep. 2018

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