Clear Aligners FAQ’s

Let’s talk about clear aligners! Hinsdale Orthodontics‘ very on-clinical technician, Kelly, shares some of her aligner experiences and addresses frequently asked questions below. Kelly and the rest of the Hinsdale Orthodontics team are happy to answer any questions you may have about clear aligners.

How did it feel when you first had the attachments? Some refer to them as “buttons” bonded.

Our office does a very clear job of explaining each step of the way at the first appointment. I did not experience any pain or discomfort during the placement of the attachments. It was a much easier appointment than I anticipated. The attachments go on in one step for the top arch and one step for the bottom arch, not individually. That was a surprise. My first aligner was placed over the attachments prior to leaving the appointment. The aligner will feel “tight” when you place it on the first day, but this feeling dissipates quickly. 

How often do you change the aligners?

For the first 8 weeks, you will wear 1 aligner for 2 weeks at a time. You will leave that first appointment with 4 aligners (one you will be wearing as you exit and 3 for the future prior to returning in 8 weeks). After your first appointment, 8 weeks after your start appointment, you will wear 1 aligner per week. We recommend keeping your past aligners in case you do have to go back 1 aligner for a better fit. This can happen if you have a week where you wore your aligner less time. For example, it is easy to get off track when on vacation or have a change in your normal schedule. 

How do you remember to change the aligners on the correct day?

My system was to change them Sunday evenings as I went to bed. For the first 8 weeks, I placed an alarm on my phone at the 2-week mark as a reminder and entered the aligner # directly on the date to change into a fresh one. My calendar for the last year since I began my treatment has a # each Sunday so that I stay on track. The individual aligners have a # on them to correlate. 

Realistically, how many hours a day do you wear your aligners?

Truth, not as much as I should and could. I am a lazy coffee drinker in the morning, which delays the hours in the morning that I wear them. About halfway through my treatment time, I started putting a timer on to remind me to stop what I was doing each morning and put my aligners in. This has worked well because realistically, I could sip my coffee up to 3-4 hours, as I reheat MULTIPLE times. My average time per day for aligners is 16-18 hours per day on my best days. You should strive for 22 hours per day. Many patients switch to cold coffees and drink through a straw rather than having to remove aligners for coffee drinking. Without using a straw, you should only drink clear water.

What can you share of your experience from the first week of wearing aligners?

My mouth felt an equal amount of dryness and moisture…different areas felt super moist and others ridiculously dry. My easy fix was having multiple chapsticks easily accessible and water/fluids more often. I applied the chapstick at times “under/inside” my lip not due to any pain, just to moisturize for longer periods. This changed within about a week or so once my mouth became adjusted to the aligners. 

Any issues with attachments rubbing into the inside of your mouth or bothering your gums?

I had zero issues with attachments bothering the inside of my mouth. If you have any, contact our office for instructions. Out of about 30+ aligners, I have had less than 5 that have had a mildly rough edge to them. With a quick filing, any issues were resolved immediately. We have a soft drummel at the office, but you can also use a basic nail file. I recommend keeping wax also, even though you are not wearing braces in case a file, or our office was not near, and you could temporarily ease the discomfort. 

Are you self-conscious with the attachments/aligners on your teeth?

95% of the time, I am not. Extreme close-up photos may make them more apparent but on your basic photos, you can barely see them, or not see them at all. 

How do you clean your aligners? Do they become cloudy and dirty after days of wearing?

I use a soft toothbrush I set aside specifically for my aligners and toothpaste, and I gently brush them for a very short time every morning. I have also used soft soap and just my fingers when out and about. They do sell little ultrasonic dental pods that work well if you would like to purchase one of those, but I have not had the need. You only wear them 1 week after the first period of time and mine have never became cloudy or seemed dirty. 

Have any of your attachments come off during your treatment? What happens if they do?

One of my attachments came off on their own during my treatment so far (12 months). It is an easy fix. Since I did not notice it, the assistant rebonded the attachment when I came in for my regular appointment. If you do notice it, give our office a call and we can get you in as needed. 

Did you ever have any trouble removing your aligners?

For some reason, I always had more difficulty removing my lower aligner. The office gave me a couple “hooks” that are small and easy to carry in a purse, bag, pocket, etc. I can use my fingernail for the upper without issues, but I do scoop the bottom one out with the hook every time. 

Have you had any trouble when an aligner did not fit well when you change to a new one?

Yes, when I had a week where I did not wear them enough. In this case, the office may recommend that you go back 1 aligner before advancing. There are also “chewies” and other items like a “bite wafer”  that can assist with “seating” your aligners.

What do you do when you are “out to eat/drink” while wearing aligners?

I either remove them in the car before entering the establishment or excuse myself to the bathroom to remove them. I place mine in a retainer case and keep in my bag/purse.

Do you really brush your teeth after each meal/colored drink before placing your aligners back in?

Yes. I do not want any issues with cavities or poor oral hygiene. It’s an extra step that will be worth the investment of time. 

Why orthodontics at your age?

Working here at Hinsdale Orthodontic and Pediatric Dentistry, I was able to obtain a complimentary consultation. Then with an employee discount, I decided to invest in myself for aesthetic reasons, as well as for long term dental health, well into a healthy seasoned age.

I was 55 when I had the opportunity to begin my orthodontic treatment. Honestly, my teeth “weren’t too bad”. 

I am the youngest of 8 siblings. My parents were very hard blue-collar workers. We had excellent dental care from a young age, but my parents could not afford braces for us. 

Our office recommends keeping some items with you, an “aligner kit” per se…

This kit may contain a retainer container, chewies, hook, chapstick, bite wafer, wax, floss/platypus, travel toothbrush, and a mini toothpaste. It may sound like a lot but it can fit into a tiny pouch