Invisalign Pain: What to Expect and How to Manage It

Posted by Dr. John Paul Gallardo, DDS, PA
Pain is normal during the first few days of wearing Invisalign, but will usually subside after a few days of wearing the aligners
Invisalign pain can range from mild to severe depending on the severity of the misalignment of teeth

Invisalign is a well-known orthodontic treatment that uses removable aligners to gradually shift teeth into their desired positions. Invisalign aligners are clear, compared to the traditional, much more visible metal braces we are all used to seeing. As with any orthodontic treatment, some mild discomfort may be experienced during the initial stages of Invisalign. Invisalign is often considered a more comfortable alternative to conventional braces.

In this article, we will discuss the initial discomfort associated with Invisalign, how the system works to straighten teeth, and the common causes of Invisalign pain.

The Initial Discomfort of Invisalign

When beginning Invisalign treatment, it is common for patients to experience some initial discomfort. Feeling pressure and minor discomfort is a sign that the aligners are working effectively to shift teeth. The discomfort is usually temporary and subsides within a couple of days. In one study, 54% of people reported experiencing headache from Invisalign, invisalign complaints are temporary mild pain and discomfort during the first week of the treatment, while 35% did not experience any pain at all.

How Invisalign Works to Shift Teeth

Invisalign treatment involves the use of custom-made, clear aligner trays that are worn over the teeth. These aligners are designed to apply continuous pressure on the teeth, gradually moving them into their desired positions over time. Each set of dental aligners is worn for about two weeks and will move the teeth approximately a tenth of a millimeter. After this time the aligners are replaced with a new set that continues the tooth movement process.

The aligner material is a comfortable, smooth BPA-free plastic that is virtually invisible when worn. This makes Invisalign an attractive alternative to traditional metal braces, which use metal brackets and wires to move teeth. They can be easily removed for eating, drinking, and maintaining proper oral hygiene, making them a more convenient and comfortable orthodontic solution for many patients.

Common Causes of Invisalign Pain

There are three primary causes of discomfort associated with Invisalign treatment:

  1. Pressure on teeth: As the aligners work to shift teeth, they exert gentle pressure on them. Especially during the first few days of wearing a new set of aligners, this pressure can cause tenderness or sensitivity in the teeth.
  2. Initial adjustment: When starting Invisalign treatment, it may take some time for your mouth to adjust to the presence of the aligners. Some patients may experience discomfort as their tongue, cheeks, and lips get used to the new dental appliance. In the study mentioned above, 83% of aligner users adjusted to aligner use within a week.
  3. Rough or sharp edges: Occasionally, the edges of aligners may be rough or sharp due to the manufacturing process. These edges can cause irritation or discomfort to the soft tissues of the mouth, such as the cheeks, lips, and tongue.

What is The Duration of Discomfort with Invisalign?

In most cases, Invisalign pain is temporary and subsides within a couple of days. The initial discomfort experienced during the first week of treatment typically goes away as the teeth adjust to the pressure exerted by the aligners. Similarly, any discomfort caused by rough or sharp edges can be resolved by smoothing the edges or applying orthodontic wax to protect the soft tissues of the mouth.

When switching to a new set of aligners, it is common to experience some discomfort as the teeth adjust to the new pressure. This usually subsides within 1-3 days of wearing the new aligners. Overall, the duration and intensity of Invisalign pain varies from person to person, depending on individual pain tolerance and the amount of movement required to align your teeth. Extensive tooth movements may cause more discomfort compared to minor adjustments.

Tips for Managing Invisalign Pain

Here are some tips to help alleviate discomfort associated with Invisalign treatment:

  1. Wear aligners as instructed: Invisalign aligners should be worn for 20 to 22 hours per day for optimal results. Failing to wear them consistently can prolong treatment and increase discomfort as the aligners may not be exerting consistent pressure.
  2. Start new aligners before bed: Switching to a new set of aligners before bed can help reduce discomfort, as the teeth can adjust to the new pressure while you sleep.
  3. Clean aligners with cool water: Avoid using hot water to clean your aligners, as it can warp the plastic material. Instead, use cool or lukewarm water to prevent damage and maintain a comfortable fit.
  4. Avoid hard or crunchy foods: Eating soft foods can help minimize discomfort, especially during the first few days of wearing a new set of aligners.
  5. Drink cold water or suck on ice cubes: Cold water or ice can help numb the mouth and provide temporary relief from pain or discomfort.
  6. Apply a cold compress: Holding a cold compress or ice pack against the cheek can help alleviate pain and reduce any facial swelling.
  7. Chew on Invisalign chewies: Chewing on Invisalign chewies can help relieve pressure and discomfort by providing a gentle massaging effect on the teeth and gums.
  8. Use orthodontic wax: If rough or sharp edges are causing discomfort, apply orthodontic wax to protect the soft tissues of the mouth and prevent irritation.
  9. Take over-the-counter pain medication: If necessary, use over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to manage discomfort.

How to Prevent Invisalign Pain

While some level of discomfort is expected during Invisalign treatment, there are steps you can take to minimize or prevent pain:

  1. Gradually increase wear time: If the discomfort is particularly bothersome with each new set of aligners, you can gradually increase the wear time over a few days. Start by wearing the new aligners for a few hours, then gradually extend the wear time each day until you reach the recommended 20 to 22 hours.
  2. Smooth rough edges: If your aligners have rough or sharp edges, gently file them down with a clean nail file or ask your orthodontist to adjust them for you.
  3. Maintain good oral hygiene: Keeping your teeth and aligners clean can help prevent gum pain caused by trapped food particles or plaque buildup.
  4. Follow your orthodontist’s instructions: Adhering to your treatment plan and wearing your aligners as directed will help reduce the likelihood of pain and ensure a successful outcome.

Common Misconceptions About Invisalign Pain

There are several misconceptions about Invisalign pain that can cause unnecessary worry:

  1. Invisalign is always painful: While some discomfort is normal, especially during the first few days of wearing new aligners, many patients find Invisalign to be a more comfortable alternative to traditional braces.
  2. Pain means something is wrong: Some degree of discomfort is expected as your teeth shift into their new positions. This is a sign that the treatment is working, not an indication of a problem.
  3. Invisalign pain is unbearable: The majority of patients experience only mild to moderate discomfort, which can be managed with over-the-counter medication and other pain-management techniques.

When to Seek Help for Invisalign Pain

While mild discomfort is normal during Invisalign treatment, there are instances when it’s essential to consult your orthodontist:

  1. Persistent or severe pain: If your pain is severe, lasts longer than a few days, or worsens over time, it’s crucial to consult your orthodontist to rule out any complications or issues with your treatment.
  2. Pain while eating: If you have discomfort during chewing (or difficulty chewing), this could indicate a problem with your aligners or teeth that requires professional attention.
  3. Facial swelling or bleeding: Gum swelling or bleeding, or hot and cold sensitivity may indicate an infection or other dental condition that needs immediate attention.

Designed to be a more comfortable and convenient alternative, Invisalign is a popular choice when compared to traditional braces. By following your orthodontist’s instructions and employing the tips mentioned above, you can minimize discomfort and enjoy a smoother, more successful treatment experience.

Pain while eating, facial swelling, or bleeding may indicate an infection or other dental condition that needs immediate attention
If your pain is severe, lasts longer than a few days, or worsens over time, it’s essential to consult your orthodontist

Schedule a Consultation Today

Dr. John Paul Gallardo and his exceptional team in Miami, FL, have been providing top-quality dental care to South Florida patients for over 25 years. Don’t let your concern about Invisalign pain hold you back from achieving the smile you’ve always wanted. Call 305-447-1447 today to connect with our skilled orthodontic specialists or to schedule an appointment at Gallardo Periodontics and Implant Dentistry, our state-of-the-art dental clinic.