Clear aligners have revolutionized the field of orthodontics, providing a discreet and comfortable way to straighten teeth. However, like any orthodontic treatment, wearing aligners comes with its own set of challenges. Daily life with aligners can sometimes be challenging, from initial adjustments to maintaining oral hygiene. This article will cover some common struggles with aligners and provide practical tips to help you deal with them effectively.

1) Eating snacks

Wearing aligners up to 22 hours per day can make eating difficult, especially early in the process. If you’re a person who enjoys three square meals, you’ll soon become accustomed to an eating schedule encompassing time for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You’ll know when to take the aligners out and clean them after you’re done eating.

But eating snacks can be less fun. While it’s easier to plan around meals, spontaneous eating can be a pain when using aligners. Many people avoid snacks entirely to avoid the inconvenience of constantly removing and re-inserting the aligners repeatedly. And if you follow best practices – cleaning your retainer and brushing your teeth after you eat – it can be even more inconvenient.

One solution could be to schedule snack times in the same way you’d schedule your big meals. You can also talk to your orthodontist about the possibility of eating soft foods such as yogurt or oatmeal while keeping your aligners in your mouth.

2) Longer oral health routine 

A lengthier oral health routine isn’t bad, but it can be a hassle. People with aligners who have good oral health habits tend to spend longer keeping their teeth and gums healthy because the aligners add an extra step. Cleaning an aligner is more than scrubbing with soap and water; you should consider using a special cleaning solution. Additionally, cleaning and brushing after meals to remove debris from your teeth and the aligner can add minutes to your daily routine.

Set aside time specifically for a comprehensive oral care routine, either in the morning or at night, on a daily basis. It will be easier to accept the longer routine if you do it at the same time every day and become accustomed to the grind. If you’re often on the move, talk to your orthodontist about cleaning products that are travel-sized or geared toward people who are not at home during the day.

3) Speech issues

During the initial stages of wearing aligners, speaking clearly may be challenging. This is because your mouth needs time to adjust to the presence of the aligners. You may slur your words or experience jaw pain from overcompensating. Practice speaking slowly and enunciating your words. Reading aloud or conversing with friends and family can help you get used to speaking with aligners more comfortably. With time, these issues should fade into the background or resolve themselves.

4) Lost aligners

Removing your aligners is necessary to eat – and any time they are out of your mouth, you could misplace them. The clear, transparent material compounds this issue by blending the aligners with their surroundings. While they may fall between couch cushions or under the bed, they could just as easily hide in plain sight, camouflaged into your rug. Considering how much invisible aligners cost, losing them could be a big deal.

To avoid losing your aligners, create a protocol system for when you remove them. When you remove them in the bathroom to brush your teeth, put them in the same spot every time so you know exactly where they are. If you’re taking them out to eat, use a napkin or towel and set them on the table. The more often you stick to this plan, the easier it will be to recognize when something is amiss.

5) Social anxiety

One of the best advantages clear aligners offer is the ability to straighten your teeth with discretion. No one can see your aligners in most social settings because of their transparent material. But this doesn’t eliminate potential social anxiety altogether. If you’re out to dinner with friends, you still have to take the aligners out to eat – and everyone can see you reach in your mouth to remove them.

There are some steps you can take if this makes you uncomfortable. First, consider talking to your friends about your aligners to allay any potential hygiene concerns. You may be surprised how little your friends will care about your need to remove your aligners. If you don’t want to talk to your friends about the issue, you can always excuse yourself by going to the bathroom to remove them. 

Consider looking online for groups with similar fears. There’s a good chance some online communities have tips and tricks for dealing with the social anxiety that may accompany aligners. 

Bottom line

Aligners offer comfort, flexibility, discretion and versatility. But daily inconveniences still impact patients at all hours of the day. From social anxiety to more complex oral care, living with aligners requires some extra vigilance and focus. If it ever feels like too much, picture that gleaming new smile in your head. A daily reminder of what you’re working toward can help make the daily hassles worthwhile.