6 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Invisalign

I was always so thankful that I didn't need braces growing up.

My teeth were far from perfect, but the use of a retainer to fix another problem kept them fairly straight, so I never had to deal with those dreaded metal brackets inside my mouth.

As I got older, however, some crowding pushed my bottom teeth out of alignment. It was never that bad, so I ignored it for many, many years. Oftentimes, I wouldn't even notice my crooked teeth. Other times, however, it was all I could see when I looked at pictures of myself. Finally, I decided that I should save myself the trouble of worrying about them and just get them fixed.

Of course, at 24 years old, there was no way I was going to get real braces. Instead, I opted for Invisalign, loving the opportunity to straighten my teeth without making it super obvious to everyone around me.

While I don't regret my decision to get Invisalign, I also can't say that I was fully prepared for everything it entailed. Keep scrolling for six things I wish I knew before I got Invisalign.

You Get Little 'Attachments' on Your Teeth

When I pictured Invisalign, I thought that it was just plastic trays that slid into your mouth and straightened your teeth. When you took them off to eat, you were left with a clean mouth that felt entirely normal, giving you a break from the annoyance of always having something on your teeth. However, that isn't the case.

When you get Invisalign, you also get little "attachments" on your teeth that help to keep the trays in place. They're essentially little bumps on some of your pearly whites that match up to bumps on the tray. They keep the tray from sliding around, ensuring that everything stays in place while your teeth move into a straighter position.

The attachments aren't the worst thing in the world, but they are a little frustrating. They create a different feel in your mouth that doesn't go away when you take the trays off. I often find myself rubbing my tongue over them distractedly while I'm eating. They're also rough to the touch, so they can start to hurt the inside of your mouth if you leave the trays off for too long.

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New Trays Lead to Sore Teeth

Another thing I didn't know about Invisalign—you have to change your trays every two weeks. In hindsight, this totally makes sense. Your teeth can't just be shoved into a straighter position—the process has to be gradual. Therefore, each new tray is a little straighter than the last, allowing your teeth to move without causing serious damage to your mouth.

Unfortunately, each new tray also leads to a couple days of very sore teeth. As your teeth shift, they start to hurt a little bit. That pain usually disappears once your teeth have adjusted to the new position, but chewing anything for the first 48 hours or so is rough. Plus, the new trays are a little tighter at first since your teeth haven't fully conformed to that shape. That means they feel a little more uncomfortable in your mouth in general, which can be frustrating.

When I got my first tray, I was nearly in tears at the end of the day because I just wanted my mouth to be normal. Thankfully, it hasn't been nearly that bad since then, but the completely weird (and frustrating) feeling wasn't something I was expecting at all.

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You Can't Eat or Drink Anything But Water

When using Invisalign, you really can't put anything in your mouth while you're wearing the trays except water. I knew that you took Invisalign out to eat, but that sounded like a blessing. In reality, it can sometimes feel like a curse.

If you want to have a little snack, drink a Kombucha while you're running errands or even sample your food while you're cooking, you have to take out your trays. If you don't, anything you put in your mouth can stick to the trays and discolor them. Once that happens, you have to continue to wear them for the full two weeks, even though they look icky and gross.

And if you think you can get around it by drinking clear liquids, you're wrong. Anything but water tends to leave a residue inside the trays that's really difficult to get out. They end up looking pretty yuck, which makes it hard to continue putting them back in your mouth when you can see how gross they look and feel.

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Upkeep Is Difficult

In addition to taking the trays out to eat, you can't just pop them back in and go about your day. At the very least, you have to rinse your mouth out with water to keep that pesky residue from sticking to the inside. However, you're really supposed to brush and floss your teeth before putting your trays back in. Every. Single. Time.

I've never in my life done as much tooth maintenance as I have since I got Invisalign. I brushed my teeth regularly, but I now brush and floss three to four times per day, after every meal, snack, dessert, etc. Since the Invisalign trays sit over your teeth, any bacteria that you haven't removed from your mouth can seriously infect your gums, causing gingivitis and other health problems. You really have to be diligent about taking care of your mouth and making sure that everything is clean before you put the trays back in. As annoying as it is, I'm also convinced that my teeth have never been whiter.

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You Have to Wear Them 22 Hours a Day

It's so easy to imagine that you can just pop your trays in and out whenever you need to. I always thought that if I had a big event or I was heading out for a big night, I could just leave the trays at home and forget about them. Unfortunately, the recommended wear time is 22 hours, which is like, pretty much the whole day.

While I tend to play with this wear time a little more than I should, I also find that I can't leave the house without planning for my Invisalign. I have to bring a case, and I'll usually pack a packet of floss or some other cleaning agent that will help me clear my mouth after I eat. I don't want to wait until I get home because I'd probably extend the time I wasn't wearing the trays to more than two hours in one sitting. That means there's been a lot of flossing my teeth in bathroom stalls.

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There's No Graceful Way to Remove the Trays

The whole point of the trays is that they're attached pretty firmly to your teeth. When you need to take them out to eat, there's no graceful way to do it. You're pretty much forced to stick your entire hand into your mouth, grab the end with your nail and yank it off.

It's not exactly a pretty sight. When you have to remove the trays in public, it can feel very uncomfortable. While I've noticed that no one seems to care, I'm not fully adjusted to this aspect. I tend to turn away in embarrassment or run to the bathroom to remove my trays in order to avoid any awkward stares.

The difficulty of removing the trays paired with the need to brush your teeth every single time you eat or drink anything means that you probably won't want to take your trays off that often. If you're a regular snack-eater or coffee-drinker, you'll have a tougher time with Invisalign. It's going to require a few changes in your habits, which has been the most annoying element for me so far.

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Are you thinking about getting traditional braces rather than Invisalign? Click HERE for eight things you should know before you get braces.