Staying Safe and Healthy with Clear Aligners During COVID-19

If you’ve been considering orthodontic treatment to improve your smile, you’re in luck. There’s never been a better time to be an orthodontic patient! Here at Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics, it’s all in the name—we help patients of all ages in the Portland area achieve straighter teeth using a range of affordable treatment options. This includes everything from metal braces to clear aligners. We’re proud to offer our patients the Invisalign clear aligner system! As the most popular alternative to traditional braces, Invisalign comes with an extra measure of flexibility that teens and adults love. That’s not all there is to love about it, though! Keep reading to learn about how you can stay safe and healthy with clear aligners during COVID-19.

Throughout the last year, we’ve all had to adjust to a “new normal.” During that time, we’ve come to realize that the benefits of clear aligners go beyond simply improving oral health. While braces and aligners both move the teeth into more desirable positions by applying gentle pressure to them over time, Invisalign has a distinct edge when it comes to navigating orthodontic treatment in a pandemic. In fact, we think Invisalign is one of the best solutions for a healthier smile in these socially-distanced times! Keep reading below to learn more about this innovative option. 

Less impact on your treatment process

Even if you’re unfamiliar with orthodontics, you probably know that Invisalign uses clear aligners to straighten the teeth. These removable trays are switched out for the next in the series every 1-2 weeks, depending on the treatment plan. Patients will usually be given several weeks’ worth of aligners to wear, which is good news during this time of social distancing and occasional stay-at-home orders! When the current set of aligners runs out, we’re happy to arrange curbside pick-up for the next set so there’s no need to physically enter the office. This lets every patient continue their treatment safely and without delay.

Once the current course of aligners is finished, treatment may be complete or we may need to schedule a revision scan. These scans let us know if any additional aligners will be required to achieve the best results. Temporary closings over the last year have meant that we’re sometimes unable to get patients in quickly for a revision scan, but no worries! Anyone who is currently in aligners can keep wearing the last set they were given, but for only 8-12 hours per day instead of the normal 20-22 hours. This helps extend the life of the aligners until an appointment is available. 

Because aligners work by exerting continuous force on the teeth to move them, it’s really important to keep that pressure going, both during and after treatment is complete. This is why we recommend wearing the last set of aligners until a new set is provided if there’s a pause in treatment for any reason. If aligners aren’t worn regularly, the teeth will begin to shift back to their previous positions over time. This can add to the total treatment time and may affect the overall results. We tell our patients to always keep their aligners from the previous stage or two in case they need them while waiting for a new set to be processed and delivered.

How to care for Invisalign aligners during COVID-19

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been told to avoid touching our face and mouth to help limit the spread of germs. For many of us, this recommendation has highlighted just how often we do both! Some have been more successful at breaking this habit than others, but Invisalign patients haven’t had much choice when it comes to touching their mouths. Since Invisalign aligners are designed to be taken out before eating, drinking anything other than water, and brushing the teeth, a patient’s fingers will come into contact with their mouth multiple times every day. 

Fortunately, there’s always been an emphasis on cleanliness as a critical part of the Invisalign treatment process! That’s more important now than ever. Before the aligners are removed, patients need to wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, paying careful attention to the fingernails and fingertips since these are most likely to come into close contact with the mouth and aligners. This CDC video is a great source of information on why washing your hands properly should be the first line of defense against germs and infection! If you don’t have access to soap and water for any reason, sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be used in a pinch. 

Invisalign patients also need to be careful about where they place the aligners when they’re outside the mouth. It can be tempting to toss them onto the nearest surface, but aligners should always be placed in a sealed container or left to soak in a cleaning solution. This protects them from germs and prevents patients from accidentally throwing them away! Once mealtime is complete or the teeth are brushed and flossed, hands should be washed again and the aligner rinsed well before putting it back in back in the mouth. It sounds like a lot of steps when you write it all out, but this method of caring for aligners quickly becomes routine and will help protect the patient’s total body health, too! 

What happens if there’s an emergency? 

We don’t tend to see many orthodontic emergencies with Invisalign patients, but that’s not to say the aligners can’t be lost or damaged. They’re made from a special patented SmartTrack material that’s durable but not indestructible! It’s possible for aligners to crack, tear, or break, especially if they’re not handled carefully.

Patients who have lost or damaged an aligner should let our office know as soon as possible. If the damage isn’t severe, it’s possible the aligner can still be worn until it’s time for the next in the series. However, patients should discontinue using any aligner that’s cracked or split in a way that prevents it from holding its shape. Wearing it may be painful and it won’t be able to provide the pressure needed to move the teeth anyway. In a case like this, we may need to make a replacement or Dr. Yu may recommend using the next aligner in the series a little early.

Get a straight smile safely with Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics

The current pandemic has created many challenges for us all, but it doesn’t have to interrupt your journey towards a straighter smile. With Invisalign clear aligners, you’ll be able to improve your oral health and achieve a beautiful smile safely and effectively! If you’d like more information on how our expert team can help you navigate a new smile in these uncertain times, get in touch today to schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Yu.