I used to have beautiful fingernails. They weren’t long and glamorous exactly, but they were long enough, healthy enough and manicured enough to look feminine and as if I at least took a little care of myself. (When the sad truth is that with two children the time I get to spend taking care of myself is minimal at best)
No more. Since I transferred back to full time wear of Invisalign removing my aligners has transformed my previously healthy looking nails into broken, torn, ragged shadows of their former selves. It ain’t pretty.
I must confess that over the last week things have got easier, but my first week back in full time aligners reminded me just how difficult it can be to remove aligners at the beginning of Invisalign. I remember the claustrophobic feeling of terror as I clawed at my mouth in a restaurant bathroom the very first week I ever wore them. Fortunately, having been through all of this before I know that in a couple of weeks removing these things will be as easy as taking off a t shirt, so there isn’t quite the same level of fear this time around. However, being reminded just how hard it can be I thought it might be helpful to new users to compile a list of tips for removing aligners. These are my top ten tips. Please, please feel free to add more via the comments form- you can see it below or reach it by clicking on the little black comments flag at the top of this posting. Alternatively, if you think I’ve got them wrong, please set me straight!
- Make sure your mouth is warm. Trying to remove Invisalign after a very cold drink is harder. Don’t ask me why, but it’s true! Somehow the plastic feels less pliable. It also helps if your fingers and the inside of your mouth are drier. If possible, open your mouth for a few seconds before attempting to remove them. Yes you’ll look odd, but it’s worth it.
- Start at the back. Lift the aligners off the molars on each side first, then gradually work towards the front. Alternatively some people find that it is easier to work from one side of the mouth to the other.The wonkier the tooth, the harder that section of Invisalign are to remove. Start by lifting off the easier bits and get to those bits last. The same is true of areas with a lot of attachments. Tackle those bits last. In those areas hook your fingernails under the edge of the aligner and lift it up and over the attachment or difficult area.
- Try a paper towel. Lots of people find that thick paper towels increase the grip on the aligner. Taking either a paper towel or a piece of kitchen paper in your hand place it over the tooth, grasp the aligner firmly and pull off the molars. Do this also for the opposite side and finally the front section. The increase in grip can sometimes make a huge difference.
- Try surgical gloves. Many Invisalign patients report that surgical gloves work the same way as paper towels to increase grip on aligners. Many dental assistants also swear by them apparently. In this case the thick rubber gloves that you use for cleaning your house won’t do the trick (urgh!) what you need is the very fine type that you buy in boxes of 50 or 100. These allow you to feel what you are doing, but still increase grip.
- Use an aligner hook. Some lucky patients get these given to them by their Invisalign provider. However they are also available on Amazon and are known as an outie. Looking similar to a crochet hook but designed specifically for removing clear braces they hook under the edge of the aligner and lift it away from the tooth. They are especially helpful for people with attachments.
- Another implement: Before I even get started in this one I would like to point out that it is certainly not Invisalign approved and might well result in damage to your aligners. Other Invisalign users have however reported success with other implements such as crochet hooks and even the edge of a pair of tweezers. Bearing in mind that your Invisalign are expensive I would personally probably skip this method, but each to their own.
- Give it time: One thing that people tell you constantly when you first get Invisalign is that removing them gets easier with time. Of course, when people told me this I used to secretly believe that I would be the one exception to this and my aligners would be difficult to remove forever. Of course, what I soon realised is that quite literally every hour counts. If you try to remove your new aligners very soon after they are inserted for the first time it will be very difficult. Waiting even an additional hour could make it much easier. If you are ravenous and desperate to eat I can understand that you may be cursing me on reading this tip, but if there is any way that you can, stopping and waiting a while could make your aligners much easier to remove.
- Change aligners in the evening: similar to tip 7, inserting your new aligners at night has two benefits. Firstly it means that you get to sleep through the stage when they feel tightest and most uncomfortable. Secondly, by morning your teeth will already have shifted and the aligners will therefore be easier to move. Popping them in last thing at night, accompanied by a mild painkiller is probably the way to go if you think they will cause you trouble.
- Speak to your orthodontist: Some orthodontists don’t put on the attachments until the third aligner. This allows you four weeks of perfecting your removal technique before the attachments are fitted. Once they go on it does become a lot harder, so this period of practice can be really helpful. Also, when your attachments go on ask whether you can wear the template for a day or two to get used to removing it before changing to the proper aligners. The template is softer and much, much easier to remove than a normal aligner. Also, I thought that it shifted the teeth a tiny bit too, so that also helps to make it easier when it comes to time to remove the actual aligners.
- Relax: Remembering my first day in Invisalign I know that relaxing was a long way down a very long list of things that I wanted to do; a list that started with ‘Get these aligners out of my mouth and never, ever put them in again’. The truth is though that the feelings of panic and claustrophobia make the aligners much, much harder to remove. Taking a deep breath and trying to relax, even giving up and taking ten minutes before starting again can be the difference between success and failure.
Hopefully these tips will be helpful to someone. As I said above if you have any others please feel free to share them via the comments section and I’ll update this page as and when necessary- thanks.