You might have heard that you're expected to wear your Invisalign aligners for the vast majority of the day. But how long is this exactly? Unless otherwise directed, this amounts to anywhere between 20 to 22 hours per day. Those two to four hours per day when you're not wearing the aligners are essentially just for eating, and yet that brief period of time when the aligners are out of your mouth can be the danger zone, when you're most likely to accidentally damage your aligners. But how would you know if this has happened, and what should you do?
The aligners are made of a strong thermoplastic, and if you think about it, they need that strength in order to exert the necessary amount of pressure on your teeth. After all, this is how they realign your teeth. That strength isn't unlimited, and sometimes accidents happen.
Don't Force Them
You might only notice that your aligners have been damaged when you try to put them back into your mouth. You might have difficulty reinserting them back into your mouth, as though their configuration has changed somehow. It's important not to force them back into place, as you can easily damage your teeth, while potentially causing further damage to the aligners. Carefully inspect them to see if you can identify the problem.
It's rare for an aligner to crack, although this might happen if you've had them out of your mouth for longer than recommended, such as if you fell asleep without them securely in place. If they dry out, they may become brittle, and as such, can crack. This might even occur while you're attempting to put them back into your mouth.
Another potential issue is warping, but this requires heat. You might have inadvertently exposed your aligners to a heat source, whether that's by placing them next to an appliance that tends to heat up, or if they've been left in direct sunlight. As mentioned, these issues can cause your aligner to no longer fit, and this can be the first indication that damage has occurred.
Contact your dentist for advice. Remember that you only wear each aligner for a limited period of time (around two weeks) before replacing it. If you were already coming to the end of this period, it's unlikely to disrupt your progress if you jump ahead to the next aligner. If this timeframe has only recently started, it might be that a new tray will have to be provided.
It's important that you don't delay in contacting your dentist. Every hour counts, and each day you're without your aligner will slow your progress. That being said, don't attempt to wear a damaged tray unless your dentist has given you express permission to do so.
For more information about Invisalign, talk to a dentist.