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Preparing Your Teen for Clear Teeth Aligners: 4 Tips for Success

By John McGuire
Getting your teen to wear dental aligners can be a challenge. Here are four tips for preparing your teen to use the devices.

Clear aligners have revolutionized the dental alignment process. They are removable, low profile, and cosmetically acceptable. But getting a teen to wear aligners can be difficult. Fortunately, there are some practical ways to prepare your teen for a successful dental aligner treatment. Here are four suggestions.

Explain How Clear Aligners Work

Explaining how clear aligners work can help your teen understand the process better. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, clear teeth aligners work by applying constant and gentle pressure in order to move the teeth into the preferred position—emphasis on the “constant.” If they are not worn as directed, dental aligners cannot do their job. 

“By far, the number one tip for successful clear aligner use is to simply wear them at least 20-22 hours a day," Brian Luong, DMD, MBA, MS, an orthodontist with The Hills Orthodontics in Anaheim Hills, Calif., tells WebMD Connect to Care. "To be effective, the aligners need to continually put pressure on teeth in order to move them to the final desired position. So if they’re not on your teeth, they’re not working.”

Build Good Habits

Using repetition and ritual can help your teen be consistent with their dental aligner treatment plan.

“Practice makes perfect! Early on, it’s very important to build good habits. Integrate them into your daily routines. For example, it is easy to lose the aligners so always keep them in a safe carrying case after removing them for lunch. Then remember to pop them right back in,” Luong says.

Prepare for Some Discomfort

It’s a good idea for your teen to be aware of the slight discomfort that is associated with wearing clear teeth aligners. 

For instance, there is often sensitivity during the first couple of days that new teeth aligners are worn, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. If you explain this to your teen, they may be more willing to put up with the symptoms and stick with the plan.

Another feature of wearing clear teeth aligners is that your teen’s speech can be affected, which might embarrass them if they are not prepared. 

Luong routinely tells his teen patients, “Your speech might change initially after starting aligners. The more you practice speaking with the aligners in, the more quickly you will get accustomed to them.” Plus, you can remind your teen that a temporary speech issue is better than having to wear ugly metal braces.

Encourage Good Oral Care

It's important to stress proper cleaning of both the aligners and the teeth during your teen’s treatment. If the teeth and the aligners are not cleaned on a regular basis, bad breath and sore gums can develop. “Practice good hygiene. This refers to keeping your teeth and aligners clean on a daily basis,” Luong says. 

Also, you should warn your teen to avoid any liquids besides water when the dental aligners are in. If your teen drinks soda or sports drinks, it can trap the liquid between the teeth and the aligner, leading to staining and decay, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. 

Instead, instruct your teen to remove the teeth aligners before drinking these beverages and to brush their teeth with toothpaste before they put the aligners back in.

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