When Invisalign first appeared in the 90s, clear aligners shook up the world of orthodontics. And it’s no surprise why: clear aligners are much less intrusive than braces. At-home aligners came along a short while later.
Since they’re quite similar to Invisalign, at-home aligners are just as discreet (especially when compared to braces). However, at-home aligners still make your mouth feel a bit different. That different feeling can affect your speech somewhat. Altered speech is an understandable concern; no one wants to sound odd at work, school, or just hanging out with friends.
In this guide, we’ll clarify what you can expect when you’re wearing your aligners—including how much aligners will affect your speech, how long that lasts, and how to deal with it.
Looking For The Best Teeth Aligner? Make sure you’re getting the best price, customer support, and overall value. Many readers prefer comparing Byte (our favorite home clear aligner) to the two most well-known providers, CandidCo and Smile Direct Club:
How Does It Feel to Wear Aligners?
Aligners are relatively unobtrusive. When you have a good aligner fit, your teeth are held securely by the aligners—not too tight, but tight enough to pull your teeth into new positions. Most people report that they hardly feel their aligners once inserted. The exception is the first day or two after switching aligners; when you change trays, you may feel a bit more discomfort as your teeth adjust to new positions. Other than that, though, aligners are pretty comfortable.
Don’t just take our word for it, though. Here are what customers themselves say about wearing from aligners from Smile Direct, AlignerCo, Candid, and Byte.
“The aligners are comfortable, and nobody can tell you’re wearing them.”
“It’s slightly uncomfortable for the first day or two but then your teeth adjust.”
“[They’re] so comfortable to wear you forget they are in!”
“I am very satisfied with their aligners as they really are invisible.”
“People can barely see them or hear a slight accent now.”
On the whole, at-home clear aligners are pretty much invisible to others (your speech patterns included). And in all honesty, you are more likely to notice your aligners than other people are. After all, there is a foreign object in your mouth. Your tongue will touch the aligners when you talk, and the top edges of the aligners will touch your gums. But you get used to that new feeling pretty quickly.
That said, some people do deal with a little discomfort or altered speech. Everyone’s aligner experience is a bit different. Discomfort, while not usually prolonged, is typically caused by the edges of your aligners rubbing against your gums. Plus, if you don’t wear your aligners as long as prescribed, your teeth won’t have the time they need to adjust, prolonging your discomfort and your lisp.
If you ever experience severe levels of discomfort, you should contact customer support right away (or in some cases, take an emergency trip to your dentist). Severe pain, while rare, should not be ignored.
Aligner Lisp: Fact or Fiction?
Aligner lisp is a real thing. But it’s usually very slight, and it typically occurs when you first switch aligner sets. Understandably, the lisp is most noticeable at the beginning of your treatment because the sensation of wearing your aligners is unlike anything you’ve had before (unless you’ve had orthodontic treatments before).
There’s also a good chance that you’ll have a mini adjustment period each time you switch to a new set of aligners. This occurs because, over the period of two weeks you wear each set of aligners, your tongue adjusts to the position and shape of the aligners. Your muscles learn where the plastic rubs, how it feels, and how to work (and talk) around it. But when you switch to a new set of aligners, those positions change ever so slightly. Your tongue has to adjust, and while it does, you may have a slight lisp.
Thankfully, the lisp you get after switching aligners is usually less noticeable than the one you may have had at the beginning of treatment. Going from one aligner to another is a smaller change than going from an empty mouth to an aligner, after all. There’s less to adjust to. And thankfully, other people probably won’t even notice the lisp.
Will It Go Away?
In most cases, aligner lisp is temporary. Your mouth adjusts. The real question is, how long does it take for the lisp to go away?
That’s a tough question to answer, honestly. Everyone is different. Some people adjust really quickly, with the lisp vanishing in a matter of days. Others could take a few weeks to get the hang of talking around their aligners. And that’s okay.
In rare cases, a trace of a lisp lingers throughout treatment, but even then, it’s quite minor. Think of it this way: teenagers and adults have been wearing braces for decades. Braces are much more obtrusive than clear aligners, but people wearing them still adjust. And a lot of them have little to no lisp. So if people can learn to talk around bulky brackets and wires, your mouth can adjust to smoother plastic aligners.
Tips for Dealing With Aligner Lisp
Usually, aligner lisp is pretty minor; only your most perceptive friends will even notice it! But we get it. No one wants to deal with the question, “Hey, why are you talking funny all of a sudden?” Thankfully, there are a few ways to deal with your lisp so it doesn’t draw attention to itself:
- Remove your aligners: Attending an important meeting? Going on a date? Giving a speech? If you’ve got an event or social interaction that you want to go as smoothly as possible, you can pop out your aligners so the lisp disappears. Of course, you should use this tactic sparingly; the success of your aligner treatment hinges on your wearing the aligners for about 22 hours a day. So be sure to pop your aligners back in as soon as you’re able to, and be sure to brush your teeth and clean the aligners before you do.
- Use a nighttime-only plan: Wearing your aligners all day is crucial to the success of your treatment…unless you don’t have to wear them all day. With nighttime aligners, all-day wear isn’t necessary. You’ll wear them for just 10 hours per day, mostly overnight. Unless you talk in your sleep (but that’s not our business), a lisp won’t even matter.
- Practice: Earlier, we mentioned that the lisp from your aligners tends to go away once you adjust to them. You can speed up that adjustment period some by practicing talking with the aligners on your teeth. For example, you can chat with a friend or family member, focusing on the words and sounds that are harder to say with your aligners in. Sounds where your tongue touches your teeth, ‘d’ and ‘t,’ are typically harder. By practicing, you give your muscles ample opportunity to learn what it feels like to chat with the new plastic.
- Own it: You’re already awesome, but by wearing aligners, you’re taking the time and effort to make yourself better. That’s cool. So own it! If someone asks about your aligners, tell them what’s causing your speech changes, that it’ll be temporary, and that it’s totally worth it in the long run. Odds are, they’ll be a little envious of your new grin.
Which Companies Make the Least Intrusive Aligners?
We’ll be honest here: there isn’t a single company that can guarantee that your aligners won’t cause a lisp or some discomfort. It’s part of the treatment process. As the old saying goes, “no pain, no gain.” But thankfully, some companies take steps that make their aligners less intrusive than others. If you’re looking for aligners that cause minimal discomfort and lisping, check out these three options.
#1 | byte
byte is our favorite home aligner company, and they have a couple ways they make your treatment more comfortable. First, there’s the HyperByte system. Not only does the HyperByte speed up your treatment, but it also helps your aligners fit better through high frequency vibration therapy.
When your aligners fit well, you’ll be less likely to lisp, and the discomfort levels will drop, too. But if you’d rather avoid wearing your aligners while talking, byte also offers a nighttime treatment option, byte At-Night. byte At-Night is byte’s premium offering, though, so you’ll pay a bit more.
To get the full scoop on Byte treatment, check out our complete byte review.
#2 | Smile Direct
Smile Direct is probably the most well-known home aligner company on the market. And thanks to their size, they can offer a fair number of perks their competitors can’t. One of those perks is nighttime aligners, which only require 10 hours of continuous wear.
Unlike Byte, Smile Direct charges the same amount for daytime and nighttime treatment. This way, you can avoid a lisp entirely. Another thing to love about Smile Direct is their Smile Shops, retail locations you can visit to have your teeth scanned for free.
Curious about the industry’s biggest name? Check out our full review of Smile Direct.
#3 | Candid
One of the biggest contributors to aligner comfort (or lack thereof) is materials the aligners are made of. Technically, they’re all made with BPA-free plastic, but Candid takes it to the next level. Candid recently began manufacturing their premium aligners in-house, to have even more oversight over your treatment. These aligner materials allow for smooth shifts, minimal discomfort, and no breakage. This might not be as intriguing as the nighttime offerings of Smile Direct and Byte, but it makes a surprising difference.
What we really love about Candid is their ability to move all your teeth, even the molars. Other competitors primarily focus on the front six upper and lower teeth (also known as “the social six”). Candid’s ability to move all your teeth allows them to treat more complicated conditions than their competitors. To learn more about what conditions Candid can treat, and to see which other aspects of Candid we love, check out our full review.
Aligner lisp is a totally normal aspect of treatment, but it’s understandable to be concerned about it. Thankfully, aligner lisp typically goes away after a short time. And in the long run, any lisp and discomfort you deal with will be totally worth it when you see your new smile. We wish you the best as you pursue the smile of your dreams!