I was a candidate for braces when I was twelve: my teeth were a little crooked, so it would have been a primarily cosmetic procedure, but my orthodontist at the time was pushing hard.
I, however, said “nope” The way I figured it, I was already four-eyed and terribly unpopular, with standing memberships in both the science club and the A/V club. I did not need any additional “markers” of nerdiness, thank-you-very-much. I told them “No,” and said that if I needed them when I was a happily married grownup, I’d get them then.
Which brings us to two Thanksgivings ago when one of my lower front teeth cracked right down the middle. The tooth-cracking thing has happened before, but it’s always been in an easy-to-get-to tooth, which has meant that the ensuing root canal and crown was simple enough, if not painless.
This time was different, as the tooth that cracked was nearly perpendicular to the two teeth on either side of it, a fact which hadn’t bothered me in the day-to-dayness of life, as my lower teeth just didn’t show when I smiled. However, that tooth’s unusual orientation posed a challenge for the root canal, as there was no way to get to the back of the tooth to make the needed hole, as the back of that tooth was smushed up against the side of the tooth beside it. You can see it especially well in the middle right photo above.
I’d be totally ok just doing the root canal and crown and going about my business, but the crooked tooth is preventing that. My dentist suggests I visit an Endodontist to see what she thinks, and she thinks the tooth should be straightened out before doing the reapair work, so she sends me to an Orthodontist.
The Orthodontist, Dr. Brogden, felt pretty sure that Invisalign would straighten them out. Well, as I’d said when I was twelve: if I need them when I’m older and happy and married…
Dr. Brogden predicted 2-2.5 years with Invisalign, assuming I was compliant and wore them as directed. I had 47 trays, each of which was to be worn for two weeks, plus there’s sometimes some extra time needed on the end for stabilizing.
They weren’t as bad as I had feared. I think a couple of things helped on that front: each set of trays was only painful for 48 hours or so, and by the end of each set of trays I could tell that they’d done their duty and I was ready to move onto the next set. In addition, it helped to know (from a not freaking out mentally standpoint) that I could take them off any time I wanted to.
Because I was so compliant, my orthodontist said I could switch my trays out more quickly than the standard 14 days. I could feel when each set was “done” and that’s when I’d switch them. Sometimes I’d leave a set in slightly longer than 14 days too, as I wouldn’t want to switch trays on the first day of a trip.
And because I *waited* until I was a grownup, the technology got better! Less than two years of braces — and ones that were *invisible* and *removable.* So, so, soooo much better than the options that I had at age 12.
I have really sensitive skin, and having hard plastic rubbing against my gums was not a happy thing. I became a copious user of dental wax, which I discovered that you can buy in 20-packs on Amazon.
Taking out the trays is awkward, especially in situations where it’s not feasible to sneak away to the ladies to take my teeth out. I got pretty good (I think) at having the tray ready under the table and popping the teeth out really quickly and sliding them in the tray.
And before putting them back in, you’re *supposed* to brush your teeth. I was adamant about that at the beginning but eventually I figured out what reasonable compromises I could make.
And then there were the “tooth barnacles” (my term. I think they were properly called “attachment points”), which are little…barnacle-like things that help give the trays something to grip to. Those little boogers were sharp! Sharp enough that they’d cut up the insides of my lips, and thus I discovered another use for the dental wax. (And, I must admit, it was good incentive to get the trays back on sooner rather than later so as to prevent scraping and tenderness).
My teeth!! Not even 1.5 years and WOW! They’re so straight! I feel like it’s still going to take me a while to get used to being able to actually bite into things (my prior approach was more a grab-with-teeth-and-tear thing). Check ’em out!
The Final Verdict?
I approve. Invisalign is a Good Thing and I approve. Also I think Dr. Brogden rocks :-)
Edited to Add: Lessons Learned
- For me, it worked best to switch trays right before going to bed if at all possible. Usually the first hour or so with new trays wasn’t so bad but around two hours in they started *ouching* — and if I could sleep through that, it went better.
- I found that new sets of trays did make me lisp a bit, which was problematic when
I was supposed to be presenting at a conference. Thankfully, since they were trays, I could pop them out before I spoke (advantage: Invisalign).
- I must admit, I ate less. Taking out the trays, brushing your teeth before putting them back in, knowing that every time they came out it counted against my “time out of mouth” and that on any given day that had to be less than four hours — that all added up to wanting to take them out less, which meant eating less.
- I mentioned above that the trays can cut into your gums and tongue (depending on how sensitive they are)…well, the trays can also be ground down by your orthodontist so they aren’t so sharp. Theoretically they can also be filed down at home using an emory board, but I never had much luck with that.
- The sharp tooth barnacles can also be smoothed some (though so so much that they are no longer barnacle-y)
- You can also use normal tooth whitening gel in the trays, which is kind of nifty — cleaner and straighter for the win!