Imagine me as a thirteen year old kid, sitting on the dentist chair experiencing a traumatising episode where the dentist had just taken a physical mould of my teeth and was told that I needed braces for 2 years along with a jaw surgery to fix my protruding jawline.
My crooked teeth before Invisalign, one for the record.
I clearly remembered sitting there staring at my mom mirroring each other’s horrified look. She (the dentist not my mom) was everything the horror movie would depict a child’s worst nightmare – the scary dentist. Instead of cooing and discussing nicely with her patient, we were “told” to do stuff in a strict and stern voice. At one point, she was even half arguing with my mom when she was questioned if jaw surgery is a little extreme for a thirteen year old.
Two years is after all an eternity for any teenager, needless to say I never went ahead with the plan and never went back to visit that particular dentist as it was too traumatising for me.
Excited with my first batch of aligners
Fast forward to 16 years later, here I am with my Invisalign aligners snapped intact in my mouth. No scary dentist drama, no metal braces in my mouth, no social awkwardness and most of all no excruciating pain.
If there is one thing I wasn’t aware of before, it is crystal clear to me now that most of the people (4 out of 5) I have spoken to had braces done when they were younger. In fact, when I shared my Invisalign journey with them, most people are either aware of what Invisalign is, has a friend who is doing it or know of someone who is interested in doing it. I had no idea braces and the importance of straight teeth were that big of a deal here in Australia.
My first aligner
For those who are unaware, Invisalign is the virtually invisible alternative to braces that uses a series of custom made to order aligners to shift and straighten teeth. There are attachments (tooth-coloured notches glued onto the surface the tooth) to connect the aligners so that they stay in place for the entire course of the treatment. These attachments vary with each individual and they also help to snap the aligners in place.
Unfortunately for me I needed a fair few attachments. I think a total of 16 of them had been glued on with almost one on every visible tooth on my top row. Some even had two attachments per teeth making them quite noticeable once I have my aligners in.
Aligners and elastic bands in place
Invisalign also helps to address bites; hence I have these elastic bands to hook onto my aligners. This is not mandatory for all as it is case by case basis. Mine was to correct my under bite and to my surprise neither the aligners nor the elastic bands has annoy me or cause any pain so far.
To be entirely honest, the first week was the toughest as it is with everything new and foreign but if you can survive the first few days, I promise it gets easier and here is why:
One of the most frequently asked question I often get when people find out that I am with Invisalign now is – “Does it hurt?” Or “Is it painful?” Truth to be told, I would not classify soreness and tightness as pain.
At most, it is sore and yes it is a little tender/uncomfortable to chew/bite but I’ll cover that a little more in my next point. The first day or two of each aligner does cause soreness and a little tight to put on and remove the aligners but it was completely bearable for me.
Everyone knows that I love food. With the aligners on, the strict rule is nothing but water (I did however survived on lukewarm green tea with no issues). Lucky for me I don’t crave for soft drinks, juice, coffee or snacks throughout the day, hence Invisalign fits into my daily routine pretty well, three main meals for the day and dining out isn’t an issue for me either. All I had to do was to head to the toilet, pop out my aligners, do a quick rinse and store them in the tray. All done in less than 20 seconds max.
A good rule of thumb in general is to avoid food that are too acidic or food that tend to stick to teeth. Reason why it is important to avoid food when aligners are in is because food and drinks will stain aligners and causes dental issues (eek cavities!) if the food/drink consumed are overtly acidic.
As mentioned in point #1, I did feel that my teeth are more sensitive the first two days of having a new aligners in. Biting and chewing especially on my teeth that are more crooked was quite sore and uncomfortable. The trick to minimize pain is to opt for softer food to avoid chewing as much as possible and also pop the aligners out and wait for 5 minutes before food as they will be less sore then when they are freshly out of the aligners.
Get use to this 3 times a days or more depending how often you eat
This is perhaps the biggest change to anyone’s daily dental routine. I have a total of 29 aligners to go through and each aligner must be worn for 14 days. In order for Invisalign to work to its full potential, it is required a minimum of 22 hours of wear per day.
I often find myself rushing through meals so I can brush + floss and have the aligners back in and this process is repeated processes each time I eat. There are no short cuts and it has definitely brought my whole dental hygiene to the next level.
4) BAD BREATHE
I started a diligent routine to banish the inevitable Invisalign breathe. I made it to a point to always brush my aligners once they are out of my mouth and soak them in water (or Retainer Brite once a week) whilst I eat. I drink heaps of water throughout the day and my oral hygiene goes something like this:
Wipe off all excess lip products > remove aligners > brush aligners with a toothbrush and water > soak aligners in water > eat > floss > brush my teeth, tongue, lips, roof of mouth with electric toothbrush > picksters (at night) > tongue scraper > mouth wash > pop aligners back in > reapply lipstick.
Whilst the process sounds intense but its couple of minutes tops each time as I’ve gotten so used to it now. I also carry a small little dental kit with me whenever I head out to ensure I have all the “tools” needed should I choose to eat.
5) LIP CARE
Due to more saliva production, I found myself drinking less water which resulted in dry lips. So the key here is to drink heaps of water, apply lip balm frequently and when applying lipstick/gloss, once applied, I suck on my index finger to remove any lip products that are too near to the teeth area.
This way one can avoid the annoying lipstick on teeth situation which happened a lot to me for the first couple of times wearing lipstick since having the aligners in. Nothing worse than lipstick stuck on aligners, I also found myself paranoid by constantly checking my teeth in the mirror too.
You know what they say about there is always light at the end of the tunnel; it is the same with Invisalign. There were times when I felt overwhelmed with the whole experience and had mixed feelings if a certain issue I was facing was going to be there for the whole year but I am happy and glad that by day 10, most of the issues I’ve faced with on the first couple of days seems so insignificant now:
- I had heaps of saliva pooled in the aligners and was spitting everywhere as I speak; I got used to this and learnt quickly to swallow before I start speaking.
- I developed lisp on the first couple of days due to having foreign object in my mouth whilst I attempt to speak like normal. I quickly got over it by day 7/8.
- I caught myself clenching my teeth/jaw subconsciously for the very first 2-3 days of treatment even in my sleep. It got to the point I had to remind myself to release the tension but that stopped by day 4 and has never returned since.
- I also found myself running my tongue along the sides of the aligner and it got to the point where the tip of my tongue was sore. Again, this was done subconsciously and thank goodness the case of my curious tongue only lasted for a day or two.
- As it is quite a bit of a routine and new experience for me, I had actually forgotten and left my aligner case at the shower room at work (where I brush my teeth after lunch every day). Thank goodness it was still there the next day. Ever since, I always do a visual check each time I leave any toilet.
- I had trouble hooking the rubber bands on the aligners by myself but thankfully after multiple attempts, I managed to get them in 100% of the time now. The easiest way is to hook the rubber bands at the upper aligner and snap on the aligners carefully and viola, done! Just pull and hook the bands into the bottom aligner.
7) CHIPPED NAILS
This is inevitable in my opinion. I use my nails to pick at the aligners to remove them and since I started brushing my teeth more and getting my paws wet more regularly, I find that my nails get chipped way too quickly especially on both my thumb and index fingers.
Still finding a cure for this and I’ve heard there’s a tool that might be able to assist this. Shall do some research.
With my aligners in and I’m love it
Now that I am more than a month into Invisalign and have gotten used to the routine of things, I have to say Invisalign is really the clearer choice for straighter teeth because it is easy to incorporate into my daily life, is flexible enough for me to remove and enjoy my meal and most importantly it doesn’t rub or cause any ulcers as I am very prone to.
Stay tuned for my second post with more updates and pictures on my Invisalign journey as I have also started to incorporate Acceledent* to my progress.
*AcceleDent is a FDA-cleared, Class II medical device designed for faster orthodontic treatment. Through the use of gentle micropulses, called SoftPulse Technology®, bone remodeling is accelerated, allowing teeth to move up to 50% faster.
Disclaimer: I was kindly gifted this Invisalign® treatment for review but this did not, in any way, influence my opinion on the product, results or experience. AcceleDent was purchased from my own funds.