Not-so-perfect teeth run in my family. I inherited a weird family defect of sorts, in which a couple of my baby molars never formed permanent teeth behind them—my cousin has the same thing. My father always had a very crowded mouth, and until his 50s when he sprung for Invisalign, had bottom teeth that were twisted (but not to the point of mangled). My sister and I both got my father’s crowding and we both wore braces and retainers in our teenage years and later again in life.
I tried Invisalign once, about five years ago. I was about half-way through the treatment and everything was going great when my orthodontist told me that my lower gum line was receding and that it needed to be tended to with a gum graft, and fast. After the surgery, I was instructed to stop wearing the aligners for about one month so the tissue could heal without irritation or disruption from the trays. By the time I had fully healed, my aligners no longer fit—I couldn’t get them to snap in place for the life of me and I had to start the entire process over from the beginning. Instead, I scraped the whole idea.
Fast-forward to about one year ago when I caught a glimpse in the mirror of my lower teeth reverting back to an overlapped and crowded look. I was so in awe of my sister’s results from the treatment that I decided to give it another shot. I wanted my teeth to be just as straight—if not straighter—than hers. Ready to do it all over again, this time around I was a bit smarter and got all my ducks in a row. Before I even stepped foot in my orthodontist’s office, I went to see my regular dentist for a quick check-up to make sure my teeth, gums and mouth were healthy enough to endure the journey. I was given the green light.
At my consultation with Boca Raton, FL orthodontist Minelle Tender, DMD, I was told I would benefit from Invisalign because there was some misalignment and that my arch could be expanded to make my smile better. Instead of those gross impressions that always make me gag, a tiny special light-based device was used to take pictures of each tooth to help make the aligners.
A few weeks later, I picked up my first set of aligners and was shown how to put them in and take them out, which was relatively easy. I was given explicit instructions to wear the aligners all day and night, and only remove them when eating or drinking anything other than water. I was to wash them with hand soap to keep them clean, but avoid brushing them with toothpaste because it stains and scratches the aligners.
While no one in the office could really tell I had them in, my teeth definitely felt a little strange the first days. There were a few areas on the aligners that were somewhat rough and I kept running my tongue across it. I was also producing more-than-normal amounts of saliva, which was making me a little nauseous, but eventually it went away. It was hard to get a good night’s sleep with the aligners at first because they felt so weird in my mouth. I also had tightness and a lingering headache that would just not go away. Eventually, it did.
About one week after I got the first set of aligners, any soreness and discomfort that I felt the first few days had dissipated and I was really starting to get the hang of them. They easily popped in and out, and every time I removed them I didn’t feel like I was going to break the aligner. The one thing that kind of threw me for a loop was that I could only wash them with soap and water. I was a little scared that they would taste like soap and not really get clean. But I was wrong on both fronts.
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It was right around this time that my orthodontist added “buttons” (small attachments) to my teeth which would act as brackets do in metal braces. The application process took about 45 minutes from start to finish. First, a gel was applied to my teeth, which sat for a few minutes before it was rinsed off. Then, the buttons were applied with glue, and a special light was used to speed up the drying time of the glue. Any residue was filed off my teeth (it sounds way worse than it was) and the buttons were smoothed down. I was also given my next seven aligners, which were to be changed out every week.
After wearing the aligners for just one month, I had barely any soreness or tightness. By the fourth aligner, I was able to see my teeth slowly moving into place, especially my bottom teeth, which were a little less twisted than before. I only have some minor tightness when I change out an old aligner for a newer one, but after a few hours, it subsides.
About three months into the whole process, Dr. Tendler told me that while my teeth were making progress, it was time to move the process up to the next level, which meant rubber bands. Yes, rubber bands were going to be attached to the aligners and I had to wear them day and night for as long as my trays were in my mouth. But first, two silver buttons (they resembled mini snaps) had to be placed on two of my bottom teeth. These buttons would hook on to the rubber bands, which looped around a cut out in the top part of the aligner. Dr. Tendler said they would make a big difference, and after a few months, I was able to see what she was referring to. My upper canine teeth no longer stuck out like they used to nor were they rotated. Instead, they’re pushed back into position.
I wore the rubber bands for pretty much the remainder of my treatment and only had the brackets removed when there were only a few trays left. Right around the 10-month mark, I was given a break from wearing the aligners daily, which was mostly because I had to have one last set of scans so the last five aligners could be made. Then, it was back to business as usual.
About 13 months after I had started my journey with Invisalign, it was finally done. My teeth have never been straighter and my smile is simply perfect. I opted for a permanent retainer on the bottom teeth and a removable one on the top, and have worn it every single night without fail. With a smile as pretty as mine is now, who wouldn’t want to preserve their investment? I know I do, for sure.
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