My journey starts about two years ago. Actually, let me back up a bit... About four years ago, I started thinking about correcting my bite and straightening my teeth. Hold on...this story really begins way back in third grade, when I got my first set of retainers.
I could literally go on and on detailing my orthodontic treatments over the years, but given that I needed palate expansion and I sucked my thumb until kindergarten, I think you get the idea. Let's just say that when I went off to college at 18, my teeth were not really straight.
For many, many years, it didn't bother me. Around the time that camera phones and selfies became a thing, I realized how lopsided my smile was, and how crowded my teeth appeared. I was also always accidentally biting my cheeks while chewing food, and cavities were becoming more frequent. It just didn't seem quite right.
I started by discussing this with my dentist, who agreed that some form of orthodontics would benefit my bite and aesthetics of my smile. So, I did what any very cautious person would do, and I had three consultations on treatment. I then knew that given the professional nature of my job, and not really wanting metal brackets on my teeth, I wanted to go a more inconspicuous route with treatment. Thus, Invisalign.
I had a bit of sticker shock to begin with. All of the estimates were between $4,000 and $6,000! This initially put a stop to the whole idea....for really about two years. However, my bite and smile continued to irk me.
About two years later, with a better sense of the financial commitment (and money set aside), I looked at how I could tap into some of my health spending funds to accommodate the monthly payments for treatments. I realized it was actually very doable with the payment plans available. So...I went for it. In the end, between my health spending and tax benefits, along with a little addition of personal funds, it was more affordable than I had even realized.
The first official appointment was just a scan of my teeth. The orthodontist asked some questions, and I committed to a full treatment, correcting for aesthetics and bite alignment. I figured as long as I was doing this, I would go all in. They explained to me that for most of the first year, all of the correction would be happening in the back of my mouth, so little progress would be visible. I'm glad they shared that because they were right.
A few weeks later, those first trays arrived, and all of the little nubs were attached to my teeth. I also had the lovely addition of buttons and rubber bands to assist with additional movement. I walked out, happy with my new investment, but about two hours later, I was in a lot of pain!
That is the first thing to remember as a full grown adult here--braces hurt! So, to anyone considering treatment--be prepared with some ibuprofen and soft foods for a bit. Over the next several days, the pain lessened, I got used to brushing my teeth after meals and coffee, and I improved in the art of replacing my rubber bands.
Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and I made progress with my aligners and regular orthodontic checkups. I believe they added more buttons at different stages and stronger rubber bands to increase movement. Fortunately, it all feels like a distant memory now.
Slowly, I even started to see the results aesthetically! That was really fun. My dentist was also pleased with how my teeth were looking, which reinforced the investment I was making (in effort and finances).
After completing the initial course of treatment, I had what they called a refinement. This requires more scans and new trays. You know, however, that you're reaching those final stages, and I felt pretty inspired to complete things every time I looked in the mirror!
It's now been almost two years, and I just had all of my buttons removed! Fortunately, I didn't really know what I was in for at this final visit, or I might not have been so excited. Having the buttons removed and my teeth scraped and polished to clean off the attachments was horrifying...to put it mildly. I'm about two weeks past that point, and my teeth are still pretty sensitive.
I now have 6-12 months of daily retainer wearing, followed by a lifetime of wearing them at night. Ironically, had I worn my retainer more consistently after high school, I might not have had such a lengthy treatment, but hindsight is always 20/20.
So, if you're intrigued, or you've considered treatment in the past, there are a few things to remember:
Retainers are recommended forever in order to maintain the treatment results.
Each tray is worn for approximately one week, but sometimes it takes longer.
Invisalign exhaustion is real--it's easy to take them out and leave them out, but it seemed to slow my treatment when I wasn't diligent.
The buttons and rubber bands are still fairly noticeable; it's not a completely invisible treatment.
The speech impediments associated with the aligners only last a few initial days.
You can eat almost anything, as opposed to traditional braces--totally a pro!
The aligners can be uncomfortable--have a nail file ready to smooth out rough edges.
I would not do this with a child/teen--the aligners are easy to remove and forget to put back in...or lose completely...you really have to be disciplined.
If you're heading down this path, there are a few products (see below) I would recommend to have handy for those rough weeks of treatment. I'm no medical professional, but I hope my personal experience gives you a little insight into the process.
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