A few months ago, I finally took the plunge and decided to get braces again. Yes, again. I had ‘train track’ (i.e. metal) braces when I was a teen, but they were removed early because I needed them off for scheduled surgery. Because I didn’t finish the protocol, I ended up with a gap between my front teeth. To make matters worse, I left my retainer on a seat in a Parisian departures lounge, and, despite my desperate emails to the lost and found department, my retainer (along with a makeup bag full of brand new French pharmacy skincare!) was lost forever.
After that episode, I never got around to getting a new retainer, and my teeth began to relapse into their pre-brace positions. Earlier this year, I decided to sort out my teeth nightmare once and for all with the help of Invisalign®. For the uninitiated, the system is an alternative to traditional fixed braces and is made up of a series of clear, removable aligners that gradually work to realign teeth.
I’m now a few months into wearing the trays, and my experience has been largely positive so far. I have, however, learned a few things that would have been useful to know from the get go. Here are the things I wish I’d known before I started Invisalign®:
1. You May Not Need Molds
Getting molds taken for my braces the first time around is one of the main things that put me off getting braces again. But, thankfully, my orthodontist now uses 3D scanning technology instead of molds, so you may not need to go through it at all. It should be noted that some practitioners still do use classic molds. If that’s a particular sticking point for you, it’s worth finding a practice that uses alternative methods.
2. The Discomfort Is Different Than Fixed Brace
When I put my first tray in, the overwhelming sensation was tightness as opposed to pain or aching. I can distinctly remember my first few days with braces as a teenager being tinged with a constant ache — one that was only made worse when trying to eat. With Invisalign®, there wasn’t any pain at all. Instead, the tightness lasted a few hours, and I was able to eat as usual after taking the trays out. My teeth are a little sensitive when I take a new set of trays on and off, but it’s not enough to make me rethink what I’m planning to eat. Unlike traditional braces that would ache, prevent me from eating normally, and stab me in the cheek regularly, Invisalign® is a walk in the park.
3. If There Is Any Tightness, It Doesn’t Last Long
When changing trays, the tightening sensation usually lasts half a day at most. I was told by friends who had Invisalign® in the past to change my trays before bed, so you sleep through the worst of the tightness, and that’s a piece of advice that has been super helpful to me.
4. Attachments May Be Needed
Little ceramic ‘buttons’ are placed on teeth to add extra pressure points for your orthodontist to be able to move your teeth in the right direction as needed. The attachments stay in place throughout the period of your treatment. Once you get used to them, they’re barely noticeable, but they did feel a bit strange for the first week or so.
5. Your Mouth Can Get Really Dry...
...Or you might have a lot more saliva than usual. This is particularly the case during the first few days, but I do still find it’s an issue on occasion. It’s not a huge problem to have to deal with, but dry mouth did make working out with my aligners a bit uncomfortable for the first week.
6. It’s a Commitment
I’d forgotten how much of a commitment having braces was, and Invisalign® somehow feels more time consuming than fixed braces. Some days, I feel like all I’m doing is brushing my teeth (it’s usually around four to six times a day). Add in the visits to the dentist and hygienist and it does take up a decent chunk of time. At this stage of my life, I can accommodate it, but it’s something that needs to be considered if you have a hectic lifestyle or travel often.
7. You’ll Become Really Aware of Your Coffee Intake
As you may know, you’re only supposed to drink water and clear liquid with your trays in. This doesn’t always mix well with a coffee habit. That being said, having Invisalign® is absolutely helping with cutting my caffeine intake. I’m snacking less, too, which is a welcome bonus — especially while working from home.
8. The Lisp Is Real
I read somewhere before deciding to go ahead that the system should actually be called Invithalign because the lisp is so bad when you first start out. They kind of had a point. The lisp is something I dealt with for about a month, it was particularly noticeable when I got tired. It didn’t necessarily interfere with my daily life, but I did have a couple of important phone calls during that I took them out for. In my case, it was really about adapting to the braces, and, after a while, the lisp pretty much disappeared.
9. Discipline May Be Fleeting
Invisalign® takes more discipline than fixed braces. I thought I’d have no trouble keeping my trays in for 22 hours a day. But, a couple of weeks in, there I was leaving them out after eating breakfast because it wouldn’t be long before I had another coffee or taking them out in the evening because I was tired of trying not to have a lisp. Whenever I was particularly frustrated, I took a look at my predicted results and got back on track.
10. The Attachments Can Get Stained
Remember those little ceramic buttons I mentioned? They can get discolored by things such as — you guessed it — coffee, red wine, and other foods and drinks that are known to stain the enamel on your teeth. This means that, if you aren’t careful, the invisible effect of Invisalign® could be reduced because the ceramic gets stained. Cutting out the stain-inducing food and drink is the best solution. But, if you must drink coffee or wine, do so through a straw (with your aligners out, of course).
11. My Lips Look Fuller
I’ve been putting off getting lip fillers for years because I hate needles, but my lips look nice and plump when I’m wearing my clear aligners. I like them so much that, when I’m finished with Invisalign®, I will finally take the plunge and get my lips done. For now, though, it’s a nice bonus to have a fuller pout, even if they’re hidden under a mask most of the time!
12. Long Nails Are A Burden
Getting the trays in and out can be tricky, especially when you switch to a new set. I found having long nails made it even more difficult to maneuver. There are little plastic hooks you can buy to help with that, but I decided to keep my nails short for the next few months. I also found that regular nail polish gets chipped easily when you’re removing trays, so gel polish has become my go-to.
13. Lipstick Can Be Annoying
Lipstick wearers be warned, Invisalign® and bold lipstick don’t mix too well. Matte formulas tend to wear okay, but others make my mouth look like a crime scene. There are, however, tons of blog posts on the topic with lists of battle-tested lipsticks that are compatible with clear aligners. This being said, lip gloss is having a moment so you may just want to give that trend a try.
14. Your Teeth Feel Tiny When Your Trays Are Out
It doesn’t take long to get used to having the Invisalign® trays in. In fact, when I don’t have them in, my teeth feel really small by comparison. For those of you who have had fixed braces in the past, it’s a similar feeling to that first day after you get your braces removed. Your teeth feel quite far back in your mouth.
15. Results Come Quick
I don’t remember noticing results very quickly with metal braces. I wore them for around three years and only started to see cosmetic improvements at the end of my treatment plan. This time around, I’m already seeing results. The gap between my front teeth is closing up and my bottom teeth are better aligned, too. Seeing those results makes the minor inconveniences all the more worthwhile.
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