Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My Invisalign Journey: Let's Start at the Very Beginning

Happy Valentine's Day, y'all! I'm going to share with y'all something completely unrelated to anything Valentine-y at all today: Invisalign. 

I had braces for six years. (Yes, S-I-X years.) Which, when you really think about it, is pretty ridiculous. They went on at some point during my 6th grade year and didn't come off until the summer before my senior year in high school. Talk about embarrassing. 


Quite lovely with the braces circa 2001 

My teeth were pretty messed up, and you can thank genetics for that one. I'm missing one of my laterals (the teeth directly next to your big front two teeth); my parents are missing both of theirs, and both of their fathers are missing both of theirs. And I got one. Thanks, genetics. So, because of that, I had a very sizable gap in my front two teeth growing up that had to be closed with traditional braces, and a tooth needed to be put in the missing lateral tooth's place. But here's where it gets interesting: I don't even have any bone in my gums where the missing tooth is; it simply never formed because of, you guessed it, genetics. 

To be honest, having just one lateral makes things pretty rough. If I was missing both of them, they could have {somewhat} easily moved my two K-9's to the lateral places, reshaped them and called it a day, post-braces. But since I have only one, they had to use braces to push my front two teeth together, then make a gap where my missing lateral was. Throughout junior high and high school, I had what was called a "flipper tooth" (basically a fake tooth attached to my braces that looked real, but wasn't) -- and that was really not embarrassing at all, let me tell you. #sarcasm 

Anyway, the summer before my senior year in high school, my braces FINALLY came off! (Insert the "Hallelujah Chorus" here.) I had a Marilyn Bridge installed for my lateral in place of an implant so I didn't have to undergo months and months of bone grafting (because remember, I have no bone there and in order to do an implant, you have to have bone...or build it) and then an implant during one of my busiest (and I'll admit, most vanity-induced) years of school. Life was grand. Except that my orthodontist didn't give me a top retainer, as he said the force of putting it in and taking it out each day would cause my Marilyn Bridge to fall out. He did give me a bottom retainer, and, like many other stupid teenagers, I thought I didn't need it as much as I did. 

Fast forward 13 years and my teeth shifted. And horribly. One of my big front teeth was shifting over to overlap the other, which was also causing my Marilyn Bridge to come loose. It was truly a gamble as to when it would fall out, and I honestly lived my life nervous that it would: wrestling with the boys, eating corn on the cob or biting into an apple, or even just kissing Brandon. All things that are (and should be) normal, but I lived in fear of doing. I was also very self-conscious of how I looked and would only pose in certain angles so you couldn't see the overlap in the pictures. My dentist has assured me that getting this Invisalign is far more for my actual dental health than cosmetic purposes, even though, for me, it's mostly about cosmetics. 

Here's an example of how I posed in pictures post-braces and pre-Invisalign (always from a higher angle and always straight on)...but you can still tell my front left big tooth was sticking out straighter than the others: 



And here's an example of the crookedness and bridge that was very obvious to me: 



This past Christmas, Brandon gifted me with something that I'd wanted for a while: Invisalign. I know it sounds odd to give that to someone for Christmas, but hey, he's my husband, we've been together for 10 years (married for seven) and at this point, we're all about practical gifts. ;) And I am SO excited about it! 

To begin, they had to remove the fake tooth, and I'll admit that I cried. It was definitely like a security blanket to me, and I was afraid of how this whole "no tooth" situation would go. (And he had to take it off by numbing me with Novocain and then cutting it out!) But, my dentist is absolutely amazing (and has won numerous awards!) and decided to take a chance on me -- letting me get Invisalign and not have to undergo the traditional braces route like so many other dentists and orthodontists had in the past. 

So, I did the Invisalign scan in my dentist's office, which they do now instead of making you do those nasty molds from yesteryear. The scan looks a lot like 3-D ultrasound machine and they just scan every portion of your mouth, send it off to Invisalign, and they make your trays with a 3-D printer device, ultimately mailing your trays back to your dentist and then your dentist meeting with you to get them every month or so. 

Each Invisalign tray I have comes with a fake tooth on it. So, when I take it out, I quite literally look like a hillbilly: I have no tooth in that spot. But, it's more motivation for me to wear them often (more on that in a minute). Here's what I looked like the day I left my dentist's office, and I promise I don't normally smile like this: 



You can't even tell they're on, nor that I have a fake tooth in them! (But you can see the crooked teeth.) My dentist and the Invisalign folks are miracle workers, I tell you. 

So, after being in the Invisalign for nearly a month, here are some of my takeaways: 

1) You have to wear them religiously.
My dentist told me that the recommended daily timeframe for wearing them is 22 hours. In fact, his words were, "If you aren't going to wear them for 22 hours a day, you might as not wear them at all." I have 22 trays that I change out weekly (wearing the first tray for two weeks and then the others for one week at a time). 

Twenty-two hours a day is a lot, and it was much harder at first than it is now. I have to be very thoughtful when it comes to eating, and I've said goodbye to snacking. I get up in the morning, take them off and enjoy a cup of coffee, then go take all my vitamins, make a protein shake, brush my teeth and rinse off my trays, then pop them back in until lunch. And then I repeat the process for lunch and dinner, and wear them to bed. 

2) Your diet will change. 
It's not intentional, but it happens, because you're constantly wondering if you want to go through the entire process of taking out your trays, eating, brushing your teeth and rinsing out your trays, and putting them back in -- all for one Oreo. I've said goodbye to tasting what I'm eating as I'm cooking; sneaking the last of the kids' chicken nuggets they didn't finish at lunchtime; and stopping to get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. (So I guess I've saved some money on food, too.) I've lost about three pounds so far and it's just from not snacking, not having that glass of wine at night, and not eating whatever, whenever. I've also been drinking a lot more water and white wine, as my sweet dentist told me I had his permission to drink white wine and any other seemingly clear liquid with them in. ;) 

3) The Invisalign hurt at first. 
With each tray comes about 3-4 days (for me) of tooth pain. If you had traditional braces, it reminded me of the first few days after you got your braces tightened: just a dull pain that only feels better after taking some Ibuprofen and putting pressure on the area by clinching your teeth together. There's also the issue of the rough edges from the trays, of which I've had to file down a bit to ensure I don't have bleeding on the insides of my lips and cheeks, as well as funky sores on the tip of my tongue. I also have "attachments" on my top and bottom molars, which basically look like clear bubbles, that are used to help move my teeth -- and those feel really rough when my trays are off...so more reason to wear them. 

4) You're going to get to know your dentist well during this process.
My dentist gives me month's worth of trays at each visit. I change them out weekly and then go back to him after a month, where he checks my progress, assesses my teeth, and then gives me new trays. Of course, I still will go for my bi-annual cleaning and X-rays, etc., and they are awesome to make those appointments at the same time as my visits when the time comes. Since the boys both go to preschool together on Tuesdays, the sweet ladies at the front desk have blocked me off for Tuesday mornings at 9:30 a.m. each month. (Gotta love when they work with you and your schedule!) If I'm not making progress he'd like to see, my dentist will reevaluate, go back to Invisalign and maybe add a tray or two to tweak a tooth placement during the process. 

5) No one knows you're wearing them unless you tell them. 
Being self-conscious of my teeth is pretty much normal for me, so for some reason, I felt the need at first to announce to anyone I was with that I had Invisalign on and apologize for not being able to eat in public (I get weird about the whole "no tooth" situation) and also the slight lisp I had the first few days. My girlfriends assured me that A) They knew I hadn't turned anorexic and instead reminded me to bring light-colored protein shakes with me if I know I'm going to lunch or will be out around lunch; B) That I didn't have a lisp after about two days; and C) You totally couldn't tell that I had anything on my teeth unless you were all up in my face. 

I mean, I have them on in this picture and you cannot tell a bit: 



So, sorry for the novel, but I wanted to share this journey with y'all. I promise I won't show you gross pictures all up in my mouth, but I did want to share with you some things I've learned along the way and how this process goes for me. If you have any questions for me about Invisalign or the process, I'd love to answer them for you. And, if you've gone through this process yourself, please comment and let me know your results! 

Happy Wednesday, friends! 


Linking up with Jessi and Jenn
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7 comments:

  1. I learned so much from you during our text video convo last week! I also still laugh at the honky "sing song" you did lol

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  2. Love this - I had braces early but this is such a great option. You always have the best product reviews/posts. Thanks for sharing! also, happy v day to y'all! <3

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  3. Such a great option! That's so neat the trays have a tooth inside!!! Didn't know they could do that!

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  4. Wow you have been on a brave dental journey! I must say though you have fabulous looking teeth in all of your photos! Best of luck with it all - I have really wonky teeth in comparison to yours and would probably consider getting invisalign - how long do you need to wear them for? Europafox x

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  5. I am so proud of you for doing this for yourself!! You are beautiful, crooked or straight teeth! But I know this will make you feel so much better and you totally deserve it!

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  6. I can't wait to see the end result!! You really can not tell you are wearing them at all.

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  7. What an interesting process! I've had my share of teeth issues over the years so I can relate to the headache. I had no idea the time commitment and the details required to make invisalign happen. It's so cool! You've got a great team. I'm sure you'll have great results!

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