If you've been a reader of the blog for a little while, you may remember that I wrote a post about my decision to get Invisalign braces back in January. Well, I'm approaching the end of my treatment plan and I thought it would be helpful to share my experiences with Invisalign as well as some helpful tips. Please keep in mind that this post is from a patient's perspective...please consult an orthodontist for medical advice and information!
Essentially Invisalign straightens teeth through a series of clear plastic trays, each worn for two weeks at a time. Each set of trays is slightly different from the previous set, which slowly shifts your teeth. It is recommended that the trays are worn 20-22 hours a day. Basically they should only be taken out when eating. I initially went in for a consultation, then another appointment to discuss my treatment plan (they make a digital slideshow of how your teeth will change over the course of treatment). My third visit is where they poured this goopy material into molding trays and had me bite down so they could cast the molds for the trays.
At my fourth appointment I received my first four sets of trays. This is also the appointment where they may attach 'buttons' to your actual teeth. These are little pieces (not sure of the material but they are the color of my teeth) that are bonded to certain teeth (not all teeth, just the ones that may need to move a bit more) which help the trays have something to grip. I don't have any buttons on my bottom teeth but do have several on my top. The Invisalign trays would be virtually invisible if it weren't for these buttons...I definitely look like I have clear braces because of the buttons. I wish the models in the Invisalign ads had buttons because it would more accurately reflect what many Invisalign users look like!
The Treatment Length
My overall treatment plan will be about a year, seven months of wearing the trays that are moving my teeth, and then four months wearing trays that don't move my teeth but rather set them in place so they don't shift back. Then, I will wear a setting tray at night only (I'm not sure how long, however). I have 17 trays total, which is a relatively short treatment length. I go to see my orthodontist every 8 weeks where he checks progress quickly then gives me my next four sets of trays. After my 17th tray at the end of August, I will have an appointment with my orthodontist where we will discuss whether or not I will need refinements. This essentially means that if either of us are not happy with the movement that my teeth made, a few more sets of trays can be made to further 'tweak' my teeth. I'm hoping I won't need refinements but it seems they are fairly common. Again, you need to wear your trays 20-22 hours per day...the more you wear your trays, the better your results!!
The Pain & Speech
My first days wearing the trays were excruciatingly painful!! I felt as though I had razor blades in my mouth! Granted, teaching is a profession in which I need to speak all day long, so my mouth probably hurt more than it would have if I didn't have to speak so much, but it was SO painful. At day's end, I went immediately to my ortho office and asked for help. The edges of my trays were cutting my tongue and gums and I had read they may be able to file down the edges, which they did. They said I could take an emery board and file down the edges on each of my trays at home if needed in the future. Buying some orthodontic wax to use on the edges of your trays may help, too.
Early on, my mouth was very prone to getting sores on my gums and tongue. I did use Orajel some to help with this. I am happy to say that eventually my mouth became 'seasoned' and the pain in terms of mouth sores and a sensitive tongue subsided. My mouth was used to the trays after about the third set and I haven't really had any pain on my gums since then.
The other type of pain that comes along with using Invisalign is due to your teeth shifting. The first couple days after putting in a new set of trays can sometimes lead to pretty sore teeth. For me, the pain really just depends on which teeth are shifting and by how much. They feel fine when the trays are in my mouth but hurt most when the trays are taken out of my mouth. I try to only eat softer foods during the first couple days of new trays if my teeth are sensitive. Some people can suffer from headaches, too, during this time (luckily I haven't other than the first couple days with my very first set of trays).
My speech was very much impaired for the first several weeks. I had a pretty strong lisp and it was difficult to speak normally. My high school students thought it was pretty hilarious to listen to me trying to deliver serious lessons while sounding like Daffy Duck! I honestly didn't think my speech would go back to normal, but, thankfully it did! So, if you are new to Invisalign, hang in there!! Your speech with return to normal and the pain will subside!
The trays need to be removed when eating and teeth should be brushed before putting them back in. At the start, I was pretty religious about brushing my teeth after every meal and snack before putting my trays back in but it became difficult with my crazy busy schedule at school and time spent out of the house... I don't always have easy access to a sink. So, I tend to brush when I can but usually just rinse out the trays and my mouth with water before putting the trays back in after eating. All colored liquids (wine, cola, juice, etc.) should be avoided while wearing the trays as they can stain. I tend to drink mostly water but if I'm out having a cocktail or other beverage, I try to order something that isn't dark to I can drink and keep my trays in!
In the evening before bed I brush both my teeth and my trays (and floss of course). I use my regular tooth brush and some tooth paste and give the trays a quick scrub. They can get pretty gross throughout the day so cleaning them is essential. It was also recommended to me to use Polident tablets to soak the trays, particularly toward the end of the two weeks when they start to get really gross. I tried it but have found that scrubbing with the tooth brush/paste is the easiest way to keep the trays clean and fresh.
The price can vary greatly depending on provider, treatment length, insurance, etc. My insurance doesn't cover my treatment because it's considered cosmetic and they also don't cover any braces for adults. My treatment price was $5,000 which covers all my visits, the trays, and any refinements I may need at the end. Based on my research, this tends to be the average price of Invisalign treatments. Some orthodontists, including mine, offer payment plans so it's best to consult your specific orthodontist to see what they offer in terms of financing.
I'll be on my last set of trays in about a month and have seen some great results! I've taken pictures throughout my journey because it can be difficult to see the progress from week to week and it's helpful to compare. My teeth weren't considered 'horrible' by any means, but I had some crowding issues and a really narrow bite.
Invisalign has been a great choice for me as a 34-year-old. They are a little more inconspicuous than traditional braces and can be removed to eat any and all foods (maybe that's a bad thing?)! In my case, my results have been just as good as if I had traditional braces and I've been able to lead a normal life! Early on, I was fairly self concious about being an adult with a mouth full of braces but after a while I sort of forgot the trays were there & just continued to live life, smiling away!