Friday, 30 September 2016

I Got Invisalign!

So last week on Friday, I got my first set of Invisalign fitted! I know I did A LOT of research into Invisalign before I decided to go ahead and get it, so I wanted to write about my experience on here so it might help others to make up their minds too :)

For those that haven't heard of it, Invisalign are a form of clear braces (see photo above). They are made of plastic and fit over your teeth, you take them out to eat and drink and then put them back in after. They are made by an American company, so when you get them in the U.K. they are shipped over from the U.S.A. 

I first heard of Invisalign a few years ago now, loved the sound of it but was not in the financial position to go for it (it doesn't come cheap, but more on that later!), and as I entered my late teens/early twenties, I became more and more self-conscious about my teeth. Now, my teeth are by no means awful. but they are wonky enough for me to not be happy with them and they are definitely far from straight. I didn't have braces when I was younger as they were only offered to me as an option when I was very young at 11 years old, and at that age I really wasn't bothered about my teeth and the after-care scared me a bit (basically needing a retainer afterward, like most people seem to). Because there was no real need to straighten my teeth, it didn't happen. 

More recently, I became desperate to have straight teeth! It was getting to the point where I would be genuinely jealous of people's straight teeth, and I was starting to feel uncomfortable smiling in photos and smiling in 'real-life', too. So, eventually in March of this year, I booked an appointment at my local dental practice for an Invisalign consultation. Now, not all dental practices offer Invisalign, but of you go to their website here --> you can find the nearest place to you that offers it.

Now, here a few things to note, or at least they're what I've found from my experience so far:

1. This is not a quick process, you don't just pop into your dental practice, they have a look at your teeth, say "okay great" and book you into have them fitted the following week or so. No. No no no. I mean, I didn't expect that either but considering my consultation was in March, I'd expected to have them a little sooner than September. 

You initially have a consultation with an orthodontist to assess whether or not Invisalign would be a good option for you. They asked me questions like why I want to straighten my teeth, why Invisalign and not fixed braces (something to ask yourself as fixed braces are cheaper, but of course a far more obvious on your teeth). I was told that some patients have to have 'attachments' on their teeth which are tooth-coloured, and these aid the movement of your teeth and he expected me to need those. He also told me that I may need to have some 'tooth shaving' - sounds awful, doesn't it? Haha. Instead of extracting teeth to make room for movement, Invisalign treatment shaves a tiny amount off the teeth to create the room instead - I'll let you know how that goes if and when! I was told a bit about expected treatment lengths and the rough cost, and was left to go away and think about whether or not I would like to proceed, there was no pressure to have to go through with it all. 

I then had to make a 'record taking' appointment, where photographs, impressions and x-rays of my teeth were taken. This information is then sent to the company in the U.S. who then make your 'aligners' (what they call the braces) and ship them back to the U.K. Once these had arrived and the financial side of things was all sorted, I made the appointment to have them fitted, and here we are!

2. It is expensive. The initial consultation was £40 I believe, and then the record taking appointment was £200. Then the cost of the treatment itself was around £4,500. I know. As this has been something I'd been planning for a while I had saved up some money. I paid the consultation, record taking and half of the treatment outright, and the other half has been put into a payment plan. You do end up spending a bit more that way but that's the only way I could do it, as obviously I have other expenses like a car and bills and general living to take into account. If you can afford to pay it all, that is the most economical way. Prices I'm sure will vary between dental practices and treatment lengths, so all you can do is contact your nearest one to find out, but you don't find out the exact cost of your treatment until after record taking as each treatment is tailored to the patient. 

3. You can't get cavities. If you need any fillings you'll need to have them done before you get your Invisalign, otherwise if you have to have them during treatment your tooth may no longer fit into your aligner, meaning new impressions will be needed and a new aligner made, making it more expensive.

4. You can only drink water with your aligners in. That's it. It's because it's cool and clear, so it won't damage or stain your aligners. It's also got no sugar in, so won't damage your teeth. Saliva does get in behind the aligners, so if your're having a sugaring drink the sugar will get in behind there too, and because you're wearing aligners the sugar won't be washed away from your teeth very quickly, meaning an increased risk of developing cavities. Hot drinks can warp and damage your aligners, so don't have them either! You must take your aligners out for any food and drink other than water, then brush your teeth and clean your aligners before replacing them.

5. You must wear your aligners nearly all of them time for them to be effective. It's recommended that you wear your aligners for 22 hours a day, giving you 2 hours to do all of your eating and drinking other that water. I've downloaded the app though and it says on the FAQ on there to wear them for 20-22 hours a day. I'm still trying a to stick to only having them off for 2 hours (a couple days have even ended up being only 1 1/2 hours), but it's good to know there's a bit of leeway if you need it, e.g. if you're going out for a meal and need time for a couple of courses and glasses of wine!

My Experience:

I've had my Invisalign for 1 week now. I'm going to put in a photo of me pre-Invisalign, just so you can compare how visible it is with bare teeth. To be honest you can't see all that much of my teeth because I'd try to smile without showing them, but you'll still be able to see the difference.

So there I am, haha. You can see that my teeth aren't straight but I'd never smile to show my crowded bottom teeth anyway. My treatment is going to use 26 aligners which I'll change every 2 weeks, meaning my treatment length will be 52 weeks. There was another option of 14 aligners taking 28 weeks, which would get my teeth pretty straight but wouldn't be as 'perfect' and refined as the longer treatment. This option was £1,000 less expensive, so I did give it some thought, but decided if I was going to do it I may as well go the whole hog! I also felt that if I went for that option I'd only wish I'd got the longer treatment in the end anyway.

Getting them fitted was fine and practically painless - I just didn't enjoy having my teeth polished up first and the cold air being blown on them as I have sensitive teeth! The gluing on of the attachments was fine and so was the putting on of the aligners. So far, there was no real pain. Also, I've found that the aligners have had only the tiniest effect on my speech - some people say they've found they give them a lisp but I've hardly noticed anything. I was given the next 3 sets of aligners and a case to keep the ones I'm using in when I take them out, and made an appointment for 8 weeks time - you change the aligners yourself every two weeks, no need to go to your orthodontist for it unless there's a problem.

This is what they look like from a short distance (in addition to the photo at the top of this post), and up close:

The little bumps on my teeth are the attachments that have been glued on. As yet I've not had to have any tooth-shaving, but that may come later, I'll ask at my next appointment! The plastic on the teeth makes them look pretty shiny, but overall they're really not that noticeable - my work colleagues didn't notice there was anything different until I mentioned it.

As the day went on, my teeth did become a bit painful. It wasn't terrible and I didn't feel the need to take painkillers or anything, but it was the pressure pain I'd expected to feel when the aligners were put in initially. On Saturday (the following day) they were still pretty uncomfortable, and the underneath of my tongue was sore for a few days but that's completely gone now. I'd say my teeth started to feel normal again on the Sunday evening, and now they're fine, but I expect this will happen each time I change my aligners.

Speaking of the aligners, they're kinda tricky to take out. This is because they're obviously tight to maintain pressure on the teeth, and there's the wonky teeth themselves and attachments to navigate! You have to try to pull the aligners away from your teeth slightly to move them past the attachments, and I always struggle my front tooth that's on the slant and has two attachments on. Once they're off my teeth feel a little tender, but nothing too bad. I've found my bottom teeth can be a bit sensitive to me electric toothbrush now, though. Getting the bottom aligners off is easier than the top ones, and getting them both back in is much easier than taking them out! But the more I've done it the easier it gets, a couple of times it has been so difficult I worried I'd got them stuck haha, but managed to ease them off. As my teeth become straighter, hopefully removing the aligners will become easier.

So before I put the aligners back in I brush my teeth and use mouthwash, and use a gentle toothbrush (different to the one I clean my teeth with!) and toothpaste to clean the aligners. You can get special Invisalign cleaning stuff but the app says toothpaste and lukewarm water is fine too (not hot water, remember the advice about hot drinks!). At work I bring a manual toothbrush with me, not my electric one, in a little case and my aligner-cleaning toothbrush in a different coloured case so I don't mix them up. 

So that's about it! Long post I know but I thought if I split it into different posts I'd never get around to doing them all. I'm planning on writing an update when I change to my second set of aligners next week, just notes on whether it's as uncomfortable as I expect and if it's tricky to get the new ones on or not, that sort of thing :) but I don't think I'll update every time I change them as I don't think there'll be that much to report.

Hopefully this was helpful to somebody :) Thanks for reading!