I’m documenting my daughter’s and my experience with Invisalign clear aligners. I’m a member of the Invisalign Mom Advisory Board, and we are receiving complimentary treatment as part of the program.
Our mother-daughter adventure in orthodontia has begun. Mimi and I have started Invisalign are dutifully wearing our aligners and adjusting to new eating and tooth-brushing routines. I’ve waited a few weeks to write this so I could give you a full picture of what it’s really like at the beginning of Invisalign treatment: the initial appointments, getting our aligners, and the all-important answer to does Invisalign hurt?
First Appointment: Evaluation
The first step was to make sure we were good candidates for Invisalign. Not everyone is — but it’s not obvious without an examination by an experienced orthodontist or dentist.
I found our orthodontist, Dr. Doleac, using the Invisalign doctor locator. I wanted someone nearby with lots of experience treating both teens and adults with Invisalign. (The locator indicates experience levels with the labels Elite, Premier and Preferred.)
Dr. Doleac gave us each thorough examinations, including x-rays. Mimi and I have different issues — she has a crossbite and wide tooth spacing, and I have crowding. He determined that Mimi would need rubber bands between her top and bottom jaws to correct her crossbite. We’d also need to have attachments bonded to our teeth to help the aligners do their jobs (more about attachments later in the post). But he was confident that Invisalign would work well for us.
We also got an in-depth talking to about the responsibilities that come with Invisalign. Unlike braces, Invisalign aligners can be taken out and lost, and the doctor wanted our side of the bargain to be clear.
- We’d have to wear our aligners at least 22 hours per day.
- We’d have to clean the aligners and our teeth after every meal, in addition to our usual brushing.
- We’d have to keep track of our aligners. (This is one of my biggest concerns: Mimi losing her aligners at school.)
We each agreed we could handle the responsibilities. In fact, Mimi and I were pretty excited about the process. She said, “for some reason this makes me feel special.”
Second Appointment: Getting Our Teeth Scanned
Invisalign needs either a 3-D scan of your teeth or physical impressions to construct the aligners. Dr. Doleac’s office uses the iTero scanner — a big plus, in my opinion. It’s a hand-held scanner that produces an image of each tooth. The scans are quick and clean — unlike having impressions, which involves biting down on a goopy tray of molding compound. (I remember that well from middle school. Hurl.)
The scanning took about 30 minutes and was painless. Pretty cool to watch the 3-D images of Mimi’s teeth pop up on the screen. Even cooler: once the scan was complete, the computer projected a before-and-after image so we could see an approximation of what Mimi’s teeth will look like when she’s done.
Third Appointment: Getting Our Aligners
Our aligners took about three weeks to arrive. As the fitting appointment approached, Mimi was relaxed (as is her way), but I was nervous. What had I gotten us into? Was this going to complicate our lives? Was this going to hurt?
My worries were for naught. The fitting process was easy, painless, and (actually) pretty interesting.
First, we had to have attachments bonded to our teeth. These tooth-colored “buttons” help the aligners stay in place. It’s a simple matter of dabbing bonding material onto the teeth, and then molding them into shape with a plastic mold. It took about 30 minutes, and was painless.
The doctor had to lightly file between a few of my teeth to create space for movement. This was annoying (the tool he used was loud and a little bumpy) but painless.
Finally, they popped in our aligners. I could hardly see them! But I didn’t anticipate how weird they’d feel. They were thicker than I had expected, and it felt like having a mouth full of plastic (which it is, I guess). The aligners also gave me quite a lisp, which worried me. I envied Mimi, who sounded fine.
The staff showed us how to take the aligners on and off (it’s tricky in the beginning, but they assured us it would get easier with practice). They also reminded us about how to care for our aligners, how to keep them clean, and all the rest.
We left our appointment giddy, excited, and a little stunned.
Our First 72 Hours With Invisalign
Eight hours later, the honeymoon was over.
Our teeth and cheeks were sore
Our teeth ached. No surprise — you can’t expect your teeth to move without some discomfort — but it was a bummer. We both took some Tylenol, which helped a lot. But the ache persisted for about 72 hours.
The edges of the aligners also roughed up the inside of our cheeks and lips. When we took our aligners out to eat, the attachment buttons felt sharp and pinched our cheeks. Our doctor had prepared us for this and said it was temporary, but it was really uncomfortable.
I had a lisp
My biggest hangup was my lisp! I was really self-conscious about it. It was as if my tongue had no idea how to deal with all of this new stuff in my mouth. My son had plenty of fun at my expense, and we all laughed about my “thpeech,” but I was worried the lisp wouldn’t go away.
It was hard to adjust to a new routine
Mimi and I found ourselves avoiding food because we didn’t want to have to go through removing our aligners and brushing. But we got over that pretty quickly.
I was concerned that dealing with Invisalign at school would be a huge hassle for Mimi, but she got the hang of it right away. (I’ll share details about how Invisalign works at school in a future post.)
A Week Later: All Is Well
A week later, we were back to our former happy selves. We can now take our aligners in and out with no problem. We settled into a new, simple hygiene routine, and the tooth, cheek and lip soreness is gone. My lisp is less pronounced, and my friends swear they can’t hear anything, but I still can. Fortunately, I’m no longer too self-conscious about it.
I think we’re on our way.