Invisalign – the clear alternative to braces? Taking that first step…..

So, lets get this straight (unlike my teeth!)…

I’m a 40 year old woman in a professional career where I am frequently in front of customers having to present, converse and basically be confident and articulate.  So the thought of doing that wearing a brace…?  Ugh.

However, having spent my formative years in a time where orthodontics were only for “special” cases and where the only straight, white smile you ever saw belonged to Animal off the Muppets, I had been allowed to grow up with a pretty severe case of crooked teeth and overbite.

Did it ruin my childhood…? Probably not.  Did it affect my confidence in adulthood…?  A little.  Did it make me self-conscious and camera-shy.  Almost definitely.

So fast-forward to my 4th decade and a time where every wag and member of the Cheshire-set wears a brace as the “must have” accessory and every smile you see on TV is straighter than Simon Cowell’s botox’d face and so white it’s verging on illuminous.  Am I conscious of my crooked smile now… hell yes.

So I took the decision a year ago that I wanted to make the (not insubstantial) investment to get my teeth straightened.  So what product to choose.  Well for me it was pretty easy, I wanted something that wasn’t visible so I wouldn’t have to be too conscious about it at work and socially.  Dentists ruled out several options like ClearStep and FastBraces as they weren’t suitable for a “severe” case like mine.  Nice.

And then came Invisalign…. hurrah!  A clear brace solution that’s held in your mouth by small “attachments” on your teeth and is changed to a new aligner every two weeks.  It’s worn a minimum 22 hours a day, during which time you can’t eat and can only drink water (I know, right!?)

A lesson for anyone considering doing this though… please shop around!  The place I was originally going to use, were going to charge me around £1k over standard market pricing plus said I needed all sorts of other work doing to support it.  Their methods of taking impressions and ordering the aligners were lengthy, and as I’ve since found out, a little “old hat”.  That said, don’t automatically go for the cheapest either – check out reviews and testimonials if you can till you find someone you’re comfortable with.  I’ve been really lucky in finding an amazing practitioner who I couldn’t be happier with now.

So the first thing you can expect is an appointment with a treatment co-ordinator – this is where they assess basic suitability and the talk timescales, costs etc with you.  If you haven’t balked at the idea after this, the next step is a consultation with the practitioner.  Now don’t be surprised if you have to pay for this, though if you go ahead the price is usually deducted from your overall treatment cost.  If they are good, they will then tell you the best and the worst of what to expect.

Step 3, and this is where it really starts getting exciting, is ClinCheck.  This is a slightly awkward though completely painful process whereby a scan is taken of your whole mouth.  The measurements are so accurate that this serves as the template from which your initial aligners will be made.  But, and here’s the thrill, it creates a video illustrating how your teeth will move over the course of the treatment.  It’s awesome!

Your dentist and an Invisalign orthodontist in the states will then spend some time working on tweaking the plan to best get you the results you want.  My dentist sent the revisions back at least 3-4 times as some of the movement they proposed wouldn’t have been aesthetically right for my face, but it all served to make me more confident that I had chosen the right practitioner that he took the time to get it right.  The process from ClinCheck to getting the aligners can take anything from a couple of weeks to, in my own case, almost a couple of months.  But as they say “measure twice, cut once” it’s not worth rushing something so important.

I read somewhere that when you finally get your first set of aligners, they don’t have attachments (the tiny tooth-coloured buttons they put on your teeth that the aligners fix to), as they can take some getting used to when you take them in an out.  Don’t you believe it!  I had a mouth full of attachments when I took home my first 3 sets of aligners… straight in at the deep end.

Whilst it’s not like the old-fashioned braces where you have to visit the orthodontist every couple of weeks to get them tightened, it does seem like I will be visiting the dentist every 6-8 weeks.  Seems a drag, I know, but again it’s all about confidence, and I am glad they want to check the progress that often to make sure the treatment plan stays on track!

The first Invisalign practitioner I saw, suggested that I would need to wear them for around 48 months.  Yikes!  Fortunately, the dentist I chose to go with is confident I can be complete in around a year, though for less severe cases than my own, you could be looking at a 6-month plan.  How incredible is that… 6 months to the smile of your dreams!  I understand that on completion you pretty much do have to wear retainers for the rest of your life (for a number of hours a day or night, not all the time obviously!) but that to me seems a small price to pay to retain the perfect smile.

The added bonus is that the retainers can be used as “bleaching trays” so you can keep your new straight smile bright and shiny forever.  So maybe not such a nuisance after all…?

So that’s it.  The start of my Invisalign journey to a straighter smile, and hopefully to a new, more confident me.  I feel elated and empowered about my decision, but have read from other reviews that I may have a bit of a rollercoaster of emotion ahead.  But I’ll check back in at the midway point with another update.

RHB, April 2015

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