Monday, February 23, 2015

invisalign experience

This page will be updated chronologically as I progress with my Invisalign treatment from January 2015 until approx. June 2015. I have no affiliation with Invisalign other than as a full-paying patient.

Pro Tips
  1. Prepare a small bag with the necessary supplies to carry everywhere: Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, pain killers, lip balm, and tray for aligners during meals.
  2. Brush teeth after every meal, before replacing aligners.
  3. Get a bulk quantity of denture cleanser tablets (“Retainer Brite” seems to be popular) from Amazon or Costco.  An ultrasonic cleaning machine might be useful too.
  4. Drink a lot of water. Dry mouth encourages bacteria growth.
  5. Do not eat, drink, or chew gum with the aligners in, other than drinking water.
  6. Do not throw out old aligners. Keep them, sterilized in the original bags, in case they are needed as back-ups.
  7. Changing trays will be uncomfortable, so pick a day to do the change that won’t be high stress.  Friday night is a good night to do this, along with a pain killer.
  8. Taking trays out can be challenging depending on the number and placement of buttons. Try a few different approaches to see what works best.
January 19, 2015 - Making the Decision

I was at my dentist (Dr. Mary Jane Fuster, in Milpitas California) for my regular cleaning, and I was talking with my dentist about how I had traditional braces as a kid, and how my teeth (mainly lower teeth) had become un-aligned as a result of not wearing my retainer after my braces.  My dentist pointed out a few other teeth issues that she said would continue to get worse with time.  I asked about Invisalign, and how much my insurance would cover. To my surprise, my insurance would cover a large portion of the cost, so I signed up. 

My dentist took several mold impressions of my teeth (upper, lower, and bite), and took photos of my teeth. I already had x-rays on file.

February 23, 2015 - Receiving my Aligners

It took about 3 weeks for the dentist to call me and tell me that my aligners had arrived.  Due to schedule conflicts, I wasn't able to visit the dentist until February 23. I took some pain killer on the way to the dentist.  The dentist applied five buttons to my upper and lower teeth, and shaved down about four of my teeth to make room for them to move. Then we put in the aligners, and I did a few tries at removing and inserting them to get the feel for the process. The kit I received included two trays (red and blue), and 3 pairs of aligners.  Because I don't have a difficult treatment, I will only have 5 pairs of aligners total, spanning 10 weeks of treatment, before I receive the final retainer.

February 24, 2015 - First 24 Hours

I woke up a few times during the night with mild discomfort, but nothing resembling pain or requiring medication.  There is enough sensitivity though that I can't eat hard foods, so I'll be sticking with softer foods.

My morning cleaning routine is to put the aligners in my ultrasonic cleaning device along with a Retainer Brite tablet while I shower.

In order to achieve 22 hours, I realized that when eating at a restaurant, I need to leave the aligners in until the food arrives, and then put them back in right after I'm done eating. I also realized that rather than eating long drawn-out meals, I need to eat a bit more quickly.

March 2, 2015

The roughness of the edges of the aligners bothered me for a few days, but after about 4 days the edges had become smooth enough that they did not irritate my mouth.  The aligners aren't uncomfortable at all at this point.  I've gotten in to a standard routine around removing the aligners for meals, brushing my teeth after meals, and cleaning the aligners every morning.

March 8, 2015

I'm starting week #3 of aligner tray #1 (I'm on three week cycles, not the normal two week cycles).  I've gotten really good at removing and inserting the trays - I can even do it one handed now.  I realized that removing them from the left works much better than the right, just due to the button placements.  I've also realized the importance of brushing the aligners to remove plaque - in addition to soaking in Retainer Brite.

March 16, 2015

My first aligner change.  I took out the first set of aligners and cleaned them with brushing and Retainer Brite, and put them in the zip-lock bag for safe keeping in case I need a backup set.  The new set (set #2) went in smoothly, but I immediately felt the pressure.  Not pain that required medication, but pressure throughout the day.  It's actually a nice feeling because I had set #1 in for three weeks, so it's nice to feel some movement again.  I've now become an expert at getting the aligners out of my mouth - I've found using the left side is much easier than the right side.

April 6, 2015

Second aligner change. I can see and feel movement of my teeth. Putting in a new aligner is a bit tender for the first few days, but no pain necessitating pain killers. I think I'm averaging about 21 hours a day of wear time, which is slightly less than recommended. The increased brushing has definitely improved my oral hygiene, new habits that I will maintain after this is all over.

April 27, 2015

Just finished my third tray, visited the dentist to pick up my fourth and fifth trays. Dentist said things are looking good. I popped in the fourth tray, and felt a day or two of discomfort. My dentist said that towards the end of my fifth tray I will come back in for another visit, and they will give me my retainer.

May 7, 2015

Travelling with Invisalign is complicated, and not ideal. It isn't always possible to brush one's teeth while sightseeing or on an airplane.  As a result of some recent travels where I wasn't able to brush my teeth right away after each meal, my aligners got a bit stained (I think it was tomato sauce).

June 2, 2015

Checkup with the dentist. I was supposed to have my buttons removed and aligner swapped out for my retainer, but one tooth hadn't quite finished moving as much as I would like, so the dentist shaved a bit off the side of the tooth and had me wear the last aligner for one more week.

June 22, 2015

Finally! The teeth are in full alignment.  There is still one on the bottom that could use a bit more nudging, but it looks perfect and I'm ready to be done.  The dentist removed the buttons with a drill (very nerve racking but completely painless), and took new mold impressions, and I was told to keep wearing my last trays for 2 more weeks until my regular cleaning when I'll get my retainer.

A few notes reflecting on the experience:

  • I stopped worrying about exactly how many hours a day I wore my aligners. I wore them except to eat. Sometimes that was 22 hours a day, sometimes less. I didn't really worry about it.
  • I occasionally drank diet 7-up, carbonated water, and even ate oatmeal with my aligners in. I would always brush them and my teeth after.
  • Travel was the hardest part - it's not easy to eat on an airplane, for example.
  • The best thing I learned from the whole process is maintaining dental hygiene throughout the day. I will continue brushing after every meal.