I'm 26 years old, and for years, every time I see a celebrity or a person crack open a mouth full of perfectly straight teeth, I can't help but feel envious and a little upset that my teeth don't look that way. Even after braces, my teeth have never been flawless. I'm plagued with an open bite. This means 20 out of 24 of my teeth have significant space between them, even when I bite down. A decade ago, orthodontists told me I would have to get a second round of braces and jaw surgery to fully correct the situation. I put it off for years, because worse than crooked teeth was the thought of having surgery and braces (again)!
However, this year, my orthodontist recommended an alternative treatment, Invisalign, that had a good chance of straightening my teeth and correcting my bite without surgery. Unlike braces, which use metal wires and brackets to straighten teeth, Invisalign moves teeth with a series of custom-made aligners (aka retainers) made from clear plastic, so they are far less noticeable than braces. I jumped on board right away, but I didn't do as much research as I probably should have. Though I'm only a month into my Invisalign program—and am really happy with the results so far!—here are some of the things I wish I'd known before I took the plunge.
1. You might receive more attachments than you are expecting. Recent Invisalign procedures may include attachments, or enamel-colored ridges that stick to your teeth like braces brackets. These attachments click into the Invisalign aligners to help the teeth move more effectively. Without the aligners in, the attachment bumps are virtually invisible. But with the aligners in, it looks like you have clear braces. My orthodontist warned me that I would have two attachments, but I ended up with 20. So, most of the day, I look like I'm wearing braces.
2. Recommended wear time is 22 hours. I don't know what I was thinking ... I guess I figured I could leave the aligners at home when going to a party or out to dinner. But nope. I keep them in unless I'm eating, and I don't leave home without packing an aligner case along with a travel-size toothbrush.
3. You may lose weight. Since the wear time is 22 hours, that leaves two hours to eat three meals a day. It's pretty ambitious, but I do my best to, because it really beats trying to pry the aligners off my teeth more than necessary. The aligners are supertight and especially hard to remove if teeth are sore. While you can always take the aligners out for snacks, I've found it's a pain to remove the aligners and rebrush the teeth more than three times a day. Despite my attempts to pack in the calories at each meal (I'll have a smoothie, omelet, and yogurt for breakfast, etc.), I still am hungry all the time. I lost a little weight my first month, but I've returned to my normal weight after introducing a protein smoothie to every meal.
4. Kiss lipstick goodbye. Colored lip gloss and lipsticks are a thing of the past. They easily stick to the aligners and the attachments. Clear lip balm and gloss are OK, but they can sometimes leave a waxy residue on the aligners. These days, I'm all about applying dramatic eye makeup to draw attention away from my mouth.