Invisalign Clear Braces: Stage One – the consultation

Totally not my teeth

For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamt of having teeth like the woman in this photo: perfectly straight, perfectly white, and hey, don’t they look great with bright red lipstick?

I don’t have teeth like that, though. In fact, while my teeth are strong and healthy, the bottom set in particular are a little on the crooked side, and this is something that’s always annoyed me. If I’d grown up somewhere else, I’d probably have had braces as a child, and would now have something approaching the kind of teeth I want. For some reason, though, here in the UK there just isn’t much of an emphasis on straightening teeth (or at least there wasn’t when I was a child – things may well be different now for all I know), so while I had all of the usual check-ups, etc, the issue of straightening them never came up, and by the time I reached adulthood, and started to feel self-conscious about my teeth, I assumed that I was more or less stuck with them.  Obviously I knew I could still get braces if I wanted to, but I assumed they’d have to be huge, highly-visible train-tracks, and that I’d have to wear them for years, and I’m just going to be honest: I didn’t want that.

The consultation
Last year, though, I started doing some research online, and discovered that there are now lots of different options when it comes to straightening teeth as an adult, and that not all of them involve the traditional “train track” braces. So I did some more research, found an orthodontist near me who offers a huge range of teeth-straightening procedures, and booked an appointment for a consultation. This wasn’t purely an Invisalign consultation: I knew it was one of the options available to me, but there were a few others I was also interested in, and although I’d spent literally hours online reading up on the different techniques (Inman Aligners, Six Month Smiles, traditional braces, veneers…) I’d reached the point where I needed to actually speak to someone who was an expert on the subject, and who could look at MY teeth and MY issues, and tell me what would and wouldn’t work for ME.

And that’s exactly what I got. The consultation was very in-depth, and, as well as a thorough examination of my teeth, the dentist also took lots of photos of them, which he put onto a screen to show me exactly what he was talking about. (This was actually fairly traumatic for me. If you’re at all self-conscious about your teeth, then seeing them blown-up to ten times their actual size is… painful.) There was absolutely no pressure on me to go down any particular route, or even to do anything AT ALL: I was just given lots and lots of information, and some impartial advice on what might work best for me.

I’m not going to go through all of the options I discussed, because we’d be here forever, and this post is already long enough. What I will say is that Invisalign wasn’t the cheapest option available and it wasn’t the quickest: and nor was it the most expensive or the slowest, come to that. It was the option I chose, however, and before I tell you why, let me first of all explain what it is:

What is Invisalign?

Invisalign is a system of totally clear, removable braces, which slips over your teeth and is removed for eating and drinking anything other than water. The braces are replaced every two weeks, and gradually re-position the teeth: this can take anything from 6 months to a couple of years. (Read more about it here.)

Pros and Cons of Invisalign

Cost
Obviously there are pros and cons to this system. The biggest drawback is the cost. Invisalign isn’t cheap: prices start from around £1,500. I’m fortunate in that my dentist offers a discount to practice members so by joining up and paying a small monthly fee I save a chunk of money (and also get free check-ups and hygienist visits into the bargain). It’s still expensive, though, as are all of the other methods of straightening teeth, and I suspect the cost will be the biggest drawback for most people. Most dentists seem to offer schemes where you can spread the cost over a year or more, though, which is also something to consider.

Time
The other drawbacks for me are the time I’ll have to invest in dentist visits. I’m not afraid of the dentist, but this one is on the other side of the city, and I’ll have to go there every two weeks to have new braces fitted, which will take up quite a bit of time, and require some juggling of my schedule. I will be wearing my brace for at around nine months, so it’s quite a big chunk of time: how long it takes depends on the complexity of the case, though, so some people wear the braces for much longer, and some are finished with them quicker.

Eating and drinking
Finally, there’s the issue of having to remove the brace to eat and drink. I’m not much of a snacker, so I THINK I’ll be OK with the eating part, but I am addicted to coffee, and as it won’t really be practical to keep removing the brace to guzzle down another mugful (you can drink water with the brace  in, but no hot beverages, sugary drinks or liquids that could stain the brace), I’m going to have to cut down. Which will be hard, but hopefully worth it.

Appearance
As for the reason I chose Invisalign over the other methods out there: well, it comes down to simple vanity, I’m afraid. Invisalign is, as the name suggests, almost invisible. In my case, I will only need one brace, for my lower teeth, so it will be even less visible. All of the other options would mean wearing wires on my teeth, and all of them would have been noticeable. I did consider ALL of my options carefully, but ultimately I think it’s important to be realistic: this is a big investment, both in terms of money and time. Whatever I decided to go for, I knew I’d be wearing it for a long time, so I needed to know I’d be able to keep on using it, and that it wouldn’t feel so self-conscious about it that I’d want to minimise the time spent wearing the brace, or give it up altogether. Knowing myself as I do, I just don’t think I’d deal well with visible braces, so I decided to go with Invisalign.

Just to be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with metal braces, and I don’t think anything bad about people who wear them (Actually I just think, “Good for you: you’re going to have perfect teeth.”), but as I said, if you’re going to commit to something like this, I think it’s really important to be realistic, and to know what you will and won’t be able to deal with.

So! That’s the first part of my journey towards perfect teeth. Next step: the fitting.

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