Invisalign Clear Braces update: top trays complete and advice for new patients

I can’t quite believe I’m writing this, but after what seems like a very short amount of time indeed, my dentist told me yesterday that my Invisalign treatment is now complete on my top teeth! I will have to continue wearing the aligner for the next two weeks, just to make sure the teeth stay in place, but after that it basically becomes a retainer, and I’ll be brace-free during the day.

Before I go any further, I should point out again that the reason my treatment time was so short  was that I was using Invisalign on the upper arch purely to close a gap between two of the teeth. It was a very straightforward issue, and the rest of my teeth were straight, which meant that not only did it cost less, I was able to complete the treatment in around two months, which I believe is significantly shorter than the average treatment length.

It’s not quite the end of the line for me yet, though: I will continue to have treatment on my lower arches, which are a much more complex case, for many weeks yet, but as I reach one milestone, here’s my advice for anyone still thinking about using the Invisalign system:

1. It’s much less visible than I expected it to be

I knew the whole point of “invisible braces” was that they’d be, well, invisible, but I still expected people to notice them in some way. Actually, though, I was very impressed by how unobtrusive they are: I don’t feel self-conscious at all when I’m wearing them, and although it took a couple of days to get over the lisping, they haven’t affected my speech either, so I’m totally happy speaking to people while wearing them. I really don’t think anyone would notice them unless they were specifically looking for them (friends who didn’t know I was having the treatment have confirmed that they couldn’t see any difference, and had to look really closely before they saw the braces), which makes it that bit easier to comply with the 22-hours-per-day wear.

That said, when my lips are closed, I do notice that the braces make my lips protrude slightly, which I have been a little self-conscious about. Mr Dollface confirms that this is, indeed, the case, although he doesn’t think it would be noticeable to anyone who didn’t know me. I have developed a kind of mouth-half-open look to try to prevent this, and it’s the main reason I’m so glad to be done with the top brace, because when I wear the bottom one only, it doesn’t have this effect.

2. You do get used to the feel of it

I must admit that for the first couple of weeks, I really didn’t think I would ever get used to the sensation of having the braces in my mouth. It’s not painful, but it is a strange feeling at first, and, for the first week, I experienced a bit of nausea, and worried that the braces would make me gag. I kept reading other people’s reviews, in which they talked about how quickly they’d gotten used to it, and I just didn’t believe that would be the case for me, but while I think it took me a little longer than most (It was about two weeks before I stopped noticing the braces in my mouth) I’ve now reached the stage where I genuinely don’t think about them. I have no qualms whatsoever about wearing them as retainers, because it’s now second-nature to me, and I’m just not aware of them.

3. Total compliance (wearing the braces for 22 hours per day) can be tricky, but isn’t impossible

For most of the time I’ve been using Invisalign, I’ve managed to keep them in for roughly 22 hours per day, which is the recommended time, although I must admit that as time has gone on, I’ve been getting a little more blasé about i,t and leaving them out for longer. In my case it’s not such a big deal, because I wear each set of trays for slightly longer than the recommended two weeks (this is purely the way it’s worked out because of the difficulty of arranging dental appointments at intervals of exactly two weeks, plus the fact that I took a three week vacation), and if you’re willing to that, you can leave them out for a little longer each day, as long as you’re aware that your total treatment time will be longer as a result.

Snacking wasn’t really a huge issue for me, as I don’t tend to snack a lot anyway (although I obviously snack more than I thought I did, because I lost weight in the first few weeks of using Invisalign, without thinking I’d made any changes to my diet), but I did find it a little frustrating at mealtimes, because I’m quite a slow eater. I enjoy long, leisurely meals, and I like to take my time and sip a huge mug of coffee at regular intervals throughout the day, but, because you have to remove the braces to eat and drink, I often felt like I was having to rush my meals in order to get the braces back in. Again, this is one of the reasons I’m looking forward to the end of the treatment: being able to linger for as long as I like over a meal or mug of coffee!

4. Eating out can be a pain

For me, the biggest challenge has been eating out, particularly during my recent vacation, where I was eating out every day (often more than once per day) and also having to manage the Invisalign trays while eating on aircrafts, at the beach, during long car trips, etc. I won’t lie: there were times where this was just an absolute pain. Public restrooms aren’t the nicest place in the world to have to clean your teeth, and people often stare at you as if you’ve grown a second head when they see you whip out a toothbrush in public.

Also, having to visit the restroom to remove the braces, and then visit it again at the end of the meal to replace them got annoying, especially in very busy restaurants: in fact, I would often just duck under the table and whip the trays out, which wasn’t ideal, as I should have been cleaning them when I removed them. I figured it was OK on an occasional basis, though, when I just couldn’t face the crowded restroom more than once per meal. My worst experience came on the two long-haul flights to and from the States. Having removed my braces for the meal, I found that there was constantly a huge line for the restroom afterwards.I’m terrified of flying, and like to remain buckled into my seat as much as possible, and I just couldn’t face the line, so I’m going to put my hands up here and admit that I did exactly what you’re NOT supposed to do: I swilled my mouth out with water and just slipped the braces back in, making sure to clean both them and my teeth thoroughly as soon as I could. Again, this isn’t recommended, but as I’ve only done it once or twice, I figured it couldn’t do too much damage – I did visit my dentist yesterday, and he confirmed that my teeth are perfectly healthy, so I guess I got away with it.

To help with all of this, I purchased a bunch of disposable toothbrushes before we went away. They’re the type that come with toothpaste already loaded, and I found it easier to just toss a handful of those into my bag every couple of days, rather than remembering to transfer my own toothbrush and toothpaste from bag to bathroom a few times per day.

5. Having impressions taken is the hardest part of all

Every few weeks, I have to have new impressions taken of my teeth, so the next few sets of braces can be created by the Invisalign labs. I have never been frightened of the dentist, and am not particularly squeamish, but I will be totally honest and say that I dread these appointments. I would rather have almost any other procedure than this, because having the large metal tray filled with what feels like putty of some kind inserted into my mouth makes me want to gag. My dentist is extremely good about this, and really takes his time to make me feel as comfortable as possible, but, for me, it’s the worst part of the whole procedure.  Having said that, I know other Invisalign patients who have no issue with impressions at all, so I suspect it’s a totally personal thing. In my case, even the smallest tray hits the back of my throat and triggers my (fairly sensitive) gag reflex, and that may not be the case for you.

6.  It has been worth it

I’m not going to post photos of my teeth, because I’m still having treatment on my lower arch, and also want to have them whitened, and perhaps some other work before I’ll be 100% done, but so far I’m absolutely thrilled with the results, and think it has been well worth what I paid. The gap in my upper teeth has bothered me for my entire adult life, and dentists had consistently told me there was nothing that could be done about it, and that unless I was willing to wear metal braces, I would just have to learn to live with it. That obviously turned out not to be the case: the gap has totally disappeared, and my only regret is that I didn’t discover Invisalign sooner.

As for my lower teeth, they’re still as crooked as a row of tombstones, and I have a long way to go before they’ll be perfect, but I’m already starting to notice a difference, and am confident that I’ll be just as pleased with them as I am with the top arches. As I’ve said before, Invisialign isn’t what I’d call an “easy” option, because it does require changes to your lifestyle, and a lot of commitment on your part, but I feel it’s ultimately a small amount of inconvenience for what will hopefully be a great result.

So far, then, so good. Roll on the end of the treatment, though!