I am on aligner set 3 out of 15. So far, my...
I am on aligner set 3 out of 15. So far, my feeling is that this method is much more of an invasive orthodontic treatment than I expected based upon how it is marketed to consumers. I chose Invisalign because I thought it would be literally nearly invisible, would not affect my speech beyond the first few days, and would be removable for special occasions, leaving me looking "normal" at those times.
In reality, I think it is only slightly less noticeable than clear braces would be, especially after the news was sprung on me at my 4th visit that I would be getting 14 attachments bonded onto my teeth that day, including my upper front teeth, and have sanding done between teeth. I was shocked, because my teeth were not that crooked/crowded anyway, and because the dentist never, ever mentioned attachments, nor did I know to ask. My first two aligner sets did not require the attachments. Had I known about them, I might not have moved forward with the procedure. At minimum, I would have been prepared for the fact that people would likely be able to tell that "something orthodontic" was going on with me. It is surely not invisible, just not plainly obvious like metal braces would be. Because of the attachments, I cannot just remove my aligners on a special occasion and look like I have normal teeth. They are bumpy teeth to anyone within maybe 3 feet of me, and I dislike that.
As far as speech goes, it took me 3-4 weeks to lose the lisp, and I still have subtly different speech when the aligners are in place.
Aside from my disappointment at the aesthetics of wearing the aligners and having the attachments and the slight speech problem, dealing with the aligners themselves has not been difficult. I only eat 3 meals per day now, with no snacking, and I only drink water or rarely vodka and club soda or white wine with aligners in place. I brush my teeth and the aligners after every meal, and I soak the aligners in Retainer Brite in the morning. Because I am not snacking, I have lost weight - almost too much weight for my frame - and might need to start supplementing calories somehow. People should be aware of that, as a pro or a con depending on their body types. I've never had any trouble with the aligners staining or having an odor.
I suspect I will have good results once I am done with Invisalign, but I definitely feel like the manufacturer and my dentist use a hard sell to get people to commit to it and overstate the invisibility of this method.
Aligner set 6 - settling in for the long haul
I'm on aligner set 6 out of 15, and I am starting to see minor results. My two upper front incisors look straighter, although my upper second incisor (always the most crooked tooth) still has a long way to go. My bottom teeth were only ever mildly crowded, and they are much, much better already. It is clear that I will need some minor sanding and/or bonding of the bottom edges of my two front teeth at the end of this process in order to make them even, since they are worn based on how they used to be aligned.
I've had two minor problems related to my attachments. One attachment actually pulled off the first time I removed aligner set 5, and another attachment got stained by something (barbecue sauce?). I went in to have both fixed, and my dentist said that the stained attachment had an air bubble in it, which is why something was able to stick there. He had to remove that attachment and reapply it as well. I've also needed IPR (sanding) on three different occasions.
I've noticed that my aligner sets sometimes get scuffed where my top and bottom incisors meet by mid-way through the second week. They still seem to work, but the feeling of rubbing my tongue across the scratchy area is somewhat annoying. I've trimmed off strands of material with fingernail clippers a couple of times. I wonder if this is a common problem with the new SmartTrack material.
Overall, I am still feeling self-conscious about my mouthful of plastic when I smile at people, but at least I sometimes forget I am wearing the aligners. I've had no problems taking care of the aligners and really only minor pain after switching to a new set.
The end is in sight!
26 Jul 2013
4 months post
Aligner set 10 of 15 now, and I can see a real difference. My bottom teeth are almost completely straight, and my top teeth are probably 2/3 straightened, as would be expected. I do feel like one tooth with attachments is overcorrected, and I hope it resolves as its neighbors fall into place.
As they have become straighter, I think the aligners have become a bit less noticeable. I still loathe the attachments I have on my upper front teeth and was happy to have them off for a few days so that I could go to a class reunion without them. It was uncomfortable having them removed, though, so I anticipate that the visit I have at the end of all of this won't be a fun one (I will have 14 attachments to remove).
Starting 15/15 - retainer or refinement coming
I started aligner set 15/15 today. My lower aligner has been "passive" since set 13 because those teeth are perfectly straight now. I'm unsure about whether or not my upper teeth will be perfect after this set. The plan is to be finished in two weeks and have some cosmetic bonding done to make the bottom edges of my top 4 teeth level before moving on to the retainer phase, but I suspect one of my teeth (the one that had the most movement needed from the beginning) will not be completely straight and will require refinement instead, which is a real bummer. I do believe I will have my 14 attachments removed in two weeks, so that part makes me happy. The attachments have been the worst part of the whole process.
Last day of official treatment
16 Oct 2013
7 months post
I finished aligners 16/16 today and had all of my attachments removed. My bottom teeth are perfect, and my top teeth got maybe 95% of the way there. Instead of doing refinements on top, my provider believes that we can get the rest of the way by doing minor filing and bonding of my front teeth. Since the bottom edges would have required some leveling anyway, I am going to go that route. Unfortunately, his schedule is booked for almost 2 weeks, so I have to hang out in my last set of aligners until bonding can be done and Vivera retainers ordered that will fit my "new" teeth.
Completion and Final Perspective
15 Nov 2013
8 months post
I completed my course of Invisalign treatment 4 weeks ago. When I finished my last aligner set, my bottom teeth were perfect, and my top teeth were maybe 95% of the way there. I could have elected to go on with refinement (which was free), but I decided that my teeth were "good enough" for my purposes.
I had all of my attachments removed on my final official day of treatment, and I thought I would have contouring done that day and be fitted for a retainer, but it turned out that there was another miscommunication from my dentist's office, and the contouring/retainer fitting had to be scheduled at another visit. And... he had no open appointments for almost two more weeks. As a result, I had to wear my final set of aligners for almost four weeks, and they are really not meant to hold up well for that long (discoloration, peeling, cracking). I finally got an appointment and had an hour or more of bonding and sanding my front two teeth and filing the two next to them to try to make it look even now that my teeth are positioned differently. The way my teeth looked with bottom edges filled in and completely horizontal rather than angled was actually startling to me the first time I looked in the mirror while it was being done. The image in my head did not exactly match the reality of having front teeth of a completely different shape in my mouth. They looked huge at first and needed to be filed down quite a bit. I am 95% pleased with those results (95% seems to be my number here!).
I have an Essix retainer (or its equivalent), and I wish the Invisalign aligners would have been as invisible as this thing is! It covers more of the teeth and gums (and a bit of the hard palate), but it is basically impossible to see and minimally affects speech. It is tough to remove, however. My dentist told me that I could go right into only wearing it overnight, unless it felt snug when I put it on at night, suggesting that my teeth were shifting. I think it feels snug every time I put it on, so I have been wearing it about 16-18 hours per day. I'm more careful not to drink anything but water with the retainer in because I don't want to discolor it. One thing I had not expected was that the retainer made my teeth VERY sore for about a week, especially the last molars. As soon as I got the retainer, I went back to my regular dentist and ordered some Opalescence whitening gel, which can be used inside the retainer in the most awesome (and cheap) way.
Overall, I am 95% satisfied with the process and results of Invisalign. The worst part of it for me was that the attachments were very visible, in my opinion, and made me feel so conspicuous that I might as well have been wearing ceramic braces. I didn't smile normally at people for months. Also, it slightly over-rotated one front tooth and didn't completely correct the second tooth that began as my most crooked one. I realize that I could easily have gone on with a few months of refinements and made them perfect, but I was a bit disappointed that being a compliant patient in wearing the aligners as directed with all of those crazy attachments didn't get me all the way there. I did find the aligners to be easy to use, and the process was fairly short (7-8 months). And I'm happy with the retainer.
15 Nov 2013
8 months post
This photo was taken the day that I had my front teeth contoured and was fitted for a retainer (not worn in the photo)