Just Finished Invisalign: Things I Learned - Manhattan Beach, CA

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I’ve just finished Invisalign and as I was t...

I’ve just finished Invisalign and as I was thinking back over the last 20 months I thought it might be helpful to share my experience and what I learned. I used this site as motivation quite a bit so I wanted to contribute something back.

1. If you can, choose an orthodontist over a dentist.

My first consultation was with a cosmetic dentist who pointed out that my midline was off and my teeth were crowded. She estimated 12 months for treatment and would shave down some of my teeth (IPR) so they’d fit better. Total cost $5500.

My second consultation (and what I ended up going with) was with an orthodontist who estimated 12-18 months, was very much against IPR unless absolutely necessary (it wasn’t) and not only fixed my crowding and my midline but fixed my bite with rubber bands. By the time I finished every single tooth had been shifted, rotated or pushed back or forward. Total cost $6500.

My insurance didn't cover anything, but in the US you can use a FSA if you have one. It ended up saving a bit of money.

2. Add ~50% to treatment time estimates.

As I said I was given an estimate of 12-18 months while changing aligners every 2 weeks. Total treatment time ended up being 20 months, and that was with changing aligners every week using Acceledent. I had 50 aligners for the first round followed by a refinement with another 20 sets.

After my last tray I still had one tooth that was a bit off and my orthodontist corrected it without another round of refinements by using a special tool to add a dimple to my last tray to apply a bit of extra force. It turned out that wasn’t enough so I came back a week later and she added some composite to the front right and back left of the tooth that needed rotating. That got to within 1/10 of a millimeter and the final step was to create a temporary Essix retainer (in office) and dimple that. Total extra time of 3 weeks rather than waiting for a new set of aligners.

3. Acceledent.

If you can afford Acceledent then go for it. Mine was an outrageously expensive $1500 but I don’t regret it one bit. It cut over a year off my treatment time. Also if you’re going to go for it then start as soon as possible. I didn’t start until I was 10 trays in which was an extra unnecessary 5 weeks of treatment.

4. Wearing aligners.

It’s a little odd, but you’ll get used to it. You’ll probably get over any lisp/speech/spit issues after a few days, but I still think there’s a noticeable tray vs. no tray difference in speech.

New trays usually hurt, so I recommend putting them in at night before bed, taking an Advil, using a chewy for 20 minutes, and then going straight to sleep. With any luck they’ll be a lot better in the morning. You’ll probably have a bit of tenderness for a couple days with each new tray, but nothing awful. Eat softer foods.

I also preferred to put them in on a Monday so that my weekends were mostly pain free and I could allow myself a little extra time without trays if necessary.

It’s recommended that you wear your aligners for 20-22 hours a day, and I followed this very strictly (with a few holiday exceptions) for the first 50 or so sets. There were a few parties where I left them out for 6 or so hours, but it was always at the end of the tray’s lifecycle. I did get a little lazier in the refinement process because the movements were so slight that there was no pain at all. During those trays I’d allow myself to eat out and not brush, floss and re-tray until I got home. Luxury.

Don’t eat or drink anything except still water with the trays in. This seems like common sense. Once or twice I had some white wine while wearing them but it just wasn’t enjoyable.

5. Attachments and rubber bands.

They suck. Not much else to say. It makes the process much less invisible. I never had issues with scratching or pain or attachments popping off. I did swallow my rubber band button once, but my orthodontist replaced it the next day. The glue they use to attach them is gross and bitter. They sand them off at the end. I can kind of tell where some of them used to be.

6. Cleaning teeth.

Get an electric toothbrush and a Waterpik for home use and make a travel pack with floss, a toothbrush and toothpaste for outside the house. Brush, floss and re-tray soon after every meal, without fail. I found the Waterpik to be much easier to use than flossing, but I’ve also flossed in some disgusting public restrooms (It never got easier - sorry).

7. Cleaning aligners.

I’ve seen lots of recommendations for how best to clean the aligners, and (like most) I swear by my method. I use Retainer Brite tablets and an iSonic F3900 ultrasonic cleanser. Take out trays, rinse, put a tablet in the iSonic, add trays and wait 5 minutes. My trays stayed perfectly clean and clear, even when I was at 4 weeks of use while waiting for the refinements to come in. On vacation I used Retainer Brite and a "Denture bath" to soak the trays.

If I had to take them out at a restaurant I’d use my travel toothbrush to rinse and brush them but in my opinion it wasn’t as clean. Luckily I work from home so that made it much, much easier.

I did notice a few times when I had to wear my trays longer than a week that a couple spots on them would get a bit roughed up, but it wasn’t a big deal.

8. Finishing up.

I remember when I first started Invisalign the thought of 2 years of this brushing and flossing routine was overwhelming, not to mention having to carry supplies everywhere. And the Clincheck video showing my teeth so spaced out that my mouth looked like a Stegosaurus was not something I looked forward to. It was tough at times, especially at parties and bars, but I’m so happy that I did it, and I’m so happy to be done.
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