Invisalign Journey (15): Retainers

Okay, okay so my last post seemed like the official end of my Invisalign Journey. But, I just got my retainers today, so I wanted to share some info about them because I feel like they are just as important to the process as everything else.

I never understood and still don’t understand why people don’t wear their retainers after spending tons of time and money on braces. Classmates, friends, and students I’ve taught had traditional metal braces for years and years as kids to achieve straight, beautiful teeth.

They would complain and complain that they couldn’t eat certain foods (popcorn, anyone?) or chew gum (although most broke this rule). They hated smiling because of the metal in their mouths. God help them when their cheek or lip got caught and cut on a piece of their braces. They were pumped when the day came that they could finally be rid of the metal tracks and wires. Other than the monthly change of rubber band colors, braces were a topic of disdain.

And as soon as the braces came off, they were always talking about how they never used their retainers. And after only a few months, it was obvious because their teeth started shifting back to a more crooked (albeit not as crooked as before braces) position.

I forget who said this to me, maybe it was Dr. Jacquie herself, but teeth are meant to be in a certain position. She compared it to our hair: even when you straighten naturally curly or wavy hair, as soon as it gets wet, it’s going to kink right back up. (You could also use the same analogy for straight hair and curling it). The same goes for teeth; they have a predetermined place, and even if you straighten them with braces, without maintaining that position (with a retainer!!!), over time they will shift right back to where they started.

I have been wearing my Invisalign almost every day for the past 2 years now. For the past two months, I’ve worn my aligners at night as retainers because I don’t want all of the amazing work to be undone just because of my laziness or dislike of having aligners in. Plus, they weren’t cheap, so I don’t want to just throw that money away!

I mentioned in my last post about getting retainers. Sure enough, I purchased 4 sets of retainers by Vivera through a Black Friday deal that my orthodontist’s office sent out. The retainers came out to $800 for 4 sets (4 uppers, 4 lowers) which is amazing since two sets is normally about $1500. I went to Dr. Jacquie’s office in midtown earlier in December to get my teeth rescanned so my retainers were up to date with my current teeth alignment. Two weeks later, the office called to tell me my retainers were in. So quick!

They asked if I wanted the thinner or thicker retainers; the thinner ones were just like the aligners I’ve had throughout this entire process. I chose the thicker retainers because I figured they will probably hold up better and last longer. You can see the difference in opacity of my most recent aligner (right) and the retainer (left).

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And the color – ew. It’s pretty gross since I brush the aligners every single night before I put them in. That just shows how much they stain even when you are cleaning them and only wearing them for (optimistically) 8 hours every night for about four months. The set of retainers came with a few samples of Invisalign’s aligner cleaner, so I’ll try those out. I contemplated but never tried a denture cleaner with my aligners before so we’ll see how that works out.

I got a new case too, which is nice since the original two are over two years old and have gotten grimey even with cleaning.

retainer

A note: the reason my old upper aligner is shorter is because I had a temporary crown put in about two months back, and they told me not to use my Invisalign with it. I wasn’t about to just not wear my aligners, so I cut the back two teeth off so my aligners didn’t affect the temporary crown.uppers lowers

So this is it. For real this time. These aligners will hopefully last me a couple years. Feel free to ask any questions you have about the process, or just check out all of my other Invisalign posts…there are 14 more of them!!!

My Invisalign Journey (6): Metal buttons, rubber bands, and initial photos!

If you need to refresh your memory or are new to the journey and need to start from the beginning, check out my Invisalign page to catch up!

It’s been a bit over 2 months since my last appointment, and only one of the glass-like attachments have come off. Everything else has gone smoothly though. I will, however, complain about the glass becoming a bit discolored, giving my teeth an off-white appearance. Boo.

Also, because my front teeth are crooked and crowded, my back teeth have been moving like crazy to make room for straightening out the front ones. This has caused such large gaps between my top molars, so I’m itching to floss after each meal. Not to be super graphic or disgusting, but you wouldn’t believe the size of some of the stuff I pull out from those gaps. I mean, if for some reason I needed to, I could probably hide a small rodent back there and no one would know.Upper jaw

Needless to say, my new best friends are Dentek floss picks; they come with travel containers, which are really convenient when you’re on the go. I now floss after every single meal; that’s at least 3 times every day. I think I’ve flossed more in the past month than I have in my entire life. It’s annoying. Hygenic, but annoying.

The holidays have made it quite difficult to keep up with the whole “wear your aligners for at least 22 hours” daily ideal they set. Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve, birthday parties, Super Bowl Sunday, going out to dinner…when it comes to events or gatherings like these, I simply take my aligners out at the last possible minute, right before food or drink is ready to be consumed, and leave them out until the festivities are over. And most of time, this can be 2, 3, or even 4 hours of not wearing my aligners.

Before my last appointment, Dr. Jacquie herself came into the lobby and called me in; “Holliday, come on in, beautiful,” she said. She asked if I was wearing my aligners before she started, to which I replied that I was. “When you smiled before, I couldn’t tell!” Either she was just saying that or she really couldn’t tell, which is the whole point of these things.

She said that my aligners were fitting perfectly and that my teeth were looking good. Today, they were going to be attaching “buttons” on my teeth and giving me rubber bands to start working on my bite. Dee, my favorite technician, came in to do the whole procedure. She was teaching a new technician the procedure, so it was nice because I was getting the information as well and knew what was happening and what everything was doing. She pretty much did the same procedure as the last appointment, with the adhesive and UV light, but instead of glass-like attachments she was putting on two small metal “buttons” that would hold the rubber bands on my bottom teeth. She attached them to my first molars from the front of my teeth, so they aren’t noticeable unless I pull my lips back.

Once the buttons were attached she explained the easiest way to put the rubber bands on. So there is a slit in the top set of aligners on each side that I hold the rubber band on as I slip them on my teeth. After I put the bottom aligners on, I pull the rubber bands down and attach them to the buttons on my bottom teeth. Voila, easy as pie!

And to my (happy) surprise, you can’t even tell I have rubber bands on! Unlike traditional braces, my rubber bands are clear. Like me, you’ve probably Googled images of people with rubber bands and Invisalign. The ones I’ve found are on teeth near the front, so just opening the person’s mouth revealed the rubber bands. Luckily mine are tucked more in the back, which is great and way less conspicuous!

Dee gave me two little baggies full of rubber bands – one was a bag of 1/4″ and the other was 3/16″. She said if the 3/16″ was too tight, stick with the 1/4″ for awhile, but the sooner I could use the 3/16″, the better since they’re tighter and will start working quicker.

My teeth were extra sensitive the first two days with the new aligners and the rubber bands, but I honestly can’t complain; the buttons themselves don’t hurt, and I’m getting used to the feeling of the rubber bands in my mouth. They gave me my next 10 sets of aligners as well as the two bags full of rubber bands, so I’m set for 3 months.

Also, before I left, I asked Dee if it was possible to get my “before” pictures. She emailed them to me so here they are! The top three kind of look like mugshots, so that’s embarrassing. And I have a filling, hence the huge gray part of my tooth. It’s kind of gross looking at someone’s mouth, but it’s great because I can actually see a difference already!

Holliday Initial pictures

Check out my 6 month Invisalign update where you can see how much my smile has changed – some pictures feature my braces with rubberbands, but I bet you can’t tell!