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).

IMG_6460

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 (14): Officially done.

Alas, here we are. At the end of the journey. It’s been a little over 2 years since I first looked into Invisalign, and a little less than 2 years since I received my first set of aligners.

I’m happy to report I would do it all over again and recommend it to anyone looking into straightening their teeth. I’m happy with the results, it wasn’t super hard to keep up with wearing them and brushing after meals, and the discomfort of new aligners every 10-20 days was manageable.

Buuuut I’m seriously glad it’s over.

I’m hoping to get my official after photos soon – I’ve emailed Dee but haven’t gotten a response, so I need to try again. For now, here’s an idea of the difference. [Left: Dec. 2011; Right: Oct. 2015]

beforeafter

It’s been a little over 6 months since my last appointment, and I’ve had the same 2 duplicate sets of aligners since then to wear full-time. I admit, I was a little more lax about these last 6 months than the rest of the time, but I still wore them pretty much all the time. I didn’t take a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss with me wherever I went like the previous 18 months, but I still wore them every night and brushed in between [most] meals when I could.

I recently bit the bullet to get a crown put on that tooth with the filling because it was starting to bother me again. Not, like, aesthetically because who sees that deep into my mouth? No, it was starting to feel a bit sensitive like when you have a cavity. Obviously not a good sign when you already have a filling.

So, about 3 weeks ago, I had the filling taken out and a temporary crown put on the tooth…and hated the entire experience. So. much. blood. And discomfort. And the sound of drills. Oh! Awful.

My dentist told me not to use my Invisalign with the temporary as it’s made of plastic and could just pop off when taking my aligners out. I didn’t want to stop wearing my aligners, especially with my upcoming final appointment, so I cut the last two teeth pockets off of the top aligner so that the affected tooth wouldn’t be bothered or compromised.

Two weeks ago, I had my FINAL appointment at Dr. Jacquie’s office in midtown. I got to see my favorite technician, Dee, whom took care of me on my first few appointments as well as a bunch throughout my time there. It was actually bittersweet. We caught up a bit on life: I told her about my JV girls volleyball team going undefeated in the regular season, she told me how much happier she is after a particularly hard time she had last year. I kind of just wanted to go out for coffee with her to extend our time together and our conversation. Is that weird? Maybe.

I showed my cut up aligners and explained the situation with my temporary crown. She said it was good that I was still wearing my aligners but that I should get a retainer within the next 2 months because teeth move in such a way to touch other teeth. So without the aligners keeping the last two top teeth (crowned tooth and molar behind it) held in place, they might actually start pulling downward to touch the bottom teeth, throwing off my bite which could lead to problems like TMJ.

Teeth are weirdly needy.

Before leaving, Dee spoke those beautiful words I’ve been waiting two years to hear:

You only have to wear the aligners at night.

HELLZZZ YEAHHHHHHH

So until I get my retainers, I don’t need to wear my aligners during the day. And once I get said retainers, it’s the same deal: only nighttime wear.

I got my permanent crown put on the following day (again, not a pleasant experience since my original tooth is practically non-existent anymore) so that’s one less thing to worry about. I will be getting the retainers towards the end of November since she said there’s a deal around Black Friday that sounded way too good to pass up. And I won’t have to deal with a crazy mob of people, so that’s cool.

It’s been a fun ride. Sure, I had pretty awkward looking teeth for awhile there. Sure, it was a pain the arse having to brush and floss after meals to put my aligners back in. Yeah, it’s expensive up front.

But.

In the end, I’ve now gained a smile I smile about. I’ve gotten a bunch of compliments on my teeth since going through this. I now am not [as] embarrassed when I have to take out my aligners before meals. My jaw hurts less because my bite has been aligned. It’s been an investment in me, my confidence, and my happiness. To me, the price, the time spent brushing and flossing, and even those awkward few months of buck teeth was and has been worth it.