My Invisalign Tips

It’s been over 2 years since I started wearing Invisalign, and now that I’m in the retainer phase (which I will be at from here on out), I figured I should share my top tips. Some are pretty obvious, but others I learned the hard way.

  1. Seriously, wear your aligners. Like, whenever you’re not consuming things other than water, wear them. They recommend 22 hours per day, so try to stick as close to that as possible. You’re already paying a ton for this treatment, so why not get the best and quickest results instead of farting around and complaining about having this amazing opportunity to improve your smile? Snarky? Sure. Truthful? You’re darn tootin’.Duh Napolean Dynamite
  2. Brush and floss your teeth [and brush your aligners!] at least twice per day. I mean, this is just what the American Dental Association recommends, but many people still don’t follow these suggestions. I never flossed (except the day of dental appointments) until I had Invisalign. And even then, I honestly couldn’t floss with the ribbon floss; my fingers just don’t work that way and I can’t unhinge my jaw like a snake in order to reach my molars. So I tried floss picks and my life has been changed. Seriously, try them out.
    • Note: Now, I may have been a bit excessive in brushing and flossing literally after every meal before putting my aligners back in. But you know what? I came out of this experience with only one teeny tiny cavity that was caused by my tooth having a little crevice in it. It wasn’t between my teeth because I let food and gunk build up while my aligners encapsulated said gunk and bacteria harvested and rotted my teeth. If brushing your teeth is not a plausible option in a certain setting or situation, eat an apple or chew some sugar free gum before putting your aligners in. Don’t just not put them back in because you can’t brush and/or floss [see tip #1].happy tooth smile
  3. Following step #2, bring a small baggie with a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and your aligner case with you everywhere. This way you’re ready post-meal to at least try to keep your mouth healthy and clean. I kept a kit in my bag during grad school, then in my drawer at work so I was always prepared.toothbrush kit
  4. Only drink water with your aligners in. For real. And, whatever you do, DO NOT try to chew or even just have gum in your mouth with your aligners in. Seriously, this will not be good when (not if, when) the gum gets adhered to your aligners and gets stuck everywhere. Trust me. Not worth it.No drink, food, gum
  5. When inserting your aligners, make sure to really push them on your teeth. It’s not enough to just get them on, make sure they are on as snuggly as possible. I think this is part of the reason my aligners became so ill-fitting [see picture below] as my wedding approached; I was putting them on, but never really pushed them as securely as I should’ve. Luckily, they just rescanned my teeth after my wedding and got me a new set of aligners, but this is not a quick process and will set your treatment time back.Ill fitting aligners
  6. Just hang in there for the first day or so of new aligners. They used to give me headaches because of the pressure they put on my teeth. And yes, it may feel like you’re about to rip your teeth out when you take a fairly new set out before eating and whatnot. Your teeth aren’t going anywhere. Trust me, it’ll hurt for a bit, but the benefits will be greater than the pain. So just pop a Tylenol and focus on something else. Maybe have a dance party to take your mind off of the discomfort.You can do it waterboy gif
  7. Glass attachments (for your aligners to grip) and metal buttons (for rubber bands) pop off. You will probably swallow them. It’s okay. They initially put on more glass attachments than necessary because the chance of them falling off is high. It’s an easy process for them to put on a new metal button. It won’t ruin your treatment, just call your orthodontist, let them know this happened, and they’ll schedule you to come in within a day or so to pop a new one on. Which brings me to tip #7…Invisalign metal button glass attachment Toronto Braces
  8. Choose an orthodontist that you like and trust, but also one that is nearby. You don’t want to have to travel so far just for a small metal button to be put on in under 3 minutes. Trust me. When I moved from the Upper West Side to Long Island to Brooklyn, my orthodontist’s office remained in Midtown. Luckily, when I was in LI, I still worked in Brooklyn, so I would schedule appointments right after work or over long breaks because 2 hours is just not worth the trip.

Alright, I think those are my top tips when wearing Invisalign. If I think of any more, I’ll definitely chuck them in here. And if you have any, please leave a comment to share!

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.

My Invisalign Journey (13.5): Not totally done

As a sort of continuation to my last post, I have a very small update.

I had another appointment last week and I’m technically not done yet. Dr. Jacquie came and saw me – she said my teeth look beautiful. She suggested I get a cleaning because of my insanely frustrating tartar build-up; I honestly floss and brush my teeth before I put my aligners in, and yet they still have such bad build-up. She said that happens for some people while others can go a year without needing a cleaning. She also recommended a whitening within the next 6 weeks “to make sure they sparkle for summer.” Finally she said she wanted to see me in six months, gave me a hug, and told me to have a good summer.

It was then time for final photos! Dee took my photos, just like she had in the beginning for my initial photos. Then, she proceeded to explain the next step in my treatment: she was giving me one more set of aligners that I was to wear full-time (like I’ve been wearing them for the past 16 months) and then they would give me a set to wear only at night when I return in six months.

Six months and that’s it. My final photos haven’t been put up on the website yet, so I’m not sure if that’s because they just haven’t gotten to it yet or if they wait until the patient is totally done with treatment. Until then, you can check out my last post to see recent photos of my straight teeth!

My Invisalign Journey (13): Almost done?!? + Photos

Hey, hey! It’s been awhile since I’ve written about my Invisalign and I’m pretty sure I’m nearing the very end! My next appointment is less than a month away and I think it’ll be my last, so I don’t really know what to expect.

Since my last post, I have gotten into the habit of smiling at myself in the mirror more when brushing my teeth because they are so stinking straight! I’ve taken a couple pictures of myself (and I’m not one for selfies) to show the difference and of course I’m hypercritical of myself and can point out the fact that my right canine tooth is longer than the other, and my top teeth kind of slant in terms of how long they are yada yada yada. BUT, comparing what they looked like almost 18 months ago in my initial photos to now is phenomenal.

Like I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t needed to use rubber bands, so it’s been a lot easier dealing with the aligners these past couple months. One of the pictures below is with my aligners and the other is without…can you tell which one is which? It’s probably easier having pictures that are up-close and personal [don’t mind the nose hair – we all have it. At least it’s clear of foreign stuff.]. I’m sure if they were farther away you wouldn’t be able to tell.

Smiles

I will say how awesome it is that no one can tell that I have braces. There have been so many times at school when I have to run to the bathroom to brush my teeth and students ask why I have toothpaste. When I tell them I have braces and need to brush after every meal, they’re surprised because they couldn’t tell. Score!

The aligners haven’t been too uncomfortable on the first couple days of each new set. But I have noticed that my teeth are kind of sensitive when I remove the aligners; it’s almost as if the repeated motion of pulling them off the same way hundreds of times has worn down some of the enamel, causing some sensitivity upon removal. It’s like the discomfort when you drink something cold and your teeth hurt for a few seconds afterwards. Make sense?

That’s all until my next appointment in a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed and thumbs up that I’ll be finished with getting new aligners and will only have to use them at night as retainers!

My Invisalign Journey (12): Back to the Invisalign life!

After 4 months without aligners, I am back to the Invisalign life. Since getting married, I have not had anything on my teeth during the daytime, so it’s been weird getting used to having aligners in all the time again. It’s been two weeks since my appointment and I’ve noticed how difficult it is to go back to brushing and flossing after every meal. Especially as a teacher because there is only so much free time to do so.

And the holidays! I mean, I want to just keep eating everything, so why should I bother wasting toothpaste and time just to take my aligners out soon after?!

So needless to say I’ve been slacking pretty bad on keeping my aligners in for the recommended 22 hours per day during these past two weeks. During workdays, I probably only wear them 18 hours because of the lack of time after a meal to get to the bathroom and properly brush and floss. I mean, it usually takes the better part of 5 minutes – we don’t have that kind of time between classes!

So when I went to my orthodontist and sat down in the chair to get my aligners put in, I thought I was getting the whole shebang – attachments, metal buttons, aligners, and rubber bands. I thought for sure I would be there for about an hour for the whole process.

But when my technician got my aligners out and I put them in, they felt amazing! For the past few months, I’ve only been wearing my last set of aligners to bed to make sure my teeth didn’t shift from their new starting position.

My last set (pre-wedding) didn’t fit properly in August, and because Dr. Jacquie polished my teeth during my last visit in September, my old aligners were like clown shoes on my teeth. Not like putting actual shoes on my teeth because that’s just silly, but the way they fit were like…you get the point. You can actually see a picture of it in my last Invisalign post here.

So it was awesome when they snapped on and were totally unnoticeable when I looked in the mirror. Dee, my trusty technician, said, “Okay that’s it. I’m going to give you 11 sets so you won’t have to come back for 4 months.”

That’s it? Really? She said that I was done with my attachments and now it was just about small shifts in my teeth. Hallelujah!!!!

So after about 5 minutes in the chair, I was done. Just like that! And no one has noticed at all because they fit so well! High five!

My next appointment isn’t until the first week in April, so hopefully we’ll see a difference! My teeth look great at the moment (not to brag, but compared to what they looked like before Invisalign, I think I can say it) but they are still a little off-center when I smile, so they just need to shift to fix that.

My Invisalign Journey (11): Re-scanning and polishing my teeth!

Holliday Harrigan smile wedding Invisalign

I have not had aligners in during the day for over a month now. Let me tell you, it’s been great!

Without wearing my aligners, I can have a snack whenever I get hungry. I don’t have to spend an extra 5 minutes in the bathroom after each meal to brush and floss my teeth, and then brush my aligners. And obviously it’s great being able to just smile and talk to people without them looking at your aligners or rubber bands.

But at the same time, I have been itching to get back into the office to get my teeth re-scanned for new aligners. The longer I go without them, the longer my treatment will be. I’ve been wearing my last aligner every single night so that my progress doesn’t move backwards and I got beautiful wedding photos with fabulously white and straight teeth. And now I’m ready to finish out my treatment so that I can just be done!

Tom and Holliday Harrigan wedding smile aisle husband wife

So today’s visit was my post-wedding re-scan because the aligners I wore in the months leading up to the wedding became progressively more ill-fitting – you can read about that in my 9th Invisalign post.

I was greeted by Dee, my usual technician, and she asked how the wedding was and if I had pictures with me. I didn’t have them handy at the moment, so I said I would show her next visit since I would be back very soon. Then I went back to the patient rooms/spaces to get the procedure started.

Dr. Jacquie came over and congratulated me and asked to see pictures. I had had a bit of wait time to pull some up from Facebook, so I showed her and she requested I send her a couple so that she could post them on her website. Cool! (Also, shout-out to Jon Baek for his amazing photography skills!)

She said that they were going to re-scan my teeth (so the same procedure that I went through before getting my aligners) but that she wanted to polish my front few teeth first. I thought she meant clean them, like they do at the dentist. But basically, she reshaped my front teeth, so I no longer have little divots and chips in them! I’ve always noticed them growing up, but never thought that anything could be done without ruining my teeth.

Polished front teeth

I’m still getting used to them because I’ve always been used to seeing the rounded teeth with little bumps and grooves, but I honestly think they look great!

After that, one of the technicians did the scanning and then took pictures of my smile, similar to the initial photos they took in the beginning of my treatment. My new aligners should be in within the next month, so I’m excited to start it back up…especially because I have been snacking more but hitting the gym less!