I have always been self conscious about my teeth. Saying “cheese” was not an option, and the order to do so would simply produce a tight lipped, close mouthed smile. Due to a botched adolescent orthodontia job, an uneven number of teeth were pulled from my “too small” mouth and the bottom choppers became totally jumbled. And as time went on, one of my front teeth crossed over the other. In every photo it appeared that the more forward tooth stuck out and cast a shadow on its twin. It drove me crackers.
Somewhat resigned to this particular flaw, it never occurred to me to try to correct the situation til I met my husband who practiced restorative dentistry in Greenwich, CT for over 40 years. On our first real date, I threw out at him, “So you are a big time dentist, what would YOU do about my front teeth? Veneers? Caps? What?” To which he answered, “Nothing, I think they are charming!” This was diplomatic but not at all helpful.
What WAS helpful was meeting his favorite former student and now orthodontist extraordinaire, Dr. Rosemary Ryan at a (scintillating) dental event. Rosemary is so warm and approachable that before long, I was confiding my desire to present a straighter smile to the world, especially because I now represented my husband. She suggested I try Invisalign, a clear, nearly undetectable solution to the conventional wire system.
Here’s how it works:
A modern approach to dental straightening, Invisalign uses a series of custom made, smooth and virtually invisible plastic trays worn over the teeth. The trays are switched out every two weeks as they gradually shift your teeth into place, based on the exact movements designed for you by your orthodontist.
The process starts with x-rays, photos and impressions of your teeth and then the trays are created. Dr. Ryan was even able to show me the computer generated, gradual moves my teeth would make on their way to a smile I could proudly display. Although each case in unique, the typical time for adult correction is one year. Mine lasted just a couple months longer.
SO what’s the catch?
Commitment. I had to wear my plastic trays 24/7 except for removing them before eating and to brush and floss morning and night. For someone like me who eats little meals every 3 hours that was a royal pain. I seemed to be constantly removing them (not pretty when done in front of others, BTW), rinsing and brushing them. My speech was not as distinct with the aligners in. And they were a real romance killer. (Wait, don’t kiss me, I have to take out my braces!)
Still, I was determined and I persisted. I have very sensitive gums so each time I received a new package of 3 pairs, they had to be buffed and honed for comfort. But I started to see my little pearls improving weekly and at the end of 14 months, my treatment was complete.
However, I was (am) not done. Following the end of alignment, my middle six top and bottom teeth were secured with tiny wires on the inside (not at all visible or uncomfortable) to hold them in place. And I am required to wear a night guard, very similar to the Invisalign trays that continue to lock in the new positioning of my teeth. For those inclined to fudge the rules, be aware that without retainers, straightened teeth can gradually shift back to their original position, making the whole process a total waste of time and money. The retainer is lighter and fits very precisely so comfort is not an issue for me. Remembering to put it in nightly, however, is!Every morning I clean it in a little warm water bath with Kleenite, no brushing required.
According to recent stats, conventional metal braces cost between $3,000 and $7,000 while Invisalign clocks in at $4,000-$7,500. As an adult female considering the costs of other facial improvements like Botox, fillers, nips and tucks, this price may or may not phase you. To me, the ability to smile and laugh freely without holding back is worth every penny.