I chipped my front tooth on a ham sandwich. Seriously.

This is the crazy shit that happens to me. I really can’t make this up.

Since the baby arrived, my life has been a little different… more chaotic. Let’s just say, she’s added a lot of spice to my daily activities. For example, here is a snippet of an email exchange between my husband and I from just the other day- a totally different sandwich incident. Keep in mind that my baby doesn’t crawl yet. She merely scoots and rolls to her destinations. In other words, she moves slower than molasses going uphill in January. Or so I thought.

Screen shot 2014-03-20 at 4.26.59 PM

Hampster with a ‘P’ is what we call each other when one of us is being “uncleanly”. For instance, when one of us finds delight in swimming in kitty barf.

Anyway, I now value simplicity which means I value sandwiches! They’re great. I can make them one-handed while skillfully wrangling a squirmy baby in the other. Easy as pie. The day I chipped my tooth was like any other except for this day, my kid was particularly fussy. Her whining was really working me over so I had to get the sandwich show on the road. Stat.

I have this thing called misophonia and while I won’t get into that here, all I can say is that when I hear the sounds of someone chewing food with their mouth open, normal-me disappears and a demon possesses my body. My brain involuntarily and instantaneously summons the rage of a thousand rabid dogs and I. flip. out. Because of this, I always chew with my mouth closed no matter what. Even when I’m in a hurry. This was one of those times.

My bite has been way off lately which has affected how I eat (duh). Add that to the mix and, well, THIS happened:

IMG_5470

It was that shitty white bread that turns to dough the instant it’s smashed together with mayo and processed American cheese. It got stuck to the roof of my mouth and like a dog with peanut butter, I couldn’t get it to unstick. I remember hearing my teeth scrape and thinking, “woah, that didn’t sound too good…” but I forgot about it and kept eating. It wasn’t until later that evening when I was getting ready for bed that I noticed it.

The chip is small so whatever. I guess I’ll just have ’em shave it down once I’m finished. I’d be pissed if it weren’t so dang funny.

Pros And Cons of Invisalign: Revised After 2+ Years of Wearing Aligners

So you think you’ve made the decision to straighten your teeth with Invisalign. What next? I’ve compiled a list of stuff you’ll want to think about before you pull the trigger. Get ready folks, here comes another one of my novels.

I’ll start with my revised list of cons. You’ll find my original list here back from when I was just starting out, but now that I’ve gone back and read it for the first time in ages, I realize it’s pretty silly and not straight-forward like it could’ve been. BUT that was then, and over two years have passed. I am now a seasoned Invisalign veteran.

It is not my intention come off as negative in this list, but these are real things you have to think about before you take this huge plunge. Invisalign is an expensive investment and requires 100% dedication for it to give you the results you’re wanting. You have to be completely honest with yourself about whether or not you will have the willpower to follow through. There’s no half-effort. It’s all or nothing and in my opinion, well worth it for a better smile.

CONS:

• Attachments, buttons, and elastics. Fortunately, I haven’t needed elastics for my treatment, but everyone’s case is different. Be prepared to learn you might need elastics. Also, people tend to use the terms “attachments” and “buttons” interchangeably, but they are different. From what I understand, buttons are used to anchor down elastics for more challenging tooth movements, kind of like elastics are used with traditional braces. I just now found an awesome webpage describing the differences.

What I have dealt with for the past 27 months are attachments. I started out with 14, then 7 in my first refinement, and then 6 in my second. Depending on where they’re placed on your teeth, they can be visible from up close when your aligners are in. If your teeth are fairly white, they’ll hardly be noticeable when your aligners are out, so at least there’s that. At first your attachments might tear up the insides of your mouth but in my experience that went away really quickly. The thing that I hate most about these damn attachments is the removal process, and then what’s left over after they’re done. I just had my top attachments removed last week and my once-shiny teeth now have somewhat of a lackluster appearance. I’m still not quite done yet so we’ll see if my orthodontist will be able to restore my teeth to their original shine. I will definitely be back to update this once my treatment is complete. EDIT- January 2015: No, my teeth never went back to their pre-attachment shininess but I’m positive it’s because of the technician who removed them. I promise, it can be done right.

Keep in mind that almost everyone will need attachments. Big picture, you want straight teeth, right! They’re not all that bad in the whole scheme of things. You only have a handful of choices in orthodontics and in my opinion, having a few attachments trumps everything else.

• There will most likely be a drastic change in your oral hygiene routine. Are you prepared to brush and floss 3+ times a day, every single day for the next however many months or years? This is an important one to think about! I’d probably consider this more of an upside to having Invisalign rather than a con, but really, that’s up to you.

Bonus: Your hygienist will fall in love with you. She will ooh and ahh over your teeth. She’ll probably even round up the other hygienists to collectively come peer inside your mouth. You will be her dream patient! Why? Because with all that upkeep you do every day, your teeth and gums will be nice and healthy. Which brings me to the third con on my list.

• You have to wear your aligners for 20-22 hours a day which means they’ll really only be out for meals. To me, that didn’t seem too bad for an exchange of straight teeth, but after a while it kind of took its toll on me. I think my jadedness can be attributed to all the hang-ups and treatment delays I’ve experienced along the way though. I’ve been through some really rough patches during my treatment that most people never experience. I am the exception.

I do a lot of reading on Invisalign and it seems that wear-time is one of people’s biggest worries. “I’m celebrating the holidays/going on vacation/a lazy turd, can I leave my Invisalign out for two hours??” The answer to that is, well, maybe. Are you able to not make this a habit? For me, this wasn’t a big deal. After a few months in, I made the decision not to let Invisalign rule my social life. I always wore my trays (while drinking beer too, which I’ll get to in a minute) but if I had a nice dinner or event to attend, I’d simply take them with me but leave them out. I never made this a habit and only allowed this extended out-time every once and a while.

So my question to you is, are you able to keep up with this routine day in and day out? Every time you eat, you must floss, brush, and clean your aligners. I will admit that the day I was lucky enough to experience someone else’s ass explosion in the stall right next to my sink, I put an end to public restroom teeth brushing. Not completely, but almost. I am now very choosy when and where I do my routine. Tip: Always, always keep toothpick flossers with you. Or even Colgate Wisps. These will carry you over until you’re at a more sanitary environment.

Another aspect of the wear-time con is drinking alcoholic beverages while wearing aligners. Since I started Invisalign, AlignTech changed the material. This new stuff stains much easier so I’d be wary of what you consume while wearing your trays. My motto? If it stains your tongue, it’ll probably stain your aligners. At one point, I thought, “Well, I can drink this now because I’m switching to the next set tomorrow!” That may be, but keep in mind that something may happen to that next tray and you’ll be stuck with the old stained one until your orthodontist can order you a new set. Not that big of a risk just so long as you’ve got your vanity in check and are okay with pink teeth for a couple weeks.

Back to the beer thing. Do I regret drinking so often with my aligners in? Yes and no. Before starting Invisalign, I had a few small decalcification spots between some of my molars caused by my lack of flossing back in my teens. I’d been taking great care of my teeth once I was made aware of these spots to prevent them from growing into full-blown cavities.

Check out that tall boy! That's 100% Class.

Check out that Busch tall boy. 100% Class.  (I’m wearing my aligners in both of these pictures by the way.)

I’m quite certain that even though I brushed and flossed constantly, my love for long, (most of the time, blazing hot) days on the beach paired with ice-cold beers every weekend, year-round, was detrimental to the health of my enamel. Maybe not super detrimental, but those spots finally did turn into cavities and I’m certain they were from the beer because they were kept at bay for years before Invisalign.

SO! Does drinking with Invisalign cause cavities? Probably not if your teeth are in great condition in the first place… and if you don’t drink your meals on the weekends. You shouldn’t make it a habit, ahem, like I did. Plus, a lot of beverages have acid in them anyway which doesn’t help the situation.

• There are waiting periods where nothing is happening. Unlike traditional braces where your orthodontist can keep the train moving and tweak or make changes as he sees fit, Invisalign trays are manufactured all at once (for Invisalign Full, at least) and then sent from the lab to your provider. Molds and impressions take time to be sent through snail mail which is why it may be beneficial to find a provider who uses the iTero scanner (check out that link… it might be worth your time.) Waiting for initial trays can take over a month which can almost make you feel like you’re waiting on Christmas. The good thing about waiting for those is that you’re not wearing the same trays all day every day like you would if you were waiting on a replacement aligner (they can and do crack!) or a refinement. Over five months of my aligner wear-time was squandered away on waiting. Plain old thumb-twiddling waiting. This was due to mistakes on my provider’s behalf, which is why it is imperative to do your research and find a good provider. I plan on covering all that in a future blog post.

• Black Triangles. If you’re hoping to have some moderate or even severe crowding corrected with Invisalign, there’s a chance that once your teeth are nice and straight, you’ll be left with little triangles of empty space from your gum line to the biting surface of your incisors. This can usually be corrected with IPR, or interproximal reduction. Again, this is where your choice of provider comes into play. A skilled dental professional, be it a dentist or orthodontist, can execute a pain-free IPR job without a hitch and make it to where your teeth are able to scoot in together nicely. Keep in mind that not only does that mean your doctor will have to remove some enamel (a minimal and safe amount), it also may require a refinement which means more months of wearing aligners. Over all it’s a good deal if in the end, you’ll have gap-free teeth! You’re in this for a beautiful smile, right?!

• Thlight Listhp. Just kidding. Not everyone gets a lisp but it does happen and from what I’ve read, it only takes a short amount of time before your mouth gets used to the aligners and compensates. In my experience, I’ve only dealt with a lisp during two parts of my treatment- now, and the second time my aligners stopped tracking correctly. I don’t think it was ever noticeable to anyone but myself and sometimes my husband. Luckily my kid is only an infant and probably won’t remember me starting her name with “Th” rather than “S”. Really, it isn’t bad.

• Invisalign’s difficulty correcting certain problems. There are certain movements that Invisalign has difficulty making (intrusion, extrusion, canine rotation, etc.) however by choosing an Elite Preferred Provider, your risk of aligners not tracking correctly is greatly reduced. Although AlignTechnology is always working on enhancing their product, there are still things that make it inferior to traditional braces. Again, this is why you’ll benefit from choosing a good doctor who knows what they’re doing with Invisalign.

Loss of Freedom. Okay, that sounded a bit martyrish but it is something you might want to think about. Even though I quit letting Invisalign dictate my social life, it still has a good grip on my day to day activities. Especially now that I’m a parent. Sometimes I’m really just not ready to wash away the taste of bacon, eggs, and orange juice with minty toothpaste and Listerine. The same can be said for any yummy meal.

There’s always that nagging voice over my shoulder saying, “Hey. HEY. You really should go floss and brush, you know. It’s been like 30 minutes. I don’t care that your coffee is still hot! I don’t caaare that your wine glass is half full!! I reallydon’t caaaaare that your baby just fell asleep in your arms!” That voice. It’s always there.

So those are my cons in detail. Now for the pros! They really haven’t changed much over two years, so I’ll just brush up on what I’d written then.

PROS:

• “Free” whitening trays. With or without attachments, I still use my trays for whitening. I’ve read that some people worry about spots where their attachments are, but I’ve never experienced anything I couldn’t correct. Think of it this way- your teeth can only get ‘so white’. If you bleach while you’ve got attachments, you can always whiten again until the surface is even once the attachments are gone. Simple.

• The dull achiness. Yep, I still love it. There were a couple memorable aligners, namely the first over-correction trays, that took the breath out of me upon removal. And I still liked it! Something about knowing that my teeth were that much closer to being straight…

• Its invisibility. I don’t care what anyone says- Invisalign is hardly noticeable! Especially when compared to traditional braces, Damon or not. Sure, people might see your attachment bubbles, but that’s only if they’re all up in your personal space. I love that if I’m going on a hot date with my man, I can take out my aligners and eat steak with proper manners and touch of grace… except for the part where I take them out at the table. And THAT’S something I should’ve mentioned above in the cons list. I’m getting so damn tired of removing my aligners in public. I seem to never get spit strings down my chin unless I’m in a public place. The more people around, the messier it is. It’s like my aligners have a mind of their own. No matter how hard I try for a flawless, dry removal, I still get ‘the strings’. Fuck you, aligner spit. I’m tired of your shit.

• The ClinCheck videos. In the beginning, I loved seeing my teeth transform. After all this time though, I’ve learned that ClinChecks are only projections and not guaranteed. In fact, I’ve read that some providers won’t show patients their ClinCheck movie until after they’ve ordered the aligners. These elite providers know exactly what Invisalign is capable of and compensate from there. The ClinCheck may look completely different than what they’ve got planned for your teeth.

And there you have it. I feel like I may have done a disservice to anyone who’s read my old pros and cons post as it was really uninformative and frankly, quite dumb… and sadly it’s my second-most viewed post next to the beer one. Of COURSE people want to know if they can drink with Invisalign! My apologies, people!

March 4th, The Supposed Last Day of Invisalign

The so-called end is here but this day is nothing like I’d imagined it would be two years ago. Today is the 4th of March which is supposed to be my last day of Invisalign. The thing that I’m more worried about aside from my teeth not being quite where they should be, is that my bite seems to be waaay off. For a few months now, the only teeth in my mouth that would make contact in a closed position were my premolars. That’s four teeth that touch. I never made a big deal of it because I assumed the issue would work itself out by today, but tadaaa! it’s the end and after 790-something days of Invisalign, I can’t bite down with even a modicum of normalcy. According to one of the assistants, they fix this issue by grinding the tooth surface away. Either that, or braces. Both of those options sound lovely! Who knows though, maybe the solution is to grind away at my premolars and then suddenly everything will fit together nicely. This alone proves that orthodontia is way more than just making teeth look straight.

My hopes are still high. I was thrilled at my last appointment because my orthodontist told me that if my problem teeth weren’t rotated all the way, then we’d go into my third and final refinement. It must sound crazy that I was excited about more months of Invisalign because if there’s anyone who wants to be over and done with this whole ordeal, it is definitely ME. But as you know, I’ve come way too far only to settle with mediocre. I know I’d be mad at myself until the end of time if I didn’t put in the extra effort.

And that’s where I’m left standing. I am now in a predicament with this refinement situation. Or maybe not. I haven’t directly brought it up with my orthodontist. You see, I technically only paid for two refinements. Even though she did in fact say we could fix things up with the third refinement, she never mentioned charging more. Invisalign Full allows the provider to use three refinements within a certain time period. Offering all three of these refinements to the patient is a decision that is up to the provider and should be outlined in the original agreement. Always, ALWAYS read the fine print, people! I can’t stress that enough. I was a dumbass in the very beginning and assumed that refinements were included in her original pricing simply because we “talked about it” but they weren’t. I ended up paying $400 extra last May for two refinements. The first turned out to be a total wash. It was a waste of precious time for both me and my provider. I understand chair time is valuable, but so is mine. I banged out an entire blog post about what happened and why it was a waste of time so I won’t do it again here, but just for an example, this is a set of overlaid screen shots from the first and second refinement of the starting positions of my teeth.

first-and-second-refinement-comparison

I’m now waiting until next week because just over an hour prior to this morning’s appointment, I received a voicemail stating that, because of the EXTREME weather, we’re having to reschedule for next week (my Canadian readers might get a kick out of the fact that there’s only an inch of melting snow on the grass). Fine with me. I’m really not all that bothered by it because I think some of their employees have to drive quite a ways to the office and people in this town drive like idiots anyway. Add frozen precipitation to the mix and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. What’s another week, right?