I just finished 13 months using the invisible plastic braces to fix my teeth. Here’s what you need to know.
I never needed traditional braces as a kid.
But both of my brothers had metal mouths (I needed glasses and they didn’t, so the universe does balance the scales), and a bunch of my older family members’ teeth started shifting dramatically in middle age.
So last year, when I noticed the tooth to the left of my two front teeth started twisting its way out of line, I figured I’d act preemptively and fix it before it grew too noticeable.
Now, after 13 months of wearing Invisalign for as much of the 22 hours a day that’s recommended as possible, I’ve completed all 55 of the damn weekly trays and learned a lot. For those of you interested in doing it yourself — or are just curious owners of perfectly aligned teeth who enjoy schadenfreude — here are nine lessons in particular.
1.) It solved the problem I wanted…
I can’t speak for people with multiple bad teeth or who need a full mouth realignment. I’ve read stories about people who needed a lot of help and left Invisalign severely disappointed it didn’t solve all their problems.
I only dealt with the one aforementioned tooth, plus another slightly crooked one on the bottom row that I figured I might as well get done now too. And, bottom line: it worked. Both rogue teeth now sit dutifully in line, nestled between the others where they belong.
2.) …and created a new one
But before I started treatment, my two front teeth were perfect. Just sitting there flat and straight and side-by-side. I mean, look at this smile.
What I hadn’t — but probably should’ve — foreseen was that, to get my crooked tooth back in line, the other teeth would have to shift to make room. So now my two front teeth are visibly tilted and I feel like a guy who asked a genie for more time in the day and was handed a bunch of watches. It’s thankfully something my orthodontist said he’ll fix free of charge and that will require me to wear trays for another 5 weeks — but only while I’m sleeping, which is a huge win. Still, definitely ask your doctor what domino effects you can expect on your mouth specifically.
3.) It might hurt you other ways
While we’re talking unforeseen circumstances, here are a few other things you can expect: with all the teeth shifting, your gums get very sensitive, particularly the first day or two after you change your weekly trays. Plus, unless you actually brush your teeth after every meal like they recommend (yeah good luck), you’ll probably notice plaque and tartar build up easier, since you’re trapping a lot of residue under those trays. And if you thought you had bad morning breath before, imagine waking up after having those trays trap everything in your mouth for 8 hours.
4.) FSA is MVP
On the whole, though, the treatment did its job. Still didn’t come cheap, as I paid about $5,000 out of pocket for it. So, some tips to offset the costs:
- Make sure your insurance covers even some of it. Mine covered about $1,500, which seems industry standard. Some cover more. Others don’t at all.
- Take out a a Flexible Spending Account with your health insurance to start the year. In 2019, the federal FSA limit is $2,700. This basically means your insurance will give you a debit card with $2,700 on it that you can use to pay toward healthcare expenses. Then, they’ll deduct that amount from your paycheck pre-taxes until it’s paid back. Since you never see that money before it hits your paycheck, it feels like you’re getting an upfront $2,700 discount on your braces when you use that debit card to make a down payment.
- Try to find an orthodontist you’ve used before or have connections with. I went to the same guy who did my mom and brother’s Invisalign, and he was able to knock off another decent chunk of change as a preferred customer of sorts. And they let me pay in installments, which helped a lot.
5.) Goodbye snacks
Since you need to take out your trays Every. Single. Time. you eat or drink anything but water, you snack a lot less often. Somebody will offer you a piece of candy or a sip of wine or something, and it’s just not worth the hassle/public grossness of taking your trays out, eating a bite-sized Twix, brushing your teeth, then putting the trays back in.
You’d think this would lead to weight loss.
6.) Hello binge eating
Since you know you can only eat when your trays come out, you EAT when your trays come out.
7.) Don’t speak
The appeal of Invisalign is nobody can see you’re wearing it unless they’re real close. But they can hear it. It’s not so much a lisp as it’s harder to swallow your spit with the trays in. So you end up sounding like you’re sucking on a Jolly Rancher when you talk. Especially S’s and -th’s. You guys know I host a lot of videos, and I’d have to take the trays out every time I spoke on camera. But I’d also take them out even for important phone calls. You get used to the feeling, but it doesn’t go away. Something to consider if the way you sound has any bearing on you professionally.
8.) Is that a retainer in your pants or are you just happy to see me
Nope, it’s a retainer. The hard plastic holder needs to be with you everywhere because, again, you’ll need it to hold your trays every time you want to take them out. The plus side: it gives you more opportunities to flex on ’em.
But that’s it. Especially in warm weather when you don’t have a jacket or a bag. As if carrying a wallet, keys, and massive smartphone in your pockets wasn’t enough, you’ve got this bulge to deal with too.
9.) It’s just the beginning
I didn’t know this until after my treatment started, but even though my daily Invisalign wear has finished — and even after my upcoming 5-week fix — I’ll still need to wear a retainer when I sleep so my teeth never slip back out of place. As my orthodontist told me, a little too content with his own cleverness, “Nighttime for lifetime!”
For someone with commitment issues like me, saying yes to 13 months of this already gave me the shakes. Thinking about committing for the rest of my life has me breaking out in hives. Related: the longest relationship of my life lasted 4 months. But I will be able to take the occasional night off, and at least my days belong to me again.
To recap: it’s not the flawless system their marketing materials would have you believe, but if you’ve got the money and the time and the patience — and your teeth aren’t totally irredeemable — Invisalign does work.
And if you need a reference, I know a guy.