The painful, the unexpected, and the monotonous

The computer-generated side-by-side of what my mouth currently looks like and what I can expect it to look like at the end of treatment

My teeth have some serious issues. I check off almost every box on the orthodontist's list: crooked teeth, overlapping teeth, inward pointing teeth, an overbite, TMJ. I should have gotten braces as a kid, but my parents couldn't afford it. So here I am now as a 29 year old who still can’t really afford it, but it is something that has always bothered me and could potentially lead to other issues down the road. I considered braces, but who would take a young professional woman seriously with braces, I thought? (I have since met some amazingly confident professionals of all ages and genders rocking braces). Recently, I decided to visit a prominent local orthodontist to see if I could benefit from Invisalign. Much to my surprise, he said most of my issues could be fixed by Invisalign, but I would have a longer treatment plan than most (he's estimating 24+ months, while most cases take 12-18 months). After talking it over with my fiance (the $5,300 price tag was a big concern), and learning about payment plan options, I decided to go for it.

Here is my experience my first week with Invisalign.

Day 1:

I went to the orthodontist and was surprised to walk out fifteen minutes later with my very first Invisalign trays in! First thoughts: They feel strange, almost tight, but I am surprised I am able to speak as normally as I can (minus a few words with difficult S's). Since I didn't think I'd be getting my Invisalign so soon (they told me it takes 4-6 weeks for the trays to come in, but it had only been about two weeks since my 360 scan), I hadn't really put much thought yet into the changes I would have to make and new lifestyle I'd have to lead. Gone are the days of tasting sauce while cooking it, or casually sipping a drink by the fire. Instead, everything must be planned and timed to ensure my trays are in place in my mouth at least 22 hours a day, and that I have my case, toothbrush, and toothpaste with me at all times to brush my teeth before putting the trays back in after eating or drinking. On the plus side, I think this will keep me from unnecessarily snacking. I mean, is a handful of chips really worth having to take my trays out, rinse them, and put them in the case, just to have to quickly brush my teeth, rinse and put the trays back in, and bite on a chewy for five minutes afterward?

(For those who may not be familiar - I wasn't - "chewies" are thin, flat pieces of hard rubber that you're supposed to chew on for about five minutes after putting trays back in, to really lock them into place.)

I was not prepared for the pain that would come with taking the trays out. I thought it would be liberating, but as soon as I took them out, I was hit with a horribly painful sensation along my front lower teeth/gums (where my teeth are the most crowded and crooked). Biting into a piece of pizza brought tears to my eyes. I had read a lot about Invisalign online before committing, but did not see anything about pain from eating. Worried something was wrong (yes, I am one of those frequent Web MD users), I searched some more and found recommendations to eat soft foods during the first few days of each new tray, especially for beginners. Off to Wegmans I go for mashed potatoes and soup!

Day 2:

I spent much of the night running my tongue over these new things in my mouth. I can't help but feel like I'm wearing Halloween vampire teeth. My mouth feels so full! This morning, a Saturday, it hit me that I wouldn't be able to lounge around with a cup of coffee. It wouldn't be worth it to take the trays out to quickly eat a banana on the way to the gym. Instead, I headed to the gym on an empty stomach, came home to cook myself breakfast and make coffee, and only when everything was completely done and at the perfect temperature did I take my trays out, so as to not waste a single precious moment (I knew I'd be going out with friends later for dinner and drinks, so I wanted to save as much "out of mouth" time as possible for that).

I am relieved to find that kissing is mostly normal (as normal as anything is with these things in my mouth), and my fiance says he can't tell there's anything different. My speech is almost completely normal, having worked out how to annunciate some of the words I had struggled with yesterday.

Day 3:

I have a five hour road trip today, and it kills me that I can't eat snacks in the car. (Well, I suppose I could, but I am not going to pull over to brush my teeth.) I spent at least half of the drive mouthing my trays and thinking about how weird it all feels. I'm paying over $5,000 to feel like this?! How on earth can I do this for two years?! It's been such a long three days, I just want it to be over with already!

Day 4:

A headache kept me up late last night, and I can't tell if it's the headache causing my jaw to hurt, or the other way around. My Invisalign keeps my jaw from sitting normally, so I can't seem to relax it. Ugh. I woke up tired, with the same headache that kept me up. For the first few seconds I was awake, I forgot about the foreign objects in my mouth. Unfortunately, though, that didn't last long and I wondered how long until this would seem normal, until I don't even pay it any mind. I honestly don't know if I will ever get there.

Day 5:

Okay, this whole taking the trays out and brushing my teeth thing is getting old. I think it's especially because I am at a work conference, where many of our workshops and meetings take place over meals, so I have to leave the group to inconspicuously take care of this. I'm sure everyone thinks I have some sort of chronic UTI or something by now. This is going to be a long two years...

Day 6-7:

The trays start to feel loose almost, which I suppose means my teeth have adjusted to them. I'll be going back to the orthodonist in four weeks to get the attachments put onto my teeth. These attachments will click into the Invisalign trays to help the teeth move more, which will likely make them more difficult and painful to remove when teeth are sore. The number of attachments you need depends on how much moving your teeth need to do; I'll be getting a whopping 24.


Day 24:

As advised, I put my next set of trays in right before bed, to sleep through the transition pain. I've had far less pain with this set, but I have still not gotten used to the feeling of having these foreign objects in my mouth. In fact, my TMJ seems to be a bit worse. Maybe I've been clenching my teeth in my sleep, but I've had trouble fully opening my jaw first thing in the morning.

Day 92 (or something like that):

I have finally gotten more used to my Invisalign, though I have been clenching my teeth in my sleep which leads to a tight jaw and sore teeth in the morning. Taking the trays in and out with the attachments isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I slacked a bit over the holidays, leaving my trays out for almost the entire day on Christmas and New Years Even, so I really had to stay on top of things to get back into good habits of keeping the trays in nearly all the time. It will be good for my diet, anyway! I have noticed more frequent headaches, but there’s no way to know if they have anything to do with the Invisalign or not. I have an appointment with the orthodontist next week and am hoping for some notable change and improvement.

Have you had Invisalign or braces? If so, what was your experience like? Did you get used to it after a few months?

#AuthenticallyHerself #Invisalign

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