I’m about halfway through my aligners now (20 of 42), and really over two thirds of the way to getting my top, and most visible teeth, to substantial completion (note in my Invisalign projection movie that the top teeth stop moving around aligner 30). My orthodontist has purported to be very impressed with how well my teeth are moving (of course, maybe he says that to all the patients), but there has been one–not unexpected–hitch in the process. My top lateral incisors (the teeth on either side of the “two front teeth”) are a little behind the curve. My orthodontist predicted as much at the beginning, warning me that those laterals would be the hardest teeth to move. He recommended getting attachments on them, and I opted out for the sake of my eternal vanity… not a decision I regret, as there will still be the opportunity to get attachments on them for the much-shorter duration of refinements after the initial treatment. But as a result of not having attachments, those laterals are falling noticeably behind. Luckily, after the initial lag, they don’t seem to be falling increasingly behind. They are sore right along with the other teeth after a new aligner set goes in. At the advice of my orthodontist I concentrate on the laterals with my aligner chewies whenever I put my aligners back in. The laterals continue to move… they’re just under-achievers.
Going into this process, one of the things I was most concerned about was keeping the aligners clean. I can deal with pain, I can fight through discomfort, but when I read an article online called 18 Things I Wish I Knew Before Invisalign, I was admittedly a bit spooked. One commentator in this compendium said “Kiss your social life (and romantic life) goodbye until the trays are gone. They give you bad breath, make you speak oddly, discolor your teeth…” which is more than a little frightening for a confirmed bachelorette. Additional research led to many online forums where people complained of perpetual odor despite reportedly heroic efforts to clean the aligners.
I decided to go ahead with the aligners, despite my fears, armed with a number of alternative strategies for cleaning. When I first started wearing my aligners, I was uber careful about cleanliness. I never, ever drank anything that was not a clear liquid when I had them in. I brushed my aligners with a wet toothbrush (I read online that toothpaste can etch the plastic of the aligners, creating space for bacteria to grow) whenever I took them out, soaked them in hydrogen peroxide whenever they were out of my mouth, cleaned my teeth thoroughly with a floss, then Listerine, then brushing regimen every time before I put them back in. I soaked them in generic Polident inside my sonic cleaner a couple times a week.
This strategy worked out swimmingly. I had absolutely no problem with odor or plaque build-up… or really anything. I think I even have better morning breath with them in than I did before I started Invisalign. I smelled my old aligners in a side-by-side comparison with the new ones when it was time for a fresh set. No difference. Certainly, this cleaning system was conscientious, but by no means heroic. I couldn’t understand what all the complaints were about.
Since my initial days of Invisalign, my cleaning is still conscientious, but it has certainly become more relaxed. Depending on the circumstances, I drink a variety of beverages with the aligners in. I generally stay away from heavy stainers like coffee and tea or red wine, but I’m not shy about most bar drinks and sodas. One of my bar staples is whiskey and diet, though I’ve had everything from whiskey rocks to margaritas, caipirinhas and Sam Adams Cream Stout with them in (though, not all on the same night). My sonic cleaner broke, and so I still use it as a place to soak my teeth, but I threw away the batteries and never turn in on.
Only once did an aligner ever come out of the two weeks looking noticeably stained, and that was when I spent nearly a whole week in Las Vegas at a dance competition where I drank a lot of those aforementioned whiskey & diets and where I had forgotten to bring my peroxide and never bothered to do a Polident treatment; I was particularly misbehaved about my cleaning regimen because I was always down in the ballroom (and thus a 20 minute walk from the elevators to my room) when meals were served, and so the aligners usually just got popped out and stuffed in the case, and then lightly brushed before being put back in (onto clean teeth, of course!). There was a noticeable difference between that aligner and the new one, but the stain was only evident in contrast to the new aligner, not when they were on my teeth.
Going back to the predictions of doom (“They give you bad breath, make you speak oddly, discolor your teeth…”) to the Invisalign user’s social life, I can handily dispel each prognostication. While my aligners might have become discolored in Vegas, my teeth certainly did not. In fact, my teeth are whiter than they have ever been with my thorough and frequently cleaning enforced by the Invisalign process. As for speaking oddly, I have never had a single problem, and I speak for a living. When I first put the aligners in, my orthodontist’s assistant assured me that there was enough wiggle room in my required aligner-wearing time each day that I could feel free to remove them if I had a special circumstance, say… if I had to do some sort of public speaking. I was polite enough to make no comment, and not to bark back that I’d have to leave them out all day, because as a teacher at a dance studio, my whole day is public speaking. Since getting my aligners in the first place, my job has become even heavier on speaking, as I spend much of my day doing meetings and interviews with new students. I forget they’re in most of the time. I only ever notice during large classes when I have to yell over music in the next room at the top of my lungs, and sometimes the force of air tries to go through the aligner. Otherwise, I forget I have them in more easily when I’m speaking than when my mouth is closed.
Finally, the dreaded bad breath has never been an issue. In my job, I’m already very sensitive to breath and smell aesthetics. I pop a mint before every 40 minute lesson, just as I did before Invisalign. I asked my co-workers to be brutally honest, when I started the Invisalign, if they noticed any change in my breath, so that I could be vigilant about fixing any Invisalign-related hygiene problems. Well… those co-workers constantly forget about my Invisalign, offering me snacks and food throughout the day. Sure, my breath gets stale if I haven’t done any sort of cleaning or had any sort of beverage for several hours, but that would happen without the Invisalign. As for my social life, it’s going just fine, thank you. I have locked lips with more than one gentleman without his realizing that I was wearing the aligners… no complaints from them so far.
The process moves along slowly and steadily. The movement of my teeth is still annoyingly incremental, but that’s par for the course. All of the other scare stories I read about the process seem like over-blown whining now that I’ve lived through twenty aligners.