My Smile

I took a step towards making a big change in my appearance, today. No, I didn’t have any “work” done and don’t plan to. And, given the title of this post, I should add that I didn’t go all “Joker” with a permanent smile – not Caesar Romero’s version or Jack Nicholson’s version and definitely not Heath Ledger’s version! No, I have never given any thought to any physical changes, like plastic surgery…….well, except for the many times I’ve thought it might be nice if I had the option to remove my arms and put them aside at certain times – like when I’m trying to get comfortable in bed and they are just plain “in the way” or when I wake up all twisted and they are dead asleep on me! I’ve often thought if I could just take them off, like a doll’s arms, that I’d be able to sleep so much more comfortably! But, that thought always tends to lead me to wondering how I’d get the second arm off once I removed the first one and didn’t have an arm to remove the second one and if I did have a trick for how to get the second one off, how would I get them back on with no arms to pick them up and reconnect them………WOW, did that get me off track or what?

Nope – my change won’t be that obvious, but it will be quite noticeable to those who know my smile well. I have always had an over-bite – front teeth come out over the top of the bottom teeth more than they should. Mom took me to an orthodontist when I was a child, but he said I didn’t need braces. I used to be very self-conscious about it. It is rare to see a posed photo of me with my teeth showing – I perfected a smile that kept them hidden or partially hidden. And, I would usually put my hand in front of my mouth when I laughed. I didn’t HATE it or the way it made me look when I’d laugh or smile – in fact, I would say that if Bobby Sherman and Susan Dey could have over-bites and look as gorgeous as they did, then I can, too! But, to be honest, I was still self-conscious about it. I’ve thought over the years about getting braces and even talked to a couple of dentists about it. But, decided that it really wasn’t something I was soooooo self-conscious about that I needed to wear metal in my mouth as an adult! So, I just worked at not being so self-conscious and I was successful! The only problem they ever really caused was when I bit into something – my teeth didn’t come together right and my bite was difficult with some things – but, again, not a really big problem, so no need to do anything drastic about it. But, recently, my top teeth have started to shift a little, causing some gaps that concerned me and making my two front teeth look like they were flaring out more than before. So, I figured I should look into fixing that before it got worse! My dentist hooked me up with the good people at Genesee Dental and we talked about Invisalign teeth aligners! By the end of the consultation, I decided to go with them and badda-bing, badda-boom, I’m on my way to straighter teeth!

Invisaligns are molded plastic trays that fit over your teeth and slowly pull them into alignment. Each set stays on for two weeks, at which time you change to the next set to move the teeth to the next phase of the process. Dentist visits are scheduled every six weeks to assess the progress and get the next three sets of trays. They don’t look like they would do anything but cover your teeth, but they do – it is like magic! They are virtually invisible until you look closely, so, if I wasn’t on here telling the world, most people wouldn’t even know I am wearing them. But, I wanted to write about the experience, so here I go!

The consultation went well – they explained how they work and what they look like and the dentist examined me and said I was a good candidate for them! They talked about cost – which is significant – and that my insurance wouldn’t cover them! OUCH! I understand that it is a cosmetic thing, but it isn’t like years ago when I would have done it purely for cosmetic reasons – now, my teeth are shifting and will likely cause problems and dental bills down the road – pay me now or pay me later, you know? But, I went in assuming my insurance probably wouldn’t cover most of the cost, anyway, so I didn’t let that rock me. Other than the insurance news, I liked what I heard, so I said, “let’s do it”! And we got started right then and there! They took tons of photos – most with a plastic frame in my mouth to hold my lips out of the way so they could get every inch and angle of my teeth and gums – and some just of my face with and without a smile. (when the dentist came in and asked how the photos went, I responded with, “well, they sure aren’t anything I’d post on Facebook”! HA!) And, then they took impressions and sent me on my way.

A couple of weeks later, I went back to find out the results of the photos and impressions that were sent off for review. They had a computer animation of my actual teeth showing how they will change over time and what they will look like when we’re done!  WOW – was that cool to watch!!! They told me what my specific process would be like – it should take my teeth about 8-10 months to align – and asked if I was happy with the projected results. I was, so I signed off on the proposal and they said my first set will be ready in a couple of weeks.

Yesterday, Dec 10th, I went in and got my first set. They tried them on to be sure they fit correctly and then took them out to put little grabber thingys on my teeth – 5 on top and 5 on the bottom. These will secure the trays and help with the process. That wasn’t pleasant, but wasn’t too bad. When they put the Invisalign trays in, they really hurt – I was told that is due to the trays moving the teeth and that each new set could cause some pain for a couple of days and some patients use ibuprofen to help that. They were very uncomfortable for about 1/2 hour and then the pain stopped, so no need for the ibuprofen. They told me to leave them on for at least a couple of hours before taking them out for the first time. I panicked at that – you mean I can’t practice taking them out and putting them in while I was there and had help if needed??? I couldn’t see what she was doing, but she did a good job of explaining what to do, so I was more comfortable with that by the time I left. They were in, I was given some instructions, and I was on my way!

My instructions were to remove them whenever I eat anything, but I can drink with them in – although, if I drink tea or other potentially staining drinks to take them out after and rinse them off. Also, to brush my teeth normally and rinse the trays whenever they come out and before they go back in. I am to wear them at least 20-22 hours out of every 24 hours to get the best and quickest results and to keep them in their protective case when they are out to keep them from getting damaged.

The rest of the evening was interesting……..HA! I was told my mouth would have to adjust to them – the pain wasn’t a problem, it went away pretty quickly, but the saliva was a hoot! I kept sucking them to remove the excess saliva and found myself drooling like a baby a few times! But, that, too, went away after a couple of hours. I was told that the inside of my lips may need to get toughened up some and I may experience some abrasions until they do, but so far, that isn’t a problem, either. The other possible adjustment is in my speech – they said I may have a little bit of a lisp until my tongue gets used to them being there (I was told this at the first consultation and mentioned that I sing in the choir on Sundays and was assured I could take them out for that, if it was a problem) – but, again, that doesn’t seem to be a problem – I had a slight issue with the letter S for a little while, but that went away quickly. Then came time to eat dinner. I had a little trouble figuring out how to remove them – getting them started was a little bit of a challenge, but they finally snapped right out. I rinsed them off and put them in their case. The grabber thingys on the outside of my teeth created some problems – they are rough on the inside of my lips and the food felt like it was clinging to them, so I kept running my tongue on them and that was rough, too. Also, I had to chew more deliberately because I kept biting the inside of my lips and cheeks. But, I got the hang of it. I brushed my teeth, rinsed the trays, and put them back in — they were tight and uncomfortable again for a few minutes, but then all was fine. I removed them again to brush my teeth before bed – they came out and went back in much easier this time. Each time I take them out, my teeth ache a little and then, again, when I put them back in, but it doesn’t last long and isn’t what I would call painful – just uncomfortable. They didn’t bother me at all during the night, but I did have a dream that they came loose and I swallowed them! Leave it to me and my dreams! 🙂

So………I’m off and running with them! They will take some getting used to, but I think I’m already adjusting nicely with them. I change trays on Dec 24th and again on Jan 7th and go back for my six-week check up and next set of trays on Jan 21st. Before I know it, I’ll be done and have a very different smile than I’ve had all my life. This is exciting for me – I can’t wait to see how it all progresses! Maybe at the end, I’ll post some before and after photos! For now, I’m just happy to be started and looking forward to the results.

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