My Invisalign Journey – 2. Settling In and Setting Up

Previous articles in the series: Prologue, Part 1

I’m now home, with set 1 on my teeth, and sets 2-10 in a bag. I also have two small travel containers for the trays. There’s also this rubber device I can use to help seat the trays if I need it. I am on my own until my next appointment in 10 weeks.  My way of eating and drinking is over, and I’m in this strange new world I wasn’t entirely prepared for.

First thing to do is set everyting up in the bathroom, and figure out some sort of timing mechanism. Yes, I’m determined to do this right (MASSIVE $$ investment, I’m not going to be careless), so I’m going to make SURE that I don’t have these things out for more than 2 hours in a day. I’m going to clock it.

There are timer apps on my phone, my tablet, my laptop, and my desktop computer. I have a timer in the kitchen.

  • The kitchen timer is ruled out, since I’ll be using this thing every day for at least a year.
  • Desktop and laptop apps are ruled out. I’m going to be managing this in the bathroom, so I want something right there that’s easy.
  • Apps on the phone or tablet are what I start with.

During the first week I tire of using apps for timing. I have to remember to bring the phone or tablet with me when it’s time to take out my teeth. Then, with wet hands, I’m unlocking the device, opening the app, and hitting start or stop on the timer. It works of course, but it’s just kind of annoying. I’m going to be starting and stopping a timer multiple times a day, every day, for over a year. This is exactly the kind of task that calls for a purpose-built device with a physical button rather than an “occasional use” app. So off to Walmart I go.

They have a few timers, in the kitchen gadget aisle, that advertise the ability to count up – that’s what I want. Hit the button to start, hit the button to stop, and at the end of the day it needs to be less than 2 total hours. There’s a $5 one, and being cheap, that’s what I get. After 2 weeks it pretty much craps out on me, so I end up buying the $20 one after all. Should have just started with that. It’s great – easy to use buttons and it tracks more than 99 minutes, so it’s totally clear how much time I’ve had my teeth out.

Note that I’m currently unemployed, and at home most of the time, so this works for me. If I were out and about more, I’d probably use a timer app that travels better, because portability would become the more important feature.

Tray Management
I have 10 little plastic bags with my trays in them. They’re numbered. I’ll be opening a new one every Wednesday. I’m a semi-hoarder and want to keep all of them until this is over, so I can compare the last one to the first one, just to see my progress. So I found a tupperware container that fits 10 of these things, and it will sit in my bathroom linen closet, ready when I need it.

Travel necessities
I’m going to have to carry a holder, and a toothbrush with me now. If I want to eat or drink while I’m not at home, I have to take my trays out, put them in the container and store them. Then go brush my teeth and put the trays back in when I’m done. OK. Walmart once again. In the school supplies aisle there are pencil holders for kids. Perfect. Combine that with a folding travel toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, travel size floss, and I’m set.

The Invisalign Gear.

So I’ve got the gear thing handled now. Every new project or hobby has its own accessory requirment. Invisalign is no different.

My Invisalign Journey – 1. Shock and Regret

Previous articles in the series: My Invisalign Journey – Prologue

So I’ve decided to go ahead with this, spend the money, deal with the orthodontist appointments, the pain that will flash me back to high school, the weirdness of wearing a clear plastic retainer all the time. I made the appointment for “computerized molds”.

New technology! No plastic molds with nasty rubber choking me, they use a digital camera to scan all of my teeth. That sounds easier than it is, but it’s still better than those molds.

The digital photos of my teeth are sent off to the nerds at Invisalign who come up with the step by step process of making my smile gorgeous, and then make the trays that will push and pull the teeth into alignment.  I make the follow up appointment to get my trays in two weeks’ time.

The day is here! I get my trays! Woohoo!!!

First the tech has to put “buttons” on my teeth in some places. These are little grippers that will allow the tray to grab onto a tooth and move it more easily. OK, they’re enamel colored, so when my trays are out they won’t be that noticeable.

Then the tech puts the first tray in, showing me how to make sure it’s all seated properly and stuff. Then she has me try to remove it. Um, that wasn’t all that easy. Then she has me put it back in. Oh, that was harder than it looked. Take it off again? OK. Yeah, this is kind of a pain in the ass. And these bumps on my teeth? They hurt the inside of my lips, just like braces do. They feel weird.

I’m not going to feel my normal teeth AT ALL for the duration of this process. I was not expecting that. Oh, and the “first batch” of aligners is 32, so 32 weeks and then reimaging to see how much more. This process is AT LEAST a year long. One tray per week.

The tech assures me I’ll get better at putting these things in. She assures me I’ll be able to tell at the one week point that the tray is “dead” and I’m ready for a new one. I doubt her, but play along, just to be agreeable.

Then she lowers the boom.

Nothing but water while the trays are in. And they’re in for 22 hours a day.

What? I knew I had to take them out to eat, but water only? RUFKM? I never DRINK water. I drink coffee and tea (cold and hot) and Diet Dr Pepper and Diet Coke all day long. I have a Sodastream that I’m trying to find acceptable syrups for since they changed the formulas. I drink beverages all day long. I have a HUGE collection of teas. My beverages are very important to me.

Also I’m a snacker. I really don’t eat an actual multi-course meal more than once a day, if that. I tend to eat one thing at a time, through the course of the day getting multiple types of food. Sure, it’s not all that healthy, but it works. OK, maybe forcing me to not snack and actually plan meals will be helpful.

But really…nothing but water while the trays are in. And they’re in for 22 hours a day.

I drive home with tray #1 in my mouth, feeling weird. Knowing I’ve just made a HUGE mistake.

My Invisalign Journey – Prologue

I’m an Invisalign patient, and thought perhaps I could document the journey. Perhaps someday it might be useful to someone.

I decided, at the age of 50, that my teeth needed to be straightened again.  I wore braces for a very very long time, longer than all of my friends. But all these years later, damn if those stupid teeth weren’t making themselves an annoyance. The shifting had been gradual, not even noticeable. Until I realized that my left front canine tooth sometimes caught my lip, or my lip got “stuck” on it when I was talking. It had just started “kicking forward” to a really unacceptable degree.

My Dad had horribly crooked teeth, seems like that’s another thing I inherited from him.

Anyway, my dentist suggested Invisalign and I looked into it. Not as much of a hassle as braces, sure, expensive, but insurance would cover a portion of it, and well, I’m super cheap about most of the stuff people splurge on, but this thing? This could remove some annoyance from my life. So what the heck, why not?

Dentist took molds – OMG, that was hell. The rubber stuff drips down the back of your throat, you’re certain that you’re dying, and it takes like…well, what I imagine tires taste like. Then, bad news, the molds weren’t exactly right, had to be redone. OK, I’m really suffering for this, but ok. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Hmm, my situation is kind of complex, so the dentist really thinks I should get it done with an Orthodontist, just to be on the safe side.  Oh, ok. I’m willing, interested in fact. But it’s been kind of frustrating so far, so I stall for a few months. Finally make an appointment with the orthodontist.

First appointment was just a look-see and consult. Took pictures, took x-rays, that kind of thing. Then the next appointment was the “can we do this and how much will it cost” appointment.

So, getting invisalign via the Orthodontist is, of course, more expensive.  By the amount that my insurance would cover. Ugh. This just keeps getting worse and worse. Am I that determined? Does it matter that much if my teeth are straight?

Actually, it kind of does. My stupid “crooked and getting worse” teeth bug me. I notice and think about them multiple times a week, and each time I do, I lose a tiny bit of self-esteem and pride. I know it shouldn’t matter, but it does. I notice that the upper middle class and rich folks have straight white teeth. It’s only the poor folks who have crooked teeth. And DAMN, when I’m driving around singing along with the radio, I don’t want to notice that my upper lip is caught on my tooth, that’s just STUPID.

It sounds like my teeth are just awful horrible gross, but they aren’t. They’re not TV star perfect, but they’re not super noticeably crooked, it’s ME that notices all this stuff.

Is it really worth more than $5,000 out of pocket for this?

Yeah, it is.

So I made the appointment – for MORE molds, to start down the path of Invisalign.