I’ve spent years dealing with other people’s orthodontia. Spouse B in his twenties needed braces to correct his bite and preserve his teeth for the long haul. Both of our daughters inherited his jaw and went through an assortment of jaw growth appliances, full wires, headgear, and retainers.
I did a lot of traipsing people to appointments and making soft foods and supervising tooth hygiene and such, but never had to directly deal with orthodontia myself.
My mouth has always been small for my teeth. I had to have all four of my impacted wisdom teeth removed surgically because there was nowhere for them to go. My bite had been good in my younger years, so I hadn’t had to worry about braces, but, as I’ve aged, my teeth have moved and crowded together in such a way that my bite is affected. In order to preserve my teeth for what we are hoping will be another couple of decades, I needed to take action.
Last week, I started treatment with the Invisalign system. Several weeks before, my dentist’s office had taken a series of digital photos and measurements, which Invisalign used to create fifteen pairs of clear aligners which will gradually shift the teeth into their new positions. Each set is worn for two to three weeks. There are little pegs bonded to some of my teeth to help keep the aligners in place, although they fit pretty tightly on their own. The system is designed for the aligners to be worn at least 20-22 hours a day. They need to be removed to eat or drink anything other than cool to room temperature water.
Adjusting to this is…a process.
I’m finding that taking the liners in and out is subject to a fairly steep learning curve. By design, the liners are tightly fit and put pressure on the teeth to shift them, so there is a fair amount of finesse required to get them out and then snapped back in place. As you can imagine, the teeth of a 61-year-old are not especially inclined to move quickly in a new direction and will probably noticeably loosen a bit to accomplish this, but these first few days are causing considerable discomfort, especially during the removal and insertion process, while brushing, and while eating. Due to my particular problems, biting into anything with my front teeth is not possible at the moment.
My mouth is fairly comfortable when the liners are in, so I am minimizing the number of times I have them out. Fortunately, I often only eat twice a day and don’t snack or drink anything other than water between meals, so I’m cutting down on the amount of pain. I’m trying not to catastrophize this initial adjustment period as indicative of the eight to nine months of expected treatment time. I spoke with the dentist’s office yesterday and, while I seem to be on the more severe side of the discomfort scale, they expect that I will get adjusted soon and then be more in line with the usual day or two of discomfort when progressing to a new set of liners.
We did decide to adjust when I would make that move due to a personal commitment. Rather than moving to set two next Wednesday night, I am going to delay to the following Sunday. As it happens, I will be travelling to Northampton, Massachusetts, that Wednesday to attend my fortieth reunion at Smith College. There will be lots of group meals and receptions and some longer periods of time when my liners will need to be out, so it’s best to not have the extra pain and complication of a new set of liners thrown in on top of that.
I’m also hoping that I will be more adept at getting the liners in and out by then. My goal is to get to the point where I can accomplish this in under a minute. Now, it can take several (uncomfortable) minutes in front of a sink and mirror, which may be difficult, or at least embarrassing, to engineer on a campus with thousands of soon-to-be-graduates, students, staff, alums, and guests.
I am nothing if not persistent, so I will keep working on this adjustment and deal with whatever complications come my way. This trip to Northampton will be a trial run for travelling with Invisalign because B, T, and I will be heading to London late in May to visit daughter E and family. We will be there for granddaughter ABC’s fifth birthday in early June.
At least, birthday cake is easy to chew!