After 28 sets of Invisaligns at two weeks each, I finished my adventures in orthodontia back in December, right before Christmas. They ground off the remaining “attachments” (little gobs of glue they put on your teeth, the better for the plastic to jerk things around in there), glued a wire across the back of my lower front teeth, and made me a set of heavy-gauge plastic retainers.
First, the retainers: They are of a much heavier gauge of plastic than the
“trays” that one wears during the process. This is first and foremost because they are supposed to last . . . well, you’re more or less going to be wearing them until you assume room temperature.
[Sidebar: I have to say I’m not sure I fully understand one thing about retainers: My mother, born in the very early 1930s, had orthodontia as a teenager. To my knowledge, running all the way back to the late 1960s (in other words, prior to her 40th birthday), she’s never used retainers of any sort. And yet here her teeth are, 60-plus years later, still right where they were left. I know much younger people, people my age, who have foregone their retainers and now their teeth have got underway on them. Ordinary divergence between patient outcomes? Or did they just do a more permanent job of it, back in the day?]
Among other things, the heavier plastic makes the retainers much less flexible than the trays. The result is a bit counter-intuitive: While heavier, they’re also more prone to tearing. I went 58 weeks in those trays (the final set I wore an additional two weeks while my retainers were being made) and never had a moment’s trouble with any of them, no matter how many times a day I popped them in and out, or how vigorously I cleaned them with my toothbrush. I’ve already torn my upper retainer. Fortunately it’s not completely in two, and so I can use it while they make me a replacement, but “gingerly” looks to be the watchword in retainer replacement.
The Invisaligns did a yeoman job on my lower teeth, particularly the front ones. They’d been oddly spaced and noticeably crooked, and now they’re all more or less straight and line up with each other very nicely, subject only to the wear on the upper edges resulting from 40-odd years’ use while crooked.
On the upper teeth the result is more mixed. My spitting gap is gone; it wasn’t Terry Thomas-sized by any measure, but it was big enough I felt horribly self-conscious about it. The next teeth outboard of the two front ones also now line up very nicely. But I still have whacking great gaps in front of my canines. As in, I can’t tell that they shifted location at all. I don’t know if this is a common feature of all orthodontia — that those teeth just can’t be moved at all — or whether it’s a limitation of the Invisalign technology, or whether those teeth have to fit over the lower teeth in a very specific location and that location in my mouth at least leaves them with space in front of them. Whatever the reason, I have to say I am a bit disappointed with that outcome. But the rest of it went so well I suppose I ought to shut my pie hole and be thankful I had a smooth, pain-free 58 weeks that did as well as it did. [N.b. My orthodontist during one of my periodic visits exclaimed how well everything was going and allowed that adult male patients were just his favorite because we do as we’re told, without complaint or drama. I looked at him and dead-panned: “Well, after you’ve been married a while obedience and discomfort become second nature.”]
The one thing which I do notice is an alarming, and extraordinarily painful change that first came to my attention last summer during peach season. There is a small chain of grocery stores around here, family owned. Each summer they get their fresh freestone peaches from an outfit in Georgia — same orchard every year. In round numbers, they’re worth crawling over burning coals on top of a layer of broken glass to get to. They put on their sign out front when “the truck” is supposed to be there with the first load. They’ll sell them loose, but they also sell them in half-bushel boxes. That’s how I buy them. Last summer I think I bought either eight or ten boxes during the course of the season. I give a bunch away just because I think everyone should have a fresh peach. You cannot be completely dejected or sour with a plate of fresh peaches in front of you. Not in human physiology. But the vast bulk of my peach purchasing went down the ol’ hatch thank you very much.
I noticed, when I’d lunched on six or eight peaches (cut into eighths: first you slice all the way around the pit vertically along the “seam”; then you make your second slice also vertically but at a 90-degree offset to the first; then you slice horizontally around the midsection. A simple twist and the pieces fall away from the pit and you’re in business), and then went to brush my teeth immediately afterward before putting my trays back in, instantly when the toothpaste touched my teeth, I experienced this agonizing shooting pain. It felt like someone was pile-driving electrified hot ice picks into my jaws. As mentioned, this was not a brushing-related sensation; the pain was instantaneous and began in precisely that split-second when the toothpaste first touched any part of a tooth. The only thing I can think of is that the acid or the sugar in the peach residue on my teeth set up some sort of chemical reaction with some ingredient in the toothpaste. The pain would be less — by a little bit — if I ate a meal immediately on top of the peaches and before brushing my teeth. And when I say “a little bit” what I mean to convey is that I didn’t explode in my best bo’sun’s-locker vocabulary at the sheer agony of it all, damning the Invisalign company and all its works. But even later that evening I could still feel residual pain when brushing my teeth for the final time before bed.
All that was, as mentioned, last summer, and Peach Season 2016 is long gone. What I notice now is that any heavily sugared food, such as cookies (I confess that if Girl Scout Samoas are a deadly sin, I’m in trouble . . bad trouble), or chocolate — even dark chocolate, which I do enjoy — or donuts, or anything that has a large concentration of sugar in it produces very similar results, if not quite so intensely. I generally don’t eat candy at all (except for a piece of dark chocolate once in a blue moon), but back in January I bought myself a bag of sour Skittles; it was really the first candy I’d eaten, just about, since starting Invisaligns in November, 2015. I do love me some Skittles. The sour variety has what I have to assume is some sort of acid-based granular frosting on the individual pieces to give them the sourness. That was on a Monday. That night when I went to brush my teeth I thought I was going to die. It was Friday morning before my teeth quit exploding in my mouth at the first touch of toothpaste.
I will point out that I obtain the same result whether the sugar/acid to which I expose my teeth is purely natural, as in the case of a fresh peach, or completely unnatural and fully processed, as in the case of those Skittles.
I have never had sensitive teeth before, to anything. Not to hot, not to cold, not to any particular sort of food. I’ve used Lord only knows how many different sorts of toothpaste over the years, with never a moment’s discomfort from any of it, ever. The only thing I can imagine is that, having jerked around my teeth from where they grew into my jaws over 40 years ago, areas of the enamel are now exposed that have never been exposed before, and those areas are either thinner or otherwise not accustomed to the chemical reactions that occur when whatever-it-is in toothpaste comes into contact with sugar and/or acid.
So, for such of Gentle Reader who might be contemplating shoving around one’s teeth later in life, be advised that the down-side to having a fully-formed jaw is that it is not going to grow around your teeth’s’ roots as protectively as it would if you had the re-alignment done at a time when your skeletal bones were actively growing into their final configurations.
I’m still getting used to the idea of not having to floss, brush, and scrub immediately I eat, whenever I eat. It feels like I’m cheating at something. I do floss, but I can do that sitting at my desk. And if I need to get up and take a break from slogging away, I’ll go and brush as well. But I don’t have to shove that plastic back in my mouth, and that makes all the difference. This prisoner sure ain’t missing his shackles, not even a little.
So that was Invisaligns for me. Non-traumatic, un-painful, and more or less successful.