My pile of discarded Invisalign aligners tell the story. The nine month Invisalign treatment is almost over and I have just four more aligners to straighten out my overbite.
The first part of the Invisalign program focused on the bottom teeth. Not only were they crooked, the flare was pushing out the top and were a major cause of the overbite. When I first went to Dr Jacquie I really didn’t care about the bottom row of teeth. I felt they weren’t that visable and the problem was above. She explained that they had to be corrected before the top could be put into line. ( no pun intended).
Last month with my lower jaw practically perfect it was time to get serious about the top. I was concerned that the aligners were going to be tighter and they now they definately meant business. For the first time I found myself removing aligners for a few minutes during the day because the pressure was intense. My mouth seemed to be a human barometer. I could actually tell if a storm was coming by an increased sense of pressure in my mouth. Taking off the aligners for 20 minutes was all I needed to relieve the discomfort.
I also noticed that I was getting a bit lazy. Some nights after dinner I would “forget” to put back the retainer immediately after eating. This week I also lost my first aligner. At home, I usually take out my aligner right before meals and dump them in a small bowl on the kitchen counter. This time, when I cleaned up the kitchen and brushed my teeth, the upper aligner had vanished. I vaguely remembered cleaning up some plastic bags on the counter and taking the trash to the chute down the hall. I’m fairly certain that my missing retainer was scooped up with trash and thrown out. I was due to change aligners in two days, so I pushed up the date. The new aligner was a bit tight, but still doable.
I’m waiting to post my progress until the last reveal in two months. But the changes are already pretty encouraging. At lunch this week I mentioned my overbite to a new co-worker. “ Overbite?” she said ” You don’t have an overbite” . How nice was that.
I was really looking forward to my six week appointment with Invisalign. I had gone through three sets of aligners and felt a definate change in my bite. The first set of aligners were super easy to wear. Not only were they totally comfortable, they kept me from snacking. Without aligners, I would reach for a random cookie or chunk of cheese– but with Invisalign eating even one bite meant taking it out, scarfing down the food, a trip to the sink to brush my teeth and replacing the aligner. Few foods now seem worth the trouble. I also noticed that my teeth were much whiter because I could not drink tea and coffee while wearing Invisalign. Cutting back on my 5-6 cups of tea and coffee certainly kept my smile brighter.
The second pair of aligners were pretty snug. And walking in cold windy weather seemed to make them feel even tighter. I was a little concerned that things were going to get tougher but the next two sets were as comfortable as the first one.
Dr Jackie started this visit by announcing she was going to make me look like Madonna. I wondered what she meant. Would I get blonde wavy hair? Skinny arms? Then I got it. Dr Jackie treated my teeth with IPR or Interproximal Reduction. IPR is an important of most Invisalign treatment plans. Using a rotating disk Dr Jackie recontoured my teeth to create a tiny bit of extra space between my teeth and reshape them for better alignment. It’s a much less invasive and expensive option than extracting 4-6 teeth entirely.
In addition to having an overbite on top and crooked teeth on the bottom, my teeth had a masculine, awkward shape. ( Top photo) My teeth were significantly wider at the bottom than the top and lets face it you can’t line up two slanting lines. By rounding off jagged and boxy edges, IPR made my teeth prettier and more feminine. ( Bottom photo) In less than a week, the space has closed up as the teeth moved naturally into a better position.
When I started Invisalign, I just wanted to reduce the overbite. The subtle reshaping that is part of the Invisalign program is such a welcome bonus. So far, Invisalign has exceeded my expectations.
When I first started my anti-aging journey I identified a dozen different signs of facial aging. On that list I noted only a single dental problem– stained/ yellowed teeth. Turns out that changes in our smile are part of often unrecognized changes that make us look older. The overbite that I see in the mirror was just a symptom of changing dental contours, rather than the cause of my aging smile.
Here’s how it works: According to Dr Jacquie, the full wide smile of gorgeous celebrities ( think Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, Halle Barre, Kate Middleton) is a youthful smile. As we get older, our smile often becomes smaller as the jaw loses bone mass, shifting the teeth forward.
To check this out, I dug out old family photos and there it was– a full wide smile. As a thirty something Mom, I had a little overbite, but my broad youthful smile had two rows of an even white teeth. Comparing that smile with my baseline pix from Dr Jacquie, you can see the difference a few decades make. The overbite is more pronounced and the side teeth have receded and are barely visable.
Looking at these photos I realized that I certainly under- estimated the impact of aging on the mouth– and I’m not alone. Even in New York where you can trip over dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons, it took me two years to find a full service cosmetic dentist– someone who is focused on the smile problems of adults. At Dr Jacquie’s office, I noticed the beautiful models and actors walking in the door, and I began to suspect I was finally in the right place. If the other patients in the waiting room have a curfew and are carrying that thick SAT book, you’re probably in the wrong place.
There are before and after pix and then there is the panoramic digital radiograph. This shot shows how age related bone loss in my jaw has shifted all my teeth forward. You can also see the shape of the teeth- wider on bottom and smaller on top- contributing to the problem. This shape does not line up well and Dr Jacquie will be shaping the contours to make the teeth look more feminine. What you don’t see is overcrowding. There is plenty of space between the teeth as they all shift forward. It makes me cringe to think about the dentist who wanted to take out four back teeth. It would have made my teeth even worse.
My profile was taken with a companion machine called to take a cephalometric measurement . I stood up and my head was positioned by a pair of alignment knobs in my ears and a stabilizer bar on my nose. Looking at the flare of both my upper and lower teeth, I’m surprised I could still chew with these things.
I was thrilled with the effects of the Zoom teeth whitening. Admiring my gleaming white teeth in the mirror of my dentists waiting room, another patient ageed they looked great, adding “ It makes your overbite less noticeable.” I have an overbite? I knew that my teeth flared out a bit, but was it that bad?
Growing up, money was tight for my writer father and artist mother. Instead of fully tricked out braces, I had a bite plate with wires that were tightened every so often. In later years, I had thought about getting real braces, but I didn’t want to walk around with a mouth of metal as an adult.
The night after my Zoom treatment, I saw an ad for a new tooth straightening technique called Invisalign. I knew my amazing dentist offered this technique so I decided to explore my options. Invisalign uses plastic forms that fit very tightly over the teeth. As the teeth move back, new forms are made to keep up the pressure on the teeth. Since they are the same type of form used in bleaching trays, I knew I could handle them. Even better, the forms are practically invisable and don’t interfere with talking. Time extimates vary from 12-18 months and costs depend on how long treatment is needed. I’m starting next week by getting a mold of my teeth to see what needs to be done. Getting braces at my age makes me feel like I’m back in high school. Maybe this time, the hottest guy in the school will deveop a huge painful crush on me.