Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Getting Braces AKA the Invisalign Diet

This is the year I commit to sparking joy in all aspects of my life, for self-improvement.

In addition to my weight-loss/wellness program, I finally decided to correct my teeth.  I've never been completely happy with my smile. I have an overbite, a narrow palate and my lower teeth are crowded. (I still have all of my wisdom teeth.) I decided to visit an orthodontist to see if I was a candidate for braces.

I made my consultation appointment with Dr. Michelle Neal of Neal Orthodontics in Kirkland, WA. After digital impressions were made (no goop!), Dr. Neal showed me a computer generated example before and after of what my smile would look like after straightening my teeth. Not only would my smile and bite improve but I would also be able to breathe better.

I made the choice to pursue Invisalign rather than traditional braces because I just couldn't see myself with a mouth full of metal with a 16 month-old baby. (Invisalign are plastic retainers that fit over your teeth that can be removed for 2 hours a day for eating and teeth maintenance.)  The Invisalign program showed me what my smile would look like if I diligently used my Invisalign retainers for 22 hours each day for 29 weeks. My smile was perfect. I was in!

After my initial consultation, three weeks later my Invisalign retainers arrived. At my next orthodontic appointment, I was fitted with the retainers and shown how to care for my teeth and the retainers. To be honest, when she fit the retainers over my teeth it hurt much more than I expected. Before the retainers were fitted, the technician applied small enamel colored buttons to my teeth which would hole the retainers in places. I also had a Carriere Motion Appliance and several small hooks applied to my teeth to hold elastics in place. Once everything was in, the technician asked me a question and I could barely get the words out. I had such a lisp. I told her there was no way I could wear the braces and talk.  I told her these had to go. She laughed with me and  promised me the lisp would go away once I had adjusted to this mouthful of plastic and rubber bands.

The first week was tough. I have never had braces and my mouth was so tender. I drank mostly smoothies. I tried to eat salmon one night for dinner and even that was too hard to chew. I tried an orange and I couldn't even but through an orange segment. I stuck mainly with soups and protein shakes.

It's now been three weeks and I am on my third set of Invisalign retainers. I can already see an improvement in my bite. Yes, I am self-conscious about the fact that I have a mouthful of plastic braces, rods and elastic bands as an adult but I know that I am doing something good for myself. I've had quite a few questions from friends (and strangers!) about the Invisalign process so I thought I'd address them here:

Does it hurt?
Yes. It does. Each Thursday night I put in a new set of Invisalign retainers and each week it hurts. It has to because these braces/retainers are literally moving my teeth in my jaw bones. I take two Tylenol before bed and by Friday morning the pain has subsided.

Is it hard to adjust? 
It was but the adjustment lasted for less than a week. The hardest part for me were the elastics that go from my lower molars to my canine teeth. It took me awhile to be able to do it without snapping the elastics in my mouth which I did dozens of times. Now I have the hang of it.

What is it like taking care of the braces?
I take them out first thing in the morning and it is a challenge taking them out because they are held in place with these buttons attached to my teeth. I brush the retainers themself and dip them in mouthwash. As they dry, I brush and floss my teeth. After I have a protein shake, I brush my teeth again and put the Invisalign retainers back in. I don't snack at all. I repeat the same thing for lunch and dinner.

I don't eat anything with curry or turmeric so the enamel colored buttons on my teeth don't stain yellow.

What can you eat?
I don't chew gum or eat popcorn or anything sticky. I don't eat or drink anything expect flat water when the Invisalign are in.  I am still eating soft foods like shakes, smoothies and eggs. I can't eat apples or carrots or anything hard or crunchy. It hurts my teeth too much.

I lovingly call this The Invisalign Diet because:

-It's a lot of work to remove the retainers and brush them and my teeth each time I eat something so I don't snack or eat in the car or other than my three main meals. Ever.
-It hurts to chew crunchy things so snacks like chips, nachos, cheese curls (my favorites) are all off the menu.

Is it expensive?
It is but I believe in taking care of my body, mind and soul so whether it's a therapist to talk about my anxiety or a nutritionist to help me lose weight and get fit or an orthodontist to correct my overbite and fix my crowded teeth, I will invest in being healthy.

Any tips you learned so far?
-Buy another retainer case. I keep one at home for when I eat and brush my teeth. I also keep one in Waverly's diaper bag and in my bag.
-Never take your retainer out and put it in a napkin. You will forget it's there and throw it out. I bought these on Amazon. I liked this one because it has a mirror to help me apply the elastic bands and it also has air holes so the retainers dry after I brush them.
-I also bought a box of disposable pre-pasted toothbrushes for times when I don't have access to water or I don't feel comfortable with the  water source (like a public bathroom.)
-If your Invisalign program calls for elastic bands, get extra bags of bands. I have them stashed everywhere so I have no excuse not to use them.
-Follow the program exactly as they prescribe!

I'll update my progress here as we go along but right now I'm very happy that I decided to finally do this. If you've had braces or Invisalign, I'd love to hear your tips on managing the process!

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