I’ve always had gappy teeth. As a child it was, I think, quite endearing, but it became less so in my teens. I remember having a consultation for braces at the age of 14, but they would take a whole year, and when you’re 14 a year feels like it could easily be rounded up to ‘forever’. After this time, the dentist said, my teeth might just drift back anyway, so I decided not to bother.
That decision is one that adult Alan has resented on and off for 20 years. Looking back through my Instagram account, I’m greeted with plenty of smiling pictures, but a gap between the front teeth that you could park a truck in. Or at least a Micro Machines sized version.
That’s why with the freelance career going well*, I finally decided to spend big on Invisalign. For those unaware, Invisalign are clear retainers that are custom moulded to your teeth. You change them every couple of weeks, and each one drags your teeth a little bit closer to the perfect smile, week by week.
There are a number of advantages over conventional braces, but invisibility is the main one – hence the name. They’re transparent so it’s not clear you’re wearing anything from a distance, though they do have a weird sheen when you get up close. Here I am wearing them, so you can play a game of ‘spot the difference’:
It’s definitely working. I’m allowed to take them off for up to two hours a day, during which time I’m expected to do all my eating and (non-water) drinking. I’m getting things stuck between my front teeth for the first time in my life, which is nice proof that my teeth are actually moving and I’m not just fooling myself into thinking they are.
However, that discretion and effectiveness comes at a pretty high price: between £2,500 an £6,000 depending on how bad your teeth are. My dentist is actually at the competitively priced end, despite being award winning, so for me it’s £225 a month for 13 months – or £2,925 if you don’t have a calculator handy. Expensive, but nowhere near as pricey as I thought it might be.
But anyway, for anyone considering taking the Invisalign plunge, here are some things that you might not know going in:
You can get a single set, but it won’t save you much money
Given my troublesome teeth are on the top layer, I figured I’d only need one tray. That was an option, it turned out, but it wouldn’t have saved much money – only around two months, or £450. On top of that, the results would be worse, as the two sets wouldn’t line up as neatly. I figured if I’m spending a few thousand on this, there’s not much point of quibbling over £450.
Side note: try and get somewhere that will cap costs like mine has. Sometimes teeth are stubborn and refuse to move, and that means you might need more trays than originally estimated. If that’s the case with me, I won’t pay more than the £2,925 I’ve already agreed to spend, no matter how long it takes.
The trays aren’t painful, but they can be annoying
The best way I can describe wearing Invisalign for 22 hours a day is a feeling of a constant pressure on your teeth. This is far more obvious when you change to a new set of smaller trays, so the best advice is to put fresh sets in last thing at night alongside an Ibuprofen – that should make any discomfort vanish by the morning.
You might get a lisp at first
Your tongue (or at least mine – bit presumptuous of me to make assumptions about your tongue) is very used to the shape of the mouth, and putting plastic inside it disrupts things. As such, you may find that your speech is affected.
My speech is basically fine now, but I was advised to talk a lot to colleagues in the first week to try and grow used to my new life. As a freelancer, that proved difficult as my only colleagues are two cats.
Alcohol can be problematic
You know I said you can only take the trays out for two hours a day, and that’s supposed to involve all your eating and drinking time? Yeah, that includes alcohol: because the trays are transparent, anything but water can stain them making your teeth look awful. Coffee and red wine are especially bad for this.
I’ve found that using a straw kind of gets around the problem, but it’s a bit of a cheat and makes you look very weird. Before the Covid-19 lockdown, I was carrying a metal straw into every pub, which makes it look like I’ve mistaken pints of cider for milkshake.
You might lose weight
This isn’t just because drinking booze is an almighty pain, either. Taking the trays out and putting them back in is annoying: first you have to dig them off with your nails, then you need to carefully store them away in the carry case. Once done eating, you have to rinse the trays, clean your teeth and squeeze them back on again.
If you’re a regular snacker, this might just stop you.
So there you are. If you’re tempted and have any questions about Invisalign, do feel free to get in touch. I’m six trays down, and am due to pick up the next three sets on Thursday. I’ll be done in January 2021.
*A position that has been revised in the age of Covid 19 with freelance budgets being slashed everywhere. Fortunately I was overpaying into my tax account for some time, so was able to pay myself a bonus on 6 April… which will mostly be spent on funding the remaining nine months of Invisalign.
So hey, if you want to commission me to make those payments a bit easier to swallow, you know how to reach me.