From The Doctor Chair to The Dental Chair – A Unique Perspective
As a dental practitioner administering Invisalign in my practice for nearly 20 years, I know it can be a terrific orthodontic approach to predictably straightening your teeth.
However, I never knew firsthand what an Invisalign patient experience was until now.
Now, as an Invisalign patient myself, I have the unique perspective of knowing what an Invisalign treatment entails from both sides of the equation.
I’m hoping this blog series will help give unique insight and perspective to anyone contemplating this procedure for themselves.
Welcome to The Invisalign Patient Experience – Through the Eyes of a Dentist!
Why Don’t You Practice What You Preach?
When I was in my last year of school, I listened to a physiology lecture from a practicing physician. He was morbidly obese and smoked during the address.
I kept on thinking and wondering. Why wasn’t he picking up and listening to what he was saying?
He knew that his lifestyle was heading him down the road to some serious health problems.
Why didn’t he take his own advice?
Well, some years later, I asked myself the same question.
I had developed a tooth issue which was the result of crowded teeth.
It was more than a tooth issue. It had ramifications to the gum and bone structure around my teeth.
Sure, I am a great brusher and flosser, and disease was less of an issue with me than with other non-dental people.
That being said, I was still beating up certain teeth. I knew that they would begin to chip and crack. The excessive wear was already there. I wanted to stop this.
Crowded lower front teeth
I advise my patients all the time about crowded lower front teeth and what happens. I recommend fixing the issue before it becomes a severe problem. I needed to address this in my own mouth.
I finally made time for myself and began orthodontic treatment with Invisalign. As I mentioned earlier, I have used Invisalign treatment in my office for close to 20 years. Now I am on the other end of the treatment so to speak.
I now have aligners (that’s what those plastic things that move your teeth are called) on my top and bottom teeth.
I started to feel what it was like to be sitting in the dental chair, not in the doctor chair.
Sharing my Invisalign patient experience and perspective
So I thought that I would share some of those experiences, feelings, and issues that my patients have.
This time it is coming from a dentist perspective, and I hope to share what is going on and how I cope with those issues.
I hope that this may help some of you who are also going through orthodontic treatment.
For those of you contemplating this treatment, it will give you a glimpse into what lies ahead and how to successfully navigate the path.
An appointment for Invisalign® attachments
I have just completed my first week of therapy. Let me tell you how it went for me.
It began last Monday with an appointment in which these little plastic projections were applied to my teeth.
These buttons are designed so the clear plastic aligners effect movement of the teeth.
The size and position of the attachments will control the movements and potentially their timing too.
I sat in the chair and had plastic retractors placed to hold my lips and cheeks away from my teeth.
The technician looked at my teeth and remarked as to how clean my teeth were. I rolled my eyes and thought, “what were you expecting.” Fortunately, I did not verbalize my thoughts.
Applying the Invisalign® attachments
The teeth that had the projections (officially called attachments) were cleaned. They were then dried and bonded in preparation for the attachments.
All of this was done with the cheek retractors in my mouth and cotton stuffed all over to prevent contamination of the teeth with my saliva.
The attachments were connected to the teeth, and I was given my first set of aligners. They snapped into place and really felt weird.
Two facts about wearing the Invisalign® aligners
I knew two essential facts about wearing the aligners.
- First of all; wear them all the time except for eating and cleaning of the teeth. This should be 22-23 hours a day. They only work when you wear them. Night time wearing alone will not work.
- The second fact is never to put them down unless they are in some type of case. The Invisalign aligners are clear and easily lost.
Okay so far so good.
Eating with Invisalign® attachments
A few hours later, I wanted to eat something.
I needed to get these plastic things off of my teeth.
I washed my hands and put my fingers in my mouth trying to find an edge to lift them up.
It is really much easier at first when I am in the dentist role and trying to remove them.
I tried this way and that way until I finally found a spot to start pulling it off. I knew what it felt like to lift an aligner out of the mouth, so I pulled without uneasiness, and it came out.
I spent some time going through the discovery exercise on the other aligner with success.
I ran my tongue over my teeth, and the attachments felt like I found something stuck on my teeth.
I didn’t like that feeling as it was very strange to me.
I then began lunch.
Accidentally biting my lips and cheeks
As I started to chew, my lower left attachment pushed out my lip ever so slightly. This was just enough for me to catch my lip with my upper teeth and bite myself.
I did this once and then again.
I was forced to chew more slowly and deliberately.
This is probably not a bad thing in and of itself.
Of course, once you bite yourself and your lip or cheek swells just a little bit causes you to bite yourself some more.
I can’t tell you how many thousands of times that I have said that to my patients. Now it was more than words. It was a reality to me. I just needed to be more careful.
Putting the aligners back in
Okay, lunch is over.
Time to floss and brush and put the aligners back in.
Firstly I put in the upper set, and that was easy. Just line up the aligner with upper front teeth and snap into place.
The lower set was more of a challenge.
Just when I got it into position and pushed down firmly, my lip folded in and I nailed by the lip.
Of course, now I had a cut and was ready for a mouth sore to develop. Usually, trauma to the lips will result in a sore that takes a few days to heal.
I think that I just discovered a new diet.
Beat yourself up so that eating goes from a pleasure to a negative experience.
The crowning blow came from the inside edge of my lower aligner. I developed a canker sore (a small mouth sore) on the underside of my tongue. So now, not only was eating a pain(literally), so was the simple act of speaking. Every time my tongue moved it sent waves of pain through me.
How many more months do I have to do this?
Stay tuned for my thoughts on week 2 of this Invisalign Patient Experience – Through the Eyes of a Dentist!
Jeffrey Gross, DDS, FAGD is an Ohio licensed general dentist and is on the staff of Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine.