Having second thoughts about adult orthodontia and my adult lifestyle
May 30, 2014 4:45 AM   Subscribe

I am in the early stages of getting invisalign for my not-very-crooked teeth and starting to have second thoughts about the lifestyle change involved for the year+ long commitment.... mostly as it relates to my consumption of coffee and non-water beverages in general. How bad is it, really?

I am in my late 20's, and while my top teeth are almost perfectly straight, my bottom teeth are slightly-to-somewhat crowded (this is a fairly good approximation), but have never bothered me at all aesthetically.

I have not always been the most diligent person about flossing and have some gum disease that is most problematic around these teeth. In the last year or so I have come to terms with the fact that these are the only teeth I will ever have and after having multiple cavities, I now brush and floss as much as I am supposed to. My gums have improved, including around my front teeth.

Starting several years ago, I have had several dentists mention orthodontia to me in relation to this crowding, especially as it affects my gums. In particular, one told me that he had similar crowding and now in middle age regrets not getting orthodontia at my age. All have made it clear that it is optional although they think it might be a good idea.

I was very gung ho about the whole thing until I started reading more of what the internet has to say about invisalign, and now I am starting to feel less confident about my ability to commit to this as well as the potential cavity outcomes related to having plastic over my teeth 22 hours a day. The party line is that they should be worn for 22 hours a day, and that only water can be consumed with the aligners in. How true is this really? Obviously you are not my orthodontist, who repeated this same thing to me yesterday. I like to eat leisurely and drink non-water beverages leisurely. While I probably only spend about an hour total a day in the process of eating, I probably drink coffee over at least 2 hours a day (while getting ready, while at work), like to drink a (non-brown) diet pop on occasion (ok, almost daily), and now that its summer I like to sit in the sunshine and slowly drink alcohol (beer usually, though also cocktails and occasionally white or red wine) with some regularity (weekendly). Will invisalign ruin this all for me? Can you consume non-sugary things with the retainers in? Will it stain them and/or rot your teeth? Is it ridiculous to spend this much money on something if I am already trying to figure out if I can skirt around the rules?

I am planning on going to a new (highly recommended dentist) to get a second opinion about this whole thing vis-à-vis my gums, but if its not totally necessary and its really going to be awful I'd rather aim to be an even better flosser and brusher than give up my life of occasional relaxed vice.
posted by anthropophagous to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Invisalign ex-patient here. You really shouldn't drink anything aside from water with the Invisalign in. Not only could it stain the material, but it will trap residue against your teeth (leading to increased chance of cavities) and it will make your breath smell bad. And you obviously MUST remove them before eating anything, which is annoying if you are a grazer.

Also, it's not just that you are making a lifestyle the commitment for the year or two that you are correcting your teeth. You will have to wear a retainer for life (to bed at least) if you want your teeth to stay corrected. I stopped wearing mine a few years after I finished Invisalign and my teeth very rapidly went back to their old crooked state. I wish I hadn't bothered doing it at all, frankly.
posted by joan_holloway at 4:52 AM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't have any experience with invisalign (I had traditional braces early in life) but as far as wearing a retainer afterwards - see if they will do a permanent one for your bottom teeth. 15 plus years later, I still havean unobtrusive piece of metal and a perfect bottom row.

My top teeth are no longer perfect because I couldn't be bothered with the retainer nightly. Though they are far better than they would have been naturally for me but that sounds like it might not be the case for you.
posted by cessair at 5:36 AM on May 30, 2014

Best answer: Might getting clear regular braces or lingual (tongue side) braces be options? You'd be trading off the ability to eat some things (taffy, popcorn) for the ability to drink more.
posted by Jahaza at 5:48 AM on May 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't have any experience with invisalign (I had traditional braces early in life) but as far as wearing a retainer afterwards - see if they will do a permanent one for your bottom teeth. 15 plus years later, I still havean unobtrusive piece of metal and a perfect bottom row.

Seconding this. Like many others, I didn't wear my retainer after my braces came off in childhood, but had a permanent one put in behind by bottom teeth. It's so unobtrusive that I frequently forget it's there. I'm now in my mid-30s, my bottom teeth are perfect, and my top teeth... aren't.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:59 AM on May 30, 2014

As someone with fairly crappy teeth who has had to have a few root canals, I say that you should pursue some sort of dental treatment if it can make your dental health more robust. I also agree that you really don't want to eat with the invisalign in. As a teenager, I had a similar clear plastic retainer and I used to try to eat and drink with it in and it was gross. Really gross.

I was fourteen, though. You're a grown-up and should have more self-control than a snotty fourteen year old!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:07 AM on May 30, 2014

I wear my invisalign only at night. I'm also in my third round of bottom aligners. In retrospect, I wish I'd gone with traditional braces.
posted by MichelleinMD at 6:30 AM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just finished my Invisalign treatment and now only wear my retainers at night. I'd do it all over again if I had to - I actually liked the way the plastic trays felt on my teeth. It was weirdly satisfying. Now, yeah, it might be a bit sore when changing to a new set of trays, but nothing unbearable or even that distracting.

I took my Invisalign trays off to drink anything other than water. Consequently, I found I was very much not wearing them 22 hours a day. I frequently found myself taking them off for hours at a time, having forgotten to put them back on after eating. Though I do feel bad about being so non-compliant, my teeth are no less straight than I wanted them to be. I was doing this for cosmetic reasons as well as concerns about my intense overbite wearing down the surface of my lower teeth, and I'm very satisfied with the results on both fronts.

I was diligent about brushing after every meal/every drink for about a month and then gave up. No new cavities sprung up, but I may have dodged bullets there.

I don't drink coffee, but I drink 4-6 cans of diet soda a day, always with my trays off. Drinking with the trays on not only increases your risk of staining your trays and rotting your teeth, but it actually feels less pleasant than enjoying the beverage sans trays.

One last note: I had an AWFUL speech impediment for the first two weeks of Invisalign use before I kind of magically adapted to my tongue's new neighbors. If this happens to you, don't fret, it's temporary.
posted by lizzicide at 7:00 AM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

is there any way using straws can help?
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 7:04 AM on May 30, 2014

Using straws does not help when drinking while wearing trays, in my experience. The liquid fills the mouth and makes its way under the trays immediately.
posted by lizzicide at 7:27 AM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I had Invisalign about three years ago and wore them for ~14 months. I drank Diet Coke like it was my job and never had a problem. I also drank water in conjunction, so that might have helped.

In addition to brushing your retainers every time you brush your teeth, use a denture tablet to clean them every three or so days and there won't be an issue about staining. (I don't drink coffee or red wine, those might be a horse of another color and necessitate a more frequent use of the tablets.) I was self conscious about brushing my teeth after lunch at work, so chewed on some sugarless gum for a few minutes.

I also didn't speed eat my food at lunch or dinner. I think what they are worried about is that your teeth might shift back when you aren't wearing them, or that you'd be more likely you will forget to put them back in. Be more cautious about leisurely eating when you are wearing a new set, and you'll probably be fine.

I loved Invisalign. People never noticed them unless I brought it up. They were fairly low maintenance, and cleaning them is actually easier than having to remove gunk from braces. I don't regret the decision to do them, and would do it again.
posted by gagoumot at 7:43 AM on May 30, 2014

I had invaslign, and did not wear the retainers like I was supposed to. As a result, my teeth went back to their old ways, but I consider that my own damn fault.

Yes, you really should not drink anything but water with them in, and you should not put them back on after eating until you've brushed your teeth (at least swish with water if you're in a bind). I thought I would want to skirt the rules on this, but to be honest, the thought of eating or drinking anything other than water with the retainers in was really unpleasant.

I kept mine clean by giving them a nightly soak for a few minutes in hydrogen peroxide while I brushed my teeth.

I had gingivitis at the time time I had my aligners. I was just extra diligent about brushing and flossing, and my orthodontist filed down the very tops of a few spots of the aligners that irritated my gums. I think you can also do it yourself with a metal nail file.
posted by inertia at 9:03 AM on May 30, 2014

This is tangential, but everyone is talking about having to wear a retainer at night after your treatment is over. If you're only having the Invisalign on your bottom teeth, then I'm almost certain that you can get a "lower lingual wire" instead of a retainer. It's basically a permanent retainer, a piece of wire that they bond to the back of your front teeth. Sounds weird but you don't notice it.
posted by radioamy at 9:07 AM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am in the midst of Invasalign right now, for almost exactly the same reasons you're heading there. I too drink coffee and red wine and take my sweet time with it. Here's how I've adapted.

First, I take them out whenever I eat or drink anything except water. I've added sparkling water to my routine for this reason, but not to a major degree. (That said, I have lost weight, which is probably from moving some of the wine to water. Reverse Jesus here, apparently.)

This means that I wear the braces way, way less than 22 hours a day. More like 14. To compensate, I wear them longer than 14 days, more like 16 or 18. I switch when they start to feel loose after wearing them, and not tight when I put them in after a several-hour stretch of not wearing them. (Or when they start to peel and the peeled-off bits irritate my mouth.) My orthodontist is totally cool with this, and my teeth have moved exactly as planned under this modified regimen.

Second, I am absolutely fanatical about brushing and flossing. I've sort of made it a game, like, See how much guck I can get out from between my teeth each time. This has been the biggest change for me, and it turns out that I like it. I like taking that little bit of time for myself, like the sweet smell of my breath, like looking at my ever-straightening teeth.

Third, I rinse the braces out as soon as they come out of my mouth, and whenever I take them out at home, I put them in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner with a tablet of Retainer Brite (available in big boxes from Amazon). They get shaken clean two to five times a day, and this has made a huge difference in their cleanliness over brushing them. (The trick is to place them in with the open side down so that the tooth side doesn't get abraded and start to peel.)

Like most wearers, I have several of the button attachments, and they're sharp. The braces protect my mouth from them, so I really don't like going without the braces for very long. This turns out to be a good way of remembering to put them back in (and to be motivated to do so).

In all, you sound just like me, and although these aren't the best thing I've ever done, I don't regret it at all, and I have had very few significant lifestyle changes. My teeth look great, and I'm only halfway through the process. I like that I can stop at any point when I think I've accomplished enough, and just ask my ortho to remove the buttons. So, I'd say go for it.
posted by Capri at 1:14 PM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

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