My Invisalign Journey (3): Getting my aligners!

You should definitely check out my previous posts about my consultation and my first appointment before reading this!

Have you done that? If not, reread the first sentence. Good? Okay, let’s keep the story rolling!

So we left off with Dee (my technician, remember?) telling me that the office would let me know when my aligners were ready. I would have to wait anywhere between 3 to 6 weeks. Well, during the sixth week, I actually called the office just to inquire about my aligners. I wasn’t sure if maybe they had tried calling me and for some odd reason it didn’t connect. Or maybe the voicemail didn’t work. Or maybe they called the wrong Holliday…you never know!

Dee, friendly as usual, told me that Dr. Jacquie had taken a look at my 3D images, made some tweaks to them, and that this was why it was taking a bit longer for my aligners to come in. Okay, as long as everything was running smoothly, I could wait an extra few days.

Lo and behold, the next day, Dee called me back to tell me my aligners were ready!!!!! I made an appointment the next day and went straight to the office after work. I didn’t care that I would probably be late to my grad school class. This held much higher priority.

I was so excited to get to the office and finally get to start my treatment. It was Halloween, so all of the technicians were dressed up in different Angry Bird costumes which was pretty comical. I updated Dee on my wedding plans and showed her some pictures of my dress; she had shown me a picture of hers during my consultation. She said it was gorgeous and we kept talking about weddings, but it was hard to make serious conversation with her in that costume.

After that, another Angry Bird-esque technician led me to a room to show me my 3D images, how my teeth and bite would change, and to explain everything about the aligners (proper wear/care/etc). She told me that Dr. Jacquie actually ordered for me to have a couple more aligners than originally thought. But she also said that I would be able to keep them in for a shorter period of time; so instead of wearing each aligner for 2 weeks, I would be able to wear them for about 10 days each. So it wasn’t a terrible adjustment or extreme addition of time, but man, are my teeth screwed up or what?

She pulled up my images that had been taken the last time I was there, and then showed how, with the aligners, my teeth would shift and re-align into a beautiful configuration. She showed me views from the front of both top and bottom teeth, so this is how my smile would look eventually. She then showed aerial views of the top and then the bottom teeth; it was amazing to see how crooked my teeth and jaw started and then how perfectly straight and rounded they were by the end!

My online account with Dr. Jacquie’s office actually has these images and shows the progression, like a little movie! I even have the option to share on Facebook or send a link to someone who would actually care to see it. But instead, I took 4 screenshots of each view (front view and aerial views of both bottom and top) to give you an idea of the progression. The pictures show what my teeth look like at the beginning (aligner 1), how they will look in the middle of treatment (aligners 17 and 30), and what the final product will look like (aligner 46).

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Front view

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Bottom teeth aerial view

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Top teeth aerial view

How freaking cool is that?! I watched the video about 5 times in a row for each view…and got so excited every time it got to the end!

The images at the office actually showed the attachments that will be put in place on my teeth for the rubberbands to fix my bite. I kind of freaked out a bit because the computer showed huge red pieces on my teeth. Umm you know I’m getting married in August, right? Oh, and, I also interact with people on a daily basis. So huge red things on my teeth will not exactly work for me.

“Don’t worry, I know the screen shows them as red, but they’re actually going to be tooth colored, so they won’t be noticeable.” Phew.

After she showed me these images, she took out my aligners from their little plastic bag and kind of explained the basics of how they are each labeled in case I mix them up. My top and bottom teeth are extremely different, so I have no trouble deciphering which is which, but I guess it was good to know. They also have the aligner number on them, so if all of my aligners at some point were to end up in a big pile, I would be able to group them with their corresponding aligner number.

She helped me pop in the bottom, had me pop in the top, and then had me pop them out to make sure I knew how to do it. It was kind of awkward and difficult because they were kind of tight, but other than that it was fine. I popped both back in and felt like a linebacker with a huge mouthguard in my mouth.

I know they’re clear and they aren’t as thick and huge as a sports mouthguard, but it was so foreign that I felt like my cheeks were all puffed out. She told me that it was going to feel weird at first but no one would really notice except me. “When you smile, they only make your teeth look shiny. Other than that, no one will notice.”

She went through the cleaning procedure, rules about not eating or drinking anything (except water) while they were in my mouth, and what to do when I progressed to the next aligner. She told me not to throw any of my aligners away.

“When you finish with a set of aligners and are ready to move on to the next set, clean the old ones really well and throw them back in the plastic ziplock back that they come in. This way, if for some reason your teeth do shift back a bit at any point, you can match up your teeth to one of the sets of aligners and wear them again to get them back to where they should be.” That makes sense!

During this entire spiel, my tongue was having a field day running along the smooth plastic of my aligners. I know that’s weird, but they were just so smooth! Plus, my mouth became really dry because A) I had rushed there after work, B) I was excited, C) I kept breathing out of my mouth because I felt like I couldn’t keep my mouth closed. Now, it’s not that they are thick or bulky or anything, but it was just a huge difference from what I was used to, so it felt like I couldn’t keep my mouth closed, if that makes sense. If not, oh well.

I was nervous about talking too; I remember one of my friends talking about how her aligners made her lisp a bit at first. “You may talk a little funny in the beginning, but your tongue will get used to them so it won’t be a problem.”

She sent me on my way with my first three sets of aligners, a couple tooth brushes, a travel toothpaste, and two cases for my aligners. I was very self-conscious because my mouth felt so awkward, so smiling was weird because I had no idea what I looked like.

Dee greeted me at the front desk again, asked how they felt, and set me up for my next appointment. I was told that I would be fitted for the attachments for the rubberbands at the next appointment, as well as receiving the next three sets of aligners.

So look forward to my next post about my first week with the aligners; I’ll give my first impressions, any complaints, as well as tips and pointers about Invisalign.

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My Invisalign Journey (2): Consultation and First Appointment

If you haven’t already done so, read my first post about my Invisalign journey here!

So now that I had my consultation scheduled, I was really pumped. Normally the consultation would be free, which is great. However, mine was $75 since I did not have a panoramic X-ray of my mouth taken within the past year (or ever).

So when I walked in for my consultation, I met the technician (let’s call her Dee seeing as I don’t know how cool it would be to actually use names other than Dr. Jacquie. And Holliday.) that I had corresponded with over email and phone, and she was just as pleasant in person. I learned that she was planning her wedding for next September, so we bonded over that; we talked about planning and dresses and all that good stuff. She took my panoramic X-ray and then brought Dr. Jacquie to see me.

Now I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about Dr. Jacquie. Although all of the press about her was great, I was unsure as to whether she would be some fake and impersonal woman. I mean, who knows? Maybe she let the fame (she was featured on The Tyra Banks Show) and recognition (she’s an Elite Preferred Provider and in the top 1% of North American providers) get to her head.

But I was pleasantly proved wrong! The moment she walked into the room, she said she was glad to finally meet me, congratulated me on my engagement, and she was completely genuine! And she had a great smile herself.

Plus, she used creamsicle flavored gloves when she felt around my teeth and gums. Bonus!

She said that I had great teeth, my X-ray looked perfect, and they were going to not only straighten my teeth, but I had a pretty bad overbite. “You hide it well because your front top teeth are pushed back, so there isn’t the obvious gap between the top and bottom teeth.” She said it almost as a compliment…I was tempted to say ‘thank you.’ I mentioned that I had jaw pain and clicking a lot and she said that my bad bite is most likely the reason. Well, cool.

But I guess it could be worse. I could look like this dog with a crazy overbite.

So overall, my treatment would be 18 months; the first 6 months were mostly just to straighten and align my teeth. She said that they would be beautifully straight for my wedding in August! Then the last 12 months were going to focus on fixing my bite. She even explained to me how my bite had formed so unevenly using one of the fake sets of top and bottom teeth in her office. She was very clear and thorough about it and how the treatment would fix this.

Now, ironically, to fix my bite, she told me I would have to wear rubberbands connecting my top and bottom jaws. I have to say, I’m not as excited about the rubberbands as I might have been say back in middle school. I wonder if they make glow-in-the-dark ones…

They went over the price once my treatment plan was explained, including overall price and monthly payments. Now obviously everyone’s treatment cost is different based upon the length of time and necessary work. My whole treatment was going to be $7500 because of the extensive amount of time with my jaw needing fixing. They could just straighten my teeth, but without the bite alignment, the teeth wouldn’t sit correctly and this would compromise how straight my teeth would be in the end and could ultimately make my jaw pain worse.

She also said that since I was getting married, they would include a whitening treatment so that my teeth looked extra gorgeous for my wedding. And, they were going to give me an extra set of my last aligners so that I didn’t have to buy a whole separate set of retainers at the end of my treatment. Great!

I didn’t make the decision to go ahead right then and there; I wanted to talk it over with Tom before I just said, “Yeah, I’ll spend $7500 on myself.” They told me it was fine, that I could just call them after I had made the decision. So Tom and I talked and agreed that it would be worth the investment. I called the office right away and scheduled an appointment to create my aligners.

Fast forward one week to my first official appointment. Dee brought me into another room this time with a large computer-like contraption. This machine was going to take pictures of my teeth from all angles and create a 3D image of them. From these 3D images, Dr. Jacquie would determine how each tooth needed to be shifted, and how my bite would be fixed. The aligners would then be made using these images. (This picture is not mine, but that is the machine and how the images look during the procedure.)

How cool is that?! The procedure was a bit uncomfortable for a few reasons. First, it blows out cool air the entire time to prevent the camera from fogging up, so it dries your mouth out like crazy. Plus, I have some sensitive parts of my teeth and gums, so there were times when I wanted to cry out in pain because the cool air was killing me. Finally, your mouth has to be open uncomfortably wide for an extended period of time while they get every angle of every tooth. The molars were a killer to get good pictures of.

But it was cool seeing my two sets of teeth as 3D images on the screen when she was finished. It was annoying because they looked even more crooked and uneven without my skin to cover them up. But then again, they will be straight and pretty soon enough; that’s why I was there!

She then took a bunch of pictures of my teeth and bite with an old-fashioned (old-fashioned in comparison to the large contraption I just had prodding my mouth) digital camera. I assume those will be the “before” shots for the before-and-after pictures. I can’t wait to see how much my teeth change! 

Dee said that it would take anywhere from 3-6 weeks to get the first three sets of aligners, but as soon as they arrived they would call me and get me an appointment so I could start my treatment ASAP.

Next post will talk about getting my aligners; I’ll include the actual 3D images of my teeth, too! Get excited! I know I am!

My Invisalign Journey (1): Yes to Invisalign and Finding a Provider

I started using my first set of Invisalign liners yesterday! I figured I would document my journey with them so maybe I can help someone decide they want to give them a whirl. And also because I’m so pumped to see my teeth and bite transform and improve and become beautiful!!

So let’s start from the beginning: my choice to get Invisalign and the process of finding a provider.

I’ve been wanting braces since I was in middle school. Back then, everyone was getting them. But they were expensive and I never had dental insurance, so it was not an option. I guess I would say my teeth aren’t horribly crooked, but they aren’t straight. And my two front top teeth are noticeably larger than my other teeth because of the crooked way they are positioned.

Aside from their purpose in straightening teeth and correcting bites, the other great thing about those braces were the fun rubberbands. Do you remember how cool the rubberbands seemed as a kid? I was always jealous when one of my friends came to school with a new set of colored rubberbands! They usually coincided an upcoming holiday (green and red for Christmas) or they were the person’s favorite color. And don’t even get me started on the glow-in-the-dark ones!

And then, in high school, people started getting their metal braces taken off, revealing straight teeth and beautiful smiles. As if the rubberbands weren’t enough, the end product of years with braces made me even more jealous.

Since middle and high school are deemed “normal” times to have metal braces, after graduating from high school, the idea of metal braces was out of the question for me. I know there were those “tooth-colored” ceramic braces and they have come a long way over the years, but they still weren’t ideal.

I remember a teacher in elementary school with these “clear” braces, but they actually made her teeth look really yellow. And they still had the metal wire, so there really was no concealing the fact that she had braces. Nowadays the ceramic braces come with white wires to make them less noticeable (see comparison below) but they’re still kind of obvious.

Luckily within the past 10 years, the creation and improvement of clear aligners makes straight teeth without metal or an off-white appearance an option.

Except it’s still expensive. I have encountered a few people throughout the years who have been able to afford the multi-thousand dollar service and have said that it was totally worth every penny. But realistically I just could not afford it. Other than improving my self-confidence, they didn’t seem necessary.

But through the years, I knew that I wanted to have straight teeth for my future wedding, whenever that actually happened. So when I got engaged this summer, it was time to seriously contemplate whether I was going to take the plunge and get Invisalign. Tom and I talked about it and agreed that I should do it, so I began doing my research of local Invisalign providers.

“Coincidentally,” Groupon actually sent me a deal for a certain amount off an Invisalign treatment. As tempting as that was, I figured it would be a good idea to look further into this “deal”. I found a bunch of negative reviews and “buyer bewares” from people:

  • the provider offering the discount was not a recognized Invisalign provider (Invisalign “trained” instead of “certified”)
  • the provider offering the discount was new to the field and was pretty much trying to get more patients
  • treatment might not even use Invisalign liners
  • provider might try to push other services before actual Invisalign treatment is allowed

Check out this article I found about avoiding Groupons for Invisalign treatment. Among other things, the author explains that “it’s illegal for orthodontists and dentists to engage in fee-splitting activities…”

So I decided against the Groupon thing; these are my teeth and I don’t want to mess with them just to save money. So I went to the Invisalign website and looked at New York City providers. Providers are rated based on how many Invisalign patients they have treated (Elite, Premier, Preferred, and General Provider) as well as whether they are included in the top 1% of North America Invisalign providers.

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I chose one of the best: Dr. Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling. She is an Elite Preferred Provider as well as in the top 1% of providers, so I figured if anyone could give me a great smile, she could. Plus she had multiple offices throughout the NYC and Long Island area, so I figured that multiple locations meant that this lady knew her stuff and was doing really well in the world of orthodontia.

Further research of her proved my assumptions: everyone had nothing but great things to say about her, her team, and their successful treatments.

I contacted her office and scheduled my consultation with her midtown office. So (as long as I felt good about Dr. Jacquie and her team, the price wasn’t too extreme, and it seemed do-able) I had a provider!

My next post will be about my consultation and first official appointment, so keep your eyes posted!