Like the average American teen, I wore braces. And the day those metal tracks came off was the best day of my teenage life. I was so fixated on my newly straight teeth and perfect smile, however, that I forgot one major post-treatment must; wearing my retainer like my life depended on it. I’m almost positive that I only wore my retainer overnight (never in public, despite a mouth full of metal on display for two years prior) for about a month before I decided that my perfectly positioned teeth would remain in place for years to come. My parents didn’t stress its importance, but I also didn’t follow my doctor’s orders to wear it consistently into adulthood.
The foolish choice that I made as a senseless teen has led to shifted teeth that are crooked and by no means would fall into the “perfect smile” category. I’m so self-conscious about smiling too wide these days for fear that my crowded bottom teeth will peek out that I dread taking a photo and selfies are out of the question (except for a rare one taken at Governors Ball where I kept my mouth shut).
Call me vain, but it’s always bummed me out that I let all that time and effort go to waste, not to mention the number of awkward years I spent wearing metal braces with glasses. For years, I’ve gone back and forth with the idea of giving myself a second chance at achieving a perfect smile with an Invisalign treatment, but I felt guilty about taking the plunge — like I didn’t deserve to have straight teeth again because I messed up my previous treatment. But this spring, while everyone started hitting the gym for swimsuit season, I was focusing on finding out more about Invisalign to finally commit. And apparently, I’m not alone in my quest for the perfect smile for a boost in my confidence.
A recent study conducted by Kelton Global and Invisalign found that for women, looking and feeling confident goes beyond being in shape for the summer. While 25 percent of women surveyed wanted to improve their bodies this summer, 21 percent wanted a better smile. Maybe I needed a little validation, but after digesting this information and extensive Google searches of “The best orthodontist that does Invisalign in NYC,” I was sitting in Dr. Jenny Zhu’s chair at Manhattan Bridge Orthodontics on a Monday morning in May.
I told her about my past experience with braces and my noncompliant ways. She assured me that while Invisalign will take commitment on my end (22 hours a day!), being able to see results in between visits would help motivate me to stay on track and stick with the treatment plan. Zhu also explained that there are health benefits to straight teeth — it’s not just about vanity. In my case, crowding leads to swollen gums that can lead to periodontal disease. When teeth are aligned properly, however, gums are more uniform and teeth are easier to clean, which makes for stronger and healthier teeth.
A short X-ray session and 3-D mouth scan later, my minor anxiety about finally committing to this was at ease. The 3-D scanner was the longest part — all of 10 minutes — and felt like a large toothbrush with a solid tip. Zhu carefully placed the magical wand over each tooth and crevice of my gums to get an exact replica of my mouth on a TV-size screen. I cringed at the sight of my crooked teeth on display, but she assured me that in 9 to 12 months, my smile would be transformed. We discussed my treatment plan and Zhu was awesome about answering all of my questions, but reminded me that I must commit for real. She stressed that the clear trays would need to be worn at all times (except during meals) and that I would come in every couple months to graduate to the next tray.
Invisalign works by using a series of customized clear, and virtually invisible, aligners to gradually shift teeth into place based on your doctor’s treatment plan for your needs. It’s a modern take on braces and is ideal for adults with a busy lifestyle because they are conveniently removable and discreet. Both my mom and sister have jumped on the Invisalign bandwagon and their smiles are stunning after just 7 months of wear. They both agree that seeing results week after week without a mouth full of metal is worth the 22 hour-a-day commitment.
The wear time sounds a bit intimidating given my past, but I know the results will be totally worth it — especially after waiting so long to go through with this. Also, knowing that in about a year I’ll be smiling bigger than ever has me feeling more confident already and booking my appointment to pick up my first tray means there is no turning back.