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I’ve Been Wearing Aligners for 3 Months, and the Verdict’s Out

Orthodontic treatments are a huge pain. Anyone who’s been subjected to wearing braces can say so. Many people would say that receiving these treatments is a privilege—and don’t get me wrong, it is! Braces are really expensive, but they’re equally inconvenient, so those who need them and can afford them (or have accessible healthcare that includes them as a benefit) know how annoying they can be. I was really scared of getting them myself. I sought out many alternatives until I stumbled upon invisible aligners. 

At first, I was skeptical. How is a hunk of teeth-shaped plastic going to put these teeth back into place? It seemed inefficient to me. My perspective shifted completely by the time I was sitting next to the orthodontist, when he’d shown me diagrams of how my teeth would move in the following months if I decided to undergo the treatment. He convinced me, and now, months later, I can look back and say I made the right decision. 

 

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Invisible aligners work similarly to braces; they move your teeth into the correct position and can be used to fix minor jaw and bite problems. Aligners aren’t usually recommended for treating complex dental cases, nor are they appropriate for kids because their teeth are still growing and moving around. The main difference, and it is a big one, is that you can take them out at any time. Well, you can, but you really shouldn’t. I’ll get back to this soon. 

Another notable difference is that, ironically, they’re barely noticeable, so if you don’t want people to know that you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment, there’s no need to worry!. In fact, I’ve only started noticing people who wear them around me after I started wearing them myself. I doubt they all began at the same time as I did—they’re just that well-concealed. 

The first pairs were probably the worst to deal with. They felt very tight on my teeth and the pain at night was kind of unbearable, at least during the first nights. Afterward, my mouth got accustomed to having pieces of plastic inside of it almost 24/7. It truly is a weird sensation at first. Now, I barely notice them, and I even feel a bit strange when I have them off for too long. 

Most professionals and websites recommend wearing them between 22-24 hours a day. In my experience, this all depends on how slow or fast your treatment is going and how soon you wish to finish. Since retainers are usually replaced every two weeks, you’re going to want to be diligent with those 22-24 hours. However, if it so happens that you’re going to wear a pair of retainers for more than 2 weeks, you can get away with wearing them for a little less time every once in a while. Your teeth really won’t shift back to their original positions unless you’re truly being irresponsible with your treatment.

I only take mine out to eat and to drink anything that isn’t water. The only exception I’ve made is for alcohol that isn’t colored. The aligners stain easily, and they can get a bad smell if you don’t make sure to brush your teeth and floss every time before putting them back on. I’m serious about this, you’ll quickly regret not keeping your teeth clean. 

On that note, getting aligners actually helps you develop great dental hygiene if you didn’t already have a rigorous habit of keeping your mouth clean. Assuming you eat your daily three meals and you make sure to brush and floss appropriately, you probably won’t get a cavity ever again if you retain the habit after your treatment is done. 

 

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My teeth have already begun to change. They’re more aligned with one another. Some are closer to each other, and some are farther apart. My teeth are very white right now, probably due to the excess of brushing. Whenever I smile, I feel much more confident. I even feel less tension in my jaw, which was one of the main reasons I decided to begin this orthodontic treatment. 

There were some mistakes I made along the way, though. The first week, I broke my retainer because I wasn’t aware of how soft they were. I bit into them, broke them, and had to get them replaced. Another thing I had to get used to was carrying around a box to keep them safe when I eat out. One time, I didn’t, and they fell on the floor at one point because I wasn’t really paying attention to storing them appropriately. 

Since I’m very diligent with the treatment (save for the few mistakes I’ve made), I carry around a small bag with the box, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and some floss. If I have it with me, I never have an excuse- unless there’s no bathroom, or the bathroom’s too crowded and I don’t have space or time to brush my teeth. 

Getting used to brushing my teeth in public bathrooms was really one of the strangest experiences of my latest orthodontic journey thus far. I’m not sure if people are ever weirded out by it, or if they understand right away. On this note, I always suggest leaving the sink as clean as possible and do not leave any toothpaste anywhere. Leave it looking like no one was washing their mouth there, ideally. 

Overall, it’s been much more satisfying than I expected, and I think I can last a total of almost two years worth of treatment in peace. I think that, had I chosen to wear braces, I would probably be complaining much more and eating way less food. You don’t really have to give up sticky, sweet, or any kind of food with aligners—just keep up the good dental hygiene. 

I kind of wish I had started my treatment earlier, but one of the biggest downsides is that they’re almost as expensive as braces, or even worth more, in some cases. Since my dental problem can actually be treated more efficiently with aligners instead of braces, my treatment would have actually cost more had I chosen to stick with braces. 

Regardless, unless you have decent healthcare, it is an additional cost that not many people can pay for. I guess I’m just taking advantage of the fact that I’m still in college, have saved up a bit, am working, and have chosen to do something for my health instead of wasting my money on a more expensive phone, a gym membership I won’t truly commit to, or unnecessary and frequent visits to expensive restaurants. To each their own, though! Many people had braces as kids because their parents could actually afford it. That wasn’t my case, so as an adult, it also feels nice to do something exclusively for my health. 

 

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The experience has been worthwhile, but if you actually don’t need any orthodontic treatment, you can relax and not think about any of this. If you do, though, ask your dental provider about aligners. You won’t regret it.

Luis is a 24-year-old writer, editor and journalist recently graduated from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras. He majored in Creative Writing and Communications and has bylines published under Her Campus, Pulso Estudiantil and El Nuevo Día. During his final year of college, Luis worked as Senior Editor for Her Campus at UPR, Editor in Chief of Digital News at Pulso Estudiantil and interned at El Nuevo Día. He seeks to portray the stories of societies, subcultures and identities that have remained in the dark. Check all of his stories out at Muckrack! https://muckrack.com/luis-alfaro-perez
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