Wednesday, April 4, 2018

BRACES TO INVISALIGN: An orthodontist's wife's journey towards her best SMILE

From "snaggle tooth" to a better smile...with metal braces

I never had braces as a child and married a man who was heading off to dental school for four years with a two year stint to follow for his master's degree in orthodontics so I needed to represent the brand. You can kind of see what I mean by looking at the following picture of me with my future husband and his cousin. I had lots of crowding. So much so that my canine didn't have room to descend which caused a snaggle tooth look on the upper right side of my smile. Note that I also wasn't biting down correctly due to the malocclusion (i.e. irregular contact of opposing teeth in the upper and lower jaws).

Dental students and their wives could be treated for free at his dental school's orthodontic program, back in the day, so I made my way down to the school to get bracketed up! I had to have 4 bicuspids pulled due to my age, and the overcrowding. See how excited I looked as a 24-year-old in braces? 

The orthodontic resident treating my case was about to graduate so we stopped treatment before I was actually finished. My husband put braces back on me for a short time after he graduated from orthodontic school, gave me a Hawley retainer for my upper teeth, and placed a permanent retainer on my lower arch. 

I hate to admit it but I was "that patient" who stopped wearing their removable retainer after a few years of nightly wear. Luckily for me, the lower retainer, in conjunction with some random small spaces between a few of my teeth, kept my teeth fairly stable. 

Years later, I watched my orthodontist hubby create the most beautiful, full arch smiles. I mean...he took our daughter Brooke from this...

to this...

I wanted a fuller smile like the ones on many of his patients and would randomly ask him about tweaking my teeth. I mean, my husband is a highly respected orthodontist who gets rave reviews from former patients. But although most kids love the prestige of wearing braces and changing colors with their elastics, I wasn't sure I wanted to be a 50+ year old back in metal brackets. 

My husband is one of the most technologically-minded orthodontists and is always game to try out products that can make the orthodontics a better experience for his patients. He is super smart, graduating at the top of his class, and is a well-known lecturer and blogger about orthodontics. He, in fact, has one of the most read orthodontic blogs now on the Internet:

The Jorgensen Orthodontics Blog

I mention his expertise because he was one of the first orthodontists to try clear aligner therapy, typically known as Invisalign, back when it first came out. By the year 2001, 75% of orthodontists were trained in the Invisalign system and most HATED IT! Orthodontists, who get two years of specialized training after 3-4 years of dental school, just didn't get as good of results as they did using traditional braces. 

Over time, Invisalign improved. They started instructing orthodontists to add "attachments" to the teeth, which are tooth colored bumps. Attachments are like handles for the orthodontist to use in conjunction with the plastic, to move the teeth. Here is a blog post that explains the "why" you need attachments much better than I could:

Why Do I Need Attachments Glued to My Teeth for Invisalign?

Those without that extra two years of orthodontic school generally just put attachments where the computer software tells them to which can be VERY BAD. Clear aligners are just tools to straighten the teeth. An orthodontic specialist is fully trained in using all kinds of tools to give you a beautiful smile. My husband has had to take over MANY clear aligner cases from dentists who don't understand the mechanics of the bite in order to straighten teeth (you don't become anywhere near proficient in orthodontics during dental school). 

"Do it yourself" aligner companies can be even worse than going to someone who didn't specialize in orthodontics after dental school. There has been case after case of people ending up worse off going this route because they wanted to save a few bucks. Some can't bite down normally and others have actually lost teeth! Mail order braces companies have you sign waivers saying you will go to your general dentist to check on the health of your teeth and will then have you make your own model up to mail in. As of today, they don't take an x-ray to check root health before sending you aligners. This is NOT GOOD. If you choose to go that route, really do your research and don't trust the individual companies social media pages for such info! 

With the changes Invisalign has made to their product and software, my husband has been able to use their tool to give his patients more choices when straightening their teeth. He has more confidence in what he can do with clear aligner therapy with such advances which is why I have asked him for a smile tune up using Invisalign.

NEXT UP: "Why Go to an Orthodontist for Such an Easy Case?"