A cursory glance through the selfies on my Instagram feed throws up one common theme: I don’t smile with my teeth. I remember at a very early age realising my smile didn’t look like the smiles staring back at me from the pages of magazines or on TV.
I can’t remember exactly when I had to go into hospital for the operation on my gum, I think I was early teens. Still to this day I’m not exactly sure what the issue was but I know that there was a piece of gum that linked from the inside of my top lip through my front teeth and to the roof of my mouth. The result of this unnecessary sliver of gum was that I had a gap between my from teeth that you could slide a pound coin through. After the op, I was able to get train tracks to close the gap. Now look, I was very aware at a young age that I was not the prettiest kid or Madonna, and so I didn’t think I could pull off the gap. I never regretted the decision to shut it down. But even with the gap closed I still didn’t have a “Hollywood smile”.
For a long time I’ve felt like my teeth weren’t wide enough. I’m just not that happy with my smile, which sounds absurd, even comedian James Acaster has a sketch on his Netflix stand-up about not being happy with your smile and finding it absurd that on dentist forms it often says ‘On a scale of 1-10 how happy are you with your smile?’. I mean, you smile when you’re happy and yet my smile makes me unhappy. But for those who aren’t happy with their smile, you’ll get it. It’s like when you tell someone who likes cucumber that you hate it and they say it has no flavour. It has a flavour. It was a friend a good few years back who told me that you could expand your arch with braces, basically widening your teeth to fit your smile. Bingo, a solution.
Unfortunately, I’m a dreamer and so I spent a good three years thinking it through before taking action. It was during research for a Byrdie feature that I found myself in Dr. Rhona Eskander’s clinic to interview her on all the ways you can improve your smile, beyond the usual braces and whitening. She took one look at my own smile and said, “I can help you”. Take a scroll through Rhona’s Instagram feed and you can’t move for incredible before and afters of people who now have smiles they love. She’s a master, a dental guru, a smile whisperer. Before I knew it I had paid a £500 deposit and was booked into have moulds of my teeth made. Invisalign isn’t cheap, it costs from £2000 but Rhona does offer interest-free payment plans so you can split the cost over several months.
With Invisalign it’s worth knowing what you are getting yourself in for. Here are 7 things to know before embarking on the Invisalign journey.
1) Invisalign is More Than Straightening
Whilst everyone who opts for Invisalign generally needs and wants straighter teeth, Rhona tells me that Invisalign actually has an effect on the whole face. "People are noticing the anti-ageing effects of teeth, especially as knock-on effect of expanding your smile with arch expansion. If when you smile you notice two black corridors either side of your teeth, by widening your teeth you can soften the appearance of the nasolabial folds known as smile lines," says Dr. Eskander.
Rhona can also incorporate whitening and bonding (more on that later) into the process, so you end up with a smile that isn’t just straight but Hollywood straight, whilst all the time looking natural.
2) Try Invisalign Before You Buy
In the last couple of weeks Invisalign has created a selfie functionality on its website where you can take a picture of yourself and instantly see how Invisalign can improve your smile. When I signed on the dotted line for Invisalign this wasn’t available and I was doing it based on my trust of Rhona. To kicks things off you pay a deposit, as I mentioned I paid £500. This is to cover the cost for getting the moulds made, which are used to create the aligners that you will use during the process. From the moulds, Invisalign creates a video to show you exactly how your teeth will move during the process and what they will look like after. The moulds enable the team to create every aligner you will need during the process.
INVISALIGN IN ACTION
3) Have all the Relevant Checks
You need to have an X-Ray before to ensure your jaw and teeth are okay to go through the movement. It’s also worth booking a general dentist check and to have a hygienist appointment. I’m pretty sure I need to have a root canal in one of my teeth. I’m managing the sensitivity with Sensodyne and luckily it’s a tooth that isn’t being moved much by the aligners so it’s okay, but ensuring your teeth are in tip-top condition before the process is a very sensible thing to do.
4) The Aligners
The aligners come in pouches and you change them every fortnight. I need 26 different sets of aligners to get my teeth to the end result. The plastic aligners fit over your teeth and should be worn for 22 hours a day. That leaves you two hours to eat and drink anything other than water. Not a lot of time, which is why many people also notice weight loss as a side effect to Invisalign.
I have to carry a toothbrush and toothpaste with me when I’m eating out to clean my teeth and the aligners before putting them back in. There’s been a couple of occasions where I’ve forgotten my toothbrush and have had to put the aligners back in as is, and that’s just a bit gross.
The aligners come with a carry case and Cleaning Crystals. The carry case prevents you accidentally throwing away aligners that have been wrapped in napkins at restaurants (it happens) and the Cleaning Crystals are for deep cleaning the aligners during the fortnight. I also brush my aligners morning and night when I’m brushing my teeth and so far they have stayed pretty clean.
5) The Pain
When you put a new set of aligners in they feel tight and your teeth may feel sore. It all depends on your gum sensitivity and pain threshold as to whether you will need to arm yourself with Bonjela and Ibuprofen. I have both but, touch wood, have not had to use either. It’s not a painless process, your teeth are moving so expect some aches along the way. My teeth usually ache quite a lot for 24-36 hours after putting a new set of aligners in. They also tend to ache a little when I first wake up, but it’s not unbearable. Definitely nowhere near as bad as toothache or wisdom teeth coming through.
6) The Attachments
The attachments are small dots of dental bonding that are stuck firmly to some of your teeth. The aligners then fit over these raised areas. Rhona tells me that the attachments are there to help certain teeth move in a specific way. Like the aligners, they are pretty hard to spot but you definitely feel them. Straight after having them applied to my teeth it felt like I had gravel in my mouth. Eating with them for the first couple of days was tough as I kept biting my gums. My mouth soon adjusted and I’m, thankfully, not chowing down on the inside of my mouth anymore! FYI, the amount of attachments you have really depends on how you need your teeth to move, just go with it.
Rhona has recommended I get some Chewies, these are chewy rubber tubes that come in different flavours that you chew to help the aligner seat properly. When you first put a new set of aligners on they may not hug the teeth perfectly and the Chewies help. Use the Chewies and you’ll breeze through the process much quicker. I’ve ordered some off Amazon but because Amazon isn’t so big in the Netherlands I’m having to wait for them to arrive, so in the meantime I’m just chewing my top and bottom teeth together to help them seat.
It’s likely that I will have to have a permanent brace fixed at the back of my top and bottom teeth. This is a strand of wire attached to the teeth with dental bonding, that keeps them in place. Our teeth are constantly on the move, so while this is an extra expense it is worth it. I’ll then probably have to wear a retainer at night, forever. Sounds crazy but a retainer does just that, retains your teeth in their new position. And wearing a retainer at night after having worn Invisalign for 22 hours a day sounds like a piece of cake.
Invisalign is just one part of a smile renovation. Rhona is also an expert in whitening (from £390) and bonding (from £300 per tooth, she offers financing options for Bonding too so you can spread the cost interest-free). I’m definitely up for having my teeth whitened, and I’m toying with the idea of bonding. "Cosmetic Bonding is where white filler is added to the [bottom] edges of the teeth. It doesn't involve any drilling and it makes the edges look straighter. Bonding has become really popular [instead of veneers], a lot of bloggers and celebrities are getting it done because people have moved away from that fake Hollywood smile. They want it to look natural,” says Rhona.
Trouble is I’m pretty low-maintenance with my beauty routine and Rhona tells me, "Bonding is prone to chipping and staining, it involves constant maintenance. It’s like getting your highlights done or your Shellac done, it has to become part of your beauty maintenance regime. And the maintenance of bonding depends on your habits – if you drink coffee, tea, red wine, crusty bread then you may need maintenance more regularly.” Since my Invisalign journey is going to take around a year to complete, I’ve got time to think about it.
I’ll be sharing updates of my Invisalign process on here, but in the meantime check out Dr. Rhona Eskander’s Instagram feed to see her work and head to her website drrhonaeskander.com for more information.