I’m six weeks into my Invisalign treatment (read this if you need to catch up on why I’m doing it) and despite the experience being relatively drama-free, so far, I’ve realised this week that never in my entire life have I felt such a permanent sense of mild-to-middling crossness. It’s a very low-key, subtle sort of cross – an almost imperceptible level of irritation that most people wouldn’t even notice – but still. It’s there and it almost never leaves me.
Before we continue, though, it’s important to note – especially for those who are considering Invisalign and might be put off – that I am not normal when it comes to dealing with minor annoyances in life. For some reason I have always seemed to have a heightened sense of awareness when it comes to the things in the world around me that are – or could potentially be – an irritation. You could almost say that I subconsciously try to find things to be cross with, so adept am I at stumbling across them. Unless I’m at home, which is so quiet that it’s like being in a sensory deprivation tank (I’m never moving ever again by the way) then you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll find something to annoy me. Someone in the supermarket with extra-squeaky trainers, a man on the train who hasn’t turned the keyboard clicks off on his iPhone, a gardener at a posh (supposedly relaxing) hotel who thinks it’s appropriate to use a leaf-blower at 8am.
Other people appear to be able to easily ignore these things and get on with their lives – they can blank out the fly that insists on batting itself against the window frame when you have thrown open the window for it to escape, they can live with the garden gate banging in the wind or the dishwasher beeping every eight minutes to tell you it’s done. I, on the other hand, cannot. I have to fix these perceived assaults on my person immediately otherwise I can go from mild annoyance to absolute apoplectic breakdown in the space of around four minutes. Obviously I’m British, so if the problematic occurrence involves another person then I would rather die than directly confront them about whatever it is they are doing – I just huff and sigh loudly until they get the message – but in almost all other scenarios I will take fast action to neutralise the threat to my calm and quiet existence.
Good God, if anyone was ever a good candidate for therapy.
So now that we’ve established how completely intolerant I am when it comes to outside irritations you can decide for yourselves how seriously to take the complaints I’m about to make about my Invisalign aligners…
Things That Annoy Me About Invisalign
1 – Pain.
You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve had no major pain with my aligners. Perhaps I was blessed with a high pain threshold to make up for the fact that my irritation threshold is so comically low or maybe my teeth just haven’t started shifting significantly yet: who knows. But I’ve only had two incidences where I’ve had to take a couple of paracetamol and lie down for a “Mummy has a headache” session. And to be quite honest, I love a “Mummy has a headache session”, especially if I don’t really have much of a headache. An illicit snooze in daylight hours? The children cared for by Great Uncle iPad? Bring it on.
The minor pain part though? A bit annoying. It’s just this continuous feeling of slight pressure all along my upper jaw and up the sides of my face. It makes me feel quite tired, as though I have the beginnings of PMT. Some days are worse than others, but it’s almost always there. I’ve had worse pain, however, from various tongue-sores and bitten lips and what have you, which has eased off a bit now that my mouth seems to know what it’s doing but at the start had me applying thick coats of Bonjela to the entire inside of my mouth.
2 – Changes to Speech.
The whole lisping/speech change thing that I was worried about? From an outsider’s perspective it’s not quite as bad as I thought it would be. Not that noticeable, apparently, unless nearly every one of my family members and friends are point-blank lying to me. Yes, an older aunt asked on the phone if I was drunk and my hairdresser said “oh, I thought you’d just developed a speech impediment” but apart from that…
From my perspective, however, I’m still not convinced. It’s not so much that I’m embarrassed by the way I sound, which is relatively clear and only a little bit lispy on repeated “s” sounds (don’t make me read that aloud), it’s more that I just find speaking with them in harder work. Tiring. I suppose my mouth must have to work more to form the same sounds I have been forming since childhood and then, when I speak without the aligners, it has to go back to the original way.
I could do a big, French shoulder shrug here and say tant pis because it’s no massive deal, none of these irritations are forever, but on the other hand I do have a job that requires me to speak on camera for quite a huge proportion of my working day. So I’d be lying if I said I didn’t notice it at all. It’s dented my confidence a little, which is shocking for someone who rarely shuts up in company and has no problem making a tit of themselves at any opportunity…
3 – Dry Mouth.
I’d never experienced a dry mouth before now. Forty three – never a dry mouth! Even when Rich and I went to the Isle of Skye and did an impromptu fifteen mile walk (this was before kids) and only had two little cartons of Strawberry Ribena with us and the sun came out and burned us and there was no civilisation for as far as we could see and we genuinely thought we might die from thirst and heat exhaustion: even then my mouth wasn’t that dry. Not as dry as the arid, shrivelled wasteland of a mouth wearing invisible aligners. Dear God. I’m amazed that the insides of my cheeks don’t fuse to my gums and that they don’t fuse to my tongue and that my tongue doesn’t fuse to my lips!
Yes I’ve bought a special moisturising mouth spray (does alleviate it a little and also smells nice and mouthwashy, which is refreshing in between brushes) and yes I’ve upped my water intake but still. I’ve never known anything like it. Sometimes, if I talk for more than twenty seconds at a time (especially outdoors) my lips curl under on themselves and stick to my gums. I have to manually unfurl them. It must be quite alarming for the person I’m talking to.
In week six I’ve either just become very used to this dry mouth or it has managed to settle itself down: I’m not sure which. At any rate, it wasn’t a debilitating side-effect by any stretch of the imagination!
4 – The Eat-Brush-Starve Routine.
OK we’ve arrived at the big one here; it should probably be under Major Annoyance rather than minor, because this is the primary cause of my perpetual low-key crossness, but there will always be someone ready to point out what a “real” major annoyance is. “Wait until you don’t even have teeth, that’ll give you something to complain about, mark my words!”
So, the Eat-Brush-Starve routine. You may or may not know this, depending on whether you’ve worn these invisible braces or not, but you can’t eat or drink (anything but water) with them in. So you take them out to consume your meals but then you must brush your teeth thoroughly and then brush the aligners (not with toothpaste) before putting them back in. Now this is all very well and good first thing in the morning and after the evening meal, because you’d be doing it anyway, but who wants to be brushing more than that?
Especially as the reason I have Invisalign in the first place is that I have worryingly thin front teeth (like paper!) and they have to be fixed. Why would I want to spend a year extra-eroding them with constant brushing? So I try and keep the extra brushing to a single time: lunch. But this has had a devastating – devastating I tell you – effect on my usual free-for-all approach to eating. I’m a grazer, you see. I don’t really do a full-sized lunch, I have half a lunch and then divide the rest over the course of the day. Cheese and biscuits at 3.30 for example, maybe a cold sausage when the kids have their tea to tide me over to the joyous time when we adults sit down, at 8-ish, in front of the TV with something monumentally tasty that I’ve lovingly cooked from scratch.
I used to be quite partial to a cup of herbal tea midway through the morning, too, maybe with a few squares of posh chocolate or a bit of cake or whatever morsels were lying around and an apple – oh, an apple! Always an apple, Pink Lady, crisp and slightly sour, taken whenever I felt a lull and needed some sort of kitchen distraction.
All this is lost to me! Yes I could add these bits and pieces onto lunch and just have it all at the same time, a normal sized lunch like a normal person, but I don’t want it all at the same time! I want to spread all of these things out! I need munch breaks, it gives me regular targets throughout the day to work towards and without them I am lost at sea.
I don’t drink tea or coffee, but I can imagine that for tea and coffee drinkers the sentiment is the same – you use these beverages to punctuate the day. It’s almost a small reward at the end of each section of activity. Well. Imagine only having these hot drinks at mealtimes? You’d no doubt revolt! (In fact if you can’t live without tea and coffee, I’d go for fixed braces over Invisalign without a shadow of a doubt. The clear aligners would make you miserable as sin and unbearable to be around.)
A side-effect of the non-grazing is that I seem to be shrinking. It’s all a bit Willy Wonka in that every time I take stock and catch my reflection in the full-length mirror I’m just a tiny bit smaller. I’ve started adding more chocolate onto the ends of mealtimes because that is the obviously the most nutritious fix…ha!
So there, my minor annoyances. Six weeks in and twenty six more to go and that’s only if they’re not lying to me about the length of my treatment. I can imagine I’ll get to the end of the predicted time and someone will tut and shake their head at my mouth-scans, like a builder sizing up the cost of a loft conversion and then all of a sudden it’ll be another twelve weeks…
So long as I’m done before next Christmas. I’ve already done one nil by mouth (between mealtimes) holiday season and I can’t say I’m mad-keen to do another. Not being able to eat a piece of cheese on the hour, every hour for ten days straight seriously cramped my festive style.