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Something worth smiling about after getting teeth straightened

PUBLISHED: 09:00 08 May 2018 | UPDATED: 09:31 08 May 2018

Can you see them? The Invisalign alligners are practically invisible. Picture: Nick Butcher

Can you see them? The Invisalign alligners are practically invisible. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

With National Smile Month just around the corner, Sophie Stainthorpe reveals why it’s never too late to get your teeth straightened.

This 3D visual shows how my  teeth looked before  treatment, with my 'sticky-out tooth' clearly prominent. This 3D visual shows how my teeth looked before treatment, with my 'sticky-out tooth' clearly prominent.

Last September, I took the decision to have my teeth straightened. It was a big decision, something I’d been mulling over for several years in fact. As I scrutinised mine and other people’s teeth, I started to notice that more and more adults are braving braces in a bid to improve their smile. In fact, figures released today by The British Orthodontic Society (BOS) to coincide with National Smile Month, which kicks-off on May 14, reveals the number of adults seeking orthodontic treatment in the UK continues to rise, with 80pc of orthodontists in the new survey reporting an increase in adult private patients, compared to 75pc in 2016.

I wasn’t alone!

I should probably explain a bit of the background. As a teenager, I had “train track” braces for two years. Luckily, I didn’t need any teeth removed, but it still wasn’t a pleasant experience. I remember the insides of my mouth getting sore where the brackets rubbed, and it was painful each time the wires were tightened.

At the end of the treatment I had lovely straight teeth…. at least for a few years.

I was so excited when Dr Nita Wrigglesworth showed me this 3D visual of how my teeth should look at the end of my Invisalign treatment. I was so excited when Dr Nita Wrigglesworth showed me this 3D visual of how my teeth should look at the end of my Invisalign treatment.

I remember wearing a retainer at night for a while afterwards but, being a teenager, it didn’t last long and my teeth started to move again. The main offender was my upper left lateral (the one next to the front tooth), and over the years it gradually became more prominent.

Then, last May, I chipped a large part of my “sticky-out tooth” in a DIY accident, and it made me realise that I finally had to do something about it.

So, at age 35, I started looking into Invisalign – a system of clear aligners that clip onto tooth-coloured attachments and are changed every two weeks to gently move the teeth into the desired position.

I was expecting to be told that the misalignment of my tooth was too extreme and that fixed braces would be my only option, but Dr Nita Wrigglesworth, from Horsford Dental Practice, was confident it would work. She’s seen a big increase in the number of adults looking to have their teeth straightened over the last six months, the majority of which, like me, have been unhappy with their smiles for many years.

Invisalign alligners are made of thin plastic, similar to a mouthguard. Picture: Nick Butcher Invisalign alligners are made of thin plastic, similar to a mouthguard. Picture: Nick Butcher

“It affects their confidence levels in social settings and in the work place,” says Nita. “The majority of patients are not keen on having the traditional metal wire and brackets, and are drawn to Invisalign due to its ease of use and the fact that it is so inconspicuous.”

And there’s not just an aesthetic benefit to straightening your teeth, as Nita explains: “When teeth are crowded and rotated, they can be difficult to keep plaque free. But once straightened, cleaning is improved which reduces the likelihood of tooth decay and gum disease.”

Armed with all the information, including the considerable cost, which often falls between £2,500-£5,500, but can start from £1,500 if only minor tooth movement is required, I was able to make a confident decision that Invisalign was the right option for me.

My treatment began last September and I have been surprised at how easy and well it has gone so far. There has been no rubbing, minimal pain and the best thing is that you take the aligners out at mealtimes. This also means that you have to be incredibly self-disciplined, as the optimum daily wear is 22 hours.

I certainly take much better care of my teeth now, spending at least 10 minutes after breakfast and dinner on my dental routine, which includes flossing, brushing, using a fluoride mouthwash and thoroughly cleaning the aligners, plus flossing and brushing again after lunch.

I have about 10 weeks left, at which point Nita will assess if any additional minor movements are needed. Once we’re both happy, I’ll still have to wear the aligners for 22 hours a day for a further six months to hold my teeth in their new position, then it will drop down to just nighttimes.

I’m looking forward to the day, not too far away now, when I can finally give a confident open-mouth smile. And one thing’s for sure, I won’t ditch the retainer this time!

INVISALIGN INSIGHTS

If you’re a grazer, you need to think about whether you can change your eating habits, as the only thing that you can consume while wearing the aligners is water.

Like getting your nails done? So did I, but I quickly found that my gel nails weren’t going to stand up to the task of prising the aligners off my teeth three times a day.

Patience is a virtue. The first 32 weeks of my treatment were pretty much all about widening my arch - my sticky-out tooth is only just moving back into the space that’s been created.

My tooth-coloured attachments have discoloured a bit. Luckily, once the aligners are on you don’t notice it. The attachments come off at the end, plus most dentists include free teeth whitening.

For the first couple of weeks I had a slight lisp and was very self conscious, which made my speech worse because I was trying to keep my teeth covered as I spoke. But it truly does pass - I don’t even think about it now.

CONSIDER ALL THE OPTIONS

Dr Daniel Theron from Treetops Dental Practice takes us though orthodontic treatment options…

It is important that an orthodontic assessment of each individual is done with proper diagnosis and planning of the treatment and possible outcome. It is a commitment in terms of time and money, and you should be well informed of the options before commencing.

Removable appliances

Mild forms of crowding and teeth movements can be done with removable appliances. There are many different orthodontic systems and brands available, some of which focus on the front six teeth only, which is the area that many adults want to change.

Fixed appliances

Difficult, severe crowding and bite problems usually need to be treated with fixed braces and can take anything from six months to three-plus years to complete.

Advances in technology have made these less visible, with clear or tooth-coloured brackets available in some cases, or lingual braces, where the brackets and wires are fixed behind the teeth.

For more information on the different orthodontic options, visit the British Orthodontic Society website.

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