For many of you, a smile correction couldn’t come sooner. You’re probably counting down the days until your teeth have reached pure perfection status.
Even after you start a clear aligner plan, the days turn into months, and those months can translate into years. Meaning the process is a LONG one.
This Post Will Cover:
1) How to manage 154+ hours of wear time in any given week
2) What to say to people who think you’re nutty for getting adult braces (or getting braces again)
3) Why you shouldn’t settle, even if your treatment is near completion
4) Dependable ways to keep your eye on the prize – after doing all of this for a year or more (a special bonus for my clear aligner OGs)
Let’s dive in.
154+ Hours a Week is Doable, If You Set Your Mind to It
Imagine stepping into a gym and expecting to do a push-up or a clean and press on your first try. Probably not going to happen.
Your clear aligner treatment deserves the same type of respect. You’ll need to be patient, find a routine that works for you, take notes on what’s helping, and what isn’t. It’s okay to make mistakes in the beginning. That’s normal.
I was skipping meals and undereating which wasn’t a healthy solution. It took me six months to figure out the ideal system.
My 10-45-45 approach gives great insight on what your typical day of eating might look like. You can learn about it by signing up to receive my free 4-day meal plan (below).
Let your meals be a sigh of relief, not a burden to completing your clear aligner program. Get excited to eat! Taking off your aligners should feel like taking off your shoes after a strenuous day on your feet.
I know you have it in you.
The Odds of People Saying That Your Teeth Were Already Fine is High
I didn’t always feel insecure about my smile. I’ve mentioned before that I had braces as a teenager. They did their job and I reaped the benefits. Things were great.
I was awarded the Best Smile counselor superlative at my summer camp two years in a row and I frequently received endless compliments on my straight, white teeth. I’m telling you this because what you’re feeling hits close to home for me… humble brags aren’t my style.
While flattery is nice and all, something always felt off. And certain experiences you can never forget.
When I was twelve (a vulnerable age for a highly sensitive, pre-teen girl), my mom made a remark that my smile would be close to perfect if I didn’t have a snaggle tooth. Psh, a snaggle tooth after braces? I pushed that comment deep down into my vault of family nitpicking.
Three years ago, this memory resurfaced without any warning. Here’s what happened.
My wedding photographer enthusiastically emailed the first roll of our unedited wedding photos, along with an overabundance of exclamation marks. The moment I saw them, I wanted to SCREAM. The enormous size of her candid shots focused on my overjet and imbalanced bottom teeth.
I’m still mortified at the dinosaur-like state of my teeth in this picture. Was worth capturing a joyous wedding moment with my dad, so I can’t fault my photographer for doing her job.
I took a step back after seeing the wedding pictures and contemplated what had gone wrong with my once-straight teeth. I was diligent about wearing my metal nighttime retainer… although it hadn’t been adjusted in fifteen years. Instead of scheduling an appointment with an orthodontist, I let it go and picked out the wedding photos that were taken from better angles.
However hard I attempted to ignore the facts, adjusting to a new remote job at the peak of COVID-19 only shined a light on how crooked my teeth had become. I would fixate on them during Zoom meetings and, as a result, became distanced from my work. I ignored my friends. I barely checked in with my family. It made me a little depressed.
Hear me out. Deciding to go through another orthodontic procedure just wasn’t how I expected to kick off my early 30s.
But if I continued to wait and let them get significantly worse, wouldn’t I need to do something about my teeth when I reached my 50s? Or my 70s? That just didn’t seem fair. I wanted to live my life to the fullest. You should too!
Understanding the extent of what straighter teeth meant to me was key. This self-reflection allowed me to come to terms with the following:
- The money to cover this procedure was coming out of my own pocket
- I was gaining the confidence to enjoy each and every day with a beautiful smile
- Going through this process now instead of waiting would be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made
“Wait. Didn’t You Already Have Braces?”
If people asked why I was re-straightening my teeth, with the help of clear aligners, I told them my bite needed to be corrected (true) and that my teeth had shifted after my wisdom teeth were removed (also true and quite common). In general, the conversation ended right there.
There’s one more point that I wanted to bring up on this area of concern. I found it interesting that fixing my teeth was such an influence on others to evaluate their smiles. A good number of friends and family members were curious and intrigued. Some went ahead and booked their own consultations for clear aligners.
Gaining Respect from Your Cosmetic Dentist or Orthodontist
Throughout my course of treatment, I had this nagging voice in my head that I was one of those difficult patients. When in actuality, a request from my orthodontist to rush order an extra set of refinement trays was considered no big deal.
You aren’t being a drama queen. Chances are you’re paying a pretty penny on your clear aligner treatment. Settling isn’t an option.
So why did I opt to go through an extra two rounds of refinement (overcorrection) trays after an already demanding 365 days? My canines still looked like they needed more attention and the overlap between my bottom two teeth wasn't resolved.
With only ten weeks left in my last set of refinement trays, I called and asked about these areas. The receptionist put me in touch with an orthodontist assistant and we scheduled an appointment to meet when I was finished with trays 4 out of 11.
During the appointment, we did a rescan, talked about my problem areas, and put in a request for the expedited refinement trays (included in my treatment Invisalign plan). Easy, right?
I can’t stress enough how crucial it is to speak up during your clear aligner treatment. Just like you and I, an orthodontist isn’t a mind reader. They’re looking for verbal communication and feedback.
Don’t be shy. This action helps THEM help YOU achieve the results you’ve been dreaming of.
Alas, we’ve reached the motherload of advice when it comes to long-term clear aligner guidance.
You’ve mastered the art of keeping your aligners clean and knowing which foods you can rely on throughout tray changes and new attachments, plus any elastic brands.
Now comes the more imperative part. Staying determined and unwavering about your choice to move forward with clear aligners.
I broke this section out into daily and monthly categories for attainable goal setting. Don’t worry, this isn’t homework. The good majority of these suggestions are ways to keep your social life active and your headspace decluttered.Daily
- Create a clear aligner checklist and cross off what you’ve accomplished for the day
- Use your chewies when you’re lounging around the house (or if your trays need adjusting)
- Make mealtime a highlight of your morning, afternoon, and evening
- Incentivize yourself after tray changes to overcome any pain and aligner fatigue by planning something fun to do in the future
- Find an outing or establishment that you’ve never been to before and pay it a visit on your day off
- Cook something special and invite a friend over for dinner
- Draft 1-3 questions that you’ll ask the next time you’re in touch with whomever is overseeing your clear aligner treatment
- Take pictures of your smile journey for comfort and store them in a separate folder (assess them sparingly)
There you have it. A complete framework of action steps that you can put into motion this very second.
I’d be more than happy to send you pictures of my before and after progress. My reasoning for keeping them out of my posts is because I want to be a part of your own success.
Again, my results are in the past. I’m here rooting for you to meet me at the finish line.