August 22 marked the beginning of my fifth week with Invisalign braces. I’m fairly surprised time is moving so quickly! Overall, I think I have adapted to the routine well. I’ve been devout about the hygiene protocol it requires.
That same day was also my appointment to get my Invisalign Attachments applied. Attachments are clear resin nubs they apply to your teeth to help the trays get the leverage they need to force your teeth around. From an application or installation standpoint, I understood the process – but I was not prepared for the reality.
Getting Prepped for Invisalign Attachments
The orthodontic technician who prepped me for my attachment installation reclined me in a standard dental chair. Once reclined, she placed a (highly attractive) set of orthodontic cheek retractors in place to keep my lips and cheeks out of her work area. Next, she polished the teeth that would receive the attachments with a standard dental cleaning/polishing wand and standard prophy paste. I then rinsed the gritty paste away. So far, so good.
Once I rinsed, I was to hold a suction wand between my teeth to minimize saliva while she used a small, forced air (expulsion, not suction) wand to dry the surfaces of the recipient teeth. This would typically be fine but I have one tooth that is jarringly sensitive when it comes to cold. The air from that wand was cold and I was just not ready for it to hit that tooth. I writhed in discomfort in the chair.
The other teeth? Completely fine, not at all a bother, but that one tooth…ow.
Installing Invisalign Attachments
After that, the technician applied a resin to my teeth with a syringe. No needles, no stabbing; this is just a topical application of goop to the tooth’s surface. Then, the orthodontist comes in and uses (what I believe was) the same material in a thin tray with the attachment wells. They slipped that over my teeth and cured the resin at each tooth with a UV wand. Then the thin plastic came off. This was all fairly anticlimactic, and the cheek retractors were removed afterwards.
The application of Invisalign attachments is a bit more art than science, though; the resin can get elsewhere. Excess resin needs to be removed from in between teeth, which requires a dental scaler (those gross metal picks). This part was not painful or even uncomfortable, but is unpleasant.
The technician checked each area adjacent to an attachment to make sure the resin wouldn’t impede oral hygiene. If there were any problematic bits, she removed them. One space was stubborn, so a thin, etched sandpapery ribbon was required to remove it. After that, I rinsed the debris from my mouth and was done.
The cured resin feels rough against the soft tissues of the mouth (inner lip, tongue, etc). It shouldn’t irritate the soft tissue since your trays should be in at least 20 hours per day. It feels strange, but the orthodontist advised me that the roughness would wear away over the next week or so. I can confirm that to be true – through wear from eating and brushing the roughness diminished dramatically.
On Size & Visibility
I’ve read mixed-feelings regarding the size and visibility of the attachments. Some people feel incredibly self-conscious about them and feel that having attachments is NO BETTER than having traditional bracket-and-metal braces. Personally, I disagree. Size-wise, the attachments legitimately are REALLY small! They FEEL big to the soft tissues of your mouth but they really, truly, are small.
Thirteen of my teeth have attachments (yes, really!) and one tooth has two small nubs instead of just one. There aren’t any on my upper two front-and-center teeth, but one of my lower front does. My lower teeth don’t tend to show very much when I speak or smile (naturally, without intervention or self-conscious covering on my part).
I think if someone is looking closely when I smile they will see the attachments whether my trays are on or off. I don’t think they are distracting or horribly unsightly by any means. Most people aren’t looking that closely (and if they are, honestly, that’s kinda weird).
I think the people who are super self-conscious about their Invisalign attachments probably had mostly-straight smiles to begin with and are pursuing minor treatment plans.
The Bottom Line
Getting Invisalign attachments is no big deal. Unless you have cold sensitivity, it is pain-free; if you do, you can manage that with a sensitivity toothpaste, ibuprofen, and an OTC topical local anesthetic (like Orajel) beforehand.
I don’t find my attachments unsightly, but when you’re coming from a creatively arranged smile like mine little nubs are nothing compared to the mess that was my alignment!