Everything you need to know about the treatment touted to give you straighter teeth for less
It was a peculiar phase but at some point during the early years of secondary school, girls in my year actually wanted a brace and glasses. A delirious and dorky combination that was as much a rite of a passage as it was an aesthetic crutch. Flashes of silver, studded with bright elastics. Of course, when puberty hit the yearning dissipated, and I didn’t think much about my teeth, bar their obvious utility, for another 10 years.
Not until I noticed an irksome criss crossing on my front, bottom row. Oh, and a couple of wonky canines and incisors that dipped deep, almost like fangs. Oh damn. Off I went to see a dentist who reeled off the litany of procedures that I’d need to rectify them. Invisalign (approximately £4000) then bonding which I guess is like Polyfilla, making everything smooth and even (£220 per tooth), and whitening (around £500). Eish. I scuttled out gingerly, vowing to consider the monthly payment plan. Alas...
Four years later, along lands SmileDirectClub, an American company that was pitched to me as an effective and affordable answer to prohibitively expensive braces. They’re what’s considered as direct to consumer, which some dentists, I must add, take umbrage to because of the little to no face-to-face time between patients and dentists/orthodontists. That said, the brand states – and in my case, I can attest – to monitoring things closely via their 'telehealth platform'.
I went for an appointment at SmileDirectClub's central London clinic where every millimetre of my mouth was scanned, by a machine that took 6,000 pictures a second. I had a slight overbite and my canines were not just wonky, but utterly askew. The camera gave me a front seat ticket into a movie of my mouth and the reviews weren’t great, but a dentist in Nashville (true story) would be the ultimate critic. To gradually move my teeth, he prescribed a six month treatment plan that consisted of a series of 12 sequential aligners that needed to be worn for one or two weeks, for over 22 hours a day. They arrived in a giant purple box that affirmatively read: “Open for a lifetime supply of confidence.” Yes please. Opening now. Hello confidence! Do make yourself at home!
U-shaped and snugly fit, my first aligners ached. It didn’t help that there was an errantly parked car outside my flat being clamped and winched onto a tow truck, which, somehow, felt like a metaphor for my pain. Each new aligner elicited a similarly dull throb, but it always subsided after 20 minutes. I slept fine with them in. I talked normal with them in. To the untrained eye, they were barely perceptible. I took them out when I needed to eat and snack (tedious but necessary). I sometimes (often) left them out for (way) longer than I should have. Early on, disgusted by how dirty they were, I attempted to clean a set in boiling water. They shrivelled up in seconds so I moved prematurely onto the next set, and said no more of it. From then on I used a Retainer Brite, cleaning tables that fizz, duly obliterating bacteria – and breath.
I uploaded photos of my progress onto the app every few weeks, for the benefit of my assigned dentist, whose name was reassuringly inscribed on every aligner pack. My mouth looked tidier in as little as one month, but it wasn't until number six that I was in possession of two politely uniform rows of teeth. Then it was time to whiten, which is included in the plan if you so wish (literally, who does not wish?). They advise once a week for the duration of your plan - I was slow on the uptake, but now my teeth are upright and even, like young sunflowers that have tracked the sun, I’ll begin bleaching. Erasing every trace of lockdown and the coffee and red wine that got me through. As we re-enter society, the timing couldn't be better. Lots to smile about, eh?
There are 8 clinics in the UK, but if you’re not close to any, look out for the SmileBus that makes its way up and down the country launching in 2021, to carry out consultations on the go.
For more information and expert advice, visit Safe Brace, set up by The Oral Health Foundation and the British Orthodontic Society.
No matter what your plan, all come at a fixed rate of £1539, which can be paid at once, or in monthly instalments of £70.99 for 24 months.