How I Straightened My Teeth Without Braces

sadie before afterCourtesy Sadie ReynoldsI was so insecure about my teeth that I had stopped smiling—even in the mirror. The way my canines poked forward made me look like a rodent. When a kid at my school called me a mole rat, I knew I had to make a change. But all my friends were finally getting their braces off, so I didn’t want to be getting a mouth full of metal. That’s when I learned about Smile Direct Club.

Smile Direct Club uses clear, nearly invisible aligners (like retainers) that gently adjust your teeth over time. It’s a lot like Invisalign, which you may have heard of, but it’s up to 60 percent cheaper: $ 1,850 for a one-time payment (or $ 2,170 paid in monthly installments) vs. $ 3,400 to $ 7,100 for Invisalign and $ 3,000 to $ 7,500 for traditional braces. If your insurance covers a portion of the plan and you’re able to take advantage of flexible spending, you could end up paying as little as $ 750 total. Smile Direct Club also doesn’t require any attachments to the teeth (as both braces and Invisalign do), and you’ll never have to see a dentist or orthodontist—not even once.

To kick off the teeth-straightening with Smile Direct Club, you can either use an at-home impression kit or visit one of the company’s 95 “SmileShops” around the country to have a 3D scan made of your mouth. It was actually really cool to have this done. As a technician moved a scanning device around my teeth, I could see an image of the aligners taking shape on a screen. There was zero discomfort and it was over in 10 minutes. Those scans went to an orthodontist licensed in my state who determined that I was a good candidate for aligners—the system isn’t designed for extreme dental makeovers—and then developed a treatment plan just for me. A month later, I received a box with 17 sets of aligners, numbered in order, to be worn for two weeks at a time. (Plus a bonus whitening kit—score!)

From there it got a little harder. Wearing the aligners—or “smiles,” as the company calls them—was pretty painful, especially for the first 24 hours of each new set. And a few times my gums got irritated and I got tiny cuts on the tip of my tongue. Obviously, I had to remove the aligners to eat—and nearly lost them in napkins more than a few times. I never forgot to change sets, though, because the company sends reminder texts when it’s time to switch.

I actually looked forward to these texts because it meant I was another step closer to a confident smile. Also, make sure you follow these golden rules for white, healthy teeth.

Eight months later (a little longer than the average six-month treatment), having never stepped foot in an orthodontist’s office or endured the hassle or embarrassment of metal brackets, my teeth are visibly straighter. They’re not Hollywood perfect, but for the first time in years, I’m happy to smile with my mouth open. Next, check out the things your orthodontist won’t tell you—but you’ll want to know.

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