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What Invisalign Taught me About Habits

My misaligned bite and crooked lower teeth had bothered me for years.

After much deliberation and online research, I decided to take the plunge and sign up for Invisalign as an adult. I selected Dr. Pepper as my orthodontist because of her board certification, the comfortable office setting, and the professionalism of her friendly team. Her office was also not too far away from where I lived.

As a teen, I remembered watching TV advertisements of Invisalign and thinking to myself: How wonderful! This looks like a great alternative to traditional braces.

I knew that my lifestyle would require some adjustments. For example, I’d have to be even more diligent with brushing and flossing because the teeth have to be absolutely clean before the retainers are put back on.

Then there was the knowledge that the retainers would have to be on for approximately twenty hours a day for the treatment to work.

The whole process taught me several key lessons. These lessons, as outlined below, have become deeply etched in my mind when it comes to forming and keeping new habits.

1. Discipline

From the first day of my treatment, I never skipped a single night of wearing my retainers to bed. Sure, it was a nighttime chore at first to remember to stick these pieces of plastic onto your teeth before going to bed — with rubber bands for several months to straighten the bite — but I was petrified of the teeth shifting out of place if I forgot to use the retainers for just one night.

At Dr. Pepper’s office, I’d occasionally hear fellow Invisalign patients commiserate about how they couldn’t have coffee or soda throughout the day. As a tea drinker, I understood this frustration. But I developed a newfound appreciation for my lifelong habit of drinking lots of water on a daily basis.

This daily routine or hassle with getting used to Invisalign trickled over into other areas of my life. Gradually, I found it easier to develop and stick with other habits, like writing down a daily goals list or following a yoga video almost every day to build strength and flexibility. The quality of discipline had been drilled into me, and it helped hone my abilities regarding self-control and purposefully directing my thoughts and energy.

2. Consistency

The quality of consistency goes hand in hand with building discipline.

One month into using Invisalign, I noticed that my daily eating and cleaning routine began to feel less restrictive. Eventually, I noticed how my teeth were slowly moving and looking less crooked each month.

This showed me that an initial effort or aspiration is not the same thing as momentum. Getting started on a new habit might feel good, but it’s not enough. You have to continue working towards ingraining it into your daily lifestyle so that the new habit can be formed.

It’s through consistent efforts that you get from Point A to Point B. You have to show up daily and take action each day to achieve your goals.

3. Progress Takes Time

The dental assistant at my general dentist estimated that my Invisalign treatment would take approximately 6 months to complete.

I thought Dr. Pepper was erring on the side of caution when she estimated my treatment to take a grand total of 18 to 24 months at least.

24 months?! That’s two years — two years of my teeth in lockdown, two years of strict routines, two years of keeping the retainers spick and span to appease the OCD in me.

Regardless, I signed on the dotted line because at least I had a chance of a better bite and lower set of teeth at the end of 2 years.

The alternative was doing nothing and seeing my bite and teeth deteriorate further.

I am happy with the choice I made. Something done well over time made more sense to me than a rushed job that might create even more problems down the line. Likewise, when I start building a new habit, I no longer get upset or frustrated if it takes more than the first few days to see some results.

4. Focus on Long-Term Gains

When you take a long-term view on things, it makes the daily grind of your routine easier to accept. It’s easier to stay focused on why you’re committing yourself to the goal or activity.

Focusing on my Invisalign treatment as a long-term journey helped me to gain a long-term perspective for life on the whole. From relationships to career to personal goals, I tried to take a step back from time to time to see if what I was doing each day was aligned to where I wanted to be a few years from now.

That shift in perspective helped me to regain a sense of calm and inspiration from my daily routine.

It also helps calm me down during times of anxiety or discouragement. A habit I’ve developed is to focus on breathing deeply when my feelings start going out of control. Taking the time to learn this habit made me realize that I can’t be calm about the future if I’m constantly worrying about the present.

5. No Pain, No Gain

The worst part about my Invisalign treatment was the rubber bands worn over several months.

I loathed the short-term gum infection and pain from the band constantly snapping against an open sore when I was learning how to get them on and off. It was a gruesome scenario that I wouldn’t even wish upon my enemies.

During my Invisalign journey, I made big changes in other areas of my life. I got a new job, I moved, I made some big steps with my creative life and goals. None of these things would have happened if I wasn’t able to persevere or accept the difficulty–and pain–of making a big change to improve my situation.

However, I’m glad I took those steps as my efforts were not in vain. It’s wired into me now that nothing good really comes for free. Forming a new habit, like any other goal, is something to be gained, and something I can set my mind to knowing that it’ll be worth it.

If you’re on the fence about getting Invisalign for your crooked teeth or misaligned bite, I’d highly recommend you to try it once you find an orthodontist you trust. The right orthodontic specialist  will help you understand your options and has the expertise to tailor the treatment so that it works for you.

You can look forward to the positive impact it’ll have on your life, which goes far beyond attaining a nice set of pearly whites.

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Jess Chua writes and edits content for Optimal Living Daily, a personal development podcast with over 100 million downloads. She loves the huge fish tank and cheerful staff at Dr. Pepper’s office.

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