New Beginnings – and Tears That Come With Them

I’ve spent about half of my life in school; 12 years from elementary through high school, four years in college, three years in grad school when I still wanted to go into art history, seven years of dental school, and a few more years of schooling here and there. After all that time, to me, the new year doesn’t start in January. It starts in August or September with the first day of school.

I’ve always loved the fresh start a new school year represents. I love buying new supplies, like clean notebooks and just the right pens — because obviously you’ll be way smarter if you have just the right pen. The new year is an open book of possibilities, and I still get excited about that thought. Though, to be completely honest, while I’ve always loved the idea of a new school year, I’ve always hated the first few weeks.

A new school year brings a lot of change, and while I like change, I absolutely hate it at first! Everything is different on the first day of school. New classrooms, new teachers, new schedules … and I always ended up with the worst of everything! At least, that’s what I would tell my parents every day after school. To me, those first two or three weeks of the new were a nightmare.  You’d have thought it was the end of times with the way I carried on.

When I came home in the afternoons, I always brought with me horror stories about how mean my new teachers were and how awful everything was and how I wouldn’t be able to survive. I honestly don’t know why my parents didn’t stop me with, “Enough, Leslie! You do this every year.” They probably did at some point, but I’m sure I insisted that this year was different. Of course, it wasn’t different. After a few weeks, my anxieties would subside, I’d enjoy the year, and I’d forget all about my horrors until the next year started.

You’d think all of this trauma I experienced would have put me off school, but I kept going back. It wasn’t until dental school that I stopped facing the start of school with such dread. It took a long time for me to learn that even if things start out rough, they often get better after a little time. Now this is a lesson I teach many of my patients.

The first few weeks of wearing braces will be horrible. Whether you’re dealing with traditional braces, lingual braces, or Invisalign, it’s going to feel like the worst decision you’ve ever made. Food will get stuck, you will have to relearn how to brush and floss, and you’ll have to remember to put the plastic aligner back in after you’re done eating. But by week three, I promise things will seem so much easier.

Anytime we start something new, it’s hard. It might be braces, a new hobby, a new job, or the first day of school. In the beginning, everything feels challenging, and we might not remember why we wanted to do this thing in the first place. And then, all of a sudden, it’s easy again. No matter the tears, trauma, and drama, it gets better. We just need to give it a little time. After 30-plus years of school, I can say that for a fact.

“My Dentist Told Me I Couldn’t Have Invisalign”: Busting the Myths about Invisalign

Almost every day I meet someone who says “I’d love to have Invisalign®, but my dentist said I didn’t qualify” or “My friend had Invisalign and said it doesn’t work.” And every time I get to tell them that EVERYONE can choose Invisalign for their orthodontic treatment if that is what they prefer. So why do these myths exist?

Let’s look at them one by one:

1) “My dentist said I wasn’t a candidate”

General dentists can and do offer Invisalign to their patients. However, because they are not trained as orthodontists, they are only able to offer limited treatment with Invisalign. Orthodontists can treat anything – not matter what your problem is. Invisalign is a tool, just as brackets and wires are a tool, and your success is a result of how well the tool is used. Because Invisalign has a brand name, some people think they are going to get the same thing, no matter who the doctor is. But it is better to think of Invisalign as a software company that prints aligners. Your doctor directs the outcome and how you will get there, just the same as with braces. Your process and success depends on your doctor.

You may even have seen an orthodontist who says you can’t have your treatment with Invisalign. That is just a reflection of his or her experience and comfort with aligners. I have found that I can treat virtually anyone to a successful result with Invisalign aligners, but I have worked to gain the experience and confidence to know that I can deliver the smile you deserve.

2) “My friend had Invisalign and said it doesn’t work.”

There is no doubt – Invisalign works! So if you have a friend who was not successful, either your friend was the problem or the person directing treatment was the problem. Invisalign requires you to wear the aligners 21-22 hours a day – any less and the teeth won’t move properly. On the other hand, without a well designed treatment plan, even the most faithful person may not get the result they hoped for.

I hope that I may have busted some myths you believed about Invisalign. The best way to learn more is to take advantage of our free consultation to see how easy it can be to get your best smile.

Is Invisalign right for you?

For some people, the thought of 1-2 years in braces sounds like serving time in teeth prison!  If that is you, the great news is that we now have new and better options such as Invisalign.

For those who don’t know much about Invisalign, here is the “cut to the chase” version. Invisalign is a completely different system for moving your teeth than braces. Instead of brackets and wires, a 3-D virtual model is made of your teeth and, from that model, I can virtually create your new smile. From that, a series of clear retainers called “aligners” are made that gradually shift your teeth to their ideal positions. You wear the aligners a minimum of 20 (preferably 22) hours per day. At prescribed intervals (usually 1 to 2 weeks), you change the aligner to the next one in the series. This process moves your teeth over time to your ideal straight smile.

Things to like

Two big benefits stand out to most people. First, you can remove your Invisalign aligners to eat. Compared to having to eat with braces, this is pretty nice. You avoid the challenging cleaning you need to do with braces because you don’t have the brackets and wire to clean around.  This is not to say that you can get away without taking care of your teeth, but it is the same as what you need to do without Invisalign – no more, no less.  Being able to remove your aligners to eat means there are also no restrictions on what you can eat.  Popcorn at the movies – no problem!

Second, the aligners are clear so they are much less noticeable than braces. Most people looking into Invisalign are looking for a discreet option for straightening their teeth.

Sounds good, right? It is a great system, but there are a few other things to consider before deciding if Invisalign is right for you.

All that glitters

One of the system’s greatest benefits is also the greatest temptation. For Invisalign to be effective, the aligners must be worn for 20 hours per day and 22 hours is preferred. The idea that you can remove the device for a little break can be very enticing, but realize that your treatment could drag on if you cheat from time to time.

For some people, having only a couple of hours per day to eat and brush before putting their aligner back on leaves them feeling rushed. This can lead to unscheduled breaks from using their aligner which we already know isn’t good.

You will quickly learn that these aligners stain. And what stains them more than anything? Coffee. Which might be a non-starter for some. But keep in mind that you switch aligners every two weeks so they won’t get too stained in that time.

You will also have attachments on some of your teeth to help them move correctly. In some cases, a patient might need enough of these attachments that they may look like they are wearing white braces, thus defeating a little bit of the original intent. Usually though, Invisalign is less noticeable than traditional braces.

Lastly, although you might think that you’ll be done after the first batch of trays, most people will need to have refinement aligners to reach the ideal result.

If you decide you want some type of clear or discreet orthodontic treatment, make sure that you ask about all of the options. If you’re looking for something aesthetic, then you and your orthodontist might consider clear ceramic braces, or even hidden lingual braces which are which are attached to the back of your teeth. We can even make appliances that are very similar to Invisalign right in the office.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact us here. We’d love to discuss what your options are and help you discover the best treatment for you.

A Brand-New Book — 9 Years in the Making – from Dr. Pitner

Happy New Year!

I hope 2017 is off to a great start for everyone. I know these first weeks have been very exciting for me. As of this month, I am now a published author, and my book, Improve Your Smile, Transform Your Life: A Guide to Orthodontics for Adults, is now available. Getting my book ready has been a huge undertaking. Depending on how you look at it, I have either been working on this book for the last 12 months, or for nine years.

The original nugget of idea formed when I was working on my master’s degree in applied positive psychology back in 2007. As part of the program, we had to complete a capstone project, and I chose to submit a book proposal with an example chapter about the psychology behind a smile.

Diving into the research, I learned so much! What happens in our brains to cause us to smile? How does the smile impact our brains even after we’ve stopped smiling? How does happiness influence our health, success, and overall well-being? A smile is basically the only psychological marker for happiness, and there was so much research for me to do on the subject.

I intended on continuing my book even after the program was over. However, as it tends to happen, life got in the way, and I realized I didn’t have time for a project of that scale. The book got pushed to the side, though it never really disappeared. A corner of my brain always remained dedicated to that first chapter, kicking around ideas.

In the past year, my book idea came back to the front of my mind as I started creating Pitner Downtown, our orthodontics office specifically for adults. I saw that, while there are resources available on general orthodontics — traditionally geared towards children and teens — there was very little readily available information focusing on orthodontics for adults.

I knew it was my job to write the book to fill that gap because I have met so many people, especially adults, who just won’t smile. They’ve spent their whole life learning how not to smile because they’re embarrassed about their teeth. Knowing what I do about how important a true smile is, I wanted there to be some way for me to share that knowledge with everyone, so no one is being denied the benefits of a smile.

This book was an amazing opportunity to take all the stuff I know academically and all the information I’ve learned working with actual people in the real world. My book answers questions a lot of adults have, like “Are there options that won’t make me look like a preteen?” or “Can you move teeth in an adult?” The book also covers all of your treatment options, as well as the new technology that makes treatment faster and easier.

Featuring facts and science, with all my favorite stories and real life experiences, the book is basically everything I could ever want my patients to know, presented in a way that I hope is both interesting to read and incredibly useful.

Improve Your Smile, Transform Your Life: A Guide to Orthodontics for Adults is available on Amazon. I’m so excited to have this book finally on paper — or pixels for e-book readers.

The Best Kept Secret in Orthodontics – Hidden Lingual Braces

Did you know that you can straighten your teeth invisibly with no aligners to remove or anything covering up your smile? It’s true with lingual braces – the best kept secret in orthodontics.

Getting a better smile can be your secret with braces that are hidden on the back of your teeth (best known as lingual braces since they are attached to the tongue side of your teeth). You probably know about clear ceramic braces and Invisalign®. But you might be wondering how you are going to fit either option into your life. Will you have spinach in your braces at a business lunch? Or you may wonder how to discreetly remove your aligners on a dinner date. Will you be disciplined enough to wear your aligners? With completely invisible lingual braces, your braces are your secret – no one has to know and they won’t interfere with your busy life.

I meet people all the time who are afraid to even think about orthodontic treatment because they are sure they will have to look like a kid in middle school. And it just isn’t true. It is totally possible to straighten your teeth and have no one know.

Heather came to see me, absolutely determined to have completely invisible treatment. She had wanted veneers, but found out her teeth were too crowded and her bite too far off for that to be an option. She chose lingual braces and never told anyone she had braces at all! No one ever knew. Friends knew she looked better, but no one knew why. She said “They would ask me if had a new haircut, changed my makeup, or even lost weight. And they told me I looked great! They just didn’t realize it was my smile.” So you really can be like Heather and straighten your teeth with no one knowing. All your friends and colleagues will know is that you look and feel great!

All The Little Things

Several years ago, a friend of mine from England came to visit during Thanksgiving. I went up to meet her in Chicago, and as we drove through the city, you could see that practically every store was closed for the holiday. Of course, they don’t have Thanksgiving in Great Britain, so she was a bit awestruck.

“This is amazing, everyone celebrating together on the same day.”

Until she said that, I hadn’t realized what a unique tradition we have in Thanksgiving. So many holidays come from religious traditions so not everyone celebrates them, but Thanksgiving is truly an American holiday. I never thought about how special it is that we as a nation all agree to stop and spend a whole day reflecting on what we are grateful for (while also eating a lot of food and watching football!).

Gratitude is something that I try to focus on in my life. There is so much research that shows how just the act of expressing gratitude can help us lead more meaningful lives. In one study, participants wrote letters to someone they were grateful to and delivered them in person. Researchers were amazed to find that not only did the person receiving the letter show positive improvement, those expressing the gratitude also showed an increase in their happiness.

Studies on gratitude and other positive habits are a part of positive psychology, a field I studied in residency and got a masters degree in in 2008. Psychology is a vast field, but I find positive psychology most interesting because it looks at what’s right with people — the virtues shared amongst all peoples, countries, and cultures. No matter how different we may be, we all value hope and awe, beauty, the ability to love and be loved, and other traits that make us human. Gratitude is a big part of the best human experience.

When you look at almost every major religion or philosophy, gratitude is one of the most important qualities they uphold. As crazy as life can seem, there’s always something to be grateful for. That can be hard to remember when the news is always full of negativity, but honestly, the bad news is what’s abnormal. Otherwise it wouldn’t be news.

One way to hold on to gratitude on a regular basis is by using a gratitude journal and writing down three things every day that you are grateful for. It can be anything, like …

“All the lights were green on my way to work.”

“I had the most amazing cookie.”

“There was a rainbow after that rain storm.”

We should remember even the little things. Life is made up of a lot of tiny moments we too often take for granted.

I really love Thanksgiving, because it’s a day to express gratitude for all things, large and small. It’s even better, because we have a whole country expressing gratitude together. Science says that’s one of the best things we can do.

Happy Thanksgiving!