I swear by teeth straightening service Zenyum - but here's the catch
There's an age-old saying that the camera adds weight and age to its subjects, and working in the media industry has taught me that it also highlights your smallest imperfections.
I've always had a mild case of buck teeth and slightly crooked incisors — fronting several of AsiaOne's videos and articles and watching myself on screen have only made me more conscious of them.
They say you are your own biggest critic, but the hefty price tag and horror stories of pain from friends with metal braces have always put me off fixing my teeth until I found out about a local start-up promising straighter teeth at an affordable price.
So we reached out to Zenyum to give their service a try and see if they can deliver that promise despite charging only a fraction of what other teeth straightening solutions on the market cost.
If you're seeking a perfect smile, rejoice because the initial assessment on Zenyum is free.
All you'll have to do is upload photos of your teeth from different angles to the app so the team is able to assess if you're a suitable candidate for the treatment.
If you're deemed suitable, they'll call you in for a 3D scan, X-ray and physical assessment at one of their partner clinics and create a treatment plan within two weeks. Here's a page from mine:
Once you're satisfied with the treatment process and what the final outcome is like, they'll commence production of your custom-made, 3D-printed invisible aligners which takes about three weeks at minimum.
Upon completion, you'll be called in for a fitting session where the dentist will instruct you on how to care for the aligners and track your progress through the Zenyum app.
Similar to Invisalign, the plastic trays have to be worn for 20 to 22 hours a day and only removed during meal times or if you're drinking anything that's not water.
During the session, you may or may not need to have your teeth filed to create space (I did) so that they can move into position, but don't worry, it's a completely painless process.
I've been on my Zenyum journey for close to three months, which is one-third of my nine-month-long treatment, and I can already see and feel a massive difference in my bite.
For once in my life, my upper and lower front teeth actually touch, which may not be shocking to you but it was groundbreaking to me — especially since there has always been quite a wide gap between my two front incisors.
Now, a crooked tooth on the bottom row is almost completely straightened and my upper front teeth no longer protrude as much.
THE PROS: CHEAPER, MORE CONVENIENT AND LESS PAINFUL
At $2,400, compared to traditional braces which can cost upwards of $4,000, and Invisalign which can cost $6,000 or more, Zenyum's affordable price point is definitely a plus.
Why is the service so cheap? Unlike other brands that tackle a wide range of dental problems, Zenyum specialises in making aesthetic corrections to front teeth, and the narrower scope of treatment leads to lower prices.
Other than the massive price difference, convenience is another key pro, because they give you all the aligners for your treatment at one shot.
Therefore, you skip having to see your orthodontist every few weeks and there's no hassle of scheduling appointments or worry about missing them because all progress is tracked via the Zenyum app.
In fact, you'll only need to see the dentist a grand total of three times — once to do the scans, once for the fitting and once for a review. More appointments can be made if you want a face-to-face review but that's up to you.
Under my treatment plan, I have to switch trays weekly and before doing so, I'll upload a photo of my teeth to the app and report any concerns I face, usually receiving a reply from the customer care team within a day.
Comparing my experience of Zenyum with friends who have done traditional metal braces, I found that my treatment has been less painful because my teeth are "tightened" when I switch trays every week. In comparison, those with metal braces have their teeth "tightened" monthly.
And while a colleague on Invisalign similarly switches her trays weekly, she still has to visit the dentist every four to six weeks to collect a few week's worth of aligners which can be troublesome to schedule.
If the only reason why you're considering Invisalign is because it looks invisible, it's really not — the same colleague has white attachments stuck to her teeth that are quite obvious if you look closely.
As Zenyum only consists of the plastic aligners, most people can't even tell I have something on until I pop the tray off my teeth.
A friend of mine told me he was in pain for three months when he first put braces on, while it only hurt for the first three days after I started on my first tray.
I've also learnt a trick to cut down on the discomfort — changing aligners at night and sleeping through the pain, so that by the time I'm awake, my teeth have had some time to get used to the soreness.
On the topic of pain, I don't have to deal with some common problems "metal mouths" face such as ulcers and sores from cuts by exposed wires or sharp edges.
Without dietary restrictions, I have no problems eating sticky or hard food because it's easy to floss my teeth afterwards and pop my aligners in.
THE CONS: NOT EVERYONE CAN USE ZENYUM
The only catch about Zenyum is that the service is not suitable for everyone. Only mild or moderate cases of crooked teeth will be accepted, with braces relapse cases (when people don't wear retainers and their teeth shifts) making up the majority of their clientele.
Because the aligners are only able to shift the front teeth, overcrowding in the back or cases where extractions are required will likely be deemed unsuitable for the treatment, but hey, the first screening is free so there's no harm applying.
If you're a snacker like me who eats frequently, it might be a little difficult at first getting used to brushing and flossing after every meal, but the plus side is having your dental hygiene and breath on point.
I've taken to carrying around a toiletries bag with essentials such as mouthwash, floss picks, toothpaste, toothbrushes and my handy aligners case with me all the time.
Having used the app for three months, the only gripe I have is its glitchiness — photos sometimes fail to upload and the app has crashed on me occasionally.
Additionally, because wearing the aligners can get so comfortable, I sometimes forget to put them back on after meals. Having an inbuilt timer to track how long I've taken them off is something I'd really appreciate and hope the team could include this in the future.
Another thing to note, if you're considering Zenyum, is that the $2,400 stated is only the price for the invisible aligners. You'd have to fork out additional money for the initial consultation ($170) and retainers ($300).
That said, if you're not satisfied with your final outcome, all you'll have to do is to pay $100 for a new scan and additional sets of aligners that will be produced for you at no extra cost.
A smile is a gift, one that you not only give to others, but also one you can give yourself. For more info on the service, click here.