Posts in "Health & Wellness"
My Invisalign Experience (So Far)

Every other Friday, I get to pop in new Invisalign trays and it feels pretty much like Christmas morning. I’ve talked about my jaw pain on the blog before but I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I’m halfway done with an Invisalign treatment! I’ve had TMJ issues for about 6 years now and when we lived in Charlotte I saw an amazing physical therapist who almost completely eliminated my pain with massage, stretching, and some dry needling. After a few years it started to come back and I mentioned it to my new dentist here in California. She told me that she’s had a few patients who tried out Invisalign, and 3 out of 5 of them had less jaw pain by the end of their regimen. My insurance covered a lot of the treatment, so I decided to give it a go.

So far I feel like my pain has subsided significantly—I still probably need to get back to PT or get the monthly neck and shoulder massages my therapist had recommended but I never ended up getting, but overall I’m really excited about how much improvement I’ve seen just from four months of Invisalign. I briefly had braces in high school so my teeth were pretty straight, but I did have a couple little cosmetic things that have also been a really nice secondary benefit to the TMJ relief.

I got a few requests from people on Instagram asking me to share about my experience in a blog post, so I asked for specific questions that I could answer. Most of the questions I got were something to the effect of the ones I’ve included below, so I’ll go ahead and get to them now!

How long did it take for you to speak normally? Or was it never an issue?

I definitely felt like I had a lisp for a few weeks. I was still teaching Pure Barre at the time and the day after I got my first aligners I had to get on the mic for two back-to-back Saturday morning classes. Everyone said they couldn’t tell, but I kind of think they were just being nice—I really felt like I sounded unlike myself. But I got used to it and now you can’t even tell!

On a similar note, it was so weird having something in my mouth constantly, and the inside of my lips even got a little irritated. After a few days that got better, but I noticed that every time I put in new trays the irritation would come back. Now that I’m well into the treatment that’s not an issue anymore, but it was something that surprised me so I thought I would include it!

How long have you had Invisalign?

Four months! I started in January.

How long does it take? Is it just retainers or brackets on your teeth too?

I think this depends on your goals and how your teeth are currently—I only have to wear mine for 10 months but I’ve heard of some people having them for a lot longer. Because I’m doing it for TMJ and not necessarily to straighten my teeth, my dentist is actually considering letting me finish up about six weeks early, because the final 3 trays/aligners are apparently a bit more aggressive about “pulling” your teeth in, and she doesn’t want my bite to get too tight and possibly irritate my jaw.

Some people just have the trays/aligners/”retainers,” but I think most people get little brackets on their teeth. I have 8 or 9! They’re called “attachments” and they’re just enamel-colored bumps made of dental bonding that line up with the Invisalign trays. If you look closely in the above photo to the left you can see them on me. They really bummed me out at first because I thought they were really noticeable and I could feel them when the trays weren’t in, but I got used to them really fast. (I will be happy to see them go, though.)

What is the cost, pain, maintenance?

I think the price varies (a quick Google search says the average rate is between $3,500 and $8,000). My dentist charged $5,000 and our insurance covered more than half of it, which is the only reason I decided to do it.

The pain is not too bad. Your teeth definitely feel tight and sore the first few days of a new tray, but by the end of the two weeks you barely even feel a thing.

You’re supposed to wear them for 22 hours a day, which I think is aggressive, but basically you take them out to eat and then you’re supposed to pop them right back in. If I drink water or tea or even coffee sometimes I’ll keep them in even though that’s probably gross, but I feel like I have an invisible clock going every time I take them out so I try to keep them in as much as possible. You brush them and you can also get these cleaning crystals for them but I’ve only used them once or twice. Two weeks per tray is not very long, although they do get a little raunchy by the end of that time.

Once you’re done with your plan, they make a retainer for you based on the final trays and then you just wear those at night. If you have the aligners, they remove those so your teeth are smooth again. I’m excited to be done but I’m also really glad I did it!

Have you done Invisalign? What was your experience like? If you have more questions let me know, I’d be happy to try to answer them!

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My Pregnancy Health and Fitness Routine
My Pregnancy Health and Fitness Routine | Freckled Italian

It seems a little unreal to me that I'm well into my third trimester of this pregnancy! I wanted to write up a short post about my food and exercise routine these past few months, because I like to think I'm a pretty health and fitness-oriented person but I've definitely had days (or weeks) where diet and exercise (especially diet) just weren't a priority, and I think that's okay. I'm happy to report that my mostly good habits have really carried me through and when I look back on this pregnancy as a whole so far, I think I've done a relatively good job taking care of myself (even if I've eaten more ice cream since about April than anyone reasonably ought to).


I've really relied on my prenatal vitamins the past few months. I had really high hopes for eating super healthy and staying gluten-free and even low-carb throughout this pregnancy, but after about week 8 it just wasn't an option. I wanted to thrive and eat tons of veggies but a lot of the time I was just trying to make it through. I was really nauseated for weeks and the only thing that kept it under control were carbs--rice crackers and toast especially.

Then in my second and third trimester I started craving sugar so much--I've tried really hard to eat fruit instead of ice cream but I'm indulging in my fair share of milkshakes (and Oreos...and s'mores). I think it's a little weird when women obsess too much about pregnancy weight gain but just for reference, I've gained about 30 pounds so far...and I still have 9-10 weeks to go. It's recommended that women of average weight gain about 25-35 pounds, so I'm kind of on track but I think I'm probably going to clock in closer to 40 by the time November 21 comes around.

So my diet has looked a lot like this:

  • I eat eggs for breakfast as much as I can, even if it means putting them in a wrap or on toast (usually gluten-free).
  • Have a salad a few times a week (this is usually a generous handful of spinach in a smoothie or on the side of my plate for lunch and dinner).
  • Drink tons of water and La Croix all day and try to limit my Coke Zero intake to once or twice a week, which I used to hate but now literally daydream about on hot afternoons.
  • Incorporating veggies as snacks as much as possible.

I passed my gestational diabetes test with good numbers but apparently I've developed anemia, so in addition to my prenatal vitamin every day I'm also taking an iron supplement. I didn't feel like I was overly tired or anything but I do think extra iron has helped boost my energy a bit. I'm also adding spinach to everything and trying to eat more beef, which oddly enough is really one of the only meats I've been into this pregnancy so far, so I'm not sure why my iron levels are so low. Either way, we're getting them back up so it's all good.


I feel really lucky to have been well enough to exercise consistently throughout this entire pregnancy. In March my Pure Barre studio did a 20 in 31 challenge and I felt like it was the perfect way to start out, so I worked out 5 days a week the whole first month I was pregnant! Once I started teaching I was going a bit less, since I was figuring out my schedule, but I quickly got back to it. I know every labor and delivery is different, but I really am hoping that staying in shape is somehow preparing me to actually get this baby out of my body in a way that is effective and a mostly positive experience to look back on.

  • Walks: 20-60 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week
  • Barre:
    • Pure Barre 2-3 times a week (although I teach 6 classes a week which sometimes feels the same as taking about 1/4 of a class)
    • Pure Empower 2-3 times a week--if you haven't tried this class out yet you really should! It's a lot more intense than classic Pure Barre classes, but it's only 45 minutes. I've found it surprisingly pregnancy-friendly because there's less abs, which means I have to modify less of the class (in regular class I do a lot of sitting around/stretching the last 20 minutes and sometimes it feels like a waste of time).

I'm starting to stretch a bit more than usual, especially at night when my back, hips, and now ribs hurt a lot. I'm definitely slowing down physically and trying to be patient with myself but also reasonably challenge myself to stay as active as possible for as long as I can. I feel so much better when I've worked out, gone on a walk, or even just taught a Pure Barre class than I do if I just lie around all day, so I try to remind myself of that on days when I'm extra tired--and I still make time to nap when I need it, which is usually at least once or twice a week. 


What were your food and exercise habits like if/when you are/were pregnant? Did you succumb to cravings like I have? As always, let me know if you have any questions! I've had so much fun documenting some of these things on the blog and I hope you've enjoyed reading them!

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My Experience Going to Physical Therapy for TMJ Pain
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A few years ago, I shared that going Paleo had almost completely cured my alopecia areata, and ever since then, hearing other people's stories about that has really meant a lot to me. Every now and again I'll see in my analytics that someone came across my blog by searching "Paleo and Alopecia" and it makes me feel like maybe I've managed to help someone on that journey.

So now I have a new experience I want to share--I posted on Instagram the other day and asked if anyone else was dealing with TMJ pain and I was really floored by the response. My dad and my brother deal with it, but I didn't expect to hear that so many of you guys are also living with jaw pain.

I started having jaw pain in the spring of 2014--I vividly remember that the week of our wedding, my jaw was starting to click and would actually pop when I opened my mouth all the way. The popping sensation hurt, but it felt good at the same time, like I was releasing tension or something. After a couple months, it stopped popping and I wasn't able to fully open my mouth again for weeks at a time. I had to stop eating crunchy things like sweet potato chips, and just looking at a whole apple made my jaw hurt--I always had to cut them into small pieces.

When we moved to Charlotte, I made a long-overdue appointment with a dentist, who referred me to an oral surgeon. This was terrifying to me for a number of reasons: I have a pretty serious needle phobia, I was anxious about the possibility of having to have surgery on my jaw, and the larger, even more irrational side of me was convinced that they were going to tell me that my pain was the result of a tumor or something equally frightening. But I went, and after a series of (noninvasive and no-big-deal) tests, they determined that there was nothing wrong with my jaw joint and that I should start seeing a physical therapist to work on my muscles, which were causing the pain.

I was really surprised by that--for some reason I never even thought about going to physical therapy for my jaw. In my mind, PT was for people who had been injured in some way, and it never occurred to me that it could be helpful for chronic pain caused by TMJ issues. I started going in October or November, twice a week for a while. My therapist offered to try dry needling, but I was pretty against the idea of it, so every visit she would check my jaw and see how far I could open my mouth, and then she'd spend 20-30 minutes working on the muscles in my face, neck, and sometimes even shoulder. She taught me some strengthening and stretching exercises that would help, and slowly but surely I only needed to see her once a week, and then once a month, and then once every month and a half.

Now we're on an as-needed basis--my jaw doesn't hurt regularly anymore and only bothers me if I'm doing a lot of traveling, not getting good sleep, or am more stressed/anxious than normal. My next step in this journey to no TMJ pain is to start seeing a massage therapist every month or so for my tight neck and shoulders, which really cause the majority of my jaw pain. And, as always, I'm working on letting things go, learning how to relax, and making a priority out of taking care of myself.

I know that everyone is different and TMJ pain manifests itself in a lot of different ways for the people who have it, but I wanted to share my story because it wasn't as dramatic or scary as I thought it would be. So if you're dealing with jaw pain, talk to your dentist about it and see what they say. I didn't mention it for so long because I was afraid of what they would tell me, but that's not a great way to deal with anything, especially chronic pain. I also thought TMJ pain was just something you had to live with and manage as best you can, but it's not. Like most things in life, you can get through it, then look back on it and be grateful that you did. It feels good to get better.

Do any of you have TMJ pain? What have (or haven't) you done to fix it?

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