I can tell when I’ve got something stuck in my braces when someone’s talking to me. They don’t stop talking. They just slow right down, have a small internal struggle and then mentally shrug and keep talking. Sometimes, if the person is a close friend, they’ll tell me. But mostly I get the hint and head hastily to the nearest bathroom to fish out the offending object. Pip will just blatantly say, “Dude. Go and check. There’s something in there!”
Young children have a different reaction. When they realise something wonderfully weird is going in in my mouth, their eyes light up like stars. The trick is to distract them (Look over there!) just before they get to the point where they open up their big mouth and say something cute but honest like, “Hey, what’s that on your TEETH?”
That’s a fair question, kid.
About twenty months ago I got braces. There were a lot of things going wrong in my mouth during my youth. Basic over-crowding and misaligned teeth were the main problems. One eye tooth was particularly wayward. It sometimes really bothered me and sometimes not. I guess doing something about it as an adult must mean that it’s important to me now. Cosmetic dentistry was not high on our parent’s priorities. Nothing was ever done about my teeth because it wasn’t that bad and my teeth were really healthy (I still have zero fillings!).
The thing that really got the ball rolling for me was that a friend of mine got braces. We worked together so I got a pretty good look at what was going on. Hers were on for three difficult years, but when she got them off – wow. It made a huge different to her self-confidence. Up until that moment I had only ever fleetingly considered braces. I really felt that the opportunity for correction had come and gone when I was a teen and that getting braces at this point was going to create more curiosity than I was comfortable with. Because when you get them as a child you don’t have to explain it. As an adult with braces it’s kind of like telling everyone you didn’t like the way you looked before.
It was a big commitment. 24 months all up. Financially and emotionally it’s a very big deal. They sit you down and go over the technical details with you before anything gets started and warn you about things like ulcers and other potential discomfort. But there are some things they don’t cover. Like for instance, it will feel like your mouth is filled with small Barbie coat-hangers. For ages. And that you won’t be able to pash properly. And that at various times you will have to wear elastics in the front of your mouth that are ridiculous. No one wants to look ridiculous. And yes ok the upper brackets are clear but they’re still pretty bloody obvious. I’ve now worn braces to two major life events: my best friend’s wedding (hell yes I will still do a speech!) and my first trip to Paris. If you’re getting braces – be a better planner than I was.
The whole thing seems to have taken so loooong. I’m a pretty impatient person at the best of times and I haven’t reacted well every time my Orthodontist has insisted that ‘another six weeks’ of elastics is on the cards. There has been glaring. As soon as I am in that chair I turn into a twelve year old. I wheedle. I whine. I sigh. I wish I was accompanied by a responsible adult to every appointment so that they could apologise for me as we leave and tell them that I am really a very nice person.
The orthodontist I see is an adult specialist. Apparently adults cope better than children because they’re more committed to the results of the braces. I think this was before they got to know me though. I’ve already begged him to take them off ahead of schedule. Twice.
So – any good things? Well it hasn’t hurt as much as people said it would. I’ve had a couple of ulcers and some tenderness. But either I’ve gotten off fairly lightly or it’s just not as painful as I had heard it can be. And of course there’s the end result- the straight teeth, the even bite and the incredible oh-just-out-of-reach thought that very soon this will all be over.
As I write this they’re still on. I have an appointment next week after which he will possibly tell me the date he will take them off. I’m excited. Do you remember when you thought Christmas or your birthday would just never arrive because it seemed too amazingly good? Multiply that feeling by a hundred. That is how I feel about having them off. About having my mouth back to myself and eating a big steak sandwich in public view without meat and lettuce becoming comically stuck in my wires. About having a smile that really reflects how I feel on the inside and has hopefully been worth the wait. And most of all – about smiling that smile to my husband for the very first time.
I might buy him flowers when this is all over. My orthodontist, I mean.