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Full Metal Mouth

July 29, 2011
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I am an adult with braces.  You’ve seen us out there.  It’s kind of like that obnoxious new trend of hipster girls running around wearing lenseless 80s glasses.  It grabs your attention for a second and slightly puzzles your brain.  I’d hate to speak for all dentally-misaligned adults, but I think most of us would agree that it’s okay to look, and it’s okay to ask questions.  But please, do not say “Oh your teeth weren’t that bad!”  That one’s a killer.  Of course they were.  To me.  The owner of said teeth.  Who grimmaces at the sight of several snaggle-toothed wedding photos.  Who woke up with a swollen shut jaw more than once thanks to clenching crooked teeth together in my sleep.  Whose overbite is dramatic enough to see in my closed-mouth profile.  I’m sure people are trying to be encouraging, but it’s kind of frustrating to have a problem that has bothered you so much minimized by family or strangers.

When my braces were first put on, the wire on my top teeth jutted up and down like a cardiograph.  One tooth was so far out of whack the wire missed it completely for the first six weeks.  It took me seven weeks to be able to eat anything more substantial than soggy Cheerios.

I do hate when people write strained manifestos like “Ten Things I Learned About Life From My Hamster,” so I will not compose a list of bad analogies about tension, alignment and spinach in my teeth entitled “Brace Yourself.”  I will, however, share ten observations.

  • Before I got my braces, I did research.  I had braces in junior high and wanted to see how much the technology had evolved in 15 years.  The answer is, not much.  When my parents’ generation were adolescents, the brackets went all the way around the tooth.   Now, they are cemented on the front of the tooth.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is just about the only advancement made in orthodontics since the 60s.  It’s still metal and rubber bands. It still takes two years.  It still hurts.
  • What about Invisalign, you say?  The answer:  it’s a joke.  It’s more expensive.  It can only move your teeth laterally (side to side, not up or down) and it cannot fix the alignment of your jaw.  Orthodontists will try to sell it to you because they don’t have to do any actual work.  Basically, if you only want to fix a few slightly crooked teeth and spend $6,000 and have a speech impediment for 18 months, then Invisalign is for you!  Otherwise, you have to get actual braces.
  • People have bad teeth.  I never noticed it much before.  Now, I cannot talk to a person without noticing their teeth. I see jagged crests of bottom teeth. I see off-center midlines.  I see overbites.  I see gaps.  Even in people who have said, “I was lucky.  I never needed braces.”  Now, obviously, it doesn’t matter.  If your teeth are fine with you, they’re fine with me.  I’m simply saying that I notice these things now.  I don’t mean to scrutinize but it just seems very obvious now.  It’s like when you get a new car, then you all of a sudden see that model on the road all the time because it’s more in your awareness.
  • When I was doing my research, I read a little of an international message board for adults with braces.  I learned a few valuable pieces of advice, but I also learned this:  the boards do not allow you to post full face photos of yourself with braces.  You must crop the photos to show your mouth only.  Why?  Apparently it’s a fetish.  They had problems with perverts downloading the photos of young women in braces for unwholesome reasons.  Human beings never stop disappointing me.
  • Flossing takes 25 minutes.
  • Bread isn’t worth the hassle.
  • Smiling in pictures is tricky.  The closed mouth smile always looks ridiculous.  Yet it’s hard to learn how to hold your mouth differently when it’s full of equipment.  Your normal, natural smile doesn’t look right.  I’m still trying to master this.
  • I have it pretty easy.  Just go a Google image search for “malocclusion” or “crossbite” and you’ll see how bad it is for some people.  Sometimes the jaws are so off, they need to be broken, reset, and wired shut.  Sometimes, people, like my sister, have to get eight teeth pulled at once.  So I thank my lucky stars.
  • I read recently where someone said that, in person, celebrities are like normal people but they have better teeth, shoes and watches.  Let me clear this up, however.  They do not have real teeth. They have veneers or caps or even implants.  Do not marvel at Ryan Seacrest’s teeth.  Do not envy Heidi Klum’s smile.  They had their own teeth filed down to tiny points and had fake teeth bonded to them.  Teeth that sometimes look too shiny, too white, too smooth, maybe a little radioactive.
  • My husband is wonderful.  He’s been really patient.  He didn’t hesitate when I approached him about getting the braces, despite the two year affect on my appearance and our bank account.  When I couldn’t eat solid food, I didn’t cook for weeks and he never complained.  He has brought me Tylenol and surprise milkshakes and listened to endless whining about how “It hurts!” and “I am never eating applesauce again!”  He’s a keeper.  And he has pretty nice teeth.
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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 29, 2011 4:59 pm

    Good for you for changing what you can and being honest about it. Beautifully said, and with humor too. We can laugh at our perceived faults… but they MATTER. (to us anyway). When I go to a new hairdresser, I say, “First off, here are my ‘issues’,” and I give her a long list of all the things I am self-conscious about… a long list. Round face, flat back skull, short neck, thin lips. Then I say, “Now your job is to give me a hairdo that fixes it all.”

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