How many of you all had braces when you were little? I did. I am very grateful that my parents made the financial sacrifice to get my teeth straightened, since they were pretty uneven. And I’m especially glad that I had braces as a child rather than as adult, because knowing what I know now, I would not get braces. I’m convinced that braces are a legal form of torture. All the sharp metal instruments that are constantly being inserted between your teeth, the strange devices you have to wear, and the endless uncomfortable appointments all add up to an experience I would not like to repeat, ever.
My oral torture actually started before I had my braces put in. Painful contraptions were put in my mouth to prepare my palate for the braces. The worst was a medieval device called the Haas Expander. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re lucky. Look at this shit:
The expander was placed on my upper palate because orthodontist wanted to widen it. How does one widen a palate, you ask? By sticking a “key” into the expander and turning it three times every night for a couple of weeks to widen it. I’m not lying. It’s as painful as it sounds. My mother didn’t have the heart to listen to my yelps of pain and made my poor dad the bad guy instead. The side effect of this lovely device is I had a temporary gap between my teeth for a couple of weeks, which is just what every nerdy sixth grade outcast needs to fit in.
I had my braces in for approximately three years. Look at how sexy I was with them.
Actually, I was only fourteen here, so please don’t think I’m sexy. Not that there’s any chance of that happening – as you can tell, puberty was not kind to me at all. I fondly refer to this as my “Ugly Betty” picture. Here’s another one of me with braces:
I was thirteen here, and we had to choose an object that we felt represented us to bring in our portrait session. Instead of a sports item or instrument like normal kids, I brought a stuffed giraffe because I liked giraffes. You can see why I was so popular.
Anyway, there were only a handful of orthodontics offices in town. Two were the ones rich people went to, and the other office was the one everyone else went to. I went to the one everyone else went to. My first orthodontist was a creepy man who always greeted me with, “HELLO, LOVER DOVER!” and pats on the back that were borderline sexual harassment. I think this office made their money by continually finding something wrong with the patients’ teeth even after they were actually straightened. After three years, the orthodontist suggested keeping my braces in for another three months because one molar was higher than the molar on the other side. I shot my dad a desperate look. I was fifteen and sick of braces. “It’s up to you,” my dad said. “No one is going to look on the inside of my mouth,” I said. “I want these out.” The orthodontist said I was “giving up,” but fuck him. My teeth are straight. Unless you have your tongue in my mouth, you’re not going to know one molar is higher than the other.
After my braces were taken off, I had retainers fitted (the giant tray got stuck in my mouth while I was getting fitted for them. That was fun). I dutifully wore my retainers per the orthodontist’s instructions for years, rarely missing a night. One time in grad school, I accidentally left them home and had to go two weeks without them. Instead of worrying about adult things, like, you know, my responsibilities, I worried endlessly over my teeth and kept searching “WILL MY TEETH MOVE IF I DON’T WEAR MY RETAINERS FOR TWO WEEKS?” on Google. When I finally put my retainers back on my teeth, they were tight but still fit.
But in the past year, I’ve gotten lazy with wearing my retainer. I’ll go a week without wearing them, wear them for a night, and repeat that cycle. That cycle worked until the past month, when I forgot to wear them completely. A couple of nights ago, I thought, “Shoot, I better wear my retainers,” and tried to put them in my mouth. The bottom one didn’t fit at all. I was momentarily frightened that I had thrown my parents’ financial investment in my teeth down the drain, but made the retainers fit.
It’s been a painful couple of nights, though. The bottom retainer cuts my gums, so the first couple of minutes of putting them on is pain. Then I am left with a dull ache that recedes for awhile but can flare up during the night. Last night, I woke up in the middle of the night with my teeth and gums feeling sore. I really wanted to take my retainers off, but knew if I gave in, my teeth would shift again. I told myself to stop being a whiny little bitch and to go back to sleep. I had forgotten what it felt like to have sore teeth. I half expected my mother to wake me up for school.
At 15, I thought that I wouldn’t be experiencing any more oral torture. I guess I have to stop being lazy and wear my retainers more often. Looking like a dork with them at night is far preferable to having more sharp objects inserted in between my gums again.