Confessions of a Girl with Braces
Me and my teeth have had a lot of adventures together. To catch up on previous installments, check out: Confessions of a Girl Who Doesn’t Floss, Confessions of a Girl Who Didn’t Have Any Cavities , and Confessions of a Girl Who Had a Root Canal .
Early on in high school, I had braces. Big, unattractive braces. After they were off, I was given a retainer to wear, which I wore, for the most part, for a couple of years. But like most people, my retainer-wearing days quickly ended. And my teeth have started to shift.
I first noticed it about four years ago, when I moved to the East Coast. I had an itty-bitty gap between my left front tooth and the tooth next to it. It didn’t really bother me that much, and I ignored it for a long time. Beginning last year, I started noticing the imperfections in my teeth a little bit more. For a while, I had noticed that my left front tooth was much darker than the rest of my teeth, but I couldn’t quite figure out why. It wasn’t until I had an appointment with my dentist that I realized that this was a result of a bike accident when I was 13. My tooth was actually dead, and the dark color in my tooth was actually blood that had stained my tooth. Gross! I wiped out my entire FSA account paying for a root canal and internal bleaching to get that tooth to look normal again.
While I was there, my dentist explained to me that my teeth indeed were shifting. My bottom front teeth are moving forward and they are pushing against my top teeth, which causes them to move and for the gap to grow. They would continue to shift unless I starting wearing braces. At the time, I didn’t want to put down so much money on braces, because I was living in New York and barely getting by. Soon after, I was laid off, and it still felt like getting braces was something I shouldn’t – or couldn’t – do right away.
Fast forward a few months, to March of this year. I’m getting closer and closer to my wedding. And that gap in my teeth is really starting to bother me. The ironic thing is that when I smile naturally, you can’t really see that gap, because my bottom teeth “fill in” the gap. You really have to look hard in pictures to notice that it’s not the same as the other side of my mouth. Other people might not notice it, but I notice it. And it bugs me.
I start contemplating getting braces. Invisalign braces, specifically. I make an appointment to talk to a dentist about my teeth. He tells me that there is a chance that with Invisalign braces, the gap could be closed by my wedding. I get really excited about this, but I also know that teeth take a really long time to move.
“What if they aren’t quite there yet?” I ask.
He tells me that if I still have a gap, he’ll put bonding on my teeth to cover up the gap. He also tells me that he’ll whiten my teeth for free, just to make sure they are perfect for the wedding day. Only my top teeth will show, and luckily, since I already had braces, it’s only that small gap that needs fixing.
Impressions are made of my teeth and I wait. And wait. And wait. The dentist told me that it takes 4-5 weeks for the braces to come, but it’s 5 weeks before I’m even able to see the changes they’ll make and approve the order. Then I had to wait another week or so.
At this point, I’m very frustrated and angry. All of this is eating into the time I could be getting my teeth fixed! But as I learn at the dentists office, the gap is actually the last thing that will close, not the first, because my bottom teeth need to be pushed in first. It will probably take 4 months before I notice a change in the gap. Luckily, the dentist still agrees to bond my teeth in the meantime, so I shouldn’t see a difference in my pictures (hopefully…).
I asked whether or not I should just wait, and start the braces after my wedding. The dentist tells me its best to start now. My teeth are still shifting, and they will most likely get worse over the next couple of months. By then, I would have to make new impressions.
The way my treatment works is this: I will have 10 aligners, that I will wear for 14 days each. That’s five months, so I will finish sometime in October, give or take. I wear them 20 to 22 hours a day, and I haven’t noticed much of a lisp, although it is hard to talk after while. My mouth rubs against the edge of the aligner and can cause a bit irritation, but it’s not too bad. I have noticed that my lips are a lot more chapped than they usually are this time of year.
I only take the aligners off to eat, drink and brush my teeth. I’m still getting used to the restrictions and requirements. I occasionally leave them in to drink an iced coffee or diet Coke, which I know you’re not supposed to do. I thought they didn’t want you to do that because it can stain the retainer, but it can actually damage your enamel if stuff stays between your teeth too long. I brush my retainers and my teeth about 3 times a day, although I’ve read conflicting reports about how to keep the Invisalign retainers clean. For my next aligner, which starts Monday, I plan to bring a travel toothbrush to brush my teeth, and then I’ll use water and the toothbrush to clean the aligner. I’m still getting used to wearing the aligners, but so far so good, I think.
Because Invisalign braces are removable for eating and brushing teeth, I can actually take them out for my wedding. For my teeth, I have to wear these things called “buttons”, which are hard pieces of material glued to my teeth. Right now I’m wearing them just on my bottom teeth. The top aligners also have indentations for the top buttons, but we took those buttons off when we got our engagement pictures done last week, and we won’t put them back on until after the honeymoon. They aren’t really necessary at this point in the process.
During the wedding, of course, I don’t want anything strange on my teeth, so I’m planning on having my dentist take the bottom buttons off as well, and I will just wear the aligner sans buttons every day except my wedding day. My teeth will most likely not move too much, but I may have to wear the aligner for an extra week. Not a huge deal.
I’m a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t think about all this earlier, and that I’m having to go through all this stress and trouble now. It’s funny what wedding planning does to your sense of self. Not being thin enough, not having the right teeth, not having the right hair. Honestly, my teeth would probably be fine as is for the wedding and no one would be the wiser. But my teeth are shifting, and I will eventually need to get braces anyway.
It seems somewhat pointless to start the process right now, since I won’t see the benefits. But it has given me the opportunity to get the bonding and the teeth whitening done for free, so I’m essentially getting the effects of the braces without actually having completed the treatment. That wouldn’t have happened if I had given up.
Although most people can’t see the gap unless I point it out, I personally believe that the gap has gotten bigger just in the last year. I don’t think it was severe enough last summer to trigger the need to have it fixed quite like it did earlier this year. Unfortunately, the timing just didn’t align quite right, but I’m trying to make the best of it. Another thing I’ve noticed – and especially now that I’m wearing the Invisalign braces – is the my bite doesn’t align properly while my mouth is closed. My right side touches, but my left side barely grazes the teeth. I’ve also suspected for awhile now that I may have TMJ, so these are other teeth-related problems that I’m eventually going to need to fix.
In the end, I will (hopefully) have straight, white teeth for my wedding, and that really is all that matters at this point.