Braces are for young people, part of the tortuous path to adulthood. I've already walked that route: the acne, the ugly but necessary fashions, the crying jags and bad hair on picture day. I resent having to undertake something that I thought I had escaped. It's like being told I have to repeat 8th grade.
I opted for Invisalign. "These clear aligners are the virtually invisible way to improve your smile." The operative word is "virtually" which means "there's a grain of truth in there somewhere". You get an upper and lower set of trays molded to fit your teeth. Every week or two you put in a new set, which are slightly altered to shift the offending teeth toward their new homes. The trays are held in place by little buttons glued to your teeth. They are to be in place 22 hours each day. You cannot eat or drink anything except water while they are in place.
Here's the math: 120 minutes / 3 meals = 40 minutes for each meal. You'll notice that doesn't include snacks, tea, coffee, etc. Want to kick that caffeine habit or lose weight? Invisalign is a good bet. It also comes in handy at the office potluck - veal and kale meatballs? I'd love some, but I can't take my braces off - or at Grandma's special dinner - shoeleather roast? Sorry, I can only manage a bit of gravy with a straw.
Learning to sleep with them felt like trying to nap with a hockey puck in my mouth. I had to elevate my head so I wouldn't drown in my own drool; I'd wake up hungry in the middle of the night because my stomach was getting signals from above - saliva! Foreign object entering gastrointestinal tract! Prepare for tasty grub! - but the promised repast never appeared. I also dreamed that either all of my teeth had fallen out, that I'd swallowed them, or that they had grown and discolored so that I looked very much like a llama. (Which wouldn't be a bad thing if I could spit on people who irritate me without it being classified as an assault.)
I forgot to mention that some of the money spent on my Invisalign has been recouped by avoiding movie theaters and eating out. I find eating popcorn to be a pleasant part of the movie experience; however, this would necessitate prying the trays off, stuffing down the popcorn in 15 minutes or less (remember, popcorn/drink time is deducted from the standard 40 minute meal allotment), crawling over people during what is no doubt a critical juncture in the movie plot, racing to the bathroom, brushing/flossing my teeth in questionably hygienic surroundings with strangers looking on (Mommy, what's wrong with that lady's teeth? Ewwww, gross. Hush honey, she probably has false teeth. That's what happens to a meth addict), re-installing the trays, racing back to my seat, and trying to figure out why the actors are now in a different country while someone is bleeding to death and there's a kangaroo in the car.
Just as I'd gotten used to all of this, Dr Voldemort added rubber bands.
"While we're straightening those teeth, we might as well correct that crossbite."
I like my crossbite. It might be slightly bovine, but who doesn't feel a sense of peace watching a cow contentedly chewing. Still, I seldom question the authority of a practioner with a wall full of diplomas. Let's get rid of that ugly growth on your neck, shall we? Just lay your head on this lovely maple chopping block from Wescam Online School Of Dentistry.
The rubber bands are smaller than the diameter of my pinkie. Four tiny hooks were cemented to my teeth, one in each quadrant. My task is to stretch one band from bottom to top on each side, which is pretty much outside of my fine motor repertoire. There are tiny marks all over the bathroom wall where errant slobbery projectiles have struck and slithered to the floor. I have had to unplug the drain twice. I have swallowed several (but haven't had to unplug that particular drain as yet). I was given 200 of the little buggers, an adequate supply for 6 weeks. I had to ask for more after 2 weeks.
"One of the packages must have fallen out of my purse." I couldn't meet the hygienist's eye. There was a muffled conversation in the back. She returned with 2 more packages.
"Here you go, no charge. You...ummm...didn't lose anything else did you? Carrying case? Your trays? If you lose a set, you need to call us. You can't necessarily just go ahead with the next week's set."
"No thank you," I replied airily, even though I could feel my face flushing guiltily. I had, indeed, thrown away a set by accident the week before. This despite the enormous sign posted by the school cafeteria waste bins DID YOU REMEMBER TO PICK UP YOUR RETAINER .
At work the next day, an aide escorted one of our behaviorally challenged students into the bathroom while I was taking care of my dental business.
"I hate this! I hate you! I hate these f$8king braces! I'm missing my damned recess! It's not fair!"
Inwardly, I agreed heartily. Guess what, kid, I hate my f$8king braces too. At least you don't have to pay all of your allowance over the next 5 years for 'em.
"Hey Sammi," I hissed. And pulled back my lips.
It stopped her in her tracks. "Whoa. Wow."
"Look Sammi, she has braces too. Just like you. She has to brush her teeth all the time, just like you. And she's not making a fuss." The aide had a desperate note in her voice that I recognized as help me please, I cannot go through one more screaming meltdown today.
"Yep that's right. I have to brush every time I eat or drink anything. But some day I'll have nice straight, white teeth. And so will you." Unless someone knocks them down your throat for you.
Sammi looked me up and down. "Yeah, plus I won't be old like you. That must really suck." And she held out her hand obediently for her Hello Kitty bag of toothbrushes, paste and floss.
Yes, Sammi, it does indeed suck. But it's nothing compared to what adolescence has in store for you. The truth is, I wouldn't want to be a teen again for anything in the world. Good luck, fellow dental appliance sufferer. Braces are the least of your worries. And perhaps it should be the least of mine as well.