When I was twelve, my parents sat me down for a talk. About my teeth.
Our family dentist had just recommended braces. I had a crossbite, a couple top teeth that tucked inside the bottom teeth - including my left canine, which was my smile’s most noticeable flaw.
But, at the time, my parents didn’t have dental insurance and were on a super-tight budget. They didn’t want to put me in braces unless I really, really wanted them.
Truthfully, I did want them. I’d taken to smiling with a closed mouth in photos, and my teeth were yet another thing to be self-concious about in those horribly awkward years between childhood and teenagerdom.
But I also realized that it would take big sacrifices for my parents to be able to afford them. We’d have to skip family vacations, restaurant meals, and cute new clothes for me (what are tween girls if not selfish?).
Plus, this was the late nineties. Singer/songwriter Jewel spoke often, and publically, about how she would never, ever fix her crooked incisor, no matter how rich she became. It was a part of her. It seemed a sound argument to me. Very “girl power.”
So I told my parents it was okay; I’d live with my crooked teeth.
Fast forward twenty years. At that point, my canine was really a part of me. I smiled with teeth and would occasionally cringe at photos of me, but I’d (somewhat) accepted it.
Then I met Dr. Babb (Lisa to me). We had mutual friends but quickly developed a friendship of our own, because she is the warmest, funniest, smartest person you’ll ever meet. When she opened her own orthodontic practice in Mt. Lebanon, it was the perfect moment: I wanted to support her. And I’d spent twenty years thinking about my teeth.
At age 32 years-old, it was time for me to get braces.
What Surprised Me the Most About Adult Braces
Like most people, I had an idea about braces. Most of my friends had worn them; I’d seen countless characters sporting them on TV and in movies. They were, in some ways, a rite of passage that I’d missed out on, but I still understood what they were all about. Or thought I did.
After three months in my journey, here’s what has surprised me the most:
They don't hurt. I’d been prepared for unbearable mouth pain but actually, pressure is a better word. It helps that Dr. Babb is good at what she does! Patient, gentle, caring. After I first got the braces on, and after my first wire adjustment, I had to pop a couple Ibuprofen. And some foods were tough to chew at first, so I had to up my smoothie game. But that was about it! Mostly I enjoy the pressure feeling, because it reminds me that they’re working!
They're actually not that noticeable. At times my braces feel large and protruding in my mouth - like it’s the only thing anyone could possibly see about me. But in truth, hardly anyone notices them. I will talk to friends and acquaintances for long stretches of time - even sit across from them for an hour at a restaurant - before mentioning my braces in an offhand way. Then their eyes go big. “What! You have braces now?!” Only when they put their face a foot or less away from mine can they see them. (The ceramic brackets and ‘obscure’ ties help - I highly recommend them!)
Lots of adults have them. Lots of adults have them. While most people don’t see my braces until I bring them up, it is true that adults with braces are more inclined to notice other adults with braces. It’s almost like we’re on the lookout for each other - like a secret society. Since getting my braces on three months ago I’ve bonded with other brace-wearers that include: a well-respected colleague in my industry; the guy behind the counter at my favorite deli in Pittsburgh; and a waitress at a pier-side restaurant in San Francisco. All of us were at least 30 years old...and very excited about our new smiles.
Teeth move fast. I’m sure every mouth is different (Dr. Babb can speak to this better than I can!) but now that I’m three months in, I can see a significant difference in my teeth already. That stubborn canine is finally getting in line with its surrounding teeth. It has a little ways to go, of course, but every day it nudges forward a little more. It’s fascinating to watch!
If you’re considering adult braces, I have three words for you: GO FOR IT. I have yet to meet anyone who regretted their decision to get them, and they’re worth all of the downsides (which really aren’t that much of a downer, anyway).
And if you live in the Pittsburgh area, you’re in luck: Dr. Babb is an exceptional orthodontist...and she’s accepting new patients! Drop her a line and learn about what adult braces can do for you.