The author, who has used the magic of Photoshop to ensure that you'll never see how awful her teeth really are …I have awful teeth. I really do. When I was four years old, I took a medication which permanently stained some of my adult teeth that were just beginning to form. No one realized the particular drug I needed to take would have that effect - or, if they did, it wasn't something they mentioned to my parents. As I grew up, I was embarrassed to discover that the brand new "grown-up" teeth popping through my gums were not the shiny white pearls my classmates had. Rather they were a light brown in the front. Gross. As I grew up, my teeth weren't terribly crooked. But, over the last few years, my front teeth have started to protrude - and overlap slightly. Again, gross. To add injury to insult, I've somehow chipped one of my front teeth.
Really, in the scheme of things, my teeth are not a dealbreaker. Twelve years ago, I found a handsome guy and fell madly in love. He's now my wonderful husband and a fantastic dad to our two beautiful little girls. I have a successful career in marketing and public relations and I'm obsessed with photography. In other words, my teeth haven't stopped me from enjoying life. But over the past couple of years, I've wished that I could feel comfortable smiling without covering my mouth. Or not have to go Photoshop crazy on my own family portraits to cover up what staining and crooked appearance does show. So, this past year, I made the decision to do something about this.
At a recent cleaning appointment, I mentioned to my dentist that I wanted a change. With all of the hype about veneers, I thought that it was the ideal option for me. Perfect teeth in just two office visits sounded just perfect and would fit in with my busy schedule. But, my dentist had other plans. He told me that before we went ahead with any cosmetic work, we needed to fix the crooked appearance. If we aligned my teeth properly, any "extras" would look even better. Suddenly, I found myself knee deep in brochures about braces. There were so many choices! If I wanted to do it "right", my dentist informed me that I would need to get myself to an orthodontist who would proceed to do jaw surgery, pull two teeth from my upper row and then stick me in metal braces for up to two years. No thanks! (Did I mention that I have two little girls who depend on me for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as entertainment every other moment? Can't imagine doing all that on pain medication and my jaw wired shut.) So, we kept talking about my options.
The two most tempting ideas were the Six Month Smile and the well-advertised Invisalign braces. Invsalign initially sounded like a great fit for me - no pun intended. It's a clear retainer that you wear around the clock, but must take out when you want to eat. The more I thought about it, however, the more I wondered if it would work for me. I'm often out at business lunches and the thought of having to "slip" out my braces in front of a colleague or other professional didn't appeal. I also had memories of throwing away my retainer in a lunch bag during my grade school career. (And the fruitless dumpster diving that ensued after my mother found out that I'd lost it.) My second option, the Six Month Smile, involved placing clear brackets on my teeth and adding a tooth-colored wire to provide the needed tension. It would be permanently affixed to my teeth, which meant no going back. But, I also like the idea that once it was on, that was it. I Googled a lot of photos of people wearing the Six Month Smile option and discovered that you really didn't notice the person's braces. Yes, you could see a hint of something on their mouth, but you really couldn't see much more than that. And, as a bonus, my dentist joked with me that it would cover up a bit of the staining.
So, after much thought and discussion with my husband, I made the decision to move forward with the Six Month Smile. Two weeks ago, I was strapped into my braces (literally) and have been documenting my experiences on a blog: www.mysixmonthsmile.blogspot.com . No, I'm not getting paid by anyone to do this. It's simply stems from my own desire to photograph my own progress and document the entire experience. I'm also hoping that it will help someone who hasn't yet made the leap into braces.
I won't lie to you. This has not been fun. The actual process of getting the braces on was uncomfortable, and at times, downright painful. The brackets themselves on the braces are pokey. And, I felt like I would never be able to chew normally again. Ever. In fact, the afternoon I got them on, I was in tears and secretly Googled "how to convince your dentist to take off braces he's just put on." My husband discovered me, gave me some Motrin and a bowl of chicken soup. (Did I mention that he was wonderful?) But, over the last two weeks, the pain has lessened, and I've begun to think about things other than the joys of soothing dental wax. (If you have braces, you know what I'm talking about!) I'm also eating much more normally and haven't regretted my decision.
I'm hoping to get my braces off in December, which will be the six month mark. (Although, I have been warned that the "six month" phrase is approximate and take less or more time.) At that point, my dentist will fix the chip on my front tooth with a very simple (and painless!) procedure. I'll also be treated to a new in-office whitening technique that has shown to be very effective on tooth staining like mine. When I'm all done, I should have a fantastic smile that I'm proud to show off. I'm looking forward to the day when I ask my husband to take a picture of myself with my girls and give him a big toothy grin!
It took me a long time to come to the decision to do this for myself. My girls and my husband have always come first, and this was definitely not a "health" emergency in my book. But, we're financially stable and it felt like the right time to do something just for me. At first, I couldn't get over the "can't believe how much I'm spending on myself" feeling. Trust me, this is not a cheap fix. But, my happiness is worth a lot to me. When I'm happy and confident, my family can feel it. They're happier as a result. So, that's why I feel good about doing this for myself.
At church on Sunday, I greeted a lady who must have been in her 60s. Guess what she was wearing? Braces. I smiled at her and she give me a metallic grin back. She's doing something for herself, proving that it's never too late to make yourself feel good. At 37, I want to jump in front of the camera more often with my girls and give a huge, confident smile as the shutter clicks. Why not? I'm worth it.