This week, I got a certain little present that I’d been wanting for a long time. The kind of little present I had to go and pick up.
From the dentist’s office.
I have pretty straight teeth overall, but turns out I have this thing called a tongue thrust. (Say that again, P asked me when I told him about it.) That means that every time I swallow, my tongue pushes out against my teeth, eventually leading to this:
According to the wikipedia article, most people grow out of tongue thrusting (I think P just asked me to say it again from the other room) by age six. I am aged thirty, so apparently I was absent that day in class.
It’s only gotten worse, so I eventually bit the bullet and spent the tax return to get the braces.
Except, you guys, throughout this entire process, talking to my dentist, all the hygienists in her office who have them, all the people I know who have used Invisalign in the past — not one person saw fit to let me know, gently, that braces HURT.
I didn’t think much about it, honestly. I figured legions of teenagers get braces every day. Sure, it hurts them, since the nice orthodontist has to go in and tighten some screws or something.
I’m not really clear on what happens with traditional metal braces, to be honest. P had them when he was a kid for like three years and he likes to tell me horror stories of headgear and this contraption in the roof of his mouth that had to be cranked open. I just… I don’t even want to know, okay? His teeth are nice and straight now so I pretend that they started out that way. But I was going to be different! My invisible braces were going to make my mouth feel like it was filled with clouds and sunshine. That is why I paid the premium.
When the dentist went to snap the first set of trays in, I stopped her. “Is the pain anything like traditional braces?” This is, true, an awful time to ask that question, since the braces exist and were paid for.
“Oh, no,” she said. “There’s a low-grade pain, but it’s actually better than metal braces. Then you have a lot of pain all at once. Here it’s spread out a little.”
Then she snapped the clear plastic trays on my teeth.
“Oh, that’s not so bad.”
“That’s because these are the trays that are just like your teeth are now.” Then she proceeded to put these chunks of ceramic or something on my teeth which are what hold the braces in. So now I have lumpy teeth. Luckily they are hidden.
Then we got to the real thing. It was a little sore, true, but I was okay. I would soldier on. I grabbed lunch on my way home and pulled the braces out first thing. This was going to be great! I ate my food that had texture and everything was wonderful. Braces were awesome!
Then I had to put them back in. As if I’m already not obsessive-compulsive enough, I have to brush my teeth every time I take them out. So I sang the brusha brusha brusha song and I shoved those bad boys back in place.
How I howled. My teeth did not want to go back into this new place! No, they were quite happy before the new regime. Eventually I heard the reassuring click and gulped down a handful of Advil. Did you know that stuff takes an hour to kick in? I do, because I watched the clock.
Things only got worse as the day went on. As soon as I went on break in my fiction workshop, I popped the braces out so I could eat a protein bar. This time, when I put them back in, I got tears in my eyes involuntarily. My teeth were clearly plotting against me.
So pretty much every time I’m faced with food, now, I have to make a decision: is this worth taking my braces off for? This is important, because every time I have to put them back on, I go through the seven stages of grief:
Shock or disbelief: My god, how can this hurt so much? I had them off for ten minutes!
Denial: There’s no way that my gums are going to put up with this. Maybe I should take them off.
Bargaining: If I take them off now, I will just have to add another day to the back-end. That gives me an extra twenty-two hours to be free!
Guilt: I can’t believe I spent all this money to be in so much pain.
Anger: Why are straight teeth so prized, anyway. I bet there are cultures in the world where picket-fence mouth are considered incredibly beautiful!
Depression: I’m never going to eat anything that’s not pudding textured again.
Acceptance and Hope: This really isn’t so bad! It’s only for a year and the soreness is much reduced.
The only problem is that when I get to acceptance, it’s time to eat again.