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What Is It Like Having Braces?

Updated on June 29, 2020
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Since the time Mary had braces, she has been an advocate for dental health. Sharing advice and tips from dental professionals in her family

embarrassed by teeth
embarrassed by teeth | Source

Preventive Dental Care

I had my braces 40 years ago and although cosmetic dentistry and the equipment may have changed, the personal experience is still the same. If you're thinking about getting them, but unsure how you're going to feel wearing them, I want to shed some light on this so you have a clearer picture of what is involved.

Your dentist may advise you that you will need braces if there is going to be a problem with your bite or the structure of your jaw. These are just two of the reasons to see your dentist on a regular basis. They can prevent future problems.

Orthodontics isn't just about having a Hollywood smile, it is about providing the best possible care for your teeth and ensuring that with continued proper nutrition and visits to your dentist and hygienist, your teeth will last you a lifetime.

Dental tools
Dental tools | Source

Visiting the Dentist

I had never considered the idea of braces until the dentist suggested this to my mother. Of course then the seed had been planted in my brain and was beginning to germinate at a rapid rate. Our family's finances were tight as my father had only recently died, and my mother was left to raise three girls alone.

My incisors were turned slightly and according to my dentist my front teeth leaned in. I must say, having looked at my face for 11 years I had never noticed this but after that appointment, I now felt, deformed.

How To Get Perfect Teeth

Anyone who has had children knows they are masters of manipulation. Now every waking moment I planned how I was going to get my braces. I complained that I could feel my incisors burrowing into my nasal cavities. I was in excruciating pain or so my mother was told. The truth was I felt no different than I had before my dental appointment.

Every program I watched on television, everyone seemed to have perfect teeth. I appeared to be the only person on the planet with crooked teeth. What did I do to deserve this, I thought. Whenever I spoke to anyone in my family I purposely kept my lips pulled over my teeth to avoid the shame of uneven teeth. Eventually, Mother agreed and made an appointment at the orthodontist.

Cleaning Braces

Our first appointment was to explain the procedure and the cost involved. Being a selfish 11 year old, I ignored the cost and just listened to the part that affected me. I was shown models of teeth, that were taken from impressions of other patients, before and after models. I was also shown a book of photographs of teeth with braces.

The one photo that caught my eye, was someone who didn't brush their teeth correctly whilst wearing braces. When the braces were removed, they had a white stripe in the center of yellow teeth. I was now horrified! Had Mother already given them the money? I would prefer my deformed teeth to striped teeth. Panic began to set in.

I was assured, if I cleaned my teeth thoroughly, this wouldn't occur. They also suggested a Water Pik to clean where I couldn't reach with a brush.

Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser Professional For Teeth, Gums, Braces, Dental Care, Electric Power With 10 Settings, 7 Tips For Multiple Users And Needs, ADA Accepted, White WP-660
Waterpik Aquarius Water Flosser Professional For Teeth, Gums, Braces, Dental Care, Electric Power With 10 Settings, 7 Tips For Multiple Users And Needs, ADA Accepted, White WP-660
This is the updated version of the Water Pik I used and was recommended by my orthodontist. It shot water in those hard to reach places making cleaning my braces much easier.
Dental impressions
Dental impressions | Source

Dental Impressions

An impression of my teeth had to be taken. They filled a tray with a putty and put it in my mouth telling me to bite down. The same was done for the lower teeth. There was no turning back now. This was going to be the model I would see at the end of my treatment comparing it with the end result.

The metal bands were placed on my teeth by the orthodontist. This was very different than my dentist appointments. Not only were more people working in this office, there were several rows of dental chairs all facing the landscaped garden. They provided sterilized toothbrushes and Crest toothpaste that we were expected to use before we saw the orthodontist. I was always asked, "Do you need to brush?" This office treated me with respect whereas, at the dentist, I was just another kid.

Getting braces on teeth
Getting braces on teeth | Source

Children and Braces

Now it seems many people have braces or some other form of dental apparatus to keep the teeth straight. Although there were a few kids in my school, there weren't many wearing braces. I felt embarrassed. I worried people would call me 'metal mouth' 'rail-road tracks' and other horrible names.

In 6th grade, I remember my teacher commenting that I wasn't smiling any more. I kept my lip down over my teeth. After his talk, I found it easier to be myself and tried to speak normally without having my lip covering my teeth.

When you are a kid, time seems to take forever. I think my braces were on for about a year, but it seemed like an eternity.

The Pain of Braces

To straighten the teeth, the wire that runs through the bands and braces has to be tightened slightly to move the teeth toward their new position. After every appointment, I was in pain. My mouth ached and I got headaches. This I was told was normal. What could I say, I wanted sympathy from people but getting braces had been my idea. Family finances had been stretched to accommodate my whim so I had better not expect sympathy from them.

In the end, I stopped whining and my family accepted the fact that it was causing me pain and gave me space when I had been to the orthodontist.

Removing the Braces

One day, Mother dropped me off and told me to walk up and meet her after my appointment. It was only a few blocks and the weather was nice. I said, "bye" and went in for my appointment as usual.

Well today was the big day! The day they were going to remove the top brace. I had no idea I was so close. The bottom brace had to remain awhile longer though. It was then that I realized they must have used cement to put them on. As they were trying to remove them, it felt like they were knocking my teeth out. Finally the bulbous lump around my teeth which I had grown accustomed to was gone. I ran my tongue back and forth over my new teeth. I was past a mirror and told to, "have a look". Wow, I had the teeth of a movie star! They were beautiful. They were so white, no hint of a stripe. Where my lip had been permanently pulled down over my braces for what seemed like a lifetime was now stuck to my gums to show off my teeth to anyone who might be looking in my direction.

Beautiful smile
Beautiful smile | Source

My New Teeth

I made my next appointment and said good-bye to the ladies at the desk. They must love this moment when their customers are so happy.

I went out into the sunny morning a different person. There was a skip in my step and at every parked car I stopped to smile at my reflection in the window. Now thinking back, I wonder if any of those cars had people sitting in them wondering why this obviously insane bouncing youth was smiling at all the cars.

I arrived at my mom's office and went up to her and said "Hi" smiling as wide as my mouth could expand. She screamed with delight and showed me to the other staff, who already knew me but felt it was expected to comment on my new smile.

Compliments on Straight Teeth

Over the years, I have been complimented on my teeth many times. In California, where I am from, there are more people with straight teeth than there are road signs. However when I moved to England it was a different story. 25 years ago Britain was full of people with dental issues. Amazing really when you think they have free dental care up to the age of 16.

Once when I was in the hospital, having given birth, someone came to visit the lady and baby in the bed next to me. The visitor didn't 'ooo and ahh' over their new baby. She turned to me and said, "you have such beautiful teeth". An unexpected compliment from a stranger is always a nice surprise.

Of course, I don't know what type of person I would have been if I hadn't had braces, perhaps exactly the same. However, feeling comfortable enough with my smile encourages me to smile which in turns encourages others to do the same. I feel I have a positive outlook on life and I think that started when the braces came off. Phyllis Diller once said, "A smile is a curve that sets things straight." This is so true.

So forty years have passed and I still have all my teeth with the exception of my wisdom teeth. I am still diligent about flossing and brushing and anytime I attempt to open a packet with my teeth I hear Mom saying, "Don't use your teeth for that, do you know how much they cost me!"

© 2013 Mary Wickison


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