Friday, November 07, 2008

Feeling adolescent

This photo was taken of me in March 1984, which was 24 years ago. I was a freshman in high school and all of 14 years old. I'd been named student of the month for achievement, and an 8-by-10 of this photo hung in the school hallway, where I passed it regularly for that month.

What struck me about that photo, and why it will always hold a special place in my heart, was the smile. You see, when they took this photo, I'd just had my braces removed. I'm not sure if it was hours or days prior, but it was certainly within the first week.

I'd worn braces for over three years and, trust me, it was a shock to see a photo of myself like this.

Here's a photo that had been taken just six months prior. See what a difference it is? (I'm on the left.)

Problem was, once my braces were off, I was done. I'd been visiting an orthodontist since first grade. I'd had baby teeth pulled, then more teeth pulled, then headgear, then braces. As my mother explained it to me, I had big teeth and a small jaw, so there just wasn't enough room.

Somewhere between 1984 and now, though, my teeth started to shift. (I wish I'd worn that retainer!) The shifting was mostly on the bottom, where you couldn't see it. Then, a few years ago, the bottom started to affect the top, and they started to shift. My teeth didn't look bad, but they bugged me. I missed the confidence that I used to have in my smile. And after all those years of visiting an orthodontist as a kid, shouldn't I have perfect teeth to show for it?

After a friend successfully completed straightening her teeth using Invisalign, which is an invisible retainer system, I decided to check it out. Turns out, my problems weren't just cosmetic. My bite on one side was off now too.

So I talked it over with my husband, and he told me that since I'd been talking about it for years and it was obviously so important to me, I should pursue it.

This morning I had my Invisalign system "installed". I don't think that's what they officially call it, but that's what it felt like to me.

And let me say that sitting in that chair, with the lip spreader torture device on while the technician attached little pieces of cement to my teeth, I experienced what I could only call deja vu. I was in junior high again. I was getting braces!

Albeit, fancy, hi-tech braces, but still braces.

The Invisalign system works by computer modeling where my teeth are now and where the orthodontist wants them to be when the treatment ends. A series of clear plastic retainers (trays) are made to move my teeth gradually. I'll wear each tray for a minimum of 22 hours a day for two weeks each. I have to take them out to eat and drink, but otherwise they stay in. My top teeth will be done after 20 trays, and my bottom teeth will be done after 29 trays. Not only will they straighten my teeth, but widen my arch, too.

Right now, I'm on day No. 1 and getting used to the trays. Everyone assures me that my lisp will go away in a few days, but right now, my "S"s aren't pretty.

My teeth are a little bit sore from the pressure the trays are putting on them, so every few hours I find myself popping the trays out for a little while. But once they're out, I can feel the dots of cement on my teeth, which are there to help anchor the trays. Right now the dots of cement are kind of sharp and feel weird, especially the four on the back of my front teeth that rub against my tongue, so I find myself wanting to put the trays back in. It's a brilliant system, actually, that must have been surreptitiously designed to make me want to keep the trays in.

If all goes well, on Dec. 4, 2009, I'll be popping in my last set of trays and getting ready to finish the whole teeth straightening process. And this time, I WILL wear my retainer.


  1. Great pictures -- very 1984.

    Good luck with the invisiline. The last time I went to a dentist, he said I may need to do something like that. I haven't gotten around to going back. I probably should. It's been about 8 years...

  2. Anonymous11/08/2008

    I'm sure you'll be happy with the final result. These days most ortho patients end up with a permanently bonded retainer on the backs of the bottom teeth after the teeth are positioned. If you end up with that you won't have to worry about remembering to put the retainer in. It'll be a bit harder to floss there though.

  3. Ooooo....fancy cool do those look? So do you keep the old "trays"? And can you make teeth moldings with the old ones? I'm just saying you can have a little fun with Dave. You know, leave plastic teeth around the house and tell him you lost something. It's a working theory, albeit not a good one.

    BTW...LOVE the pic! I had a flash into the past for a moment...the sights and sounds of the Hughes' house, even if the pic wasn't there Coolest house ever!

  4. I am so thankful I've never had problems with my teeth. Not a cavity or tootache.

    I hope all goes well!

    ps love the 80's hair!

  5. I agree with Cromley - good pic, but very 1984.

  6. awww, cute picture!
    I'm tempted to try something like that... I never had braces growing up, and my teeth now are so out of whack. Perhaps I'll look into it. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love that photo of you Haley. And your smile is amazing in that photo! I've never gotten braces though a part of me wishes I had. But I think I would've been an even crankier teen than I already was!

  8. @Cromely -- The Invisalign has been harder to get used to than I imagined, but I'm making progress and know that in a few more weeks I'll be fine with them. Every one who has had them has said I'll be so happy with the result.

    @Periapex -- My husband has that permanent retainer and It's worked beautifully for him for 20 years. I definitely want to ask about it.

    @Karina -- You're right. The old trays might make good Halloween props! And Thanks! The older I get, the more I appreciate what a nice family life we had.

    @The Hunter's Wife -- I'm there with you on the cavity thing, with I was there with you on the orthodonture thing, too. :)

    @Don MFH -- In 1983 I had feathered hair, and by 1984 I had the mullet. Yes, very 80s!

    @Lisa -- Thanks! Definitely investigate it. The invisalign is more expensive then traditional braces, but much better for adults.

    @Fragileheart -- Thank you. If you still wish you had, you know it's not too late. I'm 10 years older than you... :P


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