Friday, November 07, 2008
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.