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My First Month with Braces as an Adult

First Month with Braces as an Adult | http://www.roseclearfield.com

I’ve mentioned a few times in the past month that I’ve been undergoing a lot of dental work. Since I started this process, I’ve been on the fence about how much I wanted to share publicly. Jake is the only person who knew I was getting braces before I got them. I’ve been telling family and friends as I’ve seen them over the past few weeks. Most people still don’t know, which is fine.

Ultimately, I decided that while I didn’t want to make a big social media announcement or write regular social media updates, I did want to put together at least a few posts about this process. I’m not going to share monthly updates with before and after photos. I’m not going to provide in-depth details about exactly what I’m having fixed. I am going to talk about what this process is really like as an adult.

Long story short, I’ve needed braces since high school and have always put it off. Dental work is the worst, and braces are painful and expensive. My teeth have always given me some issues, but it wasn’t ever significant enough that I was motivated to get braces.

Again, long story short, over the past couple years, it’s become apparent that I need a night guard. I can’t imagine wearing one comfortably with my teeth in their current condition. Also, spending money on a night guard, knowing I’d have to get a new one if I ever did get braces isn’t something I want to do. I have the time for orthodontist appointments, we have the money for braces, and we’re not planning on moving in the foreseeable future. So in early 2017 during a regular dentist appointment, I finally said no more excuses. By mid-February, I had an early March appointment to get braces.

Eating is really tough.

Hands down, the single aspect of getting braces that I completely underestimated was how difficult it would be to eat. I know that everyone’s experience is different, but I feel like orthodontists could do more to prepare their patients for this element of braces. It’s sort of an “as long as you’re not eating anything on the to-avoid list, you can eat whatever you’re comfortable eating” mentality. While I appreciate the flexibility this offers, it also gives zero guidance for meal planning.

In my mango smoothie recipe post, I talk at some length about the foods I have been eating the past month. I am expanding this list, but it’s been a slow process. It didn’t help that the early stages of braces included getting two teeth extracted, which I’ll discuss more in a bit. Now that I have the extraction finished and my full wires in place, I have been assured that I’m through the worst of it. I think I need to see a few more weeks of improvement to believe that.

The pain is real.

The most consistent pain I’ve had is in the mornings. I have to wear a bite guard at night, so my bottom braces don’t damage my top teeth, due to my huge overbite (fun, right?). I’m able to sleep fine with it, but I wake up uncomfortable every morning. I have no idea if this will get any better over time. Also, I don’t have room for my top teeth, hence the extraction and need for braces. My mouth is small, and my front top teeth stick out. I really don’t have room in my mouth for teeth and braces. I am hopeful this will get better as my top teeth do start to move.

For the record, I know pain is good. I’ve read accounts from a few adult braces wearers who didn’t have pain because their orthodontists took an overly conservative approach. I do not want to have braces for three years. More pain and difficulty with eating is worth the tradeoff of a shorter stint with braces.

Getting two teeth extracted was surprisingly quick and pain-free.

I’m not going to lie: anticipating the tooth extraction was anxiety provoking to the point of having nightmares. I’m still in shock that it went so quickly and smoothly. The entire appointment from checking in to being released with instructions for the next few days took 25 minutes and involved no pain whatsoever. I only needed local anesthesia and could drive myself home afterward. Honestly, the most uncomfortable part of the recovery was waiting for the anesthesia to wear off (about four hours), so I could eat and drink again. Eating afterward wasn’t really any rougher than it was the first few days with braces. I’m very thankful to have had such a great oral surgeon and to have the whole ordeal behind me now.

Floss | http://www.roseclearfield.com

I really miss flossing.

Missing flossing seems like an adult complaint about braces. I’m a floss every single day person. I know you can use a floss threader. I hope to get to the point that it will be a viable option. Thus far, my teeth have been in way too much pain for flossing. I have been using the little brushes, but they aren’t the same. Flossing daily has been key for no cavities the past decade, and I’m a little paranoid about the effects of no flossing. For now, I’m brushing often and trying not to worry about it.

Water with Ice | http://www.roseclearfield.com

I have never been so thirsty.

I have yet to read anything about thirst being a side effect of braces or hear anyone else share this particular side effect. But my mouth is so dry with braces. I sip on water all day when I’m at home. While I could definitely drink more water, usually, I drink enough. Lately, I don’t know how much water I would have to drink to feel like it’s enough.

People have been really supportive.

Most people have no filter. As such, I’m waiting for someone to say something weird or stupid. For example, people tell me all the time that I look really young. Now I’m fully expecting someone to say, “Oh, well, I thought because you have braces…” after making the “you look so young” comment. I’m also waiting for the “why did you get braces instead of Invisalign?” question.

Thus far, I haven’t gotten any random comments from people I don’t know or any weird comments or questions whatsoever. Most immediate family members know it’s something I’ve put off for years and have been supportive of my decision to go through with it. Most friends don’t know but have still been supportive, which has meant a lot. I feel ridiculous when I’m cutting up my food like I would for a two-year-old, especially in a restaurant. But everyone has had an “it’s totally fine, do what you need to do” attitude.

It’s expensive.

I am not just getting braces for aesthetic reasons. As such, it’s frustrating our dental insurance doesn’t cover any adult orthodontics. Until I started looking into braces, I didn’t really know what it would cost. At this point in our lives, a monthly orthodontics bill isn’t killing our budget. It would have been all but impossible while Jake was in medical school and I was teaching and very tight while Jake was in residency, which does give me some validation for waiting so long.

But it is like having a car payment for 18 months, which is no small deal. The good news is that we knew upfront how much we would be paying and could structure it however we wanted (up to 24 monthly payments), interest-free. My treatment is supposed to last 18 months, so essentially, I’m paying it off as I go. If I end up with extra appointments for unanticipated adjustments or other issues (i.e. a snapped wire) or regular appointments take longer than anticipated, it won’t cost anything extra.

A little over a month into the process, I have already seen some progress, which is extremely encouraging. I hope that continuing to see progress is going to keep me motivated. Thus far, it hasn’t exactly been an “I can’t believe I didn’t do this a decade ago” experience. Instead, the experience has confirmed why I waited so long in every way possible. I know that the long-term benefits will be worth the short-term sacrifices, but it’s hard to keep that in perspective on a day to day basis. Seeing more progress and getting positive feedback from the orthodontist on said progress will help.

If you got through 1,300+ words about my first month with braces as an adult, thank you. If you have personal experience with braces as an adult, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Shirley Corder April 18, 2017, 9:43 am

    Rose, I think you’re very brave – and I know your mouth and smile are going to look amazing when they eventually come off.

  • Divya April 18, 2017, 12:32 pm

    I never had braces growing up but I don’t think I needed them back then! While visiting my sister in DC, she said she noticed a small teeny gap in between my front teeth that wasn’t there before (she noticed them because she always had one and had to get InvisaLign).

    Is there a difference between getting InvisaLign and braces? I hope you’re doing well!! I know it can be so frustrating when your mouth/teeth hurt and it’s all you can do to not think about it!

    • Rose April 18, 2017, 2:18 pm

      Invisalign is the clear removable trays. They’re much less noticeable than regular braces. They’re a good fit for less significant issues. I have way too much getting fixed for Invisalign. But it’s a great option for many people.

  • BeadedTail April 18, 2017, 1:51 pm

    I had braces as a kid so don’t know if the pain is different but I remember it well. I had to wear the metal headgear at night that goes into the sides of the top braces and is connected to a cushion that goes behind the neck. That was a pain for many reasons! Anyway, I think it’s wonderful you’re doing this! You’ll be so glad when it’s over and you see the results! Phooey on anyone who makes any weird or negative comments. As for flossing, a waterpik helps!

    • Rose April 18, 2017, 2:18 pm

      Metal headgear is the worst. Thank you for the tip about the waterpik! Great idea!

  • Summer April 18, 2017, 2:13 pm

    Thank you for sharing this and being so real. I have terrible teeth…always have been crowded. I have needed braces since I was in the 5th grade, as did my sisters, but we could never afford them. Here I am, 24 years old and with my biggest insecurity – my teeth. I don’t know if I could get braces now, but I’ve been tossing around the idea of invisalign. Either way, it’s pricey. I’m proud of you for being brave and honest! I definitely want to keep up with your journey!

    • Rose April 18, 2017, 2:21 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear that. 🙁 My teeth have always been a big insecurity for me as well. You’re absolutely right that both Invisalign and braces are pricey. It simply wasn’t in the budget for us until pretty recently.

  • Molly April 18, 2017, 2:24 pm

    I was 38 or 39 when I got braces (I had twins at 37 so my memory’s a little fuzzy). I had always been self-conscious about my teeth but my family couldn’t afford them when I was a kid. Along with the braces, I also had to have surgery to move my jaw forward (not as fun as it sounds lol) the weekend I turned 40. It was all quite an ordeal and very painful but I have never regretted it. Now, almost 10 years later, it feels like it was a very short period of my life that paid off with increased self-confidence and better dental health long term. Good luck with your journey, Rose!

    • Rose April 18, 2017, 2:33 pm

      I’m glad to hear that it was all worth it for you, even with the jaw surgery. I hope that I feel the same way!

  • Natasha April 18, 2017, 3:46 pm

    Sorry it’s been more of a ‘no wonder I put this off’ experience so far for you. Every time I got to the dentist they try to sell me Invisalign, but luckily (after having four impacted wisdom teeth out a few years ago), my issues are more cosmetic than problematic at this point. I hope they stay that way! My sister had a series of retainers and braces for at least a decade. Your post casts a new light on why she was always so quiet after getting a braces adjustment! Poor kid, she must have been in so much pain.

    • Rose April 18, 2017, 5:12 pm

      A decade, how awful!

  • Brooke April 18, 2017, 4:27 pm

    Good on your Rose for getting it done!
    18 months is a relatively small length of time if it’s going to benefit the rest of your life. I hope you get everything you want out of it and continue to see good progress 🙂

    • Rose April 18, 2017, 5:11 pm

      Thanks, Brooke! I hope when I look back on it than 18 months seems like a short amount of time.

  • Kristin April 18, 2017, 9:43 pm

    I didn’t have braces but I did have invisalign for about 18 months a few years ago. Every two weeks when I would change them I would call it smoothie day for at least two days! They were painful.

  • Duni April 19, 2017, 6:29 am

    I had metal braces when I was 10 and needed to wear them for two years. It was painful! Especially after tightening. Do you need to go in for tightening? At night I had to put rubber bands on the two top and two lower front teeth. Can’t remember why, but usually woke up with a headache and neck pain.
    I would think the method has much improved since then…or hasn’t it???

    • Rose April 19, 2017, 9:27 am

      Ouch! Braces do still require tightening. I opted for the (slightly more expensive) clear braces that don’t have rubber bands to avoid that headache and get a little less noticeable aesthetic. Braces have improved significantly in the past couple decades, but they still aren’t a lot of fun.

  • Judy Nolan April 19, 2017, 9:54 pm

    Good for you for taking such a big step forward. But I understand the pain! I was 17 when I had my traditional braces removed, and it was also an 18-month procedure. I had four impacted wisdom teeth removed, plus four additional teeth because–like you–I have a small mouth. Decades later, I am glad the work was done and also that it has lasted. Good luck to you on your orthodontic journey!

  • Lyndsey November 21, 2017, 5:48 am

    Thanks for writing this post! I got braces fitted about a month ago (at 27) and I totally agree with you about feeling underprepared when it came to knowing what to eat. My teeth are still giving me a bit of pain some days so I’m still struggling to chew much and I feel like I’m living on soup, mashed potato and smoothies. Before I got my braces I went to the gym pretty regularly (for mental health as much as physical!) but since I got them I haven’t been at all because I haven’t been eating enough to have the energy and it’s got me feeling a bit down. I will definitely check out your recipes!

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