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.
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.
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.
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.