It’s been exactly one week since I got my braces, and I’ve already noticed a difference -- not just in my teeth, but in my interactions with others. After 10 years of putting off installing the metal work to fix my bite for one reason or another -- finances, moving every few years, lack of dental insurance, fear of how much worse dating in New York would be with brackets on my teeth -- I couldn’t be happier with the year-long commitment. The fact that I found an orthodontist who specializes in incognito braces, the Schulhof Center on the Upper East Side, has made things a little more bearable, even if there have been unforeseen inconveniences.
Day One: Enduring three hours with my mouth pried open and the bitter taste of metal residue was nothing. The jarring pain that came after made me second guess my decision. “You can always get them taken off,” my boyfriend said. Like hell I can. I’m not throwing $10,000 down the drain. I just need to toughen up. If a teenager can handle this, so can I. I’m determined to come out of this with the confident smile I’ve been wanting for years.
Day Two: I woke up feeling like someone had been hammering at my teeth all night. The nerve-endings in my mouth were so raw that I could hardly chomp down on anything. Yogurt, soup, and mashed potatoes were all I could eat. And even though I had finally decided to take the plunge with my extensive dental work regardless of being in a relatively new relationship (I started seeing my boyfriend in July and signed up for them in September), I know am with the right guy to undergo such a change. “You look beautiful,” he said, while I was wincing from the pangs of pain in my mouth. He's a keeper. Any other superficial Manhattan man would have dumped me and my teenage teeth by now!
Day Three: Eating is not as easy as before (my stomach has definitely deflated quite a bit from the mostly liquid diet), and having others understand me isn’t easy either. While grocery shopping for my Christmmukah party, I had to repeat myself many times when asking for help. “Excuse me. Do you sell any apple chutney?” was followed up with a quizzical pause. And so I said it again. The girl who once spoke so clearly as to come off with great “conviction,” as someone once said to me, now has a lisp. I joked about it with my boyfriend saying, “Now you can tell people I am from Spain,” but really it’s annoying. I feel for my dad whose thick Nicaraguan accent has never been easily understood living in the South and for people who have worked through speech impediments their whole life.
Day Four: People aren’t supposed to notice “incognito” braces. But they still do. “What’s in your mouth?” said a friend as soon as she hopped in the car on the way to a Knicks game. “I got braces!” I said, followed by the millionth demonstration of my contraption. Yes braces behind my teeth don’t have the pubescent sheen of regular ones, but I do still feel a bit self-conscious about them. We stood up to take a picture at the game, and in reviewing the picture I saw that I hid my pearly whites. Even though you can’t see the braces, I had a closed-lip smile as if I had regular brackets.
Day Five: Bad weather has come to New York, and that has made me extra paranoid about my mouth. I’m not about to slip on a slick sidewalk and fall flat on my face, ruining 10 G’s worth of work! It’ll be chunky boots with lots of traction this season! Through the nuisances, awkwardness, and pain, when I see my teeth twisting out of ugly positions and shifting ever so slightly into place, I know it’ll totally be worth it.