A Million Dollar Smile

My oldest son has reached the miserable age most parents dread the most: middle school. He’ll be starting 6th grade in the fall (a fact I have not yet come to terms with btw). He’s growing taller, his voice is sometimes oddly deep and startles me, he smells like a freaking dude. And just last week, he crossed a milestone of epic proportion in any adolescent’s life: getting braces.

If you had braces as a kid, you know how much they suck. The shredded cheeks, the perpetually dry lips, the endless teeth brushing and the sheer torture of attempting to floss. Your mouth hurts constantly, your speech is impaired, it’s hard to sleep. The only comfort is that most of your friends are just as miserable as you are. Sometimes you even find a smidge of joy in coordinating the color of those tiny rubber bands holding all that metal together in your mouth.

Like anyone who has ever loved a child, it hurts me to see him so uncomfortable. It’s a part of life to deal with discomfort, especially if you want a better outcome on the other side. There is no reward in life that comes without some type of pain. #lifelesson

So in my infinite, tender-hearted wisdom, I decided to do something that I thought would make the next year or so a bit easier for my son. I also got braces. Even though I had them as a kid, I had lapsed significantly on my retainer use (a fact my parents still like to remind me of. Sorry Mom and Dad.)

I thought this would be a challenge we’d tackle together! We’d both suffer through it and in the end his new ‘million dollar’ smile as he calls it would make him even more handsome, and my new smile might win me a new sale or two. This would be great! A family adventure!

What I’ve learned is: I am a dumbass.

In the event you are considering getting your teeth straighter, I thought I would share some tips to manage through the experience. (Note: I am on week four of Invisalign. Will update in another month or so.)

  • Do not do it.
  • Ok. Fine, do it anyway. But immediately invest in a Waterpik if you do not already have one. You will be brushing your teeth 27 times a day. Not really, but after every single meal or snack or drink (other than water), you have to clean your clean before snapping back in those plastic trays that literally seal any remaining food particles against your teeth for 22 hours a day.
  • Buy new pants. You will lose weight because the prospect of removing the trays, eating tenderly on wobbly, ouchy teeth, and then cleaning them for the 15th time will become so overwhelming, you’ll just say ‘Forget it!’ to at least a few meals.
  • Break your sipping casually on your coffee/tea/smoothie habit. With just 2-4 hours a day of permissible ‘free’ time from these things, you’ll be scalding your throat trying to gulp down your coffee every morning. I know, four hours seems like a lot of time in a day to eat and clean teeth but it goes by quicker than you think. God forbid you have a 2 ½ hour work lunch one day—you’ll have skipped breakfast and will be horking down your dinner to make up for it!
  • It’s more than just the trays. What they don’t tell you in those fun commercials is that your doctor will have to glue tiny brackets to multiple teeth to give the trays something to hold on to as they force your smile into alignment.  
  • Cancel all important conference calls, presentations, and speaking engagements for the first week. Why? Because you will have a lisp. And not a slight lisp, but a full-on, drunken slur that will have people questioning if you got into your liquor cabinet before the planning meeting.
  • Prepare to drink obscene amounts of water and consequently be near a rest room. Remember the cotton mouth scene in Me, Myself, and Irene? That will be you. Except without the schizophrenia.
  • Start saving now. Between insurance, paying up front, and a family discount, we were able to save a nice chunk, but when I told my husband how much it would cost to straighten two mouths, he nearly punched me in the teeth. Just kidding. But seriously, it ain’t cheap.
  • It hurts. The movement of your teeth with these things is quite aggressive. The first few days with a new set of trays results in a nearly constant, dull ache. Just when they start to feel better, it’s time for a new set. Yay! Carry Advil with you all the time.
  • Adjust your routine. These things stain so if red wine or Old Fashions are your go-to imbibe on the weekends…prepare yourself to switch to vodka and La Croix (hey, if it’s good enough for Post Malone, it’s good enough for you!). Switching to a clear drink allows you to keep your trays in while you enjoy your beverage (use a straw for best results)*. Just make sure you brush your teeth well that night! *Please note: your doctor will tell you this is terrible advice. It might be, but good grief, we gotta live!
  • Change your trays on Sunday night. One, so you can sleep through the worst of the uncomfortableness. And, two, if they do get stained from whatever you were drinking on Saturday, who cares?
  • Carry your tray case, a tooth brush, and toothpaste with you so you can remove and clean on the go. The first few times you try to wrench these things out of your mouth in public are awkward, but it gets easier after a while!
  • Remind yourself that in a year or so, you will have straight teeth. That year is gonna pass anyway. Might as well do something for yourself!