They are the metal railroad tracks criss-crossing each other in our mouths along with a variety of other contraptions deemed necessary. Only in the West would parents attach these on children’s teeth to keep them straight. These contraptions, otherwise known as braces, have been a driving part of modern culture. Today, braces are a rite of passage for kids. Alas, braces have not been introduced in my family recently. My mother had braces put on her in the ‘70s at the tender age of eight and got them off at age eighteen. My mother had three other siblings, all of whom also received braces except for one. My dad and his brothers probably needed them too, but didn’t have the money for them. To say that extremely bad teeth run in our family is an understatement.
My overbite was so terrible that I literally had to consciously pull my lip over my teeth just to close my mouth. My dentist told me that I was part of the elite one percent of people who did not need braces for cosmetic reasons but for health ones (my two front teeth were no longer baby teeth at this time. He was genuinely afraid that they might fall out if I were to fall somehow). Because my teeth were so much worse than those of the average child’s, I had to wear them so much longer than average.
When I first had braces glued on to my teeth, I was told that it would be over before I knew it. That everything would end up working out and that I would even have them off before my peers. I got my braces put on the summer before fourth grade, four braces on my four front teeth before a full set in the fifth grade (I did have a time period in between then, though). Since this time, I have discovered that this was a complete lie. I watched people who got braces after me take them off before me; my dentist disappointed me again and again and again by giving me a time when I would get my braces off that never fit. Now it’s been five years, though, and I finally have got these suckers off my teeth. I have them off and now it’s done and over with. Still, I can’t help but find myself reflecting on that time in my life.
My braces have traveled with me all across the globe, and have followed me through all kinds of situations. In fact, there was one point where my mother literally could not remember me without braces. To everyone I knew, they seemed like a constant, like another feature on my face. I’ve survived all of the phases that orthodontia has brought me- aching teeth, headaches caused by those aching teeth, swollen gums, mouth sores and sharp-edged wires and brackets, expanders (on both my top and bottom jaw for three months that needed to be tightened with a key daily), blue things put on the top of two teeth to correct my bite (that felt like I was chewing on metal), annoying rubber bands that snapped at random moments and the general ugly mass of metal in my mouth that could be seen in my life.
Of course, they were a large part of my life. Braces influenced so many different things to the way I ate and brushed my teeth to the way I saw myself. They even helped me learn how to suck things up and to tolerate pain.
And now they’re not here. These things that have been a part of me so long have been ripped off of me. I never thought this day would come but all of the sudden it just has. I’m lost, almost.
It feels like a gaping hole, a missing limb almost, but in a good way. My teeth feel so much smoother, so much more comfortable. In addition to that, my teeth were much whiter and nicer-looking than I thought they would be so I guess my ardent brushing has actually paid off.
It felt like they were ripping my teeth out as each bracket was torn off. When the dentist came with the drill to clean off all the glue, it chilled and tickled my teeth all the way to the very nerve so much that it was a painfully all-encompassing sensation. I wanted to bite my lip to keep from crying out, but I couldn’t. They kept asking if I was okay and I said I was because I wanted it off so badly. The glue had to come off in a few stages and I had to rinse my mouth. When I was able to lick my teeth to confirm the odd feeling and look in the mirror, I knew I loved my new state of tooth.
In addition to all of that, I had to get fitted for my retainer. I had to bite down on gray paste that felt like gummy clay but tasted like melted plastic. I don’t know how bad the retainer will be because I have to still get it fitted but… I guess it can’t be as bad. My orthodontist told me it will be “a walk in the park” as long as I wear it regularly.
The appointment was in the morning, but my parents let me stay home from school in celebration. In that time home, I got to go out to eat and even got a large milkshake from the milkshake shop that my dad promised me for ages (my parents only let me get the smaller one whenever we go most of the time).
So here I am now. I’m here now with bare teeth and a skip in my step. I’ve survived the braces battle and I’ve come out with no scars. At the very least, I don’t have an overbite now.
(The earliest picture of me when I JUST got my braces on is not on the computer. It's not a pretty sight, though. )