I was looking back at photos from 2016 the other day. In them I was either mid-laugh or grinning like a Cheshire cat. And it made me think. One how extraordinarily lucky I am to be in stitches every single day but how 10 years ago you’d never get me smiling in a photo. Why? Because I hated my smile.
Was it the worst smile? No. But only now, having the teeth I have makes me realise why having braces was one of the best things I did.
I remember when my sister got braces - she’s four years older than me as some background information. It was at a time when Steps were a big deal and Lisa got braces too. They were seen as cool. Everyone wanted them. And they wanted to have the boldest colours. I was a late ‘bracer.’ I was in sixth form by the time I got them. I wasn’t forced to have them but was recommended. As I say, I didn’t have the worst smile but it could be improved. Luckily it was before I came to an age where I had to pay, and I have to stress how bloody lucky I and others in this country are to get this level of dental care work for free.
My memory’s a little rusty on the whole process and it really does differ person to person. I was told it would be a two year procedure. I was started off on a removable retainer - one of those clip in jobs that you only put in at night and for me, never in front of people. I had that for a few months before the permanent fixtures came. You have to have moulds done before any of this, and I’ll be honest, it’s not a nice bit but needs to be done. I had the loveliest team throughout the whole two years that put me at ease and made the whole thing as smooth as it could possibly be.
The worst part for me was the first few days having them on. The application again isn’t pretty but it’s one of those ’suck it up’ jobs. Unlike the colourful brace years of Steps, I was in my late teens by this point so I wanted them as invisible as possible - I also took no photos of the process to share - it was pre-blogging sadly!
That night I went out with friends to our usual pub quiz night which at half time you’re given chips and sandwiches. I couldn’t eat a thing for days. My teeth felt like they could break and the only thing I could do was suck on freezing cold water and ice cubes. I wanted to rip the braces off my teeth and I thought the pain wouldn’t stop - it does, after a few days. I didn’t take any tablets, but should your pain persist ask your dentist for advice.
Getting used to them was weird - your mouth feels massive, you’re conscious of them and you’re wary of eating. I’d heard horror stories of not being able to eat X, Y and Z and people breaking their brace mid-meal. I’d heard stories of wires cutting into gums and people being in agony every time they were tightened. I’m not saying these are myths but I was very, very lucky in my experience. Over the two year period I had zero problems. I didn’t break my brace at all, I didn’t change my diet or restrict what I was eating and when mine were tightened I felt no pain whatsoever - I actually begged them to go tighter in the hope it would mean it would be over quicker and my teeth would look better.
After a while I actually got used to them and forgot they were there. I got used to smiling with them and feeling confident to the point of when they were finally removed, I was anxious. I’d gotten used to them and when they were removed, I felt my teeth were completely out of proportion. They weren’t - it just had been two years of not seeing such a white surface. I stopped smiling for a few weeks following whilst I got used to life without metal mouth.
After they were removed I was given a set of invisible braces - the fancy ones you see celebs using and these were my favourites. They were easy to put in and out and you couldn’t see them when they were in - perfect. And I spent almost two years following religiously wearing them - my dentist did insist I didn’t need to and just wear ‘as and when’ but when you’ve been through two years of pain - you don’t want the hard work to be for nothing. I have actually witnessed peoples’ teeth revert to being in bad condition with poor aftercare so really do look after them!
I’m confident for a lot of reasons in life - my general happy vibe, those I love, but I’m also confident because I love my smile. Again, is it perfect? No, but I’m always laughing and always smiling. Before when I used to shut my lips come any photo opportunity, I know beam big and wide. Sure, I have way more laughter lines, but having braces gave me my smile back, and part of my happiness too.