Like many people who had braces in their tween and teen years, I stopped wearing my retainer in college. I mean, who wants to make out with someone and then put in a night guard? (Just kidding, I was studying.) Here's the funny thing about teeth, though: if orthodontia can move my teeth into place, my teeth can move back. So after wearing braces in junior high and high school, I find myself in my mid-30s with mouth full of metal. Yes, that's right. I'm a mom with braces. And honestly, it's really different this time around.
A few years back, I started to notice that my bottom teeth were moving. Unfortunately, as a single woman on a teacher's salary, I just couldn't afford to do anything about it. More recently, however, I've simultaneously picked up some work to supplement my husband's income and become more self-conscious about ye olde snaggletooth. I finally decided to go in for a consultation. I would have liked something more subtle, like Invisalign, but traditional brackets were significantly less expensive. Last month, I walked out of the orthodontist's office with metal braces (lilac bands, thank you very much) on my bottom teeth and went back to my day job as a mom. Let me tell you, being a mom with braces is weird.
Don't get me wrong. I'm incredibly grateful that my finances and access to dental care allow me to have my teeth straightened. At the end of the process, I'll not only be more confident about my smile, but I'll also avoid dental health problems in my golden years. But that doesn't mean I have to like the process, so fellow braceface mamas, feel free to whine along with me.
People Assume You're At The Dentist For Your Kid
This doesn't usually happen once you have the braces on, of course, but when you go in to be evaluated, the office staff will often assume you're someone's mom. I mean, you are someone's mom, but your kid isn't the one with the appointment. You are. I know adult braces are more and more common, but it's still kind of embarrassing when people think you're a parent instead of a patient.
You Have To Take Your Kid To Your Appointments
I have to get my braces tightened every six weeks, and I think that's pretty standard practice. When I was a kid, it was great to be pulled out of school that often. I got to skip class, have my appointment, and mom would get me a treat.
As an adult, however, I find it difficult to get a babysitter that often and at those times, so I take my daughter with me. There I am with cheek spreaders in my mouth and a 2-year-old toddler in my lap using up all my data on YouTube. And nobody gets me a milkshake when the entire sh*tshow is finished.
Getting Hit In The Face Hurts Even Worse
A baby foot to the face when you're co-sleeping or an accidental bump of a heavy toddler head is no fun, but believe me, you really do not want to get hit in the mouth when you have braces. My kid likes to use me as a jungle gym, and more than once I've gotten an elbow to the lip and cut myself. "Uh-oh. Sorry, Mommy."
You Can't Eat All Your Kid's Leftovers
If you're a stay-at-home mom, I know the only time you eat is standing up in the kitchen finishing off whatever your kid didn't want (half a banana + crust of bread = a stay-at-home mom's lunch). You have to be a little more careful with braces, though, as some food items are now verboten. I see you, peanut butter and jelly sandwich — enticing in your sweetness and deceptive in your simplicity — but you will end up stuck all up in my braces, and so we must part ways.
You Don't Have Time To Floss
Having braces means increased maintenance, and what mom has time for that? I barely manage to shower and brush my teeth on a daily basis. Plus, flossing under the wire requires special techniques and materials (super floss and a little loopy thingy).
Please don't tell my orthodontist that I'm not doing it every day.
Story Time Can Suck
When I had braces the first time, I remember that eventually I couldn't feel them at all. This time around, though? Well, I'm not there yet. While the aching has subsided, for the most part, I'm still getting all kinds of sore spots on the inside of my mouth. I swear my daughter has a sixth sense for when I have a mouth ulcer because she always asks me to read all the books. Seriously, you try reading Go, Dog, Go! without your lips touching your teeth.
Your Kid Steals Your Swag
I was pretty excited to leave the appointment in which I got my braces on with a water bottle full of goodies. But like everything I bring home, my toddler assumes it belongs to her. How do you explain to a 2-year-old that the wax is to make mommy's mouth feel better and not to squish into the carpet? #AskingForAFriend
It Can Feel Selfish
I think most moms struggle with making themselves a priority. I'm a self-described selfish mom, and even I balked at forking out that kind of cash for something that's essentially cosmetic in nature. I mean, I want to help my kid pay for college someday. But the fact is, it's not just about how I look. This is an investment in my long-term health, and you know what? I deserve not just to be healthy, but to feel good about myself.
Your Little One Is Really Curious
Before I got braces, my toddler was already trying to put her sticky little fingers in my mouth. Her level of interest has now increased exponentially. I guess I'm grateful she doesn't have that many words so she can't tell me how funny I look when I chew food.
I'm definitely the only mom in my playgroup with braces. Being a braceface brings back the insecurity I felt as a 15 year-old student, and I hate how I look in pictures. It can feel strange to be the only adult in the room with an orthodontic treatment plan, but fortunately, age has also brought wisdom. I know that this too shall pass (and I care a little less what people think now) and that in the end, it will all be worth it for a smile that lasts a lifetime.