This Again? Considering Braces.

posted in: Day In The Life 17
Transparent brackets on a scary, scary mold of human teeth. Photo: Wikipedia.
Transparent brackets on a scary, scary mold of human teeth. Photo: Wikipedia.


A few weeks ago, I had a dentist appointment.

I put a comment in the comments section that let you know the visit was pain-free and it was, mostly. My new dentist zinged me with the spinny thing a couple times, but just when I was about to cry and rip off my paper napkin he switched to the old-fashioned scraper tool and I was okay. (The scraper doesn’t bother me for some reason.) The good news was that I didn’t have any cavities, so yay me for brushing my teeth even when I’m so tired I can’t see straight. The bad news is that I need a crown, but this was not news. I have a tooth on my lower right that is 79% filling at this point and I was actually surprised that my new dentist — who has extremely hairy arms but an excellent sense of humor — let me out the door without scheduling the appointment, but he didn’t. He said I would be okay for awhile, as long as I stop eating ice.*

The reason I’m doing an official follow-up to the dentist post is because something major happened.

I asked about braces.

Oh, I had them when I was a kid. Actually, I was a tween, but advertising executives hadn’t come up with that word for 13-year-olds back in the mid-’90s, so I think of myself as a kid back then — a kid with real messed up teeth. Man, were they crooked. Jacked-up toofs run in my family. The Fons clan has deep palates and our teeth are relatively large and excited to show up to the mouth party, so there’s a lot of crowding. Besides, you know, my family members — both on the Fons and Graham side — are just so wise, most of us have had to have all four respective wisdom teeth removed. If we didn’t, you see, we would be too wise. We would like, rule the galaxy because of our wisdom We would also have even crooked-er teeth.

So yes, I had braces as a youth and as a result, my teeth became super straight. But over the next decade or so, something happened: My lower teeth started to get all crooked again. This wasn’t something I noticed while it was happening, obviously; teeth move slowly. But a couple years ago I realized my lower incisor was starting to cock a little bit. A year after that, I saw how it had moved the tooth next to it — and the tooth next to that. Needless to day, I was steamed: Not only did I have braces in junior high, I had rubber bands, too.

From that day on, I began to notice my (crooked) teeth when I viewed episodes of Quilty or Love of Quilting. I began to be self-conscious about the way my teeth looked on camera and, more immediately pressing, how they looked in the bathroom mirror when I was flossing. I know plenty of folks vainer than I, but I’m not ashamed to say that I care about my appearance and try to keep myself looking and feeling my best. Besides, I do have a job that is public in many ways. How my teeth look — and how I feel about how my teeth look — is not an entirely trivial thing.

When I asked my dentist about all this, he said, with a reassuring nonchalance, “You should talk to an orthodontist. Sure. I see that, on the bottom. I’ll give you a referral to the two best guys. Get a quote, see what they say. It wouldn’t take too much. You’d be much happier.”

And a few days ago, I had one of the appointments. It’s so much money. But it’s my face. My teeth. You know? I give to charities. I save for retirement. I pay my taxes and I try to be generous. I’m in debt for school, but I’m paying it back as I go along. I can’t really “afford” to straighten my smile but I could figure it out. And it’s really been bugging me, how my teeth have shifted and gotten all weird. The thought that keeps coming to me is hard to admit, but I can tell you anything, so here goes:

I’ll be 40 in three years. How cool would it be to have the best smile of my life when I hit 40?

What if, you know? Just what if? They would be on the inside, by the way, if I’m willing to pay extra.

I think I’d have to try and make that work.


*[EDITOR’S NOTE: I am literally eating ice right now. It’s soft ice and I’m chewing carefully. Note to self to take iron supplement every day, not just when I remember.]

17 Responses

  1. Melody A.
    | Reply

    Your caring about how you look is important and if this is something that would make you feel more confident then kudos to you. I wish I had done a lot more things for myself when I was your age, now at almost 59 I am finally thinking about it. I think you are beautiful ! Take care from Iowa

  2. Ingrid White
    | Reply

    Do it Mary! I got train track braces, mini screws and anterior elastics at age 48. Had braces for 4 long years! BUT, I don’t regret it for a moment. Talk to your ortho about RETAINERS, because your teeth WILL move after the braces are off if you don’t wear retainers. I work in a specialist ortho practice in the UK – so I know. Good luck.

  3. Donna
    | Reply

    Oh Mary, I feel your pain! I had braces from 12 to 16 years old, and although I don’t remember much about my childhood, I remember how horrible that was. And of course, a few years ago I noticed that my teeth have moved again too! Now that I’m in my mid-50s, I’m seriously considering doing something about it cos I hate my teeth too! Good luck, and I hope you can make it work!

  4. Michelle N
    | Reply

    Oh man, the conundrum of adult braces. I got braces in 4th grade, along with glasses. I was very popular that year. Thankfully I had straight teeth and contacts before I started high school.

    I have noticed lately that my lower teeth have taken to the not so straight highway too. It hasn’t hit the point where I want to fix them, even though the first thing everyone comments on is my toothy smile. That smile is why I had to pay extra for a porcelain crown. And am saving up for a second porcelain crown. I am just that fancy.

    Keep us updated! Maybe you’ll inspire us to take better care of ourselves. (Have you tried snail mucus as part of your skincare regimen? It’s amazing. Those Koreans know what they are doing.)

    • Lindsey
      | Reply

      Snail mucus?! I almost barfed when I read that.

      • Mary
        | Reply

        Me too!!

  5. Deb P.
    | Reply

    Mary, I got braces in my early 50s and don’t regret it as I was self conscious about my crooked teeth, esp. bottom ones. I had clear braces on top and metal on bottom. When removed, I got permanent retainers on the back of my teeth. Just didn’t think I’d stick with wearing regular retainers at night. Today, my bite is so much better and my big teeth look great. Although expensive, I managed it through payments. Wish I had done it at your age!

  6. Deb KimballS H5
    | Reply

    Wow. I’m in my early 70s and have really crooked teeth. This is after the removal of 3 teeth plus 4 wisdom teeth T a very early age. I think 13ish. Full mouth of braces for 3 years, and voila, I had straightER teeth. But my folks ran out of the $$$. So I lived with retainers for a bit. Fast forward 50 years. My mouth looked like I had never seen the inside of an orthodontists office. Finally needed a crown on one of the two most crooked top front teeth. Dental insurance cover the crown which would be manufactured so that my tooth looked straight. Not a terrific look. So I claimed distress, and my dentist convinced the insurance company to allow her to make two matching teeth.

    I still have crooked teeth, but my upper jaw looks mighty fine.

    oh yes, I know ice, pics and iron stuff well.

  7. Peggy
    | Reply

    Do it! I got old-fashioned on-the-outside-of-the-teeth metal braces at age 51. For the second time since adolescence (when I had to wear headgear and rubber bands). They were kind of a pain, but people thought they were cute, and 18 months passed quickly.

    Now I know the secret to keeping straight teeth: WEAR A RETAINER AT NIGHT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Teeth have amazing memories of where they used to be and are always struggling to get there. Straighten them (for the second time if you must), retain them forever at night, and enjoy your new smile!

  8. Jennifer Moore
    | Reply

    Holy moly – I’m in the same boat! Braces in middle school, but my teeth have shifted during adulthood and I am unhappy with the way they look. My insurance covers about $2,000 worth, so thinking about doing Invisalign. Coincidentally, I read this post in the car just after leaving the dentist today. This visit was a bit of a doozy, the nitrous levels were a tad too high for me. Started feeling pretty dizzy and I barfed while sitting in the chair. Luckily the hygienist noticed the warning signs and got a bag under my mouth just in time. #embarrassed

  9. Carole
    | Reply

    Been there, done that! Had braces in high school and got them again in my 40s since very few of my teeth were touching in the right places. I say go for it! Think very carefully about those inside braces – they WILL affect your tongue, and not in a good way. Your teeth will only keep moving and the longer you wait the longer you will wear the braces. Wear the retainers after the braces. That’s what keeps the teeth straight.

  10. Colleen Sain
    | Reply

    I am 66 years old and just finished with my InvisiLine Braces. I am joyful about wearing that retainer as it means my teeth look good again. I too had braces when I was a teeth, donated 4 Wisdom and 4 more unwise teeth to file 13, and have a family history of horribly crowded large teeth. At age 65, with all the traumas involved in signing for Medicare, I decided that I could no longer allow my teeth to get completely back to their original places. I didn’t want to have my grandmother’s mouth. So I took the plunge. I am thrilled with the look and myself. Rebuilding self-esteem!!! Do it girl?

  11. Colleen Sain
    | Reply

    teeth in line 2 should be teen.

  12. Sarah
    | Reply

    Go for it Mary, and let the braces show on the outside to encourage other people who are feeling shy about doing the same thing.

  13. Betty Elliott
    | Reply

    I never had braces as a kid – just not the sort of thing my parents did. So I got them when I was in my 40’s, along with my teen-aged kids. For several years the three of us kept the orthodontist in business!

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