Like many parents of teens, the orthodontist is another step on the ladder to get the kids grown and gone. You start with one appointment down and countless more to go (especially if you have more than one precious baby with a mouthful of wayward teeth).
Never once, while I was sitting in the waiting room, did I think I’d be in the hot chair for an evaluation of my teeth. Though, come to find out, Gen Xers are lining up for the second go-around at the ortho (myself included).
For some, it’s finally getting the smile they’ve always wanted.
For me, it’s fixing an issue that cropped up like mid-life acne.
If Only We Had a Crystal Ball
To abbreviate my saga, my husband and insurance holder for the family changed jobs and accidentally signed up for the bare bones dental insurance. That’s how I found myself at a strip center mouth mechanic (I know that sounds harsh, but there’s more). This particular dentist opted to remove my cracked tooth and replace it with an implant. Not what I desired, but it seemed fixable. So in November 2019, one of my molars was removed, and a bone graft was added. Thinking the new year would bring a new smile, I waited patiently. Then Covid descended on the medical landscape like a minuscule death star, and my dental implant was labeled cosmetic – and banned.
During this time of stress-induced jaw-gnashing, my teeth decided to spread out and find new homes in my mouth. With no faith in the original group, I set out to find another opinion with my newer and better insurance. The new oral surgeon entered the room with the good news-bad news opening.
Good – no problem, we can set your post. The bone graft is solid.
Bad – you no longer have room for an implant.
I shook my head in disbelief.
Cosmetic Dentist to the Rescue
It seems when you come in with a tale of dental woe, the office whips out its black book and hands over the goods, like the best in the biz. That’s how I got an appointment to the one, the you ain’t getting an appointment with that one because they only see local celebs kind of doctor.
I think the oral surgeon felt sorry for me because I was gifted a complimentary evaluation.
So off I go for my first foray into the world of cosmetic procedures. And really, I would have opted for the boobs of my 20s, but whatever. I needed to fix my smile.
Before this, I thought cosmetic dentists were for those with deep pockets and a yearning for teeth that glowed. Though as soon as I entered the waiting room, it was all laugh lines and a bit of botox.
My new dentist confirmed what the oral surgeon said: I needed to correct my bite. Though he added another stinger – it would require the traditional metal brackets of my adolescence.
With another name from the top of the professional roster, I called the orthodontist that saw adults; not every doctor does. In the office, the technician took pictures, panoramas and even filled a tray full of goo for impressions. They assured me it was faster than the last time I had braces, but I’m here to report that it felt gross, and I briefly thought I might swallow some of the stuff.
Back in the office a few days later, I saw the proof of how much my teeth had moved over the years. In my mind, I envisioned I could slip on that retainer from the 80s like my old prom dress. I think we all know the answer to that one. Mom might be doing pretty good, but she’s nowhere near that size 7.
There was no escaping the plaster mold of my teeth. I needed braces over 40. Invisalign was technically an option, but they suggested traditional metal braces in my case.
The Count Down to Braces over 40
With a date on the calendar, I enjoyed my last days of smooth teeth. I wallowed and stuffed my face with all the food on the no-no list. Hard, crusty sourdough and corn-on-the-cob are serious vices.
The application process was shorter than I remembered. Maybe the process was more efficient; who knows. Like most patients, I opted for the clear brackets on top with the traditional stainless brackets on the bottom. I declined the colored bands for the brackets. They were displayed just like at the nail salon, and I went with clear.
With the brackets applied and the first wire inserted, I felt the first twang of movement. I swear if my teeth could have moaned or creaked, they would have. I realized I had spent years staying reasonably fit as a mom of three, but my teeth had led a lackadaisical existence. With little warning, they had been prompted to move. My teeth were angry and were letting me know.
I ate mushy food for the next few days (ya, it was carby too). Bananas, mashed potatoes, and even ice cream kept me going as I popped over-the-counter pain meds. I found the baby Orajel in the junk drawer and dabbed it all over the sores that had popped up like dandelions inside my mouth.
Worst of all, I complained more than my kids ever did about their braces. They nodded in sympathy and suggested more ice cream. I relented as I spooned more into my sore mouth.
But You Look Younger with Braces
Everything required an adjustment for my new braces over 40. My speech sounded off as my lips got used to the obstructions, and the inside of my cheeks liked to get hung up in the wire. My newest hobby was sucking food particles after meals, to which one of my kids advised that my tongue would get better at it eventually.
Soon I found myself swishing a mouth full of water at the table; it was the lesser of two faux pas. My near daily salads seemed like my enemy, with spinach a particularly vile offender. It loved to settle behind the wire of my two front teeth.
For the early part of my brace face months, I gladly donned a face mask outside my house. However, as the call for mask wearing waned, I realized I would have to put my chin up and shine my best-braced face grin. I met lots of people with braces after that.
Soon, I learned that the braces did actually shave some years off my perceived age. Then I learned there were also some pervs out there. Like drug names and nicknames for the naughty bits, I was unaware I had just become a member of a niche group. Some never get over their adolescence, and girls with braces play heavily into that. Some dudes get motorcycles while others throw unwanted glances (and maybe a proposition or two) at the ladies with braces over 40.
I know, eww. Now you know.
New Lifestyle Warrants New Accessories
While adjusting to my new braces over 40, I started to buy accessories: namely, tooth-cleaning apparatus. Yep, my old drugstore toothbrush left bristles lodged in my brackets that felt like a plastic mustache. First came the electric toothbrush, blasting away food particles like a tiny tooth sander. Then I upgraded and got a water pick, another tiny tool to power wash my mouth as it blasted photon-enabled water into the hard-to-reach places.
Of course, I nearly drowned the first time I used it. Not really, but I did hit the bathroom wall with its stream. In addition to day and night rinse outs, it worked great after meals to blast away the carby bits from my teeth. What can I say? I think you understand it’s my comfort food.
The Bright Light at the End of the Treatment
After nearly two years, the braces don’t bother me much anymore. However, the color of my teeth has definitely changed. I’ve found that with all the Momming I do on a daily basis, I’ve begun to use coffee like a street drug. There is no workaround; it’s my crutch for everything. So my teeth are coffee-stained, and that is something to consider before you get a set of braces over 40. I could have used whitening toothpaste, but we were masked up for nearly half of my treatment, so I didn’t bother. Professional whitening is my reward.
As I near the end of my treatment plan, I think back.
What did I do right? I had a non-braces headshot to use professionally.
What have I learned? Definitely take care of your teeth. Don’t skip cleanings, and don’t skim on insurance coverage (if at all possible).
Would I do it again? The braces, I hope not, three times in a lifetime seems cruel.
Would I have donned the traditional braces again? Yes. In the end, the treatment plan or traditional braces came in shorter and slightly cheaper for me than anticipated. And my orthodontist said the result is better. In all honesty, the wire of my braces covered the gap in my teeth where my implant would be.
What am I looking forward to? That beautiful smile that I had when I got my braces off for the first time at 14.
Top Tools When Living With Braces Over 40