When I was mommy-ing full-time, I promise you that I didn’t buy 5 1/4″ stilettos; I didn’t spend my afternoons trying on 20 pairs of blue jeans; and I certainly didn’t wile away the hours curled up reading Sookie Stackhouse novels!
In fact, there are a heck of a lot of things I didn’t do. What I did do was hide under large men’s shirts.
While stilettos, skinny jeans, and my dearest Sookie are admittedly frivolous things, I also didn’t take time caring for any of my real needs either. I didn’t work out, take dietary calcium, or get enough sleep.
Busy taking care of the house and the needs of others, I was usually so exhausted by the end of the day that I barely brushed my teeth at night before collapsing into bed.
So getting braces? For myself? No way!
Braces were for my children.
Rachel had a slight malocclusion compared to Wolfie’s–which is ironic since Rachel was the recalcitrant thumb-sucker–but we felt orthodontia was an important investment for both kids. We were fortunate to have excellent dental insurance and a flexible spending account that allowed us to put pre-taxed income in a special savings account reserved for medical expenses.
Because Invisalign Teen wasn’t offered, the kids had to have regular metal braces. I was very pleased with the results.
I was also happy when orthodontia ended and I thought we’d need no more money going into the flexible spending account and no more ortho appointments.
And then I had a life-changing existential crisis in a dressing room.
You can read the well-written version of my crisis here, but for those of you with ADD (and that’s all of us today), here’s the Twitter version:
While on a routine underwear shopping trip, piously frumpy homeschool mom discovers that she’s a self-righteous pompous ass.
After that experience in the dressing room, I began to think more about how I was treating myself.
Sure, I took great care of my kids. Yes, I was a dedicated homeschool mom. Certainly, I was a busy little worker bee who didn’t waste my precious time or my husband’s hard-earned money on selfish little ole me. (I want to say here that I neither regret that time, nor did I feel like a martyr during it. I did what felt right for my family.)
But somewhere along the line I had also stopped seeing myself as a woman who deserved some time and attention, too.
Then I started looking at me.
And one thing I noticed was that my bottom teeth were beginning to seriously crowd. While I wasn’t too happy with the appearance, my main concern was that this crowding was affecting my dental health. I later learned that this migration of the bottom teeth towards the middle is common as people age and not only leads to some of the changes in facial structure we associate with aging, but more importantly, contributes to gum disease and tooth loss.
My bottom teeth had always been crooked, but because my top teeth were pretty straight I’d never considered myself as a candidate for braces. Suddenly I was looking at my teeth with fresh eyes.
I was concerned about my teeth since my mother had lost her teeth at an early age. Not only could I plainly see how this had affected her once beautiful jawline, I also knew that gum disease and tooth loss are associated with accelerated aging and early mortality. (I firmly believe that my mother’s premature loss of teeth contributed to her illness and premature death.)
So in 2007, with the kids finally out of braces, I began to seriously think about them for myself. After talking with my orthodontist about my concerns, we agreed that Invisalign would be the best choice for me.
The pluses of Invisalign for me were many.
First and foremost, since Invisalign is nearly invisible, no one even needed to know I had them.
Invisalign is a series of clear plastic trays that are generated by a computer program from impressions made from your own crooked teeth. These trays place pressure on your teeth–just like metal braces–and slowly, but steadily, move your teeth into alignment. Every two weeks you change out your trays to a new set.
My treatment lasted about two years and, other than a slight lisp in the first few weeks, most people were totally unaware I was wearing them. And when I really needed them to disappear I simply took them out.
Rachel got married during my treatment and I am very happy that I didn’t have to wear metal braces for pictures on her wedding day.
Another big benefit to me was that during treatment I knew I was developing good oral hygiene habits that I hope will last a lifetime.
Having seen the scary pictures in the ortho’s office of people who hadn’t kept up with good dental hygiene during orthodontia, I was very concerned about this. I was glad that I was able to remove the trays and thoroughly clean my teeth several times a day. And I wanted to floss often since I could feel every teeny, tiny morsel of food in those trays if I didn’t.
Before treatment, I noticed that I was having more gum bleeding from brushing and flossing, but within a few weeks of having Invisalign, the bleeding stopped entirely. I noticed that my breath was better and my gums looked healthier.
My one fear was losing a tray. And I did.
Of course it had to be while eating at the restaurant where my son worked, didn’t it? I had done the ultimate no-no and bunched up my trays in a napkin next to my plate. The busboy scooped up the braces hidden in the napkin and I didn’t realize it until I got home.
My son was the one who had to go dumpster diving to retrieve my discarded trays. He was furious. He told me that if he’d been the one who’d lost his retainers I would have gone ballistic. And he was right. Thoroughly chastised, I never lost another tray again.
I am very happy I did Invisalign. I do think my smile is prettier, but more importantly my gums and teeth are healthier.
When I look back on the process of rediscovering myself, I consider Invisalign to be one of the most important steps I took along the way. Making myself and my health a priority was an important shift I needed to make.