Perhaps the most sacred purchase my mom has ever made for my siblings and I are our teeth. While I take pride in my luxury SLGs, my mom could care less about how much I’m spending as long as I can tell her where my retainers are hiding. These flimsy little plastic strips didn’t matter to me at first. But, after the second time my mom shelled out for braces, she made me care.
Getting braces is one of those expenses that I think is more than just cosmetic. As proven by dozens of YouTube vids and articles, having straight teeth is aligned with having optimal dental health. (HA did you see what I did there? Align. Ugh my MIND it AMAZES me sometimes...) The choice to get braces was one that my parents made as soon as my dentist gave me the green light. I was in 4th grade when I underwent the grueling procedure of getting my teeth primed, tightened, and banded for braces.
Now at this age most people might feel insecure about braces, but I wasn't. I was actually glad to have braces. I was relieved that instead of my teeth looking like a car crash on the 405 there was a chance that they would be in their own lanes. I think what also helped me was that all around me kids also started to get braces. Thus, I was never the odd one out nor was I ever called "brace face." I feel like that's one of those 90s TV things that was made up for analog. Anyways, I had braces from the middle of 4th grade until roughly the end of 7th grade. This adds up to almost 4 years. Even if it doesn't add up, let me live. I'm one of those weird people that always has to end in an even number...more on that when I get to my fitness blog...
What I will say is that I did become conscious about my braces when I had to get them the second time. Yup, that's right. Rather than live my life accordingly my stupid #idgaf attitude led to me having to undergo living wired all over again...for 4 whole more years. HOW did I get there?! Let me tell you...
So having braces requires practicing some maintenance. Now the standard rules are no gum, sugary drinks, popcorn, and flossing with these special little picks. Full disclaimer: I was that kid that ACTUALLY listened to my orthodontist. I did not want to risk messing up what my mom kept reminding me were thousands of dollars she was paying for my teeth. Nor did I want to look like some of my grimy friends who had caked on food on full display with their braces. My logic was that I was doing this to fix my teeth. If I had to brush a little more or skip on some foods then so be it! Now I only wish that I had had this diligence post braces life...
Getting braces was the first major procedure I had in my life. Now that I post wisdom teeth removal, LASIK, etc., I understand that the follow up is sometimes more important. Messing up my teeth taught me that.
After getting my braces off I was given those gaudy looking wire retainers. My doctor gave me them, a case, and a list of detailed instructions of how to use them. I think it was for the first few weeks I wore them diligently. Before I had a cell, my retainer case was lining my pocket as my most premium investment to date. Somewhere along the way I got lazy.
I thought that I was too good to keep wearing retainers. Days turned to weeks, and weeks turned to months without wearing my straight teeth insurance. My mom's nagging or pestering about them was in the right minded, but my adolescent mind wanted to rebel. At one point, I lost my retainers. Straight out I couldn't find them. And then one day my mom caught on... She asked me to show her my retainers and I had to tell her I lost them. Now my parents were pissed. The kind of pissed where the whole family was brought in, a spreadsheet was used to show how much was spent, and we all left quiet. Literally the next day, I was brought back into the orthodontist's office.
While I thought I would get a minor scolding, I imagined the relief of walking away with new retainers and getting a break. That was not the case. I was told I'd need braces again. Despite my top teeth looking fine, the bottom front teeth had shifted forward. Honestly, I was heartbroken. I was embarrassed. And I was pissed. What happened was that as my wisdom teeth were coming in all of my bottom teeth had shifted forward. The result was my bottom incisors all crashing together. I was noticing this more as I would notice pain when biting into food. But, I'm not a doctor so I didn't pay attention to it. I'm NOT kidding at night I would grab my finger and I tried pushing my teeth back! I REALLY thought that if I did this every night they would move like when I had braces. Again, leave it to the professionals.
After that initial visit, I came in a week later and I went through that same grueling process of getting braces again. I returned to a life of constantly brushing, flossing, and skipping out on the sweet joy of eating granola. I cannot imagine how I would manage this now knowing that acai bowls taste SO much better with honey and oats.
Four more years passed, from my first high school dance, to prom, and my first parties, I was there adorning my braces. This second time around, I was more conscious of my smile. Maybe it was because I was in the heated middle phase of being a teenager or because of the knowledge that this was self inflicted, but I was hiding my smile more. Again, it was in my head, but we all know how we are our own biggest critics. The silver lining was that I got my braces off before I headed into college. If you read my last post, then you know that my vision was the next chapter of my personal journey.
Now if you go through any of my social media handles you'll notice that my smile is front and center. The change in my teeth has been that first reminder of how we can transform our bodies for the better. That is, when it improves our quality of life. Without a fancy ending I'd say there we go. This is the story of how I got braces TWICE in my life. Because of teen angst I decided to ditch my wire and my mom paid the financial toll and I took the emotional toll of hiding my smile because of self esteem.
Having straight teeth should have been that thing that I had after all the time and care I had given them. Yet, this taught me that self care is a process and not a destination.
Author William Samayoa
Marketer by profession and storyteller by passion. L.A. raised, proud Latino, and pop culture enthusiast.