Can you imagine not smiling for six years? I can. For the six years after I turned 21, I avoided showing my teeth and felt self-conscious smiling, avoiding photos where I was laughing, talking and heaven forbid, smiling. I smiled with my mouth closed in an awkward and unnatural way, and even in photos for social media and professional profiles I refused to bare my teeth.
For years before I even got braces, I avoided being photographed side-on as I hated my profile. Yes, hated. I had an overbite that was pronounced enough that I could fit three fingers in the gap between my top and bottom teeth when my jaw was closed. When I was nine years old it was decided that I would begin the long and costly orthodontic process to correct my overbite and straighten my barely-crooked teeth.
I remember going to the orthodontist to get X-rays and moulds when I was nine years old, to pick up my chunky plastic retainer that locked my incisors and my jaw together. It was hideous and I couldn’t talk while wearing it. I had to carry the plastic box around everywhere and it ended up on a rope around my neck. Once it fell out of my school dress as I got out of the car, and my Mum reversed over it. I wasn’t that sad about it, but replacing it cost hundreds of dollars my parents didn’t have.
When I turned 21 I had eight teeth taken out; my four wisdom teeth removed, plus my four pre-molars, to make room for the other teeth to move around. Happy Birthday to me. I also had my frenulum severed to enable future dental work without complications. Then I had braces fitted. The first few months were hell, and the first few days after every single time I had my braces tightened I couldn’t eat, the inside of my cheeks were all cut up from the brackets and my jaw ached.
Paying for it wasn’t a financial burden that my parents nor I could afford alone, so we went halves. After taking a minimum-wage, career-starter job in the music industry, I couldn’t even afford my monthly part and my treatment stopped. It took a year before I could afford to pay the full balance and months to get my teeth back into the place they were before.
Finally, at the end of 2012, I had a jaw reconstruction to correct the overbite. Merry Christmas to me. The surgeon broke my lower jaw, slid it forward, and then bolted it back together with the aid of titanium plates and surgical hooks to lace my jaw in place while it healed. It all went well except for the nerves on one side of my chin (stage left), that didn’t regain full sensation and still haven’t. That, and my over-zealous healing, which left me with an overshot jaw instead. Imagine how much I wanted to get my photo taken then! (Hint: not at all)
Correcting my jaw placement added almost a full year to what should have been six months with braces post-surgery to make sure everything stayed in place. Since I moved to Brisbane in September of 2013, attending my orthodontist appointments meant flying down to Melbourne, a fairly expensive exercise on top of the already astronomical treatment costs.
But now, almost six years and over twelve thousand dollars later…
What a relief. It’s over! That’s definitely something to smile about. Did you ever have braces or a retainer?