I have pretty much always been self-conscious about my crooked teeth. Sick of hiding my teeth when I smile (something that I’ve been told makes me look bitchy lol), at the sexy age of 31, I decided to get braces.
This was not a decision I entered into lightly. I spent a good chunk of my adult years researching teeth straightening methods, visiting dentists to get opinions , and even looked into travelling to South America under the guise of a holiday, returning with straight, Hollywood teeth.
I can’t be the only person out there who has toyed with straightening their teeth as an adult, so here’s a little lowdown of my personal experience with ‘adult braces’ (spoiler: they’re exactly the same as normal braces). I also spoke to a friend about their experience with clear aligners, and asked my orthodontist for his opinion on getting braces when you’re ‘over the hill’.
Expensive grills - what’s the cost?
Let’s get something out of the way - straightening your teeth ain’t cheap. I spent just over $8000 getting braces. This includes an initial assessment at the orthodontist (ranging anywhere from $60-150+), a follow up appointment of x-rays and 3D mouth scans (around $400+), a visit to your regular dentist prior to getting braces fit (around $100+), and then the actual braces which for me cost $7500.
If you have to get teeth pulled (something my orthodontist says they only do if they have to), this will add another few hundred on.
Because of the way my teeth are crooked, one of my front incisors will be noticeably shorter than the other (what’s up Nanny McPhee), and because it’s a ‘dead tooth’ aka it’s had a root canal, it’s starting to discolour - so I’ll need to get that replaced with a crown at the end of my treatment, adding another $1500 to the overall cost of getting that ‘perfect’ smile. Phew!
I chose to get traditional metal braces because they were the least expensive option. Scaling up from there in price were clear braces, then Invisalign/clear aligners at the top of the crop.
Plus, I thought they’d look kinda cute and my friend told me they’re ‘trending’, so why the heck not?
Important note - orthodontic treatment prices vary for the individual, so the pricing of mine may not be the same as someone else’s.
What’s it like being a #metalmouth?
Firstly, it hurts. Initially, at least. Once the braces are fitted, which in itself is painless (they’re just gluing things onto your teeth), in a few hours time - you’ll know the meaning of pain. It’s an intense ache. You won’t be able to chew for about a week - I renewed my love affair with vanilla Up & Go - and if you accidentally bite down on something it sends shooting pain around your mouth.
Thankfully, this doesn’t last, and once that pain subsides, the braces are mostly just a bit of an annoyance when you’re eating. Every 6-7 weeks you get the wires changed, which can give a bit of discomfort and pain for the rest of the day, but it’s nothing on the initial ache, and you can definitely still go to work and eat normally.
Contrary to popular belief, you can actually eat most foods when you have braces, you just have to adjust the way you eat. Things like apples, raw carrots and uber crunchy foods, you have to chew with your back teeth, rather than using your front teeth to bite into them. Avoid nuts and popcorn. No toffee, or chewy lollies like Fruit Bursts.
And make sure you carry around a little wire brush with you no matter where you go because you WILL get food stuck in all of your braces, and it ain’t pretty. Thankfully, your orthodontist will give you a bunch of these for that very reason.
Which leads me to another point: if your oral hygiene game isn’t on point, you’ll need to up the ante. Food gets stuck into every little crevice of your braces.
You’ll be brushing your teeth at least twice (which you should be doing), if not three times a day, and you’ll be dashing to the bathroom pretty much after every time you eat to pick all the leftover food that’s nesting in around your braces. Fun stuff.
But what’s it like though?
I guess you’re really wanting to know - aren’t you embarrazzed? How do you get over being self-conscious about having braces as a grown ass adult?
As a rule, my sartorial inspirations are usually a bit out the gate. I idolised images of Gwen Stefani, Rina Sawayama and Coi Leray, thinking that I’d rock braces as a fashion decision as well as a corrective treatment. And I have to say, I think they make me look hella cute, and maybe cos they’re associated with teenagers, I swear they take five years off me. What’s not to love?
This does not mean that I didn’t get hella self-conscious about it initially though. Those people are celebrities - anything they do can be deemed cool.
I’m just lil’ old me who at the time of getting braces was living in Hamilton, a city not known for its daring fashion scene. The strategy I used upon revealing my braces to people who knew me pre-brace face was to take the lead, open my mouth scarily wide and yell “I GOT BRACES, LOOK!”.
I guess the tactic worked because most people were like, ‘oh cool’, and then mosied on with their day. It possibly helped that to divert the attention from my braces I also decided to change my natural dark locks to a bleach blonde bob, so people were more shocked at my hair than anything else.
It also probably helped that - people genuinely don’t really care what you do with your teeth. And that the anxiety and self-consciousness is just within you. Oosh.
And after those first few weeks of discomfort and awkwardness, you just get on with your life, as does everyone else.
You’re just another person with spinach stuck in their braces for 15-18 months (the length of my treatment plan - others can be shorter or longer), which is really no time at all in the span of your long and luscious life.
Are there any setbacks to getting corrective treatments as an adult?
I talked to my amazing orthodontist, Dr. Ali Ukra, who owns the Waikato Orthodontic Centre (I highly recommend him by the way; this is not an ad), about whether getting your teeth straightened as an adult has any downsides.
According to Dr. Ukra, “there are a number of factors to consider with regards to this question”, and that “initially treatment in adults can be a bit slower to get going compared with growing kids, but overall, there’s no difference in treatment time, in most cases.” Sounds good so far.
It’s pretty much all the things associated with getting old - extensive dental work, receding gums and the like, that are the cause of any potential downsides.
“In cases that need teeth extractions, adult cases can take longer. Adults can also have more fillings, which can influence treatment. Also some adults can have gum recession, especially where crooked teeth haven’t been fixed for a long time. Once the teeth have been straightened, they get ‘black triangles’, showing between the teeth, which is a space between where the teeth are now touching and where the gum level is,” says Dr. Ukra.
What about clear aligners?
Clear aligners (like Invisalign) seem like the dream corrective teeth treatment. Where braces are stuck to your damn teeth 24/7, clear aligners are removable, meaning you take them out to eat and drink, making oral hygiene easier.
And obviously the big old bonus here is that they’re clear. And apparently you can’t see them. Which, tbh, you definitely can, but they’re not as extra as braces.
When it comes to whether or not they’re better or worse at straightening teeth than traditional braces, Dr. Ukra reckons they’re essentially just two different ways of moving teeth.
“Some cases are better treated with braces, and there are also certain cases that are better treated with clear aligners,” he says, “but the majority of cases can be treated with either. Being a specialist, I tailor the treatment plan to suit the individual for the best possible results, and that sometimes includes recommending one over the other.”
I reached out to a friend of mine, musician Zoe Moon (side note: go listen to her siiiick music), who had clear aligners years ago while we were at university together, to hear about her experience with them.
Unfortunately for Zoe, she didn’t have the best experience. In fact, when she messaged me back she said, “I’m kind of a worst case scenario”.
Although I’m mostly here to paint a picture of how great it is getting your teeth straightened as an adult, I thought it would be interesting to hear Zoe’s story.
Her reasons for getting clear aligners were to treat a rare dental condition called dens invagititus, which basically means she had a tooth growing inside of a tooth.
But she also wanted to straighten her teeth, having wanted braces since she was a kid. Her treatment started off well, and her teeth became straight, but as soon as she stopped wearing her aligners, her teeth moved right back to how they were pre-aligners, often within just a day.
“I continued to wear my aligners at night but my teeth started going crooked during the day so quickly that by night my aligners wouldn’t fit. The teeth went completely back to normal. I painfully forced my teeth to fit into them though, which led to headaches and migraines.”
There were a raft of other issues that led to Zoe’s treatment lasting a whopping five years, and her teeth are still giving her issues. She later found out they should have removed Zoe’s wisdom teeth prior to the treatment, and should have taken a more ‘aggressive’ approach using a wire as well as the aligners.
Zoe, beautiful soul that she is, is philosophical about her experience though. “I realised I needed to be a bit more self-directed and informed, less passive. In all health matters, you have to advocate for yourself.”
And she’s not put off getting her teeth straightened again in the future. She’s keen to give it another go, with another dentist, when she’s in a better position.
Straight, crooked - it’s all beautiful
I wanna put it out there that I stan all the crooked toothed queens who rock their sexy smiles on the daily. I tried hard to be that person for years… but, I would be lying if I didn’t admit I used to obsess about my teeth most days.
I’m a staunch advocate for doing what the hell you want with your body. Some of us are born into bodies we adore, most of us aren’t. And in a society that rewards beauty and perfection above like, most other things, it’s damn hard to not focus on the things that make us unhappy.
I didn’t like my smile, so when I felt flush enough to change it, I did. Do I think everyone with crooked teeth needs to? Absolutely not.
Over the past year I’ve started to feel the best about my body and the way I look in my entire life. People say that your 30s are when you really come into yourself, and tbh, I am FEELING the glow up in so many ways. Heck yeah Saturn return.
As corny and cliche as it sounds, it’s radiating from the inside less than the out (I see you grey hairs) and getting braces for me was an informed and empowered decision I made as an adult. And I’m stoked, dude.
If you are interested in getting ‘adult braces’ (or clear aligners), I hope this has been helpful. I’ll leave the last words with the expert, my trusty orthodontist, who says “your safest bet is to go to a specialist orthodontist who has undertaken a full-time three year degree at university, specialising in nothing else but orthodontics, to ensure optimal orthodontic treatment”.
Which maybe means ruling out the mail order aligners that do seem so appealing. That sounds like pretty safe advice to me. Tin grins 4 life baby!