I started my orthodontic treatment shortly after turning 30 years old. I put braces on even though I thought I was too old for them. "The hills are old and they turn green," my mother told me, quoting a famous Mexican saying when I told her about my decision to submit to two years of dental torture.
Shortly after the dentist left my metal smile and my savings account empty, many people gave feedback on my treatment. "You will shortly have an artist's smile," "with straight teeth you will look like a model," or the recent joke, "you got tired of having Luis Miguel's teeth." Yes, of course, with straight teeth, I am sure I will take the throne from Bran Stark.
But let's be clear — the metal in my teeth is not for cosmetic reasons, but because my mouth was full of cavities. It all started with an innocent toothache that was relieved with a pain reliever or two — then, in the blink of an eye, everything became unbearable. Although nobody dies of a toothache, whoever suffers it wants to die.
Like many, I am part of a monstrous problem — more than 85% of Mexican adults suffer from some degree of tooth decay and more than half of the population has crooked teeth.
"Only 16% of the population has an adequate bite. Teeth that are in bad position tend to develop cavities," explained my orthodontist Patricia Trujillo, from the FES Iztacala. "It is a vicious cycle, because if you lose one tooth, the others become more unsettled, and more cavities are formed."
With the warning that I could be left with a chimuela (no teeth), I agreed to remove the cavities and proceed to the long and painful process of straightening the teeth that had been crooked for almost three decades. Three months after my braces were put on, this is what I discovered:
1. You don't make enough money to pay for braces until at LEAST 30 years old.
If you were fortunate enough to have parents who paid for your dental care as a child, congratulations. The less fortunate had to wait longer to pay for orthodontics on their own. Orthodontics can cost 100,000 pesos — this must be added to the cleaning and other surprise fees that arise, ultimately accumulating to a debt of a quarter of a million pesos.
2. You're not the only one with braces as an adult
You think that no one suffers more than you — that you are the only one who has undergone this treatment at an "older" age, but that's not true. You magically realize that on the street, in transport, and everywhere there are people over thirty with the same dental treatment. No, you are not as special as you imagined.
3. You'll feel like a teenager again
Suddenly, you would like to behave like a child and throw a tantrum at your dentist because of the pain they cause you each visit. However, you know that you have to suck it up. Your friends will also joke about how much you look like a teenager, no matter how "adult" you are in every other aspect of your life.
4. Say goodbye to your favorite snacks
There are several prohibited foods for people with orthodontic work: popcorn, corn (corn on the cob), apples, toasted foods, and everything that has to be bitten. Going to the movies is no longer the same — you prefer to lock yourself at home to watch Netflix with a bowl of gelatin, the only food that does not cause you pain.
5. You lose some weight
After brushing your teeth, you know that you can't eat anything at the time you want, so you start planning your meals very methodically. Your snacking decreases and you may lose some weight as a result.
6. You develop new cleaning techniques
What used to take two minutes suddenly requires ten. As the weeks go by, you become more skilled with brushing, interdentals, flossing, and orthodontic wax. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!
7. You get used to the discomfort
Nothing changes without a little resistance, least of all your teeth. When you go to the office and have the brackets adjusted, you know that you will be living with pain for several days. When you finally get used to a position, you need to adjust again.
8. You learn to smile whole-heartedly
Little by little, you gain confidence in your appearance. Although at first, you thought you looked like an elderly alien, as the weeks go by you smile for photos. You may even upload selfies to your Instagram without any regrets. You really do get used to these braces on your teeth.