Oh man. What have I gotten myself into?
|These may look like retainers,
but right now they feel like a can of worms.
My Invisalign adventure officially began a little over 24 hours ago, so I guess you could say I’m still in the honeymoon phase — assuming, of course, that by “honeymoon” you mean a period in which you acquire a speech impediment and drool a lot and have to put wax in your mouth to protect your lips from sharp edges. It turns out that orthodontia is very weird.
For one thing, it seems to be surrounded by all the wrong anxieties. While I sat in the chair having little nubs attached to my teeth so that the retainers have something to grab onto, the orthodontist kept reassuring me that they weren’t going to stab needles into my gums and that “all that drool” would go away once I’d gotten used to having the retainers in my mouth. But never once did he reassure me that the rule about not taking the retainers out of my mouth for more than 45 minutes at a time had an exception for Michelin-starred tasting menus.
For another thing, it seems age inappropriate. Seriously. I feel like I should be either 13 with braces or 86 with dentures. Though now that I think about it I guess I do plenty of things that would fall stereotypically within those age ranges (like watching Hannah Montana reruns late at night on the Disney channel and writing with fountain pens). So maybe it’s just me that’s weird, and not orthodontia.
But, weird or not, I do feel self-conscious. Smiling and eating and talking all now feel extraordinarily different, and so I assume that everyone else is noticing those differences as much as I am. Of course, the whole point of getting Invisalign is that they aren’t all that noticeable — indeed, I didn’t get any extra attention at all today until I started pointing it out to people (“Okay folks, let’s bring this conversation back to me — notice anything new?”) and even then the most anyone said was “oh, I didn’t even notice”. What’s really interesting, though, is realizing just how much of my self-confidence comes from the fact that I feel like I can flash a good smile and speak well. To suddenly feel like my smile is diminished, and to hear a lisp that wasn’t there before, is a good reminder that maybe what matters is not so much a pretty smile or the glib tongue, but rather the fact that I’m smiling at all and the substance of what I’m saying. (I know, I know, it’s obnoxious to say that when the whole point of this whole thing is to have an even better smile at the end — but at least I get some grateful lessons for a while.)
In any event, these retainers will be my constant companions for the next few months. If I remember correctly, there are 16 retainers in the full set, and I’ll wear each of them for two weeks. I like that math. The original estimate was that I’d need to wear the retainers for a full year. But assuming no surprises, it now looks like I may be done with them in time to eat a long, retainer-free Thanksgiving dinner!