Yesterday, February 27, marked another anniversary. However, this one is infinitely better than a car accident. This one is also a much longer-running anniversary.
One of Facebook’s features, On This Day, lets you see what statuses you have posted or what you have been tagged in. Well, at the beginning of this month, I noticed I had posted a countdown in 2013. 2017 me at first was so confused and kinda irritated with 2013 me because there was just this random countdown with absolutely no explanation. It took me way longer than it should have to figure out what the countdown was for, and I was the one who had made it! Instead of immediately telling you what that countdown was for, I want to tell you a story.
In the spring of 2005, I went to the orthodontist for the first time after recommendations from my dentist. My teeth were so terrible; they were growing in in every direction except straight up. Something had to happen, and fast, to prevent half of my teeth being pulled. So that summer/fall (I don’t fully remember the day), they started and put spacers in my mouth. For those of you that don’t know, spacers are these little rubber bands they put in the back of your mouth to help make way for future appliances.
Next came expanders. Personally, I think this was the worst part, even over braces and everything else. I had top and bottom expanders, which are basically metal plates inserted on the roof of my mouth and underside of my tongue respectively. Because of their positions, especially the top one, it gave me a slight speech impediment. (Side note: to this day, I still say long e’s differently than everybody else, even if they sound the same). As if that weren’t bad enough, they were called expanders because they were meant to expand your mouth. To do this, there is a special tool that goes into a section of the expander that allows it to stretch. This had to be done every single night. I obviously could not see the inside of my mouth enough to reach, so someone (usually my mom) had to do it for me. Since expanders were meant to expand my teeth so they could have room to grow in normally (and also take care of my overbite. HA!) but teeth are bone and moving any bone is painful, I lived for a year in pretty much constant pain.
As if that was not bad enough, I got braces next, in February of 2007. This is what every pre-teen or teenager expects to go through. It should NOT be something a 3rd grader goes through. Yet here I was, getting braces. However, there was a catch. Most of my adult teeth had not come in yet, so there was no point in straightening out teeth that were going to fall out anyway (ironically enough, the baby teeth were straight). As a result, I got braces put on only on my top and bottom incisors. I still was not allowed to do things that you’re supposed to do with braces (like chew gum, eat chewy candy, eat whole apples, etc.) even though most of my teeth were free from metal.
Thankfully, I only had to wear those braces for a year. I got them off in March of 2008. I then received a temporary retainer for the top teeth to keep them straight and a “permanent” one for the bottom. Three years later, they removed the supposedly permanent retainer.
By January 2011, as a 7th grader, I had finally lost all (or most, but we will come back to that later) of my baby teeth and got my full set of braces on my top teeth. Having only top braces suck. I was in an especially awkward phase. Not only was it middle school, but I also had braces on one row of teeth and a retainer behind the other. My bottom teeth received their braces in August of that same year. The orthodontists said I would probably have to wear them for two full years, like most kids do. (That’s the only normal part of this story haha).
He was sort of correct. I had my top ones for two years, and my bottom ones for one and a half. Those two years were fairly uneventful. I broke the occasional bracket, my mouth only hurt when I went to the orthodontist and they would tighten my wires.
My freshman year rolled around. The orthodontist visits got shorter, and we kept talking about setting a removal date. Christmas came and went, and I still had braces. We went through January, and then February rolled in.
The bottom braces were ready to come off first (they did not need as much work apparently). So they came off on February 19, 2011, and I got another retainer put in in the bottom. Then we were scheduling for the next week to remove the top. The desk clerk was looking at her open time slots and says “How about the 26th?” What I said next probably shocked everyone who heard me. I asked, “Can we do the 27th instead?” My mom looked at me, and asked me why. “It was the day I got my braces on for the first time.” I’m weird about dates. I wanted to get my braces off the same I got them on, that way it would be full circle.
The date was set. I only had to last a week longer, and I would be basically done. There was one thing, however, I did not think of: basketball sectionals. I was a cheerleader. (Side note: it’s funny how things work out because this year’s team is playing in sectionals tonight. Go Chargers!) Anyway, back to 2013. Those of you that know me know that I based (meaning I was one of the people holding someone else up, so I was on the bottom, for those of you that don’t know cheer terms). Well, the game was hyped because we were playing our rivals, and we were really good. So at a full time-out (60 seconds rather than 30), us cheerleaders went on the court in front of our fans to keep the hype. We decided that there was no better way to do that than a stunt. Since we were pressed for time, we did a pretty simple one. I don’t exactly know what happened, but when we cradled (threw and caught) the flyer (the girl standing on our hands), she landed mainly on me, including my face. She landed in such a way that my top lip pushed against my braces, hard. While we were still cheering to the crowd, I tasted blood. Oh no. After we finished cheering and were back on the sideline, I checked out my mouth. My braces had cut the underside of my lip. This was the DAY before I was supposed to get them off. (I think my appointment was first thing in the morning, too). Needless to say, cheering the rest of the game was painful because my braces would keep getting caught and reopening the cut it had made.
Nevertheless, we won by two that night, and the next morning, I sat in the orthodontist’s chair to have my braces removed for the last time. I received my second temporary retainer, and I was told to return in six months for the final checkup. I had hoped we would win that first game of sectionals so I could cheer braces free for at least one game all three years. Well, I got my wish. The boys’ team went on to win sectionals that year, and I could not stop smiling for two obvious reasons (we won and I had straight teeth)!
My six-month checkup came, and they said everything looked good and I no longer had to wear my top retainer all the time. However, my teeth decided they had had enough. The glue on my bottom retainer had come really loose and I did not notice it. The dentist did however, and removed it for me. I kept a close monitor on it, but anyone who has seen my bottom row of teeth know that they are so tight that movement is near impossible. They have not even moved a centimeter.
Nevertheless, I was not done with mouth work (besides the routine dental cleaning or fixing of a cavity). The summer after my junior year I had my wisdom teeth removed because (surprise, surprise) they were not growing in straight!
It has obviously taken me a really long time to get here and this was not always the case, but I am proud of my smile now. I still have a scar on the inside of my upper lip, there’s a white stain on one of my front teeth that sometimes bother me, my overbite never completely went away, and my bottom teeth STILL don’t lay perfectly straight, but I know what I had to go through to get a smile like that, even if I technically only have 27.5 teeth (lost four wisdom teeth, and I’m congenitally missing an adult tooth but the baby tooth is still there).
So yesterday was obviously the anniversary of when I got my braces on for the first time and off for the last. It’s crazy to me that all this crap started more than ten years ago and that I’ve been braces free for four years now. So yeah, I’m such a nerd that I put a countdown on Facebook just for that one day.