Written by Caroline Stroud

The most vivid memory I have while wearing braces is of the moment I left the orthodontist’s office. Sitting in the front seat of my mom’s van, I kept running my tongue over the front of my teeth and feeling weird metal squares everywhere that my lips awkwardly couldn’t quite cover up. Whenever I ran my tongue over the front of my teeth—which used to feel smooth and slippery—I felt rough braces and occasional jagged edges that could scrape my tongue or cheek. The doctor gave me some wax, which I was able to put over any edges of poking metal to prevent uncomfortable rubbing or cutting. Advil and Tylenol helped to relieve any soreness the braces caused while pulling the teeth together. This amount of pain was the same level I experienced when heading back to the orthodontist for routine tightening, but the first five or six days of having braces were the hardest to get through.

Because my mouth was so sore right after getting braces, the biggest problem with new braces was that I had to immediately adjust my routine because that I was no longer able to eat whatever I wanted (adios, Sour Patch Kids). My teeth and gums were too sore to chew without causing pain, so I made smoothies a lot. My lips were also getting very chapped and dry because I was so fixated on my mouth that I would inadvertently lick my lips after messing with my braces. This led to cracking and irritation. Brushing my teeth was challenging because my gums were so sore, so it took forever to make sure I brushed well. By the third week, most of these annoyances were becoming less and less of a bother. I was finally able to eat what I wanted to again, and the cracks on my lips and in the corner of my mouth were healing because I was becoming used to having the braces and wasn’t so focused on what they felt like in my mouth anymore. I was able to brush my teeth faster and more thoroughly because the soreness and pain was greatly reduced. By the fourth week, I was pretty much back to my regular self and even noticed that a few gaps between teeth were closing

Honestly, I was expecting consequences far worse than a few mouth ulcers (irritated cuts in the mouth). In fact, getting used to braces was easier than I expected. Although I was only able to eat soft foods like applesauce, soup and cut up bananas for the first couple of days, I never experienced any intense pain, just bouts of soreness that could be solved with some over the counter pain reliever. Having braces helped me become more responsible for taking care of my own self—I was now more diligent with making sure my teeth were brushed every night and very well because I wanted to have a million dollar smile as soon as the brackets came off. I was also making myself more meals and accommodating for my own needs—just because I couldn’t eat hard foods didn’t mean my family had to also. I felt like braces were a milestone for me in my early teenage years, and I welcomed the added responsibility and change, as well as the promise of a straight smile when they were to come off.