Generally speaking, I’m quite a confident person. As soon as I finished university and realised confidence doesn’t have to be tied up with academic success, I found my voice and started using it. At 28, I feel quite self-assured – I’m happy with who I am, how I look and where I am in my life. That’s not to say I have it all figured out or every day is a joyous chorus of twittering birds, but I’m pretty content with my lot.
Despite being a confident person, though, I’ve always been unhappy with my teeth. I was offered braces at 14 but by then I was tall and lanky, with massive boobs and a pair of NHS-prescribed glasses. Adding braces would’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back, so I refused them. I’ve cursed my 14-year-old self many times since for that decision and wished I’d been told I HAD to have braces, like my younger siblings were.
My teeth were only slightly crooked – not enough for others to notice but enough that I noticed, in every photo and every mirror. So after 12 years of smiling with my mouth closed, I decided to do something about it. Last year, I had a lingual brace fitted.
A lingual brace is exactly like a regular, ‘train-track’ style brace, but it sits behind your teeth. It’s totally invisible, there are no trays to remove and apart from a bit of lisping when it’s first fitted and an inability to eat apples, it doesn’t affect your daily routine at all. I’d been to see a dentist about Invisalign before but it wasn’t suitable for me, and I didn’t want to wear a traditional brace as I do quite a bit of public speaking for my job. I’d never heard of lingual braces until I read an article about Kate Middleton’s wedding preparations (I was in the bridal zone, alright) – apparently she had a lingual brace in the run up to her big day. SOLD.
I wore my brace from November 2013 to July 2014. It was fitted to my 6 top front teeth and tightened every few weeks until I was happy with the results. Now I wear a permanent wire behind my teeth – it’s covered with a plastic mould and means I never have to wear a retainer, and my teeth will never move back. The total treatment including whitening cost £2,000, paid in instalments.
Honestly, it’s the best investment I’ve ever made.
I didn’t really realise what a negative effect my teeth had on my confidence. I remember going to America in 2012 and feeling so supremely self-conscious, because everyone around me had the most beautifully straight, white teeth. I went to New York in May this year – right at the end of my treatment – and didn’t even think about my teeth, despite being surrounded by perfect American smiles.
Before having a brace fitted, I felt ridiculous for even wanting one. I was a perfectly happy, content and confident person – my teeth were just a niggle, something I’d frown about for 10 minutes while applying my makeup or taking a selfie. But a lack of confidence doesn’t always come from one huge problem. It doesn’t always show up as shyness or a reluctance to try new things. I could stand up in front of a packed lecture theatre and deliver a presentation without a second thought, but I couldn’t smile properly in a photo.
When I look at the photos in this post, I wonder why the hell I waited so long.