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Simple & Sassy: Bracing for change with a rubber band smile
Simple & Sassy

Simple & Sassy: Bracing for change with a rubber band smile


It’s Day 5, and no one at works seems to have noticed.

At least no one has said they’ve noticed. But I work in an office with professional observers who each possess a wicked sense of curiosity, so I know they’ve noticed. They are just being polite.

As foreshadowed in a previous column about my dental history, I am now the proud wearer of Invisalign. These clear plastic corrective teeth aligners are designed specifically to move my teeth into top form. The aligners are camouflaged in my mouth, but my orthodontist noticed that my jaw needs to be moved around as well as my teeth, so I am sporting rubber bands that hook onto the aligners. You can’t really see those either except when I’m smiling, and being self-conscious about showing off my new stretchy supporters, I’ve come to realize I smile quite a lot.

There’s just no way around it. I’m 35, and I have new-age braces.

I had my traditional metal braces on for nearly five years as a kid. My teeth were pretty messed up. The gap between my front teeth was so bad that school photographers would tell me not to show my teeth when I tried to smile on picture day.

After my braces were removed, I wore my retainer religiously for more than 10 years. I didn’t want to go back to the smile that grown-ups wanted me to hide. I was going to wear that rainbow-sparkled retainer until I died. Even when my orthodontist told me I only needed to wear the retainer at night, I refused. I was afraid my teeth would drift apart again.

On a subsequent visit, the orthodontist explained to me that progressing from wearing my retainer all the time to only at night was part of the treatment and ensured my teeth wouldn’t separate overnight. I cautiously obliged.

I followed those orders loyally until an endodontist told me years later that I needed to wear a night guard because I was grinding my teeth. I told him I wore a retainer, but he insisted the night guard would work just like a retainer. He recommended buying a night guard kit and making my own guard at home. So I did … for five years.

About a year ago, I noticed that my front teeth were shifting. Rather than separating, my front teeth were moving toward each other and one tooth was slowly moving under the other. When I told my dentist, she gave me a referral to a local orthodontist. It all felt too familiar – only this time I was riddled with shame.

My parents had invested so much money into my choppers, and I messed up. Granted, I had clean bills of health dentally speaking because I wasn’t grinding my teeth anymore, but I should have inquired about a professionally-made night guard and talked with my personal dentist about my options instead of listening to a specialist I’d just met.

It took me several months to build up the courage to set the appointment, but I’m glad I did. Turns out, my front teeth were only part of problem. My new orthodontist pointed out several areas where my bite could be improved, and she recommended Invisalign. I was thrilled. I didn’t want to go back to being a metal mouth. She was telling me everything I wanted to hear given the circumstances.

And then she told me part of the prep for Invisalign includes having your teeth filed to create space between your teeth so that they can move. Do you know what’s like to have your teeth flossed with a metal strip that acts like a nail file? I do!

It’s Day 5, and no one at works seems to have noticed. Maybe they can’t see my new hardware. But I’m sure they can hear my new plastic-induced lisp. Here’s to another dental journey. Hopefully it doesn’t take five years.

Samie Hartley is the Napa Valley Register online editor. Simple & Sassy runs every other Sunday. She can be reached at

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Online Editor/Calendar Editor

Samie Hartley is the Napa Valley Register online editor and social media manager. She also assembles the community calendar. Her column Simple & Sassy runs on alternating Sundays.

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