Ready to nerd out on some teeth talk?
I have nice teeth; they’re straight and white. I have healthy gums; they don’t bleed when I floss. And I have a dental hygiene routine that I’m super serious about. But believe it or not, things weren’t always this way.
I got Invisalign when I was 24. My teeth were mostly straight, save for some minor crowding on the bottom and one pesky little fucker on top (my right maxillary central incisor, if you wanna get technical) that was not only deformed, but also turned 90 degrees to the side.
Here’s a photo of my top teeth before Invisalign. As you can see, the problem tooth (on the left in the image) did not have a normal shape, and it was twisted at an angle, making it look like a fang from the outside. Luckily, this little weirdo had one flat side, making me eligible for orthodontics.
Invisalign cost around $6,000. The insurance I had through my employer covered $1,500, and I was able to finance the rest directly through my orthodontist’s office with monthly interest-free payments.
I got 27 sets of straightening trays, which I switched out every two weeks, making my total treatment time just over a year. My orthodontist had told me that each patient has to get a few more sets of trays (called refinement trays) at the end to achieve the desired alignment. That’s because, for optimal results, you have to wear your trays for at least 22 hours a day, and as you can imagine, most people can’t (or don’t) completely commit to that. But since I’m a goody-two-shoes and wanted to be done as soon as possible, I followed directions to a T and was their first-ever patient who didn’t need any refinement trays! This is honestly something I felt really good bragging about — and apparently, still do.
Invisalign retainers aren’t actually that invisible, and you have to remove them every time you eat and brush your teeth before putting them back in, which ends up being around six times per day. It was a huge pain in the ass, and I could barely afford the payments at the time, but I made it work somehow, and I regret nothing.
Cuckoo for My Own Kisser
When I was younger, I wasn’t terrible about dental hygiene or anything; I was average. I’d brush my teeth twice a day with a manual toothbrush. I’d get into flossing for a week or so and then quit for whatever reason. When I went to the dentist, I had occasional cavities and would receive gentle scolding for my sporadic flossing habits.
Before I straightened my teeth, I always thought, If I had perfect teeth like Kristin Cavallari or Kelly Ripa — the latter who, in general, is a perfect human and who also happened to be the face of Colgate a few years ago — I would floss every single day and whiten the shit out of my teeth. And guess what? I do!
The day I completed my Invisalign treatment, I was about 10 times as excited as the day I discovered FaceTune. I was ready to go all-in and commit to a super serious dental routine with some teeth whitening for extra credit. And five years later, I’m still going strong.
Products I Currently Use for My Teeth
Quip Electric Toothbrush Set with Refill Prescription: My husband and I have been using Quip toothbrushes for over three years now. They are no bigger than a manual toothbrush and run on one AAA battery. Every quarter, they send us replacement heads, new batteries, and a three-month supply of toothpaste. The toothbrushes turn off after two minutes, which is nice because, without the timer, I would definitely throw in the towel after about 30 seconds of brushing.
Plackers Twin-Line Dental Flossers: I never thought I’d have such a strong opinion about which type of dental floss or floss picks to use — that is, until I got my hands on these babies. These flossers have two strands of floss, and they get alllllllll the gunk out — so much so that now that I know how much comes out from between my teeth on a nightly basis, I’m afraid to skip any days.
AuraGlow Teeth Whitening Accelerator Light and Teeth Whitening Gel Syringe Refill Pack: I put the gel into reusable teeth whitening trays and stick the LED accelerator light in my mouth for about 20 minutes per session. My dentist’s office custom-made me flexible teeth whitening trays for free before I got married, but you can make your own from sports mouth guards or get the complete teeth whitening kit from AuraGlow, which comes with trays.
Zenda Naturals Professional Dental Scraper: This is one of those stainless steel plaque scraper tools that they use at the dentist. I don’t know about you, but getting my teeth scraped until they’re squeaky clean is something I crave almost as much as getting my back popped at the chiropractor. My dentist would probably frown upon trying this at home, but whatever, it’s 2019, and Amazon has everything.
Upgraded Teeth Whitening Strips: Before I got my custom trays, I used to order these relatively often from Amazon. They’re only 10 bucks, and they’re a great dupe of Crest White Strips. White teeth look good on everyone, and there are plenty of budget-friendly options out there.
My Yap Trap Wish List
Marvis Classic Strong Mint Toothpaste: This is fancy ten-dollar Italian toothpaste made with real mint oil that comes in a chic foil tube. If I regularly bought ten-dollar toothpaste, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, so I usually get a tube of this once a year and put it in Joe’s Christmas stocking.
COSTOM Electric Dental Calculus Plaque Remover: Do I dare take my at-home plaque scraping up a notch?
Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Mattemoiselle Plush Matte Lipstick in Ruby Red: Cool-toned lip colors will make your teeth look whiter. Cool lipstick shades have blue undertones, whereas warmer hues — which can make your teeth look yellow — will have orange undertones.
Goby All-Black Electric Toothbrush: I mean, have you ever had more of an urge to stick a gadget into your mouth? ‘Cause I haven’t. The below photos of the Goby toothbrush may as well be sexts. But Quip also makes an all-black toothbrush, so I might just have to treat myself to that someday.
The Joys of Getting Good Grades at the Dentist
When I visit the dentist, I relish in their approval for my clean teeth and healthy gums. When the dental hygienist tells me to focus on brushing a certain area, I really go home and focus on brushing that area! When they give me tips — like to wait 30 minutes before eating or drinking (even water!) after brushing so that the fluoride has time to do its thing — I listen and try to follow the guidelines. When I go for my bi-annual checkup, I want straight As. I work hard on my smile, and it’s nice to be praised for it. I’m such a kiss-ass! Can you blame me?
While I’m normally a total overachiever with my teeth and a major suck-up at the dentist, the first couple months of motherhood told a different story. During our baby’s month-long stay in the hospital and in the first few weeks we had him home, I stopped flossing and would sometimes only brush my teeth once a day. Oh, the shame! (As I’ve mentioned, some of your basic human needs are often not tended to as a brand-new parent, oral hygiene included.) I went to the dentist in February prepared for humiliation, and sure enough, I was chastised. But then I told the dental hygienist my sob story about Louie’s stint in the NICU. She said she understood and sent me home with a bottle of prescription-strength mouthwash.
Afterward, I immediately cleaned up my act! Now that I’m back to my usual overachieving dental routine, I floss every single day, brush my teeth for the full two minutes twice a day, and wear my retainers about six nights a week — I paid for my orthodontia myself, and I’ll be damned if my teeth revert to their previous positions!
A Final Word on Teeth
If you’re thinking about straightening your teeth as an adult, I say go for it. Buyer’s remorse is real, and people certainly may regret some plastic surgery procedures or other cosmetic expenditures, but I’m willing to bet that there’s virtually no chance you’ll regret investing in your smile. I know it sounds cheesy, but your smile is invaluable, and the value of your investment will never depreciate. Plus, nowadays, there are cheaper options, like Smile Direct Club, that don’t even require any visits to an orthodontist’s office.
One time in college, one of my guy friends said to me, “Why are your teeth so pointy?” I’m not sure why he asked it, or whether it was rhetorical. I’m not even sure how I could possibly answer, except maybe with a joke about how I planned to suck his blood later. But the point is that it embarrassed me, it reaffirmed my existing insecurities about my teeth, and I never forgot it. In fact, I recited it in my head probably once a week for the next six years. (This was a similar situation to the one in third grade when my classmate, the little snot, told me I had hairy arms.) The day I completed my Invisalign, I had my orthodontist file down the pointier ends of my upper and lower canines (cuspid teeth).
Before orthodontia, I didn’t feel comfortable busting up laughing with my mouth wide open. It contributed to significant shyness and impacted every single one of my face-to-face interactions. Was I overthinking it? Probably. Did most other people even notice that one crazy scoundrel tooth? Probably not. But it bugged me, and that was enough.
People say I have really nice teeth now, which is something I literally dreamed of when I was younger. And I’m comfortable humble-bragging about it because I paid for Invisalign with my own goddamn grownup money, and I work hard to keep my teeth in good shape. Investing in my smile is one of the best decisions I ever made. In some ways, it changed my life.
So, don’t feel guilty about caring about your smile or wanting to invest in your teeth as an adult. Your smile holds a lot more than just aesthetic weight. It can affect your communication, your confidence, your career, your romantic life, your social life, and, let’s be real: your social media game. Yes, yes, there’s much more to life than straight white teeth, but that doesn’t mean you should feel bad about wanting to enhance your smile, OK?
Wow, I didn’t realize I had so much to say about teeth. Anyway, do what you wanna do! Floss like there’s no tomorrow! (But actually, maybe do floss like there’s a tomorrow because if there’s no tomorrow, then fuck flossing, amIright?)