I liken wearing my Invisalign to getting bangs. I’m that annoying friend that’s always pouting in front of the mirror, mussing my hair around being like, “What do you think—should I straighten my teeth again?”
I had braces when I was younger, their removal skyrocketing me into “hotness” territory, despite my keratosis pilarablahblah, if you’ll recall. I remember everyone telling me to “Wear that retainer! That’s my biggest regret—never wearing my retainer.” I found it hard to believe that my pissy, young divorcee sixth-grade history teacher, my hungover nanny, and that middle-aged Chili’s waiter’s biggest regrets were never wearing their retainers, but whatever.
Obviously, I never wore it! They’re gross. That demure shade of iridescent glitter that I chose for the plastic part of the upper piece (it would go with everything) got cloudy and beige-ish despite my occasional cleaning. I would lose it every so often for days at a time, only to have it wind up in a jacket covered in weird pocket debris and dog hair.
And I hated that awkward saliva-vacuuming slurp you’d have to do when removing it from your mouth, a thin string of spit holding on for dear life as you place it on the table while you eat as your fellow diners grimace in disgust.
My huge teeth were too much for the so-called “permanent” bottom retainer. Despite the dental cement, it popped loose about a week later, leaving me with a jagged wire poking my tongue region until I could get in to see my orthodontist.
My orthodontist, Dr. Greenburg, is a doctor in the same vein as my dermatologist and dentist. No frills, no real niceties other than his super-hot assistants and that boyish side-smile he made after yanking out a baby tooth—without warning—leaving you in a bloodied state of shock and terror. “Whaaat?” he’d laugh. He did this, like four times.
So it was back to Dr. Greenburg when I was sixteen, five years of not wearing my retainer later. My grill was busted once more, thanks especially to my asshole wisdom teeth finally deciding to show up. He prescribed an Invisalign regimen: red, white and blue. You’d wear the red set first, then the white, then the blue, culminating in straight teeth.
I had molds done and wore the teeth containers around like a doofus. They call it Invisalign, and I guess it is more invisible than braces, but awkwardly so. As in, you have a large clear plastic covering over your teeth that collects saliva, is painful like braces, and requires that disgusting slurp for removal. People kind of squint at you when you wear them, like they just realized you have a lazy eye and won’t stop staring at it.
I completed the series and had great teeth for a few years, or maybe just months, I don’t know. But then college came, and it’s hard to remember to grab your blue retainers to wear at night for maintenance as you rush out of your dorm to your boyfriend’s place because you hate your freshman roommate so much you can’t sleep in the same room.
And brushing them was such a chore! Honestly, does anybody look forward to brushing their teeth? How about your real teeth, plus a cloudy plastic hollow cast? Also, there was the alcohol and weed and studying and getting straight A’s, so my teeth kind of went to the wayside. Like, literally, they got all sideways and weird again.
Flash forward a couple of years and I’m drunkenly being drunk at some super-cool bar in New York with my super-cool, party-time, knows-every-person-in-the-city type dude friend that hangs with models and artists and photographers and tatooists and internet celebrities all day or whatever. You’d think my self-esteem would have been at an all time low. Who was I but some lowly intern with an effed up mouth, surrounded by older cool people I was too shy to talk to, wearing nothing with the word “Supreme” printed on it?
But looking back, if I had one piece of advice for my fellow young 20-somethings, it’s to date a dude-bro 13 years older. They grew up looking at raw, dirty late ‘70s and early ‘80s porn—not the clinically perfect bodies you see today. They’re totally un-phased by “gross” normal human things and are probably just glad they’ve still got enough game to land a chick like you. Plus they find nothing sexier than tan lines and a wonky smile. (This theory has only been tested once. Let me know if you’ve experienced anything similar in the comments.)
His constant drunken affirmations to how adorable I was were, like, the best ever. Also, it was just enough validation to continue to “wear” my teeth crooked. And, believe me, I’ve really let them go over the past year or so.
Yet, here I am, finding myself biting down on the same set of blue retainers, forcing them further onto my teeth, the dull pain shooting through my gums. I’m doing this for the sake of journalism. And also because I just got a job as a beauty editor and my right front incisor was looking pretty buck.
I feel like I can pull off the greasy hair, no-makeup look pretty well, until I flash my huge, yellowy, jumbled Chiclet teeth. I still think they look super-hot all wonky, but only in the way that a sexy European Bond girl who smokes too much looks hot. And that requires eyeliner and a blowout, neither of which are part of my everyday look.
It’s gotten a little easier this time around after discovering that you can use denture-cleaning tablets instead of brushing your retainers. (God, this is so disgusting I can’t believe I’m talking about it.) But yeah, if you were to visit my apartment, you’d probably find a pair of clear plastic teeth floating around in Efferdent.
Do you still wear Invisalign? Maybe even your retainer? Do you jump back and forth every three months, like me? How do you clean them?