Smile Like You Mean It

Warning:  The following may contain content that confirms clichés about those vain, big-headed Americans, but don’t worry, we can still be friends.  

I was that kid in primary school who, wanting to be as cool as those angsty, acne prone 13 year olds, would unfold a paper clip and stick it in my mouth just to pretend I had braces.   Hey!  Don’t pretend you didn’t do it.  I longed for braces in the way that I longed for mall bangs.  Braces and mall bangs – does the height of fashion get any higher?

Once old enough to know better and when mall bangs had thankfully died with the 80’s, I was preparing to get my braces fitted.   I remember being at a family event and crying because I desperately DIDN’T want them.  My mom didn’t really seem to care about my pleas and rational argument, which highlighted how she’d save money and I would stop crying.  Her response:  You’re getting them.  My aunt attempted to be a bit more diplomatic and tried to talk me down from my the ledge of teenage despair.  She told me about how happy I’d be about my straight teeth later; I struggled to believe her.  I was 15.   Everyone  had been there and got the t-shirt while I was just setting off around two years behind the pack.  I grimaced thinking about how much the boys would love my mouth of metal for the next 1.5 – 2 years, while I watched those other girls bat their eyes and flash their perfect smiles.

But after the fittings and tightenings and rubber bands and gaps as my teeth shifted,  none of it seemed that bad.  It was true that the dates didn’t start rolling in until they were off, but  I did love my straight teeth (and apparently so did the boys).  They made me feel better.

Then, only months later, my dog ate my retainer.  Apparently the smell of fusty, food-encrusted plastic is just too much to pass up because he then ate my replacement retainer and insurance wasn’t going to cover more than two.

It was around the time that I moved to England that I noticed that one of my top teeth had really started to shift.   I named it “Snaggle”  because I name everything and also because I wanted to lighten the awkwardness of how I now felt about my smile.  I found myself pushing that tooth while I was sitting in meetings.  I would scrutinize photos that were taken from my right-side.  I wasn’t really worried about what others thought of my shifting tooth.  It was about how I felt about my smile and quite simply – I didn’t feel great.

The maniacal plan: detract from Snaggle with enormous bows for The Duchess. But if you look, you can spot Snaggle in all his misaligned glory.

I’m sure that someone may respond with a diatribe of how I need to learn to be happy with myself just as I am.    I get that.   That’s probably what put me off getting it fixed for so long, that and anticipating the bill.  Maybe it is some weird American complex about perfect teeth, but the insecurity continued.  One day, The Native and I talked about it and agreed that if it still bothered me in a year’s time we’d start to look into it.  Yesterday I made the trip down to Orthoworld and got a retainer.  Even writing the word makes me want to crack up.  It’s clear, hardly noticeable, it hasn’t even left me with a lisp, and the bill isn’t bad, but still it’s laughable a retainer, A RETAINER…..

This photo lies. She was screaming, not smiling when he fitted that sucker. Fact. Image:

….except it also makes me want to drop to my knees and scream out in pain.   Last night, I literally laughed and then cried while I tried to prise my retainer out of my mouth for no less than 30 minutes.   We googled.  I panicked and started to wonder whether it was irrational to classify this as an emergency worthy of a hospital trip.  I rested my head on a cushion while The Native commented about how he’d never go back and do it again, and then stuck his fingers in my mouth and pulled (which I would not advise unless you want to go to jail for assaulting your spouse).  Who needs waterboarding when you can just try to pull a newly-fitted retainer out of someone’s mouth?  Give a terrorist a retainer and he’ll be talking in less than 24 hours.  Guarantee it.

Are you happy with all of your quirks, imperfections and snaggles or is there something you think about getting sorted?


16 thoughts on “Smile Like You Mean It

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Hurts like a mother. I seriously feel like I need some kind of power tool to remove it from my mouth. At the very least, I’m going to have to wake up 20 minutes earlier to allow for removal time just so I can make it to work on time.

  1. Stacey

    I have a snaggle too! It must be genetic and I hate it, About once a year I look into invisaline braces but still haven’t convinced myself to get them. But my real personal issue is with my arms. No matter what exercise I do or how little/much weight I lift they still waggle. Someday when I have tons of money and have convinced myself that vanity is a good thing I will have plastic surgery to trim them up. Then I wont avoid looking at myself in sleeveless shirts and sun dresses.

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      I was totally the same, investigating quotes and things for invisalign and then I saw something on the Orthoworld site that quoted corrective procedures at around £500, which is significantly less than braces or invisalign. It is costing us just over £300 for 2 corrective retainers (one won’t move it as much as it needs) and a retainer for my bottom teeth so they don’t move any further than they have. For us, that was worth it. I don’t think I would’ve gone through with it if it was any more than £500 though. And thanks for being honest about your arms. Funny, the things we pick apart about ourselves when I’m sure no one else even notices!

  2. Deborah

    Interesting that you could get a retainer to fix that. I quit wearing my retainer sometime in college and of course my teeth have shifted. They are still straight but I know my top teeth are more forward then they should be (I think my tongue presses them forward.) Anyways I never wanted to see anybody about it because I DID NOT want to ever wear braces again but if I could get a retainer to wear maybe that would be okay. Do you have to wear it all the time or just at night?

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      That is TOTALLY what put me off going – cost and the thought of full on braces again. The place I went had a free consultation. I’d say it’s definitely worth looking into to see if it could be treated relatively simply. I have to wear the retainer 23 hours a day for the first 2 weeks and then over night and for a few hours a day for four weeks after that.

  3. Katriina

    I’m going to go ahead and say it – I think Snaggle looks super cute! Seriously. If it bothers you that much, obviously it’s better that you use the retainer, but please know that you have a lovely smile already 🙂

  4. Rosie

    I love this because I can absolutely imagine that conversation with your mom. Bring her over here for keeps, please – I need more of that lady in my life.

  5. allotmentmum

    Love it – especially the dog bit! And for the record, you look great as you are (:

  6. avicarswife

    i remember how much retainers hurt in high school…that mother looks like it means business! i say embrace the snaggle…our teeth are still movie-star quality in comparison (talk about clichés!).

  7. carrie

    I can totally imagine your husband putting on his “man up and solve a problem” face while sticking his fingers in your mouth to pry out your retainer. Those are the things that make a marriage strong. We are also expats, but living in China. I never realized how different Americans do things from pretty much everywhere else until moving here and trying to figure things out.

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