All I Want for Summer is My Two Front Teeth

One week ago I went to the orthodontist and had my adult braces removed and came home with my retainer. In January of 2020, before the pandemic became a pandemic, I had them put on to help correct the crookedness of my front teeth. I had put them off as long as I could, but at the end of 2019 my top two center teeth were crooked far enough back that they were starting to come down behind my bottom two center teeth, sometimes hard enough to bruise them. I couldn’t put it off any more.

The office I went to REALLY REALLY wanted me to get Invisalign, but I knew that I was not responsible enough to do that correctly (as has been evidences with my retainer usage, which should be 4-6 hours a day but is turning out to be about 2-4). I wanted to be out of these things as soon as was humanly possible,and traditional braces worked 24/7. It was also the cheapest option, capping my costs at $2100, and required me to switch to my school district’s dental HMO option instead of a PPO (which covered only $1000 of the Invisalign costs).

In addition to switching my dental insurance I had to plan ahead for a Health Savings Account. The orthodontist spread the cost out over 16 or so payments (after a $500 down payment!) so I opted into the service that took money out of my paycheck pre-tax and put those funds onto a card I could use for medical expenses. This had the added benefit of providing me with the money in a lump sum on January 1, allowing me to make the $500(!!!) down payment and start treatment when I wouldn’t have been able to without it.

I was so careful, I never popped a bracket, never had to go in for more visits than I needed to, and even missing a visit during the lockdown last April and May 2020 didn’t put me behind schedule. I cleaned them so well that I cause a little bit of gum recession – overzealous with the water pik! – but that helped the teeth continue to move without any buildup to slow or block the process. I started off having fun with the colors but then I had to wear a mask everywhere so I stuck with a basic light pink or purple, my two favorites.

Having them off and having my teeth back is very strange. My two top center teeth feel SO LARGE like I’m a beaver. They used to bend inward, so my lip isn’t used to feeling them. It’s nice to eat things again without having to spend a bunch of time cleaning food out of all the metal. I appreciate how easy it is to floss without braces, and after making a habit of it over the last 18 months it’s nothing to continue it, especially because it’s easier and takes less time.

I will have to wear my retainer 4-6 hours a day plus all night for the next 12 weeks, and then if everything looks good I’ll transition to nights only for the rest of my life. The retainer costs $400 to replace, $200 for each part, and I shouldn’t have to replace them for ten years as long as I take care of them. I wash them with regular hand soap and a toothbrush every morning, and if they ever get a little weird I can soak them in a vinegar solution.

I am glad that I was able to afford this process. I don’t think I would have handled them well if I had gotten them as a kid, and as an adult who paid for them myself I have invested in myself, which for me means that I take it more seriously. It is worth noting that millions of people in this country cannot afford dental care, and that dental insurance is sold separately from health insurance, so it’s often not offered or completely covered by employers. I barely afforded my care, and I only did it because the alternative would have caused more cost and damage to my teeth.

Universal health care would not only cover physicians, but vision, dental, prescriptions, anything you do that involves a doctor. People like to moan and groan about ~*~tAxEs~*~ but imagine paying a tiny bit more in taxes and NEVER having to pay a copay ever again. Being able to get the care you needed at any time of your life without having to get an insurance approval first. Imagine being able to see a specialist without a huge copay. Imagine being able to see a doctor you like and not just the doctors that take your insurance. Imagine paying even $100 more in taxes a year for the ability to take care of not only your physical but also your mental health. Shit I would gladly pay the $1500 I had to put on my Health Savings Account this year, but every year to never have to worry about paying for medical care of any kind ever again.

I know people who have had to crowdfund their dental care. Imagine a world where we never have to do that again because everyone crowdfunds everyone else. Imagine not having to beg for money so you can live. I lost a cousin to brain cancer, and I wonder how her outcome might have been different if her parents didn’t have to think about money, if they only had to focus on getting her to the best doctors, the best treatments. When people tell me they are against Universal Healthcare all I hear is that they don’t want other people to live. Period.

So anyway, hooray for being done with braces! And call your senators/representatives and press for universal healthcare for everyone so maybe no one has to pay for braces or anything ever again.

P.S. – Also ask them to cancel student debt while you’re at it. 🙂