“Nothing exudes manly confidence like a mouthful of adult braces!” This was a hook for an advertisement I heard recently by an invisible aligner company. I’ve spent nearly three years in teeth-straightening appliances, and I would like to think I have managed to maintain some modicum of manly confidence.
Just the other day, I left my orthodontist’s office and found myself reflecting on the entire experience. Three lessons came to mind:
1) Use a Pro
This one probably sounds obvious, so let me explain. When I first decided to straighten my teeth, I talked with my general dentist about it. She introduced me to an invisible aligner that would straighten my teeth, and she noted that it was significantly less expensive than braces. She also convinced me that she was capable of helping me with these aligners, even though she wasn’t an orthodontist. Apparently, lots of general dentists offer similar services. Naively, I went ahead with the plan, and after a year-and-a-half in the aligners, my bite was ruined. I finally turned to an experienced orthodontist.
With the benefit of hindsight, I should have started with an orthodontist in the first place, but the allure of a lower-cost alternative was too much to pass up. In the end, I paid more money and spent far more time than I would have if I had relied on an orthodontist from the beginning.
So, lesson #1 is to use a pro. If you need a Will, see a Board Certified Estate Attorney. If you need help with tax preparation, see a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). If you need financial planning and investment management, see a Certified Financial PlannerTM practitioner. Yes, the services provided by these professionals may be more expensive than those of others who practice in these fields without the necessary credentials and experience, but you’ll almost certainly find yourself paying more in the long run as I did.
2) If you have a question, ask it
The orthodontist who I eventually hired to repair my ruined bite is one of the most reputable, experienced orthodontists in our area. He also happens to be incredibly demanding of his staff and is not known for his bedside manner with patients. I admit that I was intimidated by him at first, and I found myself leaving my appointments with unanswered questions. I suppose I didn’t want to ask a silly question, or worse, sound like I was questioning his work.
Just yesterday I mustered the courage to ask him if one of my teeth appeared to have rotated just slightly. At first glance, he said that it had not. However, he eventually said, to my astonishment, “Yes, actually you’re right. It has rotated a bit.” I’ve realized that I would rather risk drawing his ire than have my braces removed with my questions or concerns left unanswered.
3) Don’t worry about what others think
Remember that bit about “manly confidence?” Well, it turns out that most people haven’t even noticed I am wearing braces, and those who do notice don’t seem to care one iota. It turns out that any self-consciousness I had about the whole thing was just that: SELF-consciousness.
I’m not entirely sure when we stop caring about what others think. I used to think really old people didn’t care, but I’m beginning to question that assumption. In any case, I find myself more determined to keep my head down, do the right thing, and realize that I really have no control over what others think.
Here’s a bonus lesson. Having braces teaches you patience. When I’ve walked into the orthodontist’s office the past few visits, I have been confident that today he’ll tell me he’s ready to remove the braces. But each time, we find something to tweak, some small aspect of my bite or my smile that can be improved if I’m patient just a little longer. How many other things in life reward our persistence and patience? Job success. Relationships. Investments. The list goes on.
Sooner or later these braces are coming off, and I have much more to show for the experience than just a confident smile.