8 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Got Braces

My braces days literally feel like a completely different lifetime, yet they were such an important era of my existence.

My experience was a unique one.

You see, I'd always had straight teeth. I was never the kid who thought too much about my pearly whites (except for the fact that I always wanted braces—just 'cause). Well, my wish came true, but my circumstance wasn't particularly common. While my teeth were indeed straight, two of my baby canines just wouldn't come out. I had to get them surgically removed (an experience that took me an entire summer to recover from), and therefore needed braces to pull down the permanent teeth and properly align them with the remaining ones in my mouth.

Instagram captions for braces

(Ugly Betty via ABC)

So, anyway, what I thought would be a fun year-and-a-half of being a metal-mouthed babe, turned into 3.5 arduous years of uncomfortable smiles and painful appointments. Man, oh, man, there's a slew of stuff I wish I knew before I embarked on my braces journey.

But before you start scrolling below to find out just what those things are, know that of course the whole process is worth it in the end. A sparkly smile is something I wouldn't trade for (almost) anything!

1. There's a Noticeable Difference Literally Overnight

One minute you're in the orthodontist's chair, having metal glued to your teeth, then a mere 15 hours later, you're looking in the mirror getting ready for school, only to notice every gap in your mouth has closed overnight! Seriously, it's pretty amazing. But then you're left wondering what the remaining years in this predicament will do when the problem seemed to so quickly be fixed.

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2. The Braces Will Always Stay on Longer Than the Orthodontist Promises

Spoiler alert: If doc says these bad boys will be on for 1.5 years (that's usually their go-to estimate), tack on at least six additional months. You'll seriously have no idea what the holdup is while you endure the lengthy process, but you'll continue listening to their reassuring words, and with each additional visit, you'll pray you're one step closer to oral freedom.


3. The Novelty of Getting Braces Wears Off After a Week

As I mentioned way up above, I really wanted braces as a kid. I used to pull apart paper clips and try to fit them into my mouth to emulate the feeling of wearing a retainer or some sort of metal aligning my teeth. In retrospect, I have no idea why this was the case. It makes no sense. When I finally got my wish, I didn't look any cooler flashing colored bands every time I spoke, and don't even get me started on smiling for photos (see No. 8).

Obviously, I completely understand someone wanting to get braces for the sake of improving their smile or aiding some kind of oral condition that requires orthodontic care. But, like, my desire to get braces just to change things up—totally unwarranted. So even though I was indeed thrilled when the day finally came, that novelty wore off super quickly. Like this is your new mouth for the next however many years—learn to love it!

girl with braces is smiling

(via Shutterstock)


4. If You Don't Wear Your Retainer, Your Teeth Will Shift

Much like the lead-up to getting braces, I was also really excited about the idea of getting a retainer (separate from braces). I think I actually wanted the retainer even more. Why did I think that little contraption was so darn cool? No idea.

Anyway, again, much like braces, the novelty of wearing your retainer wears off quick. What sounds fun for a moment turns into an inconvenient pain in the butt. Having to take the thingie out of your mouth before every meal, wearing it to bed every night despite discomfort, carrying it around with you everywhere, not being able to successfully kiss while wearing it… yeah, it's easy to put it to the side—or heck, to stop wearing it altogether. But let me tell you something: Your teeth will shift if you don't wear it. Those first few months after your braces come off are especially crucial if you don't want to lose the placement that all that metal worked so hard to preserve.

Also, the small-but-mighty mouthpiece is quite the pretty penny, so whatever you do, don't lose it! Even if you stop using it for the time being, be sure to keep it handy in case you notice a shift in your teeth.


5. Getting Your Braces Tightened Hurts Like Heck

A visit to the ortho's office always guarantees two things: a chance to change up the color of your brackets (gotta get those Halloween vibes goin'!), and a painful tightening sesh. Luckily, the pain only lasts for about a day, and you can pop a doctor-approved, over-the-counter pain reliever like Tylenol to ease discomfort—but still, that short time of pain can prevent you from having a productive day.

girl with braces goes to the dentist

(via Shutterstock)


6. Smile With Your Mouth Closed for Any Important Photo

School portrait? Bat Mitzvah? Homecoming? While it may seem totally normal to flash a big ol' toothy grin when you're caught up in the moment, take a second to think about the long term effects of smiling with braces. Especially in the cases where you only get one shot to choose from, do not waste it on a photo of you flaunting your holiday-themed brackets. While there's no shame in wearing braces (so many of us have done it!), you definitely want to look back (semi) fondly on these memorable moments.  I have some incredibly regrettable pics that I still can't laugh about even all these years later. Like I literally have them hidden in a secret place, and would be A-OK never seeing them again!


7. When You Get Your Braces Off, the Glue Can Make a Weird Indentation in Your Teeth

While you expect your teeth to be smooth as a silk once those bad boys finally come off, you may be in for a surprise when you feel either leftover glue stuck to your teeth, or, even worse, a bump on a tooth that's caused by the glue. Your ortho can smooth most of it, but don't be surprised if a lingering bump sits in your mouth, making it uncomfortable every time you run your tongue over that area.


(via Shutterstock)


8. The 'Tooth Manicure' They Give You When You Get Your Braces Off Makes the Whole Experience Worth It

Ah, the "tooth manicure," where every part of all your teeth is smoothed and evened-out. Following this electronic procedure performed with a diamond stone (or something like that), you'll run your tongue across your teeth, like, a thousand times in a row. This is the moment that reality will sink in: Your braces are off! Now it's your job to keep those pearly whites pearly and white—and straight!


Taking care of your teeth is one very important aspect of proper hygiene. Click HERE to find out your worst hygiene habit, based on your zodiac sign!