Voluntary Orthodontia as An Adult (Alternate Title: I’m 28 with Braces)

Let’s talk about teeth! (Because I can’t only talk about Paris all the time, right?)


I had braces –the old, horrible metal kind– as a kid for about a year and a half. When they came off, my bottom teeth weren’t entirely straight. My orthodontist retired immediately after removing my braces (I think he was already halfway out the door as I was fumbling over the surprising sliminess of my naked teeth), and in the years since, I’ve been nursing the suspicion that he took them off specifically so he could retire, not because my teeth were ready. My bottom teeth have been crowding little by little over the last 16 years, so slowly it hadn’t bothered me, until about four years ago when one tooth went totally rogue, bidding “GIRL BYE” to its neighbors, and jumped the line. I found it quirky and kind of adorable, personally. My dentist disagreed, and kept urging me to get it fixed, but let’s be real: voluntary orthodontia as an adult was just not on my list of priorities, or my list of planned expenses. Do you know how many flights to Paris I could buy for the same price?

But at my last cleaning in February, the dentist said either I get my teeth straightened or he’d have no choice but to eventually extract that one, sassy tooth, and because of the crowding there wouldn’t be enough room to insert a bridge. Faced with the choice of shelling out several thousand dollars or having a gaping hole dead center at the bottom of my mouth, even the grumbling skinflint inside of me couldn’t argue. Merde.

And so began the process of finding an orthodontist and electing to inflict pain and embarrassment upon myself. (I’d made up my mind that I’d be going with Invisalign, clear, plastic, laser-cut molded trays you swap out every two weeks, because if I have to be 28 and in braces, they had better be goddamn invisible.)


The whole experience was very “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” The first orthodontist was all but mute, and sat in his chair staring at me (literally) without offering any information. The price was $5950. If you were going to flinch at that number, save it, because the second orthodontist I saw –which had plush white carpeting, Diptyque candles, complimentary champagne and truffles, Downton Abbey playing in the lobby– quoted me $8800. Where the first doctor was uselessly withholding of information, the second office was so communicative. They took photos of my teeth and blew them up on a flat screen in the exam room (which, while helpful, was an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone, because omfg gross), and the orthodontist explained every single detail of his treatment plan. Both doctors had said it would be about a 12-15 month experience. The second office might have said more, but I can’t be sure because I blacked out from shock at the sticker price. Nine grand!! Again: DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY FLIGHTS TO PARIS I COULD BUY FOR THAT PRICE??

And then there was the third orthodontist. When I went in for my consultation, they were playing New Kids on the Block (you guys know how I feel about NKOTB). I would have signed on the dotted line just based on their musical tastes alone, but it only got better. The staff is incredible, kind and down-to-earth (free bottled water and chapstick instead of champagne), the orthodontist is young and nice and volunteers at an organization that offers orthodontic work to low-income kids, and it truly was a “just right” feeling from the moment I walked in. They took x-rays and the orthodontist encouraged me to ask questions. The best part? It is the most affordable option by far, which I realize is all relative; the office manager started writing down the price, and when I saw it started with the number ‘4’ I all but threw my credit card at her. The BESTEST part? It will only take five or six months, not 15.

I had my digital impressions taken in late February –happily, new technology means I didn’t have to suffer those awful plaster molds– and received my first set of Invisalign trays mid-March. They took some getting used to, and while the dental assistants assured me I would be able to pop the trays in an out with ease soon enough, the first few days found me near tears with both hands in my mouth, trying to will the things off my teeth, saliva pooling everywhere. Attractive, I know. They were right, and it only takes me a few seconds now.


I’m on set 3 of 10, and now that I’m five weeks in I thought I’d share how things are going.

The Good:
• Mostly invisible! Almost all Invisalign treatments require tooth-colored enamel attachments on your actual teeth, matched to corresponding divots in the trays, to help move the teeth more effectively. The attachments don’t bother me even when the trays are out, though I did lose two or three off within a week of getting them, oy.
• I can take them out while eating!
• I haven’t had much pain! There’s some definite tooth sensitivity, which is actually comforting because it means it’s all working as it should, but I’ve only taken Motrin once or twice, usually the day after I switch trays and things are a bit tighter.
• I brush my teeth more frequently!
• I’ve stopped biting my nails!
• I can’t snack throughout the day! This has made me so much more aware of all the mindless face-stuffing I was doing, purely out of boredom, not hunger.
• My teeth will be straight!
• I love my orthodontist!

The Not-So-Good:
• Optimal wear” is 22 hours per day. When you factor in that you have to wait 30 minutes after each to brush your teeth (and you have to brush your teeth before putting them back in to prevent cavities), I pretty much only get three 10-minute meals per day. I’m nervous about our upcoming Italy trip, and I know I will be limited in the amount of gelato I’ll be able to inhale.
• You can only drink water while wearing the trays. I don’t drink coffee or soda, so this wasn’t a huge adjustment for me, but man do I miss tea.
• I’ll need a retainer at night for the rest of my life. Unless, that is, I want my teeth to shift back in another 16 years and to have to do this all over again. (Spoiler: I do not.)
• Brushing your teeth three times a day means I have to carry around a travel toothbrush and toothpaste. Upside: I found a cute pouch for them!

So there you go. I’m 28 with braces. That’s what’s been going on around these parts! My super expert advice is to listen to your dentist and also WEAR YOUR RETAINER. A big thank you to my darling friend Sabina for sharing her Invisalign experience with me and for answering all my (many, crazy) questions before I took the plunge. And a big thank you to everyone else who read 1000 words about my teeth.

30 thoughts on “Voluntary Orthodontia as An Adult (Alternate Title: I’m 28 with Braces)

  1. Wow, you weren’t even trying to convince me and I am almost convinced that I need to take care of my one rogue crooked tooth on the bottom. It went crooked after my wisdom teeth grew in fully and didn’t need to be removed. I think it adds character, but it might need to be corrected one day…. I also need help cutting down on my snacking hah! But no tea, that’s so saddening :(

    1. Girl, that’s how it all starts! One tooth, just slightly crooked, left to its own devices will over time keep moving like it is in a Richard Simmons workout video. You have to get that taken care of if you can! As you can tell I have become a bit of an orthodontia pusher ;) xo

  2. I know you made that comment facetiously, but thank YOU for writing 1000 words about your teeth! I have to get Invisalign and I’ve never had any sort of orthodontia before so I’m nervous/procrastinating…but this makes it a lot less terrifying and I’m inspired to just bite (DENTAL PUNS!) the bullet lest my teeth crowd their way into clusterfuckery.

    1. Yay, we can be Invisalign buddies!! We were already lifetime friends because of your dental pun (I LOVE PUNS!). I promise, having had traditional braces once and now Invisalign, there is virtually nothing to be afraid of with this option. I promise! The longer you wait the worse it is going to be during your actual treatment! I’m here if you have any questions. I amassed a ton of info about this before jumping into it myself. Good luck!! xo

  3. ugggh, braces. i had to have them twice growing up, once in middle school (no biggie, we were all brace-faced then) and once when i was a freshman in college (talk about total insecurity). since then, i’ve been horrible about wearing my retainer and therefor could probably use another go just to get my bite pack in alignment. sheesh! i hope august gets his father’s genes in the dental department. the man has had zero cavities and never wore braces. invisalign has been attracting my attention, but the thought of dropping that kind of money gives me cold sweats.
    you’re smart to get second and third opinions, you saavy shopper you. ;D

    1. Twice! You poor thing. Freshman year of college had to have been so tough! On top of everything else and all the other adjustments that come with college, goodness. I tried to complain to two friends and both of them shut me down immediately because one had to wear them for FIVE YEARS and the other had them on THREE TIMES. I should consider myself lucky, haha. I’m very jealous of Andy’s teeth! Some people are just born lucky, I guess. Fingers crossed for August! xo
      And you know me well. Ain’t no way I’m spending this amount of money without shopping around first! xo

  4. You won’t believe it, but I’m currently thinking about embracing Invisilign too! It was amazing and really insightful to read about your experience. I have not one, but two teeth bidding “GIRL BYE” to their neighbours. My mouth is too small. I’m looking forward to my next dentist appointment to make a decision.

    I hope it will go smoothly on your end. :)

    1. If you’re thinking about it already, you should absolutely do it! I don’t regret it at all, even though this morning my teeth were the sorest they’ve been so far in six or so weeks (I changed trays last night, ouch!). Let me know how your next dentist appt. goes, and if they recommend a good orthodontist for you! xo

  5. Adult with a missing tooth?! There’s no way you could do that (ps my boyfriend has a HUGE gap where his front tooth used to be and he has a temporary while he waits to get his implant yep that’s the guy I’m dating what a winner right?). Sigh. Good call on the Invisilign

    1. Excuse me. BOYFRIEND? Girl, forget my teeth, we have more important things to discuss!! Stat! ;) xo

  6. I have had some major tooth related trauma in my life. My upper jaw is small and my teeth are big, but instead of crowding, they grew outwards and stuck out horribly when I was little. As a result I had to have braces, but they made me feel even more awkward and I was always in stage performances in those days. It was horrible feeling like the ugly duckling.

    I also had major hate for my orthodontist. He was cranky and scary and not the type of person I wanted to be fiddling around in my mouth telling me what I should be doing with my teeth. In hindsight, I should’ve asked my mum to take me to another one, but I was young and it didn’t occur to me.

    So I got them taken off too early and they’ve since moved back – not as bad, but I’m still extremely conscious of it. Braces on my bottom teeth also made my gums recede, so I had to have a graft taken from the roof of my mouth and stitched down around the front bottom teeth. So horrible. I think I’ll have to get it done again at some point too :(

    I love the idea of invisalign, but apparently it wouldn’t work for me because my teeth aren’t technically crooked.

    I’m jealous you can get your teeth fixed! Best of luck :)

    1. Oh god, cranky teeth doctors are the WORST. It’s not like people love going to the dentist/ortho to begin with, but a scary doctor just makes the whole experience even worse. You poor thing! I’m so sorry. And for all the follow-up issues you’ve had since getting them off, too. Don’t be too self-conscious about it, though, because I promise that no one else notices as much as you do/think others do. I’ve learned that in my own experience; a lot of people were confused when I told them I was getting Invisalign and kept saying, “But your teeth are perfect?!” and I realized that the crookedness/crowding issues I thought were so glaringly obvious, no one else even noticed. Lots of luck if you have to undergo another gum graft, though! Invisalign, from what my orthodontist told me, can fix a lot of problems, not just straightening them out. Maybe go to a free consultation or two? xo

  7. I’ve always thought it silly to have children wear braces, because they just don’t know to keep up with them. I had braces for over two years, starting at 13 years old… straightened all my teeth, and then it all went to shit when I proceeded to not wear my retainer…. Of course I regret this now, as my bottom row will be forever crooked. More power to you! I’d choose the pricey braces over the hole in my mouth any day though :)

    1. I have to add though, that my orthodontist was the best! He was an older gentleman with glasses and a grey ponytail, and he was goofy as all hell. His assistants always had cartoon scrubs on, and the atmosphere there was very calm and relaxing. I loved it!

      1. That’s SO important in any doctor, but definitely an orthodontist. I actually LOVE going to see mine, everyone is so friendly and happy and fun. xo

    2. Yeah, that’s what they’re saying now, all the orthodontists I’ve seen. Kids get them on too young and then can’t be bothered to wear their retainers consistently, so my orthodontist said I’m a really common age among his patients. The second orthodontist even said that biologically, we’re still not evolved past the caveman era, where our teeth would shift forward intentionally, to provide a stronger bite because we were eating tougher, harder things back then and didn’t have knives or anything. So we’re designed to have bottom tooth crowding, apparently. Who knew! xo

  8. i couldn’t live without my tea, so i popped those trays out anytime i wanted to have my hot tea…life is too short to not have what you want when you want it :)

    1. Ha, I agree, Beth! Normally I’d do just that, but because I’m on an “Express 10” Invisalign treatment plan, I only have 10 trays/20 weeks. I can survive that long without my regular 3-cups-a-day routine :) But if it had been the 12-15 months the first two orthos had told me, I would have been popping them out just like you! xo

  9. Hey, that’s me! Hehehe

    I do not miss having to carry my toothbrush and toothpaste everywhere. Or having limited snacking abilities. But I have to tell you, I drank tea and coffee while I was wearing my trays. They yellowed (tea was actually worse than coffee for that) so I would never do it with my retainer. But when the trays were about to get replaced, I totally didn’t care.

    1. That’s you! My Invisalign guru and temporary therapist, haha. I can’t thank you enough!

      I’m pretty good at limiting myself to water, but it’s been a struggle at night, after dinner when I’ve brushed and popped my trays back in for the night, when Jamal says, “I’m going to make some tea,” that I get all sad and grumpy, haha. I change trays every two weeks, so maybe on the last few days of each set I’ll start “going rogue” and drinking tea with them in! ;) xo

  10. seriously, who makes having the journey to having invisible orthodontia sound so adorable and fun?


      1. That’s okay, Gary Oldman. I understand that you were too distracted by realizing I was your “one that got away” that you couldn’t type correctly. I don’t blame you, Gary Oldman.

        ;) xo

  11. I’m so glad you were able to find a great orthodontist AND not have to pay $9k – win win! My teeth have shifted a little bit over the years too (I was terrible at wearing my retainer!), so it’s good to hear there are reasonable options for the post-middle school crowd :-)

    1. Ha, seriously! I would have been paying monthly installments for the second orthodontist for almost two years AFTER I was finished with treatment! Bonkers. And yeah, my current orthodontist has said that our age group is a really common patient, because we were all so bad at wearing our retainers! xo

  12. is it weird that i am totally jealous of you getting braces. just like i was jealous of all the kids in school that had braces back in middle school. i seriously need them, but egads, so expensive! and i am sure i’d be terrible with these ones – i think with my lack of discipline i’d have to go for the old fashioned ones. xoxo

    1. Ha, one of my biggest concerns this time around was vanity, and I did not want to be 28 and with metal braces ;) For my own vain interests, I’m willing to be as diligent as humanly possible (also considering that this time around, it’s my own money!). xo

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