This is a cautionary tale for anyone with braces, or about to get braces, or who just got their braces taken off – WEAR YOUR DAMN RETAINER. Not just for the full-time period that the orthodontist tells you, but EVERY night after that. Do. Not. Stop. Your teeth WILL move and all that time and effort (and in some cases, huge amounts of money!) will have been wasted. I can say this with authority because that is exactly what I did. And now I am paying the price. Literally.
I got train tracks when I was 13 years old, and I got them for free on the NHS because I was under 18 and my teeth were Very Janky. After two years, I got those nasty bits of metal prised off my teeth and I was free! I was very excited about not having any more contraptions in my mouth. I took my retainer very seriously at first, but as soon as it became just nights, my efforts started to slip – that freedom was just too tempting.
Eventually I stopped wearing my retainer altogether, which I thought would be fine (???) because I was a stupid teenager. Reader, it was not fine. My top teeth stayed pretty straight because I had two teeth taken out during my orthodontic treatment, but the bottom row went back to pretty much exactly how they were before I got braces. One tooth in particular became very snaggly and would stick out way above the rest.
Having once had perfectly straight teeth (the day I got my braces off and for a brief time thereafter) it was very annoying seeing that little snaggle tooth poke out in the mirror and, worse yet, in photos. I was filled with regret (and still am, tbh) that I didn’t wear my retainer properly and now my teeth had moved back.
I decided one day in late 2019 that if it bothered me so much, I might as well do something about it. I saw that my old orthodontic clinic was offering an Invisalign “Open Day” where you can get your teeth scanned and talk about Invisalign options etc. for free, when it normally costs about £100. So I did the walk of shame back to my orthodontist, at the ripe old age of 24 – almost 10 years after my initial treatment. I spent about 2 or 3 hours in the clinic and by the end of it, I had put down the deposit for Invisalign (with a view to paying an eye-watering total of £2.8k).
(For those not in the know, Invisalign is a brand of “invisible” braces which look and feel very much like a close-fitting gumshield. I was also pleased to learn that they operate a closed-loop recycling programme, to avoid sending the plastic aligners to landfill!)
I don’t regret getting treatment a second time and paying ridiculous amounts of money for it. It will be so worth it when I get those perfect, straight teeth. What I do regret is the fact that I had to do it at all. I HAD perfect teeth completely free of charge, and I squandered them. My mum had taken so much leave from work to take me to those appointments, I had to deal with mouth ulcers and all the other pains that come with train tracks for TWO YEARS, and I let it all go to waste.
All of that regret will serve as a reminder to me to keep wearing my retainer every night until the day I die (not an exaggeration), once my Invisalign treatment is done. Even if the orthodontist says I can go down to a few nights a week instead, I will still do it every night. I need that strictness and routine to keep me on track, because I really don’t want to be doing this a third time.
And if I can prevent any of you from having to do it a second time, then it might not all have been a waste after all. Please take heed of my cautionary tale, and wear your retainer every night – especially if you got your braces for free!