As a younger geekier person, I played a computer game called Beneath a Steel Sky. A lot.
Near the end of the game, you (the main character) insert a circuit board into a rubbery lifeless thing in a laboratory, and complete its transformation from silicon, to android.
Upon awakening, it near-instantly asks ‘when do I get my accessories? Nails, hair, teeth? etc’ to which you reply something like ‘forget it – they’re more trouble than they’re worth’.
It was this morning that this seemed most true, as I sat in the Orthodontics section of Bristol Dental Hospital, waiting to be seen.
There’s apparently no shame in adult dental work, and there’s a lot more adults having braces than ever before.
That said, they have no ‘adults’ orthodontics section, and I was directed by the receptionist into a room where I was the oldest person there by around 15 years.
I sat there, surrounded by the coloured sofas, random toys, and collections of parents temporarily bereft of their offspring, trying to steady my nerves by browsing the net on my iPhone and checking out what Ariane Sherine was up to on Twitter.
But then, I don’t know if it’s my lack of sleep, or if I’m really that paranoid – but I started to worry that this looked quite bad.
Me, a single childless man, 20-something, in a room full of children holding effectively a camera.
I started waving it around so there’s no way I could focus for a photo if I wanted to, but then it could have been the new 3GS model with the video camera.
I covered the screen but then it seemed like I had something to hide, so I angled it down towards my crotch so there’s no way I could be taking photos of young children. There – THATs fine. Oh no, wait!
My social angst was disturbed by a nurse calling me into a different room, and I’ve never been so glad to go in to a room full of dentist chairs and drills in my life.
I was ushered into an office-type square, and the orthodontist introduced himself while the nurse offered to take my coat. Thinking she wanted to take it away somewhere, I spent an age trying to remove my car keys from the pocket, joking “not that I think anyone’s going to steal them, but it’s the most expensive thing I own”. She then took it and hung it on a hook 2ft from where I was standing.
I reintroduced myself to the orthodontist so I could actually catch his name.
And then we had a bit of a chat. Me not knowing what notes he had, he immediately told me braces were an option.
I thought he was some kind of genius for being able to diagnose me without even looking at my teeth properly. Or maybe he had really good eyesight. I for some reason tried to talk without opening my mouth as far, as if testing his ability.
He got out the tiny mirror on the stick and had a proper look at my teeth, and told me it looked like I had at some point had a tooth removed. I motioned the symbol for “two” with my fingers, inadvertently flipping him the V-sign. I don’t think he noticed/minded.
First, the news I liked hearing. My teeth are fine from a hygiene perspective. A sticker and a lollipop for me (if I were in fact a child).
More good news followed.
If I don’t want braces, that’s fine. He doesn’t think my teeth will all fall out, or realign themselves vertically while I’m asleep.
The tooth fairy will have to look elsewhere to mine their raw materials. (What the hell do they do with all the teeth anyway? They can’t ALL be rounded off and made into Tic Tacs, surely?)
That’s where the good news ended.
I mentioned I had seen a woman in the paper (some wife of..some..celebrity. I don’t follow celebrity news much) who had near-invisible gumshield-type braces (known as “Invisalign“), nobody knew she had them, and now she had lovely teeth.
Sadly, such braces would be no good for me.
They could possibly straighten the top teeth a bit, but they would then be even more out of place with the bottom ones, and more noticeable.
I then commented that you could have them on the inside of teeth, so people couldn’t see them. (Oh yeah – I’ve done my research.)
Sadly, they’re complicated, require a lot more work, and quite commonly have to stay on longer.
So how much work would be involved in the horrible metal, front-hanger-on ones then?
Monthly checkups, rubber band adjustments, and I’d need to keep them on for two and a half years “at least”.
I’d likely need another two teeth extracted, and worse still – that would only straighten them.
It would require x-rays to be sure, but to fix my overbite may involve an operation to realign my jaw. That sounds painful to me.
On the upside, having braces (of the non-“Invisalign” variety) makes no difference to vocals, so it wouldn’t stop me cocking about on radio.
Or harm my successful singing career or 27-octave range.
The real kicker is that it has no health/medical benefit to me whatsoever.
My teeth are perfectly healthy, and if I choose to just keep on brushing, they’ll remain able to chew my food, bite people on full moons, etc.
No. IF I do it – I’ll be doing it entirely for cosmetic purposes.
I commented to him that I had no intention of being a soap star or a male model, as if either would be possible even with slightly straighter teeth.
Essentially we’re back to where I was when I saw other people with braces at 13-14 – worrying a lot.
Who will take a 27-29 year old man seriously, if he has braces?
When I launch my business soon, given I already look younger than I am and I think people like to buy from people who appear experienced/knowledgable, would having braces make me look even younger, and/or scare them off altogether?
Do women prefer a man with teeth that aren’t straight, or a man with a mouth full of scaffolding? I might never have sex again.
If I lived in America, I’m sure I’d have been forced by law to have them done years ago, but in Britain, does anyone really care that much?
Can I really bring myself to go through all of this just for straighter teeth?
The only time I really worry about my teeth is when I visit the dentist, or when I’m really tired or upset about something unrelated.
And even then it’s the last thing down a very long list of moans.
“…and I’ve got no money, no hope, I’m fed up with life, my car needs a service, I’m boring, “My Name is Earl” has been cancelled, I did a shit radio show three weeks ago………. and I’ve got bloody horrible teeth”.
Years ago, I mentioned to someone I was attracted to about my teeth, and they quite openly told me they’d never even noticed.
Bad teeth do run in my family. My dad has terrible teeth.
And my siblings have teeth-related issues, though luckily none of us have any real plans to have children, so I guess the buck stops here. Well, not right this minute – in 50 years or so.
I guess it’s something to ponder on, and likely do nothing about.
The orthodontist gave me some leaflets before I went. I don’t know if it was deliberate or an unconscious act, but THIS one was on the top.