Oral fixationAugust 11, 2010
My schedule is as stuffed as a Chipotle burrito. Writing, running tech for a one-man show, daily spiritual work (reading, journaling, meditation), weekly treatments with my naturopath, overhauling my eating habits, triathlon training, doggie obedience class, voice lessons, learning to surf, relearning guitar, finishing up a major editing project I volunteered for, working with an assistant to cross all those pesky unfinished projects/energy drains off my list, plus a few other social activities I really don’t want my mother reading about. Next week I’m adding Bikram yoga classes and pre-production work on a script I’m producing. I think I have a date or two crammed in there somewhere, too.
I am essentially rebuilding my life from scratch, and it’s like an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition – the old has been razed, and now there are 100 things all going on at the same time. This is not a complaint, mind you. Just facts. For the most part, it is quite fun! On occasion, however, I’ve been known to overthink things, especially with men/dating, and it is hella-exhausting. Alas, every episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition ends in tears, so we have that in common, too. When I’m that tired, my emotions are raw… right there on the surface. I had a HILARIOUS, fun-filled emotional meltdown at a voice lesson last week. Good times.
I think this is partly because of the carnage happening in my mouth. Two weeks ago, I started a year-long InvisAlign treatment. For those who don’t know, InvisAlign is/are – is it singular or plural? crap, I don’t know – the clear trays that work like braces for people with less than perfect teeth. InvisAlign revolutionized the world of orthodontia in the past 10 years. Something like that. No, I’m totally making that up. The timeline, the revolutionization. All of it. Is “orthodontia” an actual word?
I had metal braces when I was 12 or 13, and there was no way on that was happening again in this lifetime. Hellz no. My post-brace-face smile has since had a relapse, and there is a gap between my upper and lower teeth. There is an actual orthodontic term for this, by the way, but I can’t remember what my orthodontist, Larry, told me it was. Balls.
Anyway, this gap has irked me for years. At my InvisAlign consultation, Larry told me that every time I swallow (approx. 2400 times per day according to answers.com), my tongue pushes against the back of my upper teeth. Multiply that by 25 years and voila! Gap. It’s called being a “tongue thruster.” (And don’t think for a second I didn’t immediately update my online dating profile with that tidbit.) I’ve since begun tongue therapy to correct my, uh, thrusting/swallowing issue.
The InvisAlign guidelines are pretty clear and simple. You pop in a new set of “aligners” every two to three weeks and wear them constantly except for eating and brushing your teeth. You’re only supposed to drink water because the trays will stain, and any hot fluids could also distort the trays. Son of a bitch! There goes my coffee addiction. It’s probably for the best. With all the water consumption, I’ll be fabulously hydrated for the next 12 months. My skin will be flawless, my eyes will sparkle and my urine will run clear… 27 flippin’ times a day.
One of the things you don’t hear about InvisAlign is that for some people – like me, of course – they weld these tooth-colored attachments onto your teeth. Essentially, they are what hold the aligners in place, providing leverage for the trays to pull a tooth down, push it in, twist it around, do the hokey-pokey or whatever other oral torture may be required for beauty’s sake. The attachments have sharp little edges, too. I’m pretty sure they could be used to rip flesh off a small child. To be clear, this would ONLY happen in an emergency situation.
With the attachments and the usage guidelines, one of my first thoughts with regard to treatment was: “What about sex?!” Yes, I have sex. Occasionally with another person, too. Like on Leap Day. Or Tuesdays. Anyway, orally speaking – is that redundant? – in many intimate situations, we’re dealing with some pretty sensitive areas, right? I don’t want to be inadvertently shredding anyone’s unmentionables. Ouch. Damn, what am I doing to the poor guy in this scenario? It sounds like I’m rubbing my bare teeth all over him like I’m testing a strand of freshwater pearls. Hmm. I can’t recall ever doing that, but… well… there’s the overthinking again. And a visual of myself that is disturbing and decidedly unsexy.
For the first few days, removing the trays was an experiment in pain threshold analysis. My bottom teeth are particularly crooked and crowded, and when pulling off the trays, I was fairly certain the entire bottom half of my face was going to disengage and be ripped off… like that scene from Poltergeist. Remember? I bet he was in the first week of InvisAlign treatment, too. Ghosts, my ass. By the way, only half a face: also not sexy.
But you know what IS sexy? Plastic mouth guards hermetically sealed onto your choppers. A chunk of romaine lettuce stuck between my gums and the plaster attachment. Add to that: drooling, chapped lips, and an intermittent Cindy Brady lisp. HOT! I’m preparing for a tidal wave of dating requests.
When Larry was explaining to me the sensations I might experience during treatment, he mentioned that the aligners are shifting everything at once. There’s some discomfort initially, but then things adjust and it feels normal until the next set of trays when it starts over again. I have 22 sets of trays. Awesome.
Regardless, when I think about it, it’s like a orthodontic metaphor for my life. Everything is shifting at the same time. It’s uncomfortable, but not unbearable. I can decide how it affects me or not. Things are being pushed, pulled, twisted, hokey-pokey’d. Bad habits can be eliminated and replaced with newer, better ones. Unwanted gaps can be removed if I so choose. And yeah, I may drool. I may chafe. So what? In the end, I’ll know I’ll still be smiling. =D