Life Lessons From Wearing Braces

December 4th, 2007

So I’m wearing braces. Again. I had them for a few years in middle school, and now I’m enjoying them all over again as a 27 year-old. Horrifying, right? It’s actually a much different experience this time around. For one thing, I’m much more aware of them at a conscious level. After all, I very definitely chose to undergo treatment, whereas when you’re younger it feels like the will the world, as implemented by your parents, is forcing you into it.

Solving Pain…With Pain!

Braces illustrate this concept perfectly. I’ve come to understand it as universal truth. To avoid something you must undergo it. What does this mean? Let’s use my braces as an example. It all started with tooth pain. Of course, nobody wants tooth pain, so I (eventually) went to the dentist. They discovered this wonderful mess:

My Teeth

Whoops! Looks like my upper wisdom teeth are causing some trouble.

It’s Going to Suck

Here’s the kicker. Want to stop your teeth from hurting all the damn time? Put on some braces. Then your teeth will hurt some of the damn time! Want to stop being out of breath after walking up some stairs? Force yourself to feel out of breath by jogging! Feeling stumped by a particular subject, like programming? Submit yourself to that stupid feeling by hitting the books! Terrified of speaking in public? Get to a Toastmasters club and, you guessed it, speak in front of people. And it goes on like this.

The Solution?

I’m not sure there is a magic workaround to this phenomenon. The best course of action is to accept it and approach it with discipline. Arm yourself with the end goal in mind and apply that vision as needed to get through the pain and discomfort, with the realization that the exact kind of pain and discomfort you’re feeling is what you’re freeing yourself from.

If you’re working out, visualize performing your physical goal effortlessly–a marathon, or a bike tour, or whatever–whenever your hit that psychological wall. Push through the confusion in your studies by imaging the clear understanding that awaits you. Dream about the appointment when your braces come off whenever a headache creeps in.

Stick With It

Eventually, the braces do come off. You realize you can run a mile without even feeling tired. The concepts and ideas that baffled you now seem intuitively obvious. All it takes is time, patience, and a little discipline.

And in the meantime, take some ibuprofen and get back to work!

3 responses

  1. elder comments:

    interesting that your dentist didn’t suggest simply extracting those pressing (and slightly impacted?) 3rd molars. Given that they are uppers, they could be removed in two minutes with a simple local anaesthetic, and probably at much less cost than enduring braces again. Unless, of course, there were other very good reasons to keep those molars, or the braces were needed for other reasons again.

  2. Matthew comments:

    Oh yeah, I didn’t mention it in much detail–by the time I realized I had the upper 3rds they had already collided with the root structure of the neighboring seconds and destroyed them (the shadowy area around the point of contact in the x-ray is decay). First they had a periodontist check them out, but he said they were basically a lost cause. The plan then became extracting the 2nds and replacing them with the 3rds via orthodontics. The surgeon who removed the 2nds said he couldn’t even find some of the roots…

    Back in Northfield, early high school, the guy who removed my impacted lower wisdoms said I didn’t have, nor would ever have, upper thirds. Oops! I went for a few years without dental care, though, so the whole thing is pretty much my fault. I’m sure yearly x-rays would’ve seen them coming before they did much damage :/

  3. Matthew comments:

    I should mention current status too–my left wisdom tooth is already occluding with the lower molar (I can chew with it). The other wisdom tooth is on the arch wire and should be down pretty soon. Hooray for elastics!

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