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What's NEXT for our teeth
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What's NEXT for our teeth

Several years ago, during a routine checkup, my dentist asked if I get headaches.

I’m a migraine sufferer, so the answer was, “and how!” 

“You have a very deep overbite,” he said. “Have you ever considered braces?”

I had not considered braces. I was, at the time, 33 years old. Visions of Miranda Hobbes and her adult braces in Sex and the City flashed before me (though I feel like adult wire-and-bracket braces have become way more normalized — and, hey, Gwen Stefani got braces in her 30s). But my head frequently hurt, my bite was uncomfortable, and I never liked smiling with teeth. And I could afford my own orthodontia. 

Thus began my Invisalign Journey. That’s what Invisalign providers invariably call it — a journey. For the uninitiated, Invisalign consists of clear plastic aligners that move your teeth into position; you change them roughly every week or every two weeks, depending on your “journey.” You can’t really see them when they’re in, and you take them out to eat. Correcting an overbite with Invisalign isn’t easy — it’s time under tension, physics vs. biology.

My top teeth eclipsed my bottom teeth by 90 per cent, effectively trapping them and creating a lot of tension in my jaw. “Even my overbite is an overachiever,” I quip to my dentists and orthodontists, who always chuckle politely. 

Columnist Jen Zoratti (left) tries to focus on her yoga poses while a goat gets comfortable on her yoga mat. Sometimes, as Zoratti writes, stress management tips can seem unhelpful when the solution is bigger than a few yoga poses. (Jessica Finn / Winnipeg Free Press file)

I’ve been at this for so long that I have a different dentist and a different orthodontist. You see, for Invisalign to work optimally, you need to wear them 22 hours a day. Reader, I did not wear them for 22 hours a day. I would forget to put them in after meals. I’d get annoyed with the lisping and take them out for interviews. I barely wore them at all during a week-long vacation to Italy for obvious cappuccino and sauce-based reasons. (Eep, I am 86 per cent sure my orthodontist subscribes to this newsletter). And then I’d feel shame, chilling in the orthodontist waiting room with all the tweens and teens. (Once, I idly wondered who the waiting-room Keurig was for since you shouldn’t drink coffee with Invisalign in, and then it dawned on me that most adults at an orthodontist’s office are waiting parents.)

But I’m very proud to report that I’ve reformed my ways — thanks, in large part, to an app on my phone that low-key bullies me into putting my aligners back in — and I’m on the home-stretch. By my 37th birthday in March, I should be done my journey. I see results but, even better, I feel results. 

All this is to say, I’ve been reminding myself to unclench my jaw long before the pandemic, since Invisalign essentially acts like a mouthguard you wear all the time. “Unclench your jaw” became a meme during Our Years Of Extreme Stress and, it turns out, with good reason: The Canadian Press reported last month that dentists have seen an increase in patients with damaged, cracked and broken teeth as a result of clenching and grinding — something people do when they are stressed. 

“Stress management tips” often feel unhelpful or hollow, especially when the solution involves something bigger than a few yoga poses or deep breaths.

But it’s important to remember that the goal of stress management isn’t the absence of stress; it’s coping better with stress so that you don’t crack your teeth in half. Being aware of the stress I’m holding in my jaw — and letting go of it — offers some relief. It’s not the Great Unclenching I crave but hey, it’s something. 

Tell me: how are you handling your stress these days? I want to hear about it. 

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti, Columnist

Jen Zoratti

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

Usually sequel shows are meh — looking at you And Just Like That, though I have to say the Sex and the City continuation is growing on me — but I must say: Dexter: New Blood was better than it has the right to be. 

The original series had a terrible ending — one of the worst I’ve seen — and this redeems it. It’s very Fargo in look and tone and finds our titular serial killer (Michael C. Hall) in upstate New York, living a quiet life, until someone from his past shows up and a new cycle begins. Streaming on Crave.

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