Shark Teeth | Teen Ink

Shark Teeth

January 6, 2016
By HumbleBee SILVER, Defiance, Ohio
HumbleBee SILVER, Defiance, Ohio
9 articles 0 photos 13 comments

"Did you guys see her teeth?" one of the girls gasped after I responded to the children greeting me on the bus as I shuffled off recently.  It's hard not to think poorly about my teeth when I know others do too.

Having these braces has weakened my self-esteem and has negatively affected my mental health.  There have been days where I literally have thought constantly, filling every second between every other thought, about how undesirable I look and how I hate my teeth.  There have been countless times I have told myself,  "I am not good enough, and I am gross.  I am ugly.  I am ugly," and innumerable times I have sobbed steaming tears over the entire situation.  I've averted talking, smiling, laughing, and looking in the mirror, and I have wondered why anyone would like me.  I avoid pictures like the plague, and when I look back at any picture that I have been in the past entire year, whether I think that the rest of me looks decent or not, I focus only on my teeth.  Even though I am aware that these are preposterous actions and thoughts, I have become so used to them that they are just a daily occurrence, a routine.

As a small child, my baby teeth were aligned as straight as society wants them to be, and after I lost them, my permanent teeth emerged in a jumbled mess.  My one canine sprouted out on top of my gums, and in a year or two, I saw the other one languidly surfacing on top of my rosy gums, a disappointing event.  My lateral incisors, or the teeth in between the canines and the front teeth, came in set behind the main row.  Until I started growing older, around eighth grade, my three rows of teeth never mattered to me.  Kids on the bus sometimes asked me, "Why are your teeth like that?"  I never knew what to answer as my heart swelled with pressure and my eyebrows scrunched inward.  I concocted wildly sarcastic explanations, or I just shrugged.  "We'll get you in some day.  Don't worry; we'll get you braces," my parents assured after I went home and discussed my situation with them.  Hesitant to get braces because I thought that my teeth made me unique, they weren't a problem.  I mentioned to one of my family members that I might miss my weird teeth, and he scoffed at my words, declaring that I would be getting braces and that I would never miss the ones I had.  Right before sophomore year, I started going to the orthodontist.

"You're not a shark; only sharks have three rows of teeth!" my orthodontist audaciously giggled.  "Shark week isn't until next week!"  I grinned only to save him from feeling as terrible as I did about the jokes.

To begin the process, they shoved rubbery, sapphire blue spacers in between my teeth, which felt as agonizing as an elephant squeezing into skinny jeans, to make room for the next instrument of pain.  I bore these for weeks, and then they fitted me with an unnerving torture device known as an expander, a rough, silvery metal box that fit in the roof of my mouth and connected to four of my teeth. 

As I lay on the couch every morning, my mom stuck her intrusive hand in my mouth with a key and cranked the dial so that my upper jaw would broaden to fix my under-bite.  I literally felt the insides of my face being separated, a pressure so immense my skull cracked open.  My expander, a roadblock, not only inflicted extreme pain, but it obscured my way of eating, as I had to learn how to swallow with a barricade in the front of my throat and how to get the trapped food from underneath out; I also had to figure out how to manage the saliva in my mouth, which usually involved an audible slurp.  Adding to the list of issues, the expander made my voice sound abominably appalling and atrocious because my tongue had to adjust to the large foreign object, like frustratingly rearranging too many clothes in a suitcase and then shoving and slamming on the lid just to try to zip it.  I became so embarrassed that I evaded talking, and my heart shattered when I discovered that people mocked my voice behind my back and asked people to guess who they were.  To top it off, it created a large gap between my teeth right before school pictures, causing me to look away and slump in my seat any time I look in the yearbook or when the teachers pull up the attendance on the gigantic SMART Board for the whole class to see.  After six months, the orthodontist finally removed the metallic burden; I felt the roof of my mouth, something I never knew I would miss until that experience.  My mouth and I were ready for braces.

Each time I entered the nauseating, intoxicating, fluoride-scented office to get my braces tightened or adjusted, it changed my daily life for the next six weeks.  One of the few bright aspects, the only part about the braces that didn't change was the lime green color of the rubber bands.  Sometimes the doctors left certain teeth out, others they put on extra thick, ribbed wires.  Every new change posed difficult to deal with, though. 

Probably the most frustrating part about my braces, the detriment to my trumpet skills stabbed me in the heart, as band has been an extremely important part of my life for the last six years, and I am proud of the position I have achieved in it. Each six weeks when I have an orthodontist appointment, I have to accommodate my mouth formation.  First chair and heavily relied on due to the lack of trumpet players in our band, I have had to gradually and tediously build up the wreckage of my range, which was strong and growing quickly prior to braces.  My abilities have been inhibited to the point where I received a three on my solo at Solo and Ensemble, when I usually receive ones and twos, and I placed last chair in honor band.  Any time I perform terribly, my ears and cheeks glow a bright cherry color and start sweltering.  Blood often seeps from my gums to my squished, contorted tongue as I push myself to make up for these new shortcomings and try be as excellent as I was before.  It is not often when I would voluntarily cause myself pain, but when there is a sore on my lips, I persevere and shove the concrete mouth-piece of my trumpet against my mouth, consciously thrusting the metal spikes on my teeth into the stinging, searing, gaping, puss-filled hole, ignoring my pleading mind, because silence is not an option in my situation. 

Then, about eight weeks ago, the alterations done on my braces moved my front teeth from an up-and-down position to a position where the bottoms slanted forward; my front teeth no longer touch my bottom teeth, meaning I cannot even bite down on a piece of pizza normally.  As the field commander in our band, I cannot hold my shrill whistle in my teeth, so I have to hold it with my hand and conduct with only one hand.  For the first week or two, I could not even close my lips over my teeth because they jutted so far outward, causing me to constantly have to decide whether I wanted to strain my lips over a puffy mouth full of metal, like trying to stretch the wrong-sized lid on a Tupperware container, or sit there with my mouth agape looking clueless.

Luckily, the braces are only temporary.  When my teeth are finally straight, I will probably feel weightless, carefree, proud, and comfortable; instead of hiding and sealing my lips, I will show everyone what I've been impatiently yearning for.  When people ask, "Did you guys see her teeth?" it will be because of how beautiful they look.  With a recaptured sense of self-assuredness, I won't think anything about talking, smiling, laughing, or looking in the mirror. I won't dread pictures; I'll regain my trumpet skills and restore my confidence.  I'll never be called a shark again.

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