Fixing My Teeth, or Making Space for Better Things.

By: Jen Shoop

I’ve always had bad teeth. When I was little, I had overcrowding that resulted in multiple extractions. And still, my front teeth grew in almost sideways. As a result, I had braces, head gear, rubber bands, and a retainer I didn’t wear, which resulted in a round of Invisalign in my early 20s. The Invisalign technology was nascent then. The trays were thicker, the “attachments” they place on select teeth to help with rotation more pronounced in color and size, and they still used 3D molds in order to produce the trays. Anyone who had braces back in the day remembers how unpleasant it was to have molds taken of your teeth. You sat in a chair while being told — phlegmatically, by assistants who induced the torture hourly — to breathe through your nose while you felt goop dripping down the back of your throat, invoking a gag reflex. It was a process so disagreeable that it actually weighed into my recent decision whether or not to pursue Invisalign a second time. Luckily, those molds are a thing of the past: they now use a digital scanner for the renderings. This made the decision much easier: it was then simply a matter of finding the right orthodontist. I was absurdly nervous going into these consultations. I felt as though I was admitting a failure–which, of course, I kind of was. I’d had braces and Invisalign and still my teeth were crooked. I had not been compliant about wearing my retainer after braces, and I’d permitted my last round of Invisalign to peter wastefully out because I’d been wearing the trays for over two years and they still had not gotten my front teeth just right. I felt irritated by it all. Then, I moved. And promptly gave up. My teeth happily returned to their former cluttered positions. So, attending these consultations was humbling, especially when one of the orthodontists asked, “Have you had trauma to the mouth?” My God! My teeth were crooked but not so bad (I didn’t think, at least?) that it looked like I’d been hit in the face? I went with a different orthodontist, Dr. David Rad, whom I highly recommend to my fellow Chevy Chase / Bethesda friends. He is sane, pragmatic, and calls it like it is, but he is also funny and light-hearted. When I complained to him about the pain of wearing rubber bands, he said: “That’s what wine is for.” He has always made the process feel like a partnership. Lately, he has been asking: “How do we feel about the placement now?” And he will offer his perspective and I mine and we will together determine the next steps. And because of him, I am sitting here, 18 months into treatment, with extremely straight teeth and probably about two months of refinement ahead of me.

I am almost embarrassed to admit how thrilled I am by the outcome, because I don’t like what it says about my sense of self-worth, or vanity. What does it that mean that having straight teeth has made me walk around with more confidence than I’ve ever marshaled in my life? Am I insecure? Self-absorbed? There is probably more to unpack there, but, at the same time, I think: well, if I can address something that has caused me to radiate with negative energy, why shouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I fix something that causes me embarrassment, self-consciousness, a sense of being “less than”?

To be sure, this was no quick fix. 18 months of lisping, intermittent oral pain and attendant headaches, constant wearing and washing of trays, frequent visits to the office, a substantive price tag, the routine fluster of encountering someone I know while wearing them and wondering whether I should acknowledge them verbally. I remember the first day I had them in, my neighbor was chatting with me on her front lawn, and I felt like there were enormous emoji arrows pointing at my mouth. Finally, I interrupted the flow of conversation to say: “I’m sorry if I’m lisping. I just got Invisalign…!” She assured me she hadn’t even noticed, but — even if she had, so what? Surely Invisalign is not so unusual that people haven’t seen it before, and wasn’t it worse to have bad teeth on display?

I am, truly, grateful for this technology. Grateful to be nearly at the end of treatment. Grateful to have corrected something that led me to smile with closed lips and opt out of photographs for many years. It is shocking, now, to think about how much energy I wasted worrying about my smile.

I write this and realize that — yes, it is great to have straight teeth, but I am ecstatic to have made space for better thoughts. Not just about myself, either. In eliminating a consistent source of bad energy, I have freed up a part of my consciousness for better things. And for that I am especially grateful.

Sharing this today because, well, sometimes I need a loved one to nudge me to take action about the things that bother me. So here is your invitation to tackle that thing that’s been weighing on you, whether it’s something as cosmetic as teeth or as substantive as making a career change. The beginnings are hard; they require almost gargantuan effort. I got your back. I’m here rooting you on. Let’s do this! Onward!


+”I am not living an alternity, or a rehearsal, or a dressing room. I am living, to quote HRH Mary Oliver, ‘my one wild and precious life.'” Onward!!!

+This post reminded me of this exercise that is helpful at getting rid of some of the everyday irritants that drain us.

+What does it mean, to have “range“?

+Let them be wrong about you.

Shopping Break.

+Perfect peony-pink sweater to throw on over everything this spring.

+LOVE this blouse tucked into high-waisted denim.

+Cute lavender checkerboard rash guard for a little love.

+A pretty moody floral jumpsuit at a good price. Madewell truly makes the best jumpsuits/coveralls. I own several!

+My kids are going to get such a kick out of these sweet and stinky scented markers. I just did a big order of craft/weekend activities for them, including these squeezable paints, which they loved. More ideas for indoor activities with little ones here. So many of these are slightly tinged with sadness only because I leaned on them while we were absolutely crawling through the depths of the pandemic, but it’s been lovely to revisit them now that we are happily ensconced in our new lives here in Bethesda.

+These patterned overalls for a little one. Meep!!!!

+ICYMI: this skirt is beyond adorable.

+LOVE this white eyelet shirtdress. Perfect!

+These chairs look almost identical to ours from Restoration Hardware, but a fraction of the price.

+I know I raved about this bronzer stick already, but I’m just coming back to double down on my praise. Lately, I have been slicking it on as the LAST step in my cosmetic routine. I swipe a bit on each cheek and the bridge of my nose and it gives the most perfect sunkissed look. (Full review here.). You can score all of my favorite products they make in this kit for a little price break. TBH, this is like a full face worth of makeup for $140 (!) — you only need mascara!

+How handsome is this under-$75 desk lamp?

+A great gift for a little love.

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9 thoughts on “Fixing My Teeth, or Making Space for Better Things.

  1. I’m so glad to hear that you had a good experience with your Invisalign – I’m 6 months in, and sometimes I also get frustrated, but I’m starting to see results! You should be very happy and proud that you got through it, and I think we should all strive to improve ourselves, if we can, especially when it comes to our health. I have been wanting to get my teeth fixed for a long, long time and now in my 50’s, I’m finally doing it. And guess what? I know 4 other people in my age group who also decided to go for it, perhaps it was a post-Covid
    impulse, but there you go, you are not alone!

    1. Cheering you on!!! You’re a good chunk of the way there. It can be frustrating, especially in the early days, but stick with it!!

      Interesting that many of us took this on post-COVID!


  2. Thank you for sharing this vulnerable post. I wanted to remind you that having straight and correctly functioning occlusion is part of health not just aesthetics. With properly aligned teeth, you chew better, have less risk of unnecessary wear on teeth from malocclusion and it can also have positive impacts on breathing. Improper alignment can also make it difficult or impossible to thoroughly clean your teeth, potentially leading to cavities and other dental health issues that can cost as much, if not more, than braces to correct. The world is not as educated on the medical benefits of not only clean/healthy teeth and gums but also properly aligned and functional.

    I used to work in dentistry and the lack of common knowledge is unfortunate given how much we educate people on other medical issues/prevention.

  3. Jen,
    Thanks so much for your comments and thoughts on Invisalign! I, too, at age 67, have made the choice to change something that has bothered me for many years but could not push past the feeling of “why at her age”. I am now in my 9th month and already see the changes happening. I probably have another 9 to go but so glad that I made the choice to move forward. We are never too old to change.

  4. Jen, I can totally relate! I also had very bad teeth as a child and required 4 years of braces with all of the appliances and a minor jaw surgery. It was a huge pain, and I was embarrassed to admit at the end of it that I still hated how I looked. I ended up getting veneers on my top teeth and it did more for my confidence than any complement could have. Interestingly, I found the process shockingly easy and far less invasive than braces. I am happy to say that I got them four years ago and still love them.
    All this to say: there is NOTHING wrong with wanting to change something about your appearance. We all deserve to feel confident in our own skin, and if you have the time and means to fix something that you wake up every day and wish you could fix, you should!
    ” In eliminating a consistent source of bad energy, I have freed up a part of my consciousness for better things” is such a great way to frame it. Enjoy your new smile – I’m sure it looks even more beautiful than before!

  5. I’ve been thinking a lot about this w/r/t getting my teeth whitened. As a coffee drinker since toddlerhood (decaf! with lots of milk! story for another time!) my teeth are quite yellowed even though I won the genetic dental lottery and have relatively low plaque and only had to have a year of braces. But I’m SO self-conscious about it that I find myself in the position you described here: “Grateful to have corrected something that led me to smile with closed lips and opt out of photographs for many years. It is shocking, now, to think about how much energy I wasted worrying about my smile.”

    Although I think whitening my teeth is a shade on the vain side — to me wanting straight teeth is not vain at all! — I think I am going to do it! this gave me the push! Just have to make sure that they don’t use those god-awful impressions! I have serious nightmares about being held down in the orthodontist’s chair. Good to know that they are no longer needed for invisalign!

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