The Moment of Tooth

Stuyvesant students share their expectations, results, and experiences with braces.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Cover Image
By Joanna Meng

The pure joy of lifting your pillow to reveal dollar bills after losing a tooth is an experience most can reminisce about. Even if the tooth fairy actually existed, there are no more baby teeth left to shed for most Stuyvesant students. As our adult teeth assume their permanent positions, few are blessed with perfectly straight teeth. The majority must undergo dental procedures and treatments to refine their new sets of chompers.

For many students, that entails wearing braces for anywhere from three months to four years. What was once considered a stigma among teenagers has now become more acceptable as we witness teens sporting theme-colored brace bands coordinated with the calendar and holidays. The growing acceptance of braces can make students more comfortable wearing them. Sophomore Alika Peker suggested that wearing braces helped her fit in, considering that so many of her peers donned them. She was not particularly excited to get them initially, but the experience proved better than expected. For Peker, a major drawback was not being able to eat certain foods that would potentially damage the braces. However, the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be the greatest hindrance. “I was supposed to get them [braces] taken off in March, I think, and that got delayed [by] 10 months,” she said.

Anonymous sophomore B had a similar experience. “Because of the pandemic, I was not able to go to my cleaning in time. However, I'm caught up with appointments now,” they disclosed in an e-mail interview. The sophomore expects to get braces soon to correct a deep overbite and inverted canines but is not looking forward to this procedure. In addition to the pain factor, there are other sources of concern. “I'm not looking forward to not being able to eat certain foods and also having to clean them out,” they clarified. These worries are well-justified. Managing braces is often tedious on many levels.

Freshman William Tang wore braces for about one and a half to two years and noted similar cons that come with braces. “There are some things that you dislike. For example, you can’t really [floss, so] you have to [use] that water thing or do it very tediously,” Tang expressed. Similar to sophomore B, he echoed the problem of not being able to eat certain foods. “Some foods are just harder to eat, and […] you can’t eat [gum],” Tang said. But it doesn’t end there; after you get your braces taken off, you also have to wear retainers. “I have two retainers. One is an invisible one, and one is the good old-fashioned one,” he explained. Though braces may sound like a pain, Tang assured that all these troubles were worth going through for him. “I’m pretty satisfied with the results,” he said. “I had braces, and my teeth are good now, so you should probably get braces too.”

To keep up with these good results, retainers are essential. For sophomore Anna Ying, she eventually got used to wearing retainers every night. “It seems like my braces will never truly go away. I still have to wear retainers every day, and it was annoying at first, but now I just subconsciously put them on every day,” she said. Additionally, Ying still has scheduled orthodontist appointments, which she eventually stopped going to. “I went back a few times and thought it was pretty unnecessary after around five times because it's a two-hour commute traveling there but only five minutes [are spent] at the dentist’s office,” she revealed.

People get braces for many reasons, but for one junior who wishes to remain anonymous, a biking trip that went wrong resulted in a fresh pair of braces and partial teeth fillings. On a vacation in Asia, this junior embarked on a 20-mile biking trip in the countryside with friends when they encountered some halfpipes meant for skateboarding. “I decided to go up the largest one and see how long I could stay in the air for; [that’s] when I landed on my face, and I guess that's how my teeth cracked,” they explained in an e-mail interview. This excursion, seemingly innocent at first, resulted in new dental gear for the student: “I'm currently wearing braces, and I have partial fillings for my two front teeth since they were chipped.”

Freshman Lorainne Li has taken a different path. Instead of wearing braces, she has worn Invisalign for the past year since her teeth were decently aligned to begin with. Still, Invisalign can be equally a nuisance, she revealed. “It gets inconvenient at times when I go out to eat and I forget my case, so I have nowhere to put them,” she explained. As a result, she often drops her Invisalign in non-sanitary locations. “I'd drop them in public, in school cafeterias, in the bathroom, on floors, and in sinks,” she added. While this description is enough to conjure feelings of disgust, there are some advantages to wearing Invisalign over braces. “[I] ended up choosing Invisalign because I didn't want shiny metal seen every time I open my mouth, and I didn't think I'd look good with braces,” Li elaborated. While she never faced insecurity about her teeth, choosing Invisalign over braces has been the better option for her self-image.

The pursuit toward the coveted perfect smile definitely comes with its strife. If only the tooth fairy could miraculously straighten our new set of teeth could we avoid all of these complications. Comfort comes in the fact that braces and dental gear are commonplace in this generation. Hopefully, after all the trouble, the feeling of seeing a set of freshly aligned teeth will be reminiscent of getting that $5 bill under your pillow after the tooth fairy’s visit.