By Brenda J. Thomas Ph.D.

Who should we rely on when making life decisions, the “experts”, other people in like situations or ourselves? After all we have to live with whatever decisions we make. Perhaps it’s all of the above and then some. Recently, I relearned a lesson to not count myself out when I made a decision to get braces on my bottom teeth. My dentist recommended this because my teeth were crowded and they might eventually shift more resulting in my developing gum disease. I asked him if he was 100% sure this would happen but he would not commit to being absolutely sure about his diagnosis and suggested that I get the opinion of a few orthodontists.

Well, I made an appointment with two very reputable orthodontists who examined my teeth and said that they could not be 100% sure that my teeth would continue to shift and result in more crowding but suggested that braces would correct the problem and help prevent the possibility of future gum problems. Now, my internal voice kept saying to me “don’t do it”. But I kept arguing with myself and rationalized that it would be better to get the braces now rather than wait until sometime in the future when the damage was more severe and the correction process would take even longer. So after months of contemplation I decided to go for it.

That was a bad decision and I am living with the consequences. I am now in month nine with my Invisalign braces and without a doubt this has been one of the most frustrating experiences that I have ever had. Consider this, you are supposed to wear the braces 22 hours a day, only take them out to eat and brush your teeth after eating anything! Think about what this means if your lifestyle includes frequent lunches and dinners with friends, tasting food samples at Costco’s, snacking while watching your favorite TV program. Even worse I had to have one of my perfectly good front teeth extracted! I think you can begin to see why I am so distressed.

As I look back on my decision making process I can see that there were many red flags along the way that I either missed or discounted. My number one mistake was I didn’t do enough research about the need for the braces or the impact on lifestyle they would cause. In hindsight it would have helped me to have talked with more adults who had gone through this process. I would have gained invaluable insights on what to expect and answers to questions that I should have asked but didn’t know to ask.

The thought that I leave with you is this, to avoid making decisions that you will later regret do your research and listen to your inner voice.