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I GOT BRACES AT 46 AFTER WIMPING OUT AS A TEENAGER; LIVING LIFE TO THE FULL Loose Women star reveals how son sparked a guilt trip that inspired her to finally take the painful decision to get her wonky teeth fixed.

Byline: ANDREA MCLEAN

LAST autumn, as my petrified 14-year-old son sat in the dentist's chair getting braces fitted, I patted his leg reassuringly. But with every pat, I felt more of a fraud.

You see, as a teenager I was supposed to get braces to fix my wonky bottom teeth but, unlike my lad Fin, I wimped out.

Then middle age arrived and, like geriatric backpackers, my teeth decided to go walkabout. They were now jostling for space like mums at a Take That gig.

Fin coped well with his new braces until day two, when the pain really kicked in. His lips swelled, his jaw started aching, ulcers formed and he begged me to get them taken out.

I hugged him and told him he needed to be strong, that it would all be worth it in the end.

IBut what kind of mum was I, telling him to keep going, when he was doing the very thing I needed done? What There was nothing for it - I'd have to become a Brace Face in my 40s. So I took the plunge and went for a consultation with Dr Uchenna Okoye and Dr Leone Giacosa at the London Smiling clinic.

After a good look at my teeth and the X-rays, we talked through my options. I would need braces on both top and bottom teeth to keep the alignment the same.

I decided against the removable Invisalign braces, as their very selling point would be my downfall. I knew that as soon as they started to hurt, I would whip them out - so I needed braces that were firmly stuck on.

Braces behind my teeth wouldn't work either, as they could give me a lisp - not good for someone who makes their living from talking.

So I opted for the full Brace Face, albeit the clear version, which seemed a good compromise compared with Fin's full metal jacket.

I won't lie. As I lay back in the dentist's chair ready to be braced up, I felt scared. An hour later, I sat up, my mouth bulging with its new dress code that consisted of plastic and metal.

Leone handed me a mirror and I barely recognised myself - I looked like a cartoon of an American teen. Back in the waiting room, my boyfriend Nick looked up and smiled at me.

"You look gorgeous," he said, his sudden onset of blindness and pathological lying skills becoming his greatest asset.

Fin was thrilled. "Yay," I thought weakly, as we settled down that night to watch telly. As he was going to bed, he leaned in for a selfie - me and my son, the Brace Face gang.

A day later, I fretted all the way to the Loose Women studios. I gulped down more paracetamol and slathered on some lip salve.

My jaws were really starting to hurt now and I could feel ulcers forming on my lips where the braces had rubbed them raw.

This was my day two - the day that Fin had begged me to take him back to the dentist to get the braces ripped off.

I understood now what he had gone through and felt a wave of claustrophobia wash over me. I felt like my mouth was full and I couldn't breathe.

gone through and felt a wave of claustrophobia wash over me. I felt like my mouth was full and I couldn't breathe.

As the theme tune to Loose Women began, I wished I could rip the damn things off myself. What had I done? As the theme tune to Loose Women began, I wished I could rip the damn things off myself. What had I done? Somehow, I managed to get through the show. Back home, the only thing I could cope with was soup or smoothies - perfect for instant weight loss but not so much for ravenous hunger.

Somehow, I managed to get through the show. Back home, the only thing I could cope with was soup or smoothies - perfect for instant weight loss but not so much for ravenous hunger.

I clicked on my phone and looked at Twitter, nervously checking my account. What would the response be to seeing my braces on the telly? I clicked on my phone and looked at Twitter, nervously checking my account. What would the response be to seeing my braces on the telly? I read the first tweet then the I read the first tweet then the second then more and more came scrolling down my screen, saying well done for getting braces at my age.

So many women got in touch, saying they either had wanted to get braces and seeing me doing it had made them finally book a consultation or that they'd had it done and therefore understood the pain I was in.

I was so relieved, I tweeted back with the selfie Fin and I had taken, thanking everyone for being so kind.

And then the pictures started coming in of other mums who had decided to get braces at the same time as their teen.

There were also shots of women with their "before" and "after" teeth, telling me to hang in there, that it would all be worth it.

It turns out adults now make up half of the patients in some orthodontic practices and inquiries for adult braces have shot up 135 per cent since 2011. I'm not alone.

Two weeks on, I'm still getting to grips with my braces. I take longer to eat than my nine-year-old daughter, and that's saying something. I have to clean my teeth after every meal because so much of it gets stuck in the wires and brackets.

And so many foods are now verboten. Chewing gum is out, as is crusty bread and fizzy drinks. Wine is OK - phew! - but only if it's white.

Talking is not the simple thing it used to be, as my lips catch on my teeth, so I feel as if I'm pulling strange faces every time I say something. And I keep dribbling.

Everyone says to give it time, that the first few weeks are the toughest and it gets better. Fin, who started me on this journey, is now my support. He has hugged me every night before he goes to bed and told me the next day will be easier.

My top braces should be off in six months and the bottom ones by Christmas, so I should have a Hollywood smile by the end of the year.

I'm going to stop hiding behind my hand when I speak and let my goofy face explode into laughter when I hear something funny rather than keeping my mouth clamped shut.

"What would Beyonce do?" I asked myself. "She would em-BRACE it!" That's exactly what I'm going to do

I nervously checked my Twitter account. What would the response be to seeing my braces on telly?

CAPTION(S):

HIDING BOTTOM TEETH 18-year-old Andrea

GRIN AND BEAR IT Revealing her braces on Loose Women

TEAM EFFORT Andrea's tweet of selfie she took with teenage son Fin

ALL SMILES Andrea shows off her braces. Picture by Ken McKay/ITV/REX/ Shutterstock
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 18, 2016
Words:1194
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