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Why I decided to get braces at the age of 46.

Loose Women star and Mirror Homes columnist Andrea McLean on her literally agonising decision to get her wonky teeth fixed.

"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 walk about. They were now jostling for space like mums at a Take That gig and, added to that, years of clenching my teeth at night has left painful exposed roots in my gums. They desperately need someone to disperse the crowd and get them standing straight again.

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.

But what kind of mum was I, telling him to keep going, when he was doing the very thing I needed done?

There was nothing for it - I'd have to become a Braceface in my forties.

So I took the plunge and went for a consultation with cosmetic dentist, Dr Uchenna Okoye and orthodontist, Dr Leone Giacosa at the London Smiling clinic. After a good look at my teeth and the X-rays they took, we talked through my options.

I would need braces on both top and bottom 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 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 as they could give me a lisp - not good for someone who makes their living from talking.

I opted for the full Braceface, Damon Clear which seemed a good compromise compared to 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 white plastic and metal. Leone handed me a mirror and I barely recognised myself; I looked like a cartoon of an American teenager.

Walking back into 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 - we were brace faces together! "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 Braceface 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 and 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. 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 and I fessed up ng to my new braces during a debate on fixing things that have always bothered you.

Back home, the only thing I could manage was soup or smoothies - t d - 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 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 spur of the moment selfie that 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! I was moved to tears.

It turns out adults are now making up half of the patients in some orthodontic practices and enquiries for adult braces have shot up 135% since 2011. I'm not alone!

Two weeks later, I'm still getting to grips with my braces.

I take longer to eat than my nine-yearold 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.

I also carry a dental stick with me at all times so I can poke them clean - well, nobody wants to see what I've had for tea, do they?

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 rather than sliding, so I feel as if I'm pulling very strange faces every time I say something, contorting my lips round my tooth accessories.

And I keep dribbling, then slurping to stop it trickling out the side of my mouth!

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, rather than the other way round.

He has hugged me every night before he goes to bed and told me the next day will be easier.

My top set of braces should be off in six months, and the bottom 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 last night. "She would em-BRACE it!" and that's exactly what I'm going to do"

"My jaws ache, ulcers are forming on my lips, I pull strange faces when I talk and I keep on dribbling

CAPTION(S):

BRACEFACES Fin and his mum

IN DENIAL Andrea as an 18-year-old
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 18, 2016
Words:1204
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