Thursday, April 3, 2008

Things I Think About When I Visit the Orthodontist

Whenever I visit my orthodontist, I am the oldest patient in the waiting room. I think the Moms and Dads scope me out and wonder how old my kid is, totally unaware that I AM the patient. It’s only when I am called that they figure out I am there for an appointment, and not to wait for my kid to finish getting their braces adjusted. I imagine that they use me as a cautionary tale for their kids once I leave the waiting room: “See that? If you don’t take care of your teeth you will be coming back to have your teeth straightened again, when you’re old, just like HER.”

I do hope that my example makes kids want to take better care of their teeth. I once had braces for almost three years, from when I was 10 years old until I was almost 13. Back then, braces were metal (it was REALLY expensive getting the clear ones, and even then your teeth usually looked like you’ve been eating butter for days). My teeth were bad – I wish I had a picture from the third grade to show you (these will have to do for now) – but basically my top front teeth were almost facing each other, and I had this really big canine tooth on the right side of my mouth. They eventually had to file that bad boy down before the braces come off.

These pics don't showcase them really well, but check out my perm during the 7th grade in the bottom picture:

When the braces did come off my teeth looked great. Everything aligned properly, and for once I didn’t feel embarrassed eating in front of anyone. At the time I had a choice between getting retainers and positioners for me teeth, and I chose the positioners. Unlike the retainers, the positioners only required an hour commitment each day, and you could put them in whenever you wanted. The thing is, flexibility doesn’t really work for teenagers – I put off putting that positioner in my mouth for as long as I could, and after I was done with it I wrapped it in paper towels, put in on plates, on the coffee table… it was gross. Eventually I lost them (no surprise there with my carelessness) and I thought, eh, I could live without them. And live without them I did, until my teeth started to shift, and by the time I got my braces for the second time, my front teeth had started to face each other again. My teeth aren’t horrible, but for a person obsessed with good teeth, mine weren’t good enough and were getting worse.

I’m not the only one to get braces for the second time. I know two executives in my present and former job that now have braces (the clear ones thank goodness – how awkward would it be to talk to an executive with a mouth full of metal?). Both of them got braces again to fix their bites, and when I overhead my orthodontist explaining to a kid and his parents that the braces would have to stay a little longer to fix his overbite, the kid hemmed and hawed, and the parents gave in, telling my orthodontist that they would let him know next month. I wanted to pipe up and say “you should get that fixed NOW, before you grow up and have to have braces AGAIN!” but I shut my mouth. Sometimes people take offense when you are offering them advice, and they doubly hate it when you give them advice about their kids.

I am counting down the months till these braces come off, which is July this year. That’s only three appointments from now, and I can’t wait to get them off. This time, I will be wearing retainers for the rest of my life.


Anonymous said...

These pictures bring back sooooo many memories! Sid with his babyface, Vieve and her chubby cheeks and you-the perm Ate Gi and I f*@'d up on! Holy cow! And your dad is so skinny! Time sure does you Gayle! Ate Sha

Camels & Chocolate said...

Ugh, I had braces twice -- from 9 to 10 and 13 to 15. Then, I had multiple root canals (the same week I had my wisdom teeth out!) and crowns because the Danish dentist screwed up my teeth by drilling away at a chipped tooth (damn socialized health care). And then I had to have gum surgery for a condition I was born with, and then my parents thought, well, Hell, we've spent this much, why not go the whole nine yards and get her front top teeth veneers, too?

So when they talk about The Girl With the Million-Dollar Smile? Yeah, that's totally me. The funny thing is all my European friends (who have never had braces b/c that's a very American thing) always talk about my "perfect smile" and I'm just like if you only knew...