Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Significant Thing

Several years ago, just before my 39th birthday, I got braces. The reason for having them put on wasn't so much that I was a snaggle-toothed monstrous critter, but rather that I wanted to stop the teeth that I knew were "on the move" and to correct a self-inflicted problem.

See, as a kid I was a thumb sucker. Oh man did I LOVE me some right thumb in the mouth action. That thumb was in my mouth on a nearly consistent basis until I went to school; after which time it was firmly planted in hours of rest and relaxation.

I sucked me some thumb until I was 8. My mother tried just about EVERYTHING to get me to stop. Nagging, that gross stuff that tasted like bitter apple, warnings of future toothal misalignment, etc etc. Nothing worked. I shrugged off the mocking, licked off the icky stuff, ignored the dire predictions.

As in many things, I should have listened to my Mother, because I wound up with a sizable gap between the teeth on the right side of my mouth, and the front teeth were in enough of an overbite that they didn't meet.

Let's just say that biting into a salami sandwich was always an adventure.

By the time I was in my mid-30s, it was apparent that my teeth were free-ranging around in my head. The right upper lateral incisor was starting to make a retreat toward my uvula, the bottom front teeth looked like a picket fence after a windstorm, and things were undoubtedly NOT going to get any better. To the casual observer my smile still looked fine, but I knew it was deteriorating. I had visions of being a crooked-grinned old lady, and this was not acceptable.

So, I got braces.


Let me just say right now that having braces made me appreciate a level of pain that heretofore I did not know existed. The pain was inescapable. In the first week of having the spacers on my molars I lost 8 pounds because I could not eat. One bite of food would take me 5 minutes to chew. It was exhausting, and did not bode well for the future of the orthodontia. I remember walking around with my mouth hanging open, sucking air in to cool the pain and simultaneously drooling.

I was maybe not so much with the attractive at this time.

Once the actual BRACES were on, things progressed in the pain department to new horizons of discomfort. Each and every "adjustment" was accompanied by the distinct realization that yes, my teeth are indeed moving around in my head and yes, it was going to hurt for a few days. Why, in the first two weeks of orthodontial reconstruction that wayward ol' incisor popped into place, which you KNOW has got to mean some bone is being pushed out of the way, and face it y'all, that's GOT to hurt.

After two weeks I was totally over it, and wanted them off.

Not surprisingly, my orthodontists (the sadists) were hearing none of it.
I went through arch-widening (ow), rubber-banding (FREAKING ow), "springing" (holy mother of pearl OW!), and many other small cruelties that I've since forgotten.

Truly, it's better I have a short memory for unpleasantries.

At long last, 16 months later, they did come off. 16 looooong months. Over that 16 months I had gotten well used to constant dry mouth, raw cheeks, cut lips, odd-sounding schpeetch, and a growing excitement over having perfectly straight teeth that met in an actual bite and didn't look like someone'd just run their bike into a slat fence.

When I demanded that the braces be taken off, and the docs finally complied, it was a wonderful day. Well, it was wonderful after I got over the sensation that my lips were about to slide off my head. Teeth are surprisingly slippery things, especially after one is used to having one's lips catch on every single bit of protruding metal in one's mouth. 'Tis most odd to relearn what teeth feel like.

I remember being excited to floss without having to perform complex acts of geometry.

More exciting though were the results. Perfectly. Straight.Teeth. Oh, the gap on the right didn't close fully (though for a couple of weeks of really vigorous rubber banding they did! Squee!), but the bottom teeth were movie-star straight, the wandering incisor had been returned to its regular spot, the wider arch opened up my smile, and I was happy to have spent that 5 thousand bucks on the most devious torture ever devised for the purported good of humankind.

Was it worth it? Totally. Every time I put in my retainers I'm reminded of how worth it it was, because after just a few hours of remediation overnight, I wake up, take the retainers out, and my teeth have shifted BACK to where they all meet again, in perfect alignment, movie-star ready.


I don't know if going through this experience is going to hold any water at all with Thing 1, who, in his very near future, is probably going to have to undergo some oral torture of his own. Our experiencesa are very likely to be quite different, because I didn't have to have my eye teeth yanked down from someplace in the vicinity of my nostrils, like he will and I didn't have to have my lateral incisors swung backwards to meet the other teeth, like he will. And while I did have to have the ankylosed teeth my own personal head extruded from their hidey-holes to come on out and play with all the OTHER teeth who were anxious to meet them after all these years, they were not the same ankylosed teeth that he's going to have to have rubber-banded up n' out.

And on this, his 12th birthday, I'm not telling him he's going to probably have to have braces. I'll save that for some other, less remarkable, time.


Happy birthday Thing 1. You've made these past 12 years a time of wonder. Your Mama loves you beyond anything she'd ever experienced before, and is so very proud of who you are and who you are becoming.

And I'm sorry about the braces.

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