We passed another kid milestone last week when Little Miss 10th-Grader left for school in the morning with a mouthful of unobstructed pearly whites and returned later that day with the makings of a medium-sized Erector set attached to her teeth.
Having been through the teenage orthodontics experience myself, this was a rather rueful thing to witness.
When we met with the doctor the week before, I was most curious about two things: One, have we made any advancements in what is certainly a scourge of adolescence (that was the lesser question) and two, just how much of our life’s savings is this going to cost us (that was the greater question, by a factor of about 100).
Little Miss 10th-Grader should be more thrilled than she’ll ever know to discover that they have made improvements since the mid-1980s, and at least in the case of her doctor, no longer impose upon poor, unsuspecting kids the horror that is neck gear.
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I guess they’ve figured out new and inventive rubber-band applications to achieve the glacial force that previously required the doctor to attach a horse bit to your teeth.
By far one of the low points of my teen years was going in for what I thought was a regular braces checkup only to leave with what was my second edition of that hated device.
A little warning would have been nice, which gets to another improvement of modern-day orthodontics: communication.
Out of our initial consultation, we left with a concrete time frame (21 months), a specific explanation of what was wrong with her teeth (they’re leaning wrong), an outline of the initial set of appointments (x-rays here, x-rays there, and the actual installation within a week!), and the breakdown on the finances (they have payment plans and there’s no interest!).
In a matter of a few days — probably spending more time in dentist chairs than at her desk in school — the girl had completed the entire process relatively unscathed, save for the braces themselves.
She was even unfazed by the full-mouth impressions, which is a process that sends me into a cold sweat. (Wiggle your toes; it takes your mind off the solidifying goo triggering your gag reflex.)
She gets this stoic approach to medicine from Mrs. Joetopia, the animal doctor. Trust me, when her brother goes through the same thing in a couple years, it will not be so easy.
Through it all, the elder child managed to keep her chin up, even as she had to head back to school in the middle of the day to debut her new look and succumb to mild kidding about her sudden lisp.
When I sat down with her later that evening and got the full report, I had only one bit of advice as she embarks on this escapade.
Don’t let the fact that your teeth look different affect your self-confidence or how you present yourself to the world.
Don’t stop taking selfies.
Grin as wide as you ever have.
She did, and we took a fresh photo to share on Facebook, showing off her new look with a somewhat bewildered cat pressed up against her cheek.
Sweet as ever.