Friday, April 1, 2016

B Is For Braces - A Slightly Fictionalized Memoir #AtoZChallenge


Pictures4Ever
     "Old age is not for sissies." Well, middle age is not for sissies either. Middle age is when the death window opens and people that you once had a crush on, like David Bowie or your science teacher, are suddenly among the ranks of the gone-but-not-forgotten. Every morning there's a new age spot, a gray hair, a wrinkle. My doctor has begun hectoring me to get that colonoscopy, baseline EKG and blood panel (which always involves giving a gallon of blood). What you don't expect to hear is "I think that it's time to consider getting braces".
     Braces are for young people, part of the tortuous path to adulthood. I've already walked that route: the acne, the ugly but necessary fashions, the crying jags and bad hair on picture day. I resent having to undertake something that I thought I had escaped. It's like being told I have to repeat 8th grade.
     I opted for Invisalign. "These clear aligners are the virtually invisible way to improve your smile." The operative word is "virtually" which means "there's a grain of truth in there somewhere". You get an upper and lower set of trays molded to fit your teeth. Every week or two you put in a new set, which are slightly altered to shift the offending teeth toward their new homes. The trays are held in place by little buttons glued to your teeth. They are to be in place 22 hours each day. You cannot eat or drink anything except water while they are in place.
     Here's the math: 120 minutes / 3 meals = 40 minutes for each meal. You'll notice that doesn't include snacks, tea, coffee, etc. Want to kick that caffeine habit or lose weight? Invisalign is a good bet. It also comes in handy at the office potluck - veal and kale meatballs? I'd love some, but I can't take my braces off - or at Grandma's special dinner - shoeleather roast? Sorry, I can only manage a bit of gravy with a straw.
     Learning to sleep with them felt like trying to nap with a hockey puck in my mouth. I had to elevate my head so I wouldn't drown in my own drool; I'd wake up hungry in the middle of the night because my stomach was getting signals from above - saliva! Foreign object entering gastrointestinal tract! Prepare for tasty grub! - but the promised repast never appeared. I also dreamed that either all of my teeth had fallen out, that I'd swallowed them, or that they had grown and discolored so that I looked very much like a llama. (Which wouldn't be a bad thing if I could spit on people who irritate me without it being classified as an assault.)
     I forgot to mention that some of the money spent on my Invisalign has been recouped by avoiding movie theaters and eating out. I find eating popcorn to be a pleasant part of the movie experience; however, this would necessitate prying the trays off, stuffing down the popcorn in 15 minutes or less (remember, popcorn/drink time is deducted from the standard 40 minute meal allotment), crawling over people during what is no doubt a critical juncture in the movie plot, racing to the bathroom, brushing/flossing my teeth in questionably hygienic surroundings with strangers looking on (Mommy, what's wrong with that lady's teeth? Ewwww, gross. Hush honey, she probably has false teeth. That's what happens to a meth addict), re-installing the trays, racing back to my seat, and trying to figure out why the actors are now in a different country while someone is bleeding to death and there's a kangaroo in the car.
     Just as I'd gotten used to all of this, Dr Voldemort added rubber bands. 
     "While we're straightening those teeth, we might as well correct that crossbite."
     I like my crossbite. It might be slightly bovine, but who doesn't feel a sense of peace watching a cow contentedly chewing. Still, I seldom question the authority of a practioner with a wall full of diplomas. Let's get rid of that ugly growth on your neck, shall we? Just lay your head on this lovely maple chopping block from Wescam Online School Of Dentistry.
     The rubber bands are smaller than the diameter of my pinkie. Four tiny hooks were cemented to my teeth, one in each quadrant. My task is to stretch one band from bottom to top on each side, which is pretty much outside of my fine motor repertoire. There are tiny marks all over the bathroom wall where errant slobbery projectiles have struck and slithered to the floor. I have had to unplug the drain twice. I have swallowed several (but haven't had to unplug that particular drain as yet). I was given 200 of the little buggers, an adequate supply for 6 weeks. I had to ask for more after 2 weeks. 
    "One of the packages must have fallen out of my purse." I couldn't meet the hygienist's eye. There was a muffled conversation in the back. She returned with 2 more packages. 
    "Here you go, no charge. You...ummm...didn't lose anything else did you? Carrying case? Your trays? If you lose a set, you need to call us. You can't necessarily just go ahead with the next week's set."
    "No thank you," I replied airily, even though I could feel my face flushing guiltily. I had, indeed, thrown away a set by accident the week before. This despite the enormous sign posted by the school cafeteria waste bins DID YOU REMEMBER TO PICK UP YOUR RETAINER .
    At work the next day, an aide escorted one of our behaviorally challenged students into the bathroom while I was taking care of my dental business. 
    "I hate this! I hate you! I hate these f$8king braces! I'm missing my damned recess!  It's not fair!" 
    Inwardly, I agreed heartily. Guess what, kid, I hate my f$8king braces too. At least you don't have to pay all of your allowance over the next 5 years for 'em.  
    "Hey Sammi," I hissed. And pulled back my lips.
    It stopped her in her tracks. "Whoa. Wow."
    "Look Sammi, she has braces too. Just like you. She has to brush her teeth all the time, just like you. And she's not making a fuss." The aide had a desperate note in her voice that I recognized as help me please, I cannot go through one more screaming meltdown today.
    "Yep that's right. I have to brush every time I eat or drink anything. But some day I'll have nice straight, white teeth. And so will you." Unless someone knocks them down your throat for you.
    Sammi looked me up and down. "Yeah, plus I won't be old like you. That must really suck." And she held out her hand obediently for her Hello Kitty bag of toothbrushes, paste and floss.

    Yes, Sammi, it does indeed suck. But it's nothing compared to what adolescence has in store for you. The truth is, I wouldn't want to be a teen again for anything in the world. Good luck, fellow dental appliance sufferer. Braces are the least of your worries. And perhaps it should be the least of mine as well.
   
  
   
     

42 comments:

  1. Ahhhhh...I feel that pain, or at least I did. :) Braces at an adult is...well, I'll keep my comment PG-rated...is icky. (extrapolate from there!) Popcorn is your temptress and floss is your friendly enemy. I wasn't able to qualify for Invisalign, but I has ceramic ones, so just slivers of silver, not an entire tin can in my mouth. Worth the extra $$$ a thousandfold over. --Diana

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    1. Oh, flossing...that's a whole 'nother post. I forgot about getting the floss caught on the little hooks and having to pull the shreds out with tweezers. Or you pull it tight and it "twangs" and spit goes everywhere. My bathroom is a giant biohazard area right now.

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  2. oh goodness! Braces at midlife. I know I should consider them myself, but I just cant bring myself to do it.

    Mary
    Twitter: @KnottyMarie
    Literary Gold
    Jingle Jangle Jungle

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    1. I probably should have gotten them when I was younger, but said no. So much for procrastination!

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  3. First we cannot wait to grow up. Then we groan at growing older. Aaaaargh.

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    1. The grass is always greener...I wouldn't want to be a teen again, ever. My 30s - yeah, those were good times. :)

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  4. Li, thanks for stopping by and saying hi. Long time no see.

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    1. I know, I kinda fell off the Blog Wagon for a while! That's the thing about the A to Z - I just can't resist!

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  5. You know, that sounds way more trouble than it's worth. I would've said I would live with my crooked teeth. At least I'd have plenty of time for food and drink. I tend to inhale most meals in ten minutes or less.

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    1. It was braces or pull teeth. And I was constantly biting the inside of my cheek and lip. You know what that's like - makes me want to chuck my dinner plate across the room, it hurts so much. Besides...what would I have written for letter "B"?

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  6. Makes my cataract surgery seem anti-climatic.

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    1. Fortunately dental work doesn't scare me. Eye surgery? Pass the horse tranquilizers, please.

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  7. It'd be my luck, I'd do all that and then have to get dentures.

    That was sad about Bowie. Very sad.

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    1. My son has dental problems as well and keeps threatening to have his teeth pulled out and get dentures. I can't imagine how painful a process that would be.
      Shocking about Bowie - it was so unexpected. :(

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  8. This is so funny. My favourite sentence is this: I had to elevate my head so I wouldn't drown in my own drool...

    As my mother (who is an orthodontist) used to say - no pain, no gain.

    Aneeta from
    How to Tell a Great Story

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    1. Fortunately, the nighttime drooling seems to have subsided. Being an orthodontist has its rewards I suppose - you get to see the results of your handiwork fairly rapidly.

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  9. my sympathies for the ordeal, thanks for visiting my blog

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  10. "B" is also for Brilliant. This blog post had me snorting coffee at my keyboard. Luckily I went through the braces at 8th grade instead of midlife. ;)

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    1. Thanks Dan! I wish I'd had them in 8th grade since that year was a dead loss for me anyway. :)

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  11. I loved this - not your pain, but the telling of the story. Stories like this remind me of why I'm afraid to go to the dentist. :/ This too shall end.

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    1. I'm just thrilled that there are no needles involved.

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  12. What an ordeal! I have crooked teeth, but I'd rather live with them than go through something like that. Hopefully, it will all be worth it in the end. "Old age is not for sissies" was my father's favourite expression. ☺ Cheers!

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    1. If I had it to do over again, I might not. But, "in for a penny, in for a pound".

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  13. I've never had braces and still have slightly crooked teeth. Great story, very vivid and the feelings really show through! I really enjoyed it! How long before you have lovely straight teeth?

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    1. Thank you Alice! 12 to 14 months. Then "we have to talk about a nighttime retainer or a permanent wire to keep your teeth from moving any more". You wouldn't think of teeth as entities given to wandering about at will, but apparently mine do.
      I've had them for 6 months; the two teeth that overlapped are now straight, and the two bottom incisors that were sideways are straightening out. So it's working. (And while the facts are true, I might have made things a little worse than they are for dramatic effect. Hence the "slightly fictionalized memoir" in the title. :)

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  14. Lol! Braces as a kid were bad but as an adult...
    @simplymarquessa from
    Simply Marquessa

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    1. I know. The worst part is when people do a double take and try to (surreptitiously) figure out what the heck is in my mouth.

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  15. Tasty morsel indeed. Bracing yourself for middle age would be a good alternate title. http://daveoutloud.blogspot.com/2016/04/b-is-for-buehrle.html

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    1. *smacks forehead* Now I feel like I should rewrite my letter M post....

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  16. X thank goodness I did not have to get them. I guess my big mouth has an advantage!

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    1. I wouldn't wish them on anyone. But it's totally better than having teeth pulled.

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  17. I know the feeling about the age feeling and the death door,
    Only this week we lost one of our great comedians that graced our TV screens for many years.
    I really enjoyed your "B" post and would like to thank you for visiting my blog.
    Yvonne.

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    1. Thanks Yvonne. I remember when Elvis Presley died and I was too young to really understand why my Mom was so upset. Now I get it.

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  18. OMG - how did we invent such awful torture equipment for ourselves?
    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles | Wittegen Press | FB3X

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    1. At least they've improved since the metal "railroad tracks" kids had in the 70s. :)

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  19. Hahahahahaha!!! I can't stop laughing! I had braces when I was 16-17 years old and I had a bad case of acne. I didn't even had crooked teeth, I just needed room for two implants in the back!
    The little rubber bands? I used all my left over to make tiny little braids in my cousin's hair...

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it! I still haven't mastered the rubber bands yet. But at the last check-up, I went from wearing two to just wearing one on the left side. So it must be working.

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  20. How I would love to have braces again. My teeth are such a mess. People ask me why I don't smile more. It isn't because I'm not happy.

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    1. I'm sorry to hear that. One of the reasons I put it off for so long is because dental insurance wouldn't pay for it and it's really expensive to pay cash. One shouldn't have to take out a loan for proper dental care.

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  21. Love this! My dentist has been trying to get me to get braces for the last 15 years. Not going to happen. I just can be an adult with braces. I thought about Invisalign, but now knowing that they have to be on 22 hours a day, that's also not going to happen. I'm impressed you stuck with it!

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    1. Paying cash up front is a big motivator...

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