Introducing Metal Mouth

Forget those people who pull stunts like biking across the United States or walking from pole to pole. We are venturing on our own incredible journey in this family, one that I’m sure will involve pain, suffering, success and defeat. And while some of us are going to take it lying down, the rest of us will take it sitting up. In a waiting room.
My happy little family has entered the world of orthodontics.
We knew it was coming when my daughter started getting teeth before she started losing them. They came from all directions and headed in all the wrong directions, like someone got tired of lining them up and just threw them in there willy nilly, hoping for the best.
Unfortunately we didn’t get the best, we got the willy nilly catawampus version. Our dentist once told me, “it’s probably no surprise that she’ll have braces in her future,” to which I had to hold myself back from saying, “which is why I’ve thought about getting a few extra jobs and selling off everything I own just to pay for them.”
Those tiny pieces of metal they put in there are not cheap. I know this because every time I even come close to mentioning teeth position my parents kindly remind me of my beautiful and expensive smile. Then I remind them how I spent my childhood being called “Uncle Miltie” because of my Milton Berle-style bucktoothed grin, and how that wasn’t very nice and the least they could have done to make up for it was shell out the bucks to fix the genetics that wasn’t really my fault.
But I digress, although it’s good to know that I suffered through more than my fair share of headgear, braces, and retainers. Not only that, but I also put up with the long, long hours it takes to get all of that stuff fitted, placed, and cemented into place. I remember laying there, my eyes brimming with tears while just feet away lay another patient who I’m absolutely sure was making fun of me, the smell of drills and teeth and the taste of blood and glue in my mouth. I can tell you exactly how many lights were in my orthodontist’s room (seventeen) and the specific shade of wood paneling that lined the walls because I spent the better part of my early teens being tortured, er, adjusted, in those chairs, including one birthday when they had to chisel some awful apparatus out of my mouth. It was horrible.
But I’m never going to tell my kid that.
Instead, I take her to her appointments which I swear are an evil game called “let’s see how many times we can get the new people to come in” and hold her tiny hand while they stick their entire arms into her mouth. I see the tears welling up in her eyes and like tragedy recall, I know precisely what she is feeling when the doctor tells her to bite down, open up, and bite a little harder so that the sheer force of her tiny jaw can bend metal into place. I hold her hand and tell her to squeeze it when it starts to hurt and watch as her feet jiggle around wishing they could run away.
Part of me wants to cry right along with her, to pick her up and whisk her right out of there because no parent ever wants to see their child in pain.
The other part of me shakes my head and silently chuckles, knowing that everything she’s going through is a twisted rite of passage into the next stage of her life that we lucky ones get to endure.
Maybe someday she’ll thank me for the countless hours I will spend in the waiting room, not to mention the countless dollars I will spend. If she’s really good, she’ll thank me for doing all of it for her without giving her scarring nicknames. And then just smile.


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