Saturday, August 10, 2013

This Bites


My older sister got braces. I sure wasn't jealous. Nothing about it looked good. It all looked like something designed by the security force at Alcatraz, and the girls with braces walked around for two years with their hands at their mouths and their heads dipped, in case they found themselves suddenly amused. I think my sister had an unruly eyetooth. Somehow an orthodontist worked his way into my father's wallet, and it had to have been some tale of horror involving mismatched teeth eventually falling out in despair or something because I can't see him shelling out for a cosmetic procedure. Dad had teeth like the little brown kernels on the scrawny side of the cob. My baby teeth seemed to be doing what they were supposed to, and I got hauled in to see Dr. Bell once a year so he could excavate them without anesthetic. Then he'd open up his big metal drawer at floor level that held my reward for not screaming: a new toothbrush and one small plastic piece of crap of my choice.

So far, so good.
Then my adult teeth started coming in. Every which way. It was easily a more unsightly mess than anything my sister had started with, but my parents had rolled the dice on the amount of orthodontics they could afford, and they looked at my emerging choppers and said: oh well. I didn't mind. No one wanted to be a metal mouth. Plus there were all those teeny weeny rubber bands involved, and a retainer with headgear to wear--at night only, if you were lucky. I did get to have my impacted lower wisdom teeth removed, which caused my gums to bleed so heavily and for so many days that I taught myself to quit swallowing while I was asleep, and drool copiously to this day. You could wring out my pillowcase at any given time and get enough DNA to clone me a thousand times, but there isn't a lot of call for replicating a drooling adult.

You would think that if someone yanked out a couple of teeth at the margins that the rest of them would stretch out their little tooth arms and legs and make themselves comfortable, but they didn't. In fact, the rest of my teeth apparently reacted to the uprooting of their sisters by shrinking away from the scene of the horror, and crowded up something fierce in the middle. My bottom teeth don't show when I smile anyway and all my chewing surfaces seem to line up so I didn't much care about the situation. The top teeth aren't straight either, but they aren't quite so bad.

A lot of folks, when they smile, it looks like a bunch of soldiers standing with their shields in front of them, in perfect formation. When I smile, it looks like a bunch of seventh-graders running amok with the teacher out of the room. In stained shirts. I didn't give it a thought until the day I noticed that everyone else seemed to have great teeth. Even adults were getting braces--modern jobs, with a little inconsequential doo-dad adhered to each tooth and strung together with fairy hair and happy thoughts. And no one has yellow teeth anymore. So I don't know if my teeth got yellower or if they just look worse by comparison. Something makes me balk at shelling out money for whitening strips but I started swishing hydrogen peroxide around in there at a cost of 85 cents a year, and things improved a little. A few years ago I got one upper wisdom tooth yanked out. And what happened but all the other teeth began shoving each other out of the way to get away from the scene of horror. I'm almost sixty years old and my teeth are still on the move. One of the front ones is clambering over the other in the rush to escape.

Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad!
As Dad probably said: oh well. I'm beginning to look at my teeth in a whole new light. It's like they're at a party, and feeling comfortable enough to rearrange the furniture into new conversation groups. One of them has turned his back on the canine and is chatting up the incisor. The canine is slouching against the primary molar as though there might be bean dip in there. There might be bean dip in there. As their hostess, I guess I should be glad they can mingle on their own.

67 comments:

  1. Sounds very much like the life and adventures of my teeth, though told much more cleverly than I could manage. I eventually wound up with an upper denture. The very idea filled me with horror but I've come to love them. They look good, don't hurt and come out at night. My lower teeth are still few in number and their posture is quite bad, but the dentist has advised me to avoid a lower denture. So I've learned to smile in a way which shows off my upper teeth and hides my lower. I'm a big hit with the horsey crowd.

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    1. Now sometimes my upper teeth are smiling by themselves. I don't think I'm smiling but a couple of them start to leak out my lips.

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  2. Luckily, with 6 kids (2 of them grown, one almost grown), we have so far dodged the orthodontic bullet. Because so many people are getting perfect teeth these days (and am I the only one who sees dollar signs when people display a perfect mouthful of teeth when they smile?), I'd be putting my kids at a serious long-range economic disadvantage (jobwise, marriage-wise) if I didn't shell out the money for any recommended orthodontics.

    That sounds shallow, I know. I blame society.

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    1. I blame society, too. Hey. Look on the bright side. There won't be any jobs for them anyway.

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  3. At least you still have your own teeth and not dentures and they're all the same colour. Mine on the other hand...well, let's not go there. One of my girls has such perfectly straight and perfectly aligned teeth every dentist she sees asks if she had braces. no she never did and has no fillings either. K is 36. my other kids have similarly good teeth, but the oldest two each have one filling. I'm glad none of them needed braces, there's no way I could have afforded it. My oldest grand daughter had them with a choice of coloured square bits on the tooth face instead of metal and she had them changed every month, when the grandson got his braces he opted for the straight metal mouth look. Told everybody he was part robot.

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    1. Huh! So you still have a choice of the metal mouth. On top of everything else it looks like it would hurt the inside of your lips. What does a good set of braces cost these days anyway? I think it was in the thousands in the '50s, but that can't be right.

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  4. I come from a family that never had braces. Our teeth turned out pretty well, but I too have noticed that nobody has yellow teeth any more. I tried whitening but I hated it, my teeth suddenly became very sensitive. So I live with it and in pictures I whiten them with Photoshop. Works for me. :-)

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    1. Photoshop! I didn't think of that. Oh. I don't have Photoshop.

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    2. White teeth, especially porcelain white, is unnatural, teeth are meant to be ivory, milk white, not dazzling so bright you blind people with your smile.

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  5. My cousin is married to a dentist. Years ago, one of his friends looked into my little girl's mouth and said, "this kid is gonna need braces." It was never going to happen; we didn't have that kind of money.

    Yesterday my daughter, now 43, came back from the dentist, who said she has perfect teeth. I'm a skeptic anyhow, but I never believe a pediatric dentist!

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  6. Great post! You were recommended by Mr. Charleston "Termites of Sin". I can relate to the "Life Dental". The last time I went to the dentist to have a tooth pulled, couldn't do a root canal, all he said was "Happy Birthday!". Look forward to reading more of your adventures.
    Cheers
    Andy King
    http://andywardking.blogspot.com

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    1. Now that I think of it, don't dentists have the highest rate of suicide of any profession? Thanks for dropping in!

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  7. This is six AC post (audible chuckle)!

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    1. You're making me want to go back and count.

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  8. Imagine if you'd had the awful braces experience, and then your teeth moved back to their original positions anyway. This happened to my brother, and he's a little bitter about it to this day. Not that he cares so much how his teeth line up, but he does resent the unnecessary interruption in his gum-chewing.

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    1. Yeah, my sister's did that too. But they're still a lot better than mine are.

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  9. Yep, I went through the medieval torture euphemistically referred to as "braces" as a kid. The first batch was like dental thumbscrews - every few weeks, the orthodontist would go in there with a screwdriver and crank a bit more tension onto wires. The second batch had "modern" elastics instead of wire, but they still hurt like a bitch. Then came the "night appliance", which wasn't nearly as much fun as its name implied - a big vicious chunk of metal with an elastic head-strap approximately strong enough to retain the drag chute on a top-fueller.

    A few decades after all that suffering, my teeth have blithely rearranged themselves (in fact, they look remarkably like yours). I've decided I don't care anymore. I haven't had a cavity in all my adult life, and I can eat anything. Good enough.

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    1. I quit reading after the strap-on night appliance. For a few minutes, anyway.

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    2. And it sounded so promising, too. Reality bites.

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  10. I don't feel self-conscious about my slightly crooked and definitely yellowed teeth until I see a picture of Zick smiling broadly. Then I want to go out and spend money I don't have on major dental interventions. Or Photoshop.

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    1. Yes. Zick should keep her mouth shut. Blinding.

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  11. My mother had beautiful, white, strong teeth. My father had false teeth. I obviously inherited from his side of the family. We had no money for orthodontics; besides we'd have to travel to the next town, 20 whole miles away. When I graduated from college, I got a permanent bridge to swing across the front of my mouth in place of crooked and discolored teeth. The dentist carefully selected the right shade of yellow to match my other teeth.The bridge has been replaced 3 or 4 times over the years, consistently yellow, consistently expensive.
    I often think how nice it would be to have pristine, straight, bleached-white teeth. That wasn't in the cards for me. So, I'm glad to see your post and to know there's another person out there with interesting teeth. I can't say much for your white molars -- I have silver and gold ones myself. There's mercury in there, I'm sure.

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    1. My white molars? There's gold in them thar drills. It's my main investment strategy.

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  12. I worked for a dentist who did some ortho. work. Back then, it was for the best reasons, not cosmetic ego massage.
    And our techician was an ace!
    I have "interesting" dentition and, had I not been missing a couple I probably would have required some extractions and re-alignment.Bet Dad was pleased I didn't!

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    1. See, this is the problem. Three teeth out and there's still no room. Obviously I have way too dainty a mouth.

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  13. Dentists scare me. As a child I had the nerve from my front tooth drilled out. It didn't hurt - the nerve was dead, but felt weird. A tear formed in my eye. It didn't fall, and I made no sound. Until the dentist from hell slapped me. I cannot tell you what horrors I still wish on that woman.
    And my teeth are neither straight nor white. And give me grief to this day.

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    1. Your DENTIST not only drilled you but SLAPPED you? Holy shit, darling.

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    2. What Murr said. (Because I don't say things like that, but I sure as heck think them at times). EC, that is just wrong; no wonder dentists scare you.

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    3. I replay scenes like that from my childhood and re-write them so the bastards get what they deserve. Like, the drill shorts out in the dentist's hand before she even gets code to your mouth, and shocks her so badly that she has ti retire. Re-write your own scenario. Maybe you stand up in the chair and kick her in the teeth. Whatever makes you feel strong and safe. What a bee -aitch!

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  14. Fortunately I avoided the braces experience. I have two slightly overlapping front teeth and my mother wanted a brace but the dentist didn't think it was necessary. Thank you, Mr Handsome (yes, that really was his name). The overlapping teeth have never bothered me or anyone else, so no worries.

    Funny though, I was always fascinated by those schoolmates who had braces, I always wondered what they were like to wear. For some reason, I never asked them.

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    1. Mr. Handsome. Well, we had a urologist here in town named Dr. Harry Dick.

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    2. We have a urologist named Dr. Dick Tapper.

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  16. My front teeth cross exactly like yours, and it ticks me off. I paid for braces at age 43. It was more painful than I'd expected, but I did lose 25 pounds because eating was so awkward, and my teeth looked good. A couple years later, I fell and loosened my front teeth and couldn't wear my retainer for a while. My teeth went back to their original positions. I also hate my tea stains, but crooked teeth that are brilliant white might not be as attractive as I would hope! Another great post, Murr.

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    1. It has occurred to me that my teeth might have gotten worse since I fell on them last December. Looks like there's a teeny chip out of one of them but I'd have to check old photos to be sure. Or (gad) go back to the dentist and find out what they used to look like.

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  17. I mentioned the other day (different post) about my teeth sliding forward on the side I sleep on. When I sleep on my other side I wake up with a sore hip (caused by bursitis). So now when I chew I tend to chew my lip as well as my food. I'm thinking of existing only on puddings and yogurt. Getting old is fraught with all kinds of perils I had no inkling were waiting for me.

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    1. Do what I do. Sleep face down. Interesting drowning dreams that way, so far resulting in my waking up, but one of these days...

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  18. Speaking of doctor's names (we sort of were, right?) in the last town I lived in, my ob/gyn was Dr. Hoertz. I guess had he wanted to be a pediatrician, he would have had to change his name.
    And I had braces a second time in my early 50s. I told my husband it was because of a mid-life crisis, and he said "only if you live to be 100+."
    I'm working on it.

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    1. By the time you get there, he'll be gone. Just guessing. It would be nice to say "I told you so."

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  19. OK, knowing that teeth move back to their original places makes me much more content with my "authentic" grin. I am also of the opinion that "root canal" is another way to say, "You will make the next three payments on my Mercedes, then I'll have to pull the tooth anyway and we can start pricing bridges and implants." I'd rather go straight to "Pull that sucker out!" I'm 63 years old. Who cares if I have a gap or two?

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    1. I, for one, do not care. Can you whistle? I mean, voluntarily?

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    2. Yes, I CAN whistle - with or without fingers.

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  20. Bless your heart. I just cannot thank you enough for this post. I love your teeth. They're beautiful. (Thank you, for me and for my daughter who complained pitifully all through her growing up years that I wouldn't get her braces, despite her perfectly straight teeth. Which she did not inherit from me. I've forwarded this post on to her in Mexico)

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    1. I swear I didn't know anyone growing up who WANTED braces. I think that is a sign of increased self-absorption and early-onset adulthood (like, eight) and I blame the media.

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  21. When I was in 7th grade my mother took me to see a doctor about my over bite. They said I would not be helped with braces but explained that I need my lower jaw broken and have extensions of bone put in to make my lower jaw longer. I did not like the sounds of it and mom & dad did not like the cost, so I stayed the way I am!

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    1. It sounds as though your doctor wanted to create a Neanderthal. Who could blame him?

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  22. I have two hybrid grandsons who in the genetic crapshoot both got narrow Asian jaws and big horsey English teeth. The eight-year-old has already had a couple pulled and braces strung on his front teeth. He seems to take it in stride, and it doesn't interfere with his flute-playing (just threw that in there as a grandma brag).

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    1. Flute with banjo accompaniment! Done right.

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  23. Our school dentist told us kids there were two kinds of teeth in the world; ordinary white ones and pearl coloured. Mine, of course, are pearl coloured. I took this to mean my teeth were more valuable. That's my story and I'm sticking to it so I can ignore the teeth whitening craze.

    Ergo, your mouth has pearly teeth and emits pearls of wisdom!

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  24. I'm relieved that my parents were well-off enough to afford dental and orthodontic care for me when I was a child. Let's see ... a small retainer on the lower teeth to straighten then, and two lower wisdom teeth removed as a teenager. My teeth are straight, but it was no easy task to create that straight smile.

    My heart goes out to people whose parents couldn't afford dental care when they were children. I've met plenty of rural, working class people with missing teeth for that very reason. A friend who grew up in that subculture couldn't afford a dental visit until well into adulthood, and he had to have a LOT of work done on his rather ... unattractive chompers.

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    1. Oh I think my folks managed to get me to a dentist once a year, two or three cavities every time. And everything in there seems to be staying in there. Just not in their previous positions.

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  25. Got braces at age 67. Will be losing them this week. Yes, it's a very optimistic thing to do at my age. I look forward to the first bowl of popcorn!

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  26. Hey Murr! Good grief, lively little buggers, aren't they?! Mine look great at a glance, but if you get close you'll realise they're putting a brave face on it. I smile with my mouth closed lest the Orthodontic Police come calling... Indigo x

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  27. I never had braces either and grew to like the space between my front teeth. A few years ago I gave into time, tide, genetic history and the grumblings of my dentist and periodontist who agreed my top teeth (a full set but for the wisdom teeth) were likely to end up on my pillow one morning because of bone loss. I don't want to talk about the process, but the result is that I have implants that act as snap fasteners for an upper denture. I'd asked them to give me back my crooked smile but it's gone forever.

    Yours is wonderful as it is.

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    1. It's going to have to do! It's pretty clear my vanity is not out of control at this point in my life. You should see the haircut I got yesterday. I might be able to scrub the shower with it.

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  28. Thanks to everyone for the accumulated wisdom! Now I know what to try and avoid, at least as long as possible.

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    1. As far as I'm concerned, NEVER LET THEM PULL YOUR WISDOM TEETH.

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  29. Dad had perfectly aligned beautifully white teeth. Everyone thought they were faux. I've had full dentures since my early twenties, natural yellowy, natural misalignment, and no one knows I wear dentures. oops, maybe they do. now.

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    1. So they made them lifelike instead of perfect? I don't think that would fly these days!

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  30. My teeth are straight enough, but I clench them at night and they are wearing down to a very short state. Plus they're yellow. I may never smile again.

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  31. I was 12 when the dentist first recommended braces. I bit him and he took me out of the dental chair and told my parents never to bring me back to his office. Years later when I was a senior in high school and a freshman in college I finally got the braces and would travel with my mother for my orthodontic appointments an hour away. Mom and I would share stores on those trips and mother asked me once if I drank alcohol at college. I told her that I had. She then asked if I ever "got silly" and I said, "Do you mean drunk?" That is my memory of braces.

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    1. You BIT your dentist? How did your gynecologist fare?

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