DD had, by now, lost her baby teeth and her grownup teeth had come in. They weren’t arranged in the most attractive fashion by Mother Nature as one of the ladies in the church noticed. Due to an unfortunate accident and a resulting lawsuit, she had a lot of money and she wanted to use part of it to put braces on DD’s teeth. I took her to the designated orthodontist. He examined her and said she needed to wait another year. Not to be deterred in her Quest to Do Good, the lady decided I should have braces put on MY teeth and when the time came for DD, I could pay for them.
When I was growing up, Mother had taken me to an orthodontist and he wouldn’t touch my teeth. He said my bone structure was too thin and, with the lightest wire and the least tension, the roots of my teeth would break through. I went back to the orthodontist who had seen DD and he said he could put braces on my teeth, no problem, but I needed to see a periodontist first. I reported back to the lady and she said okay, whatever needed to be done.
This started a series of appointments, mouthwashes, WaterPiks and other periphernalia. I had to run the schedule by the boss but I knew what was required of me. There were certain times I was expected to be at work, no exceptions, and I complied. If a receptionist suggested a time that was a conflict, I knew enough to say no, I had to have an alternate.
My appointments with the periodontist went well. He was a likable sort who hummed and sang the whole time he was working. I preferred that to the ones who stick both hands in up to the elbows along with various and sundry picks, suctions and pliers and then expect me to answer detailed questions. After reducing pockets and doing some other miraculous things to my gums, he pronounced me ready for braces.
Well, not quite, folks. I had four teeth that were going to have to come out. My mouth wasn’t big enough for the number of teeth it housed so it was back to my regular dentist for the extractions. It was no picnic but I’d learned about nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and I didn’t care what the man did as long as he didn’t try to talk to me. Once, I told him to leave me alone and do what he had to do. He was a fast learner.
Turns out I was, too. When I went back to the orthodontist this time, it was to get spacers. Those are the most aggravating little pieces of rubber that were ever invented. It feels like huge corn kernels are hung between your teeth but there’s no getting a toothpick or using floss to get them out. You have to live with them until they either fall out of their own accord or you go back to the ortho-torturer. The remaining ones are pulled out with one of those little picky dealies and then the real fun begins.
I came onto the scene when the glue-ons were the thing. I don’t know what the current method of straightening teeth is but the first step (after the spacers) was etching. The surface of each tooth had to have the enamel removed so the little bracket would adhere. Then the wire was strung from bracket to bracket and fastened to posts that were installed on a band on each back tooth. Soup was a large part of my cuisine following a trip to the orthodontist. I’d never heard of a green smoothie.
At first, I was surprised with the way my braces fit. I had expected my upper lip to come down over them. I was “braced” for the shredding of said lip but it didn’t happen. The orthodontist had taken the way my lips meet into his plan and charted how each bracket was to be positioned. The brackets and wires on my upper teeth were perfectly nestled into the space where my lips met. If braces can ever be comfortable, that part was.
Cleaning the teeth between appointments was a process. I had floss threaders and my trusty WaterPik. I had to be careful with the latter because it can actually cause pocketing if used incorrectly.
DD was taking it all in. I think she both looked forward to and dreaded getting her own “tin grin”. By and by, the time had passed and it was her turn. Her treatment pretty much mirrored mine. She clawed at her mouth with frustration though the spacer phase and learned to put wax on the brackets that were uncomfortable.
The office staff was charmed about having mother-daughter patients. We scheduled our appointments so we could be treated the same days. I’d take a check from my benefactor to pay for myself and I’d make sure I had the $83 to pay for DD.
The weeks turned into months which turned into years. 1993 came with its record-breaking blizzard. My father-in-law stood looking outside and said, “I’ve never seen anything like it.” I dug a path from their back door to the mailbox and, our mailman was true to the old saying, “Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” I couldn’t get my car out to go to work and schools were closed. DD and I holed up and waited it out.
’93 was also the year DD was in the 8th grade. She was going through a stage where she wore her hair over one eye. I told her if she didn’t use that eye she’d go blind but she persisted. Hairspray was an absolute must and her hair was so stiff with it, if you touched it on one side it moved on the other. Hormones were raging and we were bound to clash and clash we did. My little girl was gone and I missed her. There was no more hugging or lap-sitting. I felt like I was living with a stranger.