40 Reflections #28:
40 days of raw recollections during the Lenten Season
August of 2009, our daughter realized something was happening to her tooth. She was seven-years-old, and most days, our walk home from the bus included at least one story about a friend losing a tooth, and the sparkly tooth necklace they toted home. In various attempts to play with her loose tooth, she wiggled it with two fingers, moved on with the single finger jiggle, and then discovered her tongue could enlist her tooth to dance. As most kids under 10, she hoped her tooth would fall out at school where lost tooth recipients received a free trip to the nurse’s office, where the tooth holder necklaces were stashed in the bottom file drawer. Much to her dismay, later that day while playing with her brothers, the tooth fell out in the backyard lawn, was rescued, placed in a homemade tooth necklace, and later set gently under her pillow.
Fast forward eight years. Throughout this time, waiting for our daughter’s teeth to fall out was like watching paint dry. Truly there was no rush. Some things just need to happen naturally, right? That’s what we thought…until talk of “small jaws” were slipped into the description of our children’s mouths. Awe. Sounds cute. But then, much like a baton passed in the 400 relay, a little piece of paper from the dentist was handed to us encouraging orthodontia services. After googling ‘orthodontia’ my first thought was, “who even uses that word?” and second, I realized all the chatter about braces was true. These metal wonders cast a wide net. Everyone from ages 7-60 were donning colorful mouths, and pockets filled with teeny rubber bands, special floss, and disposable toothbrushes. All were welcome.
So without looking back (not sure why), we picked the best (aka – most economical) orthodontist we could find. A gem of a man who understood my matter-of-factness when I told him we did NOT want the multi-round plan. That’s when kids get braces right after they kick the diaper habit, give their mouths a break while they learn to walk, and then jump back into the metal molds by grade school. Perhaps a slight exaggeration. We settled on the standard package with a 5% discount when paid in full, and as many tiny containers of floss you can “acquire” upon exiting.
Now that we’ve paid our admission for the braces roller coaster, our trips to the orthodontist are more frequent than our Costco runs. Maybe it’s just me, but either kid’s teeth are growing in looking as haphazard as the megalithic monument Stone Henge, or impeccable, movie star teeth are now the norm. Have you seen anyone under 40? Great pearly whites.
Growing up in the 70’s, our family dentist, Dr. Johnston had a hardy laugh and reading glasses permanently perched on the tip of his nose as he peered into our small-jawed mouths (oh, genetics). While we waited, my sisters and I marked up the well-loved stack of Highlights while rave reviews of “no cavities!” was hollered boisterously from the back of the office. We’d happily head home, and mom would mark the calendar for six months when we’d see our jolly dentist again.
You see, back then, moms like mine possessed the orthodontist super power. This braces radar, or “BRADAR” was so powerful, with one glance at their children’s smile, they could determine whether they truly needed braces. 9/10 times, the answer was no. Sometimes, moms could transfer these stellar abilities to their children and let them decide whether they wanted braces or not. Brilliant. Was the word orthodontia mentioned? Never.
In today’s world, orthodontia is as common as watching youtube for a diy project, and so far, our small-jawed children are fairing well.
Stay tuned, for Part 2 of Lost Tooth, Last Tooth, I’ll take you for a ride on the braces train.