Operation Braceface: Day One

I’ve always wanted braces.

Ever since my adult teeth grew in, awkwardly filling the gap that my baby teeth had long since vacated, I remember thinking how much I wished we could afford to send me to an orthodontist. My family could barely afford school clothes and Christmas presents, though, much less thousands of dollars of orthodontic work.

But my third grade teacher, Mrs. Wallace, was in her mid-fifties and got her braces off over Christmas break the year I was in her class. That made a huge impression on eight-year-old Diana: I realized that I could get my teeth fixed whenever I wanted — even as a grown-up!

Fast-forward almost thirty years, and here I am. Today was the day.

It’s been a long road to here. Back in spring of 2009, I hadn’t been to a dentist in an embarrassingly long time, so my first cleaning was a two-fer — bottom in one visit, top in another. It’s been a slow and steady progression ever since: regular cleanings, cavities filled, wisdom teeth removed, antibiotics for my gums…

Once the antibiotics took hold and the pockets in my gums reduced to almost normal, I asked about the possibility of orthodontics. (Luckily, my dentist’s office has an oral surgeon, periodontist, and orthodontist on staff, so it’s mighty convenient to get all my dental needs addressed in a one-stop shop.) I had a consultation with the orthodontist, and after some back-and-forth with the periodontist (and some minor gum surgery), I was cleared for braces.

My appointment was at 8:40am. Usually I start work at 8am — no, let me rephrase that. The workday at my office technically begins at 8am. I am chronically late. So, that extra half-hour of intentional sleep (as opposed to accidental sleep) really made a big difference in how I felt this morning. That, plus having to be someplace different, I suppose.

Anyway.

Shortly after I arrived at the dentist’s office, the staff took me back to cover billing and payment arrangements, and dealt with some confusion between the perio and ortho guys about getting me the final clearance for my braces. (The perio guy was out getting… cookies? I berated him for bringing cookies into a dentist’s office, so he gave me one. I like my periodontist!)

Once I got taken back to a hygiene room, then came the initial wiping-down of my teeth with something that tasted foul but apparently cleaned my teeth, then I waited for my orthodontist to get freed up to apply my brackets.

During this time, I also discovered (since my dentist’s office has TVs in every room) that Food Network apparently shows infomercials or PSAs before 9:30am, and that there’s literally nothing good on at nine in the morning. So I left it on the highly annoying but seemingly popular national morning show, since I wasn’t really watching it, anyway.

My orthodontist seemed to be having a morning; either that, or I just caught him on an especially good day when I had my initial consultation. Not that he was in a foul mood or rude or anything like that, but he wasn’t as congenial and talkative as I remembered.

Down to business.

Cement applied to each tooth, then cured with some sort of light wand. Cement applied again. Then on with the brackets: the assistant would plunk a bracket onto a tooth, and the doctor would adjust it just so. And the next tooth, and the next. And then he was gone (after some quick instructions, both to me and to his assistant).

His assistant informed me that I’d get to choose what color wires I want to have on my braces every time I come in. Fun! I went with the standard silver for my first go, but there’s no saying that I might not switch to pink for Valentine’s Day, or green for St. Paddy’s Day. Could be fun. She attached the wires, and I was done.

Not so bad, actually.

I went next door to Starbucks to waste some time before heading in to my half-day of work. Ordered up an eggnog latte, ate my cookie, chilled out on my iPhone.

I also took the obligatory post-braces photo.

(Everybody says I look stoned in this picture. I swear, I’m not.)

While I was at the ‘Bux, I also read through my informational material. It seemed to be written at an elementary-school reading level, so they can give the same materials to adolescents and adults alike. Fair enough.

There were some great callouts, though:

Wait, you mean I have to quit my thumb-sucking AND my mouth-breathing?

Does this not remind you of a WWII propaganda poster?

My brother-in-law threw away his napkin-wrapped Frankel once upon a time.

I opted to skip the weekly lunch out with my department today, since I didn’t want to be in a social situation while I was figuring out how to eat with braces. I also wasn’t keen on lifting weights with Sheryl like a normal Thursday, since there was the very real chance that I’d forget myself and purse my lips too hard or cut the inside of my mouth or something. Instead, Sheryl and I took a walk.

As we were getting ready to head back and pick me up some soft food for lunch, I felt a POP in my mouth.

One of my brackets had come off.

So, en route to the deli, I called the dentist and let them know. They immediately scheduled me for an emergency visit at 2pm. That made the workday pretty much a wash, since it takes me a half hour to get there and a half hour back, not counting the time it takes to do whatever needs done. That’s OK, though. No biggie. My boss is pretty cool about this sort of thing.

Went to the deli and ordered up chicken salad on wheat and a side of tuna macaroni salad. While we were waiting in line to pay — another POP! and the matching bracket on the other side was off.

What. The. Hell.

At least I did manage to get a half hour of work done before I had to leave for the orthodontist again. And I ate half of my macaroni salad.

This visit was pretty swift, actually. The doctor scraped what little of the epoxy had stuck to my teeth (most of it had stuck to the brackets only), then he and his assistant re-cemented and re-applied my brackets. He instructed her to use lighter wires this time, and not tighten them as much. As of this writing, eight hours later, they’re still attached.

Also as of this writing, my mouth is quite sore. I had trouble eating my leftover lunch for dinner — too much chewing.

I had to remove the crust from the bread. The pickle was out of the question.

The feeling is reminiscent of when my wisdom teeth were coming in, back in college, and  crowding my already-crowded teeth even more than I realized at the time. It feels like that, and it feels like when I would get something stuck between my teeth really bad. Except there’s something doing that to all my teeth, not just one, and I can’t floss to get rid of the feeling.

I get to feel like this for a few days every seven weeks for the next two and a half years.

But the end result will be worth it.

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