Saturday, August 22, 2009

Put a smile on your face

It has been commented, on occasion, that I smile... a lot. In fact, in high school, one Russian kid even took to calling me Smiley, much to my chagrin. And while my high score on the Smile-O-Metre certainly reflects my jovial nature, I'd also like to note that when you've spent thousands of dollars on orthodontics, you really ought to make use of them.

Which brings me to my next point. Straight teeth are awesome. In fact, there are few things more attractive than a perfectly aligned set of pearly whites (except, perhaps, a British accent). The way I've always looked at it, the years of pain you endure are a mere pittance in exchange for the lifetime of straight teeth and mandibular alignment that you will enjoy subsequently. Plus, in high school I actually found brace faces to be rather cute... but that's another issue entirely.

Still, for some the "years of pain" for the lifetime of gain are more significant than others. By some, I of course mean myself. With Mello currently taking her first baby steps through the early I-can't-eat-solid-food-ouch-ouch-ouch stages of her posh Invisalign teeth aligners, I thought this would be as good a time as any to share my encouraging dental horror story.

Chances are, unless you hang out with the most genetically gifted group of friends ever or are surrounded solely by crooked-teeth, someone you know has had braces. If you followed that event all the way through, then you are probably cognizant that this metal-mouthed life stage usually only lasts for a year or two. Mine lasted for four.

Things began innocently enough. Just before entering Grade 9, having shed all my baby teeth and stepped into my teens, my mouth was equipped with a shiny new set of straightening devices. Despite the early pain of wire tightenings, I was actually quite pleased with this scenario. For the first two years, I even used these orthodontic fixtures for festive purposes, swapping in alternating red and green elastics for the holiday season.

However, an illness in the family and the subsequent flurry of activity caused a prolonged hiatus from wire tightenings, unavoidably extending my braces-wearing days by an extra year. By the time the end of Grade 11 rolled around, the novelty of braces had worn off. I was ready to have the accursed metal out of my mouth and take my graduation photo with my pearly whites borne au naturel.

At this point I have to explain that my dental work was, is, and has always been performed by my uncle, who is by all means, a very capable dentist with qualifications to perform some orthodontic procedures (like braces). Having seen three siblings come and go from the dentist chair, I had little reason to anticipate trouble. All that means is that I had no way to see what was coming my way.

In the summer of Grade 11, both my uncle and I fully anticipated that the braces were coming off. My teeth were straight, my jaw was happy, and all was right with the world. In consideration for my anticipation, my uncle had come into the office especially for me so I could lose the metal in my mouth before he jetted off for vacation abroad. As I sat there in that dentist chair, quivering with excitement, my uncle leaned in for one final inspection...

"Hmm... that's odd. It seems like you're still missing some teeth."

[Cue glass shattering]


As it turns out, my uncle's aging X-Ray machine had seen better days and was a little fuzzy around the edges. Apparently, he had failed to take note that my third molars had not yet impacted (broken the surface of my gums). Not only had one of my third molars not impacted, but it was being pinned down by a wisdom tooth that was growing at a crooked nintety-degree angle. That sucker was never coming out on its own.

I went home that day extremely upset and disappointed and would return weeks later to have the offending wisdom tooth extracted under local anaesthetic. Not only does local anaesthetic suck, but at the end of the operation I was left with a festering open wound. With the wisdom tooth out, my dentist still needed to straighten the molar which was buried within my gums. Said molar was then fitted with a bracket, and an elastic was run from this bracket (on my lower jaw) to the opposite tooth on my upper jaw. Of course, while the tooth was being pulled upward from the loving confines of my gums, the gaping hole through which it was meant to ascend had to be left unsutured. "Try not to get any food in the wound," was all the advice I received... that along with a syringe to rinse it out with. I swelled up on one side like a hemiplegic chipmunk.

This little blunder forced me to wear braces for another year, all the way through Grade 12 and past my graduation photos. Depressing. But after four long years, the braces finally came off. The feeling of being able to run my tongue across the smooth, naked enamel of my teeth was reason enough to smile. It was worth it.

As for the other three wisdom teeth? I had them out under deep anaesthetic. Yes, oh yes.


Mello said...

heheh, although I've heard this story before, your entire braces experience didn't seem as tedious as it now seems, now that I'm reading it step by step. I guess compared to your "adventure", my minor mouth pain isn't very impressive =P

I also got my wisdom teeth removed under deep was awesome =P

Joyce said...

Wow... My experience with braces pales in comparison, though the headgear was the nerdiest-looking piece of equipment ever... And i only had 2 wisdom teeth to deal with. 8D;;;

shirls said...

I think it's cool that I still have my wisdom teeth while everyone has their's taken out.

It feels like ages since I wore braces but I still have my retainer to remind me of those days.

Jerry said...

LOL hahaha in light of this new information I demand you post a picture of your brace smile from grade 12 grad photos!

You can remove your face from above your smile to protect your identity, but I think a brace smile is the only way to make this post complete :D:D:D

Catalogue of Queens said...

i love the '[Cue glass shattering]'. *sigh* i wish i have straight teeth, I have an awful 'Daniel-Chan' going on on the right side (if you remember who daniel chan (the singer) was during the 90's). -_-