Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Braceface! Metal Mouth! Railroad Tracks!

Dear Kids of the 21st Century,

You have absolutely no idea how lucky you have it. This is the part where I would normally dust off one of my own parent's stories (i.e. we had to walk five miles to school in the snow or we were only able to afford bread, milk, and sugar for breakfast, or some variation on that theme).

Instead, I'm going to tell you what it was like - to have braces back in the late 70's. Yeah - let me put it this way. There was no Invisalign crap. Also, in the late 70's many insurances didn't even cover braces. If your parents weren't covered under one of those thank-your-lucky-stars-policies (cough Lincoln Life cough), you might have gone through your adolescence with wildly, malformed teeth. How 'bout dem apples?!

Now on to the story.

Once upon a time, in a not-so-distant-land, there lived this little girl who was quite adorable in a non-glamorous way.

Kris - Age 8

Then one day, almost over night, she started losing her baby teeth and when her permanent teeth grew in their place, they grew back in a way which made her look not so adorable anymore. In fact, she looked quite ghastly and was often referred to as having "buck teeth" by her school mates.

4th Grade Class Photo5th Grade Picture6th Grade Class Photo
Kris - 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade

Her mother took her to the local orthodontist and he confirmed the worst possible scenario.

Dr Ingleman


Side note: By the way - can you believe that Dr. Ingleman is still in practice?! Sheesh, the man must have been 21 when he was workin' on my mouth ;).

She went through a series of x-rays and molds.

Note: Dr. Ingleman was the very first dental-type that I know of that gave you some sort of option for what "flavor" you wanted in the plaster of paris crap that had to stay in your mouth for hours (well not really hours - but it seemed that way sometimes). I liked cherry the best. The mint sucked.

But before she could get braces on, the x-rays and molds confirmed that another step would need to happen first.

Before those lovely railroad tracks could be laid, two teeth needed to be pulled from her mouth - specifically the two top incisors.

Because her mouth wasn't large enough to hold all of her teeth.

And this people - was without - my wisdom teeth!!! Yes, I know - shocking. Even my husband expresses disbelief when I repeat this story (the point here is that I have a "big mouth" - hah!).

After the girl, who resembled a horse (see six grade picture above), had her two teeth pulled, she was scheduled for the day of death (i.e. the laying of the metal).

True confession: the staff gave the girl a pill to take the morning of the procedure. It was supposed to dry out her mouth so that she wouldn't slobber all over them.

It was just a teeny tiny white pill. She tried to take it. REALLY. She just couldn't. She had some phobia about swallowing pills.

Dr. Ingleman's Office Tillman Road

At the orthodontist's office, her mouth wasn't dried out. At all. One of the chicks asked her if she had taken "the pill".

SHE LIED! Said she did. She didn't want to get in trouble. She was pretty convincing. They believed her and proceeded with the adhesing of brackets to her teeth - meanwhile - she was slobbering buckets and buckets of goo.

Enough of my third person story.

Getting brackets put on your teeth - well - if you've never experienced it - it's like having hunks of crap put into your mouth. And your lips feel like they get bigger because they have to wrap around and over metal brackets or else the whole world sees metal.

The most painful part of the "get your brackets on day" was the molar-area. I'm a sensitive chick and I hate crap being put onto my molars. I can still hear the crunch crunch crunch noise that occurred when they were trying to slide (hah!) them on.

So after mounting those brackets, they sent me home with pain relief in the form of this crap -

Wax for Braces

The idea here is that you pinched off a hunk of wax and molded it however you wanted to, and then put in on your bracket. You would most likely do this if one of those ugly, nasty, metal hokey-pokey's were tearin' holes into your mouth innards.

After a couple of weeks, I had the lovely experience of going back to get the wires put in.

7th Grade Picture8th Grade Class Picture
Kris - 7th Grade, 8th Grade (with braces)

That, my friends, is the real beginning of a pain you never forget. Screw childbirth - at least for childbirth, there's drugs!

See this? Tool

This is an orthodontist's King of Pain. Yes, it's the tool that slices/dices/cuts/straightens/tightens everything and anything.

If I ever thought about going into a trade that involved working with my hands and tools, this was the moment that I was turned off.

But the pain (and humiliation) didn't stop there for me. First, I was given the "KING" of all head gears. It was the kind that looked like you had a cap on your head - not the cool thing that sat at the back of your neck.

Head Gear
not Kristina's mouth

Forget about getting a goodnight's sleep because this doo-hickey (it slipped into your mouth and hooked into the upper, side brackets) made it difficult to sleep anywhere but on your back. At the time, I was a stomach sleeper - but after that - no more. And the side? Oh no. To sleep on the side, you would risk bending this metal mouth piece. And that meant that your parents had to spend more money. And when you had parents like mine, you just didn't risk it.


Oh yes - let's not forget these puppies. "Allegedly", they were supposed to help me in some way. What way? Couldn't tell you. I think that I consciously blocked out that memory :).

Rubber Bands

After decades (okay - not that long) of having these puppies on, they finally came off and unlike other kids, I didn't automatically get that beautiful, flesh-toned retainer.


Oh no. I was subjected to something like this - only mine was clay colored and was "flavored" with a strong cinnamon taste (which the thought - still gags me today).

not Kristina's mouth

Eventually, I did get to move to the retainer and throughout my life, I only manage to lose it once. I stopped wearing the thing in my mid-20's. I have no clue why I even wore it that long - maybe I was too afraid of having to have braces again...

So I look back at this period of time in my life and I can't believe how ghastly I looked. I'm glad that at the time - I wasn't cognizant of my appearance. That probably had a lot to do with my parents. Fourth grade was the start of their marriage unravelling in a big way. I don't think that they realized it - but I certainly saw all of the signs.

So smart at ten/eleven. Go figure :).


Beth said...

And here, for all these years, I've wished that I could have worn braces. Thank you Kristina for giving me proper perspective.

Suzy said...

Oh my are SO FUNNY!!! That could be me you're talking about!!! Love your blog!

Jennifer said...

Hi Kristina!

I agree that kids now are very fortunate to have lot of options when it comes to dental treatments. Today, there are some equipments that provide discreet design. Dental clinics across the country offer such treatments in their dental web site. Marketing and advertising such helps the patients in finding the nearest doctor and the most appropriate procedure for them.

Thanks for sharing your experience. a very insightful yet entertaining post. Thanks!

Heartha Gearin said...

I couldn't help but have flashbacks while reading your post. So nostalgic to look back and laugh at what you were before. Haha. Braces are quite common in pre-teen years. I wore them, too. =)