When I was a kid I thought that braces were cool. Perhaps it was because the people who had them were generally older and cooler than me, when I was eight years old. Looking back, it makes sense. I associated braces with the people I looked up to who had them – the teenage assistant in my children’s theatre group, my babysitter, my best friend’s oh-so-sophisticated older sister.
When I was 12 years old I got braces myself, and suddenly they weren’t so cool anymore. In fact, they were the exact opposite of cool. That night that I got them on was one of the worst nights of sleep in my life. Or perhaps I should say one of the worst nights of sleep in my life before kids. I just remember how much my mouth ached, and how there was no escaping it. Plus, I didn’t just get braces, I got full on headgear. Not only was the headgear the height of tweenage awkwardness, it forced me to sleep on my back, which is the last way that I sleep if I have any say in the matter.
I tried looking for some photos of myself in full on orthodontia, but I don’t seem to have any. It’s not surprising, really. I didn’t exactly feel like posing when I had it on. Thankfully I didn’t have to wear the headgear to school, but I had to wear it all the rest of the time. And the braces, obviously, were semi-permanently attached to my teeth and didn’t go anywhere. For two years of my life regular visits to the orthodontist were routine, as my braces were tightened and the elastics replaced. They became the bane of my existence, especially when I wasn’t allowed to audition for a play in junior high because the director didn’t like the way braces made teeth on stage.
I may still be just a little bit bitter about the way my acting career was nipped in the bud. Oh, what could have been!
My orthodontic travails did not last forever, luckily. One happy spring day, the braces came off. I was so used to them by that point that it almost felt like I didn’t have any teeth in my mouth at all. But I did, and they were (finally) straight, and I didn’t stop smiling for two whole weeks. Except for when I had my retainer in, which once again was pretty much whenever I wasn’t at school. Because who wants to wear a retainer at school? I was coming off of years of wearing braces, I wanted to flaunt my new smile, not my dental gear.
You could say that I have run the dental appliance gamut. And recently, I got to head in a whole new direction when my dentist informed me that I needed a night guard. It seems that my bite is aligned is such a way that all the pressure falls on just two or three teeth on the upper right side of my jaw. When I sleep, I sometimes clench my jaw. As a result I have a fair amount of gum recession on those teeth, and I’ve already had one gum graft to correct the issue. While it was a largely uneventful procedure, I’m not exactly eager to repeat it, so I opted for the guard.
In an ideal world, I would agree to the night guard and they would bring out one they had in the back. I do not live in an ideal world. Here was the process I went through to get my new dental appliance:
- Wait for an insurance pre-approval notice to arrive at my home.
- Drive the paperwork to my dentist’s office.
- Wait to hear back from the dentist’s office with the final estimate, and schedule an appointment.
- Visit the office to have molds of my teeth made, for the lab that would be making my night guard.
- Schedule an appointment to pick up the night guard.
- Receive a phone call letting me know that the guard wouldn’t be ready on time, and would I mind re-scheduling? I comply.
- Show up to pick up my night guard on the new day, and get shown to chair in a room.
- 15 minutes later, learn that my night guard isn’t actually there. It was supposed to arrive the day before and didn’t, and then it was supposed to arrive about half an hour before I did, but didn’t. They don’t know when it will be in, and they may need my chair. I tell them I’ll wait 15 more minutes, but then I’m calling it a day.
- 15 minutes after that, have an apologetic hygienist tell me that they’re calling it a day. As I re-scheduled, the receptionist gave me some Starbucks gift cards for my trouble, so the day wasn’t a loss. I did, however, give specific instructions that if the night guard wasn’t there by the end of business to please give me a call because I didn’t want to repeat the experience.
- Arrive the next day, and finally pick up my night guard.
- Realize that it’s even harder to speak clearly with a night guard than it was with a retainer. Fun stuff, man.
Quite honestly, I didn’t even really want the night guard, so jumping through those hoops felt like a bit much. Luckily I have it now, though, and it’s fine, and hopefully it will do what it’s meant to do. Because I don’t want to spend any more time in a dentist’s chair, dealing with dental appliances, than I already have in my life so far.
Have you ever had orthodontic work done? Did you have braces, or headgear, or a retainer? And have you ever tried a night guard? Tell me tales of your awkward youth, I’d love to hear them!