Sunday, August 1, 2010

The newest spokesman for the Kids Against Braces Coalition

(...or the KABC...or whatever Calvin decides to call it once he gets it up and running, grassroots-style.) Because remember how I said his getting braces was going to be drama-free? I spoke too soon.

First of all, does anyone else find it odd that in all the years of orthodonture, this branch of dentistry seems to have progressed very little? I mean, general dentistry isn't still relying on those silly cloth ties around the jaw for a toothache that you see in old cartoons, so why are orthodontists still cranking down your teeth with wires? Isn't there some sort of non-invasive option yet? Laser surgery, perhaps?

For Calvin, it was barbaric from the start: as soon as she began her work on his mouth, the orthodontic assistant remarked that he had the tightest-spaced teeth she'd ever encountered. And then she had to call in reinforcements. And slowly, I watched our one hour appointment tick its way toward two-plus. At one point, they were both practically in Cal's lap trying to prod, pry, heft, and leverage the pieces of hardware into his mouth, all the while imploring him to 'lie very still'.

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time lying still while someone goes at my gums with a pick. And Calvin's not exactly what you'd call a 'good patient' to begin with. He has a pain threshold to be admired, but once that line's been crossed...let's just say his 'fight or flight' inclination leans heavily toward 'fight'. I had to repeatedly remind him to keep his hands in his lap because I could see them inching their way toward her forearms as if to grab hold as she bent over him. I'm not sure whether he had a plan formed in the event that he did seize control, but I think it's safe to say her suction machine would have been turned against her.

At one point around the one hour mark, a little girl (evidently a new patient) came into the room and hovered in the doorway with her mom, looking terrified. She was actually crying a little. Apparently, the orthodontist (and I'd like to point out that this is the first we saw of him) thought it'd be a great idea to show her around so she could see that getting braces was no big deal and actually a full-on party in your mouth. Because our orthodontist is Dr. Cool. He's about 35, has gelled hair, a Wii in his waiting room (complete with Dance Dance Revolution), a color-coordinated staff (that day they were all in pink camisoles and gray slacks), and of course, a perfect, shiny-white smile. He likes to greet all the kids with a 'hey dude' and a high five and the pop culture reference of his choice. Needless to say, it was clear that in his office, a crying little girl in the waiting room was kind of a kill joy.

He'd brought her into the back room so that the teenager sitting in the next chair could chirpily tell her all about how cool Dr. Cool was, how braces are totally fun, and how she'd just won last month's drawing for a Justin Bieber t-shirt, but unfortunately, the girl couldn't take her eyes off of Calvin, rocking pitifully on his back while the assistant kept one well-placed knee right on his chest in order to cram something else into his mouth. He kept making little 'ah...ah...ahhhhh!' noises while the other assistant dabbed the corner of his mouth with gauze stained pink with spit and blood.

Dr. Cool whisked that girl right back out of there and we didn't see her again.

When it was finally over, Calvin walked out to the car with his mouth set in a firm line. I didn't know whether this meant he was disgruntled or if he just couldn't manipulate his lips into any other expression; turns out, it was both. On the car ride home, I asked him whether it still hurt.

He said no (which come out sounding like 'nob'...all that hardware makes for diction even Henry Higgins couldn't fix), so I tried to cheer him up with the reminder that the worst was now over. I asked him whether he was still glad he got braces (at one point, he'd be amicable to the idea). He turned and stared at me as though trying to ascertain whether I really was that obtuse. "No (nob)," he said slowly, clearly trying to enunciate for my benefit. "Gebbing brazes sux."

A sentiment he's been enthusiastically sharing ever since with anyone who asks. Which, incidentally, is quite a few people: all his friends' mothers, for instance, (who were hoping he'd talk up braces to their kids), the lady behind the counter at the take 'n bake pizza place (who's getting hers on next week), the vet, his soccer coach, and of course, his own two brothers. He's become the poster boy for all things anti-orthodonture:

"Brazes sux!", he warns them all. "Brazes sux. Dob geb em! Brazes sux!"

And I have to say I emphasize with this battle cry. He can't chew well. He can't talk. He can barely open his mouth halfway. Because in addition to his braces, he has a particular form of torture inconvenience called a Herbst appliance in his mouth. For those of you lucky enough not to be intimately acquainted with the Herbst, I'll spare you the gory details. All you need to know is that it involves two metal bars on either side of his mouth which scrape against the inside of his cheeks (you know, the nice, tender part), a bar across the roof of his mouth, and another bar under his tongue, all working together to the common purpose of shifting his jaw forward. (Hence the impossibility of diction.)

And the ironic thing is, it makes it so he can't smile all the way, and causes his bite to look a little odd, whereas it looked just fine before. In addition, Calvin now tends to thrust his lower jaw outwardly at random intervals 'because it feebs bebber that way', which is new and not exactly improved. After observing this for a while yesterday, Charlie asked me, "Is this look permanent?"

To which I answered, "I think that's the whole idea." And then we both sat there in silence for a minute wondering why were were paying in monthly installments for this service. I just hope Dr. Cool knows what he's doing, because I have to admit, his latest newsletter letting me know about their upcoming 'Hannah Montana Month' (find out more on their Facebook page!) has left me wondering.
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