Wednesday, May 10, 2017

You Said a Mouthful

Son Number Three just got initiated into the world of orthodontics in a big way. It was sort of like getting initiated into a college fraternity, minus the alcohol. There was still a lot of throwing up slurred speech.

His older brothers were already members of the Brotherhood of Rubberband And ChromE Smiles, or BRACES, for short. Son Number One has the full meal deal (literally - he can store a full meal in his top and bottom braces). Number Two has the training wheels version with just a retaining wire mounted to his back molars, keeping a rogue tooth in place until it’s time for the full steel grill. Let’s just say both of them are severely dental floss-impaired. Watching them try to thread floss through their braces is like watching a senile ninety-year-old woman still trying to do cross stitch.

So, I thought I was a veteran at the orthodontist’s office when we took Son Number Three in for his annual visit. Then they informed us he would need an expander.

A what now?

Apparently his upper jaw is too narrow to fit all his adult teeth that are on the way down, so they need to widen it. In order to widen a jaw, they install a device into the roof of the mouth that steadily pushes the teeth apart, and the body will magically grow more jaw bone.

I immediately envisioned him looking like a small blonde version of Jay Leno, but when I voiced my concerns they assured me he would remain looking like himself.

OK, I guess.

Oh, and also, he’s pushing his front teeth outward with his tongue every time he swallows. We’ll fix that by putting a fence on the expander.

Whatever you say.

His next appointment was set to get an impression of his teeth. I had seen this procedure done on Son Number Two. They fill a tray with purple goop and you bite down on it and hold it in your mouth for a while and when they remove it, somehow the purple goop has turned white and is now a perfect impression of your teeth. Witchcraft!

No problem, I figured, as they put Number Three in the chair. This was easy last time. Then they strapped the standard dental drool apron around his neck with an added twist – a plastic bag attached to the clips also, so it looked like he had a clear plastic feed bag.

I wonder what that bag is for, I thought. It’s probably just a handy little trash bag for all their swabs and cotton spacers and whatnot.

As the dad of three boys, I have cleaned every bodily fluid they possess off their clothing at one point or another, many times in a gas station sink on a road trip. But it had obviously been a while, because it wasn’t until Number Three gagged on the first tray of purple goop that I realized what the bag was really for.

They were expecting him to throw up. Which he did. A lot.  

He handled it like a trooper, and the good news? When you throw up at our orthodontist’s office you get a free T-shirt and a Capri Sun!

Back in the chair a few weeks later and it was time to install the device. Hmm… You’re really going to fit all that stuff into his mouth? OK…

Ten minutes later and they were all done. He opened his mouth for me to see and it looked like he had two beer pop tabs stuck to the back of his front teeth.

Yes, that’s the fence to keep his tongue from pushing on those teeth.

Back behind that, attached to his upper teeth in four places, he had what looked like a silver Matchbox Car-sized Transformer robot at the roof of his mouth, doing the ninja hands-and-feet-pressing-against-the-walls-hiding-on-the-ceiling thing.

That’s the expander.

Um, how is he supposed to eat with all this stuff in his mouth? Or swallow? Or breathe?

Yes, some food will get suck up under there from time to time. It’s best to dislodge it using water.

I’m not sure we can fit any water into his mouth right now… OK, buddy. You ready to go?

“I canff geeff ma frommen.”

Yeah, he’s going to be a little lisp-y for a while. The more talking and reading out loud he does, the better it will get.

A little lisp-y? That sounded like he was speaking Spanish with a whole potato in his mouff. I’m not even sure where he’s keeping his tongue. There’s no room for it anymore.

See you in a month.

Can’t wait. OK, buddy, let’s roll. You hungry?

“Freff a butter splimm.”

You bet. Let’s go get you a piece of paper and a pencil.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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