I need a high five, a pat on the back and maybe even a hallelujah because it’s been six long years and finally all my kids are out of braces! Talk about a journey, because although I’ve been dealing with metal mouths for a half dozen years, the ortho appointments started pretty much post womb.
My husband and I knew our son would be orthodontia bound as soon as his first tooth came in. I remember both of us staring at it and almost simultaneously saying, “Yep, he’s going to need braces.” After that it was years of “watch trips” to the orthodontist as we waited for his “lazy” baby teeth to give up their tenacious grip on the gum line and finally wave the white flag of surrender to the permanent teeth.
Once those bad boys came in, it was a gruesome trip to the oral surgeon to have some of the permanent teeth sacrificed to eliminate crowding in his mouth. The whole thing felt like a bloody urban renewal project. It was a relief when he could get braces. His teeth must have felt the same way because after a couple of years he had a killer smile.
Now my daughter was another story altogether. Her teeth were perfect. Seriously, she could have been a mouth model for an American Girl doll. Those white, straight, even teeth of hers gave me mom mojo. When other parents would talk about their kids needing braces I would patiently wait for what I knew was coming my way — adulation. Without fail the conversation would turn to my child’s flawless mouth.
Her incisors, those four front teeth that are basically the gatekeepers to your smile, were showstoppers. For a while there I got so wrapped up in my daughter’s “toothage” that I feared it was defining me. In my defense, how could it not? When the subject of your child’s wonder teeth dominates your third grade parent-teacher conference, it jolts your mom pride into the danger zone.
Then the unthinkable happened. My son’s orthodontist took one look at my daughter’s mouth and dared to inform me that she would need braces! Was this man blind? Did I need to call some ortho hotline or Dateline and report him for practicing without the gift of sight? I was furious and I fought back. I regaled a man with more than a decade of dental and orthodontic school with my tales of everyone, even strangers at Target, stopping to comment on my child’s stellar teeth.
He — because I’m sure they must have a class in dental school or some kind of continuing ed course on how to deal with irrational parents — talked me down and every so slowly explained that it was her bite that was the concern and that once you got past those four front teeth, things weren’t that great back there. I quickly acquiesced mainly because he has a very soothing voice and I was educated in how not fixing a bite creates a whole host of lifelong problems. Basically he had me at TMJ.
Fast forward, and now I’m a member in good standing of the “Retainer Nagging Club.” This club is open to parents who have spent thousands of dollars on their children’s mouths and now are hell- bent to make sure those teeth don’t stray back to pre-braces behavior. (No snaggle tooth on my watch, people.) The retainer is a “until death do you part” device that unless worn every single night of your child’s life will result in their teeth getting a sweet taste of non-appliance freedom and going rogue.
I have even gone so far as to make my children sign a document stating that if they do not wear their retainer and I see any teeth tomfoolery going on they must reimburse my husband and me for the full price of their braces. And because I’m not a chump, the reimbursable price will factor in what that money could have been doing if placed not in their mouths but a retirement account earning a very conservative 5 percent interest rate. I also had the document notarized just to make sure it’s legally binding.
As a quick sidebar: If the document would not stand up in court please don’t email me and tell me. I need my kids to believe I could indeed sue them and win. Wait, could I also sue them for pain and suffering? Hmm, there’s a thought. Go ahead and feel free to let me know if that would work. I need more threats in my mom arsenal.
Meanwhile, if you’re a parent with a child out of braces feel free to join the club. We’re easy to find. Just listen for our battle cry. “Where’s your retainer?” “Did you lose your retainer?” “You better be wearing your retainer!” “Don’t forget your retainer!”