by Pierre Le Roux
The end is nigh. For my braces that is! After sixteen months of unadulterated torment the medieval torture devices from hell will be ripped out of my mouth ending a phase in my life that I will not look back on fondly. It all started last year when I learned with great distress that I was experiencing an “orthodontic relapse”: A fancy medical/dental term meaning “your teeth are being bitches and started to move again”. For someone who has never had a cavity in my life, visits the dentist 3 times a year for checkups and teeth cleaning, brushes religiously and flosses as if my life depends on it, the prospect of having to get braces again, and all that goes along with it, terrified me. With only a few days until I will be braces free, I decided to reflect back on some of the high lights and low lights of my orthodontic experience.
Ever heard of Inter-dental scraping? No? It’s the process by which the orthodontist (or her assistant) takes a micro file and scrapes between your teeth to make space or to aesthetically correct the shape of your teeth. This is one of the procedures I had to endure on 5 separate occasions and had me squirming on the dentist chair, replicating an epileptic seizure while drenched in sweat and experiencing a cataclysmic collision of nerve endings in my head due to being physically grossed out by the sensation of having my teeth filed/sanded down. It’s barbaric. It’s unpleasant. It’s something I hope to God I would never ever have to go through again for as long as I life. I am convinced that I now suffer from a mild case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of it. Every time I see a nail file or sandpaper (which is surprisingly often) I experience I mild panic attack and have to resist the urge to cover my mouth and scream into my sweaty hands.
For the most part I managed to cope relatively well with the braces and not once, during the last sixteen months, did I break any of the wires or brackets. Something that my orthodontist told me eight months ago is quite a feat. However, I think it is important to add here that during that same consultation she also told me that the factory which manufactures my porcelain brackets was destroyed during the earthquake in Japan. Consequently, if I were to break any of the porcelain brackets they would have to be replaced with the normal metal ones and that would have looked “peculiar” aka fucking UGLY! Needless to say since she shared that little nuclear charged piece of information with me I lived in a constant state of fear of breaking my porcelain brackets which dramatically changing my eating habits. This leads me to my next orthodontic challenge – food.
As anyone who has ever had braces will tell you, eating is a problem! The first couple of months the natural human act of eating become a mathematical and sometimes geometric challenge. But after a couple of faux pas (i.e. attending meetings with food stuck in my braces or going through customs at the airport in a foreign country with a salad leaf dangling off my front tooth) I learned to manage. At this stage I can eat pretty much anything provided I have a knife and fork, and it’s all very civilized. The only thing that still tends to rankle my tits is when food gets lodged in parts of my braces that not even the Holy Ghost can reach never mind dislodge. And a day later it decides to come loose and you have the unpleasant surprise of re-tasting yesterday’s breakfast. All though food is major part of braces hell the other more noticeable drawback is how it affects your speech.
You see, with braces I almost had to learn to talk again. The constant obstacle course of wires and pointy metal and porcelain hurdles in your mouth requires some getting used to and it, at times, makes talking a intricate balancing act of trying to sound normal and accepting you sound like a freak. Many a time I have heard myself either sounding drunk or talking with a slur (usually after my braces got adjusted) or sounding mentally retarded. Usually this artificial speech impediment is at its worst when you are speaking to important people or when taking phone calls from people who only have your voice as reference to draw an opinion of you. I simply cannot wait to again be able to talk like a normal person and to be able to move on from sounding like the drunken stuttering bionic mouth man and to be able to annunciate. I remember being able to annunciate and I fucking miss it! Having your lips or mouth cheeks caught on your wires while speaking to strangers not only make you sound stupid but makes you look ridiculous too. And I will not miss any of it!
The one thing I have missed the most during the last sixteen months is flossing. Sure they make special dental floss for people with braces but you need a PhD to be able to use it and the patience of a Ninja. I found myself many an evening on the bathroom floor crying like an emotionally disturb child with dental floss hanging from my mouth. I also had to cut myself free from this “special” dental floss with a pair of scissors which is not only degrading and dangerous but also frightening as hell. There is nothing scarier than the irrational realization that you may have inadvertently permanently entangled dental floss in your braces and, that the possibility exists that the fire department might have to pry the braces off your teeth with the Jaws of Life or you may joke to death in your sleep. Yes, these are things that go through your mind in these types of orthodontic crises. Not only do you feel terribly ashamed and scared but you also tend to momentarily lose your mind. This happened often.
Sure, looking back at the last sixteen months of my orthodontic experience I cannot find any high lights only low lights which are plentiful. The only high light I imagine will be once the braces come off and I am free at last. I also did not lose all those weight I imagined I would and which I firmly convinced myself would be the upside of having braces. I have learned that it is a lie you tell yourself and then tend to spread by telling other potential orthodontic victims. But in the end, I guess, the last sixteen months’ suffering was not in vain. My teeth have been restored to their former symmetrical splendor. My dental health has never been better and in a couple of days I will be able to floss again without having the fire department’s number on speed dial. My orthodontic nightmare is almost over and I am counting the minutes to my freedom. My freedom and perfect teeth, that is!
Till next time.