Monday, January 4, 2010

Brace Yourself

So I have this big gap between my front teeth. My mom said she did, too, until her wisdom teeth came in and closed it after she was married. I couldn’t wait ‘til my wisdom teeth came in! And then they didn’t. Well, they did, but just on the bottom. So I still have this big gap between my front teeth. It doesn’t bother me, really, especially since dentists have stopped trying to sell me ‘bonding’ or other cosmetic solutions. My current dentist (a veritable saint by the name of Dr. John Wittenstrom, DDS) knows I’m okay with the gap. And, anyway, he’s more focused on trying to keep me from breaking my teeth off as a result of my TMJ disorder.

Aside from the gap, my teeth are fairly straight and strong, though I do have a crossbite which, it has been theorized, is partially to blame for the aforementioned TMJ disorder. Yeah, whatever. I’m 38. I have a mouth guard. No problems.

However, my daughter inherited my crossbite and as soon as it was prudent, my dentist shipped me off to the orthodontist for a consultation. Now opinions are all over the board on this topic and I had an awful lot of snap judgments to work through.

Orthodontia is expensive and primarily cosmetic (otherwise insurance would cover more of it). My first instinct is to jump into my anti-snob snobbery and proclaim that it’s just for all the spoiled rich kids and if I shell out for this image-driven procedure I’m openly condoning the idea that teeth have to be perfect to be beautiful.

And how can I possibly consider such a procedure when forty million Americans are completely without health insurance? When there are kids who can’t get basic dental care at all? I don’t want to be a hypocrite, for Pete’s sake!

After the initial knee-jerk, I gave it a bit more rational thought. We went to the consultation and let them take all the photos and x-rays and impressions. We went back to review all the results and learn the diagnosis, the treatment and the actual cost. We talked about the dental benefits and the possibility of alleviating future TMJ issues, since Eiledon already grinds her teeth terribly. We considered the financial impact on the already hefty annual medical outlay between the four of us.

When all the smoke cleared, it just sort of made sense to go forward with it. Now, believe me when I tell you that my daughter is beautiful. More specifically, when that girl smiles, the world around her visibly brightens. I know, I can’t be objective. I’ll let you decide. In any case, I have no belief that braces are necessary for her to be radiant. But what if they do help prevent future medical issues? And what if they do make her feel more confident?

What finally got me, I think, was the concept of discipline. It’s not an area in which Eiledon excels at this point. Her ADHD makes it a Herculean effort to get her to practice her flute, drill her math facts or walk the dang dog. When we read through all the materials and they clearly laid out the requirements for consistent oral hygiene habits, forbidden foods, and just simply the regular adjustments that will be required over the next year, I thought, This could be an excellent ‘teachable moment’ for her. Or, I suppose, a ‘teachable year.’ One more opportunity for her to see direct results of her efforts.

Yeah, part of me still wants to think orthodontia is inherently evil. But luckily, I’m not responsible for making that determination on behalf of the whole human race. I just have to do the next right thing for my family. And today, I think this is it.

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