Monday, July 20, 2009

Say Cheese!

Today my youngest daughter (age 7) had all of her wildest dreams come true: she got braces. She was thrilled- no, beyond thrilled. So excited, in fact that the Orthodontist had troubles getting her to sit still enough to examine her teeth.

Apparently, my gene pool is more far-reaching than I had once realized. Originally I thought that the "overcrowding" teeth problem was going to be exclusive to my middle daughter. But, no such luck.

I sighed heavily as they posted the x-ray up on the big screen in the office. Even my middle daughter looked at the picture of my youngest daughter's teeth and said, "Oh my gosh, where are all those teeth going to go?" I can't be sure, but I think I saw a gleam in the Orthodontist's eye.

Don't get me wrong- they have worked virtual miracles on my son and middle daughter's teeth. Unquestionably, their teeth look absolutely beautiful.

But, the cost... Wow.

This was, as so many things are, NOT in the "Parent Brochure." (At least not in the one I was given.) I got the brochure that showed happy children running across fields, laughing and tugging a balloon behind them. Mine showed the young man with a graduation cap and gown hugging his parents appreciatively. I am supposing that my insert with all the "fine print" was lost in the mail.

Because I never got the memo about braces costing as much as a nice used car. I never knew that "extra curricular" activities (read: sports, music, etc.) could cost as much as a house payment each month, and that we would have to rent out a special place next to the gym/music store so that we had somewhere to sleep after long practices. But, I digress...

My daughter was absolutely thrilled as the technician carefully applied tiny blobs of glue onto her teeth, and then placed little silver brackets on each glue blob. She even got to pick the colors of her rubber bands: electric blue and ocean blue.

(As a side note, all of the technicians are quite young. I thought maybe it was because of the energy they brought with them. Now I realize that it is because they are working on things that are the size of a grain of rice. The older techs just can't see what they are supposed to be doing anymore!)

When my daughter hopped out her chair and smiled, I snapped pictures with my cell phone and sent them to everyone I knew and posted them on FaceBook, with a tag that said, "Look at our summer cruise sailing away without us..."

My little one got a whole goodie bag full of "teeth stuff" and a coupon to Baskin Robbins. She skipped happily out of the office. I was left trying to keep down my lunch while attending to the bill.

As we settled into the car to go home, my daughter asked, "How long do I wear these?"

"I don't know, sweetie," I said. "The Orthodontist said this was your first phase. Then when all your baby teeth are gone, they will get you ready for your second phase (whose price is not included in the first phase, I might add). So, probably this time about a year and a half."

"Well, they hurt," she whined. "I don't want them any more."

"I'm sorry, darlin'," I said, sympathetically.

How many times in life have I wanted something so badly, only to discover it was not anything like I thought it would be? Sometimes it's beyond my expectations. Sometimes it is disappointing beyond words.

I expect that she will have some of the initial aches/pains/discomfort of the new braces subside in a few days. Then is when the real hike begins: Eighteen months of tightening, moving, deprivation of gum, hard candies and other favorite treats, having to brush teeth around brackets and wires and generally feeling like your whole mouth is too full all the time.

I trust that in the end, she will have a beautiful smile. I know I can't count on it, but in my dreams the fact that we've provided braces for our children will give them confidence, better oral hygiene and the ability to get a better job.

Regardless, I know one thing for sure: there will be NO activities that could knock out teeth in our house! And they better smile big in every single picture for the rest of their lives!

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