Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Poor Chris got my small mouth

Back he went to the orthodontist today for another round of braces. At his last checkup, the orthodontist apparently peered into his mouth, wondering out loud how Chris ended up with the mouth he did. (Small mouth, too many teeth.) I always thought that my screwed-up mouth was the result of my cleft lip and palate, but now I'm wondering how much plain heredity contributed.

Not only did Chris get his braces back on again today, but Mike also scheduled him for an eye doctor check-up, at which he had to have his eyes dilated (which he hates). Mike's theory was Chris could get two things over with in one day. (I don't think I would have taken the same approach...but Mike's never had braces either.) I told him to look on the bright side--it could have been worse--Mike could have scheduled him for his twice-yearly blood draw on the same day!

By the time I was 19, I had experienced several years of head gear, braces, and retainers, all done at the OHSU dental school by orthodontic students. The plus side was that it was all gratis, because of my unique dental condition. I was a fascinating case; in fact, I appeared on television as a small child because I was such an interesting case study (with my cleft lip and palate and sparkling personality--ha!).

Before all the orthodontia, I wore an appliance called an "obturator" on my palate to help me speak better. I had multiple surgeries by the time I was in my mid-teens, to correct both the cleft lip and palate. At age 15, the obturator was finally gone forever, but the braces continued for many more years.

The positive memories were driving up Terwilliger hill past the totem pole (as I said in my last post, I like totem poles!) with my mom to my many appointments (I also visited OHSU, the "Crippled Children's Center" as it was called at the time, for appointments with my cleft palate doctor, who I adored.) The bad memories of orthodontia were the HOURS I spent in the chair having the orthodontic students painstakingly work on my mouth, followed by the supervision and inspection from the obnoxious, arrogant orthodontics professor.

Between all the braces I had numerous teeth pulled, and a bridge built for the gap caused by a hole in my gums (caused by the cleft lip). Then after the orthodontia I had jaw surgery when I was 19, which had to be repeated the following year because it didn't take the first time.

The worst things about having your jaw wired shut for 6 weeks? Well on second thought I won't tell you the worst thing because it is too disgusting for me to type. But the second-worst thing was arriving home from the hospital and discovering that my sister had just made my very favorite cookies, and I couldn't eat them!! (Yes, Nadine, I will never let you forget that transgression!) :)

After all those years of work on my mouth, my teeth have moved and they are certainly not perfect. Is it possible to have a completely perfect mouth and have it stay that way?

The orthodontist asked Mike if we wanted to aim for perfection with Chris' mouth. If we did, he would have to have surgery. We are firmly against that. My jaw surgery was done to correct an overbite and prevent jaw problems in the future. Chris doesn't have those issues. As it is, we've already spent over $3,000 on orthodontic work and have $4,500 more to spend. If we wanted perfection, who knows how much it would cost. And in the UK, hardly anyone gets braces. They live with imperfect teeth. I think Mike is puzzled by this whole American orthodontic obsession with perfection anyway.

The senior orthodontist drives a yellow porsche. Think Chris' braces will pay for his next one?

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