By Kelly Day–
Merry Christmas and an Unhappy New Mouth
When I was little, I would see my older nieces sporting teenage torture devices, or braces as they shall from now on be called, and found them to be just the absolute coolest things I’d ever seen. At night when Mama wasn’t looking and I was pretending to brush and floss, I’d stare at my train wreck of a mouth and dream of the day silver rods would glisten upon my pearly yellows. Never mind the end result, just give me the metal. And then I turned 12.
Seventh grade. Wow. My class no longer ranked top of the school, so I walked in the shadows of the eighth-graders. I was a short, brown-eyed, brown-haired Latina, but everyone called me Asian (they still do). My glasses partially helped my deteriorating eyes and somehow my teeth were capable of chewing my food. Looking back, I wonder, how on earth did they get so incredibly crooked?
My eye teeth refused to descend, instead perching like vultures towards the roof of my mouth, as they had with the rest of my family. My bottom teeth formed two rows, a characteristic found in sharks. My mouth was too tiny for all of my teeth so the ones that couldn’t fit shoved all the others out of place before deciding they didn’t want to come down anyway. Oh yeah, I was pretty darn screwed up.
Early December we got the news; I would be getting braces the day before school came back from Christmas break. I was ecstatic; finally, I would join the ranks of my forefathers and bare the symbol of cursed family eye teeth! Happy day! And then we got to the dentist.
The experience was so awful I have blocked it from my memory, though I do recall a vague feeling of discomfort and pain. I suppose it wouldn’t have been so bad if they hadn’t messed up. Then messed up again. And again. But hey, what can you expect from newbies?
That fateful day I met the woman I would spend the next almost three years of my life getting to know, yet through every conversation, my mouth would be to open and full to speak. Her name was Selma. She, like 56 percent of San Antonio, was Hispanic. And also, like 66 percent of the New World, was somewhat overweight.
She had a kind of permanent pink around her nose and cheeks, giving her a healthy, almost cheery look. Her Roman nose marked the end of a pathway started by her widow’s peak, though she has three children and a husband. She was a sweetheart. Always inquiring about my hobbies, things I had planned-my family, school, summer, and of course, my teeth.
When we first smoked the peace pipe, I was laying on a horizontal chair of legal torture and she had her hands in my mouth, dabbing blue glue along the fronts of my teeth. At that point I was probably still smiling. She smirked. When Dr. Thatcher came in, as tall and slim as a retired model, with her entourage of spectators in gloved hands and funky tools, I almost shook with excitement.
“Are you ready?,” she asked.
“Uhg-Hruh!,” I replied as Selma still had her hands in my mouth.
After the procedure began, I found out that it was Selma who was destined to brace me. This is where things go out of focus. Somewhere between them shouting to bite harder, open wider, and stop biting me, as well as Daddy’s iPod blasting my ears, they must have gotten the darn things on, which is apparently no small feat, otherwise there wouldn’t have been as many complications.
When they discovered one eye tooth, though provided plenty of space, had chosen to not come in or even break the gum, it was decided the gum had to be lasered open. That was about as fun as it sounds.
After two failed attempts, they finally chopped the wire down to the correct size, though my gums bled out from all of the poking and jabbing. After everything was set in place, I thought nothing more could happen. But oh, something more always does. To secure a wire, they place colored bands around each bracket.
To accomplish this at home, one only needs a pair of tweezers to stretch the band over said bracket. In dentistry, they require a small hand-held machine which holds the band in place, while they push a button which thrusts the band around the bracket, thus producing the desired result. It feels like they’re breaking your teeth in half. They put a finger against the back of your teeth so that doesn’t happen. Before this nightmare started, I had a brief moment of peace, where they awakened me from my tears to ask which color I wanted. Baby pink, please.
After it was all over, I was asked if I liked them.
“Yeah,” I said, gazing into the mirror. “They’re great.”
“Good,” chuckled Dr. Thatcher. “Because sweetie, you’ll have those for another two years.”
Mama loaded me up with Advil (liquid gels work the best I have discovered, taken both before and after appointments, and an Advil PM before bed) and we stopped by the next lot to pick up Sonic. I had chicken tenders. I believe it was a good meal, though it was my only solid one for the next week. I thought all was good considering that I wasn’t talking funny and only drooling slightly. Then I woke up the next day.
As I laid in bed, mouth pulsing, the thought of eating a hard, hot pop-tart then purposely applying pressure with a toothbrush sounding utterly impossible, Dr Thatcher’s words ran through my head, “you’ll have those for another two years…”
Kelly Elizabeth Day is a sophomore at Smithson Valley High School in Comal Independent School District.