Last October, during what should have been a routine dental checkup and cleaning for Miles , I was asked for permission to do a full-scan mouth x-ray as well. The dentist seemed concerned, so I consented. A few minutes later he brought me over to the lightbox to look at the film. He said “I hope you don’t have a daughter with a wedding to pay for someday,” then pointed at the image:
I said “I’m no dentist, but I’m pretty sure teeth aren’t supposed to grow three deep on top, or parallel to the jawline on the bottom â€” unless you’re a shark.” That was indeed the problem: Miles wasn’t a shark, but he had a mouthful of overcrowded teeth with nowhere to go.
He had four teeth extracted â€” two on top, two on the bottom â€” in the hope that the extra space would allow the new teeth to come in at the proper angle. Then it was time to visit the orthodontist, who took more x-rays, bite impressions, and photos. His assessment, “I’ve seen worse,” was somewhat comforting. Miles was in for a braces-filled adolescence, just as his mom and dad had endured.
Today two appliances were installed: a retaining wire on his lower jaw to keep the remaining teeth in position, and a palate spreader on his upper jaw. Orthodontia has advanced significantly in the 30-plus years that have elapsed since my experience, but the basic tools still retain (heh) that medieval torture vibe:
The palate spreader was a new one to me. You can barely make it out in the photo, but there’s a threaded axle running through the center of the device. Every day, using a special “key,” I have to give the axle a quarter turn, which widens the spreader by half a millimeter or so. I have to do this for 28 days, which by my calculations means his palate will have been pushed open an entire centimeter. Now is the time to do it, while Miles’ palate is still soft and unfused, but I know it must hurt.
He has to learn a new way to swallow, eat, and talk now that there’s a hunk of metal at the roof of his mouth. Dinner tonight, after attempting mac and cheese, was Jell-O. I know that he will get used to it quickly, that’s what kids do. I just hope he doesn’t resent that I’m the guy making his mouth hurt every day.