My older two had their first visit to the orthodontist this week, at the recommendation of our dentist. I thought it was a bit early – the Captain will be 12 next week, and Gal Smiley is only 10 1/2 – but both had alarming-looking sideways teeth on their recent x-rays so we went for the consultation.

Here’s the conversation I had with a nervous Gal Smiley the night before:

Her: What’s going to happen there?

Me: Nothing scary. They will be just looking at your teeth and taking some measurements. At most, they might ask for new x-rays.

Her: Will they be pulling out my teeth?

Me: Definitely not. Even if that’s what he thinks is required, he won’t do that tomorrow. He will give us all the information and we will have time to think about what we want to do.

Her: Do I have to get braces?

Me: We don’t know, but if so, likely not for a while, because you are very young still and you have lots of baby teeth left. We will consider the options, and take our time thinking it over.

So, that was the plan, anyway. Actual events: we went, there were measurements and discussion and a lot of tut-tuts, and next thing you know I’m making an appointment two weeks out for her to have an appliance put in. GAH.

Lest you think the orthodonist is some sort of money-grabbing charlatan, I actually really liked him a lot, and he was very cool about the Captain, saying he just needs time for his mouth to get bigger and there’s no rush and his bite is fine for the moment, so let’s just let him grow a bit and we’ll see.

(Except for the fact that he does need one baby tooth pulled, because the molar above it is breaking loose out the side of his gum, which is SO HORRIFYING TO ME I cannot even type it without squirming, but our dentist can do the tooth pulling in 10 minutes some morning next week, although we may have to literally drag the Nervous Nelly Captain kicking and screaming into the chair to make it happen.)

But for Gal Smiley, her upper palate is smaller than the lower, and she is compensating for the mismatch by shifting her lower jaw to one side, resulting in a noticeable shift in her face that will cause weird jaw growth that is “easy” to fix now, but hard to fix later on, so yes, now it is. She has to have this device like a metal butterfly put into her upper mouth that we will expand with the turn of a key once a day for a month, then she has to keep it in for another six months to set the bone.

I’m trying to be Super! Upbeat! about the whole thing, and not just because I don’t want to seem like the Biggest Lying Mother That Ever Lied after promising her an ortho appointment with little ongoing impact. Also, I didn’t have braces and neither did Sir Monkeypants, so as far as we know, braces are just pretty little things that make your mouth pleasantly sparkly for a year or so. It COULD be true, right?

But the more I think about it, the more I worry – WILL it hurt? Will she drool a lot? Will she talk funny with it in? Will it stop her from eating her favourite foods? Will it stop her from eating altogether? Is it worth it?

Any advice would be welcome.

11 thoughts on “Orthodontics

  1. I don’t have advice, but I have oodles of empathy.

    The Things both need braces. Our Dentist wants to do the work. I really like him, too, but is it crazy to go to a Dentist when an Orthodontist is the person trained in this? I feel conflicted.

    I guess I need advice too!

  2. I had a butterfly appliance thing but it was to expand both my upper and lower jaw. I had to wear it 24/7 (except for eating) for 6 years. With it in, I was not able to move my jaw (like I COULD, but the appliance would shift around and choke me…so I didn’t). I had to learn to talk intelligibly without moving my jaw. It didn’t take long, and then it was fine.

    It did hurt…after all they’re literally pushing bones around. But it wasn’t outrageous. At least that’s my recollection from 30 years later.

    I got the appliance when I was 8 years old. I had extremely bucked front teeth and my parents (and dentist) were concerned that I’d fall and break off my front teeth. So we had to make room for them in my mouth.

    Only you know your kid: unlike with braces the appliance isn’t glued to the teeth, so you’ll be relying on her not to remove it when you’re not there. The key is consistency in wearing it…otherwise you’ll just prolong the pain.

    I don’t think I drooled with it during the day but possibly I did when asleep. Since it was taken out to eat I could eat anything I wanted…but my teeth ached when we were actively cranking it open so I didn’t really want to eat the hard/chewy stuff.

    The key to remember is that LOTS of kids will need this. Your kid will not be “alone” or a freak. If she’s early in her group of friends, it’s just one thing that makes her “more grown up”…which is never a bad thing for your cred’ when you’re a kid.

    If you’re looking for ways to make this acceptable to her: go for the “it’s like a teenager thing. You’ll seem all sophisticated. And, it’ll make you look better in the long run. And, it will save you from decades of headaches from misusing your jaw joint and muscle.”

    Good luck.

  3. My eldest had that palate-expanding thing; it was attached (to some metal bands around a few of the teeth, if I remember right), not removable like Moria’s was. He didn’t wear it as long, either; I don’t remember how long, but something like 6-18 months. (It was continuous with his braces next and retainer after that, so it’s hard to remember now which part took how long.)

    I was super stressed and grossed out about turning the key, and the angle is awkward and the visibility is poor and I was uncertain I was doing it right—but then I learned how and it was more of a big deal just to remember to do it. He got used to it quickly. I don’t remember him having any trouble with it. Maybe he took ibuprofen at first. He might have drooled during his sleep, but definitely not during the day. It was probably a little difficult to talk around at first, but the adjustment was quick. Our orthodontist tries to “harness the natural growth”—that is, she tries to put it in when the jaw is expanding ANYWAY with growth, so that it will hurt less and work better/faster; it sounds like your orthodontist is doing the same.

    I remember it wasn’t very noticeable, but that what I COULD see looked kind of COOL!

  4. Re: braces – it seems like these days if you DON’T have braces you’re an outcast – the kids think they’re cool, they get to choose the color of the loops, etc. Seems like it’s not a big deal. So if that’s all they’re facing, probably nothing to worry about (apart from the cost!).

    The appliance, on the other hand – I think you will need to step gingerly with this one. Most kids get their braces around the same time, but I’m assuming the appliance is coming much earlier (plus it’s *different*), so there will definitely be some social issues to deal with. And at that age it’s still not something you can justify (to your child) as an investment that will pay off down the road. Or maybe you can – depends on the kid, and the age, I guess. But I think you’re right not to just shrug this off.

  5. We have been told that braces are given to kids earlier today than they were when we were kids (I just had a retainer, not the attached appliances). For reasons you explained above for your daughter….my kids are similar in age as yours, and my boy who will be 10 next week has the straightest, nicest teeth I’ve ever seen without any orthodontic interference. Will it stay that way? I do not know bec everything I know about teeth went out the window when he lost another baby tooth… (I didn’t even know he still HAD baby teeth)…

    The chicka however has a mouth full of teeth or holes in varying sizes, plus several cavities, and a yellow tinge. Her new adult teeth that are growing are coming in in every direction, so I’m just dreading her dentist appointement in two weeks…she’s only 7!

    So I have no advice other than maybe change the wording. To “pull” a tooth sounds painful no matter which way you spin it…’remove’ a tooth ‘with nice medicine’ that will ‘make you feel nothing’ has a nicer sound to it.

    Or something…

    Good luck! I will be tuning in to the update in weeks to come. 🙂

  6. We had a similar experience last week. Thought we were just going in for her assessment and came out with a bill/payment schedule and appointments for Abby to have molds made of her teeth this week and braces put on the top teeth next week. We ended up calling to put off the appointment after we got home. The total cost for her braces is going to be $6000 and it was all moving just a bit too quickly for us financially. We have some coverage through Mike’s benefits, but we weren’t certain about the process for reimbursement and it’s just a lot to take in for us and her. My best friend’s son just did the metal butterfly thing before getting his braces. He said it was uncomfortable as well as an adjustment to get used to, but not too horrible overall.

  7. I had a retainer for a few years, expanding with a key thing I don’t remember how often. It took me a few days to figure out how to talk properly and stop drooling, and when I had to expand it, it ached a bit, but overall fine.

  8. I’m pretty sure we’ll be dealing with this soon, too, as DD has a couple of teeth coming in at a rather odd angle, plus she has a bit of an overbite (just like I did). She’s been asking me a lot about how braces feel. Do they hurt? And the crazy thing is that I don’t remember a whole lot about it. I remember they were uncomfortable and a bit annoying, but I don’t have any strong memories of them being painful…so that’s probably a good thing, yes?

    1. Braces are not painful so much as they are annoying – food gets stuck in them all the time, flossing is a pain, occasionally they irritate the inside of your mouth, etc. Sometimes when you get an “adjustment” there’s a mild amount of discomfort for a day or so, but it’s really not that bad. My one recommendation: stay away from cantaloupe.

      BTW check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIa9GNQA9sw

  9. I need to make a consult for orthodontia for my oldest – he’s 11 but has lost all his baby teeth (I think, anyway) and we were waiting to see if those adult teeth would push things together. He’s got gappy teeth but his bite is good, so we might be able to hold off for a little while.

Comments are closed.