Thursday, July 19, 2012

Past Deadline: The Trouble with Giant Teeth

When babies grow teeth, it’s a big deal in many ways. It opens the door to changes in diet, as in you can immediately introduce things like steak, hard candies and whole apples to your toddler. Don’t forget to provide steak knives on their high chair trays. (Sarcasm alert!)

Good mothers dutifully record the arrival of baby teeth in special books, and also make note of their departure. Mediocre mothers do so for the first child for a while, remember to do so occasionally for the second child, and casually wonder what the Tooth Fairy could possibly do with all those teeth she collects. Jewellery? Castles in the sky? Buttons? Does she...uh...keep them forever?

Anyway, this mediocre mother watched with interest (and occasionally recorded) as Boychild’s adult teeth started to emerge. It was a bit like looking in a mirror 30 years ago.

“Groom-boy,” I said one night as the children sweetly slumbered or read with flashlights or plotted their next bedtime-stalling tactic, “Boychild’s teeth are too big for his face. Mark my words, there will be trouble.” Or something like that.

Sure enough, the dentist confirmed my suspicion. Some baby teeth were hauled out to make room for adult ones and, before long, a referral to the orthodontist was made.

Long story short, Boychild will be getting braces, and soon. One of the most memorable comments by the orthodontist was about one particular adult tooth that is ready to bust through and line up with all the others. It’s 7 millimetres wide, and there is a 2-mm space for it.


One look at his X-ray demonstrates the calamity of teeth just waiting to jostle into line. Without braces our Guy Smiley would have teeth on top of teeth. This crowding could lead to cavities, not to mention bite problems and, possibly, a smile phobia.

When it was first suggested that Boychild might need braces or appliances, he was...shall we say...less than overjoyed. I explained how I had to wear appliances to expand my jaw when I was a kid to make room for my giant chompers and how it really wasn’t so bad. He is, of course, thrilled to inherit my teeth. I expect he will soon be thanking me for the wonky ankles, too.

Anyway, once we got to the orthodontist’s and she explained what would happen and he saw how happy the smiley children with braces were in the pictures, he was okay with the concept.

In a helpful turn of events, his six-year-old sister thinks it is the ultimate in coolness and awesomeness that big bro is getting braces. In fact (don’t tell the orthodontist) she has braces envy and hopes to someday have them, too. (Get a job, Girlchild, then we’ll talk.)

So I have been spending time in the orthodontist’s waiting room, where there is an interesting collection of vintage circus artifacts on display. There are giant antique-framed black and white photographs of circuses from pre-World War II, along with a variety of artifacts under glass or behind ropes.

Have you read the book or seen the movie Water for Elephants? The story is set during the Great Depression and centres around a travelling circus. In those days the circus moved from place to place by train, and part of the story involves something called “redlighting.”

See, the unsavoury circus owner would have certain workers thrown off the train in the middle of the night (redlight them) rather than pay them.

I couldn’t help but wonder about the vintage circus motif in that waiting room as I pondered our new braces expense – were they sending a subtle message about prompt payment?


Nah...I just have an overactive imagination, right?

Published in The Perth Courier, July 12/12

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