My sweet and quirky daughter, Lucy just started seventh grade this year. She's been begging for braces and hoping for breasts. If she reads this, she'll kill me.
I can't hasten the breast fairy, but I can do something about her teeth.
Tip 1: Make decisions based on things within your control.
By a happy coincidence, one of my college friends is a practicing orthodontist. Before he was Glen Bills the uber-professional teeth straightener who now has more letters behind his name than I ever will, he was my college buddy and most recently my Facebook friend
We came into his office to discuss Lucy's mouth. He talked about palatalexpanders and shifting teeth around and I got nervous. Lucy got excited. Our next step was to set an appointment for Dr. Bills' staff to take “impressions” of her teeth and to put spacers in. I didn’t think Lucy needed more space in her teeth, since she had a big gap between her front ones. Dr. Bills explained that spacers are little rubber bands squished in between her back molars to make room for the palatal expander.
Lucy said the spacers made her feel like she had a big chunk of food stuck in between her back teeth —uncomfortable and annoying (one of her favorite words). I gave her ibuprofen and hoped she wouldn't yank them out.
Tip 2: Choose your battles. Sometimes that means trusting that your pre-teen will do the right thing.
A week later, she would get her braces. I was nervous, and so was she. This is the kind of kid who gets irritated if her nails are too short or her sweater is itchy. The thought of having her cope with wiring (especially the palatal expander) in her mouth made us both anxious.
When we arrived and everyone seemed genuinely excited to see Lucy and that put us both at ease. She brushed her teeth for the third time that morning and settled in. Aubrey, one of Dr. Bills’ assistants took the impressions and prepared the brackets on her teeth. Dr. Bills placed and adjusted the brackets, then fine-tuned them to make sure everything was set for optimal straightening.
An hour and a half later, Lucy left with a metal mouth. She seemed happy and even told me how nice Dr. Bills smelled.
The next three days were pretty rough, though. She was pretty uncomfortable and couldn't bite down on anything. I stocked up on pudding, cup o' soups, and ingredients for smoothies. She alternated between sullen and sobbing to cranky and snappy. What's the difference, you ask? Not much, except neither mood is fixable by a parent.
Dr. Bills called to check on her. He said her mouth tenderness was typical and would subside gradually. He also told me to alternate ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Lucy, in her typical melodramatic was convinced I had sadistically subjected her to this suffering.
Tip 3: Have a sense of humor and learn to ride out the false accusations hurled at you.
A day later, her mouth felt fine and she was telling me all about her other friends and their braces, how they had callouses inside their cheeks and that was cool. I can already see how much straighter her teeth are and she knows that's making her even more pretty. So, straight teeth or bust — I guess it’s straight teeth for now.