Monday, March 21, 2011


I've never had a perfect smile. I thankfully avoided the pain and suffering of wearing braces through my childhood, but there were other tribulations to be had with my teeth.

Around the time of puberty when my face started taking shape of the adult skull it would become, my jaws started acting funny. Occasionally I would yawn and my lower jaw would painfully spasm and become stuck open. The only way to get it to close was to open it wider or wait for the excruciating seconds to pass before the muscle would calm down and I could once again close my mouth. After a few months of this, I had had enough. My mother took me to the orthodontist to get things checked out.

I can't remember what he said the issue was. What I can remember is that he prescribed a "stint," a yellow, opaque plastic retainer that I would have to wear constantly for the first three months of the treatment. The retainer only extended halfway up my teeth and was very thick and clearly noticeable. I despised wearing it. I rarely spoke for those months, not wanting to open my mouth to reveal the hideousness inside. I was already heckled for having a gigantic head. Balloon boy, they called me. They didn't need any additional ammunition. Thankfully after my sentence had elapsed I was released on probation, only having to wear it to sleep.

My teeth aren't particularly straight either. Most of my teeth are crooked, the front two being the worst. They used to be quite a bit more crooked, but thanks to some cheap dental work from a line drive to my mouth, they straightened up a bit. I was playing third base. The ball was hit hard at my feet and bounced quicker than I could react. It hit me so hard it nearly drove my teeth through my front lip, but I was only out for an inning before coach put me back in.

The worst experience with my dental history is probably when I had to have my wisdom teeth taken out. I was experiencing rather severe headaches, and after a few x-rays, the orthodontist said they were growing in against my jaw bone and needed to come out.  My sister had previously had hers removed, and I clearly remember listening to her sob uncontrollably from her bedroom for hours after her surgery, followed by sipping soup and eating jello for a week.

I was certainly not looking forward to that experience.

The surgery was pretty quick, and I don't remember any of it, including waking up. According to my dad (the one elected to take the day off and drive me to and from the office,) when they brought me out of the anesthesia, the nurses told me to be very careful and take small steps so I didn't fall. On the walk to the car, one nurse flanked my left side with my dad on the right for support. Remembering to be careful, I began taking small steps. Apparently I took the nurse too seriously, as each step was approximately one inch farther than the last. It took me 15 minutes to get to the car.

The waiting room cheered when they shut the car door.

On the way home, I remember finally becoming conscious of my surroundings, but I couldn't see. My eyes had crossed and no matter how hard I tried to focus, would not come uncrossed. My mouth was packed full of gauze, and when I tried to tell my dad that I couldn't see, or that I was hungry, he couldn't understand my muffled pleas. I had learned a little sign language that summer, so I tried some of that out as well. By little, I mean words like giraffe and keyboard. No syntax, grammar or anything that would really benefit me in this situation. Of course, my father does not know any sign language whatsoever, so my mumbled huffs and interpretive dance from the passenger seat were lost on him.

To make things worse, 25 yards from the on ramp to the interstate, the car died. I motioned to my dad that I could steer while he pushed, but considering I couldn't see straight or convey my thoughts to him, it probably was not the best idea. Thankfully a nice man came and helped dad push it off to the side of the road. My uncle (the mechanic) worked at a Ford dealership five minutes down the road, so we lucked out there.

I haven't had too many teeth-related issues since then. But occasionally, while intoxicated, I still attempt to speak in my own dialect of sign language.

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