People are generally amazed when I tell them I take just one baby aspirin per day. The invariable comment is, "That is so wonderful for your age." Somehow that doesn’t make me feel too wonderful — just old. But then I reply that I make up for it with my teeth.
Two of my grandchildren are now in braces, and the other two will probably — no certainly — follow. It seems almost de rigueur for children to wear braces. And today children can choose the color of the braces and the rubber bands or wires that go with the braces. Parents of straight-toothed children are branded by their straight-toothed children as almost abusive because they do not arrange for their children to wear braces.
I wore braces as a teenager and both of my children did. I can’t blame it on my husband. He has straight teeth.
Besides having worn braces, I am missing a tooth. The tooth just next to the middle two teeth on the top right never grew in. My orthodontist solved the problem by filing the next tooth over to look like the missing tooth and just moving all the rest of my teeth over to fill the gap.
I remember him talking to my mother about this decision when we were in his office. He said no one would notice unless I happened to be a movie star. He was right. No one notices. But at the time, my feelings were hurt. At the tender age of 12, I thought I might have a chance at being a movie star.
Anyway, it appears that a missing tooth is hereditary. One of my daughters is missing the same tooth, only on the upper left side of her mouth. I expected the orthodontist to make the same choice with her mouth, file a tooth and move the rest over.
But no. Apparently dentistry moves on with improvements. My daughter has a bridge that fills in the gap of her missing tooth; her teeth are not crammed in to fill the gap.
Then there are the granddaughters. One of the daughters of my other daughter (not the one with the missing tooth) is missing that same tooth on both sides of the top of her mouth.
My daughter has told me it is all my fault. I guess it is, but I did not choose to have a tooth missing.
With the same tooth missing on both sides, it would seem to me the orthodontist could just move all the teeth to the middle and be done with it.
But again, no. Her braces will ensure she has spaces reserved for the missing teeth. She will wear a device with two teeth attached until she reaches 18 or 19, at which time, presumably, her teeth and jaw will have stopped growing. At that point she will receive two implants. Shoving the teeth together would mess up her bite, the dentist says. (Does that mean I have a messed-up bite? I wonder.)
This will be pretty pricey. Hence my daughter complains of my genes.
The pretty pricey part brings me to suspect that while dentistry improves, many of those improvements come at a pretty price.
No offense to you orthodontists reading this. I’m sure I would not have liked you telling me how to teach high school English.
But wearing braces is just part of my continuing fight to keep up with the deterioration of my gums and teeth. I do not have implants and I do not have to take my teeth out at night.
But, I do have one bridge and several crowns and have had several root canals. The last one took over two hours and left my cheek black and blue for over a week.
I have had gum surgery and have my teeth cleaned four times a year. I do everything the various dentists and dental hygienists tell me to do.
They praise me and tell me that my gums are hereditary.
Hereditary. If my children are blaming me now for missing teeth, what will happen when their gums go, too?
Paula Travis is a retired teacher from the Newton County School System. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.