May 22, 2024
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May 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

So it looks like one of my kids is getting braces.

This is terrifying to me, because I’ve never had braces myself. When I was growing up, I did have friends who had braces, for what seemed like 15 years apiece, and they were always saying things like, “Oh, I can’t eat popcorn,” and, “I have to go back to get my braces tightened.” And I was always like, “Why are they getting loose?”

One of my friends did try to explain it to me, though. I think. He opened his mouth, and he pointed a finger that was bigger than any one of his teeth at a little thing on one tooth, and he said, “Rook. Chee chich? Ahnga hng hara hun.”

And I said, “What am I looking at?”

And he said, “You didn’t see that thing?”

And I said, “No.”

And he said, “It’s right over here. I’m cucking it wif my congue.”

His tongue was even bigger than his finger.

So I said, “Yeah!” just to move the conversation along, because at that point I was pretty uncomfortable and just wanted it to be over.

And I didn’t think it would ever come up. I wasn’t planning on ever getting braces, and I didn’t think I’d ever have a kid who needed braces. I specifically married a woman who’d never had braces either. This wasn’t on my list of shidduch requirements, but it was something I was happy to find out once we were engaged.

“Wait, you never had braces either? Great! And we both like the same type of orange juice!”

So I was kind of hoping that none of our kids would have braces, because this kind of thing is genetic, right? If one of my kids gets athlete’s foot, I say, “I kind of knew this was going to happen.”

But I didn’t think he’d need braces, because when you look at him, you don’t see it. For most people who get braces, you can see that their teeth aren’t straight. This might not seem like a medical problem, but the dentists are very OCD about this. They’re like, “If I have to clean these teeth every six months, I want them all to be in a row.” You kind of feel like you’re getting the braces more for the dentist than for yourself. Well, that and shidduchim.

But I get it. The dentist is there to clean your mouth, and it’s very frustrating that he can’t straighten up in there. Imagine you were cleaning your living room, but you had to leave all the clutter lying where it is. Like there’s a book on the floor, and you have to vacuum around the book. Like it’s nailed down. You use the little attachment piece to clean the dust off the top of the book, and then you use the corner piece to clean around the book, but in the meantime, underneath the book, the floor is still dirty. The dirt isn’t bothered by the book. Only you are. So you’d definitely want a qualified person with the proper tools to come in and clean up the book, or at least make it parallel to the couch.

My son’s teeth look fine, though. But when you look at the X-ray, there are two teeth inside his gums—over his top two front teeth—that are growing toward each other. Like they’re not sure where to go. They’re like, “I don’t know—toward each other maybe? Definitely not down.” They’re entirely lost. Which makes no sense. I drop anything, it goes down. His teeth can’t figure out that they should grow down?

“Are you sure? But we’re top teeth!”

So the dentist directed us to an orthodontist’s office that is attached to their practice and accepted by our insurance, the only major downside being that it’s in the sketchy part of a nearby town and we have to pay for parking. It’s also the first dental office I’ve ever been to where they call you into one big examination room that has seven dental chairs in a row. It kind of reminded me of a mechanic’s garage; you have a bunch of kids on lifts at various levels, and you hear the sounds of pressure wrenches, and there seems to be one kid who’s on the same chair every time you show up. Like they forgot about him for a few weeks, or they’re waiting for parts to come in.

My son was seated on the third chair in, so I couldn’t really watch him and talk him through it, because the parents all sit at one end of the room, so we were all watching the kid at the end of the row. I have no idea what was happening to my kid.

But nearest I could tell, the dentist looked at my son and told me to come back for X-rays. Like this wasn’t something we could have scheduled for the first visit. Like they don’t know, before they start working on a kid, that they generally need X-rays first.

They did tell me that based on what they saw, my son would have to get braces, which is a process of two years or maybe more. Which is great news, because we just started him in an out-of-town yeshiva.

Now the truth is that although two years might seem like a long time, it really is not, once you factor in the fact that these appointments are spaced pretty far apart. I’d taken him in for his original dentist checkup at the beginning of the summer, as is our minhag, and I’d tried to schedule that first orthodontic consultation pretty early in the summer too, and they said, “OK, so we can do the X-rays right after school starts.” Really? So I said, “I can’t believe I’m saying this in July, but he’s going to have school that day.” And the receptionist said, “No, no one has school that day.” And I had to explain to her about yeshivas.

And that’s all just for an appointment to take X-rays. Which we already have.

But it’s like they say—braces are a long and painful process. And I suppose this is why. Or maybe they drag this part out so the parents can get their affairs in order before they have to start paying for braces.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published seven books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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