I’ve always had a ‘thing’ about teeth; I think I got it from my mother. She was a stickler about making sure my brother and I went to the dentist twice a year when we were home and under her wing. Even when my brother went off to college and at times didn’t come home regularly, she still tried to make sure he kept up with his bi-annual appointments. Mom had to eventually give it up; even she knew she had to stop and finally cut the apron strings. Besides, she still had me at home to harass for a few more years.
I’m pretty sure my mother’s paranoia about her children having healthy teeth was exacerbated by the fact that she lost her teeth at a relatively early age from a gum disease; and she just wasn’t going to take a chance that it could happen to us.
Now, as an adult looking back, I fully appreciate her efforts having raised four kids of my own and being concerned about the health and safety of their teeth. Somehow my brother and I managed to have a mouthful of healthy teeth; not many cavities, and never even needed braces. Although, it wasn’t quite like it is today where the advances in technology in dentistry and orthodontics are so remarkable that almost every kid, and even the most paranoid of parents, can be assured that they will have picture-perfect pearly whites. The challenge, as I see it, is to still be smiling once you’re asked to pay the piper. I say this because I was one of those parents.
Even though I managed to escape the “brace-face” saga, all four of my kids had them. Heck, when Julie and Jory got braces, the orthodontist actually gave us a ‘deal’ because they were twins and getting them at the same time. Deal, schmeal…..it was still outrageous, and I know the doctor had to be seeing $$$ when we walked through the door.
I think being the first, Jenna got the worst of it. She had this night-brace/head gear apparatus that went around her head and clipped to two tiny metal hooks attached to her braces in front. That poor child must have felt like an alien for the time she had to wear it; and I don’t know why they called it a ‘night brace,’ when she had to wear it for several hours during the day too. She was a real trooper.
Joe seemed to breeze through his brace experience, and I felt happy and assured that I had done well by those four mouths; even my mom was proud of me.
I had to trust that their yearly check ups would continue once they all were on their own and away from my guidance. And unlike my mother, I would not be making phone calls to any college dorm room or house discussing dental appointments; besides, they could deal with dentists when they came home on breaks.
Freshman year in high school for Julie and Jory, and I’m at a soccer game with Joe at my side. The team is playing their arch-rival, and the atmosphere is pretty intense. Jory is playing in the midfield and Julie is the goalie for our team. In the frenzy of play between these two rival teams, the ball gets kicked downfield to our goal where Julie is poised and ready for action. Watching from the stands, I can see a hoard of bodies around the goal and Julie…some players were on the ground and some standing. Then, more standing…but not Julie. Whistles blow and someone frantically waves for me to come out onto the field. I knew this wasn’t going to be good. I knew this was going to be my worst nightmare. I knew this because I had a premonition….feeling if you will, the day before. I’ve gotten feelings before about various things, but I always chalked them up to coincidence….something I’ve learned NOT to do quite as much of since this incident.
With my heart in my throat I walked onto the field. I see coaches and players running over to Julie. I see Jory standing close by…..visibly upset; and then I see Julie....holding a towel over her mouth….and blood. Yep, my worst nightmare.
Where was the mouth guard I just bought for her the day before….because I just had this feeling. She had played all the other games without a mouth guard because the school didn’t supply them. I’m not sure Julie would have even worn it if they did; she didn’t like the feeling of it. She never got into a situation where she needed one; and honestly, I hadn’t really thought about it……until THIS game. Hence, my last minute purchase.
Where was the mouth guard? I knew very well where it was. I didn’t want to, but I HAD to see the damage. I asked Julie to take the towel away.
“I’m sorry Mom, I should have listened to you….I’m sorry!”
Oh my heart! Her beautiful two front teeth! She was kicked in the mouth….one tooth pushed back in the roof of her mouth... all but dangling by a thread, and the other one…..in her hand. I was numb. I didn’t cry; there was enough of that going on, and my mind wouldn’t let me. Now all I cared about was how much pain she was in and what I needed to do to get this fixed as quickly as possible.
With my arms tightly around her, we rode in the golf cart back to the locker room. I assured her everything would be fine. But who was going to assure me?
We called my dentist’s office and saw him as quickly as my car could take us. Julie seemed okay considering; but scared at the prospect of what this meant in her young life. I think I was in worse shape than she was inside, but I could never let her know that. All the blood that had drained from my face must have given me away when the nurse asked if I needed to sit down. No, I needed to see….I needed to see what ‘miracle’ was going to happen to make everything fine for my girl again. As I stood in that room watching the dentist put Julie’s teeth back in her mouth…and work his ‘miracle,’ Julie looked at me and bravely handled it all. I was never as proud of her as in those moments. Now, I was getting teary. We left that office with Julie sporting a fat lip; but she still had her teeth...something I wasn't so sure would be the case.
Today, some twenty-three years or so later, Julie still has her teeth...and a beautiful smile. I did a fair share of praying….and crying over those pearly whites; and now that Julie's a mom...she knows exactly how I felt. Whatever issues that may or may not come up about her teeth will be on her plate now; but I still say a little prayer now and again to the MAN upstairs….along with my thanks.
And yes, I pay a little more attention now if I happen to get ‘one of those feelings.’ ~Joy
P.S. In an age where we’ve seen tattoos on virtually every part of the body we can think of, I haven’t seen this before. Do people actually do this? Who sees them?....or do they wait until their teeth fall out to have it done? I’m amazed….and if my mother were still alive…. she’d be floored. Have any of you seen someone who has one?
Tooth Tattoos (Click on pictures to enlarge)