Because I am incredibly behind this week, I just keep making doctors’ appointments for the kids, as it sucks up even more time and also aggravates me, which TOTALLY BOOSTS productivity. Or something.
The good news is that a found a new pediatrician. Actually, I found a new family doctor for all three of us. And I would like to love her and hug her and squish her and call her George, but I will settle for her evaluating Monkey and referring us to another doc who specializes in food sensitivites. Can you IMAGINE? A doctor who LISTENED to what I had to say, who put together the history of food allergies and very sudden onset of extreme symptoms coinciding with the “no more allergies” declaration, and who agreed that THERE IS MORE TO INVESTIGATE HERE? Craziness! Don’t let it get out; the other doctors will probably have her arrested.
And because I didn’t want Chickadee to feel left out, I decided to take her to the orthodontist.
“Call the orthodontist” has been on my to-do list all summer long, ever since Chickadee’s last dental cleaning. The dentist had peered into her tiny mouth at her gigantic, crookedy teeth and frowned slightly. “It might be time to call the orthodontist,” was the recommendation. “Sometime in the next year, for sure.” So I vowed to do it immediately, which meant that I did it several months later.
Look; I had no illusions about this. All you have to do is LOOK at her mouth to know that without intervention, she’ll end up one of those kids with an overbite into the next zip code and stray incisors poking out her lips. The writing is on the wall (or perhaps on her molars).
So I made the appointment for the one-hour evaluation session, fully planning to walk in and be told that they could put me on the handy payment system wherein just a couple hundred dollars a month for the rest of my natural lifetime would just about do it. Sure, I spent a little time in the car on the drive over there weeping and rending my checkbook, but I knew. I knew.
What I didn’t know was that this local orthodontist’s office is raved about by everyone because it’s a freaking Six Flags Amusement Park in there. When I was a youngster squandering all of my parents’ money on retainers, I remember thinking that it was the height of modern technology that the waiting room at the orthodontist held one tiny television that ran cartoons.
Today we walked into a modern facility where established patients can check in—I swear to you—via fingerprint scan. Because this was our first visit, instead of using the fingerpad I had to type Chickadee’s name into the check-in computer.
A large shark appeared on the screen and waved a fin at us. “WELCOME, CHICKADEE!” popped up over his head. “Thanks for checking in! Please go brush your teeth!” Chickadee giggled while I peered around trying to locate the hidden cameras. I couldn’t find any, but a cheerful woman emerged from behind the desk and greeted us and took us over to the toothbrushing station. Chickadee selected a new (sparkly!) toothbrush and brushed up. That done, we were directed to the waiting room… which was presided over by a large statue of the same shark that had greeted us on the computer screen.
Video game stations lined the walls. Books and magazines lined comfortable chairs, and a gourmet single-serving coffeemaker brewed away next to the water cooler.
Chickadee bounced over to a game and became one with the controller pad. I picked up a magazine and looked for the complimentary marijuana, but was unable to find it.
Before long, we were called back. For pictures! And X-rays! And look this way, look that way, clamp down, open up! Wow, you were great, honey, here, let’s give you a million fun, free items. Pencils that change color when you grab them! Bookmarks! Little building sets! Stickers!
This all happened before we even SAW the orthodontist. I started feeling a little bit warm.
When the orthodontist came in to see us, she had Chickadee clamber into the exam chair and open up. I sat there, slightly dazed, as she called out information to the waiting technician. The technician dutifully typed in her every cryptic pronouncement, while I wondered what we were talking about. I stifled a gasp when she pronounced one of Chickadee’s teeth “ectopic.” (Oh, right. I guess they use that word for… other things in the wrong place, too.)
Finally it was time to discuss everything in plain English. The ortho got out her red pen and the x-rays and started explaining what was where and why and how we could move it someplace else. Chickadee nodded along but the various dots and arrows and explanation of how the tongue is nature’s best orthodontist was somewhat lost on her. (Excuse me while I bite my… uh… orthodontist about that particular description of the tongue….)
So, explained the ortho, what we need here is some more room, and the best way to do that would be to get these two pesky teeth out of the way and then things can spread out and move into place and then we can put this bar behind them to hold them there and it’s all very wonderful.
“You want to… extract those teeth?” I asked.
The orthodontist nodded, leaping to add that “You’ve lost baby teeth, right, Chickadee? It didn’t hurt, right? It won’t hurt.” Um, it won’t hurt to have two teeth pulled?
“And you can have some MOTRIN!” I added, brightly, shooting the ortho a look that I hoped communicated “You are awfully perky and all, but please don’t tell my kid that it doesn’t hurt to have teeth that aren’t even loose ripped out of her jaw.”
We watched a time-lapse film of a mouth much like Chickadee’s. First, it was a swirling mass of teeth. Then two teeth magically disappeared. Then the teeth glided into position where teeth actually ought to be. Then, a bar appeared! And it held the beautifully positioned teeth. Then molars disappeared and reappeared. And a large caterpillar with a hookah swore that it all made sense.
Then we started discussing the lingual bar that will need to be installed four months after the teeth are extracted. She handed Chickadee a replica of a set of teeth, wearing one of these bars. It’s a simple wire that runs behind the teeth, anchored on either side with a band around a molar.
GUESS what it costs! Go on, GUESS!
$860. Eight hundred and sixty dollars for a wire. (At that moment, the fancy waiting room and fingerprint scanner suddenly felt significantly less exciting to me.)
“That includes the extractions, right?”
“No, your dentist will do the extractions. That’s just for the lingual bar.”
Well alrighty, then.
“Also, the thinness of the gums at the base of these two teeth is a concern. She may need a gum graft at a later date. Here’s a card for the periodontist we use.”
And then I passed out.
Hahaha! Just kidding! I DID get somewhat light-headed, but who can pass out when their kid is busy using fake teeth to scratch her head. Which, granted, is inappropriate. But what can you expect from a kid with dangerously thin gums? Poor thing.
I made the mistake of asking if this meant she wouldn’t need braces. I am so funny! All of this is just to prepare her for the braces, you see. The braces, which will cost eight times as much as the lingual bar. Maybe they’ll check the kids in at the office via retinal scan, by then.
Finally the orthodontist bid us adieu, and we were left to finish up with the technician. Chickadee mentioned that Monkey has shark teeth, and the technician walked over to a cabinet and WHIPPED OUT A ZILPOC BAG FULL OF GENUINE SHARK TEETH. Obviously. And she invited Chickadee to pick one out for Monkey and one for herself.
(I then mentioned that I have… porsche teeth! I don’t think she heard me. Damnit.)
When it was time to leave, Chickadee got a token for the prize machine. Because we didn’t have enough STUFF yet. She extracted a purple superball and we were on our way. Then she skipped ahead of me, declaring the orthodontist the most fun she’d had in days. I was tempted to tell her about the cramped office where I’d craned my neck to peer at the tiny cartoons while waiting to have my wires tightened, but I refrained. For the money I’ll be paying, she can play video games and get all sorts of swag. And that shark had better DANCE.