Free pony with every set of braces

By Mir
September 21, 2006

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.


  1. MMM

    We have a cool dentist for our kids too! Congrats on finding a doc that listens!!

  2. Nic

    Seriously? Seriously?? I had braces when I was young(er!) and all I got to play was the fun game of “guess what the orthodontist had for lunch” based on how his hands smelled. I’ve been totally robbed. Although, now that I think of it, that’s sorta how your bank account is gonna feel too…sigh.

  3. Michelle

    I can’t believe what a set-up that office is. Wow. If my kids found out how cool it is they’d be begging for braces.

  4. Tracy

    and here I thought ours was the best ever because they have cookies. and coffee and water. and window seats for the mom and others to sit near the kid. No prizes or fingerprints or anything like that here. hmmmmmm.

    not that I’ve actually opened the checkbook yet. We don’t get a lingual bar. We get a herbst appliance instead. It’s only $500. But we’re starting the braces too. With the monthly payments. Starting next month. ack.

    I usually lurk, but your comment about George made me laugh – because we use that as well here – (I will hug you and squeeze you and call you George). too funny.

  5. Jenn2

    HOORAY!!!!! I am so happy for you and Monkey. I weep for poor Chickie. I had a similar ortho procedure, but it was many moons ago and I’m sure pain relief technology has improved since then.

    I’ll be feeling your pain. I took DQ in for a “meet and greet” (no xrays, etc, just here’s the office aren’t we bitchin’) and her orthodontist is SMOKIN’ HOT! Oh my sweet lovin’ Lord. Think a buff Johnny Depp. At least if he flirts with me a little, I won’t mind the mass amounts of money we’ll be hemorraging.

  6. mo

    my brother and i both had shark teeth, similar to monkey but on the outside and at the top. more like vampire teeth. anyway, a bunch of dentists told my mum we’d both need braces to pull them into line before she took us to this new dentist that my dad had been seeing and he ripped the teeth out.

    i mean, that sounds a lot cheaper and worse than it actually was. after watching my other friends with braces in agony after they’d been tightened, i was much happier to have the teeth ripped out and over and done with than go through three years of THAT. and i like my dentist.

    your dentist sounds like they could give him a run for his money though…

  7. Cele

    Oh, Mir I feel your pain. It boggles the mind the difference in what we make an hour to what they make an hour and expect us to shell out. But the kids are happy. Damn I feel rooked.

  8. Fold My Laundry Please

    I’ve been hearing a lot of moms lately talking about how their children have to have teeth pulled because they don’t have enough room for them. Up until I was in junior high, I had “shark teeth” on the top. Just like Mo’s description of her “vampire teeth”. The orthodontist I went to said he didn’t like to pull healthy teeth, so he used a device called a Rapid Pallette (sp?) Expander (RPX for short). It was mounted to your upper teeth and ran across the roof of you mouth. There was a little key that you had to turn every day for four weeks that expanded the RPX a little bit wider each day. The first two weeks were fairly painful, but then suddenly the bone on the roof of your mouth snapped in half with a soft little popping sound (sorry for the graphic description) and the relief from the pressure was short of miraculous. The key was turned for two more weeks with no pain whatsoever for the remaining time. By the end of it, I had a space between my teeth that you could drive a bus through! After we stopped turning the key, though, it closed up within a few days and suddenly I had room for all of my teeth without having a single one pulled. They left the RPX in for 5 more months to make sure the bone healed up in its new position. After that I got the braces put on. I don’t know, maybe this form of orthodontistry has been relegated to the level of leeches as far as medical practices are concerned (it was 1987 after all), but if the time comes that my children ever need orthodontic work, I’m going to ask about it if they mention pulling teeth. As far as the pain of the first two weeks goes, it didn’t hurt any worse (as I soon found out) than it did the day or so after having my braces tightened each month, the only difference being that it lasted for two whole weeks. Also, eating spaghetti turned out to be a MAJOR difficulty with this thing in because it sits about a quarter inch away from the roof of your mouth!

    I had to get a lingua bar installed, too, but mine sits permanently behind my four front bottom teeth and is cememted in place behind my eye teeth so you can’t see it at all when I smile or anything. The ortho said that I might have to get it replaced in 10 years when the cement wears out if my teeth start to shift again, but it’s still here, 16 years and still solid! Whatever that cement is made of, I recommend building your next house out of it!

    By the way, I’m really glad you found a new doctor that you like and that actually listens to you! Yay, Mir! Pretty, pretty, Mir!

    I feel like I should autograph this novel. I’ll title it, “The Autobiography of Fold My Laundry Please”. Feel free to review it on your next blog book tour!

  9. Kate

    My sister and I had braces in high school, and we both had to have some teeth pulled to make room too. Our orthodontist visits weren’t nearly as entertaining though – the highlights were figuring out which color(s) we were going to pick for the rubber bands and the individually packaged Advil they handed out for the post-visit tooth pain.

  10. Theresa

    The twins are about halfway thru their ortho. Both the older girls had braces. (I blame him for a crooked tooth gene even though his teeth are perfectly straight.) Not including the periodontist cost, the extracted teeth, the replacement costs for broken/lost retainers, I have spent enough to go buy a nice new car, in cash, for the orthodontist to have.

    Hint: If they are flexible, they’ll accept a smaller monthly payment and allow you to drop a crapload of money on them when your tax refund comes back.

    Good luck!

  11. Carmen

    Mir, I had four permanent teeth pulled when I was roughly Chickadee’s age. It did, indeed, hurt a lot.

    Good luck on the orthodonthia. It’s hugely expensive, but the results are worth it.

  12. Jenn

    I had to have 4 teeth pulled, but my wisdom teeth were impacted but not yet through the gumes, so I got to be knocked out of the whole shebang. I am still grateful for that.

  13. Bob

    The first thing I always look for when visiting the dentist/doctor is the free marijuana. A lid a day keeps the doctor from freakin’ me out. (and totally explains the huge fees. I mean, quality stuff is expensive – dude.)

    Congrats on the new pediatrician. Way to go.

  14. Sara

    Your ortho’s office sounds alot like my oldest daughter’s ortho’s office. This one has an ocean theme as well, complete with whales coming through the wall, sea turtles, floor tile that looks like water and a video arcade with a black light and neon paint. (It freaks out my 2y.o. but my boys love it!) We were referred by our family dentist for “crowding”. Yep, real technical-like. She’s been going to the ortho once a year so he can measure her mouth–I love to tease her by saying “it’s size XL”. (Yeah, that one never gets old. I can tell by the sighing and eye-rolling from my daughter)Anyway, the ortho just keeps saying, we can’t do much of anything until she loses some more teeth, which suits me just fine. I’m happy to go to sea world once a year if I don’t have to shell out major clams. Unfortunately, my daughter has shown me three loose teeth in the last few days. Guess I’ll just plan on handing over my wallet on the next visit.
    Glad to hear about the new doc. Hope everything gets figured out sooner rather than later.

  15. Brigitte

    My one shark-tooth was pulled as soon as the new tooth started showing above it – the new tooth slid right into its proper place, and all the dentists rave about how straight my teeth are. Too bad they needed a few (expensive and yet poorly fitted!) crowns, after which I’ve never been able to bite down properly again. I think dentists only care how your teeth LOOK and forget the teeth have a job to do as well.

  16. tori

    My daughter’s orthodontist is just as much fun with tons of prizes. I felt so cheated from my childhood experience compared to hers. Maybe if they didn’t have so many prizes, we wouldn’t be paying over $800 for just the pre-braces stuff? My daughter doesn’t need any teeth pulled just yet, but when I was little I had almost all of them pulled. At one point, I only had the four in front on top and bottom, and one molar on each side top and bottom. It was no fun getting all the teeth pulled, but I survived. I wouldn’t say it was painless though, and I can’t believe she told her it wouldn’t hurt! You’ll definitely have to make sure she understands it will hurt but not for long or else if she is anything like my daughter she will be totally pissed you didn’t tell her so she could prepare. Good luck, and yeah for the new doctor that listens. I love those kind of doctors!

  17. Christina

    Congrats on the new doctor who listens! Don’t tell any other doctors, they just may have her arrested :)

  18. chris

    So when do they deliver the pony?

    Guess what is on my list for next week? That’s right. Calling the orthodontist. Come January I will be bleeding money right along with you.

  19. Ani

    We call my husband’s orthodontist’s office the Taj Mahal for the same reason. Lots of exposed wooden beams (hilarious b/c it’s a new building), marble countertops, and wireless computer gadgets. I didn’t know it was a national thing. Darn it I’m in the wrong field.

    Since his mother didn’t take him to the ortho when he was a kid (and insured!) we got to pay for hubby’s braces 100%. Yay, us. I hope your ex’s insurance gives you a hand with the braces. They are SO worth every penny, though.

    Glad to hear you found a ped that listens. Much happy juju and wisdom fairy dust going your way so you get good answers. Good luck Monkey!

  20. kim

    the ortho office sounds exactly like the local ‘Snip-Its’ salon i take my daughter too! right down to the prize machine.

  21. Charlotte

    My daughter will be 3yo in January. So, what you’re saying is, I should start an orthodontist fund now? I am very fortunate to have never been to an orthodontist. Maybe she will get my teeth?

  22. rachel

    so glad you found a good family doctor. I tell far too many people about our fabulous one, I should watch out or other docs will have him (and his staff) offed for being so good.

    I’m happily sticking my head in the sand. BG is the same age as Chickadee, and I’m not up for orthodontists yet. La la la I can’t hear you!

  23. Cathy

    I wouldn’t worry at all about the teeth-pulling, to be honest. It hurts for a day, and then you’re done. But gum graft? OUCH! I had one a couple of years ago when my braces were taken off because my shifting teeth had made my gums too thin in the front of my mouth, and that was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. I couldn’t eat solids for over a week. Its a great crash diet, sure, but a painful one.

    Though one tip I learned from my 4 years of braces — slim fast is your friend. When your braces are tightened, forget the apple sauce. Go for slim fast, because it has more vitamins built into it and you don’t lose energy as quickly. Of course, I was in my late teens/early twenties during all this, not seven. But its an idea :-)

  24. Aimee

    Wow…who knew orthodontia could be so festive?

    Congrats, though, on finding a good doctor who listened. That is indeed good. :)

  25. DeannaM

    Your orthodontist office sounds exactly like my daughter’s. I can’t help but think how much less expensive the braces would be if half of my money wasn’t going into new video games, plasma tvs, and giant aquariums.

    We did the lingual bar too, and then braces. I just found out that she’s getting her braces off 5 months early because she’s done such a good job — but guess what???? I paid for 2 years of treatment and I’m not going to get a penny back even though they’re going to see her 5 months less than they originally thought!!!!!

  26. Ben

    That’s a way fun kinda place (your $860 will be happy there, I bet).

    Since I’m a truly independent thinker, I’ll chime in with my orthodontal experiences: About all I can remember is that I got braces the same year Cheryl Tiegs did her infamous Swimsuit Issue for sports illustrated, you know, the one where she claimed to not know that a wet white swimsuit might be a little transparent.

    Also, my ortho-dentist was an avid hunter, which meant his hands smelled more than a little like dogs most of the time.

  27. Jessica

    lol, I was starting to wonder for a minute there whether or not I neeeded braces!
    I love the thought of the thumb scan. I know two girls with the exact same name who are in the same grade and who have the same Ortho. He almost installed the wrong braces on one of the girls. A thumb scan would have probably prevented that little mistake!

  28. Lucy

    You know what the most fun ever is? Going to one of those ‘Six Flags Kiddie Entertainment Extravaganza’ Orthodondist offices as an ADULT patient.
    Talk about feeling out-of-place.

  29. Laura

    Our son has had braces for about a year now, but I have to say his orthodontist’s office is not quite so…Ortho-palooza. At least your orthodontist is putting some of the $80 patrillion dollars she gets from her patients every year into making the office fun. Clearly mine has just paved his driveway with diamonds, or maybe he bought an island with flying ponies?

    Congrats on finding a doctor who listens- very good news indeed!

  30. Moose

    I’m just now beginning to understand how vastly unappreciated my parents were. And how my poor children are going to wallow in buck-toothed misery for all of eternity. Unless I can find a back alley orthodontist with a bloody saw somewhere.

    Porsche teeth, though. That’s awesome.

  31. Velma

    I like “porsche teeth.” Also “Ortho-palooza.”

    Now I guess I’ll go out and sell some plasma for cash to start an orthodonture fund. College-shmollege – they can get their own damn loans for that, right?

  32. InterstellarLass

    Holy Crap! You should have taken back all the ‘free stuff’ and asked what the bar costs without the ‘gifts with purchase’.

  33. Heather

    Congratulations! Just make sure that her wisdom teeth are not going to interfer with the work that the braces do! I had braces put on when I was 13 and my orthodontist said that my wisdom teeth would not be a problem when they came in. Well here I am 28 years old having to go and get my wisom teeth cut out and all the crap that I went thru with the braces was for nothing! Some of my teeth have shifted and I no longer have a pretty smile.

  34. sumo

    My neice had a procedure like this. She had many teeth removed to make room in her dainty little mouth. I thought she was going to be miserable, but she was fine after the archaeological dig in her mouth. I hope it goes as well for Chickadee.

  35. Susan

    I have one kid with FOUR crowns (he’s SIX for god’s sake) and another with an overbite that nearly reaches the state line. I am dooooooomed.

    Look harder for the marijuana. It HAS to be there somewhere.

  36. Suzanne

    I’m pretty sure I smoked the marijuana when I was there last because i’m in huge debt from my own orthodontic adventures. My only excuse is I must have been high when I agreed to all of it!

  37. Brony

    It is never easy finding a good doctor. Great jon. That’s wonderful.

  38. Fran

    Sounds like your money will be going a long need to take the kids out for fun and games, just the one stop to the orthodontist does it all! We were very lucky with Son#1 about 27 years ago..he had the same issues with teeth all over his mouth and no where to go. Third grade…things got shifted around with the lingual bar and he never had to have braces at all..$350. The next one costs us a bundle and his teeth looked fine..hhhmmm

  39. Ei

    Mir you scare me sometimes, because it seems you have some kind of bizarre link to my life. I in fact DID pass out in a dental office about a month ago when my youngest had his front two teeth knocked out in an accident. Not the same thing, but weird, nevertheless. We didn’t get good coffee or videos or anything. Did get a cool prize though, which I think was also a bouncy ball of some sort.

    I’m sorry for the expense and the craziness of all of this. YAY for the new doc though! Yay, yay, yay!

  40. Shiz

    I had one of those thingies. They called it a “holding arch”. I never went ahead and got braces; our dentist did it all.

  41. waywardgoddess

    I love my daughter;s orthodontist, but I know I’m putting her grandkids through school (her daughter is 2).
    I paid $1600 for a device that sat in eth roof of my daughter’s mouth to prevent her from sucking her thumb (she’s nearly 10, it was time to stop). Now she has two brackets on her back molars, and 4 across her front teeth to hold everything in plce until we do full top and bottom braces.

  42. MamaT

    What is this, orthodontist news month?!? Hubby’s ex. emailed him last week to say that the orthodontist wants to put 4 braces on his 9 year old daughter’s top four front teeth because one of them is “turned a bit”. She had one them bar-thingy’s when she was 5 to make room for the adult teeth and “significantly reduced her chances for braces”. Well, all I have to say is, after spending $800 for that contraption and now $1060 for the 4 braces, at least he’s willing to apply the $1060 towards the full mouth of braces he says she’ll have to have eventually.

    Unfortunately, our insurance only covers 50% up to a $600 lifetime maximum. So once they use it up for this first round of braces, the money is gone.

  43. Jenrigg

    Boy am I glad I live in the UK and we have the wonderful National Health Service! Although, that is changing, my 16-yr old daughter had her braces and everything that went with them FOR FREE. Yes, for free. Sorry if I’m gloating here…. Hey, but in France I had to pay for the extractions (before we even moved here) and she went to a dentists very much like the one you describe – is it any wonder seeing as the woman trained in the US? – anyway, she had two teeth out and she didn’t feel a thing. She STILL tells everyone how it didn’t hurt cos they numbed her gums with coca cola flavour anaesthetic and how she was braver than a big kid in the same predicament. I am SO glad for that dentist because thanks to her, my kid has no fear of the dentist EVER. Wishing you all the best with the bank heist.

  44. randy

    My son just got a herbst device. he loves football. he is 10. does anyone know of mouthguards designed for USA style football that he can wear. i am afraid if he gets hit under the helmet to the jaw it would be bad (obviously) thus i need a device to connect to the helmet chin area. help!

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