And then we stapled his lips shut

By Mir
September 10, 2008

So, um, remember how Monkey got his braces on and a wire kept popping off? I’d already taken him back to the orthodontist to have them fixed the very DAY they were put on, then the next day they were closed and I had to fix them myself, and then for a couple of days they were okay.

That, of course, was followed by the Carnival Of The Wire Popping. The wire would pop off at least once a day. Sometimes twice! And because I actually have a few other things to do in this world besides remembering to call the orthodontist or spend the kids’ entire college fund on gasoline to keep trucking over there, somehow a week went by before I actually called them.

During that week, I had to drive to school to perform emergency wire surgery twice. Because I’m a orthodontist. Oh, wait. NO I’M NOT. And I’ll admit it—I was slightly cowed by the ortho’s assertion, at the first “fixing” appointment, that they were installed properly and Monkey just needed to stop messing with them.

Because it’s true, Monkey DOES mess with them. He can’t help it. At any given time you can see his tongue darting around in there, feeling the wire, moving it back and forth. And while we’ve all done our best to gently help him break that habit (I prefer bellowing, “MONKEY! STOP TONGUING YOURSELF!”), the reality is that if you had a MOVING WIRE in your mouth, you’d poke at it a bit, too. This isn’t because he’s only eight, it’s because he’s human. And because if you must have a wire in your mouth IT SHOULDN’T MOVE.

Well, yesterday was the proverbial last straw—Monkey called me from school in tears. Not only had the wire popped out, but one of the springs had gone flying when it had (according to him, anyway… I’m not sure I buy the Mouth Missile version of this story, but whatever), so now the wire was poking out of his mouth AND there was a piece missing.

The timing was stupendous, too, because the day before I’d made a repair trip to school and came home and called the orthodontist, finally. The recording said they were “in a meeting” and would “get right back to me” if I left a message. So I left a message. And they NEVER CALLED BACK. So yesterday when Monkey was crying because he thought he’d done something wrong, I realized that it had been over 24 hours and no one had called me even though my message had CLEARLY stated “Something is very wrong with my son’s braces and they keep breaking. I NEED HELP.”

So. I called again. And got an emergency appointment. And the receptionist got a piece of my mind. She seemed utterly unfazed, which makes me think that I am not the only frustrated parent who calls and asks exactly when the THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS we’re forking over result in some actual PATIENT CARE.

Then I hung up and called the school to let them know I’d be picking up the kids. Once I got off the phone I realized I had exactly twenty minutes to get showered, dressed, and over to the school to die in the carpool lane. Er, to patiently wait for my beloved children come get in the car. (If they were riding the bus home, as they normally do, I would’ve had an extra 45 minutes.) I raced to get ready—probably heading out with only one armpit shaved, knowing me—and on my way out the door realized that by the time I got them, went to the ortho, and came back, it would be time to head to swim practice. I turned around, ran back in and grabbed up swim bags and towels and suits and after-practice snacks, and left.

At the orthodontist’s office, the tech (do they have special names, those not-orthodontist helpers? I know they’re hygienists at the dentist…) again tried to convince me that this was “perfectly normal.”

Do you know what’s perfectly normal? Rain. Love. Wind. Laughter. Grass. The grocery store insisting on putting the raisins in the school supplies aisle where I can never find them, even. Those things are normal. Paying upwards of five grand for your kid’s lips to be repeatedly sliced up by a wire that won’t stay in those fancy high tech brackets? NOT NORMAL.

I may have shared my opinion on her assessment of normal. I may have even suggested that if we could not resolve this problem, my child who is not yet in braces might well be going to a different orthodontist… say, one who doesn’t find this aggravation normal.

“Oh, well,” she said, “we’ll get him fixed up this time! No worries!” Damn skippy, lady.

She made him a completely new wire/spring apparatus, and this time he has a couple of extra little metal pieces on either side of one of the brackets. “See, I’m crimping these onto the wire,” she showed me, “and they should stop the wire from moving. Plus, see this blue dot in the middle of the wire? Now you can just look at him and know if the wire’s still centered.”

When he was all done, he hopped up, took a look in the mirror, and turned to the tech. “Nice job,” he said, ever-generous. I tried not to laugh.

We drove back across town and made it to swimming just in time. As I sat there alternating between watching practice and reading a book, I realized that the ortho debacle meant we’d have nothing to eat for dinner—in my haste to get out of the house in time and with all the swimming gear, I’d forgotten to load the night’s menu into the crockpot. Whoops.

Otto saved the day by picking up Chinese food. (I knew there was a reason I married him.)

This morning, I peered into Monkey’s mouth and was relieved to see the blue dot right where it belonged. “How is that new wire feeling, buddy? Does it feel like before?”

“No, it doesn’t feel like the old wire,” he answered. I felt panic rising. Did the new metal pieces make it HURT? Were we going to be facing another hunger strike like when he’d first gotten his expanders? Was something WRONG? “This wire doesn’t move around!” he concluded, cheerfully, before turning to the business of eating his breakfast. Oh. Well, then.

On the other hand, it’s still early. That call from school could still be coming….


  1. Megan

    You know the rest of the world mocks our orthodontia fanaticism. I think it’s the suffering that makes us strong. Right?

  2. Leandra

    I hope you’ve never shouted “Monkey, stop tonguing yourself” in public. Cause that just might be a trauma he’d never get over! :)

  3. Ani

    You had me at “Stop tonguing yourself”

    We had a neighbor whose little boy discovered his boy-parts and was constantly playing pocket pool. We nearly died laughing every time we’d hear…

    “Luke, let GO of yourself!”

  4. zeghsy

    *silently prays my monkey won’t need braces* i don’t think i could handle the trauma.

  5. All Adither

    Glad they were able to actually FIX things. Since that’s what they’re paid to do and all.

  6. Wendy 2

    I sure wish I had read this before just deciding that the wire popping out WAS completely normal. When my daughter first got her braces at age 11 the wire was constantly popping out. She finally learned how to reinsert it herself, which at least resulted in my being able to STAY at work for a full day. I didn’t know there was something they could actually do to KEEP it from falling out. Now she has a full set of braces, instead of some brackets missing, so the wire is a little more protected. We haven’t had wires pop out for over a year now, although brackets coming loose still seems to be a problem. Man will I be glad when she finally gets them off.

  7. tori

    Again I say you are writing about my life with minor details changed. But we have swim practice tonight, not yesterday.

  8. Beth

    Yes, tonguing your wires is TOTALLY human. None of my friends or I could keep from doing it. And no, even with the very first wire, having the wire pop out that easily is NOT normal. It’s not doing anything if it’s that loose!

    You might want to have that fit at the Ortho himself. That’s just sloppy work on their part.

    Hugs, Monkey! And remember, STOP TONGUING YOURSELF!!! :)

  9. Burgh Baby

    I’m just going to walk around telling people to quit tonguing themselves today. It’s going to be great.

  10. Katie in MA

    I never popped my wire out. My brackets fell off, my BANDS came unglued and fell off my molars. And the little extra wire in the back that was supposed to be snipped short? Kept piercing my cheek.

    Other than that…

  11. mamalang

    We say a thousand times a day “Stop Holding Yourself.” People must love to hear that too.

    Sending you all good wire karma.

  12. Karen

    I am so glad none of my children ever had braces. Asthma was enough.

  13. Karen

    Yep, and we pay to do these things to ourselves and offspring.

  14. Jan

    Y’all are so circumspect. I’m prone to saying, “Munchkin, please take your hand out of your pants.” Or, on a really good day, “Little Dude, get your hand off your penis please.”

    Yeah, the CF folks are probably really digging that last one. Heh.

  15. Randi

    You know, I keep reading these orthodontist posts and cringing – Toad has his next appt. in November when I’m fairly sure the ortho will stop taking a “wait and see” approach and start taking the “how much can I soak you for” approach. I’m so optimistic. Glad Monkey’s braces don’t move around so much anymore!!

  16. michelle in colorado

    I have braces on now, I wish that I had had this done when I was a kid. Anyway, have them put the stoppers on every time. They like to not put them on and see what happens. this does not work. I have issues every time.

  17. Flea

    Our first ortho, back in Florida, came highly recommended, but he made me slightly uncomfortable. I wish now that I’d switched. Especially knowing how great they actually CAN be. Love the new one here in Tulsa.

  18. Julie

    I feel for you–I have braces on now and it’s given me a whole new sympathy for what kids go through. They make me crazy.

  19. jennielynn

    When I got my braces, I “tongued myself” repeatedly (Hand to God, I die laughing every time I think of that phrase) and I was 12, not 8. That orthodontist needs to get a clue.

  20. Mama Rose

    I had braces TWICE, and the last time was as a senior in high school. I got the clear kind as a senior because supposedly, “nobody would notice.” Everybody. Noticed. Don’t ever let them talk you into the (much more expensive)clear kind.

  21. MomCat

    That got you all wired, too.

  22. D

    Gads, with everything else in your life who’ve thunk braces would take up SO MUCH TIME??? :-)

  23. amanda

    Oh, the weary.

  24. Astrogirl426

    Take comfort in knowing that whatever cash you don’t fork over at the ortho’s, you’ll be forking over at the therapist’s, especially after Monkey (or his first girlfriend) reads that bit about not tonguing himself. lol

    But then, you already knew that :)

  25. Suebob

    As my nephew would say “That makes me stink!” I mean, WHY did they not FIX them before??? Arg.

  26. The Other Other Dawn

    I’m still trying to break myself of tonguing the two new crowns I got put on last week. And I’m 51.

    If I had braces with a loose wire, I’d be a menace to everyone within a 3 mile radius because I’d have that puppy worked out of the braces at light speed!

  27. Amy-Go

    Do you think you could come visit and throw one of your super-effective fits at Jack’s teacher? She really needs one, and the Southern part of me won’t let me do it…maybe it would work on my realtor, too…when are you available? ;)

  28. Anissa@Hope4Peyton

    I have my first orthodontic appointment next week for one of my kids. This frightens me a little bit.

  29. Mama Bear

    So glad you remembered the after swim snacks.:) Doesn’t that make your evening go much more smoothly?
    We too are in the braces phase at our house, right now I have one of the three in braces(they come off next week!), one is done, and one is waiting… gotta love perfect teeth, and rich orthodontists.

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