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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Metal Mouth ... at 39

Published December 11, 2008 1:30 PM by Abigail Scott

I just got back from my second orthodontist visit and found out I'll need braces to correct a deep bite that's been years in the making. That's right; I'll be a "metal mouth" at 39 instead of 13.

How did I get to this point?

Basically I've ground my lower front teeth down to little nubs, a habit known as bruxism in formal dental circles. An overnight mouthguard, fitted by my dentist, really didn't help. I tended to skip wearing it a few times here and there. The damage added up.

Six months ago, my dentist and I decided we had to fix my bottom teeth, and we started discussing crowns. At my semiannual checkup and cleaning this month, my dentist said my teeth were getting worse and I'd need some intervention by an orthodontist before he could even attempt to put on crowns.

I went to the orthodontist 2 days later, and waited in a room full of gawky preteens and their parents. I predict my son will be in this office in about 10 years for his own orthodontic odyssey.

I know braces on adults are more common today; some of my co-workers have had them. But it's still a bit of an ego blow. Not to mention I felt pretty disgusted with myself for my destructive habit.

Before seeing the orthodontist on that first visit, I met with a treatment coordinator to review my situation and what I could expect. She was an attractive woman of a certain age - and she had braces on her teeth. Since it was an orthodontist's office after all, I asked her about her dental work.

She freely shared her story, which was much more complicated than mine. It involved poor dental hygiene and treatment in her youth, lost molars and bridgework. Our conversation put me at ease.

The orthodontist came in, looked in my mouth to assess the damage, and said I was the second case that week with a severe deep bite from grinding.

I went through several Star Trek style X-rays of my face and head, pulled my mouth open in an exaggerated funny-face for photographs of my teeth and gums, and had a mold of my teeth taken with a caulk-like substance.

Throughout all this, I focused on the positive. My teeth are healthy; I've never had cavities or periodontal disease. I didn't need complicated root canals or implants. The only dental surgery I've had was wisdom teeth extraction in 1989. Also, braces have changed a lot since my childhood and adolescence. My husband had them when he was a kid and regaled me with horror stories of rubber bands, mouth sores and pain. From what I've read, braces are much easier to manage today.

My recent visit to the orthodontist, in which they outlined my treatment plan and payment schedule, started off on a sour note. When I walked in to the office and said "Abbey Scott," the receptionist said "Oh, you're Abbey Scott's mom." She assumed I was the parent of one of the kiddie patients. Joy. Way to make me feel comfortable.

But, the vibe improved when I went back to talk with the treatment coordinator and orthodontist. I set a date to get them put on: I chose the day after my birthday so I could pig out on all the crunchy, gummy, nutty foods I wanted the day before. I'm looking forward to it, oddly enough.

What's even better, the orthodontist has a reward system where patients collect wooden nickels for good compliance. The number of nickels corresponds to a list of gift certificate prizes, including Starbucks, Barnes & Noble and Dairy Queen. I expect to take full advantage of that program.


Thanks for the confidence.

I'm less apprehensive about this whole thing. I'm also looking forward to the chance to cut down on sugary/carby snacks and possibly lose some weight.

Abbey December 18, 2008 10:27 AM

I see this as a healthy revisit to your awkward teen years, except now you have wisdom.  Your beauty will outshine any metal, I'm sure!  Keep smiling, Abbey!

Lorettajo Kapinos December 18, 2008 9:57 AM
Springfield MA

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