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Life of a PTA

A Different Kind of Ortho

Published January 6, 2014 5:19 PM by Allison Young

One day last summer as I was driving my kids to a practice/rehearsal/errand of some kind, I felt that I had two small pebbles rolling around in my mouth. Due to the fact that I was not eating anything or even chewing gum, I came to the frightening yet correct conclusion that, indeed, these were my teeth. Without totally panicking and causing a car accident, I played it cool and quickly found a tissue to "stow" the evidence for later examination -- preferably without my kids in the backseat. As it turned out, my bottom teeth had spontaneously chipped away without deliberate grinding or hard-candy chewing on my part.

Slightly startled, I contacted my dentist who I'd been ignoring for more than a year and scheduled an appointment immediately. I would come to find out this was the beginning of my very own "ortho" adventure... as in adult orthodontia. My dentist deemed my overbite (the very same one I've had for almost 40 years) "extreme." As a medical professional myself, I take that sort of terse description very seriously.

Concurrently at this time, I had been working with a patient who had all of her teeth pulled for an impending surgery to reduce the risk of systemic infection. Perhaps because of my own dental issues, I found this completely horrifying. Could it happen to me one day? Would I have to face the "golden years" of my life soaking my dentures in a cup each evening, only to have them accidentally thrown out by a CNA? Thus a few months later, with the dentist and orthodontist recommendation and threat of continued teeth disintegration -- I decided to wear braces... for the next two years.

So on a Monday morning before work last October, I had them applied. I will spare everyone the grueling details of those first few weeks. Let's just say, kids are tougher than they look (including my orthodontia-experienced, 13-year-old who laughed at me mercilessly). Let's just say, I had a sharp wire poking a hole into my cheek for a week and eating was something I found rather difficult to do in general.

Most interestingly, I found my patients completely ambivalent (compared to my sympathetic coworkers) or in a rare case, dismissive. One of my usual patients who happens to be profoundly hard of hearing, actually "dismissed" me from his room by waving his hand "bye-bye" when I came to get him for therapy. It was almost as if he was saying "get out of here kid, not right now." Without a doubt, I look younger with the braces. I'm already topping off at 5-feet-tall in my clogs, so it's not helping me look any more authoritative.

It's been a few months now and I'm happy to report I've adjusted to my braces. My patients seem to as well and rarely do even my new patients comment on them. No doubt it was my own perception and discomfort that initially caused a reaction. In any case, they're here to stay for a while and always give me a segue into a conversation on good oral health with patients. Or at least another reason to brush after lunch.

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