Having slightly misaligned teeth myself, I’ve always skirted around the topic of braces. I could chew and swallow without them. I could articulate. I could smile in pictures with my mouth closed. Sure, my friends and family had casually recommended them, but at what cost? I’d seen many of my friends undergo the ordeal and shuddered in sympathy. At the intrusive metal brackets, restrictive wiring, messy rubber bands, and brutal dietary restrictions, I vowed that I would never subject myself to the increasingly popular form of torture.
I also evaded any orthodontic work because of the apparent stigma attached to the metal wiring. In countless movies and television shows, braces have become the manifestation of the insecurity and awkwardness of adolescence. The first thing people see upon conversing with you is your mouth full of shiny, aluminum-colored metal. As if their desire to be seen and shared with the world weren’t enough, what of the creative genius of bullies? “Tin grin! Metal mouth! Brace face!” they scream in efforts to undermine your intrinsic confidence. And more often than not, they succeed.
Having never had the brutal, semi-clever insults directed at me, I wasn’t eager to start. Yes, indeed, I was prepared to live the rest of my life with my less-than-perfect teeth. My teeth would never be confined to the restrictive metal cages. I would never have to cope with the general soreness. I wouldn’t have to deal with food getting stuck in my elaborate wiring. I would be free to consume whatever saccharine-sweet or sticky substances came across my path. Yes, I would be free! Forever free of braces! Or so I thought.
All of that changed the day I woke up with an infuriating throbbing in my upper tooth. I tentatively ran my tongue under it to receive a stabbing surge of pain.
“YOW!” I screeched as I sat bolt upright.
“What’s wrong, Anusha?” my parents called from the other room, clearly worried by their daughter’s morning antics.
Careful not to put any pressure on the tooth as I spoke, I answered, “My tooth…it really hurts.”
Based on the terrible severity of the pain, we’d set up an appointment with the dentist the next day. And while I fully understand the importance of maintaining and enhancing the appearance of our gums and teeth, I’ve always hated going to the dentist. The sterile smell of the waiting room. The glossy posters of attractive individuals with flawless smiles. The colorful cups filled with cheap toothbrushes and sample toothpaste tubes. Even the things that were meant to be pleasant I detested. Probably because I associated it all with painful extractions and fillings.
When the dentist finally had a good look at my teeth with her sleek, little mirror, she found that the cause of my suffering was an abscessing baby tooth. It appeared that in the perpetual battle between destructive bacteria and tooth, the bacteria had finally found a lucrative opening, leaching the crack for all it was worth. And in all of this, I had been left with an unbelievable amount of pain concentrated in that one area.
“Well, because it’s a baby, it’ll have to be removed. No way of saving it. If it were an adult on the other hand, we would be able to do a root canal,” my dentist told me bluntly.
Slightly crestfallen at the imminent loss of a tooth, I replied, “Oh, okay. As long as there’s no more pain.”
“There won’t be, and could you open your mouth for a second?”
That’s why I’m here, I thought caustically before obliging her, showing her my pearly whites.
“After the extraction, you’re going to be left with a space. And so, we’re going to have some options,” the dentist said, looking at me and my mother pointedly.
“We could either get a single tooth denture, which I don’t really recommend just because of long-term inconvenience. Or you could get braces. Your upper teeth could just be shifted to fill in the space, and straighten out any visible defects.”
I cringed. Both of my options weren’t looking so great, but my mother was intrigued.
“Braces? Do you have the business cards of any orthodontists in the area?”
Did Anusha’s mother just express her interest in her daughter getting braces? Will Anusha ultimately get the infuriating metal wires and brackets wrapped around her teeth? What will happen to our young protagonist? Brace yourself for the continuation of this gripping tale tomorrow! To be continued…