A Very Long Morning

11 March 2008 · 8 comments

My brother Tony e-mailed last night. “I’m going to be in town tomorrow,” he said, “but only for a little bit. If you’re free at 8, I’ll buy you coffee.” Tony packed his family and moved to Bend nearly two years ago, so I don’t get to see him very often. I miss him. I gave him a lot of shit when he was around, but the truth is I’m proud of him. He’s a good guy.

Naturally, I wanted to have coffee with him. I wrote back:

I can’t make it at 8, but maybe after? My planned schedule is:

5:30 – Out of bed, half an hour of site maintenance

6:00 – To the gym for a quick cardio workout

7:00 – Home to shower

7:30 – Leave for dentist

8:00 – Dentist

??? – Come back home

I’m not having any work done. It’s just a consultation. I’m going to get braces. Shocking, but true.

To which Tony replied, “God bless it! Your analness always makes me laugh.”

Was I being anal? Hm. Maybe I was.

I didn’t get to have coffee with Tony. When he called at 8:45, I was strapped in the dentist’s chair. When I texted him at 9:30, I was still strapped in the dentist’s chair. In fact, I was strapped in the dentist’s chair until 11. It kind of ruined my day.

You see, I’ve decided to get braces. After years of mocking Jeff and Steph for their obsession with orthodontia, I’ve decided it’s in my best interest to have nice teeth. I’m not joking. I put a lot of thought into this, and I weighed the fact that I’ve been so anti-braces in the past. Despite this, it makes sense to get braces, so I’m going to do it.

(“Do you even need braces?” Tiff asked when she came over tonight. “Let me see your teeth.” I showed her my teeth. “Kris says they’re my worst feature,” I said. “Oh,” said Tiff, but she didn’t recoil in terror.)

So I drove down to Canby for an 8 o’clock dentist appointment. Dr. Martin explained the Invisalign process. “Your teeth are borderline,” she said. “I might be able to do them, but I might have to refer you to an orthodontist in Wilsonville. If I have to refer you, that means the process is going to take two years.”

The process this morning seemed to take two years.

After Dr. Martin had examined my teeth, the hygienist took over. She filled a mold with a putty-like material and then rammed it against my upper teeth. After holding it there for two minutes (talking to me the whole damn time — why do hygienists do this?), she pulled it out. Next she filled this putty with a liquid, set a timer for four minutes, and rammed the mold back into my mouth. While we both tried to remain very still, the liquid set into a gummy solid around my teeth. When the timer beeped, we both had to pry the mold from my mouth.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience. What makes it worse was that it wasn’t a pleasant experience four times. These impressions form the basis for the Invisalign product, so they have to be precise. The first three impressions of my upper teeth were all flawed in some way. The fourth impression was flawed too, but less so. “I think we can send that one in,” Dr. Martin said, the implication being that I might have to come back later for further impressions of that mold wasn’t good enough. Ugh. Fortunately, we were able to get the bottom teeth in one pass.

After 90 minutes of that, I had an hour of photos and x-rays. The photo session was hilarious. They hygienist — a different one this time — had a fancy Nikon digital camera with a nice flash mounted to the lens. The first four shots were easy to get. But the second four required all sorts of monkeying around.

The hygienist recruited the receptionist for help. While I held plastic lip retractors (or whatever they’re called), the receptionist positioned a mirror in my mouth and the hygienist contorted herself into strange positions in order to take the photo at the proper angle. Crazy!

Then, to cap it all off, I got a massive dose of radiation. They took 18 x-rays of my teeth, which is probably more than I’ve had before in my entire life.

Throughout this entire process, the staff kept apologizing. “It’s no problem,” I said, and I meant it. I understand that this is the sort of thing we have to go through to get me my braces. I’m willing to do it. I was just wishing I wasn’t so hungry.

I started a new fitness program this week. Here’s how it works: I roll out of bed, drink two glasses of water, go to the gym to exercise, wait an hour, then eat breakfast. Well, if you remember the schedule I e-mailed Tony, there wasn’t actually any time set aside to eat breakfast there. (If I had been smart — which I wasn’t — I would have grabbed an apple and some cheese for my drive to Canby.) So when I left the dentist at 11, I was starving.

I did, eventually, have enough to eat. And the dentist got all she needed to begin work on my braces. But I didn’t get to see Tony. Maybe next time.

1 Josh March 12, 2008 at 12:19

(talking to me the whole damn time — why do hygienists do this?)

Because they are compensating for the fact that most dentists 1) have somewhat limited social skills, and 2) generally spend much less time face to face with the patient than the other support staff. An assistant (as it was very likely a dental assistant rather than a hygienist performing the tasks you describe) also functions as a social interface for a dentist. A dentist is sort of a strange hybrid of doctor and engineer, generally with social proclivities more closely mimicking the latter. (Note that my wife is a marked exception to this rule.) A good assistant is hired in part for her/his people skills. They get you all softened up, then the Big Cheese comes in and gets down to business. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, Sheila’s assistant talks so much, it even drives Sheila nuts.

Nikon digital camera with a nice flash mounted to the lens

That’d be a ring flash, I believe. Very handy for dental photography, or for those other rare situations when you need to take an extreme close-up image of a small, dark hole.

I got a massive dose of radiation.

Pure hyperbole. You received 18 very small doses of radiation, the sum of which is still vastly smaller than what you receive during a single cross-country flight — especially if your dentist’s office is outfitted with digital x-ray equipment. The amount of radiation required to capture a high-resolution digital image is orders of magnitude smaller than the old film variety.

These impressions form the basis for the Invisalign product, so they have to be precise.

That’s exactly it. Either they take the time and effort to get extremely precise impressions from which to pour models of your mouth, or else you have to send your head off to the lab for the technicians to work from. ;)

Ah, the joys of being married to a dentist! I’ll bet you can tell me a lot about the intricacies of working in a forensics lab….

2 Kebra March 12, 2008 at 13:42

Ack. Stories like these are what keep me away from the dentist. My experiences at dentist offices have always been socially awkward and I hate that. I’ve considered getting braces myself, but now… not so sure. Thanks a lot.

I love your blog, by the way.

3 Kristin March 12, 2008 at 19:45

I can’t resist quoting my father: “You have teeth in your bottom??!!” He effectively taught me to refer to those teeth as lower, not bottom, ones.

4 second opinion March 12, 2008 at 21:02


You do NOT need braces. You are CHOOSING to get braces. Is this costing you anything? If so you will be getting poorer slowly. Orthodonture is a racket akin to pyramid schemes and infomercials. The braces almost ALWAYS stay on longer than originally planned and your teeth can move back when the braces are removed.

I’ve known you for many years and NEVER, EVER have given a second thought to your teeth. Although I’ll be checking them out now that you’ve decided to be vain about them.

5 Mom March 14, 2008 at 18:45

Next you’ll be having Lasik. Or, barring that, doing before and after commercials for the local cable channels.

Seriously, I would never have guessed you might want or need braces. If it makes you happier about your appearance, though, and you can afford it, why not?

6 Denise March 15, 2008 at 06:30

Sorry Second Opinion, I don’t agree. I had braces as a child, got them in fifth grade and had them off in seventh. I even had them when it wasn’t cool to have braces – and toilet seats on top of that (if any of you remember that slang term). It was the best thing my parents could have ever done. I had horrible teeth and I am very relieved that they no longer look the way they did when I was young.

Also, having a bad overbite or underbite can hurt more than just your esteem so sometimes it’s more than just your looks you are helping out.

Braces are painful – no doubt about that, especially the old school ones I lived with, but overall it was well worth it. In fact, I didn’t mind the braces so much, it was the retainer I hated.

Last thing – I have a permanent retainer on my LOWER teeth (ha! Kristin, that was funny) that has been there since I was 13 – that would make it 23 years now (egad I’m getting old). As long as it doesn’t effect my teeth or gums it will be there until I die so my bottom teeth don’t float and ruin all the work I had done.

You go J.D. – I can’t wait to see your beautiful, straight teeth.

7 Jeff March 15, 2008 at 13:03

I agree with Denise.

Not only are my teeth easier to clean now that they are straight, but I can also enjoy dining better because my teeth actually come together as they are supposed to, and I can actually cut my food with my teeth instead of clamping and tearing.

Don’t think of it as just a question of vanity, but functionality and longevity, too.

8 second opinion March 16, 2008 at 11:53

I still think for someone that is 38ish and never mentioned it before and it hasn’t been a huge problem for him then this is a waste of time and money. Can any of you honestly say that you can say what J.D.s teeth look like? (Kris you don’t count). When I think of J.D. I don’t think, “He’s got really fucked up teeth”. Again, I’ve NEVER noticed his teeth.

J.D., if you really think this will make you happier on some tangible, long lasting level, then go for it. But don’t think that the world is somehow judging you because of your teeth–we aren’t.

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