Teeth

Teeth. plural noun. According to my computer dictionary, “Each of a set of hard, bony enamel-coated structures in the jaws of most vertebrates, used for biting and chewing.” According to me, the white things in a smile that have been a heck of a lot of work.

On Wednesday, I got my wisdom teeth out. (If things get a little weird today, at least I have a good excuse. Even though I’m off all pain meds except Advil.)

In honor of this momentous occasion, I think I need to come clean with a little confession.

Once upon a time, I had awful teeth.

(Because a picture is worth a thousand words, prepare yourself for some awkward images from my childhood.)

When I was an itty-bitty kid with itty-bitty baby teeth, things weren’t so bad.

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But as soon as those itty-bitty baby teeth started falling out, I began smiling like this. At first, probably because I didn’t like looking like a jack-o-lantern.

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Then because my big-kid teeth grew in and things did not improve from the jack-o-lantern state. In the following picture, please note the off-center midline, the one front tooth with an overbite and the other front tooth with an underbite, and the charming gap in the middle of all of the nastiness.

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As soon as the dentist realized how horrendous my teeth were, my adventure in orthodontics began. First, I gained an expander, a charming metal contraption that spanned the roof of my mouth and made me salivate a lot. Good times with this mouth-stretching device included learning how Darth Vader breathed so loudly (he obviously had food stuck in his expander), my first foray into the world of brackets (because one big old hunk of mouth metal clearly wasn’t enough), and figuring out how to sleep with headgear stuck to the front of my face (with rubber bands that were prone to zinging back into my lips, no less).

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Please focus on the teeth, not the painfully red cheeks here…

After my mouth was sufficiently stretched, the expander had to come off. This is both exciting and terrifying. Exciting because that thing is annoying and I was sick of not chewing gum and being forced to sleep on my back from my dumb headgear. Terrifying, because that thing is literally cemented onto my teeth and the orthodontist uses a scary-looking wrench to yank it off and it was obviously going to pull out all of my molars and all of that hard work will be for naught.

But some laughing gas and (only) three lost molars and a lot of reassuring words and deep breathing later, my mouth was free.

Temporarily.

I got an entire year off before hitting the next stage of orthodontia: full-blown braces.

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Yes, I was a bit awkward and nerdy in seventh grade. And yes, playing trombone with braces was sometimes painful.

These braces were incredibly teenager: rubber bands color-coordinated (bright orange for hunting season, red and green for Christmas, blue and lime green for months with nothing going on), lips chapped from getting snagged on metal and coated in Bonne Bell Lip Smacker to add moisture and excessively pink sparkle, dental wax both holding up pictures in my locker and keeping my cheeks from getting ripped to shreds, ripping peanut butter sandwiches to pieces and eating pizza with a fork because I couldn’t chew with my back teeth after getting my wires tightened. You know, the usual.

Then the braces came off. And after four years, I finally saw why I had to go through this torture.

My teeth were straight! With no gaps! And no metal apparatuses attached!

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All that was left between me and complete orthodontic freedom was a retainer. (Which I lost within 24 hours of obtaining. Except I’m not going to talk about that because I’m still mortified I could be so irresponsible.) Then I gnawed through a few more retainers (apparently I grind my teeth at night). Then I discovered Crest Whitestrips, which kind of rocked my world and made my pearly whites actually white.

I thought I was home free.

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Just so you know, this is my pearly white pirate growl of freedom. Or something.

And then I remembered that I had to have my wisdom teeth out.

It all went down on Wednesday, and I was reminded that teeth can be super duper annoying sometimes.

Since actually getting those suckers ripped out, I have learned a few things:

Having an IV and oxygen and anesthetics kind of freaks me out. No, actually really freaks me out and makes me feel like I might be dying. I should not look at the scary surgical instruments and imagine how they might be used on me or I will get even more freaked out. I will apparently almost faint after any kind of medical procedure, from getting shots to donating blood to having actual surgery (This has happened five times. I’m sensing a pattern). Waking up to bloody drool on your face makes you feel like a vampire, and not a glamorous TV kind. I get paranoid and anxious on pain medicine (as in “ooh, was that slight ache right there the sign of a dry socket? I better not breathe for half an hour just to make sure I don’t make it worse.”). If scurvy and obesity weren’t issues, I actually might be able to live off of chocolate peanut butter ice cream and mashed potatoes. Having your sister get the same procedure done at the same time is both wise (commiseration over fatigue, communal laziness, comparison of swelling) and foolish (two different cases of side affects at the same time, someone else who might actually want mashed potatoes for the fourth time in one day). Advil is a wonderful, miraculous thing. Your mother will not let you run a 5k four days after surgery, no matter how much you ask.

If you can’t tell by that last bit, I’m getting a little antsy to get on with regular life. I can only take so much lying on the couch and reading and watching movies and having zero responsibility. But this forced recuperation is maybe good for me. Number one, it’s forcing me to enjoy this rare pocket of free time and actually relax. For another thing, it’s also reminding me how very blessed I am. Yep, it’s annoying to be restricted to eating things that don’t require chewing and to not be able to stand up for long periods of time (Another side effect of pain meds? Dizziness.). However, this is something I will get over, something that won’t change my life or keep me from doing the things I love or even be annoying for more than a few days. I’ve really got it pretty good. Even if my teeth were once kind of a pain. And even if I can only eat ice cream and mashed potatoes for the next week.

Actually, especially if I can only eat ice cream and mashed potatoes for the next week.

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