Saturday, October 17, 2009

Orthodontia & Health Care


Did you have braces? I didn't. But, boy I wanted them. As a kid, I stripped twisty ties--you know those pieces of paper-wrapped metal you can use to close plastic baggies--and fitted them around my canines to fashion a retainer of sorts. Just enough metal mouth to make me talk funny and constantly tongue the backs of my teeth. Don't think I was the only weird one, I did this with friends. We made "braces" for our teeth and wore them around.

Collin had his second consult with the orthodontist this past weekend. They take amazing pictures of the mouth. Amazingly explicit. Lips pulled back, full-on. Do see that panoramic x-ray? Yep, that's Collin's mouth. My favorite part of the x-ray are his teeth buds just waiting to burst through his gums. Big teeth hiding in launch capsules buried deep in his gums. The perfect circles around those teeth--I just love them. Fascinating.

We first took Collin for a "look -see" at the orthodontist when he was 7. His front teeth are off the mid-line and quite turned. His canines are turned and crowded. He inherited my small mouth. Hard to believe I even have a small mouth, isn't it?

Braces happen in stages now. This is round one. For the first time, too, Collin went back to the chair without me. At the dentist, parents sit on a bench along a row of hygenists' chairs--of course, when Mom has cleaned our teeth, we're all just in the same room together. Last week though, the assistant came and collected Collin, telling me to "enjoy my magazine."

He leaves me in little moments like and I feel my heart catch of the thought of him off to college. Crazy isn't it? Is that how mother's feel the future in the everyday?

I ignore it, smile and settle into Better Homes and Gardens at the orthodontist. Next week he will get an expander. Braces follow.

But we'll need to pay for them first. When I was a kid orthodontia was a middle-school rite of passage. Parents saved up for orthodontia or bemoaned the cost over cocktails. I've got to check and see if we our insurance covers part of the cost. Collin's orthodontist offers payment plans, too--seems reasonable. In my day the dentist would just pull a few teeth to "make room" if you had an over-crowded mouth. I had several pulled and avoided braces. Teeth pulling is out. Maybe it was cheaper. Braces are in.

I'm teaching A.P. Language this year and we've done a lot of talking about rhetoric. We've been analyzing essays and images. The pieces we did on minimum wage haunt me.

How privileged am I to sit enjoying the magazines in the lobby of an orthodontist's office? How would someone who works a minimum wage job ever manage to pay for braces for one of their children? They wouldn't would they? The cost of this first round varies depending on how you pay for it. If you pay it all up front, you get a 6% discount. If you string the payments out over time, it's more expensive. If you have the money in the first place, why do you need a discount? Not only do quite a majority of people in our country not have the money, but they also don't have health care. Straight teeth pale in comparison to that.

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