There are a couple of things that have always scared me a bit. Maybe it was lack of knowledge. Maybe it was fear of the unknown. Possibly just being copasetic. I remember browsing the course catalogue for university and not knowing exactly what engineering was. Seriously. Similarly, when friends got braces in high school I would just smile and nod. My teeth were straight enough – the top ones anyway. Everyone else was part of some club who got dismissed early for their ‘ortho’ appointments and I just sat and watched them leave, as if they were venturing to mars. I should have done some research. Little did I know that braces aren’t just cosmetic. Crooked teeth and overbites can affect speech, jaw stress and cause unnecessary wear on other teeth as time passes.
Our First Step in Addressing Crooked Teeth
Fast forward to me with two boys. My youngest, at 13, has very crooked teeth – only half of which are adult teeth. It’s 2020, the year where pretty much anything can happen, so as a responsible parent, I brought my head out of the sand and made an appointment. In person, you ask? it’s 2020! You can get garlic and tennis balls delivered the day after you order. You can buy my car insurance online without jumping through hoops. Siri and Alexa convert cups to grams as we cook! Practicing my ‘adulting’ skills, I decided to check the options.
There are a few no-contact, tooth-straightening delivery companies that ship to the house. The websites are flashy. Cool marketing, virtual helpers and streamlined packaging reminiscent of expensive tech companies. With my lack of experience, though, the details were pretty thin. Could my son get these trays with so many baby teeth? What if there’s an issue? Are they Canadian? I want to support local – especially during a pandemic. What about charity and corporate responsibility? Are they for kids or just adults? Too. Many. Questions. Time to investigate the more traditional option.
Choosing to See an Orthodontist
The Canadian Association of Orthodontists is an umbrella organization for Canada’s orthodontists – real human beings with brick-and-mortar spaces. I did a quick search on their website and found an orthodontic specialist right in my neighborhood. I phoned, and we had an appointment the following day. I would no longer be in the dark, looking in on the high school cool kids that were part of the ‘ortho’ club. Better late than never.
Hudson was over the moon at finally beginning to address the haphazard explosion in his mouth. As usual, I was more nervous than my ‘cool as a cucumber’ son. The orthodontic clinic was bright, friendly and uber-safe with pandemic protocols. The first step was to do an x-ray of his mouth that will be shared with our dentist. No online teeth-straightening service can provide that, so we were clearly headed in the right direction. I later learned that the imaging of some online providers can mistake baby teeth with adult ones, which in our case would be devastating and highly likely.
We sat down to answer a few questions about why we’d come. I was so thrilled that the coordinator spent a ton of time assessing Hudson’s comfort level, and quickly reassured me when it became clear that I was the nervous one! It was clear that a relationship was being developed. They talked about school, sports, and our weird pandemic summer. The office was plastered with new aligned smiles of other happy kids. Associates had walkie-talkies, and shuffled patients safely distanced from one area to another so as not to waste a second of time. Having just broken my foot and waited for hours in emergency, this consideration for the time of others was impressive.
The Orthodontic Exam
The next stage was the exam. The orthodontic specialist came in and greeted us warmly. More bonding with Hudson, and even an explanation to him that she would be talking a bit of gibberish that he wouldn’t understand as she carefully examined each tooth. She would call out numbers to her associate, who would meticulously record every detail into the computer. Until we get way better 4D internet with holograms and virtual people in the living room, this exam stage isn’t happening online. The orthodontist gave Hudson some brushing tips as they both looked at his x-rays projected on the wall. It was great that he had a visual to go along with the advice. Better yet, I wasn’t made to feel like a horrible parent at his (lazy) oral hygiene.
Other Reasons to Straighten Teeth: Overbites, Speech Issues and Jaw Health
The next conversation is what stopped me in my tracks and made me regret being an ostrich with my head in the sand when I was younger. I learned about the dangers of an overbite. About wear and tear on other teeth when some are uneven. And about jaw health and correction of speech defects. Wait a sec. What about my older son? Ford is 14, and his teeth are straight enough – just like mine were. I realized that as a parent, I had a responsibility to check out his teeth and jaw as well. Now that I know there are many more things to consider in addition to ‘teeth straightening’, I was thrilled to have come.
Explaining that my bottom teeth are crooked but usually covered by the top ones, the orthodontist asked to see them. Shyly, I lowered my mask and showed my teeth. ‘Oh for sure we could straighten those using trays.’ she said. Then I wouldn’t get the staining that builds up in the jagged crevices. Awesome. This is turning into a family affair!
In examining Hudson’s bite and x-rays, we learned that half of his mouth was still full of baby teeth. I guess I had forgotten to count as I woke in the middle of the night, realizing the tooth fairy hadn’t yet arrived and rummaged in the dark to find change. We’ve all been there, right?
Knowing the Right Time for Braces or Trays
The great news was that his adult teeth were all visible in the x-ray, ready to erupt, probably within the next 9 months and all at the same time. Fantastic. Better stock up on toonies. Realizing he couldn’t choose colours of elastics for braces TODAY, his disappointment dissolved quickly. As his brushing improves and he loses teeth he earns points that can be converted into gift cards for favourite shops. Cha-ching. We go back in 9 months and were sent home with a neoprene face mask and hand sanitizer for his backpack.
I’m proud of myself. The shy teen, too lazy to do research, is gone. As a mom, I feel like I went through the different options and made the only possible choice. In deciding between seeing a person and doing an online consult, there is no comparison. The x-rays, exam, comfort with the procedure and personalized interaction were everything – for my son, and especially me!
Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by the Canadian Association of Orthodontists. All opinions and experiences are my own.