Dental Appliances I Have Known

When I was a kid I thought that braces were cool. Perhaps it was because the people who had them were generally older and cooler than me, when I was eight years old. Looking back, it makes sense. I associated braces with the people I looked up to who had them – the teenage assistant in my children’s theatre group, my babysitter, my best friend’s oh-so-sophisticated older sister.

When I was 12 years old I got braces myself, and suddenly they weren’t so cool anymore. In fact, they were the exact opposite of cool. That night that I got them on was one of the worst nights of sleep in my life. Or perhaps I should say one of the worst nights of sleep in my life before kids. I just remember how much my mouth ached, and how there was no escaping it. Plus, I didn’t just get braces, I got full on headgear. Not only was the headgear the height of tweenage awkwardness, it forced me to sleep on my back, which is the last way that I sleep if I have any say in the matter.

I tried looking for some photos of myself in full on orthodontia, but I don’t seem to have any. It’s not surprising, really. I didn’t exactly feel like posing when I had it on. Thankfully I didn’t have to wear the headgear to school, but I had to wear it all the rest of the time. And the braces, obviously, were semi-permanently attached to my teeth and didn’t go anywhere. For two years of my life regular visits to the orthodontist were routine, as my braces were tightened and the elastics replaced. They became the bane of my existence, especially when I wasn’t allowed to audition for a play in junior high because the director didn’t like the way braces made teeth on stage.

I may still be just a little bit bitter about the way my acting career was nipped in the bud. Oh, what could have been!

My orthodontic travails did not last forever, luckily. One happy spring day, the braces came off. I was so used to them by that point that it almost felt like I didn’t have any teeth in my mouth at all. But I did, and they were (finally) straight, and I didn’t stop smiling for two whole weeks. Except for when I had my retainer in, which once again was pretty much whenever I wasn’t at school. Because who wants to wear a retainer at school? I was coming off of years of wearing braces, I wanted to flaunt my new smile, not my dental gear.

You could say that I have run the dental appliance gamut. And recently, I got to head in a whole new direction when my dentist informed me that I needed a night guard. It seems that my bite is aligned is such a way that all the pressure falls on just two or three teeth on the upper right side of my jaw. When I sleep, I sometimes clench my jaw. As a result I have a fair amount of gum recession on those teeth, and I’ve already had one gum graft to correct the issue. While it was a largely uneventful procedure, I’m not exactly eager to repeat it, so I opted for the guard.

In an ideal world, I would agree to the night guard and they would bring out one they had in the back. I do not live in an ideal world. Here was the process I went through to get my new dental appliance:

  1. Wait for an insurance pre-approval notice to arrive at my home.
  2. Drive the paperwork to my dentist’s office.
  3. Wait to hear back from the dentist’s office with the final estimate, and schedule an appointment.
  4. Visit the office to have molds of my teeth made, for the lab that would be making my night guard.
  5. Schedule an appointment to pick up the night guard.
  6. Receive a phone call letting me know that the guard wouldn’t be ready on time, and would I mind re-scheduling? I comply.
  7. Show up to pick up my night guard on the new day, and get shown to chair in a room.
  8. 15 minutes later, learn that my night guard isn’t actually there. It was supposed to arrive the day before and didn’t, and then it was supposed to arrive about half an hour before I did, but didn’t. They don’t know when it will be in, and they may need my chair. I tell them I’ll wait 15 more minutes, but then I’m calling it a day.
  9. 15 minutes after that, have an apologetic hygienist tell me that they’re calling it a day. As I re-scheduled, the receptionist gave me some Starbucks gift cards for my trouble, so the day wasn’t a loss. I did, however, give specific instructions that if the night guard wasn’t there by the end of business to please give me a call because I didn’t want to repeat the experience.
  10. Arrive the next day, and finally pick up my night guard.
  11. Realize that it’s even harder to speak clearly with a night guard than it was with a retainer. Fun stuff, man.

Quite honestly, I didn’t even really want the night guard, so jumping through those hoops felt like a bit much. Luckily I have it now, though, and it’s fine, and hopefully it will do what it’s meant to do. Because I don’t want to spend any more time in a dentist’s chair, dealing with dental appliances, than I already have in my life so far.

Have you ever had orthodontic work done? Did you have braces, or headgear, or a retainer? And have you ever tried a night guard? Tell me tales of your awkward youth, I’d love to hear them!

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  1. Braces are really very painful, My cousin got them at the age of sixteen. She was screaming in pain the night she got them and was crying a lot. My mother assuaged her and gave her some pain killers. I know its very tough!
    Leo’s last post … La dieta necesaria para dejar de fumarMy Profile

  2. Your dentist didn’t arrange the preapproval and have it sent directly to the office? Mine did that for Darren’s.

    Oh orthodontics.

    I mentioned in a post earlier about how I have no great love for dentists, the result of about 5 years of orthodontics. I never had braces, but I had bionators (like retainers, but they shift the top and bottom jaws at the same time).

    Also, I have the hardest enamel known to humankind – such that my baby teeth refused to fall out. So to make room for the adult teeth, my orthodontist had to pull 8 of them. At once. With freezing only.
    Nicole’s last post … The Saga of the Tablet: One Tablet to Rule them AllMy Profile

    • This is what has always happened in the past – the pre-approval gets sent to them. I think maybe the rules changed or something, because they said it had to come to me for privacy reasons. It really did add a totally unnecessary pain in the butt factor, I must say.

    • O god, bionators! I thought I was the only one, Nicole. I’ve never seen anyone else wearing one. I thought having a bionator was way worse than braces–very hard to talk with. Thankfully, I only wore one for about a year, but it was full time. Wearing a big, bulky appliance that moved around in my mouth when I spoke was definitely not cool in grade 8.

  3. I wish I’d gotten braces – my teeth are crooked and there are more fillings/bridges/crowns in there now than real teeth, which might have been prevented if my teeth had been straighter and less crowded! Consider yourself fortunate – my parents just couldn’t afford braces, and being self-employed, didn’t have dental coverage. I am getting my kids to an orthodontist as soon as the time comes so that they have a better chance at healthier teeth as adults!

  4. Oh yeah. Braces, headgear, pain, aggravation, ugly pictures, retainer, grind my teeth at night, gum graft, night guard. My first night guard was like a sports mouth guard – you had to bite on both top and bottom. Most idiotic design ever – I never wore it. I finally got fitted for one that snaps over my bottom teeth (I would never try talking with it in – I only put it in right when I’m going to sleep and I take it out if anyone wakes me up). I still don’t wear it every night because, frankly, I hate it. But I only chewing and not having more gum grafts, so I try.
    allison’s last post … Gimme a NA! Gimme a BLO! Gimme a PO! Gimme a MO!My Profile

  5. Oh, tooth work. You name it, I’ve had it.

    First it was the hereditary pits and fissures my mom was so kind to pass on to me. I had tons of cavities, despite obsessive brushing, while my brother had zero even though he never brushed. Then they put sealants on the fissured teeth, and I got cavities under those. I had braces for “18 months” which turned into three years, complete with headgear, rubber bands, and everything else. I had a retainer for two years after that, which I wore religiously.

    Then, shortly after the retainer was switched to nighttime only, I wanted to get a book down from the loft over the garage. But I knew nothing about ladder safety, and ended up crashing to the ground. My face hit the ladder as I fell. One of my beautiful, perfectly placed front teeth was knocked out of place. Since it was a Saturday, I had to endure a tooth knocked back half an inch all weekend and come in on Monday. The dentist was carefully wiggling it to see if it could be saved when the tooth came right out. Let me tell you, getting a tooth pulled out with no anesthesia isn’t fun!

    It took months of healing and work to place the bridge I eventually got. Going to school with a huge gap, and later an ugly plastic bridge, was an exercise in humility. But now I have a porcelain one with gold on the back, and the only downside is that I can’t drink ice water anymore. Most people can’t tell.

    But then it turned out that the tooth next to the missing one had been damaged too, and would need a root canal. Doing a root canal through a bridge is difficult — while they were drilling, the gold heated up and gave me a severe burn on my gums! Other than that, it wasn’t so bad (comparatively). But there was a problem on the top of that tooth, too, so they were going to have to cut through my gums to fix it. The gum surgery is definitely the worst I’ve had to have so far. And if I got any gum recession from it, I’d end up with a gap above the bridge and make it look horrible obvious! The only way to prevent that, they told me, was not to eat anything hot, cold, or spicy, not chew, not talk, and not smile until the stitches had been healed. I ate yogurt and lukewarm soup for a week and didn’t speak at all for days, and I didn’t get a bit of recession. The doctors were impressed.

    But let me tell you, I am in no mood to have anything else happen to my teeth! I guess I’ll be thankful for my one blessing — I never got any wisdom teeth, and they say I never will.
    Sheila’s last post … Sleep stressMy Profile

  6. I had a nightguard for two weeks when I was younger. I have no idea why this particular timing was agreed to by my parents, but my dentist made a nightguard for me two weeks before I got spacers in preparation to put on my braces. As a lifetime teeth grinder (who used to wake my mother up from down the hall – eek!) I really need to get another one, but haven’t. And now I’m pretty much terrified to go to the dentist. Just thinking about it stresses me out worse than just about any everyday life thing I can imagine.

    I’m actually going to call a sleep dentist next week. That’s assuming I can work up the guts to do it.
    Karen’s last post … Chats with Brandon: Do you like crackers?My Profile

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