On the rack

Hyla got her braces last week.


The cool thing about braces these days is that you get to pick the colors of the parts adhered to your teeth, so she chose her favorite blue, and a gold that went well with the blue. I think she made a good choice.

The bad thing about braces is the upkeep and work involved — I had no idea there were so many types of tooth brushes and cleaners and liquids and pastes out there. I have a new appreciation (or horror?) of the “oral hygiene” aisle at the drug store. All that aside, though, the braces themselves don’t seem to hurt her much (or at all). The real downer is the expander, a bit of diabolical machinery installed across the roof of her mouth, braced between her upper back teeth.

The expander is a literal pain on many levels. It hurt to put it on in the first place, and sometimes it hurts to chew with it on, and food gets caught in it easily. In fact, learning to eat with it installed was something we hadn’t counted on at all. I don’t remember being warned that it would take a week (or more, according to some accounts I read on the Internet) to relearn how to chew and swallow with this medieval contraption installed. The first two or three days, Hyla basically followed the tonsillectomy diet: apple sauce, broth, pudding, jello. But even still, she managed to figure out how to eat milk chocolate, and, gradually, she’s gotten back to eating most of her regular foods.

What remains, though, is the last devilish detail: the turns. The whole point of the expander is to widen her her jaw, so the only way to make this work is to gradually force the expander to widen, which puts the necessary increasing pressure on her jaw. So, every other day, for four weeks, we put a little pointed tool into a hole in the expander and turn it once.

The orthodontist assures us that the expander moves only the width of a hair during each turn, but, from the look on Hyla’s face, it’s obvious that even this small measure of expansion is very uncomfortable. Fortunately, she recovers quickly after each turn, but you can imagine it’s a thing we both dread. Here’s another thing I just didn’t imagine having to do when we thought about having a child.

We have a countdown calendar in the bathroom, which helps up keep track of how many turns we have left. After this morning’s turn, we have 10 more.

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