I was sitting in the orthodontist’s office the other day admiring the deep leather couch I probably paid for when I commenced to doing some quick mental math. The waiting area was full and there was a steady stream of patients cycling through the treatment area. About $100K worth of braces was sitting in the room with me this particular afternoon. Now, I know they have lots of overhead, employees, and 5 convenient locations, but dang. Well, that line of thinking was only going to make me question my own life choices, which usually ends up with my daddy’s voice echoing inside my head about how I should’ve gone to law school, so I switched gears.
I noticed that I was the only person in the waiting room who was actually waiting. Everyone else was either watching a cartoon on the fancy flat screen (I probably funded that), texting or surfing on their phones, or vying for a turn on the state-of-the-art gaming console (yep, I bet I footed the bill for that one, too). Aside from the TV and race cars, the room was silent.
Just so you know, Gentle Reader, all four of my children are the stuff orthodontic dreams are made of. And does our insurance cover ANY of it? Not a pea-picking penny. Let’s see, one of my kids had an extra set of canines passed down by yours truly…that probably explains a lot right there. Another could eat a peach through a tennis racket. Straightening them out didn’t feel like cosmetics to me. I love them too much to pop them in the jaw with a baseball bat, which would be about the only way to get our insurance to pay for their treatment.
We once had to find an emergency orthodontist while we were on vacation because something went haywire. That fellow, who was willing to patch our son up for a nice chunk of our fun money, used the words train wreck. Do you remember that little girl who terrorized the fish in P. Sherman’s office, 42 Wallaby Way? That was me as a kid, headgear and all. My own orthodontic adventure was an odyssey of torture that lasted from 6th grade until I had the final appliance removed when I was 25. My only consolation was that Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura Ingalls on TV and was similarly orally challenged, had to wear her metal on the backs of her teeth because nobody knew about braces in the 19th century. I never bothered to check the accuracy of that fact, but it eased my suffering for years.
One of my other kids had a meltdown over the “unfairness” of having to receive orthodontic treatment. Remember Wilson from Home Improvement? We managed to talk her down from the don’t-let-anyone-see-my-mouth cliff after a few weeks. She did, however, doggedly maintain her I-won’t-smile-with-these-things-on-me policy for two YEARS. She may have a future as a method actor.
So, as I sat there in the waiting room I tried to come to grips with my PTOTS (Post Traumatic Orthodontic Treatment Syndrome), which had been stirred up by all this reflection on the money I’ve spent. My brace-faced baby fairly skipped out of the office. “Look, Mom! I got rubber bands and chains!”
Better you than me, sweetie. Better you than me.