Braces aren’t better for those nearing age 60

Sunday, February 20, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:26 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I think I’ve finally fallen over the edge. Here I am nearing the big 60 mark in life, and I just had braces put on my teeth. I’m not beholden to vanity. I have never minded my semi-crooked teeth. But it seems that I am a grinder, and over the past half-century, I have ground my teeth down to little stubs. My general dentist says I need to have my teeth built up, but I needed to have my overbite corrected first.

I didn’t tell anyone in my family, nor did I consult my friends. I went to my husband’s office last week, and he placed 24 little brackets on my teeth. I have always been told that I have a big mouth, but that plastic cheek and lip retractor stretched my lips until they cracked. I knew the staff was watching to see if I was going to be a wimp, so I said nothing. After the brackets were cemented on, the technician slipped a wire across each arch and cut off the ends.

After she removed the irritating mouth piece, she sat me up and handed me a mirror. I looked at my tiny teeth covered by little gold brackets and I felt a little foolish. But it was when I closed my mouth that the “fun” began. The inside of my mouth was not happy with all of those foreign objects. I looked like I had been punched in the mouth the way the lips puffed around the brackets.

My husband came to the chair and surveyed his work.

“Normally we put rubber bands on right away,” he said. “But because you’re a little older than my normal patient, I think we will wait a day for you to get adjusted to the hardware in your mouth.”

Trying to be a model patient, I nodded and fled his office.

It was mid-afternoon, and I had had nothing to eat all day. I was starving. I drove to the nearest fast-food chain and ordered a hamburger.

I could barely bite through the lettuce. Worse was the feeling that I had food stuck on every tooth. I flipped up the mirror above the steering wheel and surveyed my mouth. I was right! Disgusted, I drove home and raced to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I had to rinse at least 12 times before all of the gook was gone.

Within an hour, my mouth felt like a pin cushion. The delicate tissue on the inside was swollen from the various pricks from the metal brackets. I opened the little envelope I had been given and removed a 2-inch strand of wax. I took the entire strand and smushed it along the line of brackets. Using the remaining three strands, I covered all of my teeth. It didn’t look pretty, but it didn’t hurt anymore. And besides, I wasn’t in any mood to smile anyway.

Things got worse the next day. My husband told me that my teeth would be sore. That was putting it mildly! I could barely open my mouth. When I spoke, it sounded as if I had cotton stuffed in the corners.

By the end of the second day, I was out of wax (I was told it should last a month, until my next appointment). I didn’t want to eat because I could barely chew, and I had to brush right away, so I couldn’t eat in public.

I hadn’t planned this little adventure well. This month I am the lecturer at church — I read to the congregation. I don’t mind getting up in front of people, but Sunday I was a nervous wreck. As I stood before the 300 parishioners, my heart was pounding in my chest. My lower lip stuck to one of the brackets as I opened my mouth to speak. I made it through the two readings but I swear I said “smake” instead of “snake.” I know I said “coming” instead of “cunning.”

On the fourth day, my husband handed me the rubber bands. I couldn’t get the things to attach to the hooks so my husband took over, mumbling something about how he has treated thousands of kids and has never heard this much complaining.

I absent-mindedly tried to eat a potato chip, and it bounced off the left rubber band and sailed across the room.

The good news is that I’ve lost seven pounds in the past week. Maybe I’ve finally found the answer to my weight problem.

If you have a comment or want to get in the pool as to when I have these brackets removed, please e-mail me at

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