Friday, October 19, 2007

Expanding Horizons...and Jaws

Last night I got to turn Sis's palatal expander for the last time. I'm no longer a slave to her mouth. I don't have to wait up for her to get home anymore so that I can "turn her crank". We were both very excited about this event. If we both hadn't been so tired we would have celebrated somehow.

I guess I'll start at the beginning of Sis's orthodontia story. She has been bugging me for the last few years to take her to the orthodontist. I really didn't think her teeth looked that bad. At least they were pretty much straight. One was overlapping and her midline was off because of a tooth that never came through, but compared to my own orthodontic experience, her mouth didn't look so terrible.

My own teeth had been so overcrowded that my eye teeth were coming in above and over my other teeth so that I looked like I had fangs, and my bottom teeth were a zigzagging jumbled mess. They had to pull 4 teeth just to get started and I even had to wear head-gear at night for a time. Yes indeed, I know bad teeth. I have lived it.

Then I took my daughter to the orthodontist and was immediately humbled. Poor Sis, her bite is messed up, her jaws need to be expanded, a tooth needs to be persuaded to come down and she needs her wisdom teeth out asap. Her orthodontist, who happens to be a specialist, described her as a "red light case". Her jaws needed to be expanded twice the distance of an average orthodontic patient.

Sis will be the recipient of nearly all the high tech orthodontic appliances known to man. And yes, they call them an appliance because you could easily go out and buy a new appliance at Sears for what these sophisticated metal contraptions cost. The first appliance they have installed is her palatal expander. This is an interesting piece that was cemented into the top of her mouth. I turn the little screw thing in the middle of it every night thus pushing her teeth outward, and spreading her palate apart. I have been literally breaking the upper part of her mouth apart very slightly every night for the last 8 weeks. Yes, it is extremely creepy. The first week it gave me the heebie-jeebies, but I got used to it. I have even threatened to turn it twice when she's gotten sassy.

The amazing thing is how her face has changed. This expander has made gaps between her teeth and of course changed how her upper jaw looks (she has another expander on the bottom that the orthodontist adjusts every 2 weeks so the bottom hasn't been as dramatic). From a crowded narrow smile, she now has a wide gappy toothed grin. Her teeth look very similar to the plastic novelty "Billy Bob" teeth sold at cheap toy stores. That will soon change as she starts getting her braces on.

Sis has really been a trooper through all of this, and she still has nearly 3 years of orthodontia ahead of her. Her mouth has been so tender at times that she couldn't eat solid food to 3 days, her expander has given her headaches, she can't eat candy, crackers, chips or anything else that might be crunchy or sticky. Yet I have yet to hear her whine or complain.

Her expander will stay in now for 3 more months so that the bones can set. She will still make strange noises while she eats as she sucks and slurps out bits of food that get caught between the expander and the roof of her mouth, and she will still have a bit of a lisp as she tries to maneuver her tongue around the metal in her mouth. So while not having to turn her expander anymore is a momentous occasion, I think we'll save our celebration for the day her expander comes out. We'll go eat something crunchy and have her say tongue twisters!

1 comment:

Holly said...

I had one of those when I was 11 and it was awful! Poor thing. What a trooper she's been!

Big celebrations should be in store when it finally comes out!