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I Was an Orthodontist's Nightmare
For most people braces serve a cosmetic purpose and my parents were too practical to ever consider sending me to an orthodontist. I remember my dad yelling at me that I should finish chewing my food before stuffing more food into my mouth. What he didn't know was that I had so little chewing surface that the only way I could smash my food was to have enough of it in my mouth that I could grind the food against other food rather than with my teeth. Even I was only subconciously aware, I just knew it was easier to chew that way. It took so much work moving my jaw around to find chewing surface that it eventually wrecked my TMJ (the joint in the back of my jaw that my teeth hinged on.) By the time I was 40 my TMJ hurt so bad that I could no longer eat solid foods. I even had to let my corn chex soak in the milk for awhile before I was able to chew it. One of the girls at work used to work for an orthodontist, so she volunteered to ask around  and find for me the two best references in the state.

I went to see her first reference. He took one look at my bite and said that it was so bad that there was nothing he could do for me. He said that I had three different kinds of bites, such as a crossbite, an overbite, and an openbite. In addition, while I was a teenager my dentist had pulled two teeth out, and all my other teeth had shifted to fill in those areas. When I saw the second orthodontist, he also told me that my teeth were so bad that he could not fix them. But I pleaded with him, telling him that my TMJ hurt so bad that I could not eat anymore, and that he was the second person who had told me that he could not help. "Please!" I cried, "You have to help me. You have to at least try!" I told him I had been referenced to the two best. He asked who the other orthodontist was. Perhaps he saw it as a challenge to prove he could do something the other guy couldn't. (Wouldn't that make him the best in the state of Utah?) Whatever his motivation, whether benevolence, competition, or pity, he finally agreed to try. Starting at age 41 I had braces for three years. For those of you who think moving your teeth when you are a teenager is painful, try moving them when you are over 40. In addition to the braces I had two bridges built on the bottom to fill in the area where the missing teeth were. Through the years my teeth had shifted to fill in those empty spaces, now they had to be moved all the way back to their original spots, and the empty spots, one on each side on the bottom, would be covered with bridges. My orthodontist really didn't think he could fix my bite, but over time he even surprised himself, so much so, that he made before and after molds of my teeth so that he could show the other doctors in the classes he taught what he had accomplished.

My teeth got fixed, but my TMJ had already been hurt so bad that I had to make frequent visits to a physical therapist before I could start to chew without pain. I had ultra sound and electrical stimulation. I had exercises I had to do, like reptitions of running my tonge all along the inside and outside of my teeth. At a cost of somewhere over $10,000 my dental insurance did not cover all the work I had done... just so that I could begin eating again. A pretty good chunk of that money came out of my own pocket.

When it was all done I couldn't believe the way all my teeth came together so well. I didn't even know it was supposed to be that way. The next time you are counting your blessings, thank God that you still have teeth to chew with. I sure as hell do.
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