I spent a good part of the morning today getting a set of upper retainers fitted. This is because the regularity of my teeth, like so many other things about me, has only been the result of a vast amount of effort and expenditure. (Other people, my older brother mostly, have had the enormous good fortune of having, well, enormous good fortune, crash resoundingly on their heads unbidden like Looney Tunes anvils. I do not belong to this species.)
I wore braces for five years during and after college because my teeth refused to submit to the metallic ministrations of childhood retainers. My orthodontist at the time—a woman whose spartan efficiency was exceeded only by misguided optimism—enthusiastically told me during the fitting that I would wear them for “a year, or maybe two at most.” That was before she told me that she had to take out four of my teeth (four perfectly healthy, functional, white teeth) because my teeth were too big and my mouth didn’t have enough space. (This was all dental speak for: The size of your mouth is fine but you’re going to look like a walrus some day if we don’t trim some of that enamel.)
In any case, I lost the four teeth (and possibly four kilos after from having to subsist exclusively on Milo for a week), and it took a tremendously tedious amount of time for the remaining ones to fill in the gaps left by their forcibly evacuated neighbors. Every year that elapsed, I would ask my orthodontist, with a mixture of despair and resignation, when I would finally have my braces removed. I always got “a few months, maybe six at most.” (This turned out to be dental speak for: We really don’t know. You’ve got stubborn teeth.)
At the end of it, after my braces were finally taken out, my orthodontist happily squished my still-nascent elation with the pronouncement that I would need to wear retainers—possibly for the rest of my life, but that it was going to be okay because I just needed “to wear them at night.” I’ve worn retainers ever since, except for the months between August of last year to June of this year due to reasons that will take an entirely different blog post to relate. In any case, during the long interval of freedom, my long tyrannized teeth reveled too much in their freedom and started wiggling around, and at some point I noticed and—panicking at the prospect of another half-decade of wearing braces—promptly had a new set of retainers fitted.
And now my teeth hurt all over again.