Brace Yourself This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Brace Yourself!

by Christina R., Newark, DE Do you enjoy causing people pain? Do you relish seeing someone squirm away from a sharp instrument? If so, you should seriously consider a career in orthodontics. Someday you could be cementing pieces of metal into a kid's mouth. To get on the right track, you should have some knowledge about the tools of the trade. (Warning: if you become nauseous at the thought of crooked teeth or overbites, stop reading now.)

I have actually never seen most of the devices, since they were always in my mouth. I can, however, distinguish each instrument by the degree of pain it inflicts. First, there is the "lip spreader," a plastic shape inserted in your mouth so that you can't close it. An hour or so with that thing and your mouth is wider than an 18-wheeler's bumper. Next is an ultraviolet light that dries glue. Also, a pair of pliers gives you the sensation of having your tooth twisted around. Last is an innocent metal tube, perfect for tightening brackets. When it's through, you can say good-bye to crunchy and chewy foods for a week!

What good are the tools without the patient? In order to be an orthodontist, you must be able to convince people that braces and other dental accessories "will help them in the long run." Braces are a pain. Not only are they uncomfortable and a hassle to clean, but something could pop off - and it's off to the office for emergency torture. On the positive side, the impressions that the brackets make on the inside of your mouth are practically artwork. Braces are also a convenient way to hook yourself on sheets and blankets.

There are countless other appliances to suit each patient's dental needs. Lip bumpers, retainers and rubber bands are just a few. The one I am most familiar with is the Herbst Appliance. This mechanism fixes an overbite by forcing the lower jaw forward little by little. It is worn for about a year. A metal rod which fits inside a metal sleeve is placed vertically in the mouth, one on each side. The Herbst makes chewing difficult and is prone to get stuck open (especially when you open your mouth too wide). It can even fall apart!

Remember, there is much more to be learned on the road to becoming an orthodontist. Believe it or not, you must graduate from medical school. If you like to watch suffering but overbites don't appeal to you, consider being a dentist, doctor or exterminator. Carry on a tradition that has survived for centuries. Some of the greatest methods of torture have been the rack and the stocks. Orthodontics proudly stands with them.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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