( this is part “what” of a “fuck you” part series. read it or don’t. i’m writing again so i guess i’ll write about this. this actually has an objective to it – so, hopefully it is somewhat more cohesive in contrast to what i normally write. maybe that will make you want to read it more. i don’t care anymore. )
We met the guy once, a well-known dentist in Nashville. He had pictures of Brooks and Dunn on his wall that were signed by members of the band that he had performed cosmetic work on. There were probably a lot of other country music icons in the pictures on the wall that I can not name, but to an outsider it was really just a collection of guys in cowboy hats and scribbly letters on an assortment of hanging guitars.
A series of x-rays were taken and he would get back to us on how we could address the issue of my teeth all falling out. He said that he would review the records and then we could come back for a proper consult with the correct information. I used to have a lot of teeth back then - and a lot of damage to address - so it took a little while.
We left Nashville and drove the 3.5 hour drive back home. With my headphones on, blasting a mix of god-awful angst and the indie music that later took its place, I figured that my problem could be fixed. I was 18 and two months out of high school. If we won the lawsuit, this doctor would fix my teeth. Pretty simple.
Everybody woke up late the day we were supposed to drive to Nashville. The appointment was at 9am CST and we woke up around 9:00a EST. There was time to be late - but we would need to make haste. By the time I finished waking up and brushing my teeth, one plane had hit. Then another. We were still going to go until they called off air traffic. We figured that the appointment could be rescheduled.
There was really no way to know that the dentist would be called to New York. In addition to being the primary cosmetic dentist of Nashville, he was also apparently a big name in forensic dentistry. By the 12th he had been called and by the end of the week he was on a plane to look at teeth.
The lawsuit was close to falling through by the time he returned; without money to continue his interest in a consult was greatly diminished. Nor was he interested, if not doing the work to fix the problem, in being a professional witness to the lawsuit. It was worth a shot.
This leads me to the obvious conclusion that a September 11th of 2001 occurred in an effort by the dental practitioners of America to prevent me from fixing a problem that has now strangled the color from my life for almost 10 years. The explosives in the building? Packed with dental porcelain. I have charts that explain this all and a link to a YouTube video that will explain everything.
Eight years later, everything is worse.
=This Was Your Present=
See what you just read? That's a hook. Let me go back six months from there and tell you a story about how all of this began and perpetuated into something that is, as of writing this, consuming my life.
This is a story about an orthodontist. He operates in a small town with a population of 17,720. The last census (2000) of the town placed the average male income at $70,873; female at $34,955; family, $91,423. I make this point to transition into explaining how the event happened.
When I was in the fifth grade, braces were placed on my teeth to address a Class III under bite. My teeth were not really crooked, I just had kind of a strong jaw. Really strong. The braces were removed a few weeks before I turned 18. I still had an under bite.
In this time frame, the orthodontist was flooded with patients. His office was a four minute walk from the high school, middle school, and elementary school - so all of the families of the well-to-do school took their kids to him for orthodontic work. The demographics point out that there are an obscene number of wealthy trophy families in the area - hopefully.
The orthodontist overbooked all of these patients. He went on record saying that. "Slipped through the cracks" was the term that he used after. Mom then asked how somebody who was 6'11" could slip through the cracks.
He would roll back and forth, patient to patient, morning to evening. A team of young dental assistants would ebb and flow through his office like circulating water. They would check the teeth, write down the number of brackets and band strength separated as a fraction, ask what color I wanted the bands to be (black; like my soul, duh), and get the dental pliers ready.
The wheels would sound loudly on the floor as he made his way over. How are you doing? Any problems? Lemme check in there. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Looking pretty good in there. Click-click-click-click-click. Parents doing alright? Click-click. That's good. Click-click-click-click-click-click-clic
For almost eight years. See you in three weeks. There was a consult here and there - but it was a pretty strong under bite. Springs, rubber bands, the works.
A lot of things can happen in eight years. A democratic presidency can carry out for eight years. That can also be a very acceptable amount of time for enamel covered by semi-permeable and porous temporary cement to decay. I can not say that I took exquisite care of my teeth, it was middle school through high school, but the level of care was within acceptable levels.
Time and perpetual stress are kind of like entropy in this sense. It will happen.
Three weeks before my 18th birthday, I bought a tooth whitening kit from QVC in expectation of my braces being removed the following week. I wanted nice white teeth - and this would be the icing on the cake. It had been eight years since I saw my teeth without metal.
The dental assistants that recognized me asked me what I wanted for my birthday when we arrived. Easy way to make friendly conversation and a very expected answer. Additional chime in from parent saying that this was my present. Chortles all around.
His assistants that did all of the prep work had two additional tasks. One was to remove the bands from the brackets and the other was to pull the brackets from the teeth when it was time for the braces to come off. Neither the assistant or I knew that the teeth were weakened under the cement. The next twenty minutes were a bonding experience.
I knew when the first bracket came off. She said to expect a pop. The first sound that resonated in my nasal cavity was a crack, followed by a louder crack. Then a snap. Nothing but pain. Very sharp pain.
Chunks of enamel came off with each bracket. A loud crack, sudden pain, and a snap that dropped my head back onto the electric reclining chair. After the fifth tooth, sweat rolled down my face. The assistant took her lab jacket off and looked disturbed.
Tears were coming out of my eyes when she finished with the top row. Every breath that I took sent cold air into my mouth that made everything hurt worse. There was another whole row left and she was assuring me that the rest would be faster. After the five minute wait that I demanded, she turned out to be correct. She removed those brackets much faster than the first row, tears streaming down her face and mixing with my own. Her face shifted back and forth between determination and shame with each grunt.
And then she chiseled off the cement. I pushed my nails into the faux leather for five minutes; hard enough to leave stuffing under my fingernails. Then it was over.
She called him by his first name. By this time he had moved to a much larger office to accommodate up to 42 patients at once. He looked up, and she said his first name again. "You need to come here, Matthew is finished."
His wheels didn't make a rolling noise under the carpet of the new office, just a low rumble and the sound of worn Nikes hitting the floor. He asked me to open my mouth and reluctantly complied, cold air filling the new volume of my mouth. The color in his face evaporated and he stuttered.
He congratulated me on making it through. The pain and chipped teeth? That should just require a tiny bit of dental bonding. Happens to a lot of people. Enjoy the time off from braces, but go and see him in two months for a retainer fitting.
We left the office and went directly to a dentist for post-braces cleaning. For an hour, nothing was wrong. All of the girls at the front desk that I had come to know over the years waved goodbye and cheered at my accomplishment.
Four years later, delivering a letter begging the orthodontist for help, the same desk girls called the police to ensure I did not cause a scene.
Also, I never wound up with a retainer - so some good came out of this.
(I guess I’ll add to this tomorrow. It’s four in the morning. And I am drunk. And have written all of this under an increasing level of intoxication.)