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Fri, Dec. 06

Column | Has it been a good year for your family’s teeth?

My extended family has suffered more than its fair share of dental issues in 2019.

(Fair share? Yes, Elizabeth Warren’s number-crunchers have ascertained exactly how many fillings, extractions and root canals Bill Gates should have to endure. Tankerloads of sugary drinks are standing by to balance any inequities.)

I myself am getting by with nothing more serious than semiannual cleanings (knock on wooden teeth). But my wife has made umpteen emergency trips to the dentist, my 92-year-old mother went through a six-month process of getting dentures, my mother-in-law had several teeth pulled and now my 15-year-old son Gideon is adjusting to wearing braces for the next 18 months.

I now know why teeth are referred to as “pearly whites” – by the time you get them paid for, you’re passing through the Pearly Gates.

Sure, everyone wants a winning smile, but with the price of braces, you shouldn’t merely be winning. You should be running up the score and body-slamming the opposing team’s mascot!

I know: “How can you put a price tag on good oral hygiene, aesthetic perfection and self-esteem?” Well, somebody sure takes up the challenge!

To be fair, my deluxe dental insurance did cushion the blow for me. And, by cushion the blow, I mean in the sense that a Kleenex cushions the blow of an anvil falling from a cliff onto the Coyote’s head.

Fuller disclosure: the braces diagnosis was not a sucker-punch catastrophe. We’ve scrimped and saved for the past five years just in case my weird dental DNA messed up Gideon’s smile. (You’ve seen my bumper sticker, “I’m flossing my children’s inheritance,” I presume.)

Even ignoring my genetic contribution, the odds are against ANYONE living to a ripe old age without costly dental crises. Now gender-reveal parties have been shoved aside by soirees where the buzzkill Health Police announce, “This embryo is pre-hypertensive. This embryo is pre-diabetic. This embryo is pre-‘sending the orthodontist’s kids to college.’”

At least the braces have not made Gideon a social pariah. Back in my day, braces rendered the wearer the butt of jokes, generated cruel nicknames and elicited comparisons to the James Bond villain Jaws. Luckily, most teens are now so busy looking down at their phones, little things like a mouth full of metal escape their notice. Can you imagine class reunions in the future? (“Darn! I came all the way here without charging my phone – hey! Brad and Brandi – I never realized you were conjoined twins!”)

Inevitably, some insufferable know-it-all will label me a fool for having gotten Gideon traditional braces from a reputable orthodontist with a physical location. They’ll say I should have jumped on the bandwagon for all the trendy “braces by mail,” “do-it-yourself braces” and other shortcuts. I’m just not greedy; I don’t deserve dental appliances that pay for themselves in five minutes, adjust while you blink or magically plant a tree in the Amazon rain forest every time you nibble a legume (or swallow their hype).

I sympathize with Gideon as he adapts to the hassles of frequent brushings, Waterpik utilization and avoidance of so many foods (hard, chewy, sticky) that he would love to consume.

I even refrain from seeking parental revenge for all those long-ago vacations.

Although it WOULD be fun to heckle, “Can you chew caramels yet? Can you chew caramels yet? Can you chew …?”

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