Retainer Challenged

There are two kinds of children. Those who lose their retainers and those who don’t. I happen to have one of each. My son, now 21, has never been retainer-less. Since he got his braces off six years ago he’s been diligent regarding all things retainer. I know this because I’ve never had to buy him a new retainer and his teeth still look straight as the day the braces came off.

Sadly, I can’t say the same thing about my daughter. She’s, to be kind, retainer challenged. The latest episode in “Where’s Bella’s Retainer” ended up with her hypothesizing that the dog ate it. Specifically, our beagle.

To be fair the beagle doesn’t have a discriminating palate, but I don’t see him chowing down on a retainer. He turns his nose up at a Milk Bones so I’m skeptical he found a wire and plastic apparatus appetizing. Also, in the TMI department I pick up his poop so I think I would notice the remnants of a retainer.

But because I’m either a bad mother or just a tired one that’s the story we took to the orthodontist. To the credit of the entire office no one yelled liar or even rolled an eye. I don’t know maybe replacing retainers is a huge money-maker. Perhaps it’s an orthodontist gold mine with a high volume and big mark-up that helps subsidies all those rubber bands they give out.

It also made me curious to what retainer excuses people in the smile business had heard. Maybe my daughter’s “my dog ate my retainer” didn’t even register on the scale of wacky orthodontics appliances stories. So, I decided to launch my own investigation. I was going to find out the most outlandish excuses ortho employees had heard about “How I lost my retainer.”

The third best retainer tale of woe I was told concerned a child who must have been a diligent retainer wearer because he had it in during a surf lesson and upon being hit by a “major wave” lost it in the majestic waters of the Pacific. Perhaps somewhere in the briny depths a baby shark is enjoying some free orthodontic work towards a more beautiful smile courtesy of this retainer.

Coming in at number two was my little brother ate it. This one totally surpasses dog – big time. It would also lead you to ask a follow-up question. As in did this necessitate a trip to the E.R.?

The number one most bizarre story was my retainer got flushed down the toilet. Hmm, this one seems like a stretch because not only would both parts of the retainer have to take a porcelain swim, but then you would have to flush.

I asked the veteran orthodontist sharing this if she inquired to the person telling her the story why upon noticing that you dropped your retainer in the toilet wouldn’t you fish it out and commence an industrial grade sterilization sequence. She smirked and said that she did indeed ask about this and was told “the retainer was disguised by number 2.” (Gag.)

Maybe there needs to be some sort of chip implanted in retainers so you can locate them with your phone. Seriously, someone develop that app asap. My daughter’s going to need it. I just texted her (with three mad face emojis and in all caps) that her dad and I had just bought her the last retainer on our dime. The next one’s on her.

The Retainer Club

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 8.55.54 AM I need a high-five, a pat on the back and maybe even a hallelujah because it’s been six long years and finally all my kids are out of braces! Talk about a journey because although I’ve been dealing with metal mouths for a half-dozen years the ortho appointments started pretty much post womb.

My husband and I knew our son would be orthodonture bound as soon as his first tooth came in. I remember both of us staring at it and almost simultaneously saying, “Yep, he’s going to need braces.” After that it was years of “watch trips” to the orthodontist as we waited for his “lazy” baby teeth to give up their tenacious grip on the gum line and finally wave the white flag of surrender to the permanent teeth.

Once those bad boys came it was a gruesome journey to the oral surgeon to have some of the permanent teeth sacrificed to eliminate crowding in his mouth. The whole thing felt like a bloody urban renewal project. It was a relief when he could get braces. His teeth must have felt the same way because after a couple of years he had a killer smile.

Now my daughter was another story altogether. Her teeth were perfect. Seriously, she could have been a mouth model for an American Girl doll. Those white, straight, even teeth of hers gave me mom mojo. When other parents would talk about their kids needing braces I would patiently wait for what I knew was coming my way – adulation. Without fail the conversation would turn to my child’s flawless mouth.

Her incisors, those four front teeth that are basically the gatekeepers to your smile, were showstoppers. For a while there I got so wrapped up in my daughter’s “toothage” that I feared it was defining me. In my defense how could it not? When the subject of your child’s wonder teeth dominates your third grade parent teacher conference it just jolts your mom pride into the danger zone.

Then the unthinkable happened. My son’s orthodontist took one look at my daughter’s mouth and dared to inform me that she would need braces! Was this man blind? Did I need to call some ortho hotline or Dateline and report him for practicing without the gift of sight? I was furious and I fought back. I regaled a man with more than a decade of dental and orthodontic school with my tales of everyone, even strangers at Target, stopping to comment on my child’s stellar teeth.

He because, I’m sure they must have a class in dental school or some kind of continuing ed course on how to deal with irrational parents, talked me down and every so slowly explained that it was her bite that was the concern and that once you got past those four front teeth things weren’t that great back there. I quickly acquiesced mainly because he has a very soothing voice and I was educated in how not fixing a bite creates a whole host of lifelong problems. Basically he had me at TMJ.

Fast forward and now I’m a member in good standing of the “Retainer Nagging Club.” This club is open to parents who have spent thousands of dollars on their children’s mouths and now are hell-bent to make sure those teeth don’t stray back to pre braces behavior. (No snaggle tooth on my watch, people.) The retainer is a “until death do you part” device that unless worn every single night of your child’s life will result in their teeth getting a sweet taste of non appliance freedom and going rogue.

I have even gone so far as to make my children sign a document stating that if they do not wear their retainer and I see any teeth tomfoolery going on they must reimburse my husband and I for the full price of their braces. And because I’m not a chump the reimbursal price will factor in what that money could have been doing if placed, not in their mouths, but a retirement account earning a very conservative 5% interest rate. I also had the document notarized just to make sure it’s legalizing binding.

As a quick sidebar if the document would not stand up in court please don’t email me and tell me. I need my kids to believe I could indeed sue them and win. Wait, could I also sue them for pain and suffering? Hmm, there’s a thought. Go ahead and feel free to let me know if that would work. I need more threats in my mom arsenal.

Meanwhile, if you’re a parent with a child out of braces feel free to join the club. We’re easy to find. Just listen for our battle cry. “Where’s your retainer?” “Did you lose your retainer?” “You better be wearing your retainer!” “Don’t forget your retainer!”