By Jerry Zezima
I have to brace myself for this, but when it comes to straight teeth and beautiful smiles, my granddaughter and I are bridging generations by wearing braces.
Of course, my granddaughter’s smile is much more beautiful than mine, but she recently got metal braces — with pink rubber bands! — to correct an overbite.
At 10 years old, she is proud of her new look, which she will have for a couple of years, and has accepted the fact that she can’t eat certain foods because they would stick to her braces.
At nearly 70 years old, I am proud of my old look because I still have all my teeth, even though my invisible braces don’t come with pink rubber bands.
My braces aren’t really invisible — how would I find them? — and I wear them only at night, which means I can eat anything I want, even sticky foods, just as long as I brush my teeth before bed.
Actually, the braces are clear plastic retainers, which makes me sound like a lawyer who takes credit cards.
I didn’t wear metal braces when I was a kid, which was good because I was afraid of being hit in the mouth by flying refrigerator magnets.
But over the years, two of my pearly whites — one on the top, one on the bottom — had rotated more than the tires on my car.
In 2007, I went to the Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine on Long Island, New York, to straighten out the problem.
The first part of the treatment involved getting metal braces on the back of my right upper teeth. Fortunately, nobody could see the braces, which looked like a short stretch of railroad track, but they pulled the teeth back to allow room for the crooked lateral incisor to be rotated to its original position.
Once that was done, I got invisible braces known as Invisalign, which turned around both of my snaggleteeth, including the lower central incisor, and gave me a Hollywood smile. I am hoping to star in a remake of “The Invisible Man.”
For the past few years, after I stopped wearing the invisible braces full time, I have worn the retainers at night. And I return to Stony Brook for an annual checkup.
That’s what I did recently, when I met Dr. Heather Ercolano, a third-year resident at the dental school.
“Did you have braces when you were a kid?” I asked Dr. Heather, as she prefers to be called.
“Yes,” she answered. “They were the metal kind. I was in fifth grade, so I was 10 years old.”
“My granddaughter is the same age and she just got metal braces,” I said. “How long did you wear yours?”
“For two years,” Dr. Heather replied.
“That’s how long my granddaughter has to wear hers,” I said. “She also has pink rubber bands. Could I get them for my retainers?”
“They would probably slide off,” said Dr. Heather, who asked me to snap on my retainers. “They fit fine,” she noted. “And they’re doing their job.”
“I keep them clean by brushing them with dishwashing liquid,” I said. “Of course, I take them out first.”
“The soap wouldn’t taste good,” said Dr. Heather.
“Am I your oldest patient?” I wondered.
“No,” she said. “The person with the next appointment is 74. We have quite a few patients in their 70s.”
“Do they still have all their teeth?” I asked.
“Not everyone,” Dr. Heather said. “But you have all of yours and they’re looking great.”
“Even without colorful rubber bands?” I said.
“If your granddaughter has extras, she could give them to you,” Dr. Heather said. “But it’s best just to wear your retainers.”
“Too bad,” I said. “I was hoping she could say that her grandfather is pretty in pink.”
Copyright 2023 by Jerry Zezima