For the most part, braces have had a bad rap in mainstream media. I grew up watching local and foreign shows that featured characters whose social awkwardness was attributed to — if not aggravated by — their being metalmouths. This physical trait was usually combined with other “undesirable” qualities, such as wearing glasses (preferably large-rimmed, for more adherence to the dork stereotype) and raging war against prepubescent acne.
Despite the dearth of empowered role models on TV, I still found the uniqueness of wearing braces appealing. So when my dentist recommended me to an orthodontist in second year high school, I was more excited than exasperated.
But not for long.
Sure, there were fun parts, like getting to choose your favorite color/s for the brackets and elastics (school skirt red? bubblegum blue? traffic cone orange? a combination of all three?). But in exchange for this little new outlet of self-expression, the freedom to indulge in things that define childhood — particularly munching apples, eating popcorn, chewing gum — was greatly impeded.
On the day she installed my braces, the ortho
threatened gently warned me to abide by the restrictions lest I pop a bracket off and needlessly extend the duration of the treatment. I promised to comply, as neophyte metalmouths are wont to do. I’ve seen some braces wearers in varying states of nonchalance before — i.e. using their tongues to “strum” the elastics at the sides of their mouths, and to flick loose brackets like beads in an abacus — and I told myself I wouldn’t follow suit. As it turned out, I would go on to fare far worse, but only with the best intentions.
I joined an immersion in Passi, Iloilo the summer before senior year. For the duration of our stay, we participants were taken in by host families within the community. What made the experience so much more dynamic was attending a barangay fiesta that coincided with our first day in the locality. Our gracious hosts didn’t just provide us food and shelter then; they also made like tour guides around town.
As is customary during fiestas (particularly in rural areas), most households prepared a generous spread for guests and strangers alike. Our merry group of immersionists started doing rounds at 1 p.m. and huffed back to our lodgings 5 hours later, after feasting with 7 households.
The following day, we were invited to the residence of one host family for breakfast. They were among the well-to-do in the community, with a bountiful fish pond as well as tubo (sugarcane) and pineapple fields within their property. Using his bolo, the patriarch hacked off a stalk of tubo and a pineapple, peeled it, and served it to us. Because refusal could be offensive to the host (and because the chances of me tasting fresh-from-the-field tubo any time after were pretty slim), I grabbed a bit of sugarcane and sunk my teeth in, braces and all.
Note that the term “sugarcane” has “cane” in it for a reason. A sharp pop and crackle revealed that two of my brackets (and the wire that held the whole thing together) disengaged, unable to bear the brunt of that tubo’s solidity. Needless to say, my devil- and/or dentist-may-care feat horrified — but I’d like to believe, eventually amused — the orthodontist.
My dental delinquency reached its peak when the braces came off, and retainers replaced it with a vengeance. Or, more appropriately, vengeanth. I was a college freshman then, and I vividly recall how that corrective contraption wreaked havoc on my pronunthiathion the way Edward Cullen’s sparkling-in-the-sun attribute punctured his claims to masculinity. My friends made like my preschool teacher and gleefully
poked fun at helped me get over the speech slur.
Many a time, I’ve been warned of an orthopedic relapse and the hassle that Braces and Retainers version 2.0 may bring. Because of the threats it posed to my oral communication skills, I laid off the retainers for a year or so. This is why it was with much apprehension that I called my ortho’s secretary last week to schedule an appointment.
This prodigal patient finally had her check-up yesterday, almost two years after her last visit.
When the ortho strolled into the booth, she asked about school and how my sem break was so far. I answered as best as I could, given that her dental tools were then traversing my oral cavity. After some four minutes of poking around, she asked, “Did you bring your retainers?”
“Oh, that’s okay. Great! Your teeth are solid, and they didn’t move.” Then a flash of her own pearly whites. “You’re done!”
OH, SWEET FREEDOM!
Now excuse me as I go canvassing for bolos to chop sugarcane stalks with.