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Adventures in Orthodonture

When I was Archer's age, I had my first consultation with the orthodontist. He was a kind man, quiet with perfect teeth (obvs) and a smile that filled the room. I had to have one of those palette widener things because my mouth was too small for my teeth and everything was a mess. I had a key I had to turn every few weeks and from 5th-6th grade I made this awful sucking sound when I talked because the palette widener thingy made me salivate to such an extent I was literally choking on my spit at all times. It was AWESOME, let me tell you.

And yet, I have fond memories of the orthodontist. The doctor was nice and the technicians were chill. Eventually, the expander was removed from my mouth, only to be replaced by braces. Which I REALLY, REALLY WANTED until I got them and then I hated them—except during the holidays, when I could color coordinate my rubber bands. (Black and orange for Halloween was a solid look.)

I had braces for three years after two years with an expander. After that, wore a retainer (mostly at night) until I was 18. Eight years, I spent with shit on my teeth. (I actually STILL have a retainer cemented to my bottom teeth because I was too lazy to have it taken out and now I've had it most of my life and am attached. Literally attached. But also emotionally.)

All of this to say that my formative years were spent in an orthodontist's chair. So when we started looking into selecting an orthodontist for Archer this summer, I felt naturally nostalgic/apologetic/hopeful that we would find a cozy place to commit the next decade-plus of our lives (assuming the whole crew will need braces and/or something similar). Basically, I assumed they would have a very similar orthodontist experience to the one I had.

WRONG.

So wrong. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. INFINITY WRONGS.

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I tried googling "orthodontists are like used car salesmen" to see how many billions of articles would come up after our experience with two consultations with two HIGHLY RECOMMENDED orthodontists, both of whom were SO OVERLY EXCITED FOR OUR BUSINESS that we all felt ... well, gross.

And? Nothing came up. Which led me to believe that our experience was anomalous. EXCEPT. I started talking to local friends who have kids Archer's age and are in the same orthodontist-vetting boat and it seems pretty unanimous that orthodonture has become a competitive sport.

Not only have I had to screen my phone calls, but Archer has now received several handwritten letters congratulating him on various life events and while, I appreciate the sentiment, I do not appreciate what's behind it. I mean, there are only so many gifts you can send us, only so many messages you can leave on voicemail.

Hell, even our dentist was getting harassed by one of the orthodontist's offices because "YOU GUYS NEED TO GET YOUR SON IN NOW SO THAT HE CAN GET STARTED OR ELSE HIS MOUTH WILL SURELY EXPLODE."

Not to mention the fact that both doctors had OPPOSITE plans for Archer's mouth. (One wanted to pull out a bunch of teeth and stick in a spacer. The other wanted to wait a year and put on braces.)

Perhaps, not surprisingly, we went with the second doctor, who DID NOT harass our dentist and is not trying to force us to pull Archer's teeth out. But I'm still feeling like I need to take a shower after all of the "gifts" and "letters" we were sent.

Is this what it's like to shop for orthodontists in Los Angeles? In California? In the United States of America? Are you guys getting handwritten letters asking for your business/daily phone calls/messages/flowers and chocolates delivered to your door to woo your business/your child's teeth?

Are receptionists popping out from behind your bushes with vouchers for free consultations? I mean, I was literally taking a shower last night when a doctor's assistant handed me a towel and was like, "THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING ______ ORTHODONTICS."

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I mean good grief, dudes. Simmer down. Stop the madness.

Brace yourselves.

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