That’s how long the orthodontist said he expected EM to have to wear The Dread Retainer.
Give or take a few weeks, of course.
But still—nine months.
I could make a whole other baby in nine months, the prospect of which—even given the long term consequences incumbent on said baby—is not nearly as distasteful to me as the thought of making The Dread Retainer feel welcome and comfortable in my home for nine full months.
I’ve spent some time online searching for a picture of The Dread Retainer. But I couldn’t find anything that looks even remotely like it. Sufficed to say, it’s all twisted, looping wires, and bulging, mesh cages; more crude instrument of Medieval torture than sophisticated device of modern dentistry. And it’s been permanently glued to EM’s back molars for the next—did I mention?—nine months.
Of course, on some remote level, I’m aware that it’s wrong of me to make The Dread Retainer sound like my cross to bear, rather than EM’s. After all, it was her gums that were scraped all to hell Friday afternoon while it was being fit into place. And she’s the one who hasn’t been able to eat much more than yogurt and runny oatmeal all weekend because her teeth are too tender to bite down on anything more substantial. But, gentle reader, please consider that I’m the one who has to listen to her suck and gurgle excess saliva until her mouth grows accustomed to the alien metal. I’m the one who has to endure the lisped and slurred speech as her tongue learns to speak around all that hardware. And I’m the one who has to hand pluck stringy bits of fruit and goo out from underneath the wires until she relearns how to chew and swallow.
The orthodontist tells me the excess saliva shouldn’t last more than 3 or 4 days. Same goes for the tender, aching gums and teeth. The more she talks, of course, the faster her tongue will learn to work around the metal. The swallowing, however, is likely to take some time, apparently. It is, after all, half the reason she has to have The Dread Retainer in the first place—to teach her tongue where it needs to be (roof of her mouth) when she swallows.
In case you missed the bit where I explained the story behind The Dread Retainer, here’s a quick synopsis: EM sucked her thumb a bit longer than she should have, ergo EM’s tongue has learned the bad habit of lazing sluggishly on her lower palette like a baby’s, rather than pressing firmly against her upper palette where it’s supposed to be. This, in turn, has led to a series of apparently untenable alignment issues that The Dread Retainer is meant to correct. Never mind that her teeth were neither crooked nor disfigured in anyway prior to treatment. Never mind that everything appeared to be in perfect working order—minus the trivial fact that she has been unable to use her front teeth to bite into a sandwich or apple or any other such food for that matter ever since her permanent teeth grew in. Is this an important ability? I seem to have lost my perspective somewhere between the drool and the lisp.
At least she didn’t embarrass me in front of the orthodontist again. Other than a bit of gratuitous whimpering before he’d even touched her, she behaved more or less decently. And I only had to threaten her Nintendo once to elicit such compliance! I consider this progress, no?