Over the summer, I made a major life decision.
I got braces.
Ok, not the biggest revelation in the world but keep reading...
How this started...
I have a crooked smile, which never, ever bothered me. My mother incessantly reminded me how crooked they were, even referring to them as a “flare skirt”.
I remained unbothered.
Then my sister got braces and my mother’s negative commenting intensified.
I was still unbothered. (I excel at ignoring people).
My teeth continued to do their own thing and we almost lived happily ever after…
Until, one tooth decided to move forward.
Away from the pack.
A lone wolf… um, tooth.
The rogue tooth stuck out front, screwing up my beautiful smile.
My friends said that it was barely noticeable...
But I noticed.
And I had 7 years of Facebook photos to prove it.
This tooth was definitely moving.
I was bothered.
So I got a consultation for braces.
Now before I make any decision, I research it. Intensively. Almost a little obsessively (the plight of a perfectionist).
But I kinda jumped head first into the braces thing with minimal research.
I had my consultation, which was fine. I could afford the payments. The process seemed simple enough.
I just needed to remove 4 teeth.
As I looked down at the orthodontist’s photos and x-rays it became clear how warped my dentition really was.
“I only want one tooth moved back,” I moaned.
He looked at me as you would a small child who wants its dead goldfish to come back and explained why that couldn’t happen.
Did I mention that I’m a doctor? Not my best doctor moment.
That night I decided that I was going to suck it up and get my teeth removed. Four pre-molars. Well, 3 and a half, one had a ginormous filling and barely cut it as a tooth.
The necessary arrangements were made and 2 weeks later I was sitting in a dental surgeon’s chair (let's call him Dr. X), getting nitrous oxide i.e. laughing gas.
Here’s where things got interesting...
Now, Prince had died the day before and I was pretty torn up about it. (C’mon, it’s PRINCE). As I inhaled the gas, I started to giggle. Uncontrollably.
“I feel like laughing,” I muttered.
“That’s ok,” my surgeon said.
“Prince is dead. It seems totally inappropriate.” I replied. He agreed and took me on a trip down memory lane, involving a little red corvette.
By now I was starting to have second thoughts.
Why I was removing four (ok, three) good teeth? This is a mistake!
Unfortunately, my attempt to say stop came out as “Gaaaaa!”
My eyeballs were pulsating and my heart felt as though it was burst from my chest like that scene from Alien.
There I was, floating on a big yellow cloud, having a conversation with Puff the Magic Dragon.
Until the dentist clamped my tooth and yanked.
I thought this was going to be a gentle dissection of the teeth from my gum.
I was gravely mistaken.
Below is a summary of my internal monologue. Apparently laughing gas makes me swear.
Petra talking to Petra...
"Is this %$#^& just going to pull this tooth out? Just like that? I should have been a f%&$^ dentist!”
After the ordeal, the dental surgeon and his assistant came in to check on me.
I apologised profusely, "I'm soooooo sorry!"
“For what?” Dr. X asked.
“The swearing,” I replied.
“Oh, I didn’t hear it,” he said.
“I did!” the assistant announced. (Snitch.)
Dr. X left me alone with the assistant who was going over my post procedure instructions.
“I should have been a dentist!” I blurted.
She gave me a look that said ‘this should be good’ and asked why.
“As a doctor, I would have to do a WHOLE LOT MORE to get $1300”
Apparently laughing gas not only makes me swear but also destroyed the one brain-to-mouth filter I have.
The story doesn’t end here, though. Oh no. I spent the next few days in bed on the internet researching the procedure I had done and the side effects.
And let me tell you, there is a lady on YouTube who will make you very afraid to get an extraction or braces.
“My face is going fall in JC! I’m gonna be ugly!”
My poor boyfriend spent hours consoling me as I went through the Kübler-Ross stages of grief, DABDA
· D - Denial
· A - Anger
· B – Bargaining
· D - Depression
· A – Acceptance
Would I do this all again?
Yes. The entire process really wasn’t that bad. I just didn’t acknowledge my biggest fear up front: the fear of losing something that was inherently me. The most Petra-esque thing about me:
Crooked or not, my smile gave my face character. I was known for it. It lit up the darkest nights and brought happiness to the world…
You get my point.
I was a afraid of a change.
Now that I have my braces, I am still a little worried about how my face will turn out but I am a lot more comfortable with how my smile looks so far.
The moral of this story:
Before any procedure, medical or surgical, do the research. Don’t only read negative or positive reviews. Read a wide range of topics.
Ask questions, lots of them. As a doctor, I should have done this.
If you’re still unsure, get a second opinion.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to say that you have doubts. It’s your right. (Preferably before inhaling laughing gas.)
And finally, don't be afraid of a little change.