The Orthodontist

It would be an understatement to say that I was born with both a narrow jaw and crooked teeth. I never thought of it as much of a handicap, one just lived with how he was born. Our dentist, however, informed my mother that my mouth would be fraught with trouble if I failed to get my teeth straightened. Butler had, I believe, two orthodontists at the time. One had worked on neighbor’s choppers and had done a splendid job. That orthodontist was the more expensive of the two so my dad directed my mom to the bargain orthodontist, Dr. D.A. Why.


My first visit was a clear vision of things to come. The man had no personal skills whatsoever. He barked orders to “Open!” the second I was in the chair. That was the word I heard most often during the sessions to come in the coming years. He banged around in my mouth regarding neither tongue nor inner cheek as a possible sensitive areas. I was on his time and he wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. While clawing my mouth and considering just where to place the miles of wire he must have felt compelled use, he liked to talk to his dental assistant about the stock market which must have been his real love. I doubt the assistant was paid well enough to play the market and she never responded with an English word, preferring guttural utterances that seemed to indicate she was in as much pain as I.

As the patient sat in the chair, he faced a framed notice:

“Dentistry, unlike the other professions, involves the use of precious metals. It is therefore impossible to extend credit over a period of time.”

Even a teenager got the message there. Just another warm signal from Dr. Mengele.

One day, and I swear it was involuntary, I bit him as he was lacing wire around my cuspids. He shouted, “You bit me! Ohhh, you bit me!”. He danced on one foot as if I had just stomped on his toe. I could not apologize as my mouth was stuffed with some gauzelike stuff. I have to admit I felt some real satisfaction.

After three years of giving up Saturday mornings and sometimes eating only mushy food, the braces came off. In the end he recovered all of that damned precious metal and no doubt melted it down to inflict his mediocre skill on yet another victim and build his stock portfolio. I enjoyed marginal improvement but my wisdom teeth came in two years later and knocked out the improved alignment leaving me with the mess of a mouth I have to this day. It was every bit not a bargain.