My teeth now have scaffolding. I think most people call them ‘braces’. I have had a problem with one of my upper incisors deciding that where God intended it to be was not as much fun as further back inside my mouth and gradually moving. The movement was imperceptible but I realised it had happened when I started biting my tongue while eating (and drawing blood). The gradual, imperceptible movement of my teeth reminds me of the advice about how to move a piano from one side of a church to the other without upsetting people – move it one inch per week.
So I went to see my dentist and she has fitted me with tooth-scaffolding with a view to straightening out the top and bottom sets of teeth. Once they are back in the right place she’ll give me a retainer to wear at night in order to keep them in place.
I am sure that the braces will be beneficial to me in the long term, but there are a number of drawbacks (you can skip this bit if you are squeamish about teeth:
- They make my teeth hurt. The pressure exerted on the teeth is not great but the constant pressure causes them to relocate and that makes them much more sensitive to pressure (biting hurts) and ache generally.
- They hurt my cheeks. At different times different parts of the braces seem to embed themselves in my cheek. I think it happens mostly during the night as I sleep and don’t realise that resting my head on one side or t’other causes the embedding. But the next day I find new painful places in my mouth. I have some wax to put on the braces to stop the pointy bits being to painful, but the damage has been done.
- They catch food. After eating I often have to visit a bathroom in order to rinse my mouth and remove the debris that has been collected in the scaffolding. It’s not like saving something for later, it’s just icky. On the plus side I don’t think my teeth have ever had so much cleaning. It’s very awkward when I have to use a public bathroom!
- They stop me eating certain food. I have to avoid food that is crunchier / harder than a pretzel. But I don’t have a pretzelometer to test food so I have to err on the side of softness. I haven’t quite got to the point of liquidising everything but it’s a bit limiting on the menu. When you add to that avoiding food that is likely to stain the braces (who wants red braces for the sake of a Chicken Tikka Massala?) then it’s even more restrictive. And really chewy food should be avoided too.
- I’m a bit self-conscious of them. I have stopped doing toothy smiles for photographs because I don’t want the braces to show. Vanity, I know, but there you go.
- They can affect my speech. Particularly when a part of the brace has embedded in my cheek I find that I talk slightly differently and find it difficult to shape some sounds with my mouth. It does cause my family some amusement but is not so helpful when speaking in public is a big part of what I do.
As you can tell, there are a lot of drawbacks. But after 6-9 months I should be released from the scaffolding and have a lovely straight-tooth smile. I won’t be gnashing on my tongue again.
And I have a box of stroopwafels* ready to celebrate. I bought them when out shopping recently because I really fancied them and it was only when I was unpacking the shopping that I realised that they were both crunchy (possibly registering too high on a pretzelometer) and chewy. Double fail! The expiry date for them takes me almost to 9 months from now, which means that they should still be okay for the moment when I am scaffolding-free.
Why do we put ourselves through painful experiences like having tooth scaffolding? It’s because of the end result. The desired outcome makes us willing to endure hardship.
I don’t believe that God causes painful experiences for us but he does allow us to go through them. I don’t believe that it’s true that he doesn’t allow us to suffer more than we can cope with, but I do believe (and have experienced) that he gives us the grace to cope. I say ‘amen’ to this passage from the Bible:
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship**, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Be blessed, be a blessing
*see here for an explanation about stroopwafels
**’sonship’ here is not sexist but recognises that in the days in which Paul wrote those words inheritances and family status passed through sons. Because of Jesus both men and women can experience ‘sonship’ – inheriting all that God has prepared for us!