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Steve Mullen: Keeping the teeth in line


Steve Mullen



The 7-year-old walked too close to the swing set at school, and got clocked by a swinging kid -- right in the teeth. I didn''t see the immediate aftermath, but it must have looked like a scene from "Carrie." Somehow she managed to bleed on her socks.  


Lee called, frantic. "The school called. Riley got her teeth knocked out on the playground." 


"Your kid''s teeth got knocked out." That''s the kind of news that grabs a parent by the facemask and gives him a good shake.  


When it comes to teeth, we tend to pay special attention. The pain-to-size ratio of a broken tooth is off the chart. 


Rushing to meet them at the dentist, I could only imagine my little girl looking like someone on the receiving end at Fight Club, spitting out a mouthful of bloody Chiclets. 


I imagined her at 17, smiling for her senior prom photo, resembling a starting forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins. 


It''s never as bad as you imagine. Her teeth were knocked loose, not out; none were broken. Her gums were messed up, but all will heal OK. The school nurse did a great job cleaning her up and calming her down; she was in good spirits when we arrived. Dr. Curtis, who was very nice, patched the whole thing up. She''ll walk around with a metal wire on her front teeth for a week, until things firm back up.  


But the incident reinforced this point: As the kids get older, it becomes more apparent that we are responsible for several sets of teeth, not just one. And, even when the episodes are minor, it makes us remember that they are young, and more is to come. 


I didn''t have lots of teeth problems -- no one ever knocked them loose (at least not yet, knock on wood). I didn''t even need braces.  


I''m making up for it now. 


Both my kids have crooked grills. The 7-year-old''s foray too close to the swing is only the start of it. 


Last week, the 9-year-old embarked on a set of uncomfortable and humiliating procedures with the end goal of getting her teeth all pointing in the proper direction.  


For the next six weeks, a brace-type device has been inserted into her mouth. Each evening, I insert a little key into a hole on the roof of her mouth, and turn, like I''m cranking a Model T. But it''s not an antique car -- it''s my kid''s head. 


Several weeks from now, headgear will be involved. Thankfully, she will have to wear it only at night. 


Still, she''s That Kid. No offense to those reading this who were forced to wear headgear attached to metal rods emanating from your mouth. But you were That Kid too. And you were made fun of. 


Now that the shoe''s on the other foot, and the other checkbook, I apologize. 


Steve Mullen is managing editor of The Dispatch. Reach him at [email protected]


Steve Mullen is Managing Editor of The Dispatch.


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