Author Topic: My true story  (Read 3109 times)

Offline jkwlsh

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My true story
« on: 22. January 2021, 23:22:07 PM »
I am new here and this is my true story, not fiction. 
Orthodontics was different back then.  It was the height of full banded braces yet ten years later they were almost all gone and brackets were the standard.  It was also the height of headgear use by orthodontist but even then it was rare to see a kid walking around in one.  I am sure there were pockets of suffering headgear wearers where the ortho fully expected 14 hours or more but they were mostly disappointed.  Among patients headgear was by far the most hated, most embarrassing, most lied aboutand most pain in the ass part of the whole process. 

Socially it was all a killer.  Even though braces were becoming more common they were still a major embarrassment.  Everything from food stuck in the wires and broken elastics flying out of your mouth paled in comparison to headgear.  As one of the chosen few that actually wore their appliances as directed (after a very slow start) and in public I can speak with authority on the social stigma of the times

It was 50 years ago in September of 1970 I first met Dr. H of Metairie, Louisiana.  He was by all means a smart and talented orthodontist since my teeth have not shifted much since the braces were removed.  He was straightforward with his patients and certainly determined to do the best job he could.  I knew one of his daughters.  He was a pilot and built his own ultralight plane.  Fifty years ago I hated the man.

Some dates and times you never forget.  9/8/1970, the day after Labor Day, was my first day of 9th grade, still a junior high school with the 7th and 8th grades but at least on top of the heap.  It was only a half day actually, and my first appointment with Dr. H was at 1:30 and my mother was never late.  X-rays and molds were taken and an appointment was confirmed for the morning of October 1.  Unless something “unforeseen” occurred it meant 18 – 24 months of non-extraction treatment followed by a “normal” period of retention. 

I had spent the summer back in Duluth, Minnesota, our home for 10 years before my father’s transfer 2 years before.  I mention that because our dentist in Duluth told my parents that I would need orthodontic work but I should wait until I was at least 14 to start.  So that is how it ended up.  My sister Robin was 11 when she started treatment with Dr. H because our new dentist in Metairie thought early treatment was best for her.

He did not bother mentioning that to my parents that it was also best for me.  He was an old time close minded macho idiot who thought braces were for girls, not men.  Seriously, that was the thinking down south and lots of families would spend money on the girl’s teeth at the expense of their brothers.  Money was a factor sometimes but I knew a family and the father never missed a chance to hint the braces showed I was gay.  Seriously, his son who needed them every much as much as his sister did not wear braces because the father did not want people to think his son was homosexual, which neither of us were.  The family was also blatantly racist so my parents made sure we spent very little time with them. 

There was way too much of that bullshit in Louisiana and among the reason we all moved out, Robin and I to California for college and my parents to Maryland.  That and those mosquitos.  And the hot, sticky, humid weather.  And the hurricanes.  But of all of that I hated the braces the worst and was thrilled to leave them behind.

But until I was 14 and my parents followed the advice of the Duluth dentist before I got my appointment with Dr. H.  There was no need to discuss any of the business aspects that day, my parents were already paying for me.  The discussion with me was never if, just when and how.  When they took Robin for her first appointment, they set it up for me three months later.  My banding appointment was set before he even met me.  Mind you he had seen my dental xrays, molds, a picture of me smiling, our family history, my medical history and my sister with the same problems.

When Dr. H finally saw me that day in September I overheard him tell my mother it would have been easier if we had started two years ago.  He said with growing patients growth did half the work.  I should have been done by 9th grade, not just starting.  Maybe I would have been better about wearing the headgear at age 12, probably not but maybe, but at age 14 I wanted no part of it.

Robin already had full banded braces on top and bottom with 2 high pull j hooks to the top by the time I got back in late august.  Robin did not seem to care that much and wore hers to school for part of 5th grade.  Her best friend also went to Dr. H and there were two others at her school who wore their headgear all the time for all or part of the school year, and all summer.  Dr. H loved Robin and constantly told me how good a patient she was.  She only wore the headgear for 9 months and had it all removed 9 months later.

A couple of things, Dr. H did not use facebows, only j hooks.  I had 4, two to the incisors on top and two to the incisors on the bottom.  After two years, and the removal of two teeth, I wore 4 j hooks to the top.  My sister only got stuck with two in a regular high pull, I had this massive strap that went everywhere.  I did not cooperate and he did tie them onto the archwire.  The j hooks had a loop that hooked onto the archwire and all Dr. H had to do was close the loop.

I was amazed at the advances in orthodontics in the quarter century between the time my braces finally came off and my daughter had hers put on in 1996.  Brackets really muted the metallic glare of the bands and they went on so quickly and easily, thin heat activated wires that require much less attention, headgear was a relic to her ortho (he loved my story) and the all around acceptance of braces in society.  Back in 1970, other than my wedding day,

He had morning hours beginning at 7 and would see patients before school started.  Anyone who was left in the office after first bell was having a long appointment and none were longer than the banding appointment.

One of the downsides of a mother who is never late is that you get to a lot of places way earlier than you want.  I got to Dr. H’s almost an hour early that day and sat and watched saw more braces at one time than ever before in my life.  Once they saw me that early the first thing they did was sit me in a chair and put elastics between my teeth and send me back to the waiting room.  At first they were just a little weird feeling but ever so slowly they started to ache, then throb.  Actually getting the bands was less painful than those rubber things.  It was three days before the pain went away.

There must have been a dozen kids go through the office before it was my turn again.  One of them I knew from the bus, she was in 8th grade, there with her brother, a 6th grader sitting there wearing the same type of headgear that would be with me for the next three years (on and off).  Kelly knew there was only one reason someone my age who was not wearing braces already would be sitting there at that time of day with rubber spacers between his teeth. 

 She was a sweetheart but self-described as “not blessed with beauty” and happy to be half done.   “Only one year to go for the teeth, then the nose.” Tall, skinny, flat chested with a beak of a nose, as well as funny, smart and very inquisitive. We ended up seeing each other a lot, every third Thursday at 3:30 at our appointments over the next two years. 

Kelly was asking me that morning what was up, like was I getting all of my bands?  Archwires?  Headgear? She never wore one but her brother had a worse one than my sister.   It had four hooks and a strap that went all over the head, not just on top.  It was only then I realized no one had actually told me exactly what I would be getting and that sent a chill down my spine.  For the first time I was staring at her brother realizing in three hours that could be me. 

Todd knew my sister from their school and Robin was wearing her headgear basically all day.  She and her best friend did not care but once her friend was done with her headgear Robin stopped wearing hers to school.  Todd was not about to be seen anywhere wearing his.  When I made the mistake of asking how long it took her to get used to wearing braces Todd asked if I would be wearing mine to school “just like your sister”.

Over the next six months I got tired of being told about my sister’s headgear wearing habits.  I had seen kids wearing headgear before Robin.  In Minnesota my best friend’s cousin wore a combination headgear with a facebow.  He wore it the last summer I lived there and hated when he was forced to actually wear it.  As soon as we would go some place he would take it off and we would swear he kept it on.  It was a game.  The reality of me actually wearing some form of headgear did not hit until I saw Robin in hers for the first time. 

To this point I had just assumed if I needed headgear it would be just like Robin’s since I assumed all orthodontic treatment was the same.  I was severely disappointed to find out how wrong that was. I was there all morning as he forced those bands on my teeth.  He started in the back, top and bottom and slowly worked his way forward ending up with my top two front teeth.  When he removed the spacers the assistant would put the cement on the band and Dr. H, using what I remember as a surprising amount of pressure, and force it into its place for the next three years.

One thing I liked about Dr. H was he dealt with the patient, he only talked to a parent if he absolutely had to.  So on that miserable October morning he put it all on, the bands, the archwires and the headgear, mom had dropped me off and returned three hours later.  I thought I was getting what my sister had and was very upset at the bottom two hooks and the headgear strap, a design of his own making, which only came in white plastic.  With black hair, you could not miss it on me.

My mother was not there when Dr. H gave me the word, a minimum of 14 hours EVERY day.  If I wanted the braces off faster I should wear it all 24, just like Robin.  It only took one quick look in the mirror to know that would not happen.  He thought he knew I wouldn’t be a problem because my sister was such a good patient and I had good family support.

I only had one thing on my mind, not wearing it at all and certainly not so anyone I knew could see me.  So when my mother asked about my headgear I lied about how long I needed to wear it saying I was lucky, I only had to wear it 8 hours while I slept, not like my sister.  Surprisingly she fell for it.

Offline jkwlsh

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Re: My true story
« Reply #1 on: 22. January 2021, 23:25:21 PM »
And that worked, for six months anyway.

But there was nothing to do about all of the metal in my mouth, that was on 24 hours a day and there was no hiding it.  Back in the 70’s braces were still uncommon enough to create the geek meme they are today.  It was baby boomers like me that bore the brunt of the jokes we use today.  Braces were as uncool as they were uncommon.  Only 1 in ten kids in my school wore braces.  My cousin Ron wore braces in the 1950’s and he said it was closer to 1 in twenty when he had them.  By the 1990’s when my kids had them it was almost as if every other kid had them on.

Headgear, especially in public, is unheard of today.  I have not seen one in public in over twenty years and it was ten years before that since the last.  That does not mean headgear was a common sight back then, it was not.  The few of us that did wear it “as directed” stood out.  To even admit to wearing one was bad, to be seen in it even once made some a target of ridicule, to wear it all the time, school and everywhere was just asking for it.

When we first moved from Duluth to Metairie I was introduced to a girl, the daughter of my father’s coworker, who would not smile because of her new, days old braces.  Being the 12 year old gentleman I was I gave her all of the ‘it doesn’t matter’ and ‘no one cares’.  Next time we met two weeks later she had one of Dr. H’s headgear on.

Kelly and I became friends that summer and her mother religiously monitored her 14 hours a day.  Unlike my sister she did not cooperate but at 11 rarely went anywhere without the watchful eyes of her mother.    Her secret was to wear it all the time she was not in public and it was rare to see her in public with it on and never to school.  But she had the reputation as the “weird chick with all the braces”.

After four months of treatment Dr. H was on my case about wear time.  He did not believe I was wearing it as much as I said and I needed to wear it more.   After six months he was convinced I was not wearing it 14 hours.  He went on to mention how good a patient my sister had been and how disappointed he was and I was months behind and “wasting everybody’s time.”  I kept swearing I was wearing it 12 - 14 hours but actually was only wearing it while I slept, and half the time “I forgot” to put it on, I had to keep up the lie to my parents. 

It was the appointment just before Easter I thought maybe I was done for when he told me he was going tie them on that day since there was no progress.  I pleaded with him and promised I would wear it even more.  I would up my wear time to sixteen hours and would wear it all weekend if I had to, no matter what.

Now a prudent young man might have heeded Dr. H’s warning or at least the assessment that we were months behind and it was my mouth filled with the braces I hated so much.  I knew he was right but there was no way I was going to make it to even 10 hours.  I was always staying after school for practice or some other activity.  On weekends I was out fishing or out on the lake or with Pierre in the bayous.  I was on the verge of my first real girlfriend, I was not about to do that with that headgear covering my head and face.

Unfortunately I needed new dress shoes for Easter mass and went to the local shopping center.  As we walked into the store with my mother there was Dr. H.  He went straight at me with “you promised you were going to wear your headgear all weekend”.  He said it to me but was looking at mom.  I knew I was done for when mom asked H how my treatment was going.  H said I was obviously not wearing it 14 hours a day as instructed.  She glared at me “you told me only while sleeping”.  Dr H suggested we have a conference at my next appointment and discuss controlled full time wear.

Mom was pretty mad on the way home and as soon as we got home it went on.  I got a reprieve for mass but that was really the beginning of my headgear wear.

My nest appointment was on Monday, April 12 after school.  I know it was that day because Sunday the 11th was both my 14th birthday and Easter Sunday.  It was easier if I took a bus to his office on appointment days and my mother would pick me up out front when I was done.  But H’s office had called and set up the parent conference and Mom picked me up.

H was right up front that fateful day.  He hit me with a maturity line and said he needed to take control of my treatment and it was all covered in the informed consent my parents had signed.  And he was right, it said I would agree to wear any and all appliances as directed.  Since I was by my own admission not wearing it as directed the new direction was full time wear.

My only hope was my mother would agree to make sure I would wear it as directed.  Dr. H explained to her that I was obviously not wearing it for the required minimum of 14 hours as directed and was wasting time and money.  He was surprised that the family support my sister had did not apply to me.  Mom was still mad about my lying and since Robin survived the experience, I would too.

 He was folded the j hooks loop around the archwires so they could not be removed.  To take a shower or go swimming I would have to remove the small rubber bands that powered the hooks, slide them out of the tubes on the headgear strap and remove the strap.  The hooks would just dangle out of my mouth, doing nothing but embarrassing me until I hooked it all up again.  Then it was still humiliating me but it was at least doing its job of moving my teeth.
The hooks did not in any way stop me from eating or drinking, a little weird but easily doable.  And I cannot say wearing the headgear hurt.  Even sleeping was easy with it on, for me anyway because the hooks were flexible, unremovable, but flexible when pushing on my cheek.  If I wanted to go swimming they showed me how to tape the hooks to my face. He explained I would wear it like this until he finally saw progress and that would take months, not weeks.
I was pleading with him, promising I ‘would try to wear it more’.  He did not want to hear it, I said that every appointment.  He was right about that also.  If I had cooperated like my sister I could be well over half way done with it.  He said it was like I was just starting.
Despite having the weekend to contemplate this I was in a state of shock headed towards total denial. I stammered out a bunch of reasons why I could not wear it all the time but he was a stern man and he “had heard from me before.”  He explained this was the only way to do what my parents were paying for and I did not have the maturity to wear it as directed.

The longer the conversation went on the worse off I was.  Dr. H was very a very determined orthodontist.  He saw no reason why patients should not wear their headgear full time the same as his daughter who wore her orthopedic brace full time.  He argued that the orthopedist did not give her a choice and headgear was much less cumbersome.  In my case I was resistant to the only form of treatment that would work unless we reversed course and pulled at least 4 teeth.  Even then headgear would be needed.

That had been discussed before treatment started but my parents did not want teeth pulled.  Now that the choice came up again and I was sitting there unable to take it off I was more than open to the idea.  Mom still hated the idea so that ended the discussion and sealed my fate.  “Robin wore hers, you can wear your’s, you had a choice, now you don’t.”  I lost hope.

Ironically, 18 months later after two years in braces I ended up having four teeth pulled anyway.  That involved another year in both braces and headgear.

Walking to the car was the first time I had worn headgear in public in the six months I had it.  Mom was pretty upset about my lie and did not want to hear it either.  I was told I was not being punished but the only way to get my bite fixed was to wear the headgear.  Since I had refused, I now had to wear it until Dr. H thought I had caught up, and I could be trusted.  That took four and a half months of full time wear, including the last two months of school.

My father was very sympathetic to my plight but kept going back to the fact that decisions, including lying, have consequences.  “To summarize (one of his favorite expressions) If I had cooperated I would be at worst half way through, now I was all but starting over.  He pointed out that I lied about instructions, failed to even wear it while in the house, was warned several times I needed to wear it more.  Ignoring that advice I was then warned specifically about removing my ability to remove the appliance and still I did not listen to Dr. H and continued lying to them. 

Dad figured Dr. H did what he said he would do and that I wanted my parents to ignore the advice of a professional they are paying a lot of money to for his advice and expertise.  All because I refused to even give the minimal amount of cooperation.
He went on to say it was not punishment, I was told this would be the result and I had every chance to avoid Dr. H from doing what he promised he would.  What did I think was going to happen?  Dad was a climate scientist for NOAA long before climate science was ever talked about.  He compared me to the person who ignored the hurricane warning and now wanted to be rescued.

Anything you have read on this site about how humiliating it is to walk around in public wearing headgear is understated.  After hours of looking in the mirror trying to jiggle them off and an equal amount of time pleading for mercy (with a series of slammed doors) and a night pleading for divine intervention (which did not show up).  At 6:45 am there was the reality of time to catch the bus, which I tried desperately to miss.
When they say junior high school can be cruel, walking around with that headgear was top on the list of ways to attract that cruelty.  And there was nothing I could do about it and there was no missing it.  The first day you were walking around with braces, which were typically hidden behind sealed lips, you are convinced everyone was staring at your metallic smile.  Simple paranoia, they would only stare if you opened your mouth wide enough for someone to see them.  After the first couple of months no one was staring at you.

While wearing headgear everyone is staring at you even if they are pretending not to.  The frustration of not being to get it off was the worst part, but I never stopped trying.  I tried before I got to the bus, while I was on the bus I had to show people I could not take it off.  That just made the laughing louder.  Every teacher had a comment, some nicer than others.  It took months before I stopped trying to cover my face.

All I wanted was for it to go away but everyone else wanted to either talk about it or ridicule it.  After the initial ribbing/insulting was over the questions/comments began.  “Why did you let him do it, I would never let him?”  “Doesn’t that hurt?” “Don’t you feel weird wearing that?”  “I told my ortho I wasn’t going to wear one of those” and on and on.

The first week I tried hiding in my room listening to my fm radio.  There was no internet, tv was limited to 11 channels and we only had one in the house.  This was way before cell phones and we had two phones, both hardwired, but only one line.  That was all normal at the time.  Point is, it got boring fast sitting at home.  So the evil logic worked, the headgear went everywhere I did, even the spring dance.

It took six appointments before he opened up the hooks.  I still had to wear it 14 hours a day but he could ‘always attach it again if I needed him to.’  So from that point on, I was almost a model of cooperation and averaged 14 hours a day.  Well at least 12 and that was every day.

Treatment was first estimated to be 18 to 24 months.  My recalcitrance in wearing the headgear for the first six months brought us to month 24, in September of 1972.  I had been without headgear for six months and had been wearing my rubber bands as directed.  I was motivated to get all that metal off.  Dr. H asked my mother to attend, we had a treatment decision to make.

My teeth were very well aligned but still very crowded for the space in my jaw.  This was ‘unexpected’ and could easily lead to a relapse as I grew older.  The two options were pulling two teeth and continued treatment for another year or lifetime retainers.  I would have sold my sister into slavery rather than do another year in headgear and I loved her.  I was done with the braces experience.

So the next appointment was time to decide.  I was initially resolute in saying no to another year and mom and dad kept working me over.  I think I would have won the stalemate but I caved in to my emerging hormones.  My girlfriend betrayed me in collusion with my mother.  Between the pressure from both of them I caved in.  Shorrtly after that she became my ex-girlfriend after she told everyone that getting my teeth pulled showed she had me wrapped around her finger. 

Sadly I did not recognize her for who/what she was until after the teeth were pulled (another month delay) and by then it was too late.  Headgear was the only way to fill the gap where my molars used to be.  Dr. H told me I could watch the progress, or lack of it depending on how much I wore it.  I was the one controlling my treatment now not him.  If I did not wear it enough I would have the braces on until at least graduation.

So once again I had to wear the damn thing.  I wore it every minute I was home, I cannot think of a time I wore it outside.  And always with rubber bands stretching everywhere.  Anything to get the damn braces off.  That took until late October of 1973, my senior year.  I was probably no worse for wear.  I thought it was strange that since virtually everyone commented when it all went on so few people commented when it all came off.  After 36 months Dr. H and the staff were almost as happy as I was for me to be done.

For any non-believers I found this article “” in the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics from 1974.  Find (fig 3), that is exactly what I had to wear and I had the same dark hair.  I knew the girl in figure 19, she was a senior in 1970.  Read on down in the article and he talks so casually about tying it on.  Two other kids from school told me either they or their sibling had gotten stuck in one of his headgears like I did.

Online Libra

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Re: My true story
« Reply #2 on: 24. January 2021, 02:20:11 AM »
Great story + fascinating link, especially considering how long there’s been a debate about the existence of wired in headgear in the past!

Offline retained

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Re: My true story
« Reply #3 on: 25. January 2021, 22:48:05 PM »
Great story and detail.
A good read.
Presumably this all led on to retainers. How did that go?

Offline pesp

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Re: My true story
« Reply #4 on: 27. January 2021, 01:06:23 AM »
Retainers were not a problem for me.  After the headgear the elastics and retainers it was all downhill.  I had a top and bottom retainer which i wore full time for six months, then switched to night wear, which lasted until I got to college.  Practically no relapse even though I was supposed to wear the retainers for at least another year, if not longer.  I guess pulling the teeth was a good move, the result was very stable.

Offline pesp

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Re: My true story
« Reply #5 on: 27. January 2021, 01:16:42 AM »
My point above is that I never got what the deal was with retainers.  jkwlsh was threatened with lifetime retainers and to me that must mean the treatment was a failure since by the time most are done with their braces they are done growing, I was.  I bet jk ditched the retainers as soon as he got to school.

Offline jkwlsh

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Re: My true story
« Reply #6 on: 27. January 2021, 16:13:04 PM »
Getting my braces off was more like a process than a one time thing.  He took the majority of the bands off at one appointment but had me stretching an elastic across my top teeth from molar band to molar band.  The next appointment he took off all of the top bands, took some molds and a week later I had my retainer.

I wore it all the time until the summer and it was definitely a pain to deal with like you had to remove it to eat anything.  That was a little gross to the people you were eating with.  But it was much better than a mouthful of bands, elastics and that headgear.  I did lose it once when we were out fishing.  It was a windy day and was eating lunch.  I put the retainer on the paper my sandwich was wrapped in and a gust blew the paper and the retainer over the side of the boat.

I got a new one and was not really wearing it at all freshman year until I met Ellie.  She was wearing hers all the time having just had her braces taken off the week before school started.  She wore her braces for two and a half years, wore a facebow headgear for all of that (never in public) but refused to start college wearing braces so she insisted they come off early.  She did wear her retainer all year. 

Ellie was really good looking and guys were hovering all around her.  I wore mine to a party one night where I knew she would be.  It worked and we started talking and I gave her the whole drunken story.  It worked and we started dating.  My roommate went along with the lie that I wore it every night even though the party was the first time he saw it but I did take it with me when I stayed over, she had a single room.

On the bottom the molar bands stayed on and he put a thick archwire on the inside of my lower teeth.  I never got a lower retainer but that wire stayed on until Christmas break freshman year at Stanford.  That appointment was probably my last and the last time I wore the retainer, even with Ellie.

Offline duncombec

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Re: My true story
« Reply #7 on: 29. January 2021, 00:53:37 AM »
Great story + fascinating link, especially considering how long there’s been a debate about the existence of wired in headgear in the past!

Agreed on both points! The way he just throws it into the journal article as though he said "so I changed the ligatures" is quite scary by today's standards!

Offline Bryce

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Re: My true story
« Reply #8 on: 29. January 2021, 23:39:27 PM »
The link was very fascinating.  Very good read, thanks!

Offline spuglese

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Re: My true story
« Reply #9 on: 09. February 2021, 01:09:39 AM »

Jk,  looking back it all sounds funny but the day I had to go to the first football game of the season my sophomore year with my neck brace on was anything but funny.  I had gotten busted too many times lying about wearing it.  Like most of us who left the house with their headgear on only to whip it off as soon as you were out of sight it was an ongoing battle to not wear it never mind be seen in public with it.

I grew up outside of Boston and I saw more than one headgear walking around so that while it was not common in the area and most everybody knew what it was.  That did nothing to diminish the peer review process in high school where it relegated me to ‘flamer’ status.  My braces went on in July of 1971 and stayed there until August of 1974, covering my teeth for my last three years in high school.

Like you I started lying right away.  I was told 14 - 16 hours a day to start and was given a timecard to record my daily wear.  The card was set up like a vertical bar graph for each day, Monday through Sunday for four weeks.  You filled a little square on the graph for each hour that day you had it on. The card assumed you wore it every night 8-10 hours while you slept.  I checked, they still make them: ,,

Like your ortho he really wanted full time wear and like most of us we would do most anything to make sure that was not going to happen.  The first scorecard showed I averaged over 17 hours a day.  I tried to be smart about it and be over 16 some days and under on others, but it was all fiction.  If I was not in the house, it was not on.  If my parents were not home it was not on.  Half the time I took it off in the middle of the night and counted it on the scorecard anyway.

I spent a lot of time at my friend Kathy’s house.  They had a finished basement with a great stereo system, tv and pool table so it was a great place to hang.  The first week I had headgear I left the house with it on, took it off right away and rode my bike to Kathy’s house.  Mrs. O’Brien saw I had braces but did not see the headgear.  That worked until my mother saw Mrs O’Brien at the store, had a discussion and quickly figured out I was not wearing it like I said.  Already grounded for a week before I even had my first appointment after getting them on.

My mother made it clear I was expected to cooperate and if that meant wearing headgear then I would wear headgear ‘just like Julie did’.  Julie was a neighbor who used to babysit for us and she wore hers all the time.  I heard what kids said about her and headgear and I was not about to leave myself open to that abuse.

We had great seats at Fenway, right behind the dugout, and I could take the Green line to the park so I saw a lot of games.   My mother did not like sports so she rarely went to a game.  And if my father was out of town or my brother had football practice, I would take a friend.  It was a Saturday day game at the end of August.  Mom was right up front, if I wanted to go to the game I had to wear my headgear or I would regret it.

 I promised on the way out the door I would wear it all day.  As always, as soon as I left the house it came off until just before I walked back in the house.  When I got home my older brother was waiting for me, laughing, and that was never a good sign.   “Wait until mom gets home, she saw you at the game and is she mad at you.” 

  As it turned out, the scheduled game of the week had been rained out and the Red Sox were the backup game.  Ron was home watching the game and told mom I was on tv.  He knew I was supposed to have it on before he called her to the tv, but he was exacting revenge for something.  She got a good close up of me on a foul ball and once again I was grounded for a week. Barely a month and I had been grounded twice.

While grounded I had to have a good reason not to have it on and there was a contentious discussion about not having any problems when school started.  I would have to go with her grocery shopping and to the library all the time panicked I would see someone I knew, or more properly, they would see me.

I sealed my fate when I ‘lost’ it just before we left for our yearly week long Labor Day vacation on Cape Ann.  I said I was playing touch football at the park, so I had to take it off, and when I got back after the game it was gone.  She was enraged and accused me of doing it on purpose.  I denied it but she was right, I threw it away.  I was not about to ruin the week wearing headgear.  She quietly explained I would make up every second when we got home.  She did not mention it again that week, and that was scary.

She made good on her promise, my minimum was now considered 16 hours a day.  The scorecard was moved to the refrigerator so she could see it.  And with 12 hours a day for school/after school activities and with mom insisting there was no such thing as 24 hour wear since, I was always eating, brushing or showering.  That meant in order to get to the required 112 hours a week I would have to wear it from the moment I got home until I left for school and literally all weekend. 

I  don’t want to say Mom planted spies everywhere to check on me but between a little sister, the mom network, her friends that worked at school, my part time job at our neighbors store, I had no place to hide.  I pointed out how unfair it was making me wear it everywhere I went.  “Then wear it to school all of your friends have seen you wearing it anyway.”  Zero chance of that happening but looking back it would have made more sense since everyone saw me in it anywhere I went anyway.

What she failed to realize it was not my friends I was worried about.  Two particular miserable episodes came to mind.  The first that first week.  On the ride home that day, I had to look that up, the first day back from vacation, the first day of school, and the first chance to get a replacement headgear.  My neck brace was a beautiful navy blue cloth style with a nice wide navy blue  elastic strap pulling on that nice thick, shiny facebow.  Just what every 15 year old guy wanted.  Like JK, I had to walk out of the office with it on, my new normal.
It was a 20 minute drive home.  On the way home a car filled with seniors was sitting right next to us at a red light pointing and laughing.  The driver made sure his whole car saw it.  For most of the way home I could see them looking over at me with a new round of laughter and I knew it was about me.  That was Tuesday, that Saturday was the first drivers ed class and football game of the year, one right after the other.
I had gotten my learners permit two weeks after I got the braces.  I was lucky to get a spot in the class at school Saturdays at 8am.  Mom was giving Ron and I a lift to school, him for game day prep and me to drivers ed.  I took off the neck brace on the way to the car saying I was going to school.  She said it was not, it was a voluntary class.  If I wanted the class and with that my license I was going to wear it all weekend, and the same for going to the game.  School was Monday through Friday from 7:30 to 3pm.  Anything else required headgear.  I could go to the game with it on or go home after class, if I went to class but either way I was not going to take the headgear off all weekend and any weekend for that matter until the braces came off.  She was not about to forget the vacation.

I was also reminded that she would check with the mom’s network, if I did take it off, she would find out.  So I went to the class and took all the abuse.    There were four of us in the class including two of the same seniors who found me wearing headgear so funny on Tuesday.  They saw me that morning and the laugh fest continued.  It made them laugh when she grabbed the blue strap from behind in the car to slingshot it.  They thought it was hysterical later at the game when a girl caught her coat on the headgear and it took a minute to get it unhooked. 

Basically, if I was not at school I had it on.  I quickly became known for it.  Like JK said, it was a topic of a conversation I did not want to have.  It included my 12 hours a week at the ice cream shop.  I wanted to buy my uncle’s car for $400.  Minimum wage was $1.60 an hour but my neighbor paid $2 (that is scarier than the braces).  I had already saved $300 from the summer and, if I worked 12 hours a week I would have the car by summer. 

Mom thought it was great that I wanted to earn the money during the year and was willing to let me as long as my grades were good….and I wore the headgear.  I reluctantly agreed figuring I would get away with not wearing it and nobody finding out.  I worked from 3:30 until 6 on Tuesday and Thursday and Sunday from 10 until 4.  Mom suddenly developed a taste for ice cream.  She made a point to use the dry cleaners next door every Tuesday and Thursday for a month.  By that point the damage was done and I wore it for almost every shift that year.  For everyone on this site who thinks that is thrilling, just try it.  After a while you get used to the looks, the snickering and the cute nicknames but I look back almost in disbelief that I wore it as much as I did.  Unheard of by todays standard.

The second low point came a month later when I was given a note that the girls passed around the class.  It was one of those where they were commenting on all of the guys in our class.  My name came up with comments and lines like ‘you mean the guy with the erector set in his mouth’ , ‘you mean sticking out of his mouth’, ‘yeah, who wants to kiss that’, ‘how can you kiss through that’ ‘you mean antenna face, what a flamer’, ‘ In 6th grade when I had them I told my parents there was no way I would wear one of those, what a momma’s boy’ ‘did his parents pay extra to get that much metal, he must have a ton of it in there’ ‘let’s get Cara to ask him, she has almost as many braces as he does’.  I did not get asked to our Sadie Hawkins dance.

Which actually turned out to be a very lucky break since a neighbor, Jane, who went to an all-girls school, asked me to her dance.  Jane had moved into the neighborhood in June already wearing braces.  Hers went on six months before mine and was done a year earlier than me.  She did not have headgear but did use up a rubber plantations worth of rubber bands.  We had different orthodontist but for a while we wore the same size elastics.  Yes, we could take off each other’s elastics with our tongues. 

We dated for the rest of high school.  Our parents sat us down the night before the prom and had a serious talk about sex not being the answer to a relationship.  Jane and I agreed, sex was not the answer. ‘Sex?’ was the question, the answer was yes.    So for my first kiss we both had braces and then later my first sexual experience with Jane, a month before the talk, and I was still wearing a mouthful of braces, no headgear but I might have had the rubber bands on, it was a somewhat spontaneous decision.  So the queen bees were wrong, I could get laid, it just took two years.

I did not care about graduating with braces but they damn well sure were coming off before I left for school.  We made that with weeks to spare but like JK said, almost no one mentioned that they were finally off.  most of my friends had scattered by then and no one at William and Mary knew I had braces.  I did wear my retainer at night for freshman year, then it got “lost”.

Offline prahm

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Re: My true story
« Reply #10 on: 10. February 2021, 23:15:16 PM »
From my experience, it is pretty common for people to stop wearing their retainer once they get to college and see teeth shift. They usually aren’t willing to do the braces over again to fix it

Offline pesp

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Re: My true story
« Reply #11 on: 17. March 2021, 02:25:10 AM »
Ah, the memories.  Today some of them are even funny.  In real time fifty years ago it was all about the miseries and dread; about the ignominies wearing braces and headgear all but assured; the grim reality of being stuck in headgear, often on public display, for most or all of the day; the tedium of appointment every three weeks taking up hours, including drive time, for ten minutes in the chair; the ongoing torment, constraints and embarrassments provided by countless rubber bands; the ongoing fear that something visible is stuck in that barbed wire of a smile; endless hours maintaining and polishing all of that stainless steel; never ending stream of stupid questions, comments, taunts  and nicknames; then finished off with retainers to drag all the inconvenience and drool for years longer.

The horror for me wasn’t just the hardware itself, I never thought it hurt as much as many people say.  Tightenings happened and I could feel it but never to the point I couldn’t chew, or more like wouldn’t chew (I was a teenage boy).  It was being seen in the hardware, it was being a damn slave to the hardware, trapped in them with no way to get them off until the evil orthodontist decided to free you. Your only hope for a fast result was to walk around with an antenna sticking out of your mouth.  To a teenage guy forced to wear all the 1960’s style quasi-primitive orthodontic metal, it seemed a steep price to pay for a straight smile in a couple of years, or more. 

And when I say stupid questions and comments I mean like someone walking up to you and asking “are you wearing headgear?” when I obviously had a big piece of wire sticking out of my mouth with a dark blue strap around my neck.  Or “when are you getting those braces off?” when I only had them on a week.  One I will always remember, the day after they went on is, in front of a group on the bus, “boy, those are some serious braces…you must have a ton of metal in there…your braces are way worse than mine were…yours really stick out, I mean they are really obvious.” 
 She was the same witch who on the day I had to show up at a football game with my headgear on “great, now you’re the perfect dork”.  It got a big laugh.  She and her junior/senior tribe never missed a chance to toss an insult, bump in the hallway, block the camera etc, etc, etc.  Two years later I was driving and saw her broken down on the side of the road.  I did the right thing and gave her a lift to get it towed.  She was oh so nice and apologetic about all of the nasty things they did back then.  I was almost ready to forgive her until she asked “aren’t you tired of wearing those braces, you would look attractive without them”. 
After two and a half years I was ready to grab the pliers myself but I did not need to hear I was not attractive because of that array of metal staring back at me in the mirror every morning.  I was ready to get them off.  After all I wore the headgear for almost two years, mostly as instructed.  I was not as good with the rubber bands.  For some reason I would not wear them unless mom was hounding me.  That caught up with me in a big way when the ortho, believing me as I lied about the rubber bands started me wearing headgear again, along with stronger elastics.  Oops.  I did not want to admit to the lie and it was only while I slept so I left with it safely tucked away in its pouch. 
I started wearing the rubber bands all of the time, except while eating or brushing.  For almost a year I had them running everywhere in different configurations.  I had wasted at least six months by not cooperating with the elastics and some more time with missed appointments so that was on me.

Not all braces stories from back in the day are bad, like a guy I knew in my teen years.  He was perfectly willing to wear the hardware.  I went to a small Catholic grammar school back in the 60’s.  In 1965 the Pope Paul VI came to New York City and had a mass at Yankee Stadium and a stop at the World’s Fair.  We were supposed to go to the mass but our train was too late so we ended up on a bus with another small catholic grammar school and going to the World’s Fair, the Pope’s next stop.  I was sitting next to another 5th grader from the other school and he had a notable overbite, the biggest on anyone I have ever known.  He was called Bucky by his classmates, it was a taunt, not an endearment. 

We spent most of the trip in the same group, he avoided most of his classmates, but I liked the guy, he was as sarcastic as me and a very quick wit.  He was extremely conscious of smile and there was no way to cover up and I could see the problems eating caused.  In the crowd that day was a girl wearing headgear, and Kevin did not take his eyes off her.  I said I would hate to have to wear anything like that, Kevin’s response was “Not me”.  After the bus ride I did not see him again for over a year. 
My cousin was getting married at St Agnes Cathedral which was about an hour away from my home.  Cousin Mary wanted me to be an altar boy at her wedding service and I was partnered with an altar boy from the Cathedral who knew the church.  He turned out to be Kevin.  We remembered each other instantly and we did the wedding mass, all told about 4 hours.  He mumbled a lot that day after just having some teeth removed.

A year later I was in seventh grade at a science fair.  The secret to entering a science fair is to get a genius for a partner and mine ended up going to MIT on a full scholarship.  Shelly was no good at the English language but was a wizard at computer language, her father was a computer engineer.  Her competition was a kid from St. Agnes who was also into computers.  It was Kevin who was now wearing a high pull headgear and full braces.  The braces made the overbite look even worse. 

His braces had gone on two months before and he remembered my comment about the girl wearing headgear at the Fair and was right up front, anything was better than his teeth sticking out so he did not care about the insults from his classmates or the staring, he wanted the braces and if that meant wearing headgear all day, every day, then that is what he was going to do.  Kevin and Shelly got along great talking computers.  We both got ribbons and that pissed off my science teacher who had to give me an A.

In May of 1968 Mary was having her son baptized back up at St. Agnes.  I had just served my last mass as an altar boy that morning and was not thrilled to be sitting through my second mass of the day before the baptism.  I saw a total of five kids that day wearing headgear which I think was my one day record.  A boy then a girl, both my age, were leaving one mass and a younger girl was walking in and sitting two pews in front of me, all of them wearing cervical headgears.

Then there was Kevin up on the altar wearing a cervical headgear.  This was really unfortunate since I was only recently informed that I had an orthodontist appointment in a couple of weeks.  Our new dentist was “very concerned” that without “comprehensive treatment” my jaw relationship would “deteriorate”.  I was not a thumb sucker but I had a habit if sleeping on my hand and that had distorted my jaws as I was growing.  They were now at odds with each other and the teeth on that side were pushed in creating an open bite.  My ortho, sensing my reluctance to wear the appliances, pointed out that my smile was not going to fix itself.

There was a long break between ceremonies and I went back to talk to Kevin.  His teeth and braces were now fully inside of his mouth and you could see how happy he was.  I asked what was up with all the kids wearing headgear and he said it was his orthodontist that insisted some of his cases wear headgear the full 22-24 hours per day.  It was part of Kevin’s treatment plan and Kevin and his parents had to agree to cooperate with the plan.  He said that by the time high school started he would only need to wear it at night “and no more Bucky”.

I told him about my upcoming appointment and he offered his regrets after telling me I would get used to them and most kids don’t have headgear.  His ortho said his braces would be off by Christmas because he was such a good patient.  Besides, he pointed out, even if I needed headgear most orthodontist do not require full time headgear wear like his.  Also, most kids that have headgear never wear it as much as the orthodontist says they should.

I saw Kevin twice more, once at a college fair at Hofstra University.  He was still a little on the small size but his smile looked great, no one could tell how big a change his braces made in both appearance and attitude.  I was still a couple of months away from having mine removed.  The final time was at a party in Boston two years later.  We were both drunk and enjoying the company of our the current girlfriends.  His was about four inches taller and had a noticeable overbite on otherwise perfect teeth.  I always wondered what the kids would look like.

Kevin was fully willing to wear it all because he had endured so much dealing with that massive overbite but other kids with less serious ailments absolutely hated being forced to wear it all day, school and all.    There was something about the name of his orthodontist that bothered me.  In these days of seeing mail order orthodontic treatment which is sold on TV it has to be remembered back then orthodontist could not advertise, they only accepted referrals from dentist and my dentist had just given me a referral. 

On the long drive back that day my mother commented on Kevin wearing headgear.  Not just Kevin, she saw all of those kids wearing some form of headgear including back at my cousins house her husband’s cousin, aged 11, was wearing a high pull headgear.  I expressed how much I did not want to wear braces, pretty much standard for guys at the time, Kevin being the exception. “My teeth aren’t that bad.”  I finished with something like ‘I sure as hell am not wearing headgear’.
Looking back I can say fortunately I lost that argument.  She did not like my attitude and I was going to do whatever the orthodontist said and if that was headgear then I would wear headgear.  “Lot’s” of kids had braces and “lots” of them wore headgear. 

“Lots of them” did not wear headgear, but I did.  The next time I saw Kevin I was doing the  a/v for the football team.  I tape recorded practices and games using equipment as out of date today as my braces.  I did all of the football and basketball games for four years all because the seniors who used to do it borrowed the equipment, got drunk and filmed one of them having sex at a party, which is pretty much taboo at every catholic school.  So as a freshman that was very exciting staying late with the varsity teams and traveling with them on away games.
All except for the headgear.  My mother was a full time working mom almost all of my life.  When asked the secret of her success (and she was successful) she always said “scheduling”.  The day I came home wearing my neck brace said I didn’t need to fill out any scorecard, I would just wear it “on schedule”.  To her that meant all I had to do was put it on at 4 pm every day and wore it until 6am I would have almost 14 hours without a problem and I would never have to wear it to school.

I pointed out I would not get home until 6 every night and the eating and drinking problem with a big piece of wire sticking out of my mouth.  She agreed and said 11 hours every night was still possible and I could wear it more on the weekend.  I then pointed out that would mean I would have to wear it literally all weekend.  “Then that’s what you need to do.”  Or I could put it on earlier in the day.

As evil fates would have it the reason something sounded familiar when Kevin mentioned his ortho’s name was because that was the same last name as my new ortho.  They were brothers.  They had the same orthodontic philosophy, the same love of headgear and he agreed with my mother’s schedule and wrote it as part of the treatment plan.  As he described it I should “wear the hell out of it” by averaging “at least” 16 hours a day.

I still think that was just arrogance on Dr. G’s part and I think the fact that you never see any kids wearing them in public these days and they still seem to end up with perfectly straight teeth proves it.  A guy by the name of Kloehn started the cervical traction craze in the late 1940’s and he only wanted 10-12 hours a night, not 16-23 hours a day.

The low point was showing up at football games with it on.  I had a choice, become the top a/v guy for the football team and wear my headgear to the games, or hide at home and wear the headgear.  Either way I was going to wear headgear.  So the humiliation of the headgear was somewhat muted by lucking in to a great gig. 

So when we played St. Agnes that year it was me standing with Kevin and I was the one wearing headgear and kids pointing and laughing.  You know what they were saying, just like me about the girl at the world’s fair five years ago, I’m glad that’s not me.”  His advice was that by now everyone knew I wore it so “the damage is done, what difference does it make now?” “How long will you have to wear it?”  Sadly, he was asking months if not years.  And the ortho only gave us a 20 to 24 month estimated treatment time with caveats for cooperation and growth patterns.
  His braces would be off in two months so when our basketball teams played, I still had headgear on and his braces were off.  He was a happy guy with a great smile and I always felt good for him.  My misery lasted until middle of senior year, only 18 months longer than he expected, and I cooperated!!!  It got tremendously frustrating by the end.  Classmates still remembered my braces at the reunion as being the worst in the school.

Over the years posting here I have let others use my password to add their comments, including my wife who is still mad at the horror of a 13 year old girl forced to wear headgear in a very public way.  Another was a good friend Mike, who regularly came out to visit in March (until covid) and has a story about his treatment that lasted 5 years.  He took a writing class online while locked in the house during covid with the assignment each week was to write a biography of a decade of his life with amazing detail.  His teen years part is all about braces and headgear, with some sex and stupidity mixed in.  Even unfinished it shows the reality of what it was like 50 years ago, not the fantasy ‘combined full bands, tongue crib, expander, lip bumpers and 10 rubber bands with  combination headgear and facemask’  fiction of today.  I will post it in the story section.

Online Libra

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Re: My true story
« Reply #12 on: 17. March 2021, 11:08:04 AM »
How long were you in braces? About four or five years?

Offline duncombec

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Re: My true story
« Reply #13 on: 17. March 2021, 13:02:00 PM »
Enjoy perhaps isn't the right word to describe these real life stories, but I definitely appreciate them being posted

Being a little 'guilty as charged' when it comes to appliance quantity in writing fiction, it's interesting to see that quite commonly, even just 'the basics' was pain enough, both in their visual aspect and the awkwardness of dealing with them.

It is perhaps interesting to compare the regularity of appointments with bands to the current craze for sending you moulds and aligners to treat yourself at home. Hmm.. perhaps there's an idea for a story in itself... Older person who experienced fully banded braces in wistful discussion with younger character in aligners or ceramic braces...