I lived with a barbed-wire fence in my mouth

That day so many years ago when my dentist requested a meeting with my mother I already knew it wasn’t going to be good news, because he usually ended our visits repeating the same old story about brushing our teeth properly.

Doctor Lurie explained to my mother that if we didn’t correct the angle of my teeth I would end up with serious gum recession on the three front bottom teeth simply because food was pushed down against my gums every time I bit into something.

“How does one change the angle of the teeth?”  my mother asked him.

“Rosanne will have to go to an orthodontist and get fitted with braces.”  said Dr Lurie.

Something was wrong with my hearing, I thought I heard “braces”.

“You’re joking, right?” I said, “I went to an orthodontist when I was a kid. I did all that already!” I remembered the pain and the yuck factor when food got stuck in the wires.

“Did you wear braces then?” he asked.

“No, thank god! I wore a plate thingie on my top palate…”

“Well now you must wear braces and get it done properly,” he said smiling behind his big round glasses.

“But Doctor Lurie I’m nineteen years old, I’m at University, I’m too old to wear braces,”  I said.

He laughed.

I cried.

My Mother never begrudged doing whatever was necessary for her children,  I became the only student at my university who wore braces. They were big, and ugly, it was difficult to eat with a barbed wire fence stored in my mouth,  and it effectively stopped any attempts at smooching.

photo credit: Free Photo

photo credit: Free Photo

My Mr F stuck with me in spite of the difficulties 🙂

I had braces on my wedding day, though my orthodontist gave me a wedding gift: he took them off the top two teeth in the front “for the photos“.

There was one particular incident that Mr F and I have never forgotten.  Our vacations were usually spent camping in the bush, far from civilization, our idea of a perfect evening was sitting in front of the campfire looking at the night sky, listening to the sounds of the African veld, and Mr F’s guitar.

On one of those trips in the middle of nowhere the unthinkable thing happened: the wire going across my braces snapped, leaving exposed bits of wire that sliced into my cheeks.  Unable to cut it off, we tried covering the sharp points with wads of chewing gum, with paper stuck to wads of chewing gum, with leaves, with twigs… Nothing worked.

We drove about a hundred miles to the nearest big city where we were grateful to find a public phone that wasn’t out-of-order (this was the olden days before cell phones) and through a friend of a relative got a referral to a dentist (there wasn’t an orthodontist in the town) who was able to take the wire off.

Why am I telling you about the braces I wore so many years ago?

I had dental surgery on Monday because the gums on my three front bottom teeth have receded so much there’s already been bone loss.

When I asked the periodontist if he could explain the severe gum recession, he answered with a question, “Did you wear braces?”


I sat awake in the periodontist‘s chair for over two hours, my mouth numb my tongue “fat” (I lost count of how many injections he gave me), and watched while he sliced a piece of skin off my top palate, and grafted it onto the gums of my three bottom teeth. He’s happy with his handiwork, and praised me for being an excellent patient “who sat calmly through the procedure” [which I think must have earned me several Girl Guide meditation badges!]. Before he can claim the surgery a total success though, we have to see whether there are blood vessels in the area of the grafted skin.

Today I’m on strong painkillers,  feel nauseous from the after effects of all that “stuff in my system”,  and am already bored with my luke-warm liquid diet,  but more than anything else I miss my Mother. I needed to cry on her shoulder after I heard what a waste of bloody time and money it was to get those braces.


“Hi Mom!”

I end with more love – the theme of this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is Love.

The photo below of our dog Jelly lying in the warm spot under our stove with Honey Bun our cat, was taken about forty years ago, and has sat on our fridge for almost as long.  (Because I don’t have the negative I had to copy the photo with my camera…)

Jelly and Honeybun

Jelly and Honey Bun

Have you ever had orthodontic treatment, or gum surgery?


* * * * *

PostScript on January 31:

My blogging buddy Tara – who blogs in China at The Good Villager – has awarded me a special Girl Guide badge.  I’m so proud 😀

art work by The Good Villager

art work by The Good Villager

About dearrosie

We think we need so much, when all we really need is time to breathe. Come walk with me, put one foot in front of the other, and get to know yourself. Please click the link to my blog - below - and leave me a comment. I love visitors.
This entry was posted in Families don't you love them, Photography, Tutto va bene, Wondering and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

56 Responses to I lived with a barbed-wire fence in my mouth

  1. Lol says:

    I had braces and orthodontic surgery, I was also over 19 🙂
    But it was so worth it and I wanted braces. Now I have perfect teeth and my bite is not giving me any problems anymore 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you for sharing your story DeeCee. I’m glad to hear your teeth are perfect and you don’t have any more problems. I need to hear positive accounts of orthodontics, because I’m feeling guilty for taking my children to an orthodontist and putting them through years of barbed-wire in their mouths!

  2. Doris says:

    The dentist told me I need them but the orthodontist said to me after many checkups that he could not put them on me because two of my teeth would fall down the front ones, something to do with small roots, then when I was in college my dentist told me I needed braces but I convinced my mother not to get them, now I smile without showing my teeth. It must have hurt a lot if you need your mom, I love that picture of you and your mother that’s what love is all about, take care.

    • dearrosie says:

      My goodness Doris who were you to believe? I’ve never heard of someone having small roots, but then, to be honest, I’ve never had a conversation about teeth before.
      I understand why you didn’t want the braces when you were in college 🙂 it wasn’t fun but what a shame you feel you can’t show your teeth when you smile.
      I’m so glad you noticed the love in the photo of me and my Mom. The shutter clicked at a perfect moment to capture the love in our greeting.

  3. nrhatch says:

    I had braces . . . TWICE. My teeth were a muddled up mess and definitely needed alignment.

    I had the wire snap once too . . . OUCH!!!
    And lots of rubber bands break . . . OUCH!!!

    BFF had gum grafts in October, followed by pain killers, and a liquid diet, and OUCH!!!! He never had braces. His gums just receded.

    He had a good result and is glad he had it done.
    Hope you can soon say the same.

    • dearrosie says:

      Nancy you had to wear braces twice? and had the wire snap too? oh god so you understand how bloody awful it was. I think OUCH is too polite to describe it all.
      I don’t think my orthodontist used rubber bands? I don’t remember using them.

      Thanks for letting me know that BFF’s gum graft surgery was successful. I’m concerned that because my wound didn’t bleed much it means there aren’t blood vessels?
      What did BFF eat? I don’t fancy eating an egg without toast. I’ve had soup, apple sauce, yoghurt, and this morning a big bowl of cooked oats.

      Thanks so much for joining in the discussion, and for your good wishes re a successful outcome.

      • nrhatch says:

        He limited what he ate so that it didn’t require much chewing and had nothing that could “sting” ~ mashed potatoes, cooked carrots, pasta, soup, ice cream. He cut up toast into small pieces. Same with pizza. He didn’t eat rice (it got stuck in the packing), peanut butter, and nothing sticky or hard.

      • dearrosie says:

        I know to avoid hard foods, but I didn’t think sticky would be a problem, and thanks for the tip about avoiding rice. I was going to try some this evening.

  4. sybil says:

    Gum surgery ? Yep. Grafts from the roof of my mouth ? Yep. A couple of ’em. They took. Unlike you, I asked for a prescription of Valium for the sessions. On a return check up visit, the Doctor laughed and said I’d been quite funny on original visit. Apparently while “under the influence” I’d gone to scratch my nose and missed it, waved my arm in the air and SHOUTED, “I never gave you permission to take my nose!”.

    On another occasion (yep I’ve had a few done) my dad was driving me home after the graft. I was high and happy from the good drugs. Keep in mind that I was in my 30’s and dad in his 50’s — so you think he’s know better. We saw a sign for ice cream. I said I wanted one. He said “OK”. Not a good idea. The packing fell out of the roof of my mouth and my “high” quickly vanished …

    I should had that I now brush my teeth with two different kinds of brushes, pick with a wooden pick between my teeth, and THEN with a plastic one and THEN floss.

    My current Dentist raves about the condition of my gums. 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      good gracious Sybil you were young when you had the surgeries, but I’m impressed that it helped you maintain such perfect dental habits. Why do you use two tooth brushes and two different kinds of picks?
      Interesting that my dentist’s office didn’t suggest I get a prescription for something like Valium.

  5. munchow says:

    I have never had orthodontic treatment, or gum surgery, but I can imagine it’s not fun. And neither must wearing braces be. I remember when I was a kid I always feared having to wear them – but luckily avoided it. I feel with you Rosanne.

    • dearrosie says:

      You’re really lucky that you didn’t have to wear braces Otto. Every visit to the orthodontist the wires get tightened – that’s how the teeth are moved. Its very painful and you can’t eat for a couple of days.

  6. I had braces in my early teens and that was bad enough! Hope you are feeling better.

    Love the cat and dog photo. How sweet!

    • dearrosie says:

      Welcome to my club Lisa. 🙂 Anyone who has worn braces is immediately a member.
      Our puppy and the cat became inseparable friends and would always snuggle and sleep together like that.
      Thanks for your great comment.

  7. Good for you for writing despite the nausea and discomfort. I have made you a special Girl Guide badge – you more than deserve it 😉

  8. rynnasaryonnah says:

    I had perfectly straight teeth as a child (a tooth or two is just slightly crooked now) but I ALWAYS wanted to wear braces just because I thought they would make me look cute. I had a friend in college who had to have them on. She said it was pure torture. Especially the beginning. All she could bare to eat was soup.

    • dearrosie says:

      That’s the first time I’ve heard of someone thinking braces would make them look cute. Teenagers are so funny!
      I agree with your friend that braces are “pure torture”. The wires are tightened every time you visit the orthodontist and for the next few days you can only eat soup or scrambled eggs because of the pain.

      • rynnasaryonnah says:

        Yes. Either soup or mash potato was her diet for many months. I felt so relieved that I didn’t need to wear braces after all. Teenage girls also think boys with braces are really cute! So, I guess you’re right – teens ARE weird. Haha.

  9. No gum surgery for me– thank GOD — but I did a whole series of focus groups with periodontal surgeons and dental assistants for a drug they were testing to prevent gum disease and I now know more about slicing and dicing of gums than any lay person should. Every time I think about skipping flossing for a night, I think of those procedures and go right to it. SO sorry for your pain, Rosie! (I love that photo of you & your mom and the old photo of your dog Jelly and cat Honeybun is priceless!!!)

    • dearrosie says:

      wow Betty I know you’ve done some interesting things in your past, but I’d never have guessed that focus groups with periodontal surgeons was one of them. I told my periodontist that I was sorry I couldn’t actually see what he was doing – I cannot imagine how you take a sliver of skin and attach it to a tooth – but he gave me a #look# and didn’t reply so I know he thought I was nuts, perhaps I would’ve fainted if I’d seen him slicing and dicing …

      Happy you like my photos.

  10. Dee Ready says:

    Dear Rosie, I’ve never been to an orthodontist nor have I had gum surgery, but oh your story about the wire breaking in Africa made me cringe! I hope you are feeling better and that your gum surgery is successful.

    In my last comment–several days ago–I told you about a novelist who writes about the French countryside. In your response you expressed interested. Here’s the author’s name and the first book in his series:
    “Bruno, Chief of Police” by Martin Walker. The books take place in that part of France that has the caves with the drawings in them going back to prehistoric times. I really think you might enjoy them if you life novels/mysteries. Peace.

  11. Oh my, the pain and indignity of it all. Such a story, and thanks for telling it to us. Especially considering you are on heavy painkillers. I’m running in to the bathroom to floss and brush right now. Knock on wood, no teeth or gum problems for me.

    I melted at the photo of you with your mom.

    • dearrosie says:

      Thanks for your great comment EOS. You’re darn lucky you don’t have teeth or gum troubles. Keep up the good work! (whatever it is)

      I cry when I look at that photo of me and my Mum – we were greeting each other after an absence of almost a year. Thanks EOS!

  12. jane tims says:

    Hi Rosie. Great story. Our mouths are so prone to discomfort. Enjoy you recuperation!!! I know what you mean about wanting your Mom when you are sick. Jane

    • dearrosie says:

      I’m still in week one and I’m already so tired of eating liquids and soft foods. How does one eat mush for three weeks?
      Thank you for your great comment Jane. Do you miss your Mum too?

      • jane tims says:

        Hi. Try one of the Greek yogurts (la liberte is what we get). I miss my Mom. She died ten years ago this month. I once asked her why time couldn’t just stand still when times were good. Her answer was, if time stopped, my son wouldn’t get the chance to enjoy his life the way we have enjoyed ours. Wise words, but I still miss her. Jane

  13. Pingback: Photo Project: 52 Bolivian Sundays [week 4, 'Love']. « 3rdculturechildren

  14. Good news! This post did come across on my reader today. Such a warm moment between you and your mom captured in that photo. It’s wonderful. I wish you a good recovery from such a dental ordeal. Kudos for being such a “good” patient. I had braces in hs and got them off my first year in college in my college town. Interestingly, the orthodontist was just a walk away from my dorm.

    • dearrosie says:

      It is good news when my post arrives on your reader. Thanks for letting me know.
      My daughter-in-law captured a warm wordless greeting between my Mum and I. I treasure that photo.

      If you had braces you’ll remember the pain and the liquid diet every time the orthodontist tightened the wires…
      Thank you for your good wishes. I’m already frustrated with eating liquids and soft foods. How does one eat mush for three weeks?

  15. Oh Rosie, I had the exact same surgery as you did, about 15-20 years ago. The dental surgeon sliced a piece of skin off my top palate, too, and grafted it onto the gums of my lower molars on the opposite side of my mouth. Ouch! What an utterly miserable experience!

    I had braces, too, as a teen, but my dentist told me that the cause of my receding gums was that I was brushing my teeth too vigorously. Sometimes I think doctors make stuff up when they just don’t know what causes something. Also, some of the migraine drugs I take cause dry mouth, which can also be a cause of receding gums. Or so they say. Who Knows?

    What a nightmare that must have been when the wire going across your braces snapped and sliced into your cheeks, with civilization and help so far away!

    It is at times like these that we miss our mothers all the more. I’m sure all parents have relied on a doctor’s opinion regarding choices of treatments for their children – (most) doctors and parents are doing the best they can with the best of intentions, but methods of treatment are always evolving as understanding increases.

    Those are special treasures, the picture of you and your mom, and of Jelly and Honey Bun – thanks for sharing them!

    Wishing you a speedy recovery, my friend, and sending you much love, many blessings and a big cyber-hug.

    • dearrosie says:

      You also had the horrible gum surgery and wore braces? Sorry Barbara.:-(

      I know I’m brushing my teeth too vigorously on the top molars so I won’t be surprised to hear that I need to do a transplant there!
      I don’t think someone who hasn’t had the gum surgery or worn braces, can understand what it’s like trying to brush your teeth, or when you can only eat liquids, and soft foods like bananas, and scrambled eggs. I was hungry at work on Sunday and I’m proud to announce I was able to eat a piece of coffee cake. 😀

      I think the time that the wire on my braces snapped was one of my lowest moments…I cried and cried. Poor Mr F was so kind.

      You know what it’s like to miss one’s Mother. ((sigh))
      Glad you liked my photos – they are both treasures.

      I went to the periodontist today for a check up and he said it looked okay, but he left the strings hanging around the teeth on the bottom. Its so hard to keep my tongue away.

      Thank you for your great comment Barbara.

  16. eof737 says:

    You poor thing… I hope the nightmare has ended. 😉

  17. Oh my goodness, Rosie. I’m so sorry for the treatments this week! They sound just horrible. I’m having some issues myself, so I understand the frustration, but so far, I’ve avoided the pain! I adore the photo of you and your mom. What a lovely photo it is, and I send a big hug to you as you miss her. We all want our mothers when we hurt! Jelly and Honey Bun are precious, too. You’ve captured “love” so well with this post. I hope you’re feeling better by now? oxo

    • dearrosie says:

      Thank you Debra I’m now in week two and feeling much better (and the bruise on my cheek has gone away).
      If you need to do similar gum surgery don’t put it off! False teeth are not something I look forward to.

      I treasure that photo of me and my Mum. My daughter-in-law clicked the shutter at the perfect moment of our reunion. We get two weeks vacation in the US so I was only able to visit her once a year.

  18. bronxboy55 says:

    I never had braces, but have had wisdom teeth and other teeth extracted, and a few root canals. Based on your description, the fun level is all about the same.

    I hope you’re feeling better, Rosie.

    By the way, we had the same stove when I was a kid.

    • dearrosie says:

      I’m sure that any kind of dental work leaves you feeling the same because no matter what work is done a liquid diet is a liquid diet.

      How funny that you had the same stove! I’m sure your Mom didn’t allow you to sleep under it 🙂

  19. shoreacres says:

    Oh, gosh. Yes, I had braces. I hated them. I knew I was the ugliest child on the face of the earth. Besides, the technology wasn’t so good back then.

    The ironies? My bottom teeth have rearranged themselves over the past couple of decades, and are exactly where they were when we started. As for the top? Thanks to an auto accident, I lost them on the steering wheel and now have a partial plate.

    Ah, well. Parents want to do the right thing, and decisions get made – then life takes over and does what it wants!

    • dearrosie says:

      oh you poor thing even though you went through all the agonies of wearing braces your teeth rearranged themselves back to where they were before you’d started? Ouch!
      Your Mum sounds like mine i.e she’d do whatever the dentist recommended for her child. What did she say when your teeth went right back to their original spots?

  20. Sorry to hear about the pain your braces had caused you through the years. I don’t have braces but I have several porcelain crowns and the procedures somehow is traumatizing. A few days ago I revisited the dentist for a loose crown. The shot was painful but after it was over I was glad that I dealt with it finally.

    • dearrosie says:

      I’m glad to hear you had your loose crown repaired. Its so important not to ignore our dental problems IT. If it had fallen off or broken you’d have had a much bigger problem.
      The needle does sting when it goes in. I’m grateful that my periodontist was very gentle and rubbed the gum at the same time, so it wasn’t too bad.

  21. Val says:

    Oh Rosie, I hope you’re feeling better by now, or beginning to feel better.

    I have never had braces, but all my front lower teeth are higgledy-piggledy and a dentist I went to several years ago looked at the, gasped and said, “but surely your childhood dentist suggested braces?” Nobody had. My parents weren’t concerned and in fact, neither was I. I quite like them for they make me ‘me’. I inherited them from my dad (they look almost identical to his) and he was horribly embarrassed by them to the extent that he rarely smiled in public in case he showed them.

    As for surgery – some time in the, I think 1970s but am not sure of the date, I had all four wisdom teeth out, in hospital, under general anaesthetic. The aftermath of that was how you are now – soft, soggy food and very bored of it all. As well as that I was unable to open my mouth more than about half an inch, and my mother insisted on feeding me raspberry jam (with seeds in!) by teaspoon which was horrible, as you can imagine.

    I’m also sorry that you’re missing your mother right now. I know what that’s like – needing a mum’s hug when you’re feeling fragile. Well, I’m not a mum, but I do consider myself your friend, so have a virtual – and belated – hug from me.

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Val,
      I go back to see the dentist this afternoon. My mouth is beginning to feel like normal: most of the stitches have fallen out or been absorbed. I have to remember not to bite on the front teeth even while chewing a banana because the transplanted skin in the front isn’t quite healed.
      I wonder why your childhood dentist didn’t think of recommending that you visit an orthodontist, but you’re lucky you never had to go through all that agony.

      I know about the discomfort and pain when one has wisdom teeth taken out in hospital under general anesthetic, not because I had it done personally, but I nursed Mr F and both our kids after their surgeries. It was much more painful than this little procedure – they were in bed for several days.

      I was told not to eat anything with seeds! I wonder why your Mum fed you jam with seeds!

      Thank you for being such a great friend and sending me hugs Val. I really appreciate it. 😀

  22. souldipper says:

    How totally awful, Rosie. That is a ruddy crime! And then the dash to fix the broken wires! You really have had an ordeal. I’m hoping your surgery is well on its way to being healed by now and that you have finished with having to worry about it all!

    You are a very brave person. I’m very impressed with your meditative abilities! Your mom would be so proud of you.

    Love the photo. May I confess that I still have my cat’s ashes from 10 years ago – sitting on my kitchen window?

    • dearrosie says:

      Today is two weeks and I’m glad to say my mouth is almost healed and I was able to eat a piece of apple last night. Its easy to forget and bite with the front teeth. I have to concentrate with each bite that I only chew on the back teeth on the right side.

      We’ve buried some of our pets in our various gardens, but I’ve never kept their ashes in an urn in the house. I guess that was a very special cat.

      • souldipper says:

        Ah…there’s the update. Thanks, Rosie. Yes, General MacArthur (Mac) was the cat that travelled with me when I did contracts in all sorts of weird and wondrous locations. Plus he growled at people he didn’t trust. Great help except when he got into the Board Room during a School Board meeting! Grrrrr. They shoulda listened to him…! 😀

  23. Robin says:

    lol! Great badge. And a wonderfully told story. 🙂 Makes me almost glad I didn’t get the braces I should have. My hygienist recently suggested I see an orthodontist, but at this stage of life, why bother?

    • dearrosie says:

      I’m very proud of my badge Robin. 😀
      Your hygienist told you recently that you need braces? Good gracious that really is ridiculous! I hope you told her you weren’t interested!

  24. Oh, Rosie, that is a bummer that because you had braces you now had to have this gum surgery. I know medical knowledge is changing all the time, but it’s pretty bad when at one point in time something is “good for you” and then later in time, we find it wasn’t good for you at all. I’ve had a lot of dental surgery in my life because I broke my two front teeth when I was a kid, but never orthodontics or gum surgery. I am NOT a big fan of dentists. They scare me! 🙂

    • dearrosie says:

      Mr F also broke his front teeth when he was a kid and like you is not a big fan of dentists.
      My Mom listened to the orthodontist and followed his advice because she assumed he knew what he was talking about, but what he didn’t tell us is he was just learning through me and my teeth.

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