Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Like he cares about when he is 60

Months ago we took Gary to a dentist who refered him to an orthodontist who couldn't see him for weeks because there are only so many spots open for medicaid patients. The orthodontist said that he really should have braces, which medicaid wouldn't pay for because his teeth weren't really bad enough, but still needed. This orthodontist of course knows that the private agency will pay for them.

Gary however really, really doesn't want braces. If he has braces he won't be able to do martial arts for two years, and his life would not be worth living if he had to quit martial arts. Of course, he wasn't allowed to do martial arts when he lived in the group home, but that is not relevant. He is doing it now, and he loves it, and he is going to be professional fighter for a long time, maybe even until he is 30. (Yesterday he saw a photo of Obama on the beach shirtless. Gary was very impressed -- he looks good for an old guy. I protested that Obama is only two years older than I am. Gary looked at me with sincere confusion...exactly what was my point?)

So we got a consult with my dentist whom I trust.

My dentist said that Gary really should have the braces and that if he doesn't his teeth will suffer more wear and tear causing him problems later on. Then the dentist said in ominous tones, "You might even have to get dentures when you are 60."

Oh the horror! Dentures at 60!

Gary is sixteen. The 60-year-old man who will remember being him means nothing to Gary. That is an old man. Don't old men wear dentures anyway? As far as Gary is concerned the dentist said something like, "If you don't have braces, when you turn 60 you will be 60 years old."

If he has the braces he will not be able to participate in martial arts for the two years it would take. That is NOW. That is his life, his passion, his future. It is everything to him.

Why would he even consider giving that up so some old man won't have to have dentures?



  1. When I was about 18, your really could tell something about my peers' socioeconomic background by the state of their teeth. Some kids just had crooked smiles. Funny thing is, after a couple years (I'm 25 now), that distinction has kind of eroded. So many of us (myself included) who did get braces stopped wearing the retainers once we got to college. So our teeth have shifted back to where they wanted to be all along.

  2. Anonymous12:27 PM

    I'm a lurker, but have but long time reader. I had a question regarding the braces. It's probably an obvious question, why can't he continue with the fighting with braces? I only ask because my son has braces, but still plays football and tuba. I realize they are different sports, just curious. Also another option would be Invisaline braces.

  3. I'm betting that MMA and braces would not mix well! I was really supposed to have braces when I was a kid and my parents couldn't afford it. At the time I was relieved. Now i kind of wish i'd had it as it has impacted my bite somewhat. My 12 y/o is going to have to have braces but he doesn't seem too worried by the prospect. Lots of his friends have braces or have had braces, so he is okay with it.

  4. Football helmets offer more protection to the face.

    MMA (mixed marshal arts) helmets are nothing in comparison.

    Oh...and in MMA you get punched in the face.

  5. Lee,

    I don't think that Gary would mind either if it wasn't for the MMA.

  6. Would the agency pay for the invisalign braces? If memory serves they take longer to work than regular braces, but they could be removed during MMA.

  7. About invisalign:
    I don't know if the agency would pay for them and I don't know if they would work. Part of the issue for Gary's teeth is that he has a baby tooth that never came out because the adult tooth is impacted behind it. Part of what they would need to do for the braces is to attach something to the impacted tooth to turn and pull it down into place.

  8. I just checked with Dr. Google. Invisible braces cannot treat impacted teeth. Not an option.

  9. I guess there's a couple ways to look at this. Part of me wants to say, ask Gary if he wants to go through braces now when it'll take less time for them to work and someone else is willing to foot the bill, or ask him if he'd like to be 35 when it is going to take a heck of a lot longer to move the teeth and it is his own money that he's handing over to foot the bill. That's me except with a couple differences. Back in the 80's the state dept. dentist didn't give a care about why an older teenager still had several baby teeth left in her mouth; they didn't even bother with taking an x-ray to try to figure out what the heck was going on. Today, if it's bad enough, the state will actually pay for the braces. The problem is, while the state cares more today, today when they will cover it, I'm too old. Doesn't change the fact that they still needed them. I'm handing over almost a third of total monthly income every month for orthodontict work that Gary is having offered to him free of charge. You have no idea what I'd give for that! By the time I'll be done, I'll have more money in my mouth than I have in my car!

    On the other side of things, he does have to be willing to cooperate.

  10. The agency would pay for all the orthodontic work if he does it now. I've gone through that line of argument with him. The dental assistant pitched in telling him it could easily be $5000, and it could certainly be more later.

    It is just so impossible for him to imagine giving up MMA. It is all he talks about, all he thinks about. It would be easier to give up girls.

    I'm thinking he isn't going to get the braces, and he will later wish he had.

  11. I saw that photo of Obama, and all I have to say is "Dayum!"

    My son boxed even with braces. His orthodontist provided him with specially fitted mouthguards and he never had a problem with any of it.

  12. A life lesson learned. Later he will have to pay for them himself and perhaps he will remember to listen better to the people in his life. I agree this is choice left up to him. You need to be committed to take good care of braces and he is getting too old to force into personal decisions.

  13. He's so good at MMA that he isn't gonna MIND paying for this himself later! (grin) Like when he is "old" and oh say 30! LOL

  14. My parents took me to go get braces when I was young. I would have needed jaw surgery before they could put braces on me and the thought of that creeped me out, so I opted not to get braces. My parents didn't push me. I'm 36 now and wish I had done it (it would be lovely to have my jaw corrected and have straight teeth), but I know the choice was mine.

    Odds are, Gary is not going to make martial arts his career. But there's no harm in letting him make this decision now and maybe revisiting it in a year, right?

    Worst case scenario, he doesn't do it and has to pay for it himself as an adult (which will be harder and take longer than two years). But it will have been his choice, and he'll know that.

  15. You can not take MMA away from this kid! It sounds like it is his sanity and refuge. MMA is keeping this kid on the straight and narrow and there is a good chance that he could go through all the braces work and than mess up his teeth with MMA in the future.

  16. Anonymous5:26 PM

    My oldest son had mouth problems from a young age. We started at age 7 with a palate spreader and went from there. Braces during middle school.

    You would think that his teeth would be fine when an adult. No way. After the braces came off his top jar grew more than his bottom jaw thus misaligned teeth again.

    At age 29 he had to have braces put back on to reposition teeth and then once the teeth were in place he had jaw surgery to fix the jaw and keep the teeth in place.

    Luckily he had insurance that paid for most of this as the jaw surgery was deemed non-cosmetic.

    If Gary doesn't want the braces now he can always get them later if he wants to.


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