(Em)bracing torture

In medieval times, cruel people invented a nasty form of torture known as thumbscrews, in which the victim’s fingers or toes were placed, and slowly crushed with the turning of screws.

Nowadays, we have a more sophisticated, though no less excruciating, parallel method: orthodontic braces.

And we pay to have it done to us!


Once every 4-7 weeks, I am reintroduced to this torture. I walk of my own volition up the steps of the old Post Office building, now the orthodontic office of Dr. Shok. I cheerfully greet the receptionist. I sign in on her state-of-the-art touch screen. And I sit down to wait. When my name is called, I rise, walk buoyantly after my torturer, and seat myself confidently in the dental chair she points out.

Minutes later, I leave. Some days I have experienced pain; some not. The real effect is delayed until two or three hours later, when my teeth start screaming.

Three hours later, it hurts to talk. It hurts to eat. It hurts to smile. It hurts to live. My face becomes a mask; my words become slurred. I pop Tylenol. I go to bed. Anything, anything, to baby the sore places and avoid the pain.

Within a day or two, normalcy seeps back into my life and I know that I’m glad I’m on this track. It’s almost over! But for those few days, I think the evil-hearted lords of the 1500’s had nothing on Dr. Shok.

This braces-torture has many facets, many complex parts, of which I shall name only a few. There are Wires: new wires, stronger wires, tighter wires, heat-responsive wires, wires with (and I quote) “unusual bends.” There are Elastics. There are Compression Chains. There are Drastic Measures: “Doggone it, this thing isn’t closing, let me push harder.”

Today they took things to a whole new level. They put in Buttons—looking like half a snap (the pointy half, but sharper) stuck to the insides of my teeth for a change, to hook bands on. And then some steely Hooks up top. I feel like I got tongue piercings I didn’t sign up for. And then I started eating…!! Oh Lord. Nothing like your unsuspecting tongue rolling against little needle points.

For the first time in my life, I said holy cow out loud, in public. It was that bad.

This calls for a 9:00 bedtime and a stiff dose of painkiller.

Even so come, Lord Jesus.

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Joanna Yoder
11 years ago

Oh, dear.
I should have braces.
But I *think* I’d rather have a crooked tooth or two.
(Yes, I’m a wimp!)
Thanks for the laugh!

Cathy M
11 years ago

Reliving the pain with you. Glad I was 15 and not 36. 🙂

11 years ago

Sorry! But your teeth are looking so great!

11 years ago

I was about 30.
I am not far past that.
I remember.

Joanna Schlabach
11 years ago

Oh my! Kaitlyn will need to read this- she is almost finished with hers. She is number 3 out of 4 kids at our house who have gone through this form of torture. Oh and you forgot to add about…..the wire then breaks ON THE WEEKEND!!!!! (maybe you were really really good and never ate anything that would have done something so terrible!!!!)

11 years ago

I am such a wimp. I would probably either die or lose weight if I had to wear braces, both of which seem equally painful. Thanks for coming and serving snack last night even in your tortured state!!!!
p.s. are you SURE it was the first time you said “that” in public??? 🙂

Mama Zook
11 years ago
Reply to  Shari Zook


Carla Zehr
11 years ago
Reply to  Shaunda

I agree, thanks for coming to serve the snack! You said your teeth were hurting, but I had no idea! I’m so sorry it doesn’t just go away in a hour!

11 years ago

Would love to see some “before” and “current” pictures!

Mama Zook
11 years ago

I have always considered you a beautiful lady, Shari, and didn’t even know your teeth were crooked, and only assumed they must have been when I for the first time saw that you had braces on and were going through this torture! But then, I sucked my thumb for so many years and have an overbite, and don’t really know what “normal” should look like. You continue to be a very beautiful lady in my eyes!!(no matter which way they make your teeth go) Love you!!

Alvin S
11 years ago

I’ve never had to deal with braces.

As a father of three, I live in mortal fear of the day that I will need to sink X thousand dollars into them. My oldest (6) already shows signs of tooth alignment issues.

Was there a particular reason you waited this long to have braces?

Shari Zook
11 years ago
Reply to  Alvin S

Ignorance, I guess. My dentist told me my bite alignment was a bigger problem than I had realized, and braces could correct it. Ryan and I decided it was worth fixing.

11 years ago

I should hv read this before I go for it.. Darn! It’s terribly torturing…!

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