Orthodontist As A Second Language

I don't speak 'orthodontist' very well.

My daughter and I have been visiting one for a few years now.  A year and a half ago the first orthodontic appliance was installed: a 'space maintainer' in her lower palette.  Three weeks ago, she had braces put on her upper teeth, complete with head gear.

We've had many consultations with the orthodontist.  X-rays and brochures have been viewed together and discussed. Options have been explained.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I understood about half of it.  If I'm lucky.

In contrast, when we go to the endocrinologist, I follow along completely.  I understand all the words.  I ask questions if something's unclear and keep asking until I understand the answers.

Why the disparity?  Our orthodontist is not the problem.  She's a smart and articulate professional. She takes her time explaining things and is always willing to take more.

I think it's me.  To be exact (this may sound bad), it's the degree to which I care about what she's saying.

When we leave the endocrinologist's office, I become the resident expert on diabetes for the next 3-4 months.  I need to understand every detail about the diabetes treatment plan in order to make it happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I need to be able to explain it to my husband, the school nurse and sometimes even the pediatrician. During every office visit, I'm absorbing information about how to keep my child alive and healthy every day, and for as long as possible.  It's information which is crucial for me, and increasingly so for my daughter, to fully understand.

In our initial meetings with the orthodontist, we discussed a 2-3 year plan to straighten teeth.  I understood in a general way that the space maintainer would hold her bottom teeth where they were. The braces would push (pull?) teeth to the back of her mouth to make room for a couple yet to come in near the front. Details of exactly how it all works remain blurry to this day.  But in this case any missing information will not be life-threatening.  I'm able to leave those details for the orthodontist to worry about every 8 weeks when we visit. I need to know a limited amount of information, like not to feed her hard, chewy foods and how to help her get the head gear on.  I need to nag her to wear it and to keep her teeth really clean. Beyond that, my basic understanding of the process was enough for me to feel comfortable signing off on it.

Of necessity, endocrinology needs to remain my primary language and focus.  I'll just have to muddle through in orthodontist.  It's kind of a relief not to have to master another whole language.

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