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Tram Track Tastic


My first real memory of going to the dentist was as a young lad having an impression made of my teeth. They got these large metal denture-shaped things, put some kind of Plasticine material in them and stuffed them unceremoniously into my mouth. I’d have to sit there for an eternity while the plastic set, drooling endlessly, then they would remove them and the next time I’d come in there would be a plaster-of-Paris mould of my teeth. Another early memory was the dentist about to clean my teeth with a power-drill brush asking me which flavour of paste I’d like. I knew that it wasn’t anything like the toothpaste at home and no matter which flavour I chose it would taste absolutely terrible and I’d want to be sick immediately. Lovely.

My parents were lucky, they managed to get my brother and myself to be patients at our local Dental Hospital. This meant free, top-class treatment and the occasional group of students watching while the dentist did the work. We went there for years and got to know one senior dentist in particular, a Mr. Erskine. At first he seemed like a scary bloke with a beard and a harsh way with words. But as we grew older and got to know him we realised that he was the perfect gentleman with excellent manners and a great sense of humour. Except when there were students around where he would change into being more of a Gestapo-style character (which was why we’d originally thought he was intimidating). We always found this schizophrenia highly amusing.

I remember the day that he suggested I was going to need to wear braces. I’d had overcrowding in my mouth and had previously had four adult teeth removed (I’ve still got them somewhere, maybe I’ll post a picture). Everything was going fine but my teeth were growing in a bit squint and now was the time to sort it out. So we agreed that I would have the dreaded “Tram Tracks” fitted and a week later they were.

Tram tracks (not the medical term I’m sure) are the type of brace where a small metal piece is glued to each tooth and then a wire is fed around the upper and lower teeth and they are gradually all pulled into line. It’s a slow process and requires you to have them for months and months. I don’t know if the technology has improved any since my day, but it was hell for me. I’d have to go in periodically and have the wire replaced and each time it’d be tighter and I’d spend the next few days in pain while my teeth started to feel the strain. Then that would be replaced with slightly less pain and then a bit less than that. Once I was almost used to it, I’d have to go in and have the wire replaced and on it would go.

Eventually it came to the point where I was happy with the alignment of my teeth, they were good enough. Actually, scratch that, it’s a lie. Eventually it came to a point where I couldn’t take any more – I’d had enough and I wanted the bloody things off. They used to cut up the insides of my mouth like eating broken glass and I’d had probably a year of constant pain nagging away at me. So we agreed that I’d have them removed (my teeth were in a good enough state anyway). But my adventure wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.

You see, having the tram tracks removed meant that my teeth would start to move back to their old positions requiring me to have to wear plates for a while. No, not dinner plates, these are plastic things with a single wire that you wear on the roof of your mouth and at the bottom in front of your tongue. They tend to make you speak with a lisp and make eating a nightmare (for the record, I just took the damn things off when I ate). However, they reduced the amount of movement from my teeth and were nowhere near as bad as the tram tracks. I gradually phased out wearing the plates until my teeth stayed where they were and are still there today. Not perfect but good enough for me.

I don’t know why I dreamed about the braces the other night (hence this article) but I’m glad I had them, even though they caused me a lot of grief at the time. And Mr. Erskine, thanks for sorting out my teeth. Prior to my having some adult teeth removed he assured me that in the long term it was for the best and he was confident that my mouth would turn out all right. He was right and I am eating a mince pie right now just to prove it.

I was never scared of going to the dentist despite having a total of nine teeth removed under local anaesthetic and having a filling without any anaesthetic at all (my request, I just wanted a reminder of why I should take care of my teeth – the pain is seeringly sharp, by they way and I can well understand why torturers do it people). However, I can’t say that this feeling was extended to hospitals – only in the past few years have I managed to get to grips with them, but that’s another story…

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

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  1. My eldest daughter is facing the prospect of needing braces – thankfully, they now come in the form of a clear plastic plate that is worn over the teeth, making them invisible. A far stretch from the metal mouth monstrosities that were around back when I was a kid – though most of the kids I knew who wore braces had colored rubber bands wrapped around the metal bits to protect their lips from being cut up and, I don’t know, make a fashion statement, as well.

    My teeth are (ahem) perfectly aligned but my sister not only had funky teeth but an odd jaw so she wore this contraption called a “frankel” that was a huge chunk of plastic with wires connecting it together. She was meant to wear it all day long, so for a good year or so she was a drooling, slobbering idiot who couldn’t speak properly. Ah, those were some good times – for me, that is. She gave up on it so she still has wonky teeth and a jaw like a bull dog. Really pretty gal.


  2. We’re quite similar, first the nose thing and now this. I had to have twelve teeth removed when I was younger because they were all growing into each other. I’m not as hard as you though! 😉 I’ve just had to have six shallow fillings done privately because it’s impossible to get in at an NHS dentists. I was gutted when I found out because I’ve always been really proud of my teeth. I didn’t have my first filling until I was 25! The fillings are top-notch though, you can’t even see they’re there. I had three of those done without any anaesthetic and didn’t feel a thing. Being a dentist…what’s that all about? It can’t be normal to want to poke about in people’s mouths all day! Good money though…


  3. I used to go out with a girl who was a dentist (well, a denstistry student). She seemed fairly normal and her motivation for being a dentist was to make loads of money. I can think of better ways to get rich though.


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