Orthodontorture actually IS a word

World of Wonders, See Them Now

When I picked the boys up from the dentist the other day the news was good and then … not so good.

“No cavities,” the hygienist said. Then, pointing at Colin: “I wonder if it’s time for him to see an orthodontist.”

I can answer that, just based on my own powers of observation, and since the kid is still able to (a) chew his own food and (b) doesn’t have any obvious snaggle-tooth issues going on yet.

No, it’s not. Nope-ity. Nope. Nope.

I am not speaking, of course, as a professional. I am quite sure that people go to school for a helluva long time in order to tell me whether it’s time to fit my kid with dental ironworks.

My perspective is that of a survivor.

When I was Colin’s age, my sister and I visited an orthodontist. A few foul-tasting “cherry” mouth molds later, our money-hungry dental specialist had a plan for the perfect means to pay off his Maserati.

Introducing: the Frankel appliance.


It was like someone sat down to a drawing board to create the perfect medieval torture device for a 13 year-old. Insert this bugger and you can imagine what life was like for the Elephant Man as a junior high school student. For a bonus, this ginormous wad of plastic and wires prevented jaw movement or talking, but DID let a near constant stream of drool leak out, necessitating loud spit-slurping noises at regular intervals.

The Frankel appliance destroyed my eighth grade.

Or, at least it had the potential to do so. The Frankel appliance was also removable. Like a retainer.

So here’s how this went down: my sister and I were fitted for our torture devices. We were instructed to wear them all day, every day, and all night. We were told how to clean and care for them. We said ‘thank you, Dr. Maserati.’ Mom wrote what I presume was a huge check and we dutifully wore our Frankel appliances for the ride home and probably most of that night.

And then, at least in my case, never again. Except to wedge it in for the occasional follow-up with Dr. Maserati, where I’d pull it out again, dripping glistening globs of saliva, for the exam. Doc Maserati would crank on the thing just a bit and clap me on the back, telling me to keep up the good work, and tell my mom how extraordinarily well the Frankel appliance was doing its job.

I thought it had to be some kind of miracle, considering I’d just slipped it in for the ride to his office.

For years, I’ve wondered if Dr. Maserati and Mr. Frankel came up with this thing together as a scam. Besides my sister and one other kid, I’d never heard of anyone else having to wear such an instrument of torture.

Regardless of whether he was an actual crook, in the years since, I’ve had twinges of guilt over letting my parents spend gobs of money on a thing I wore for all of five minutes at a time.

But then, seriously, does it take much of a brainiac to look at a big wad of wires and plastic and discern immediately that a teenage girl would rather walk in pink, frilly underpants, singing “You are my Sunshine” through a pool of centipedes than willingly transform herself into carnival side show?

No. It does not.

So our own dentist starts talking about making referrals for my kids to see an orthodontist, and it raises my hackles. I have a healthy case of orthodontic PTSD.

Somebody has to have learned about this guy, this Frankel and his buddy Dr. Maserati and all the kickbacks, I think. So I google the thing: “Frankel appliance.”

Guys, it really was a thing. Really is a thing. It’s really a thing people still inflict upon their adolescent kids, not just something Mr. Frankel and Dr. Maserati came up with on their own.

One website I found says it’s best used with someone who is “highly motivated” to improve her bite, and that it’s “fallen out of favor recently,” because the ease with which it can be removed by the wearer.

Which, as it turns out, is something adolescents are prone to doing when they don’t want to look like they have a raging case of the mumps. This gawdawful thing has been in use for at least 35 years and somebody just now is realizing it may have its drawbacks?

Huh. You think?

So you can imagine my reluctance to expose either of my children to orthodontorture. Quite frankly, even if orthodontists aren’t getting kickbacks from the manufacturers of certain devices, they are quite likely the least knowledgeable people on the planet about the inner workings of the adolescent psyche. I’m proof.

So, I’ll take the boys in, but I’ve been around orthodonture block. I don’t care if my kids have the mouths of 30 year old horses, no body’s going to get rich off making them look like freaks of nature and giving them a lifelong guilt complex.

If I pull into that parking lot and see a Maserati, we’re freaking leaving.


You may only vote for this blog if you’re not an orthodontist. And if you do vote, I appreciate it.

Thank you.


Photo by: Daniel X. O’Neil

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  1. We tortured our son worse than that — He wore an unremovable Herbst device in his mouth for about a year before getting the actual braces on. Brooo hahaha… My youngest will be up for orthodontorture soon. Another evil laugh goes here. Not sure why I\’m laughing when we have to foot the bill for all these crazy things.

    1. Oof, your poor kids. At least with the braces and the Herb-thing you\’re not relying on kids to have the wherewithal to keep the suckers on.

  2. My oldest got stuck with the Herbst device also. He kept breaking it because apparently his bites were too big and he chewed too hard…our second got a different orthodontist and NO Herbst device.

  3. Oh, my GOSH!
    My parents were content with my slightly crooked teeth, so I never… oh, my gosh, I never knew about this horror!
    Like adolescent kids don\’t already have enough going on in their lives, but we need to add more difficulties for them to deal with?
    I wonder if there\’s ever been a study done on finding a link between teen violence and dental devices.

  4. I had braces for 2 years, and now all my teeth have moved. Ugh. My 12 year old needs them next. I\’m dreading it.