Does an Orthodontist Need to Know Your Age?

Are you old enough to remember Cher? If so, do you remember what her teeth looked like when she first started out? I am probably the only person on earth with the same crooked teeth.

The good news: she got hers fixed, and so did I.

The bad news. I don’t know what her teeth look like now but I am having a problem with mine. In my case, it seems Mother Nature doesn’t like being shoved around and is trying to put my teeth back where she originally placed them.

My unattractive teeth have been the bane of my existence all of my life. As a child I remember looking in the mirror trying to decide how to smile so no one would notice my crooked upper teeth. My lower teeth are straight so I figured out how to smile showing my lower teeth while keeping the upper teeth covered. What a talented kid I was!

As a teenager, I was so bummed out by my teeth that I was convinced I would never find a husband. Of course, I did. While in pharmacy school, I picked off one of the choicest bachelors on the faculty. Dr. Morris knew a good thing when he saw it. (He claims he never noticed my teeth. Love is blind.)

As the years passed by, a procedure called “bonding” came into use that was effective in improving the appearance of crooked teeth. The only problem with bonding is that after a while, it wears off and you are back to square one.

At age 69 I decided to bite the bullet and had braces put on my teeth. Metal braces are ugly on kids and they were especially unattractive on me. (I could have believably played the role of “Ugly Betty.”) But it was okay. I knew that eventually, I would look fabulous. And indeed, the anticipated miracle finally took place.

Here I am at 78 and noticing that my two front teeth are “heading back home.” It’s pretty obvious so I decided that rather than wait for them to shift completely to their original position, I’d go to an orthodontist and try to stop what was happening.

But I’m thinking, “At 78, am I am crazy?” Imagine, I was thinking that even though I preach that you shouldn’t allow awareness of your age affect decisions you make about how you live your life. So I gave myself a mental smack on the side of the head and made an appointment with the orthodontist recommended by my regular dentist. (He knows my age and thought it was a great idea.)

Here’s where it gets cute. The young girl who answered the phone in the orthodontist’s office was very nice. She asked me some inoffensive questions and then proceeded to ask my age. I thought, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell her. What does my age have to do with straightening my teeth?”

I told her, “I’m ageless.”

“Excuse me?” she chirped.

Trying to be equally chirpy, I repeated, “I’m ageless. My chronological age is meaningless. I live my perceived age.”

She paused, probably never having heard that line before and with a little less chirpiness in her voice, countered with, “But when I mail the information you will need, I need to know how to address you. Should I say “Dear Parent”?

I laughed and assured her, “That’ll work!”

She laughed too, and reverting to full cheerful chirpiness, she chirped, “Well, okay!”

And okay it is.

My point in telling you all this is that I’m tired of being asked for information that is not necessary. If you pay cash or with a credit card, much of the information on a “new patient” form is not needed. So in addition to not divulging my age, I did not give up my social security number or driver’s license number.

Be fearless. Know when it is appropriate to provide requested personal information, and when you know it’s not necessary, don’t cave in. Sure, anyone can find anything they want to know about you in an instant. Privacy laws are a joke. But why make it easy?

And above all, never reveal your chronological age. If you are pressed to do so, tell your perceived age.

I don’t know about you, but I’m forty. On good days, I’m thirty. How old are you? I don’t need to know, but you should be ready with an answer when someone with a “need to know” asks, but doesn’t really need to know.