A Lesson in Orthotics

The Dentronix 5000 beeped, interrupting me. I was busy watching the orthodontic assistants, wearing their black uniform scrubs and polos, chatter to their open mouthed patients. I smiled knowing that the hot steam from the machine would warm my body in this sub-zero office. Careful to put on the strawberry-colored and scented non-latex gloves, I slowly removed and sorted the sterile instruments.

memoir

The Dentronix 5000 beeped, interrupting me. I was busy watching the orthodontic assistants, wearing their black uniform scrubs and polos, chatter to their open mouthed patients. I smiled knowing that the hot steam from the machine would warm my body in this sub-zero office. Careful to put on the strawberry-colored and scented non-latex gloves, I slowly removed and sorted the sterile instruments.

Is this cutter dull? There are no grooves in the handle, so it must be sharp. But it doesn’t look that sharp.

I took it to my fingernail.

It was sharp.

If only I could use it on my wrists.

That’s insensitive.

God I hate this place.

It’s not like I wanted to find a terribly boring job. Does anyone? But they called me back first. And Dad said that getting a job would be great. I need to make money before college; Dad said so. I will be up to my ass in student debt. Dad said so.

I turn around and face the treatment area, ready to clean up after the last bunch of patients has left. The empty blue chairs need to be wiped down, and the assistants’ white drawer stations checked for non-sterile equipment. Chair One, Two, Three, and Four all had clean, sterile, white paper tray covers on the white plastic drawers next to the chairs. Chair Five, however, had bloody gauze, floss, and instruments strewn over the previously clean, sterile, white paper tray cover.

It is always Chair Five.

That’s dramatic. Chair One, Two, and Three all have the same number of patients. It’s Chair Four that never gets used. Poor Chair Four. No. Poor me.

I opened a drawer to extract another pair of pink powdered gloves and picked up the station’s mess, careful to wipe the tray down with a chemical disinfectant, and replace the tray cover. I threw the instruments into the sterilizer shaker and pressed the button.

Five minutes to do something before I had to actually do something.

I went into the lab and looked at the dental molds that I had poured up earlier.

These kids have some messed up mouths. Josh is going to need a palate expander to give his teeth some room; poor kid has too many teeth. Looks like Rachel is getting a bite plate to fix her underbite;underbites suck.

I sound like a freaking orthodontist. I guess that’s what I’ll do with the rest of my life. I’ve spent 40 hours a week studying models and cleaning instruments and sorting rubber bands; I might as well be able to put it towards something.

I look in the treatment area and see a little girl getting an impression for a retainer. Pink alginate – that awful goo they use to make a cast of your teeth – slides out of her mouth as she gags on the impression material. God I hate this place. She probably does too.

And now I have another model to create. Great.

The sterilizer shaker beeps and I load up the Dentronix 5000 for another round of How Long Does it Take this Machine to get to 435 Degrees?

23 minutes, in case you were wondering.

For the next 23 minutes I sort rubber bands, fill station drawers with cotton balls, gauze, and floss, clean the tooth-brushing station and contemplate how and why I got myself into this monotonous mess.

So here I am. Watching the assistants peer inside the mouths of 7 year old children, reposition brackets, clip wires, and talk to the hovering mothers. Wasting what was supposed to be a great summer with a 7-5 workday while my friends go to the beach, watch TV, sleep in, and have fun. Is this what my life will become? 40 hours of boredom?

Jenell, the records technician, stands beside me at the computer.

“That girl was such a bitch. She wouldn’t sit still,” she complains as she uploads x-rays to the computer. “You having fun yet?” she asks, and winks at me.

I laugh and ask her, “I can barely make it an hour without wanting to go home. How have you managed seven years in this place?”

She shakes her head and says “Hell if I know. But, Sarah, if you don’t want to be stuck in a place like this, then stay in college.”

Her next patient pops up on the computer screen. She looks at me, and walks away muttering about her life regrets.

The Dentronix beckons me over again, and I repeat the process of emptying and sorting clean instruments. I glance at the computer and groan; it’s only 9 o’clock. Back to Chair Five.

54 days 'till college.