A princess' smile will cost a king's ransom

McClatchy-Tribune News ServicApril 10, 2011 

The Princess decided she needed braces recently but I wasn't so sure.

Having been raised in a tiny Southern town where the only person who wore braces was the dentist's son, all this talk of orthodontia seemed a little silly to me.

Was I being a cheap redneck not to take my kid for a look-see? What if she got famous and was on "E! True Hollywood Story" someday saying that her mama's lack of attention resulted in her being able to eat an apple through a picket fence? That she had to save up money from deveining shrimp at the Chum Bucket just to buy a proper smile?

The thought made me shudder. So I made an appointment with a couple of orthodontists who were recommended by better mommies.

The first one was nice enough, but he spent the entire time talking to the Princess and never looking at me.

I wanted to say, "Yo, buddy, I'm the one writing the checks," but it was obvious that he was Very Big on making the kid feel a "part of the process." The office was amazing. A big sign greeted us with the Princess's name on it. There were drawings for surfboards and iPads and who knows what-all among the new patients. The decor was dizzying in its appeal to tweens and teens. I wouldn't have been at all surprised to see Zac Efron walk into the waiting room to sing a few numbers for us.

Later, we met with Doc No. 2. But first, these magical words that I had not heard at the other office: "Mom, please feel free to visit our warm cookie bar while we do the exam..." Well, yes, please. Now it might seem extremely shallow to select an orthodontist based on the warmth of his cookies, but what can I tell you? There was also an "internet cafe" for parents and patients and a Keurig brewing station with a multitude of coffees and teas. He even had bottles of water with his name printed on them.

I sensed they wanted our business because, as we filled out some paperwork, one of the assistants opened the door, placed two more warm cookies in front of us and quickly exited.

At both offices, the orthodontists seemed mildly frustrated by their inability to get the images to show up properly on their computers so they just ended up going old-school, showing us a mildly creepy model of a mouth with braces. Later, they told us how much orthodontia would cost, and that's when I suggested they offer tequila shots instead of tea and cookies.

How about we do away with the surfboards, the iPads, the fancy coffees, cookies and internet cafes and just knock a thousand bucks off the bill? Works for me.



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