Raise your hand if you’ve ever had the privilege of having bite molds taken. (If you don’t instantly know what this is, you haven’t had this experience. Trust me.)
For those of you who’ve ever had this done, I salute you. Having bite molds taken is one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever had. In my entire jaw journey, I’d estimate that I’ve had…oh, I don’t know…probably 40 or so done. In fact, I consider myself a pro. (Which is akin to considering yourself a pro at stubbing your toe repeatedly on the sharpest corner in the house.)
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, let me explain.
A bite mold is what you have to have done to get things like retainers or mouthpieces made. They can also be used to create a plaster mold of your teeth for things like surgery preparation. They take a metal, U-shaped tray that is filled with a thick goop, and shove it into your mouth, covering either your upper or lower teeth completely. The lower tray requires you to stick your tongue straight up in your mouth so that the tip of it is touching your upper pallet. The upper tray, when pushed up against your teeth, sends a frightening amount of goop toward the back of your throat, triggering your gag reflex and blocking your airway. They hold these molds (one at a time, thank goodness) in place for 1-2 minutes while the goop hardens. Then, the two of you engage in a mighty tug-of-war, where the technician attempts to pull the tray off of your teeth by sheer, brute force. Typically, it feels as if someone is trying to pull out all of your teeth in one fell swoop.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of bite molds…not one…not two…not even three times…but four. Twice on the upper, twice on the lower. As I was concentrating on my breathing so as not to gag for the third time in a row, it occurred to me that someone out there might benefit from my vast knowledge of bite mold do’s and don’ts.
When preparing for a bite mold…
- …Eat a large breakfast. This will only tempt your gag reflex into exploring more…productive…opportunities.
- …Choose the cherry flavoring. It’s like soaking your teeth in cough syrup.
- …Attempt to answer the questions the technician will inevitably ask. (Why, oh why, do they always ask questions when your mouth is full of goop?)
- …Forget to wear chapstick. Your lips are about to be stretched and, occasionally, sliced. (The edges of those metal trays are weapons, I tell you. The current gash in my lower lip can attest to this fact.)
- …Wear make-up to the appointment. The goop gets EVERYWHERE, and any attempt at vanity on your part will be wasted the moment they come at you with that tray.
- …Expect things to go right on the first try. More likely than not, you’ll have to take another mold. (And yes, the technician will ask you questions during this one, too.)
- …Be ashamed to fill the orthodontist’s sink with chunks of plastic when you clean out your braces and wipe off your face. If you’re embarrassed by the rubbery shrapnel coming from your mouth, remember: they’re the ones who made you this way. They can handle the unsightly mess you’re leaving in their sink.
- …Choose Green Apple as your flavoring. Trust me. I’ve done a lot of these things. I’ve tried every flavor on that laminated “menu” with bad clip-art-representations of your choices. The Root Beer taste like sickly sweet black licorice. The banana and strawberry options are hauntingly reminiscent of stale Juicy Fruit gum. And the mint makes your eyes water. Green Apple. It’s the way to go.
- …Alert the technician if the empty tray she shoves in your mouth to test the size feels like it’s trying to kill you. If you’re lucky, she’ll get a smaller one. If you’re not…well, you tried.
- …Make sure you have a paper towel on hand. Paper towels are your best friend when it comes to getting goop off of your tongue, your cheeks and your neck. They will also give you something with which to clean up the blood when one of those sadistic tray edges attacks you.
- …Take a picture of yourself in process, if you can. Pictures are a great tool for evoking the sympathies of people who will give you back-rubs or ice cream.
- …Brace yourself when the technician says, “Ok, now I’m just going to pop this off of your teeth. It won’t hurt.” What she means is, “Ok, despite the fact this goop has hardened around your teeth and is suction-cupped into place, I’m going to pretend the laws of physics don’t apply and give you false hope that the extraction of this device won’t hurt at all. “