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updated: 8/9/2012 6:14 AM

Timing is everything; scheduling is impossible

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I have a small gap between my two front upper teeth. It's adorable. Take my word for it.

My children, however, believe it's something that should have been taken care of by an orthodontist when I was a child. Of course, my kids think everything can be solved by orthodontia.

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That's overstating it, I suppose. But when it comes to matters of the teeth, I know nothing, apparently, because I never had any hardware on them.

I did not have braces, and never had any reason to think I needed braces. The above-mentioned gap was never that big a deal, and once even got me a date.

All four of my children have had braces. My son Dan, who is 16, is about to have his taken off for good. My son, Kyle, is about to get his second set of braces. Haley and Lindsey have completed their teeth training.

I contend that braces simply were not frequently prescribed or implemented back in the '60s and '70s when I was a kid. But my wife, who is four years younger than me, had braces, so maybe oral hardware just wasn't part of my cultural heritage.

None of this matters, really. It's costly, yes, but insurance helped with that.

The reason I am bringing up braces is because, for about the 100th time, I have been accused of screwing up my kids' orthodontist appointments.

Under the category "Dad Can Do No Right," I always make the orthodontist appointments for the wrong day, or time, or week, or era. Amazingly, I sometimes make the mistake with the child present as I do it.

The problems are twofold.

Problem 1: I am asked to make appointments as we leave the office following a visit to the doctor. I do not make a habit of carrying our family's schedule book with me to the office (I should, I know), and thus any appointment I make stands a really good chance of flying in the face of something already scheduled.

Which brings us to:

Problem 2: My kids' school and activity schedules make it impossible to find time to take them to the orthodontist. I had three of them in high school last year, and according to them, missing a single class in high school is tantamount to issuing them an "F" in that class immediately. One does not miss a class in high school, especially for something as trivial as an orthodontist appointment.

The same goes for after-school activities. All of my kids play sports, and according to them, the practice I want them to miss for an orthodontist appointment is always the MOST IMPORTANT PRACTICE OF THE WEEK! Missing it would get them kicked off the team, or something equally disastrous.

The schedule makers at our orthodontist are all parents and know what I am going through and try to help. But I know that when I get off the phone with them trying to repair the mistake I made when scheduling an appointment in the office, they are laughing themselves silly over my predicament.

Which brings me to yet another problem I have with braces and scheduling. All four of my kids have had their brackets break at some point during their teeth-tethering tenure. This apparently is a very painful thing, having a loose bracket in your mouth, and needs to be taken care of as soon as possible.

And do you know when those brackets break? The same time our water heater goes out, on Saturday night, when an immediate repair is either impossible (the braces), or requires expensive emergency weekend service (the water heater).

Getting a child in for a quick fix appointment is really hard, and made harder by the fact that my child cannot for the life of them suggest an appropriate time to go. But it is imperative to them that I figure out an appropriate time and get them in.

I will admit that through all of the tribulations relating to orthodontia, my kids' teeth look great. I have always thought they were beautiful or handsome, but maybe they are more so now with perfect teeth.

I know that many adults are now getting braces to correct movement of the teeth over the years, or because they didn't have them done when they were kids for some reason. Although I no longer need the gap to get me dates, I'm still not going to get braces. I don't want to, and I really don't have the time.

• Kent McDill is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Janice, have four children, Haley, Dan, Lindsey and Kyle.

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