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The Full Suburban: Our children’s braces – three down, three more to go

UPDATED: Sun., Oct. 31, 2021

Lucy, George and Jane Ditto are enjoying their brace-free existence.  (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
Lucy, George and Jane Ditto are enjoying their brace-free existence. (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

The Ditto children are officially braces free! For now, at least. When you have as many kids as we do, orthodontic treatment is like the sunrise when you’re driving east: never-ending and kind of excruciating.

Hopefully, we’ll get a year or two reprieve before we start another round with our three younger sons, but we’ve probably got a decade of orthodontic fun ahead of us until our last kid flashes his million-dollar smile and heads off into the sunset.

Our adventure in the wild world of orthodontia began almost exactly three years ago when Lucy and Jane got braces and George got a palate expander placed in the roof of his mouth.

On the drive home from the orthodontist, George realized the palate expander rendered him unable to properly form any words besides “blue” and “uh.” I’m not kidding. He sounded like he was talking with a potato in his mouth that had also been slathered with peanut butter.

One of his sisters filmed him from the back seat of the Suburban as he lamented about how he was supposed to deliver a stirring address at his middle school’s Veterans Day assembly the following week. “How can I do that sounding like this?” he lisped painfully. It was the funniest thing I’d ever heard.

Having never had braces myself, I may not have been the most compassionate of mothers in this regard. Still, I heeded friends’ advice to serve a dinner that night that would be soft and easy to chew. I decided on pancakes. But even that was too much for my newly baptized orthodontites.

Jane sat at one end of the table sobbing as only she can over the plate of food that seemed impossible to eat with her sore mouthful of braces.

George, sitting at the other end of the table, couldn’t figure out how to swallow and had to tip his head all the way back in order to get anything down, which vastly inhibited his normal food-inhaling process and was also fairly unpleasant to watch.

Even-keeled Lucy sat next to Jane, vacillating between stoicism at her new reality and bemusement over her siblings’ dramatics.

Over time, George re-learned how to talk, and all three of them settled into their new normal. Every six weeks or so, I would take them in for a checkup, and they would hardly flinch at all as new devices were introduced into their already crowded mouths.

“For the next six weeks, I’m going to need you to wear rubber bands connecting your upper and lower teeth,” the orthodontist would say. “And then I’m going to attach a chain right here on the side so your mouth looks like a medieval drawbridge. Does that feel OK? No? Perfect.”

I’m exaggerating, of course. Our orthodontist was absolutely fabulous, five stars, would highly recommend. But I was always shocked at what my kids agreed to have attached to their teeth at each appointment. Anything goes, I guess, as long as the payoff at the end of the braces-shaped rainbow is a perfect smile.

Lucy and Jane went through one to two years of braces. George not only had to endure the palate expander, but also had to wait for some pesky teeth to come in before he even got his braces. Month after month passed, with no beginning or end in sight to his braces journey.

“If we don’t get some braces on soon,” his orthodontist told me during one visit, “this kid is going to be wearing braces in his senior pictures.” That was a sobering thought. I’m pretty sure George willed his tardy teeth to come in after that, and he got his braces on right as his sisters were getting theirs off.

His orthodontic treatment spanned from the time he was in middle school until he was a junior in high school, but the day finally came last week when his pearly whites were once again exposed to the world – better, brighter and straighter than ever.

The minute he flashed me his million-dollar smile, I knew it was all worth it. Get ready, little Ditto brothers – the sun is just beginning to rise on your braces future.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at

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