By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
Don’t tell my wife, but lately I’ve been frequenting a strip joint. It’ll sound even kinkier when she finds out that the joint is a dental center, the stripper is an orthodontist named Michael and his best customer is a patient who happens to be me.
To avoid further confusion, as well as a raid by the police, I should mention that the young man in question, Dr. Michael Sheinis, always wears his white lab coat when I visit him in the Dental Care Center at Stony Brook University on Long Island, N.Y. But he does strip my teeth, which I guess makes me the strippee.
It also makes my pearly whites easier to move into the desired position now that I am wearing invisible braces. I need them because two of my teeth, one on the top and the other on the bottom, have shifted. Since I can’t shift for myself, I have been going to Stony Brook to get things straightened out.
For a year and a half, I had a short strip (there’s that word again!) of metal braces in the upper right part of my mouth. The braces moved back the teeth in the buccal segment so the lateral incisor could be rotated to its original position.
After the construction project was dismantled by Sheinis, a nice and talented resident at Stony Brook, I was ready for my invisible braces, known by the brand name Invisalign.
But first, the good doctor had to put cement in my mouth. Not blocks, which would have been appropriate because I’m a blockhead, but small attachments on a few of my teeth so the clear plastic braces can be snapped into place. At mealtime, I can pop out the upper and lower trays, stuff my face, brush my teeth and put the braces back in. No one can see them. Only my orthodontist knows for sure.
“I won’t tell anyone,” promised Sheinis, who used a composite gun to apply the attachments. It looks like a cross between a caulker (“No, I didn’t get it at Home Depot,” Sheinis said) and the phaser Capt. Kirk used on “Star Trek” (“Going where lots of other orthodontists have gone before,” the doctor added).
On a recent visit, Sheinis announced, “I have to do a little stripping.”
“Keep your shirt on, doc,” I urged.
“Not me,” he replied reassuringly. “Your teeth. I have to strip some of the bottom ones so the invisible braces can move them more easily.”
To do so, Sheinis used interproximal strips, which are essentially pieces of sandpaper floss. The idea was to slenderize the aforementioned teeth so the crooked one on the bottom could be pushed back into line with the others.
The stripping was done over three visits. “It keeps the shape of your teeth, but it narrows them a bit,” explained Sheinis, 27, who had braces -- metal, not invisible -- when he was 10.
“My dad’s an orthodontist,” he said. “He put every appliance in my mouth. I even had the headgear with the strap that comes out of your face. I had the lip bumper, too.”
The only good part, Sheinis said, was that he got to pick which color elastic bands were used on his braces. “I always chose colors to match my favorite sports teams,” the native Floridian said, referring to the Miami Dolphins (aqua and orange) and the Miami Heat (red and black).
Today, his teeth are perfectly straight, which will make him look good in his wedding pictures (he’s engaged to be married later this year). “The braces worked,” he said, noting that mine will, too.
“By the end of the year, you’ll have a dazzling smile,” Sheinis said. “And no more stripping. I’m sure your wife will be happy to hear that.”
Copyright 2011 by Jerry Zezima