Anyway, I eventually wised up and counted my blessings, two of which were straight teeth and skin that doesn’t as yet resemble the covering of a rugby ball. My son, however, is a different story. Lucky for him, he has the same charming gap between his front teeth that his mother had when I met her. Only her gap closed, I am sorry to say, and his won’t because he has a tooth growing sideways inside his upper jaw, along with other fangs that require professional alignment. Maybe you didn’t know this, but orthodontists – what my late Aunt Mary used to call “orthodentists” – are more expensive on an hourly basis than a hit man out of the Gambino crime family. They are even more expensive than lawyers, only orthodontists don’t send $600 bills marked “for reviewing case records.” That’s the one good thing I can say about orthodontists. Unlike most medical specialists, when they do something you can actually see it. In fact, the only time I actually left a medical office feeling better than when I went in was when my doctor, Vinnie Wong, used a WaterPik to relieve me of ear wax. So this was my second go-round with orthodontia, a field custom-designed for neurotic parents who don’t want their children to resemble members of the British royal family. The other orthodontia investment was our middle child, a girl who needed braces because she had a jaw like Benito Mussolini. I’m exaggerating, but she did have an underbite and a desire to invade Ethiopia. Within two years, she had a smile like an Italian movie actress. Only this time around I went shopping. Using my dental care provider’s Web site, I located an orthodontist who graduated from not one but two Ivy League schools. Plus the doctor was a woman, and I like women doctors. Only this woman doctor had a personality that reminded me of Mike Ditka knee-deep in a losing second half. When she left the room during the consultation, my son looked at me and said, “Let’s get out of here!” So we got out of there and visited a second orthodontist, a man with a William Shatner wig who was nice enough, but he made the fatal mistake of giving us the exact same estimate as the mean Ivy League grad and the orthodontist who had done such a good job on big sister. Which is how we wound up with the orthodontist we knew in an office decorated ceiling to floor tiles with USC junk. OK, we get it, you went to USC! This, by the way, is a profession we should push our children into. There are, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 9,475 orthodontists in America compared with 163,563 general practice dentists. The average cost of braces, by the way, is $5,000. Kaiser also lists L.A. as one of the most reasonably priced cities for braces, with an average cost of $4,000. The most expensive city in America is Raleigh, N.C., at $5,985. So much for statistics. All three of our estimates came in at a seemingly price-fixed $5,500. Which covered X-rays, plaster casts and a computerized schematic of my son’s mouth, a game plan of angles and bite forces that seemed to be a blend of science and pure art. After visits to install spacers, he went in the other morning for the actual metal work. Did you know that braces come in colors now? I didn’t. While I sat in the waiting room reading a yachting magazine, he chose green. Green, I didn’t point out, is an unfortunate mouth color. But infinitely better than his second choice, which was black. Oh yeah, and never discuss braces with other parents at a soccer game. That’s because all other parents will have paid less than you. Don’t ask why, that’s just how life works. I want to hear your comments. Connect with me at [email protected], call 310-543-6681 or send a letter to Daily Breeze/John Bogert, 5215 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503-4077. Hear my podcast at www.dailybreeze.com. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! I’m glad that I didn’t need braces when I was a kid. That’s because I wouldn’t have gotten them, wouldn’t have gotten them if I had teeth growing out of my ears, wouldn’t have gotten them if I had to eat through a feeding tube. That’s because my parents were, how shall I put this, cheap. Being semipoor didn’t help matters either. But they were definitely cheap. Cheap and poor being a combination that could have left me resembling some sort of deep-water carnivore. Or worse, a British person. Just kidding! But seriously, the British aren’t as nutty about teeth as we are. It’s true. So my parents were poor, cheap and British in that one respect. Luckily, my teeth came in straight. Which didn’t stop me from wanting braces when everyone I knew – all the cool kids with crooked teeth – in ninth grade got them. They also got sunburned when I didn’t. I envied that too, swarthy boy that I was.