Dr. Park clapped her hands together, showing her colorful grin. "Excellent! Now, first things first, have you ever been restrained at the dentist before?"
Sophie did a double take. What was she talking about now? This part had to be a joke, right?
Dr. Park continued. "This office uses dental restraints quite religiously, I'm afraid they're mandatory for all patients. They're becoming more popular in Europe, though most American dentists tend to avoid them. I had them used on me quite a bit growing up, and I would say the benefits outweigh the typical patient's initial concerns."
Abby perked up. "I haven't! They do wonders for orthodontic compliance, don't they? I've read a bit about them online..."
Dr. Park smiled again. "They do! Both Dr. Whites and I wear them during our own orthodontic adjustments, they're really something! Would you like to go first?" Sophie felt like she was listening to a conversation between aliens.
Abby nodded, and Charlotte went to work. Sophie watched as a set of thick pink rubber straps were wrapped around Abby's body. They went from her ankles to her forehead, with two extras on each armrest. Charlotte adjusted a dial, causing Abby to wince, but giggle a bit.
"Your turn, Sophie!" Sophie's heart pounded as Charlotte gestured for her to place her arms on the armrests. She proceeded to wrap the same set of heavy straps around Sophie. They were loose at first but restricted once she turned the dial.
Sophie tried to squirm, but they wouldn't budge. She looked up at Charlotte and Dr. Park, who just seemed amused.
Dr. Park spoke up. "Now, would either of you like to be sedated? The installation process can be quite long, and a bit uncomfortable. We'll fill you in with the details of your treatment once you wake up."
"No thank you, Doctor. I want to learn as much from this as I can!" Sophie couldn't move her head to look over at Abby, but she could tell she was beaming.
Sophie sighed. "Just put me to sleep, I want to get this over with."
Dr. Park nodded. "Very well. Let's get started..."
Both chairs began to recline, the straps moving uncomfortable against Sophie's body. She heard Dr. Whites and Quinn enter the room, with Dr. Whites moving over to Abby to join Charlotte, while Quinn loomed overhead, ready to assist Dr. Park.
Quinn and Dr. Park donned their pink masks and gloves, and Sophie felt something rubber be placed over her nose while the examination light was adjusted. A sweet smell filled her nostrils.
"Now, be a good girl and take deep breaths..." Quinn stroked Sophie's hair as Dr. Park flicked on the light and reached for her tools.
Sophie's eyelids felt heavy as she slowly drifted off...
Sophie awoke to an extreme ache in her mouth. She tried to move, but her body was restrained. Her eyes shot open and she panicked, taking a moment to remember where she was.
"There you are, sleepyhead!" Sophie looked up at Dr. Park's masked face looming over her. "How do the braces feel?"
Sophie groaned, running her tongue across her teeth. Her mouth felt stuffed with metal, not only were her teeth completely covered, she felt a strange, uncomfortable device on the roof of her mouth. Oddly enough she felt she could just barely feel a slight vibration coming from it, though it was likely her imagination. Her mind was still a bit foggy from the gas.
Another face came into view. Abby Huang grinned, showing off a mouthful of pink orthodontia. Dr. Park held up a mirror, showing Sophie an identical installation in her own mouth.
"Now, I've already been over the basic details of the treatment with Abby, but you'll both be receiving an identical treatment as part of the study. All the appliances made of this model are marked with the same shade of pink, you may have noticed it on some of our staff. Now for the grand tour..." Dr. Park nudged Sophie's mouth further open with her gloved finger. "In addition to the standard braces, we've also installed a tongue crib and an expander. Within the expander is a small device that should gradually adjust it over time. It moves very slowly, so you won't feel any sudden painful adjustments, but you may notice a slight hum. It may be a bit annoying at first, but you'll grow accustomed to it soon enough."
Sophie made an uncomfortable grunt, but Dr. Park continued. "You'll also have to wear your elastics, let me demonstrate..." She placed a series of four rubber bands on Sophie's teeth, making her mouth feel just a bit more stuffed. "I'll be giving you some pamphlets about proper maintenance to take home, I expect you to look them over before your next appointment."
The chair began to raise again, and Quinn stepped over to undo the restraints one by one. Sophie sighed as she was finally able to move her body again.
She tried to climb out of the chair, but stumbled a bit, refusing be helped up by Quinn or Dr. Park.
Dr. Park spoke up. "We'd like to see you girls next week at the same time, if that works for you."
Sophie defeatedly nodded.
Abby perked up. "Let's go to the coffeeshop next door, it looked really cute!"
Sophie didn't know why she agreed, Abby was probably the last person she wanted to see right then.
Their mouths were too sore to order anything solid, but Sophie sipped her iced coffee while listening to Abby give an impromptu lecture on the devices stuffing their mouths.
Sophie wasn't paying much attention, though she did catch herself noticing how the pink braces complimented Abby's blue hair. She did have an odd cuteness about her.
Eventually, the pair went their separate ways. As Sophie got in her car, she noticed how aside from the annoying hum of the expander, she didn't seem to mind the braces as much as she thought she would. However, she still felt a bit foggy...