A twenty-something's journey with braces

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Taking the plunge

Well, the decision is about 90-95% made. I am almost certainly getting braces at the first of next year. (To the tune of a cool $5300...ouch!)

You may recall my post on the subject earlier, after I went for my initial consult. Then I knew I had time to think about it, because it would be months until I could turn in my insurance-and-related paperwork for next year. Well, that time is upon me, and so is the final decision. Once that paperwork's submitted, I can either get the braces or I'll have to find something else medical to spend the $5300 on, because I can't stop it coming out of my paycheck, and I have to submit bills/statements for medical services to get reimbursed for it.

I am both dismayed and glad I waited this long for braces. Dismayed, because if you've seen my teeth up close, you know they're pretty bad. (Oh, healthy and clean, just really, really crowded, especially on the bottom.) I'm wishing I'd stuck to the treatment recommended when I was much younger, and gotten braces when I should have, because by now I'd have had nice, straight teeth for a while.

OTOH I'm actually glad because by waiting, I have reached the point where there is technology to make the whole process much faster/smoother/less painful. I also avoided having braces in band (hit by a flagpole would not have been fun, and playing an oboe with that itty-bitty embouchure...), for prom, college, and my wedding.

Honestly, if I'd gotten braces in middle or high school, it would probably have taken 2-3 years and they would have removed teeth (possibly as many as 4). I also may or may not have had to use a palatal expander, since my arches are so narrow and constricted.

Now, using the Damon system, my orthodontist (one of only 2 in the area to use it) is pretty confident that treatment will only require 18-20 months. I will most likely not have to have any extractions. And no expanders, spacers, or - perish the thought - surgery. I'll only have to go in every 8-10 weeks for adjustments/wire changes. He was actually pretty excited to see me, as the system is fairly new and he said I was a "prime candidate." I don't get the sense that I'm being manipulated, only that he expects really good results and is excited about them since they're new to him, too. (He's been fully trained, just hasn't had many cases yet.)

Also, with this really awesome software/service called OrthoCAD (my ortho is the only office in the area to use it), the treatment planning and bracket placement will be uber-precise and quick. Basically, they'll scan the impressions of my teeth into the computer, and the program will calculate where to put the brackets for most effective treatment and even show the projected end result. Then the company will make molds of my teeth, place the brackets with computer alignment, and mount them in plastic trays and ship them back to my ortho. I go into the office, they put the trays on my teeth, flash the bonding light to glue the brackets on, then warm up and peel off the trays. Viola! All the brackets are in place, and they have only to insert the wire.

I actually didn't get any estimates from other orthodontists because after doing my own research I was so impressed with the combination of Damon system and OrthoCAD, I didn't feel the need. Their office (Bluegrass Orthodontics - on the random chance that a reader goes there tell them I referred you, please!) is also literally down the hall from my dentist, maybe 20 feet, so having the wires out for cleanings and whatnot will be super easy.

The downsides: I will probably have to wear rubber bands (who in braces doesn't, though, really?) - hopefully only at the very end of treatment - and I will most likely have to have "ortho-" or "bite buttons" on for the first few months of treatment. That's because I have a really deep bite, almost completely covering my bottom teeth, and my top teeth would hit the lower brackets. A real bummer, because my teeth won't meet completely for a while, and I'll be restricted to mushy foods. Ah, well. I've been wanting to lose weight, anyway.

Side benefit of waiting till the new year: I can binge during the holidays and enjoy them, at least. Expect to see me going for a lot of my favorite and soon-to-be-verboten foods (I think sushi qualifies *sigh*) over the next couple months. I'll likely go for impressions mid-December and have the brackets placed first of January.

The actual brackets will be a combination of the solid-metal Damon 3MX brackets (all lower and side-upper teeth) and the mostly clear ceramic Damon 3's on my upper front 6 teeth (the most visible). The advantage: even the solid-metal brackets are smaller and less-visible than traditional brackets, and no bands/ligatures to stain and collect food particles/plaque/bacteria. They're supposed to be easier in general to keep clean.

To that end, I've bought my first piece of equipment to aid with braces-wearing: the Waterpik Ultra dental water jet. In my braces research, I discovered that they were often recommended to be as-if-not-more-so effective as flossing. And oh, so much less hassle. So I asked my ortho and they cautiously said it would be good to have ("we'd rather you floss, but if you are guaranteed to use this every day and floss when you can...yeah"). I mentioned it offhand to DH, who was surprisingly enthusiastic. They had them at Wal-mart last night. I was just pricing, but he wanted to get it, and then on his own impetus set it up that very night. What can I say? He's a guy, and this qualifies as "gadget." But hey, we'll both use it, and it should improve our overall dental health.

Now, after this long-winded post, I probably won't say much more until I get go in for impressions in a month or so.


Deniz Bevan said...

Hi Jenny,
Wow, braces... I had those! For a loooong time back in high school. Probably the fact that I was in high school made it seem extra long. And you know? I could use another go round on my bottom teeth. Anyhow, the main point of this comment is to say, I think you should come up to Canada, assume my identity for a while and at least get some of that price tag reduced. I'm sure my parents never paid that much for mine!!!! (But I'd better ask...)

Rachel said...

Hey, I had baces too! For a long time, like Deniz - from the age of 12 to 15. I had 4 teeth removed before the braces went on. And I had rubber bands - 4 at once, blech! - and had to wear head gear at night, which was more like a medieaval torture device, to apply more pressure to my teeth. So you were wise to wait - your treatment sounds like it will be much quicker and less intrusive.

Bummer is that you have to pay for it yourself.(g)

Good luck!

D.N.C. said...

Nice post! I am surfing on the Internet because I am preparing to make the plunge. I have to go and get some dental work done first, after ten years of neglect! So, I figure I can get braces by early 2009, once I get my teeth in good shape.

I really like your comment: "I'm actually glad because by waiting, I have reached the point where there is technology to make the whole process much faster/smoother/less painful." That is so true! That was so encouraging to me.

I am so glad I stumpled upon your post. Thanks a lot for writing this.