A twenty-something's journey with braces

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Tenth (and last!) Adjustment - April 9th, 2009 - THE DATE IS SET!

Okay, well, "adjustment" is a bit of a misnomer. I didn't really have anything adjusted; the only thing that's changed is my powerchains - same kind, just new ones.

I expected a quick visit, and it was. The biggest surprise was...Dr. D again! I swear I thought he retired. Anyway, the tech told him to "check for deband" and he spent a few long moments poking around my mouth and looking at stuff, and all the while I've got my fingers crossed and I'm hoping for the magic words. Finally he commented about the tiny triangular space between my front teeth and I explained it had always been there, I was used to it, didn't mind it, etc.

Dr. D: "Well, technically braces CAN correct that."
Me: "I really don't mind it."
Dr. D: "And we're on a deadline."
Me: "Yeah..."
Dr. D (to tech): "All right, well, give her new chains and take impressions for the bonded lingual, and she can come back in 1-2 weeks for deband."
Me (internally): "w00t!!!!!!"

So she took my old powerchains off and then got the tray ready for my impression. It wasn't the same two-toned playdough they used on me way back when - this was some kind of powder mixed with water into a putty. I was seriously worried it was plaster, but it was gummy and tasted faintly/pleasantly of mint, and set up fairly quickly. Bits of it got stuck under my lower archwire - not a problem, since they only need the back surfaces to be perfect for fitting - and I had to go brush it out.

The tech told me my permanent (lingual) bonded retainer would be a braided wire shaped to fit the back of my teeth, and anchored with spots of the same bonding cement that holds my current brackets to the front of my teeth. It will run from lower canine to lower canine, across 6 teeth total. Sounds pretty low profile. I'm prepared for it to irritate my tongue for a bit, and trap food, but I'm used to living with braces now so I don't think it will be a huge deal. I already own a waterpick, and (before the advent of the powerchains) I'd gotten pretty good at flossing around braces with no extra contraptions, so only having to mess with 6 should be cake.

Here are some pics from today:

My current smile.

Upper arch...now that it's rounded out, there aren't many other changes to note.

Lower arch...again, mostly the same. You can *kinda* tell the gap in my lower incisors has closed, but that's more obvious in the next pic...

This shows the detailing. The red line approximates the bends in my upper archwire, which are hidden behind the powerchain. Supposed to intrude the left lateral (on the right in this pic), extrude the right central, and really extrude the right lateral. My smile does look more even now that the bends have been working, and Dr. F will finish the job by shaping the edges of my teeth at deband.

Also, the gap in my lower incisors has FINALLY closed, as shown.

Funny story: I have the completely un-serious superstitious habit of making a wish when the clasp of my necklace reaches the pendant. Today it happened on my way into the appointment, and I thought a moment before wishing to "get my braces off in three weeks," hoping it wouldn't be 4 or more, or worse - needing another check before setting the date. Color me surprised when Dr. D said "1-2 weeks" and I fairly skipped up to the receptionist to schedule my freedom.

She had me all set for 2 weeks out, on a Wednesday, and told me it would take about an hour. "Even with bonding my lingual retainer?" I asked... She frowned, went and asked, and came back with the answer that they didn't have a long enough appointment slot for all that, which would actually take more like an hour and a half. First they'll bond my permanent retainer, then they'll remove my braces, then Dr. F will shape my teeth, and then they'll take impressions for my vacu-formed (aka clear, Essix-type) retainers. Lots going on that day.

After some pecking on the computer she found a slot for me: on Thursday, April 30th...one day before Dr. F's target date of May 1, and EXACTLY 3 WEEKS from today. Heh - be careful what you wish for!

But no matter what - I'm thrilled. April 30th will be MY LAST DAY IN BRACES. w00t!!!

(I will probably keep blogging, at least for a bit: life with retainers, follow-up appointments, etc. So stay tuned.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ninth Adjustment - March 19, 2009 - The Devil's in the Details

Only 3 weeks after my cleaning-adjustment day, I was back in the chair, but this time I got some VERY good news.

I'd made good progress and the gap in my lower arch had finally closed, so Dr. F said he would make the bends in my archwire to start detailing, putting me in Phase IV at last! He also said something I had to ask him to repeat to make sure I heard correctly: "Next appointment, check for deband!" which translates to "At your next appointment, if the detailing is doing what it should and it looks like another few weeks will be all that's needed, we will schedule your debanding date."

He said his target date was May 1st (!) - about a month earlier than I strictly NEED them off, but that gives him some leeway in case anything takes longer than expected. So at my next appointment we should know for sure, but he expects to give me a date at that time. WOOHOOO!!! My freedom is so close I can almost taste it.

The detailing he did was pretty simple - just a couple bends around my right central incisor to "extrude" (bring it down) a bit so he can smooth it off even with the left one.

Only I misheard him, and thought he was extruding my "short" right lateral incisor. A few days later I called in a panic, visions of delaying my deband dancing through my head. They brought me back in for him to look at and I felt very foolish when he explained that's what he'd meant all along. BUT I did talk to him about my lateral incisors being different lengths and how that made it look (to me) tilted, so he decided to put a few more bends in to extrude the short right one a bit, and intrude the longer left one. My upper archwire is a .019 x .025 TMA. At the next appointment he'll smooth off the edges of my teeth to make them look straight and even.

I left happy, especially because I also taked to them about retainers and got the news that since I wanted a permanent bonded retainer on my lowers - which they only agreed to if I SWORE to floss regularly - I'd get the clear plastic "Essix" retainers for both arches, instead of the plastic-and-wire Hawley on the bottom. They'll take impressions for the bonded retainer at my next appointment, so they can have it ready to bond before my braces come off on deband day. I can't believe it's this close!

I don't have pics this time, but I'll likely post them after the next adjustment; I expect they won't change much. Coming up soon on April 9th.

Eighth Adjustment - February 26, 2009

It took all morning, but eventually I had been to my ortho's office, had my powerchains and wires out, walked down the hall to my dentist for a cleaning, and came back to the ortho for my adjustment.

Both the hygenist and dentist commented on how well I had been keeping everything clean. No redness, bleeding, or signs of gingivitis (a problem of mine even before the braces)! I admitted to not flossing often since getting the powerchains on - it's almost impossible - but said my "best" routine was to waterpick, then brush with my Oral-B Triumph electric toothbrush, then rinse with Crest Pro-Health (spearmint flavor), and use an interdental brush to get all the "stringys" left behind after the mouthwash. That seemed to meet with their approval.

New wires at the orthos, and finally the light at the end of the tunnel became visible. They moved me into Phase III with Stainless Steel .019 x .025 on top and .016 x .025 on the bottom. Both powerchains remained, and I was told they likely would stay until the end of my treatment. I resigned myself to it; I have a goal after all. Plus the gap on the bottom was still there. The good news was they put the lower powerchain around my back brackets instead of the hook, so the food-trap triangle was gone.

Some pics for your viewing pleasure:

Braced smile, 13 months in. Everything's starting to look rounded out and even, though the upper arch looks a little off-level due to my lateral incisors being different lengths.

Upper and...

...lower arches.

Teeth "bared" to show my lowers. Notice there is STILL a gap down there, though by this point it does look smaller. You can also see both of my powerchains in this pic. Notice the lower powerchain is BELOW the archwire. That's something to do with needing more expansion or not, but by this point it didn't really matter for my case, and at the end of this appointment they put it back on over top of the archwire. Actually made it easier to clean.

Appointments down to 3-week separation now; next one scheduled for March 19th.

Seventh Adjustment - February 4, 2009

I was a little frustrated going into this adjustment - not at my ortho, but because the gap on my lower arch refused to close as quickly as the one on my upper had. The lower powerchain was even worse than the upper for catching food and stuff, and consequently harder to keep clean. But after a month of the lower powerchain, I could detect little progress, the gap remained, and so I had no hope of having it off this time around.

Same wires, same drill as before. I DID get to brush and floss with powerchain and wires off, my usual habit, and in so doing noticed a fair bit of separation - not quite enough to call "gaps" - between my upper teeth. Worried the Big Gap would open again, I winced and asked - ASKED! - for the upper powerchain back. Dr. F smiled a little smugly and agreed. I had them top and bottom now.

The tech did something a little different when she put the lower chain on - instead of encircling the back bracket with the loop, as had been done before, she hooked it over the elastics hook on the bracket. That formed a little triangle between the wire, the bracket/hook, and the powerchain. (I found out later that this was the WORST situation for gomming up food chunks. I was always poking at it with my tongue, trying to dislodge something. Bleh.)

On a more positive note, my (new) upper powerchain didn't go all the way from back molar to back molar; they only ran it to my premolars. Which made it ever so slightly EASIER to clean. Lose some, win some, I guess.

When I was done, I bounced back and forth between my ortho and my dentist's office, setting up the big day of both my next adjustment AND my semi-annual cleaning, February 26th - a scant 3 weeks away.

Sixth Adjustment - December 31, 2008

I took some pics the morning BEFORE the appointment, so here's what my mouth looked like with the wires and powerchain from the previous adjustment (November 20th) but after about a month of movement:

My braced smile. Notice there is no gap between my central upper incisors; it closed pretty quickly with the powerchain on.

Upper arch - nice and rounded at last!

Lower arch - SO much better than it ever had been.

Some nice side-by side comparisons. All that progress in not quite a year...

The gap in my upper arch was gone, but this rather noticeable separation had developed on the lower. I knew what was in store...

My last adjustment of 2008 was pretty straightforward. I saw Dr. F again, and he left in the wires from the previous time. Still .018 x .025 on top and .017 x .025 (reverse curve) on the bottom. As I had suspected - and actually hoped - they put a powerchain on my lower arch to close the new gap. I asked, and was dubiously granted, freedom from my upper powerchain for the reason that the big gap had closed, and I was fond of the small triangle left between my front teeth. To close it completely would eliminate a lifetime's worth of sucking air through it when I was nervous or concentrating on something. *g*

I also talked with Dr. F about my accelerated schedule, an agreement I'd actually come to with Dr. D before he retired. Dr. F could make no promises - and I couldn't expect him to - but said he'd try to have me out by May. I told him I'd rather be in a little bit of pain, if necessary, and move things quicker.

From this point, the pace of adjustments was to pick up. My next was scheduled for February 4th, just over a month away.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fifth Adjustment - November 20, 2008

It may seem as though I have forgotten this blog. I haven't - the posts were in my head, I took pics - but finding time to write them out and post them has been difficult, to put it mildly. But! I'm back, and the end is in sight (more on that in a later post) and now I'm playing catch-up for any of you who may still be following and wondering what it's like for a late-20-something professional in Damon braces.

So. I had my next adjustment on November 20th, exactly 1 week before Thanksgiving here in the States. No coincidence: I wanted any possible tenderness to have worn off before the Big Dinner. (Or in our case, the Big Three Dinners - several sides of the family to visit!)

The adjustment went well, and I learned to my surprise that Dr. D - whom I had been seeing and whom I had finally gotten used to/developed a rapport with - was retiring in the immediate future and I would henceforward be seeing Dr. F again. Fine by me; I liked Dr. F from the get-go.

I got two new wires this time - big ones. A .018 x .025 (I think) on top and a reverse-curve (to open up my bite the last little bit, or so I was told) .017 x.025 on the bottom. Both the next step up in Phase II.

I also got that wonderful invention: a powerchain.

I had developed a Letterman-esqe gap between my front central incisors since my last adjustment, and this went way beyond the little triangle I was used to sucking air through. (Forgot to take pics this time, sorry!) I wanted it closed as much as they did, so I didn't protest the addition.

My ortho's office only uses silver powerchains, which I didn't mind, but which DID make my braces all that more noticable, completely covering my tiny looking half-clear upper brackets with opacity. Ah, well. I'm used to seeing braces in my mouth by now, and completely unself-conscious about it.

The bigger issue I had with the powerchains was cleanliness. Let me tell you now - say what you will about friction and speed and pain (or lack thereof) - all selling points of the system - but Damons are worth it to me for how easy they are to keep clean. The powerchain caught every last piece of gunk and plaque that I had been spoiled by not having to deal with previously. A little extra waterpicking and interdental brushing took care of the problem, but within a week my gap had closed and I was ready to have the thing off. Too bad my next appointment wasn't until New Years Eve...