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I’m on the downslope! If I stick to the schedule — i.e., I wear my rubber bands–I will be done in 5 more months!

The state of the braces life:

  • Eating more things that are getting stuck in my braces. Nutty things, crackly things, fibrous things. I guess I’m more willing to live with the consequences of eating this stuff. Still looking forward to eating a sweet chewy dried date, after the braces come off.
  • Flossing and brushing is smooth. Still doing the flouride rinse almost daily.
  • Rubber bands are the key. My compliance affects the progress.
  • Not self-conscious at all about the braces, but the rubber bands are dorky, so I have taken them out for meetings.

Here are photos to show progress. Wish I had taken better photos earlier.

Week 2 (ortho buttons are keeping top/bottom teeth apart) and Month 7:




There’s no way around it. Flossing with braces is a pain. It’s a chore. It’s not fun. But I gotta do it.

At first I used the floss threader that my orthodontist gave me. I got pretty good with it. Now, I maneuver the floss without a threader, and it goes much faster. What works best for me:

Unfortunately, at the very back top molars, the angle makes it impossible for me to thread the floss under the archwire without the threader. I’m resigned to this, though sometimes I skimp and skip it. Do as I say, not as I do!

I’ve never flossed as much as I have since getting my braces; this is no doubt a boon to my dental health… as long as I keep it up after I get the braces off, too. Which will be in 5 months! I’m due for a month 7 report tomorrow!

Recently I went on a 5-day mini-vacation; I traveled out of town by plane and got out of my routine (such as it is.)

What did this mean for my braces?

  • Braces travel pack: I had to augment my travel pack, which I usually carry with me*, with a little bottle of fluoride rinse. The bottle at 2.06 fl. oz. is a tiny bit bigger than regulation size, but I’ve never had a problem getting it past security.


  • Kept forgetting to put on my rubber bands. That’s the thing about getting out of a routine, which includes — usually when I travel — eating out a lot more than I usually do. But hey, it’s a little vacation, and at least I hadn’t forgotten the rubber bands. Now that is key, because you can buy everything else at pharmacies; I don’t think you can get Chipmunk elastics that easily. 😉

* My regular braces travel pack includes:

It’s a mystery to me how these annoying bands are moving my teeth.   I feel the pressure, but it doesn’t make sense to me how this is helping my bite.  (Physics was my weakest science in school, that’s for sure.)

No matter, I can tell it’s working!

Just a month after getting the elastics, my bite feels different.  My top teeth are moving out beyond the bottom!  Next week, will take month 7 photos, to see if we can actually see the difference.

Here’s Jessica Hagy’s perspective on this question, in one of her delightfully devilish Venn Diagrams.  She describes how wearing braces is akin to trying to make partner at a law firm…

What do you think?

I was at a restaurant, when the waitress stopped by and asked me about my braces. How much did they cost? Who was my orthodontist?

These are both great questions, and begs the larger question, how do you choose an orthodontist? I’ll share my process, so it can be helpful to others, and invite others to share their experiences, too.

First, let me say that so far, 6 months into my treatment, I am happy with my orthodontist. OK, here’s how I chose my orthodontist.

  • Find orthodontists to interview:
    • I first asked my dentist for a recommendation. I think most dentists have relationships with orthodontists, so this is a great place to start. You can even ask orthodontists for recommendations of other orthodontists; this is easier to ask when you’re looking for one in another area.
    • Then I sent an email to my friends and acquaintances asking for recommendations for orthodontists. I got a lot of great responses, including people I didn’t even know — friends of friends — who went out of their way to investigate. I asked these folks to tell me about their experience with the doctor; what was good or bad about working with that doc. Also asked them how much they paid.
    • I even searched for “orthodontists” on This only works in cities where there are enough entries; since I’m in San Francisco, it actually yielded some info. There might be other online sources in your community that are helpful. And there are always the yellow pages, offline and online.
    • You can even go up to someone wearing braces and ask them about their orthodontist.
  • Identify a few to get a consultation from and set up appointments. Some criteria to consider are:
    • If you have insurance, do they take yours?
    • Location: Are they convenient to you? Is parking a pain? I’ve found that it’s been helpful to be relatively close to my orthodontist, because I’ve gone back many times to have wires clipped, etc.
    • Hours: Are their office hours convenient to you? Can your work schedule be accommodated? Remember, kids tend to come in after school. I’ve found my appointments on weekday mornings –which works with my schedule–are more relaxed and usually less crowded.
    • Options: If you definitely want to consider a specific kind of treatment–Invisalign, for example–do they offer that? Do they have enough experience with it that you are comfortable?
  • Decide what’s important for you. In some cases, this is obvious, but I’d guess for most adults this requires some prioritizing.
    • In my case, my ultimate goal was to get my bite fixed so that I could have healthy teeth for the long-term. So I’m more concerned about functional improvement versus cosmetic.
    • My list also included quality of care, cost, length of treatment, and service. Also, convenient location.
  • Go meet the orthodontists. Usually there will be a “business” person who guides you through the process, including giving you an estimate of the cost and time for the treatment. The orthodontist will take a look at your mouth, and will give you an assessment and recommendation.
    • I met with 4 orthodontists. The first was too far away from my home, so was out of the running early on. However, I learned about what kind of treatment she recommended. In my case, she said braces over Invisalign. Because my bite needed correction, Invisalign would only get there 80%. This was great information. Plus I got data on the fee. I felt comfortable with the amount of data I got with the 4 consultations; I encourage you to get at least a 2nd opinion.
    • Ask lots of questions. Don’t be shy. After all, this is about spending 1-2 or more years in treatment, and spending $5,000+. It’s not a small decision. Some things you want to know:
      • What is their assessment of your situation? (Ask this even if you know what your situation is; good to confirm that this potential doctor is seeing the same things as the others.)
      • Why do they recommend the particular kind of treatment over another? For example, braces over Invisalign; 2 years over 1 year; one kind of brackets over another.
      • Have they worked with other patients who’ve had similar issues? If they only work on kids, you might want to find a doc who works with adults.
      • Cost. Get the details on the cost to you, including the insurance portion. Do they have a payment plan? Extra for X-rays?
      • Who will be doing the work? The doctor? Or his or her staff? I didn’t like the feel of one of the places I checked out; it felt like a “factory”. Lots of seats with orthodontic assistants doing the work, and an office with 6 or so orthodontists. I wondered, who would actually be overseeing my progress? Would anyone really care?
  • Gather your data and make a decision. Don’t forget to include your “gut reaction” to doctors and their offices.
    • I decided to go with my current orthodontist, who was the fourth and last consultation. By that time, I had decided that braces were the way to go, versus Invisalign.
      • (I was not happy with the recommendation of Invisalign that I got from the 3rd consultation, since I thought they were being “lazy” and weren’t willing to serve me. I don’t think I’m incorrect in believing that Invisalign is less work — and a cash cow — for orthodontists.)
    • Mine was the first doctor who was specific about the kind of brackets he would use. Damon, self-ligating. He told me that he recommends them because they would do the job, and would work faster and with less pain than traditional brackets. I was happy to hear this, including the description of how they worked and why this meant greater speed and less pain. Granted, I had to ask the questions to get this information, but he was willing to answer me.
    • I asked about clear brackets versus metal brackets–which would reduce the metal-mouth look a bit. He said that because of the material, the clear brackets would require more time than the metal, so he recommended the metal. I liked that straight answer. (It turns out that the brackets on my top teeth are half clear anyway.)
    • I saw that the office was small and that I’d get the attention of this doctor. He does share with another, but I could continue to schedule times when he is there. (And this had been the case, though usually it is an assistant who does the work on me.)
    • Finally, the price was the best (and they worked with my insurance). Almost $2000 less than the highest consultation!

Well, this has become quite long. I invite others who have gone through this decision-making process to share it, too.

Healthy Options series continues

Background: A while back I reviewed the Spearmint flavored Tom’s of Maine Natural Anticavity Flouride Mouthwash (Rinse). And I HATED it. I liked the Natural Dentist Flouride Rinse Berry Blast better, but wanted to try the Lemon-Lime flavored Tom’s of Maine product.

Healthy Option goal: As always, my goal was to find as healthy an option as possible. In this case, a product with the required fluoride, and minimal additional artificial ingredients. Also, from a sustainability perspective, if I can find it at the store I can walk to, better than having to get into my car to pick it up.

Review: Tom’s of Maine Natural Anticavity Fluoride Mouthwash for a Dry Mouth (Lemon-Lime)

I was interested in this because of two things:

  1. Dry Mouth. This is definitely a problem for braces wearers. And I’ve experienced this off and on, especially at the beginning when I had the braces put on, but also when I had new brackets added. Basically, when my mouth is irritated. So a product that also helped with that, would be welcome.
  2. Lemon-Lime. I know first-hand how comforting a bit of lemon juice can be, so I wanted to check out how this product tastes and works.

On both counts, this product fared well. The taste is not great, but acceptable, and less sweet than the Natural Dentist Berry Blast-flavored flouride rinse. I usually rinse with this before going to sleep, and have never been bothered by the taste as the “last taste” in my mouth.

So, this is now my preferred flouride rinse. It has the advantage (over the less well-distributed Natural Dentist product) of being easy to get, at Walgreen’s, as well.

  • Active Ingredient: Sodium Fluoride (0.0442%). Inactive Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Witch Hazel (Hamamelis Virginiana) Water, Xylitol, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice, Poloxamer 407, Monosodium Phosphate, Chamomile Glycerite, Green Tea Glycerite, Natural Flavor, Benzoic Acid.
  • Flavors: lemon-lime for dry mouth (reviewed), peppermint and spearmint
  • Size: 1 pint. Also available in 2.06 oz, which you can carry onto planes.
  • Cost: $5.99 (at Walgreen’s); also available online


Hint: This beautiful bracket-filled smile is insured for $10 million! Go Braces!

smile key

Life with the rubber bands is generally fine, aside from looking dorky.  I’ve gotten the hang of putting them on, and am remembering more often than not to put them on.  But, I’m reminded at interesting times.

“Om Nama Shiva”

I regularly practice Anusara Yoga, and classes start with an invocation, where we chant “OM”, three times.  And now I can’t open my mouth wide enough to “OM” the way I usually do.  Yoga is about transformation and learning to go with the flow, so you could say my modified “OM” is part of my yoga practice now.

Always trying to make the best of this braces adventure.

This has nothing specifically to do with braces, though I imagine people with this condition might need them.

In my internet surfing adventures, came across this that answers the question: