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Wow, 2/3 done with this treatment. I hope. I’ll find out tomorrow when I go for my appointment. In the meantime, not much to report that’s new. So, a recap on the state of the braces:

  • Food situation is stable. Still looking forward to the day I can bite into a crunchy slice of pizza and eat a chewy dried date.
  • Rubber bands seem to be doing the job; bite feels “better”. My top arch is in front of the bottom arch.

In this photo from today, hard to see any difference from last month.

braces month 8

However, look at the progress on a back molar, which was at a 30 degree or so angle before the bracket was put on. Photos are from left to right: pre bracket; at Month 6; at Month 8 (today).

backMolar backMolarM6 backMolarM8

Not sure why, but the tooth is hanging out by itself in the back; quite a bit of space opened up between it and the next tooth (one with the ortho button.) We’ll see if that gets closed up.

OK, let’s face it.  We braces-bound spend a lot of time sticking our hands in our mouths.  And now flu season is upon us.  So a few tips to stay healthy.

  • Wash your hands!  Read this post (on my wellness blog) on hand washing and hand sanitizers.
  • Stay hydrated.  Drink water.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Get good rest.

All just common sense, of course.  But we are susceptible because we fiddle around with our mouth more than usual, so here’s to a healthy year-end!

I just rescheduled the appointment I missed two weeks ago because of my injury.  They are going to check my buttons and my progress since I started wearing my rubber bands.

I want to make a note here about the importance of taking responsibility for your own treatment.  One obvious component is in doing the things the ortho tells you to do, including:

  • wearing rubber bands or other contraptions as prescribed by your doctor
  • brushing/flossing well
  • keeping appointments

But another point that may not be obvious but that I think is really important is speaking up when you think something is not quite right.  For example, I had to go in to ask for ortho buttons to be reapplied, because my center teeth were hitting, and I was grinding them.  This wasn’t obvious to my doctor and his assistants, but it was obvious to me.  So I was the one who called and asked them about it, and they put the ortho buttons back on.

So I encourage all braces wearers, especially newbies, to speak up and ask questions.  Hey, you may be considered a nuisance (I probably am), but you’re paying a lot of money and are going through discomfort and putting in effort.  Nobody else knows what’s going on in your mouth better than you do.

My rubber band compliance rate has been low of late.  I think I’m down from the 75% I estimated in an earlier post.

So what’s getting in the way?

  • Laziness.  In the beginning I was gung-ho, now it’s ho-hum.  So it takes more energy to overcome the loss of novelty.
  • Change in mobility.  I’m hobbling around on crutches with my foot in a brace, trying to protect my ankle as it heals.  It just takes more work to get over to the bathroom to brush my teeth and put on new rubber bands.
  • Taste of food.  I love food, so it’s a bummer to “erase” the taste of a yummy meal with toothbrush flavor.  Maybe just an excuse, but makes some sense.

The first two reasons have probably set me back to about 50-60% compliance.  Better get it back up if I want these braces off sooner than later!

Yesterday, I brought a Trader Joe’s pre-packaged salad to a workshop I attended. I think it was called Tofu Sesame salad, or something like that. As with all the TJ’s salads I’ve tried, it was yummy; the perfect amount of dressing.

Anyway, what I learned, however, was that the salad got all over my braces. Because I’m on crutches now and moving fast or at all is cumbersome, I really need to minimize the braces-care requirements.

Leafy and especially highly fibrous stuff gets entangled in the braces. I’ve found that the same things when cooked, are easier to chew–because you don’t have to–and easier to dislodge. For example, spinach.

I’m not going to stop eating salads, but will probably cut down when I’m eating out and post-meal brushing and flossing is more cumbersome. It is getting cooler, so I think I’ll be going with soups when I’m eating out.

OK. This might just be wishful thinking. But I think the change in my bite is affecting my ability to speak Spanish better. And there is nothing that I’d love more than to be able to speak Spanish better. (I am convinced I was Spanish in a former life, even though I don’t think I believe in that former life stuff.)

It’s difficult for me to do the rolling “rr” in Spanish. Heck, I grew up speaking Japanese so my R’s and L’s were compromised from the start. But I had this memory of being able to trill my tongue when I was much younger, before braces the first time around (when I was 13 or so.)

Now that there is more space in my upper mouth, the “rr” seems to come more naturally. Of course better with the rubber bands off.

¡Qué borracho! Está cerrada la tienda. “Cucurrucucu Paloma”

I could be making this all up. Anyone have significant speech changes to share?

I’ve always been more of a generalist than a specialist. Happy to refer to the upper arm bone as the funny bone, rather than the humerus. But it’s never too late to do things in a new way.

So, if you look at the photos on my Month 7 post, you can see how my upper lateral incisors (especially on my right side) have been pulled down and are now in line with my central incisors. How did I get such proficient dental vocabulary? With help from this handy guide to your teeth on WebMD.

I haven’t pushed my sustainability muscle into the toothbrush arena yet. I just make sure that I get some “reuse” out of my old toothbrushes, by using them to scrub a tough nook & cranny when I’m cleaning the kitchen or bathroom. It helps me feel less guilty about just throwing out all that plastic.

Thank goodness Idealbite has researched this, and posted info on more sustainable toothbrush alternatives:

You can avoid both by choosing a recycled or replaceable-head toothbrush instead of a conventional tooth-scrubber, and brush up on the best options to promote good dental and eco-hygiene.

According to Idealbite, benefits are: reducing trash (in the US, 50 mil lb of toothbrushes end up in landfills each year); saving money with replaceable-head versions; and the eco-brushes work as well as the ones from your dentist.

Products they recommend:

  • Preserve Toothbrush – made from recycled yogurt cups and comes with a postage-paid envelope for recycling; three bristle options. Available at Whole Foods ($4), Amazon.
  • Radius Source Toothbrush – has a cool corn and wood fiber handle with replaceable heads ($8). Available at Whole Foods, Amazon.
  • Fuchs Ekotec Toothbrush – simple replaceable-head brush that includes three spare heads ($4).

Now that I have some good leads, I think I’ll go check if my local green/sustainable store has one of these.

A reader wrote me this question in response to a post on how to choose an orthodontist:

My question is, how are you liking your Damon? Only the last ortho [that I’ve consulted] recommended the Damon Mx for me. I’m not sure if that’s because of pricing or quality. When it comes to speed and less work, I’m always a little skeptical so any insights you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Well, overall, I’ve been happy with the Damon braces. Of course, this is a totally subjective analysis, because I have no way of knowing what the treatment would be like if I had different brackets–so I don’t know what the relative discomfort would be–, and I’m not done yet, so I don’t know how quickly it’s going.

However, I do have these reference points:

  • I had braces about 27 years ago, and experienced the metal ties (ligatures) that were “cranked” tight. VERY uncomfortable. The experience with the Damon brackets is not like this because they are self-ligating (the sliding doors) and because of the technology, they do the work for you. Which means you don’t have that many appointments, which also means fewer opportunities for adjustments (new wire, for example) which is when you experience the greatest pain.
  • The treatment time I was given for the Damon braces was the shortest of any of the consultations I got. Most said 1.5 years; my doctor told me one year. Again, I won’t until it’s over.
  • I can see the movement! Check out my latest before/now photos in my month 7 report. This really means nothing because any braces should be working, but it is gratifying to see the progress.

Regarding pricing, I’m not sure if Damon braces are more or less expensive, because as with you, only one doctor–the one I chose–talked me specifically about the bracket type.  My doctor also gave me the lowest price.

Finally, I’m no mechanical engineer or material scientist, but I like what I understand about how the Damon braces work.  The archwire is heat-activated, so the warmer it gets (with your body temperature), the more exerts its straightening property, which is what pushes your teeth.  Because the archwire is sitting in the sliding door brackets, it’s “floating” and free to move as your teeth move.  So what happens is as your straighten out, the wire straightens and seems to get longer.  It then pokes your mouth…but that’s easily addressed, and a good sign that the teeth are moving.

If you have ligating braces, the archwire is tied to the bracket, so the wire gets stuck, and can’t straighten and lengthen.  I think this is why ligating braces can take longer–you need more doctor intervention to keep adjusting the archwire –and more discomfort, because the archwire has friction with the brackets.

(PLEASE, if I’ve got this wrong, someone set me straight!)

Finally, I really think that every person needs to find the right solution for him/herself.  For the reader who asked the question, I might suggest going to get one more consultation where you ask specifically about Damon brackets.  And also, why not call back the other doctors that you already saw, and check with them about Damon or their opinion of them?

OK, this has nothing to do with braces, but I’m so happy about this, I can forget about my braces annoyances.  Plus I’m all about sustainability and he’s the man to bring this to wider attention.

Al Gore wins the Nobel Peace Prize!!!