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It’s one month since I got my braces off and started to wear my retainers.  As you can imagine, this first month has been a LOT easier than the one with braces.

HOWEVER, I realize now that this phase of the first few months after getting braces off is probably the most crucial for long-term success in this braces process.  After all, if I don’t wear my retainers, I could potentially lose the benefits of those braces.  And let me tell you, it’s pretty easy to forget to keep the retainers on.  With the braces, I had no choice. They were stuck on.  With the retainers, it’s all up to me!

In sum, first month post braces:

  • Eating is such a pleasure!
  • Chewing: Sometimes I don’t chew enough.  After 1 year of not being able to masticate at all–since my teeth didn’t actually meet each other–I had gotten used to mushing and swallowing.  So I’m having to pay attention to chewing!
  • Flossing: The triumph of braces is in creating habits that are extremely cumbersome, that post-braces become such a pleasure that I look forward to it.  Like flossing.  So easy.  So important.
  • Laziness: It’s just as simple as that.  The retainers are just so easy to forget to use.  But I have to get over that!
  • Retainers are kind of gross: I rinse them most of the time when I take them out–unless I’m not by a sink when I take them out.  And try to get the gunk off with brush or hands or cotton swab.  I think I’ll invest in one of those sonic cleaners

The Smile! book had a section on oral care products.

Here’s what it said about mouthwash:

Some mouthwashs contain phenols-types of alcohol (including Listerine) which are considered toxic because they are susceptible to being absorbed by lungs and skin, resulting in caustic burns, as well as kidney and liver damage and hyperactivity.

So, while you wear braces, it’s recommended you use a flouride rinse.  PLEASE consider one without alcohol, for your health!!!!

I used Tom’s of Maine’s Lemon-Lime Flouride Rinse.

I just can’t stand wasting anything.

I’m done with the braces but still have some Chipmunk and Thailand (Impala) elastics left.

I’m assuming that no one has to pay extra for these.  But if anyone out there needs extras — maybe you’re far away from your doctor? — let me know.  I’ll send them to you.

Yesterday afternoon, I tried the first Crest Whitestrips, to try to whiten my teeth.

The following is an account of the experience.

  • I rinsed out my mouth and brushed lightly without toothpaste, then dried my top teeth with a towel.
  • I applied the strip to the top teeth only, per the directions on the package.  It was fairly easy to do.
  • I felt two twinges on one tooth at the beginning, but no teeth pain afterward.
  • About 15 minutes in, I started to feel discomfort in my neck/shoulders.  A tightness and a very slight nausea.

I think my body is not happy about having these chemicals in my mouth.  I’ve been using Crest toothpaste for the past few weeks because we had a tube leftover somehow, but otherwise, for the last five years or so, I have only used “healthier” dental care products (Tom’s of Maine, and Jason Natural products).

  • After 25 minutes (instead of the prescribed 30 minutes), I pulled off the strip and threw it out; and rinsed off the rest from my teeth.
  • That yucky feeling gradually went away over about 90 minutes.  And then I brushed my teeth.

I’ll try the Whitestrips again to see if I have a similar experience.  And will also investigate the ingredients to see what I might be reacting to.

Recently read this article in the SF Bay Guardian called Tooth and consequences: Americans can’t afford dental care, so they’re fleeing to risky clinics across the border  (by Justin Juul).

It talks about the high cost of dental care (but doesn’t get into orthodontic care specifically), and how many Americans are going to Mexico to get their dental care needs met.  I recall that when I was in Mexico (Morelia) over Christmas, the neighborhood where I stayed had a lot of dental and orthodontic offices.  I wouldn’t be surprised if those doctors had a healthy clientele coming in from the U.S.

After reading this article, I am reminded about my gratitude to be covered under my boyfriend’s excellent employer dental plan.  Thank you thank you.

After a week + with the retainers, I find the CLEANING the biggest chore in wearing these.  Frankly, they get pretty gross, and you really see how quickly plaque can build up and become calculus or tartar.


Essix (clear) retainer

  • Requires more care in cleaning because of the nooks and crannies, and also the material which is more fragile
  • Q-tip: this seems to be the best for cleaning in the nooks and crannies.  Not using a toothbrush, except in the back molars, because it can scratch the plastic.  Apparently you can’t really see it once the retainer is on, but I’d rather minimize the wear. Also, the cotton swab gets in better.
  • Liquid soap and diluted mouth wash: Use these in addition to water and fingers and Q-tip to clean.


Hawley retainer

  • Use brush and toothpaste to clean.  Even though I’ve only had for a few days, I notice that I should have cleaned better.  It will build up.

The ortho office gave me some tablets to use every 3 weeks or so to soak the retainers.  I suppose they break down the plaque/tartar.

Some options I’ve read about include:

  • RetainerFresh (tablets)
  • Retainer Brite (tablets; I think these are the ones I got from the ortho office)
  • Sonic Brite (batter-powered machine)
  • half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of water overnight
  • swish mouth with a mouthwash of 1/2 hydrogen peroxide & half water

I’ll research and share results/experiences.  I’m particularly interested in the sonic machines, even though I don’t want more gadgets.  But as I’ve written before, I love my Sonicare toothbrush, so more open to gadgets than I’ve been in the past.

  • lovely fresh and crunchy salads: lettuce, carrots, etc.
  • pecans, whole and delicious
  • biting into a sandwich and slicing through, instead of shredding it
  • warm whole wheat loaf bread with a deliciously crunchy crust and fluffy inside, with butter: that crunch was wonderful


photo source

Third time’s the charm.

Got my bottom retainer this morning; a hawley.

Immediate impressions:

  • Easier to take out
  • Not as tight fitting or feeling
  • Already seems easier to use–no struggling to get it out
  • Somewhat uncomfortable at the back of my mouth where the plastic hits; I imagine it will take some gettin used to
  • Haven’t talked much, but think it does affect my speaking some

Will take photos later and post, though nothing unique or special.

Still love seeing my new bite in the mirror, when I brush my teeth!!!

I was at the library today, and found a book that’s all about smiles, called Smile! The Ultimate Guide to Achieving Smile Beauty.

In fact, the Introduction chapter title is: What’s In A Smile?  Naturally, I had to check it out.

It’s written by a dentist to the celebrities, who created a teeth whitening system call GoSMILE.  I just scanned the chapter on teeth-whitening, and it’s fairly neutral; at least the info was consistent with what I’ve gathered so far on teeth-whitening. So my guess is that it has some helpful info in it; not just a marketing ploy.

I’ll read more and get back to you.  Here’s a fun fact from page 2 of the book:

“FACT: It takes nearly three times the number of muscles to frown as it does to smile.  Frowning requires forty-three, while smiling asks only seventeen to help out.  Stop working so hard!”

I went in to pick up the bottom retainer, a hawley retainer with a wire, today.  But again, it didn’t fit.  They supposedly made a new one since the first one kept popping out last week.  And this one didn’t quite fit.  So they took another mold.

PROs with the clear retainer so far:

  • Really amazing in terms of looking like I’m not wearing a retainer at all. 
  • Fits snugly, versus the hawley retainer, so far.
  • Speech isn’t affected at all.

CONs with the clear retainer so far:

  • Very awkward to take out.  I assume it will become easier as I get used to it, but still more awkward than the wired retainer.
  • Cleaning it is a delicate affair. Can’t use toothpaste, as you can with hawley, because it scratches the plastic.  Also, the toothbrush bristles can also scratch the plastic. But you have to constantly clean the retainer, since it’s constantly getting plaque on it.  Oy! 
  • My teeth feel hemmed in.