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monkey with braces

It’s true!  I was waiting for the bus the other day, and saw this monkey with braces!

(It’s Julius on a cushion, in the San Francisco Paul Frank store window.  I don’t usually promote consumption, but this would make a fun gift for yourself or for your beloved braces wearer, don’t you think?)

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Last weekend, I saw a friend for the first time since she got her braces taken off, a couple of monhts ago.  Both of us were NOT wearing our retainers.

WHY?

Because we were at a foodie-event, where we knew for sure that we would be nibbling on some really good food.  And that pretty much sums up why for me and my friend, wearing our retainers all the time is pretty challenging.

My friend told me, (preaching to the choir, of course,) “My doctor told me I have to wear them all the time except when I’m eating.  But I love to eat and I’M EATING ALL THE TIME!”

There you go.  Of course, I could flip this whole thing into a diet strategy… the thought has crossed my mind, but hasn’t worked so far.

I wrote about this in yesterday’s post-braces report, but think it’s worth mentioning again.

At my last ortho appointment, I asked one of the technicians if she could sonic clean the retainers; the doctor has mentioned this last time I was there.

“No problem”, she said, and took the retainers. 

When I was ready to leave after about 15 minutes, they were done and looked great!  They use the machine they use to clean their instruments.  I don’t know if all ortho offices will offer this, but it can’t hurt to ask.

Last week I went in to see my orthodontist for a post-treatment debrief.  I had to ask for this; he forgot to do at the last meeting.

It was a chance for me to see my “after” photos.  My doctor on took a few minutes to talk about this, but I usually stick it out for a few more questions.  Remember YOU ARE YOUR BEST ADVOCATE.  You have a right to get your questions answered.

So, we could see from the photos that my cross bite had been fixed.  And that where my teeth had sort of caved in — from my first braces treatment, and my teeth moving — now they are out and aligned.

Here’s what I learned about the post-treatment, retainer period:

  • How much I should wear my retainers: I should wear them enough so that when I put the retainers back in after not wearing them, they are not tight.  I’ve been trying to be aware of this and pay attention to how much time passes; not too successful yet.  But this information was definitely more helpful than “wear them all the time”, which hasn’t been happening for me.
  • How the teeth settle after a while.  I complained that my bite felt weird; the molars don’t seem like they fit.  So when I have the retainers on, everything feels fine.  But when I take them off, it seems like the teeth are too far apart.  Apparently over time — and after this period during which I’m supposed to wear the braces all the time–the teeth will eventually settle in and fit each other.

Oh, also, when I arrived I asked one of the technicians if she could sonic clean the retainers.  “No problem”, she said.  When I left after about 15 minutes, they were done and looked great!  They use the machine they use to clean their instruments.  I don’t know if all ortho offices will offer this, but can’t hurt to ask.

DISCLAIMER: Someone had posted a comment about these earlier, so I followed up and they sent me three samples.  I don’t have anything else to gain from them, and don’t in any way feel obligated to give anything but my most honest evaluation of the product.

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I’ve spent a few days trying out the Bryton Pick, which they call a floss alternative and which looks like a little boomerang. It comes in a little package that doubles as a carrying case; they call it credit card size, which I haven’t tested, but which implies handy for carrying around.  So, here are a few thoughts:

  • What I first noticed and liked was that the “floss”–which is made of thin stainless steel, according the company info–is really thin.  I had NO problem sliding it between my teeth, like I do with regular floss.  Nice.
  • There is the fear that I’m going to slice my gums because the thing looks sharp, but actually no problem there.
  • What I don’t like is that I couldn’t quite navigate the flosser around the tooth like I can when I’m using regular floss.  Maybe I’ll get the hang of angling it.
  • The product literature features that you can use it with one hand, and this is quite nice.  Really is a one-handed flosser.
  • I have a question about how hygienic it is if you stick it back in the holder; I guess I’ll pay attention and make sure to clean and dry with extra special care once in a while.
  • Not sure how to evaluate it in terms of waste-stream; the product is small and packaging minimal, too, but is it less waste than using regular floss?  Can I throw it in plastic recycle?
  • The flyer they included in the package showed a photo of use with braces.  I can’t comment on this with experience, since I no longer wear braces, but I imagine it might be useful in a pinch.  Anyone given it a try?

So, my conclusions:

  • I don’t think I’ll replace my regular floss for daily usage because of the nooks & crannies that I think floss address better.
  • However, I’ll carry this around in my wallet.  A lot less work when I’m out at a restaurant or a meeting, than trying to floss.  Especially if I don’t think I can wash my hands adequately to use the floss.
  • And great to have around for a quick floss when I don’t have enough time for my daily brush/floss routine (which usually happens pre-bedtime.)

You can purchase here or get three free but pay $4.95 shipping/handling.

I was traveling in Japan last month and ran out of floss.  “No problem,” I thought.  “I’m sure I can find some at an omnipresent convenient store.”  But that was not the case!

The only floss I could find was imported floss from the US for about $6.50, or the individually-packaged dental flossers.  You know, those little plastic things with a little bit of floss across it that are disposable.

I was really resistant to buying these because:

  1. What a waste of extra materials. Sure, less floss was used each time, but the packaging and the plastic that would be wasted with each use was not something I wanted to sign up for.
  2. I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to use. Would the floss slide between my tightly-aligned teeth?

In the end, I bought them because I had no other choice.  How did it go?

  • As feared, it was tough going between my tightly-aligned teeth, but I managed to get them through my teeth.  And since I floss regularly, I didn’t have any bleeding or discomfort.
  • It was a little difficult getting at the back teeth at first, but I got the hang of it.
  • One advantage was getting some leverage in flossing between the back teeth.
  • In the end, better to floss with a sub-optimal tool, than not at all.

Of course, with braces, this option would NOT WORK AT ALL. So this is about the POST braces life.  Which, remember, is just as important for beautiful teeth and health.

Fortunately, I’m back in the US and with my regular rolls of floss. That said, I know that some people love these flossers, so some thoughts on the options, with an eye to sustainability from a materials perspective.

  • Decrease waste by going with the multipacks; no individual wrapping. Like these from Plackers and GUM.
  • Minimize waste by using a flosser with a disposable head; you keep the handle.  Like the Reach Access Flosser.
  • Go one step further to minimizing plastic waste by getting a floss holder, where you put your own floss in the holder.  This would be a great option for people who like using these flossers, but want to cut down on plastic waste and cost, or like me, would rather use my own floss which fits better between my teeth.  Here’s one from Flossaid.

I guess I’m feeling guilty.  And maybe worried.

I haven’t been wearing my retainers all the time like I’m supposed to.  I wear them every night, but I, um, forget to put them back on after breakfast.  So when I do put them on at night, the top one is really tight.

As long as I can get them on at night it’s OK, right?