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On the topic of ways to deal with the pain of braces, here’s a post I wrote in my wellness blog about using mental imagery and visualization to deal with pain.

The idea is to take attention away from the pain by putting attention on an image that is soothing or comforting in some way.

  • For braces related pain, images that take you away from the area of your jaw and head could be helpful.  Perhaps imagining your bare feet walking in the cool mossy floor of a quiet deep forest.  Imagine how the coolness feels on the soles of your feet, and your toes.  The smell of trees and plants.  The feel of the soft breeze.
  • Or maybe the coolness of water.  Blue.  Cool and soothing.

Imagery and visualization can be deeply personal.  Experiment.  See if there’s a kind of image or visual journey that  works for you.

The super-tech arch wires that we usually get at the beginning of treatment — this was my case — are heat-sensitive.  So when they are in our mouths and heating up to body-temperature, they exert more pressure on the brackets.  And this is what moves our teeth.

And causes PAIN!

So, one way to give yourself relief, especially with new braces–albeit fleeting–is to put cool or cold liquid in your mouth.  That will “relax” the wire.  Of course, this only works with the heat-sensitive wires.

So, give it a try.  You don’t even have to drink the liquid.  Ice cream or frozen yogurt would work, too.  Just make sure it’s soft enough so you don’t have to chew it.

I wrote about this recently, but I want to reiterate it.

If you have a question or concern about your braces, or are overly uncomfortable, or notice something going on with your teeth/jaw/mouth/tongue that seems weird, CALL YOUR ORTHODONTIST.

Don’t be shy. You are paying your doctor a LOT OF MONEY. It’s his or her job to answer your questions and make you comfortable.

And don’t be put off if your doctor or the assistants or the admin people aren’t super-welcoming. (By the way, I’m not saying this based on my own experience; I just imagine it could happen to others.) As long as you have a legitimate reason to call to ask a question or go for an appointment, GO!

YOU KNOW YOUR MOUTH BEST!

I’m reminded of this because a reader wrote to ask me whether I have problems with biting through my elastics at night. I don’t since my elastics are short. She said she’d ask her orthodontist; I hope she got good support from her doc.

Also I know now that many months ago if I had called my ortho when my mouth was being gouged out by a loose wire, I could have stopped the carnage and not suffered so much during a business trip. All I had to do was ASK.

That reminds me, this includes when you are traveling. If you have problems with your braces while on the road, your doctor can find you an orthodontist where you are traveling. So don’t hesitate to call, even if you’re visiting Grandma across the country.

The good news. Things are looking good. The way my orthodontist said that, it almost sounded like I might be able to finish up before 12 months. My rubber band wearing has paid off!

The bad news. Detailing.

I couldn’t help thinking of how great my car looked after it got detailed. That was before the doctor took pliers to my wire. Now, I think of detailing as personalized pain. Whereas earlier, the arch wire asserted democratic pain–the same general push to move teeth to form a classic arch, regardless of your particular bite–detailing is a way to deal with your specific issues.

My issue all along has been the upper incisors hitting the bottom one. The one that’s still a problem is the upper right central incisor (see post on names of teeth to see which that is) which hits the bottom tooth. So the doctor said he’d angle that tooth forward.

He took out the arch wire and made two bends in the wire. More like twists; hardly looked like anything. But he put the wire back in and I could feel the pressure immediately.

And now, 18 hours later, ow! Not as bad as when I first got the wires on, but definitely mushy food worthy. Last night, I had difficulty eating sushi.

ADDENDUM: read more detail on detailing

This morning, I realized I hadn’t written about the Magic Bullet blender, a lifesaver for braces newbies! My friend, who has Invisalign braces, told me, “You HAVE to get the Magic Bullet!” (www.buythebullet.com)

So I did.

  • It’s been my mushy food helper which was desperately needed when I was suffering most in the beginning, with new wires, new brackets, and the ortho buttons that made it difficult for me to chew.
  • Even though I have a regular size Braun blender (which is fabulous, by the way) I was happy to invest in a smaller blender that allows me to mush up smaller portions–it has two container sizes–and is also easier to clean.
  • Yes, you may have seen the Magic Bullet on an Infomercial. It’s nowhere as sturdy or likely long-lasting as the Braun blender, but I’m happy with it because it’s convenient. You can even take it with you to work or on travel.

I bought mine through Amazon for about $55, which is almost half the infomercial price. It comes with a lot of extra stuff that I don’t need; I’ll pass this on to a fellow braces wearer when I’m done.

A cool thing about the Damon bracket is the sliding door.

Go here to read a description on the Damon site about how self-ligating technology works. There’s a graphic that shows how the sliding door opens and closes, and a photo where you can see how traditional all-metal brackets compare to Damon 3 brackets that are part ceramic (clear-looking) and part metal. These are the brackets I have on my upper teeth.

My experience with the sliding doors:

  • When closing the doors:
    • Much faster and less painful than the old-fashioned tie, twist and tighten method that I experienced as a kid.
    • It’s kind of fun when they snap the doors closed.
  • A couple of times, the doors didn’t close all the way. If this happens, you can push them closed yourself.
    • The first time, the inside of my mouth was irritated, and I couldn’t figure out why. I looked closely at the brackets and saw that one was open, and the open door was wreaking havoc. I just used my finger and pushed up on the door. That was early on when the archwire was thinner so closing was easy.
    • The second time, the archwire–my current one–is much thicker, and one of the doors didn’t close all the way. I couldn’t push it up easily, so I used the side of my toothbrush and pushed it up.
  • The bad news: opening them can be tough and painful!
    • They use a blunt tool that pushes the doors down, which means it pushes down on the teeth. Ow! Fortunately, it only hurts when they are opening the door.
    • I dread this step, so I try to remember to breathe deeply and slowly during this. (Hopefully this is not a universal experience.)

At 10:30am this morning, I got hooks put on my top wire and bottom brackets, and now I have to wear two rubber bands in little triangles — that connect the top and bottom — ALL THE TIME.

So uncomfortable.  But I will do this, because apparently the progress on the treatment depends on my doing the rubber bands diligently.  And I want to be done sooner than later.

Photos to come.

Oy! I have suffered dearly from this.

What are the conditions that brings this on or makes it worse?

  • First getting braces. Naturally, your mouth will be uncomfortable. The gums are in pain, as is the inside of the mouth that’s dealing with the brackets and wires poking in. Ouch! But as the mouth heals, that pain should go away.
  • New brackets. In my case, on the back-most molars. I think because these are in the way back, there’s more pressure on the cheeks. This seems to be one explanation for the prolonged discomfort.
  • Wire sticking out at the back. In the Damon braces, the wire can move back and out as the teeth shift. Even a tiny wire sticking out — about 1/2 mm — can be incredibly irritating.
  • Pressure on the cheek/jaw. In my case, I wore a motorcycle helmet, which fits extremely tightly on the jaw. OUCH!

Some suggestions for addressing this discomfort:

  • To help with the sores heal, swish with warm salt water. Often. (I say this as much to myself, as to any of you readers. I haven’t been doing this enough. Keep a little container of salt by your toothbrush, and even carry one around with you for when you’re at work or eating out.)
  • Wax. Especially when you’re sleeping, give your poor inner cheeks a rest. I find it’s easier to deal with wax while I sleep, rather than during the day when I talk/eat/drink. But, if you’re doing something that puts pressure on your cheek/wire–like wearing a helmet–be generous with the wax!
  • Snip the wire. Hurry to the ortho and get that wire snipped.
  • Overall, stay healthy. I found that when I didn’t get enough sleep or was eating too many sweets, the mouth suffered.

I haven’t posted for a while, because I’ve been busy getting settled into a new job, and frankly, my braces barely merited my attention.

That is, until yesterday, my second appointment, when the sliding doors on my Damon braces were yanked open (ow!), the first wire was pulled out, and a new thicker and square (versus round) arch wire was wrestled into place.

I was told that this would be less painful than the initial attachment; that this wire would work on “root torque”.  That didn’t sound any better than whatever torque was happening last time, and it certainly doesn’t feel better.  There’s a fair amount of discomfort on my gums, and it does feel more like it’s deep, so probably at the roots.   Through the discomfort, I’m amazed at how this technology works.

So, back to:

  • using the blender and eating soups
  • minimal smiling–because I’m cranky and when I smile my inner cheeks hit the new brackets on my last molars

The silver lining?  The buttons on my molars were ground down, so my teeth come together more, and when the pain subsides, I’ll be able to chew!!!!

  • Eating: much easier, but I’m longing to crunch
  • Teeth pain: none that’s noticeable
  • Smile: metallic!
  • Inside mouth comfort: much improved, read below

I’ve been surprised by how many adults I know who have had braces. One friend told me that because of where he was living, it was difficult to get regular care, so he resorted to adjusting his braces with his leatherman tool. Yikes.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to resort to that last week when I diagnosed the source of major irritation inside my mouth. One of the bracket doors was still open. All I had to do was pop it closed with my finger and voila! Ahh, relief!

Doors? I have Damon braces, which have little doors on the brackets. Pop the arch wire in, and slide the doors up. Done. None of that cranking-the-wires that I blocked from my memories of wearing braces as a teen. This system (passive self-ligating braces) is supposed to allow for faster movement with less discomfort. At the least, I was able to alleviate some discomfort by just sliding that door up. Hooray!