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Well, not much change on the retainer front.

  • I have probably become lax in the cleaning of them.  I’ve been using the cotton swab (Q-Tip) trick, and that’s been very useful. 
  • I have been wearing the retainers more, which is definitely helping with the tightness.

I still notice people wearing braces, and feel a kinship with them, even though they have no reason to know why I am smiling at them like a maniac. 😉

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OK, my big goal for July, as I start my 5th month with retainers, is to WEAR THEM MORE.

They have been pretty tight, a couple times this past week, when I put them on before going to sleep.

Now that I’m wearing them more:

  • Pro: I can’t snack much.
  • Con: I can’t snack much.

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.

It’s said that humans have an amazing capacity to forget pain.  Well so it is that month two WITHOUT braces has just flown by.  😉

A few notes to share as I reflect on the past month:

  • Teeth feel:  A reader asked how my teeth feel.  Are they still loose?  Do they hurt?  Do I feel the settling?  That’s a great question; they don’t feel loose to me at all.  So I guess they are settling in.  I do notice that the longer I forget to wear my retainers, the tighter the retainer feels when I put it on.  Which means that my teeth are moving a tiny bit, though imperceptible to me.
  • Chewing: I STILL notice that sometimes I’m not chewing enough, and just kind of mushing-then-swallowing, as I’d done for an year.  Much better for my health/digestion if I chew.  Gotta pay attention. 
  • Wearing the retainers during the day:  I’m still not wearing them as much as I should; I can tell when it’s tight to put on, especially the top clear one, which is very snug.  The bad thing is that if it is a tight fit, it is very difficult to take off.  So it’s important to be prepared to leave it on for a while, otherwise the process of pulling off a tightly-fitting clear retainer can be extremely frustrating.
  • Wearing the retainers at night: Fortunately, I have worn them EVERY night.  Never forgotten them, though a couple of times I almost did but caught myself because I could tell something was missing.
  • Cleaning retainers: Will find out from doctor whether I’m doing this well.  It’s a pain.  But important to do.  I figure I’m doing a good enough job.

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

nomorebraces

😉

😉

😉

Below is the BEFORE picture, one year ago on February 28, 2007.  You can see the cross bite on the left side (my right side) and how my top incisors were sitting on top of the bottom teeth.  Doesn’t look that much different now, but it feels better.  I actually have a bite now!

prebracesbalanced

Guess what?

I only have 1 more month to go! And I started this journey 11 months ago. The original estimate was 12 months, and amazingly, looks like we’ll be on schedule. I’m thrilled about this, as you might imagine, and am getting prepared.

Here’s my last status report:

  • How do they feel? Since that back molar bracket was popped off, the braces have been a breeze. No discomfort or irritation at all inside my mouth. Hallelujah; better late than never.
  • Elastics: I’ve continued to wear the Chipmunks, mostly at night. My last month of helping out with my bite. I’ll work on maximizing elastics this last month, because after the braces come off, it’s all a slide back to the old way.
  • Flossing: The power chain elastics have made it difficult to floss some teeth, especially across the top where the band is under the arch wire. I had been getting a bit lazy about the flossing; as with elastics, want to focus on this more diligently. Have to use the threader a lot.
  • Flouride rinse: I don’t recall writing about this for a while. I’ve been pretty good about rinsing after flossing, at night, before going to sleep. Still happy with the Tom’s of Maine brand.
  • Eating: Nothing has changed. Still staying away from nuts, super-chewing, and too crispy. All things I’m eagerly anticipating post-braces.
  • Smile: I’m flashing my braces smile to some friends, letting them know that next time they see me, I might be braces-free. I’ve met some new friends who only know me with braces; I wonder if I will feel shy about my non-braces smile?

Month 11 photo. Not much has changed.

month 11

The Home Stretch!!!!

I got a power chain across the top teeth — under the wire — and that’s helped to close the gaps. Check out the photos below. We’ll see if I’m on schedule for finishing at the end of February, when I have my next appointment in a few weeks.

Here’s the status:

  • Overall comfort. The best it’s been. Why? Because the bracket that was on the top right back molar constantly irritated my mouth. I think it was the angle of the bracket and my mouth; it’s where the motorcycle helmet really dug in. But even without the bicycle helmet, that part of my mouth never “healed”. So you can imagine my delight when that bracket was popped off last month. Hallelujah.
  • Elastics. Still wearing them at night, and during the day when I remember. Sometimes I feel like they are working more than others. I wonder why.
  • Flossing. I think I’m getting a bit lax in this. With the power chains, it’s a bit more effort; have been using the floss threader more. I cannot wait to get the braces off so I can floss easily.
  • Easting. No problem. Though still avoiding crunchy stuff, of course. And super sticky stuff.
  • Vanity. REALLY looking forward to getting the braces off. And wondering about maybe getting my teeth whitened. Ahhh. The slippery slope of appearance vanity.

braces080103_2s.jpg

Below, you can see how the gap between the first and second teeth has closed. (Compare with last month’s photos here.)

bracesl080103s.jpg

I’m almost done! Actually, I have 3 months to go, but I’m 3/4 done! Woo-hoo!

Here’s my Month 9 State of the Braces report:

  • Rubber bands: I have to admit, I’ve been slacking a bit on wearing these during the day, but have worn them every night. So that’s at least 8 hours every day.
  • Power chain: These were put on my bottom teeth. The first few days were very painful, but no problem afterwards. They have worked; the gap between my molars is closing. See photo.
  • Wire wreaking havoc: The uncomfortable consequence of the molar moving forward is that the wire is sticking of the bracket about 1 mm in the back. And tearing up my cheek again. I’ve been suffering and trying to get some relief with wax. It’s kind of working. Will get that clipped at the ortho office tomorrow.
  • Face shape: Over Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law noted how my face looks thinner because I have more of a jaw than is natural. I wonder how I will look when the braces come off? Will I look different to myself, or like my old self? What will people who met me in the last year, and only know me with braces, think?
  • Food: Still looking forward to biting into something crunchy, and enjoying some lovely dried dates.

Photos

Bite is looking, and feeling, better:

front month9

A new gap has opened up; I think another power chain might be coming. Ouch!

left month9

And look at the progress on closing the gap, compared to last time.

 closing gap month9   today

071102molargap last month

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.