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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?)


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.





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!


Before it all began, my two upper middle teeth (central incisors) landed right on top of my bottom central incisors, not in front of them, as in a healthy bite. And you can see the crossbite on the left side of the photo (my right side) where the top teeth are behind or on top of the bottom teeth. It’s not possible to see here, but my top teeth all tilted inward. I always hated this, actually.

(Please accept my apologies for this gum-filled photo! It’s the “official” photo taken by the orthodontist before we got started.)

official photo

In the beginning (week 2 photo below), you can see with the arch wire how some of the top teeth are behind. For the first six months, the heat-activated arch wire helps create a nice arch; that is, the wire exerts pressure on the teeth to move down/forward/back to line up with each other–upper with upper, lower with lower.


See how nicely lined up these guys are, at 6 months, below!

6 months bands

At 5.5 months, the work of correcting my bite started when I got elastics.
Although I don’t understand the physics, the elastics move the top arch and bottom arch relative to each other. In my case, the top arch needed to move in front of the bottom arch. And according to this post, I could feel the change within a month! (Below is photo at Month 7.)


The final touch to help with the bite was the detailing, which angled out the last proper bite resister–the upper right central incisor–a tiny bit.

detail detail

That tiny bit was enough to move out the tooth enough, in just one week, so it no longer hit my bottom tooth!!!!

Now I’m continuing to wear my elastics to keep that bite as healthy and strong as possible. 😉

(I’m going to see if I can find photos to see the bite better.)

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.


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


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.


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

No, not talking about some hardware tool.  This is a special kind of elastic, but not some dainty chipmunks.

We’re talking super strong rubber band that’s been strung across ALL my lower brackets and immediately started squeezing my lower teeth together.  It was only mushy food for a couple of days.  (See photo below — click to larger image. ) The chain is silver colored, which blends in nicely. 


Why this particular form of dental torture?  Because I pointed out the gap between the molars (a question I had earlier), and the power chain is how they close the gap.  Below is a photo of the gap; you can see the power chain stretched between the brackets.


For more details on power chains and how they work, read this thorough description.

Here’s some detail on the detailing I described last week.

Until I took a really close look at the wire, I didn’t understand how my doctor had bent the wire, and caused so much pain!

Click on the photo below and you’ll see a bigger version of the photo.  The green arrows point to the two bends where you can see that the wire was bent 90 degrees. 

detail detail

I guess this is forcing that one tooth to bend out a tiny bit.  After only three days, I can already tell the difference.  And fortunately, I have no pain in the upper teeth anymore.  Hallelujah. 

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.