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Of Braces and Home Improvement

an orthodontic journal

October to November 2004
z Friday, October 1 

I hope many of you have fun with the Braces Song Parody contest! I had planned to give you a bit more time to compose your entries, but fate has intervened, as I will explain in the next paragraph.

For a long time I've had a chronic problem with my left shoulder. Recently it has gotten worse, and after seeing my orthopedist, it is clear that surgery is needed, as I'm in constant pain. I'm laying all the groundwork for the surgery -- an MRI, a flu shot, a physical, etc. I'll have my arm in a sling for several weeks, and then I'll need extensive physical therapy. 90% recovery in 3-4 months; 100% recovery in 6 months. Needless to say, I won't be doing much typing during the early part of that time. I still want to do the contest, so I had to shorten all the deadlines. Hopefully it will all work out. If not, I suppose we'll have to wait a few extra weeks to announce the winners or whatever. Just bear with me, folks!

One thing for sure: I'll miss playing my guitar and my bass (but on the bright side, after the surgery, playing them won't result in pain anymore). It will be challenging to do any work on the computer, and I pray that I don't gain any weight from relative inactivity.

To try to make the most of my "downtime," I've bought myself loads of new music to listen to. Well actually, none of it is really new, but it's newish to me. I used to be so "up" on the music scene when I was younger, but when I had kids that all went out the window. Now that my kids are older and more independent, I'm re-discovering some stuff that passed me by -- doing some catch-up. My first pass at catching up includes: Fugazi, the Pixies, Interpol, the Strokes, the Mescalaros, Fiona Apple, and an album by Television which I've never owned but have always wanted. I do have a lot of albums on my list for a second pass, but this will do for now. Second pass will include a box collection of Industrial music, KMFDM, Beth Hart, Coldplay, a few more albums by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and maybe some John Coltrane I've always wanted. I also plan to read this really neat sounding book called The Elegant Universe, which is about physics (string theory, etc) -- one of my favorite subjects.

So I guess I'll keep myself entertained while my guitar gently weeps. Between all of this, and a constant turn-around of Netflix rentals I should be OK. I'm also entertaining the idea of getting a book from the library about the history of films, and watching a bunch of classics. A sort-of home schooled History of Film course. I think that would be fun, too. 

In case you're wondering, Hubby will pick up the slack with the DentaKit business until my arm is out of the sling (or cast or whatever it will be).

********

Two weeks have gone by and I had another ortho appointment. One nice thing happened that this appointment: my two front top teeth got shaped slightly. One tooth was longer than the other and it was hitting the bracket on the bottom tooth. So the tooth was filed down a little bit. Now both teeth are even and it looks great!

However, the braces aren't coming off any time soon. Same old stuff: power chains and let's wait and see if these stubborn little gaps close. We're trying to have more frequent adjustments to see if if makes a difference. I'm also wearing an elastic again on one side again, and I'm worried that it will again pull that tooth to the side and further open the gap we're trying so hard to close. I don't know where the cutoff is: when do we say "enough is enough" and just go into retainers and fill in these tiny gaps with bonding material?  I'm willing to put up with this through December. In January it will be three full years since I got my braces on, and I think my patience will have worn extremely thin. After all, it was supposed to be two years! 

I feel like the kid who got left back in school. So many of the ArchWired readers I've gotten to know these past few years have "graduated" to retainers, and  here I am, stuck in neutral. Those teeth just won't cooperate. Everything else is fine, except for those small gaps. But hey, I have the right to bitch and moan here in my own blog. My treatment was paid off months ago, so it's not costing me anything. I'm just tired of having to plan my meals around ligature stains and adjustment pains. (hey, that rhymes!) Would it be too self-indulgent to write a song about how tired I am of wearing these braces? Give me a few more months and Alainis won't have nothing on me...you'll catch me at the next Lillith Festival having my very own Metal Mouth Tour.


z Friday, October 8 

Well, my youngest daughter is now a patient of Dr. Vogt. I took her for a consult on advice of her pediatric dentist. My daughter has a cross bite and will need palate expansion. (The dentist said she also has an under bite, but Dr. Vogt said it is only a cross bite). Next week we will get panoramic x-rays and molds made of her mouth. 

However, I don't think we'll have the expander put in immediately. I'm still waiting to schedule the surgery on my shoulder, and thought it might be wise to wait until I'm partly recovered before embarking on this adventure with my kid. After all, it will probably entail several follow-up appointments and certainly some special cooking at first, and I don't want to put that all on my husband. He'll have his hands full enough taking care of things while one of my arms is incapacitated. So the expander will probably go in sometime in late November or early December.

In the future she will probably need braces, but that will be years from now. She is a very slow teether and has not yet lost many baby teeth. Dr. Vogt said he usually begins braces when all 8 of the front teeth are permanent. The way my daughter is going, that could be 3 or 4 years from now! Anyway, the palate expansion will help the upper teeth grow in better.

I'm relieved that she will not need the type of expander that requires turning a key. I was not looking forward to the prospect of turning that key! Her type will have a built-in spring which will slowly put pressure where it belongs and accomplish the task (in 4 to 6 months). 

********

I just got all the music CDs I recently sent for, and feel like a kid in an audio candy store! How did I completely miss Fugazi in the 90s? I dunno....but now I've happily caught up with the missing link between Gang of Four and Red Hot Chili Peppers. (Gang of Four, one of my all time favorite groups. I got to see them in NYC years and years ago...fantastic show). Anyway...

My two favorite albums so far: Interpol and (falling in love again with) Television's Marquee Moon album. I've got to say that Interpol is probably the most interesting thing I've heard in years. (Excuse me if I lose you here...) It's as if Joy Division, Polyrock, Television, Magazine, and the (early) Psychedelic Furs all smashed together in the year 2004. The lead singer sounds like he could be (P-Furs) Richard Butler's velvet-voiced brother. Some people may say that the group is nothing more than a pale post-New Wave imitator. But I disagree. I think that Interpol is continuing some of the innovative work that these bands did 20 years ago. But what do I know? I'm a sucker for doleful nihilistic 3-dimensional guitar music with great bass lines. Throw in a few discordant riffs and I'm hooked. Hopefully, Interpol's edge won't fade with popularity like the Psychedelic Furs. Only time will tell I suppose...


z Wednesday, October 20  

Boy, this is one long entry!

I had another adjustment last week, and what a doozie it was. Then, just when I thought I was done for a while, a bracket popped off yesterday and I had to go back to get it fixed! (Well it could have been worse -- at least it didn't pop off right after my surgery!)

Dr. Vogt is really annoyed that the gap between my upper molars isn't closing. And now that I'm having surgery on my shoulder (and won't be able to use one of my arms for at least a week), I was concerned about food getting stuck in that gap. I won't be able to floss until I have use of both arms. That generally wouldn't be a huge problem -- except that when food gets lodged in that molar gap, flossing is the only method of getting it out! In fact, many times I don't even know that there is food stuck in there until I floss it out! Obviously, this alarms me.

So once again, Dr. Vogt tied those molars together with metal tie wires. Really tight. As in: OUCH! He had done this to my teeth several months ago, but it was so uncomfortable I begged him to take it out. This time I won't complain. I just want to close the gaps already so I can get my braces off!

Dr. Vogt recently accepted another orthodontist into his practice, Dr. Ellerhorst. After Dr. Vogt was done with the tie wires, Dr. Ellerhorst did a technique on my top arch he called "Carlos." (What a bizarre name for a technique!) Basically he put double power chain on my top arch. That's right -- he power chained the teeth, then doubled back and put on a second layer of power chain! 

As you can imagine, my teeth were pretty darned sore. And to make matters worse, I couldn't take any ibuprofen because of my upcoming surgery (it thins the blood and could promote bleeding). I keep thinking: Vicodin is coming soon! Vicodin is coming soon! ;-o

If all that wasn't enough, a stupid molar bracket (last one on the bottom right) popped off as I was brushing my teeth, preparing for a doctor's appointment. With the end of my bottom arch wired exposed, I knew I had no choice but to get it fixed ASAP. As if I needed one more thing to do this week!  Fortunately, Dr. Vogt's office is right down the street from my doctor's office. And even more fortunately, Dr. Vogt hadn't left yet for the afternoon (he was going to be gone the rest of the day). 

What I thought would be a simple 10 minutes to glue on a bracket turned into a complete adjustment. Dr. Vogt decided to give Carlos the heave-ho and put the regular tight (single) power chain back on the top teeth. So now my teeth are in pain again. Damn!

Anyway, I swear I'll put up with anything at this point to get the braces off my teeth. I know that once the gaps *are* closed, we'll wait one more month to ensure that they stay that way, before taking off the braces and going into a retainer. I don't care...whatever it takes! Close the pain-in-the-butt gaps already! And do it by December.....pleeeeeeeze?!

********

I go in for shoulder surgery Friday morning (Oct. 22). I don't know exactly what to expect -- how much pain I'll be in afterwards, or how doped up I'll be from meds. But I've got my eye fixed on the prize: several months from now, I'll be able to lift weights again, do Pilates, do pushups, sleep on my left side without pain, put my arm behind my back without wincing, play guitar for hours without paying for it the next day....etc, etc. Boy, am I looking forward to all that. I know it will be a long road, but I'm ready to walk it.

As I'd mentioned, the surgery is arthroscopic, so the "damage" will be minimal. I've been busy at home streamlining things for my husband and kids. I have lots of books, music, the Netflix queue is re-arranged...whatever I could think of.

Obviously I won't be here on the web too much at first. I won't even try to do "hunt and peck" typing with one hand...too frustrating. So if you don't hear from me for a while, that's why.

********

I've been wondering how the heck I'm going to floss my teeth while I can't use my left arm. I'm especially worried about that gap between my upper molars where food often gets stuck. I don't know about you, but I need two hands to floss my braces -- especially the molars! Well, years and years ago I bought a WaterPik. I'm talking...probably 12 years ago. Maybe I used it a dozen times before I put it away. It just seemed so messy, and I HATE messy stuff. (Note that I grew up in a house with a WaterPik -- my Dad has been using one since the mid-1960's!) 

Anyway, I didn't dig out the WaterPik when I got my braces because I got the job done with my rubber-tipped gum stimulator and lots of water swishing. So why clutter up my bathroom counter with a WaterPik?

But now...well, the WaterPik is going to be my salvation. I WILL NOT ask my husband to floss my teeth!!!!! (OK, he's seen me birth two children...and I think that's enough, don't you?!)

So I ate a really messy meal guaranteed to get stuck in my brackets and headed for the WaterPik. I stuck my left hand in my pocket and was pleased to be able to fill and use the WaterPik with only my right hand. And I'll be darned -- it worked! It got out all the food. I flossed between those pesky molars and no food was stuck. But I splashed water all over the bathroom, so I have to be more careful. Anyway, to my relief, I think I have a plan. 

********

I extended the Song Parody Contest to give people more time to enter, and to give myself the proper time to administrate the voting. The new deadline is Nov. 12, so send in your entries!

********

One more note on music. A new group I really like: The Killers. They have a couple of songs that are now popular on alternative radio. In case you're wondering, the entire album is terrific; what an impressive debut for this group! An interesting, fresh sound clearly influenced by the likes of Duran Duran, U2, The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, and The Cure. Really tight songs, well produced, many terrific melodic hooks and riffs, with interesting lyrics (although...no lyrics come with the album, so it is a bit hard to understand exactly what they're singing about...but the music is so good ya really don't care). I've listened to the album several times already, and keep thinking that The Killers *are* what many similar groups aspire to be: genuinely talented. I hope their next album lives up to this one. And they're from Las Vegas! Who woulda thought?


z Monday, November 1  

Well, I sure didn't think I'd be feeling good enough by today to write anything, but my recovery has been coming along really well.

It has been 10 days since the arthroscopic surgery on my shoulder. Later today the stitches come out, and then on Wednesday I start physical therapy.

The surgery went really well, according to my orthopedic surgeon. I was happy that they knocked me out with sedative before I reached the OR. I woke up, apparently 2 hours later, with an extremely dry throat, a horrible taste in my mouth, and the distinct feeling that my left shoulder was impaled by a dagger and pinned under a truck. I also felt queasy. Needless to say, it was pretty awful. They kept giving me intravenous morphine until I could say that the pain level was "below a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10." Somehow I managed not to throw up, and my husband managed to get me home and into bed.

I spent the next 3 days primarily sitting in bed, popping Vicodin, using the pain pump machine and the electronic ice pack, and biding my time. Every few hours I'd wake up, eat a few crackers, read a few pages of my book, pop a Vicodin, and fall asleep again. On the 4th day, we went back to the doctor to have the pain pump removed. That actually helped a lot. It seems odd, but I think the pain pump was somehow causing the searing pains I had been feeling for the first few days. After they removed the pain pump, that all went away. 

Anyway, it has all been good from there. Soon I didn't need the Vicodin anymore and switched to a combination of Ibuprofen and Tylenol. After a few more days, the swelling in my arm and hand went away and I could move my left arm in limited motions. Finally I spent a lot less time sleeping and more time sitting in the living room, watching movies and reading.

Fast forward to today -- mainly my arm is stiff and my shoulder hurts from the stitches. I can't wait to begin physical therapy to regain full mobility, (but I  hope it doesn't hurt too much). I still can't sleep laying down, but I suppose that will change in time. 

I'm relieved that this surgery is finally behind me. The surgeon told me that I had a really huge calcium deposit at the top of my shoulder (I had seen it in an x-ray last year and it really surprised me). In addition to the arthroscopic work, he had to make a one-inch incision at the top of my shoulder to remove that large deposit. I know that he couldn't get *all* the deposit out, because some of it was integrated with the rotator cuff. Although I suspect that my shoulder won't feel perfect, it sure as hell should be a lot better than it was before. 

I just hope I get the green light to drive my car soon. My husband is really being run ragged with all the kids' activities and such. Thankfully Safeway does home delivery in our area! I'm also getting a large case of cabin fever from being cooped up for so long.

********

I have been using my old WaterPik these two weeks (because I can't floss with only one hand). It has been working really well. Although it's a bit messy, it does get all the food particles out from between my brackets. So a big thumbs-up for WaterPik and those sort of devices!

********

And in the midst of all of this....is it a trick or a treat for me? Well, I suppose it's both. A treat that my shoulder is healing really fast. And a trick -- a really unpleasant one -- our water heater decided to die without notice on Friday night! So we had to spend the entire weekend with only cold water because our plumber of choice doesn't work weekends. Sent the kids over to the neighbors to take their showers, and hubby went to the gym to take his. Well, after the plumber leaves us with a new water heater -- and $500 less in our wallets -- I plan to take a very long, very hot shower, shoulder pain be damned!


z Friday, November 12  

Today is three weeks since my surgery, and I am feeling worlds better. I have continued to take it extremely easy...only driving when I have to, not doing much house work, etc. During this time I have been very creative, writing several new poems and songs (although I can't play my guitar along with them yet, LOL.)  I have been to three sessions of physical therapy. The first session was merely an evaluation. The real fun began with the second session. 

I have gone to this particular PT place in the past, when I had back and neck pain. The owner and main therapist there, Tim, is a veritable miracle worker. I could kiss the man's feet. He took me out of intense back pain a few years ago (I still do the exercises regularly). I trust him implicitly; he's a great guy and a very talented physical therapist. If it weren't for my history with him and that trust, I would consider bailing on the PT, because IT HURTS LIKE HELL!  

The exercises themselves are OK; there is some level of discomfort because we're trying to get the muscles moving and break up scar tissue. But when he gets me on the table and starts working my arm and shoulder...contorting my arm, giving it traction, etc....yowza! The pain ranges from uncomfortable to "take your fricken hands off me NOW!"  I was cursing like a sailor and doing my Lamaze breathing -- I kid you not. 

The pain during the hands-on PT is truly horrible, but after two of these torture sessions, I have so much more mobility and so much less pain in general! This gives me a lot of hope that in the end, my shoulder will function normally. According to doctor's orders, I can't lift my arm over my head for another week or two, and certain arm positions are still very uncomfortable, but things have improved immensely. I'm looking forward to the stage where we do weight lifting because I want to get back my upper body strength. I'll be in PT for at least 3 to 6 months, 2 to 3 times per week.

*****

The saga of the hot water heater ended two days after I wrote my previous journal entry. And it cost a lot more than $500. Actually it was double: $1,000. And this is for a good quality (but nothing special) type of water heater plus installation. When you own a home it's always something, isn't it?

*****

Regarding the teeth, I am very disappointed because I don't see any movement in the gaps whatsoever. My patience has worn very thin. I know, I know...if anyone should be patient, it's me, right? Well it has been almost 3 years (shoulda been two), and I'm just tired of being in braces. For some reason, my two top front teeth look crooked AGAIN, and I don't know why. I'm just  tired of going through this drama every month.

So, I'm going to lay it on the line to Dr. Vogt the next time I see him. Unless there is some other innovative treatment to close those gaps, I want the braces off. I will pay to have bonding done and call it a day. We have been trying to close the gaps for more than six months to no avail; how much longer should it take? 

Yes, I know I sound cranky, and it might be reflection of what I've been through with my shoulder in the past few weeks. But this has been on my mind for a few months now. After each adjustment, I cross my fingers that THIS will be the adjustment that does the trick...and then....nothing. How would you feel if you were in my situation?

Well, I'll let you know how it goes after my next appointment. All I know is this: I don't want to be wearing braces in 2005.


z Thursday, November 25  

Yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss!

My braces come off December 20th! 

Dr. Vogt agreed that there's little more he can do for me at this point. My bite is good, and the only real problem is that one small gap between the upper molars -- which isn't budging. My midline is slightly off, but that would entail quite a bit more work to correct...and frankly I really don't care about it. Nobody notices stuff like midlines except dentists (unless the midline is way way off...and mine is just a bit off). The bite is good and the teeth look straight, which is the most important thing to me. Overall, it is a massive improvement over the way my teeth used to look, so yes, I am satisfied. I never expected a perfect outcome, and I feel that I can live with these imperfections.

Anyway, it's not the "guess what, your teeth are perfect let's take the braces off" moment I had hoped for but...I'll take it! No doubt, I'll need a little bonding on a couple of teeth to improve the aesthetics a bit. And of course something will have to be done about the molar gap, so food won't get caught in the space. I also plan to get my teeth whitened. And when all of that is finished, I plan to go to the local portrait studio and get a really nice photo done for my husband's desk at work.

In the middle of all this, my younger daughter is preparing for her expander, which will help fix her cross bite. I arranged it so that our appointments overlap (less driving for me that way). So, on the day that I get my retainer impressions, she'll get her expander impression. And on the day I get my braces off, she'll get her expander put on (she'll wear it 4 to 6 months). And shortly after that....I plan to go to the local BBQ joint and eat ribs and corn on the cob to my heart's content! And then chew lots of gum. And eat chunky peanut butter. And have ice cream with nuts and hard pieces of stuff in it. And just for the hell of it, I'll have some caramel chews or some malted milk balls. OK, maybe I won't eat all that stuff...but it will be nice to have the option!

I'll be sure to post my de-banding story here in my journal. I understand that taking off ceramic brackets is a bit more involved. I'm not looking forward to that part!

*****

Physical therapy has been coming along. I'm slowly regaining mobility in my arm and shoulder. It has now been almost 5 weeks since the surgery and now we're starting to do some weight-bearing exercises. It still hurts like hell when my therapist contorts my arm and shoulder (pain so bad it makes me nauseated), but in the long run it helps break up the scar tissue and does a lot of good. I'm hoping that in about a month we'll be able to get the final bit of stiffness out of arm. But I'm sure the PT will go on for a couple more months, at least.

*****

Speaking of physical therapy and my arm.....hooray, I'm able to play my guitar again! During these past weeks, I've been listening to so much music and itching to play along. One album in particular has really gotten under my skin: The Marquee Moon album by Television (yes, from 1977 -- one of Punk's glorious forefather albums). I searched the web and downloaded some of the tab notation for the songs. Before surgery, I had learned to play a few riffs from the title track. But lately I've fallen in love with the song Venus De Milo and just had to learn to play it. The tab I found on the web is almost completely accurate. I'm so rusty that I keep messing up, but it's coming along. Any other musicians out there? You know how satisfying it is to be able to play along to a song you adore? Then in my searching, I found out that Richard Lloyd, the lead guitarist from the group, has a really interesting website and even gives lessons in New York (I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy!) Boy, at this moment do I wish I lived in New York....it would be like John Bonham of Led Zeppelin teaching you to play drums....if he were still alive, of course...

*****

Just to let you know, I plan to extend the free shipping offer at DentaKit through the holiday season. It will be free shipping in the USA with a purchase of $49 or more. Overseas orders will get 50% off shipping costs with a $49+ purchase.  Please understand that I can't offer totally free shipping for overseas orders, because the cost varies so much from country to country!

 

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