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Of Braces and Home Improvement

an orthodontic journal

August to September 2002
« z » Wednesday, August 1

We spent the past 10 days down in the Caribbean island of Grand Cayman, or, as it should be called, "Spend-a-grand-a-day" Cayman. Everything is so expensive, and the US Dollar is worth only 80 cents. Lunch for 4, without drinks, easily costs $50 US. If you have dinner at a nice restaurant and order wine or drinks, you'll easily be dropping $100. Needless to say, we cooked for ourselves as much as possible (we rented a condo). In my experience, this is always the best way to go when you vacation with kids.

Fortunately, the beach is free, and what a beautiful beach it was. We snorkeled almost every day. It was very relaxing! In case you were wondering, yes, you can snorkel with braces on your teeth. It was never a problem. I assume diving would be the same. 

Now, back to reality. Later today I have my first teeth cleaning since getting the braces put on. I'm not exactly sure what to expect. Tonight or tomorrow, I'll write all about it.

My teeth have been fine, no problems or pain. I still don't see any movement as far as the gaps are concerned. Perhaps after my next adjustment, things will begin to change, as I expect my front bottom teeth to get banded in. I'll be curious to see what my regular dentist has to say about the condition of the gums under those teeth. They  look fine to me!


« z »

Saturday, August 3

I went to my regular dentist the other day and had my teeth cleaned for the first time since getting the braces. For some reason, I thought that they would take off the arch wires and chains to do the cleaning, but they didn't. They worked around all the stuff.

As usual, the dental hygienist did the cleaning. She started out with a water jet appliance called a Cavitron. (What a great name; it sounds like some 1950s Sci-Fi instrument of doom and destruction...."Captain Kirk, the Cavitron would never hurt anyone! I have programmed it with my own neurons!...")

Click on this link to find out more about the Cavitron (includes a photo of the device): http://xray.essix.com/mainpages/new_cavitron.html

Anyway, the Cavitron water-blasts your teeth and vibrates. It sounded like a dental drill, and my visceral reaction was to stiffen up when I heard that shrill squeal. But unlike a drill, it didn't hurt a bit. After water blasting my teeth for a while, she switched to the regular pick that is usually used for teeth cleaning. The cleaning took a bit longer than it would have without braces, because she had to work around all the brackets and wires. After the pick, she used the polish brush, and then she flossed the teeth. Ouch! She used regular floss! I'm used to Glide floss, which is kinder to my gums.

Interestingly, although I brush my teeth several times per day with Sonicare and a regular brush, and floss regularly, there was quite a bit of gook removed from a few particular teeth. If memory serves me correctly, these are the teeth that used to overlap. I believe that the gook she removed has been there for a long time. 

My dentist came in to examine my teeth and everything looked good. He recommended that I have my teeth cleaned every 4 months, as opposed to the usual 6 months. This means that my insurance company won't pay for one of the cleanings, but since it's only $80, I suppose it's no big deal.

So that's the story of my first cleaning. Soon I go back to Dr. Vogt for another adjustment. I hope he ties in the bottom front teeth, because some of the bottom teeth have become crooked. I suppose it's to be expected, until the gaps close up, but it's annoying. Those teeth had straightened out so nicely, and now they're crooked again! Waaah!

I had mentioned recently that I was trying to interview Tom Cruise regarding his braces, but was unsuccessful because he was out of the country. In my web searching, I found a recent interview in which Tom talked briefly about his braces. He said that he was having trouble closing his mouth correctly; that his teeth were not aligned properly. His kids' orthodontist took a look, and discovered that he was in danger of fracturing some of his teeth because of the mal-alignment. So for Tom, the braces are not just cosmetic. Apparently he'll be wearing braces for a year: ceramic on top and wire on bottom. 


« z » Friday, August 9

I went to Dr. Vogt the other day and got another adjustment. He was reluctant to tie in my bottom front teeth, but I begged a bit. You see, since the wire isn't tied into those teeth, the wire tends to loop outward a bit. This tends to slash the inside of my lip. I've gone through a lot of wax because of this! I've put up with the discomfort for more than a month and I'm tired of it! So he agreed to halfway tie in one of the teeth. This way, at least the wire is flat and won't slash my lip. He said that he had wanted to give the two teeth another month to recover before tying them in completely. 

He put a different type of arch wire on the top teeth. It looks the same to me, but apparently it has a different curve in it -- convex, concave -- I don't remember exactly what he said. The gist is that it exerts a slightly different type of pressure to help move the teeth into position.

Getting the new elastic chains was somewhat painful. I actually yelled "ouch" at one point! I had clear chains and elastics put on, but I have decided that next month, I'll opt for a color! I'm tired of having these clear chains and elastics turn yellow when I eat curry or other foods and beverages that stain. 

So here's the tip of the day, courtesy of Dr. Vogt's staff: Apparently, the light blue color is good. It isn't so dark that it calls a lot of attention to your braces, but it doesn't really stain, either. And after a while, the blue fades lighter. The silver color is also a good choice if you want something sorta subtle. I suppose it would look like you have more metal in your mouth. If subtle isn't what you're going for, then how about patriotic? I saw a photo of a guy's mouth from the Yahoo forum -- he did red, white, and blue elastics for July 4th. It looked really cool. But I don't know if I'd be brave enough for that!

How did Dr. Vogt think my gaps were coming along? He measured them with a tiny ruler. Two teeth have moved about a half millimeter each. The other two haven't moved noticeably. Patience, patience.

My teeth are achy from the adjustment and change in wire type. Eating crunchy or chewy foods is uncomfortable, so I'm sticking to somewhat soft stuff. It's not as bad as it was when I first had the braces put on, so it's bearable. The pain will probably pass in a few more days. Actually, I find the pain encouraging. It means that things are happening. If I didn't feel any pain, I'd be worried.

The adjustment took place a few days ago, and today it suddenly seemed that one of the arch wires was poking my cheek. This is very common when you have extractions and are closing gaps. When the teeth move, they can displace the end of the wire, and it will poke your cheek. This often happens soon after an adjustment. If you don't have it clipped off, it can be painful and irritate your mouth terribly. I made an "emergency" visit to Dr. Vogt in the afternoon to have him clip the end of the wire. That alone is a good reason to choose an orthodontist that is close to your home or office. You wind up going there more often than you'd think.

I want to apologize for the lack of cartoon image on my Humor page this month. I have corrected the problem. I forgot to change a line in the HTML to point to the correct thing. Thanks to the reader who told me about this!  You see, it looks ok on MY computer because it was pointing to a file on my computer. So, guys and gals out there in toothland, if that happens again, please let me know. I try to be thorough about getting everything right on the site, but sometimes I get distracted and forget to change some of the code.

There was an interesting thread on the Forum recently about chains and elastics turning yellow. Someone mentioned that using whitening toothpaste isn't a good idea, because the area under the bracket isn't getting "whitened" and you can end up with a little darker square on your teeth when the brackets come off. Has anyone else been told this? Dr. Vogt never mentioned it to me, and I think my toothpaste is the whitening type. I plan to have my teeth professionally whitened after this is all over, so even if it DOES happen, that will probably take care of it. I hope!

Here's some really cool news. This site has been mentioned in a few newspapers recently, and the other day, a reporter from the Orlando Sentinel (Florida) interviewed me. That was fun! She posted a message on the forum looking for Florida adults who have braces. She's totally legit, so email her if you want. She is especially looking for adults and kids who are going through braces together. If the article is published, I'll probably put a link to it someplace on the site.

One final thought for today: I'm totally astounded that this site has gotten almost 30,000 hits since I created it in March. Thanks to everyone for their support!


« z »

Monday, August 19

Thankfully, Angelfire solved whatever problems they had, and this site is once again normal. For two or three days, things were rather screwed up, with several links and images not working. I plan to move the site to a different host sometime in the next few months. I'll keep this web address on Angelfire, but then you'll be re-directed to the new site automatically. I'll let you know when to expect it to happen. The new site will not have ads, and I'm really looking forward to that! 

Why do I plan to move the site? One important reason is that Angelfire has "bandwidth" restrictions. This means that if the site is getting too much traffic, Angelfire will shut it down temporarily, until traffic slows down. Since the site is getting more popular, it makes sense to move it someplace where bandwidth is not a problem. There are other technical reasons, too, which I won't go into here.

Things are going normally with my braces. I'm not in pain anymore, but occasionally one tooth or another will ache a little. It seems like one or two gaps look smaller. Progress!

Last week my painter was here re-doing our master bathroom. It really needed an overhaul. The bathroom had many problems: 

1. The previous owners were unsuccessful in getting all the wallpaper off the walls, leaving both wallpaper and adhesive on the walls. They painted over this mess, leaving a very unattractive surface which attracted fuzz -- lots of fuzz which was impossible to remove. It was really ugly and gross.

2. There was inadequate ventilation. All the fixtures were badly rusting.

3. The color of the walls was off-white and rather boring.

4. The faucets were ugly and difficult for my kids to use.

Now all the problems in this room have been solved. Months ago, we had the windows in the house replaced. The new bathroom window opens wider and is much more attractive. We also had our electrician install a ceiling exhaust fan to supplement air flow. Then we had the plumber install the attractive new faucets (chrome with white porcelain handles). Finally last week, our painter re-did the all the drywall in the room and painted it. The color consultant I hired a few months ago had suggested a color called "French Silver," which actually is a very pretty light blue. The tile in the bathroom is pale pink. It looks terrific together; much nicer than off-white!

We removed all the rusting fixtures and got a beautiful set of vanity lights, new towel bars (chrome with white porcelain trim) and a new medicine cabinet. We didn't get a new vanity -- that would have involved ripping out the old one, and fixing the tiling on the floor and walls -- too expensive and really unnecessary, since the vanity was nice and in good shape. I just got new handles for it. And the final touch: new bath towels, new artwork, new curtains, and a few new matching accessories. Phew! One little room sure generated a lot of work!

It goes without saying that I spent a lot of time at Home Depot and the bed and bath store last week! But now the bathroom looks terrific. Hubby approved: "It looks like an upscale hotel bathroom," he said. Hey, ANYTHING would have been better than what was there! It was a fuzzy rusting mess before we fixed it up!

On to my next project: the kids bathroom. Fortunately, it just needs to be painted. Nothing needs to be replaced or fixed. 

Our painter is finally done with the outside of the house. His next project will be painting our kitchen. But first, I need to get those darned pocket doors replaced!


« z »

Sunday, August 25

Finally I'm beginning to see some changes in the spaces between my teeth! The gaps from the extractions seem a bit smaller. Also, I have slight gaps between some of the other bottom teeth (probably because they are being pulled by those elastic chains). It's very weird to see gaps between teeth that were overlapping before the braces! For whatever reason, no other gaps have materialized on the top. I assume that as treatment goes on, the "extraction gaps" will close completely, and then Dr. Vogt will deal with any other small gaps that have resulted between other teeth. 

I also got a nice surprise when I caught a profile of myself in the mirror. My bite seems to have improved. The top teeth used to jut out a bit (a slight overbite). Now they look much straighter and aligned. The top and bottom teeth also meet slightly differently in the front, and it just looks better than it used to. I'm considering posting a new photo soon to show the changes.

I avoided eating curry as much as possible this month (bummer, since I love Indian and Thai food). This is the last month I'll be wearing the white elastics. I'm tired of them staining yucky yellow. On my next adjustment, I'll try the light blue ones. I'll let you know how that works out.

Fortunately, I haven't been bothered by too many gum irritations this month. I had been going through a lot of wax for a while, but now things seem to have calmed down. I think that tying in the bottom front wire slightly has helped (it was bowing out and cutting into my gum, OUCH!) On my next appointment, Dr. Vogt promised that he will tie in the bottom teeth again (finally!)

I've been experimenting with a different mouthwash called Biotene. My mother-in-law was using it for her periodontal problems (her dentist recommended it). Biotene kills germs like Listerine, but it doesn't sting your mouth at all. It claims to "work with the enzymes in your saliva" to help protect your teeth against various bacteria. In addition, it claims to help soothe mouth irritations (which is the main reason I tried it). It has a pleasant peppermint taste, but a slight bitter aftertaste which takes a little getting used to. I think it doesn't leave your mouth quite as "fresh feeling" as Listerine, but on the other hand, it doesn't sting, so it's more pleasant to use. Anyway, it's possible that the Biotene has helped to keep my gums from getting too sore -- frankly, it's hard to tell. I use it once or twice per day. 

Biotene also claims to help control "dry mouth," so if you have that problem, you might want to check it out. The product is available in most drug stores, and costs from $5.99 to $7.99, depending upon the store. Here's a link with more information on Biotene products. Drugstore.com sells it for $6.29.

By the way, the results of this month's Braces Poll really surprises me! I didn't expect so many adults to say that their treatment includes headgear or other special appliances. I hope that the statistics bring some amount of solace to the adult headgear-wearers out there: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I often get email from adults who are in various states of angst about needing headgear, and I really sympathize. Lord knows, if I needed to wear headgear, I'd be high-maintenance about it, too. It's hard enough to deal just with the braces. So hang in there folks, you're in good company! 

Speaking of my mother-in-law....if you've been reading the journal over the past few months, you know that she has severe periodontal problems in her upper teeth. Well, it was past the "point of no return" recently, and she had all her upper teeth extracted last week. They were all loose and getting infected. This is result of years of periodontal disease. We found an excellent Prosthedontist who made her a full top denture (it is very expensive; more than $7,000!). And of course, she needed an oral surgeon to do the extractions. But everything went smoothly, and she is able to eat somewhat normally with her new denture. It will take several more trips to the Prosthedontist to get the denture fitted exactly. 

Every time I think of her and the ordeal she went through, I want to go brush my teeth! It really drives home the importance of good oral hygiene. In many cases, periodontal disease can be controlled, and it doesn't have to lead to dentures! If you ever have a problem like this, you need to be very diligent about taking care of your teeth and seeing your dentist regularly. I have also learned that periodontal disease can run in families. So if your parents or siblings have had periodontal problems, pay attention to your own mouth!


« z »

Thursday, September 5

Sorry that I haven't written in a while, but life has been moving at light speed, with summer ending, school starting, etc. If you have kids, you're in the same boat as I!

First, some details on my teeth. Things are definitely moving. Last week, I noticed that I could touch my front teeth (top and bottom) together. This is something that has never really been possible before (without contorting my jaw). At first, I noticed that I could touch them together if I moved my jaw slightly. But now, they seem to do it effortlessly. When I look at the four gaps (where the bicuspids were extracted in June), they do seem smaller. In fact, I can't put the tip of my tongue into one of them very easily, which is a change. So, things are happening! Yea!

On the flip side, I do have some slight spaces between a couple of teeth. This is totally weird, because my teeth had been so crowded before!

Eating can still be a bit technically challenging. It's a little more difficult to eat with the gaps in my mouth than it was before the extractions. I suppose that I'm used to it by now, but I must chew rather carefully, and some foods are more challenging than others. I'm bearing with it, because I know that in a few months, the gaps will be closed up and it won't be a problem anymore. I can stand just about anything that is temporary.

I sit here with yucky yellowish elastic chains on my teeth. Yesterday I had Indian food for lunch and I didn't get to brush my teeth right away. So the chains got stained. Soon I go for another adjustment, and I'll tell Dr. Vogt to use those light blue chains and elastics. It will be interesting to see if they stain less. Either that, or my blue chains will turn green (you know, blue and yellow curry make green). I'll let you know how it turns out, and I'll probably post a new photo with the blue chains.

It may be early September, but I'm gearing up some fun stuff for the site in October for Halloween. I came across a really cool and totally bizarre 2 minute animation which I hope to provide as a link. It only minimally has anything to do with teeth, but it's hysterical, weird, and offbeat. So there's something to look forward to next month!

Regarding the "Dental Joke of the Month" page, I'm really pissed at Angelfire. I have complained that the images are not showing up on that page. They told me that they are "aware of the problem and are working on it." I assume that mine is not the only site affected. 

I have identified another host for this site and I plan to move it there by the end of the year. Moving these files will be a bit challenging, so I want to do it when I know that I have the time to do it correctly. In the mean time, please bear with the stupid pop-ups, missing images, and other assorted problems that Angelfire presents. When I move the site, I'll probably improve a few things, and maybe change the look of the site slightly. It depends on how much time I have to mess around with stuff!


« z »

Friday, September 13

I had an adjustment earlier this week, and things are definitely moving! The gaps on my top teeth are now only 5mm (they started out as 7mm). So, a 2mm change in just over two months! The bottom gap has only closed half a millimeter each, but Dr. Vogt said that typically the top gaps close faster than the bottom gaps. 

Dr. Vogt FINALLY put bands on the bottom front teeth, but he decided to leave the chains off of them. He replaced one bracket (slightly re-positioned the new one) to help straighten one specific tooth. He said that when the bottom teeth are a little more aligned, he'll put the chains back on them.

Speaking of chains, I got light blue chains and bands this time. I plan to post a picture in a couple of days. The light blue looks pretty nice. Not quite as invisible as the white, but not "jump out at you" either. Hopefully they won't stain the way white ones do. Next week I'll eat lots of curry and see what happens! Yum!

Lately I find that eating can be a bit challenging. With my teeth moving, my bite is definitely off. I can eat almost anything I want, but I just can't chew quickly. The days of stuffing my face and inhaling food are over until this metal comes out of my mouth, that's for sure. So I sit there, chewing my food very slowly and deliberately. I suppose it's better for digestion that way.

Earlier this week, when the bands were put back on the front bottom teeth, my teeth did ache a lot. I was very cranky for about two days. But now, at the end of the week, I barely notice it and don't feel the need to take Ibuprofen.

I don't know if it's related to my bite being weird, but I find myself clenching my teeth in my sleep. I never used to do this. Also, it seems to me that I drool more in my sleep! 

Well, today is Friday the 13th, so I hope no black cats cross your path. Anyway, in my opinion, the 11th was the "bad luck" day of THIS month. I don't know about you, but I feel relieved that the anniversary of 9/11 is behind us. Not that it really changes anything. I keep wishing it was all just a horrible nightmare that I could wake up from. Or, that I could invent a time machine and prevent it from happening. 

I still can't believe that the twin towers are gone, and all those innocent lives were lost in them. I suppose that now we all have to be towers -- towers of strength, towers of peace, and towers of hope. It sounds cliché to say that we can all make the world a better place, but it's true, isn't it? We all need to stop hating each other because of theological, racial, or political differences. It isn't the opposing thumb or the ability to create language that separates us from the animals -- it's realizing the true power and potential of our humanity. And with that thought, I'll step off the soapbox.


« z »

Wednesday, September 25

Sorry for the long hiatus, but nothing interesting has really been happening lately, and my kids have been keeping me very busy! My teeth have been fine. We haven't done anything else on the house. I think we're just running out of steam.

However, here is an interesting detail: I finally ate some Indian food for lunch yesterday, and guess what? My blue bands turned GREEN! Yes, they really did! They were bright day-glo green until I got home and brushed my teeth. Now, they are a pleasant shade of teal. Definitely not light baby blue, as they began. So there you have it. I think that curry stains every color! I suppose if they started out pink, they'd end up orange. 

Just out of curiosity, next month I plan to try the silver colored bands. They are my next "inconspicuous" choice. 

Did you know that they make bands and elastic chains in "glow-in-the-dark"? That might be a cool thing to try for Halloween. I wonder if the glow-in-the-dark ones stain the same yucky yellow as the regular clear ones?


 

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