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Of Braces and Home Improvement

an orthodontic journal

April to May 2004
z Thursday, April 1 

I am happy to report that the gaps are GONE. Closed! Finished! Kaput! History! Three cheers for arch wire loops and power chains!

I had an appointment with Dr. Vogt recently. He's looking in my mouth. OK Lynn, bite down. Pause. Inspection. "OK, open again.....and bite down. Pause. Inspection. "OK, open again.....and bite down. Pause. Inspection. "OK, open again
.....and bite down. 

You get the idea. This went on for like 5 minutes.

Finally, I had to ask. "So what are you looking at, Dr. Vogt?"

At this point, we're doing a lot of fine-tuning. He explained to me that this tooth needs to come forward a speck and that tooth needs to be rotated this way a speck, and these teeth need....

Then he proceeded to make more bends in my two arch wires, (which, incidentally, hurt like hell when he put them back on)! He wants to see me sooner than usual. No power chains for the next few weeks, while those teeth do their little rotating and tilting and coming forward or backward. I haven't been out of power chains in months, so it's actually pretty nice to have "normal" braces for a while. No elastics at night, either, yippee! Anyway, at the next visit, he will probably put the power chains back on, because although the gaps are 99% closed, there is still that tiny 1% that needs to finish. 

Here's a photo:

The Extraction Gaps are Gone!
(It took 21 months to completely close them)

At this point, being in braces almost two-and-a-half years, I have a mixture of excitement and annoyance. When I look in the mirror, I can't believe that I'm looking at the same teeth that were terrible most of my life. They look so great! I try to imagine what it will look like when the braces come off and they have been whitened. Wow! The near-final result is terrific! The only thing I want to change (eventually) is to have all the amalgam fillings replaced with tooth-colored needed, of course, when the old fillings need to be replaced.

That said...I'm trying my best to be patient. I know that I'm in the home stretch and these tiny tweaks need to be done, but I'm tired of having guck in my mouth after I eat, sometimes. I'm tired of needing to brush so often. I'm tired of being in pain for 2 or 3 days after an adjustment. I'm tired of the way I need to floss. I'm tired of NOT being able to eat certain foods or chew gum. In short, I am really looking forward to the braces coming off.  Hopefully that will happen sometime this summer. 

While we're on the  subject of being annoyed, here's the latest little hindrance. Some of the brackets on the far sides of my mouth had little tubes attached to them. Dr. Vogt decided to open up the little tubes with pliers and make a place for the arch wire to fit through. That, in itself, is not really a problem. The trouble comes when I brush my teeth. My Sonicare bristles sometimes get stuck in those areas, and occasionally a bristle gets pulled clear out of the brush head! The other day, I had to pluck one out of my braces with tweezers! Uugh!


The results of last month's poll surprised me a bit. I didn't realize how popular tooth whitening has become. Like me, most of you want to have your teeth whitened after your braces come off. And why the heck not? After spending so much money, time, pain, and inconvenience, those expensive straight teeth deserve to be white!


A reader asked recently how braces are taken off. I realized that I had never put that info here on the site. So, it is now added to Braces 101, along with more information about retainers. Check it out!


I have a new little hobby here at home: making ice cream. We had a heat wave last month here in California (I know, it was snowing everywhere else...very strange). Anyway, I was on eBay and got a screaming deal on a brand new Cuisinart ice cream maker. It's the "Duo" model, which makes two separate quarts of ice cream at once. You can make chocolate on one side, and vanilla on the other, for example. So far, I've made chocolate and vanilla (of course), as well as decaf coffee, chocolate malted, and cookies-and-cream. I plan to get a bit more exotic and try coconut and then ginger. Then I will indulge in Thai iced tea ice cream. I'm having a lot of fun with it. It's pretty easy and not very time consuming, and you can get really creative, which I enjoy. My family is loving this. I wish we had more freezer space! This summer I will be on the hunt for black raspberries (either fresh or frozen). My favorite childhood ice cream was black raspberry. I can never find it anywhere, and I'm really jazzed about making it!

One really nice thing: when my teeth hurt, I can put some lowfat yogurt in the machine and whip up some frozen yogurt. It feels so good in your mouth when you're in pain! For a low-carb option, you could blend plain yogurt, some berry puree, and some Splenda. Or just use that new Carb-Control yogurt they have come out with.

Oh God, listen to me. I sound like a pre-jailbird Martha Stewart. I'd better stop before I get the urge to act on some hot stock tips.


To help burn off the extra calories from all that home-made ice cream, I've been beefing up my exercise routine. (Actually, I don't eat very much of the ice cream compared to my kids -- I do have a lot of self-control). Anyway, I'm now doing something exercise-related 6 days per week. I alternate aerobics (bike, Nordic Trak, step aerobics, dance aerobics, or jogging) with weight training on our Bowflex and at-home pilates exercises. It takes up a lot of time each morning (or afternoon), but it's worth it! I have about 8 lbs to lose to get back to my normal target weight. It's not a lot of weight, but it is extra and I want it off already. It crept on after that bout with pneumonia last fall when I was a couch potato for months, and I'm tired of it. When I was younger I could lose 8 lbs in the blink of an eye. But at age 43, it's a bit harder.  You know that phrase, "Youth is wasted on the young"? I want to metabolism is wasted on the young!


My mother-in-law has been through rehab and is back at her assisted living place after breaking her hip last month. She's in a lot of pain, but seems to be healing well and can get around with a walker. It was a very stressful month for us, with her being in the hospital and then rehab. Hopefully things will quiet down now and get back to "crazy normal" as opposed to "super crazy" these past few weeks.


FYI, I've been adding some new products to DentaKit's lineup. Along with long-handled picks and brushes, I'm in the process of adding several types of retainer cases (both hard plastic and soft fabric), and headgear bags. The very cool Fresh-N-Go toothbrush is also there, as are pre-pasted disposable toothbrushes. I know that those disposable toothbrushes politically incorrect environment-wise, but people have been asking for them and I wanted to accommodate.


Just when you thought the last hot movie star had finished with his braces, apparently Johnny Depp sports a metal mouth at the end of the new film Secret Window (for the movie only, not in real life, of course). 

z Thursday, April 15 

Back to Dr. Vogt for the second adjustment in three weeks. A few weeks ago, he took off the power chains and bent the arch wire here and there to tweak some of the teeth. He wanted to see me sooner, but my family and I were in New York for Spring Break. So, this week was the soonest I could get back over to him.

In the three weeks since the last adjustment, those teeth did move slightly here and there as he had wanted, but at the same time, various gaps opened up between the teeth. Here I am, trying to show off my new smile to my relatives and friends -- with a gap between my front teeth that rivals David Letterman's! ("Oh sure, Lynn, your teeth look great, wink, wink..") Oh well...

Anyway, now the power chains are back on, the bottom loops are chained in, and I'm bracing myself (unintentional pun!) for major pain from the power chains and the figure-8 tie he put on a couple of molars. I'll also continue wearing one elastic at night (apparently my midline is slightly off, so I only need an elastic on one side).

I had a hearty lunch today, because I expect to be on a liquid or soft diet for a few days. Well, at least those pesky gaps will go away now. In addition to the gap between the front teeth, there was a really annoying gap between two of the top molars. Food (specifically, shreds of meat) always got stuck in that gap. I had be especially diligent about flossing between those teeth every day. Picking the shreds of meat out has been incredibly gross, (boinnnnng....flung across the bathroom sink) and I will not miss that!

So, here is some terrific I've been waiting to hear for months: Dr. Vogt informed me that this is my FINAL ARCH WIRE! It's actually a bit of an anti-climax -- because I've had this same arch wire for about 5 months already!

And yes, finally, Dr. Vogt revealed that I should have my braces off in a FEW MONTHS!!! I asked if they'd be off by August, and he said DEFINITELY!  We're planning a family trip in August, and it would be so great to have the braces at that point!

Dr. Vogt said that after the braces are removed, he wants me to wear upper and lower Hawley retainers. Depending on how things go, I may request a permanent bonded retainer for the bottom. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it (another sorta unintentional pun, if you think about it....)

So I guess I really am in the final countdown!

z Saturday, May 1

Today I had another dental cleaning and heard some words that, in a million years, I never thought I'd hear. The hygienist said, "Your teeth are so clean, I don't have very much to do." Even before braces, nobody had ever said that to me! I must admit that before this orthodontic experience, I was very lazy about my oral hygiene. I rarely flossed and brushed only before bedtime, unless I felt like brushing more often. Thankfully, Sonicare was invented and I actually began brushing longer and a bit more often in the year or two before I got my braces. That toothbrush probably saved me from the beginnings of periodontal disease more than once, I'm ashamed to admit.

The reason I rarely flossed was because my teeth were so crooked and the spaces were so tight. Glide was the only floss that I'd ever been able to use semi-comfortably. Now, things are 180 degrees different. I actually use dental tape. Which is ironic, because flossing is much more difficult with braces. 

We made my next appointment for September, and if things keep going as they should, I will be sans-braces for that one!


I had a nasty little cold earlier this week, which turned into an equally nasty little sinus infection. I probably caught some bugs in my travels from New York. My exercising came to a screeching halt because I've felt really lousy for the past few weeks. Darn!


Once again, I can talk about Home Improvement! We are finishing the last thing that needs attention at our home: the landscaping. Our weedy blucky lawn disappeared into the back of a large truck this week, with the help of a gardening team. We now have a lovely new weed-free green lawn and (FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY) timers on the sprinkler system. Now the lawn won't be over- or under-watered. 

This is just the tip of the lettuce leaf. There is a semi-bare sloping hillside which wraps around the entire back of our house and cries out for lavender, salvia, bougainvillea, Mexican primrose, bacopa, get the idea. Part of the hillside is unshaded, hot and sunny; the other part is shaded by pines and eucalyptus (great place for rhododendrons and azaleas). But before we plant anything there, the crummy sprinkler system must be converted to drip, and the valves must be added to the new timer. 

And the most important part: we need a very large fence to keep out the deer -- because I'm not paying all this money to create a very expensive salad bar for our local Bambi population. You've got to understand why this is such a big deal to me. We've lived in this house 10 years. And every day for 10 years, I've looked out onto that hillside and thought, "Gee, it sure would look nice if..." But that project always took a backseat to other, more pressing projects.

So cross your fingers for me. We have the new lawn. We have the timer. We're 50 percent of the way there! Can we make it all the way? Have we turned a new leaf?

In the mean time, with the weather warming up here in California, I've been dressing up the deck with pots of flowers. I dusted off the grill and put up the hammock and the wind chimes. When we get the back landscaping done, I will make sure that irrigation lines are brought up onto the deck, so I can have a successful herb garden in its large redwood box, and not kill my new flowers with my forgetfulness. (I planted gardenia, a trellis with jasmine, some stock, and impatiens. Such wonderful fragrances!)

And then, with any luck, in about a month I will finally have the outdoor landscape I have always wanted for this house.

z Tuesday, May 18

Recently I had a doozie of an adjustment. It started out with the usual stuff, and then Dr. Vogt came over. I mentioned that I have a really annoying gap between two of my top molars. Whenever I eat anything, especially meat, huge hunks get caught up in that gap. I must be careful to floss that space every night, because food is always stuck in it. You should see what comes out with the floss! It's so incredibly gross!

Well, I told Dr. Vogt that I'm tired of the gap and I want it closed, whatever it takes. I figured he do a loop or use double power chain or something. But he did none of those things.

Here's what he did. He bent a wire and encircled it (wrapped it) around the brackets on those two teeth a couple of times. Then, he twisted the ends, tightening the wire. Twist, twist, twist, twist...and I swear to God, I felt my molar move with every twist!  In fact, he even said that he thought it had moved! Yowza, that was quite an experience! I hope the pressure doesn't cause the brackets to pop off!

"That should do it," he said. 

Yeah, that about does it for me, alright!

Good thing I took some Advil before the appointment.

He finished the adjustment by putting a few new bends in the arch wires and tying a couple of teeth in with tie wires.

My midline is also a speck off, and he wants me to continue wearing elastics (double, if I wish) 24/7 for the next month to correct that. The elastics are just on one side of my mouth.

Again, I asked when my braces will be off. He didn't want to answer. "OK, how about August?" I asked. "Yeah, that sounds reasonable," he said. 

So I'll set my sights on August, figuring that it might be September or October. But if it goes past October, I don't know if I'll be able to stay patient. "Finishing" is a very subjective thing. For now, I know that I'm not finished, because I have a gap between two top teeth, my front teeth still have a tiny gap, and my midline is slightly off. But when we get all of that fixed, I will be very fidgety, to say the least.

One good thing. I had forgotten to ask if the retainer is included in the total cost I was paying. Yes, it is. One less expense to worry about.


We're making progress on our landscaping project. I consulted with a landscape designer and got a really nice plan. Now we need to get a final estimate from the gardener. After we have all the numbers, we're going to see if it makes sense to do the entire project now, or just do part of it now, and part some other time. 


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