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Of Braces and Home Improvement

an orthodontic journal

December 2004 to January 2005
z Wednesday, December 1 

I still can't believe that these braces are coming off my teeth in 19 days! Although they have been annoying at times, in almost three years they have become a strange fixture in my life. I will NOT miss the huge mess that some foods make in my brackets, the difficult time I have cleaning up afterwards, or the moratorium on curry. 

I need to get in touch with my regular dentist for a post-braces cleaning, and consult with him about bonding on a couple of teeth (one for aesthetics, one for function). And then the whitening. Oooh, I just can't wait to see my new bracket-free smile! 

It will be interesting to transition into life with retainers. At that point, I can personally try out all the retainer-oriented stuff I've heard about or have sold at DentaKit. For example, there's a really nifty portable sonic cleaner -- and I don't want to sell it to anybody until I know for sure that it actually works well (I'm not into selling junky stuff to people). 

Yes, I will chronicle my de-banding experience here in this journal. I expect to have that page written soon after December 20, so check back here a few days before Christmas. And to answer the question that might be rolling around in your mind, yes, this site will continue as usual after my braces are off. 


This month, I decided to push the envelope a bit, here at ArchWired. A reader on Metal Mouth Forum raised an interesting question last month regarding braces and oral sex. What a hot topic that was! So I got to thinking...maybe I should create a web page on the subject. After all, we are all adults (I created a warning lead-in page for minors to bale from if they stumble across it -- but of course I can't really stop anyone from reading what they are determined to read). Anyway, I tried my best to keep it tasteful and fun while still getting the information across. I know that people have all sorts of opinions on these types of matters, so I apologize if the web page offends anyone with different sensibilities. Please don't flame me or get the impression that I'm looking for lewd emails because (she says rolling her eyes) pulll-eeeze!


Physical therapy on the shoulder continues to evolve. Now we're working on "releasing the shoulder blade area." Apparently, the main reason I can't make certain movements with my left arm involves those muscles being "locked down" from the surgery and its aftermath. Slowly, slowly I'm making progress. I still wake up several times per night in some amount of pain. I truly can't wait for that to stop -- that is the most annoying part of this whole process!

Hey, get this: my main therapist, Tim, had the exact same surgery as me last week! Unfortunately, I don't get to inflict that post-surgery PT pain on HIM! Seriously, I wish him a speedy recovery....because I need him to continue working on me, LOL!


Here's to a happy, healthy holiday season and new year to everyone! 

z Tuesday, December 14 

Four more days! Four more days!

Yesterday my younger daughter and I went in for our impressions. My daughter -- for her expander. And me -- for my retainers! (Last week, I took my daughter in for her spacers. She got 3 rubber spacers between some of her upper molars. They haven't bothered her at all. Kids, sheesh!!!) 

I wasn't sure whether they'd take off my ligs and wires to make the impressions, but (DUH) of course they needed to! Dr. Ellerhorst did the honors. The first tray he used for the top turned out to be too small. He had to take a larger tray and shorten it with clippers (so it wouldn't gag me). A few clips later it was the right size and -- thwick-- shoved into my mouth -- bleck! (The upper seems to be worse than the lower, IMO).

I chose orange flavor. It tasted like orange candy that had gone bad, with some vodka mixed in. Needless to say, I was glad to get it all over with. Yeah, I'm smiling in the photo, but it's only for you guys!

Then of course I had to choose the retainer color. I wimped out and chose pale pink -- no sparkles or anything. I figured that  this retainer thing is a new experience and I don't know how much it's going to show when I talk -- so I didn't really want something like bright purple. Considering that I'll wear it virtually 24/7 for almost a year, I think it was a good (albeit boring) choice.

So Friday is DB Day! (DB of course for De-Banding!) Originally it had been Monday the 20th, but then I realized -- my husband's company holiday party is the evening of the 17th, and I really wanted to go without braces on my teeth! So I re-scheduled (fortunately they did have an opening on Friday). I also picked up an inexpensive whitening kit (made by Rembrandt). I don't plan on doing any extensive whitening by myself, but I thought it would be good to give my teeth a little boost for the evening. Hopefully they won't get sensitive from it -- but the OTC stuff is so weak, I doubt it will be a major problem.

And as luck would have it, my regular dentist had a cancellation on Monday the 20th. So I'm going in for a cleaning on Monday -- and also for a consult about eventually getting some bonding done to fix a couple of those pesky gaps.

Dr. Vogt believes that the retainer might actually close the gaps. Well, who knows. The only gap anyone can see isn't extremely noticeable, so I suppose I could live with it for three to six months -- or however long he suggests. 

I'll post again over the weekend so you can see my bracket-free smile!


Physical therapy on the shoulder has once again become painful. One muscle in my upper arm is very tight and holding back my progress. The therapist wants me to hold a 2-lb weight in that arm several times per day and do a VERY painful stretch on that muscle. OK, I'm doing it. It's not pleasant, but I'm doing it. It's the only way to get this recovery moving to the next level. God, I hate this!  I wish I was in Kauai laying on a beach instead!

z Friday, December 17 - I'm De-banded!

My braces are off! Yippee!

Actually, they came off yesterday afternoon, quite by surprise! Around 2 p.m., Dr. Vogt's office called to see if I could come in later that day instead of this morning. The retainer had come in, and since they anticipated a very busy Friday morning, they were trying to re-arrange things. It meant dragging my kids along, but I happily complied! Dr. Ellerhorst did the honors.

The visit began as usual -- they took the ligs and wires out of my braces. They gave me a pair of goggles to wear (to prevent pieces of bracket harming my eyes). Then the real fun began -- the clippers! Dr. Ellerhorst placed the clipper at the base of each bracket, and with a loud CLICK, each bracket came off. When fellow ArchWired readers say that ceramic brackets are harder to de-band, they aren't kidding. The metal ones pretty much popped right off with a little pressure (it did hurt a bit on a couple of teeth, but nothing I'd really complain about). But the ceramic ones -- wow, it felt like they were clipping off my teeth, I'm not kidding! In fact, two of the brackets wouldn't de-band and broke, leaving half a bracket still attached to each tooth. They had to be file-drilled off (that sounds worse than it was). 

When taking off the ceramic brackets, Dr. Ellerhorst also had me bite down on a pad (as you can see in the photo) to dampen the pain. Pain? you ask. Yeah, well those top teeth tend to be more sensitive to that sort of stuff, so it hurts more to de-band them. Biting on the pad really helped. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give that pain a 3. No biggie.

My teeth tend to be cold-sensitive, so the drill file instrument (which emits cold air) made me jump a number of times. That wasn't pleasant. Aside from that, it was no big deal. I'd say that the worst part was clipping off the ceramic brackets.

Soon my teeth were totally bracket-free. And boy, were they yellow! Uugh! They still had a fair amount of dried adhesive on them. After a bunch of rinsing and spitting, Dr. Ellerhorst used a drill/polishing instrument to sand away the remaining adhesive. This helped my teeth look a lot less yellow. However, they were rather stained before the braces, so although the polishing helped a lot, they need to be whitened to look better.

After polishing, Dr. Ellerhorst and Dr. Vogt shaped a few of the teeth. One of my top front teeth has always been longer than the other. It had been shaped down a few months ago but still needed some finishing touches. We also got rid of some of the extra ridges on my bottom teeth and shaped them up a bit. Nothing radical, as you can see from the photos. After all, I still want them to look natural.

I ran my tongue across my de-braced teeth. Wow, they felt so SMOOTH and so SOFT and also, as everyone always says, a bit slimy! It was SO WEIRD not feeling those big lumps under my lips anymore!

So now, ladies and gentlemen, I give de-banded smile!

I took this picture this morning, after a couple of sessions with a Rembrandt 2-hour home whitening kit I got at the drugstore (which is pretty good, IMO, but more about that later). 

OK, first of all I want to admit that my teeth are NOT perfect. My midline is off, and I know that. There are a couple of small gaps (not noticeable in this photo) that need to be closed (either from the retainer or with bonding). I want all the residual stains off my teeth, and I plan to have those (now very visible) lower fillings changed to tooth-colored composite. BUT, aside from all that -- I am very happy with my results. How happy? Well, see for yourself, in this "side-by-side" comparison. This is what my teeth looked like three years ago:

Truly, this metamorphosis is a miracle for me. I went through the first 40 years of my life with those teeth, and I'm thrilled to go through the rest of my life with my "new" straight teeth! I never have to hide my crooked smile again! And just in time for my first big social event tonight: my husband's company holiday party!

OK, back to my de-banding visit....the next step was fitting the retainers. When I first saw my retainers, I was surprised at how small they were. I dunno, for some reason I expected them to be bigger. They are both Hawley-type. Here they are:

and here they are on my teeth:

Which brings me to the next subject: how they feel in my mouth. WEIRD!! VERY WEIRD! As in "Ick, get these nasty things out of my mouth!" The bottom one isn't so bad. But the top one, because it sits across my palate, is really uncomfortable. Dr. Ellerhorst shortened it so it wouldn't gag me as much. However, I can't speak very well with the retainers in my mouth. Hubby says, "You sound like a Connecticut WASP with a speak impediment! Say I had a fabulous time....ha ha ha, yeah!" And kiddos say, "Hey Mom, you sound like Sylvester! Say Sufferin Succatash...ha ha ha, yeah!"

OK, nice to know my family is getting a good laugh at my expense! But seriously, this will take a LOT of getting used to! Any words that require the "S" or "TH" sound are screwed up. However, I am taking stock in advice from my fellow ArchWired readers: that after some practice, I will sound fairly normal speaking with the retainers in my mouth. Right, right??!!!

Aside from the speech issues, the upper retainer continues to make me vaguely feel like I'm gagging at times...especially when I try to speak. Wearing these in public is going to be such a joy...I'll just try to nod a lot and keep my mouth closed, LOL!

To my surprise, Dr. Vogt is not recommending that I wear the retainers around the clock. He suggests I wear them as much as possible -- at least 12 hours per day. If my teeth appear to be moving or any gaps begin to form, then I should wear them longer. Obviously, I'll wear them to sleep and when I'm at home. I had the retainers off for a few hours yesterday evening while I did some whitening, and was shocked that a small gap began to appear between my top front teeth! That got me running for the retainer! I can just imagine a situation where I say to someone, "Exchushe me, I need to take out my retainersh so I can scpheak to you!"

Anyway, I can see why some folks opt for Essix retainers and bonder lowers. At least with the Essix type, there is nothing sitting on your palate. But at the moment, I need these Hawleys to help keep everything in place. Dr. Vogt hopes that the upper retainer will push closed my two gaps. Perhaps in the future I'll be able to change over to the other types...


So, you may be wondering about my first meal de-braced. I had planned to go to the local BBQ joint and chow down on ribs. But since everything took place in the late afternoon (and it was dinner time when we finally got home), my first choice was crunchy tacos and a big salad! 

What a treat -- to eat crunchy stuffed tacos with no shards of tortilla torturing my teeth! No bits of onion struck in my brackets, no shreds of lettuce wrapped around my bands! Wow, it sure was a great feeling. And if some food was caught in my cheek, one swipe of the tongue whisked it away!

After dinner, I did something I haven't been able to do in three years: I chewed gum! I have really missed chewing gum! Hooray!

And for breakfast this morning: my old favorite -- chunky peanut butter. As for the ribs -- I plan to go to there for lunch today. And afterward, I might treat myself to ice cream with lots and lots of nuts and pieces of candy. What the hell!


OK, now about the whitening. I hadn't planned to jump into whitening immediately after the brackets were taken off, but like I said, tonight is my husband's company party. I figured that I'd have decent results with something from the drugstore -- something that wasn't too strong, but would just take the yellow tinge off my teeth. If I want more than that, I might have it done by my dentist or at Brite Smile or something.

I was going to get the Crest Whitestrips, but then I saw this Rembrandt 2-Hour Whitening kit. It was only $19.99. It comes with three syringes of whitening gel, plus a couple of silicone mouth trays, which you can heat and shape to your teeth. So far, I'm really happy with the results this kit has delivered. I have spent about five 20-minute whitening sessions on each arch, and now my teeth are barely yellow at all. The results aren't "dazzling," but it is a big improvement. And I didn't even use a full syringe, so there are plenty of treatments left. I'd say that's a good value for 20 bucks.

I do have issues with sensitivity, and this Rembrandt kit has not given me any problems. My gums got a little sensitive (a stinging feeling), but that wore off after an hour or two. There were a couple of white spots, but those disappeared, too. My teeth are no more sensitive to hot and cold than usual. I used the following method: 20 minutes on one arch, then 20 minutes on the other arch, alternating (the kit recommends 10 minutes between arches, but I wanted to be more conservative).

By the way, I called the company that makes this product. The strength of the gel is 18.5% Carbamide peroxide. The strongest products on the market are about 22%. However, many dentists say that a higher strength isn't necessarily better -- a lower strength used over a longer period of time will also do a good job and cause less sensitivity to the teeth.


Phew, OK folks, I think that's it! Soon I plan to post a nice "head shot" of myself sans-braces. Why didn't I do it today? (She rolls her eyes and takes a deep breath). Well.....because my face is kinda broken out at the moment. (Why oh why did this happen right before a party? I'm 44 fercrissake, I'm too old for this!) So bear with my vanity...I'm waiting for my skin to clear up a little. It has been giving me a lot of trouble this if some higher power is saying, "OK Lynn, your teeth look great and your figure is OK, but your skin....bwahaha!"  I blame my stupid 40-something hormones. Ladies who are my age -- you know where I'm coming from! C'est la vie. I keep telling myself that tonight is just a little party, not the Academy Awards, and with a little makeup nobody will be able to tell. It's a real bummer, but I'm going to have a good time in spite of it. After all, I can eat all the food I want, give a big smile, and not worry about crap being stuck to my brackets!

Oh yeah, one more thing. Yes, I will continue this journal. Life in retainers certainly deserves some commentary. I am considering, however, switching to a "real" blog format (e.g., Blogger or similar). More on that later...


ADDENDUM: OK, it's after midnight and we just got back from the party. Let me tell you, it was a braces wearer's nightmare. The salad had pieces of candied walnuts and blue cheese, and the steak was really chewy. There was hard crusty bread and really stringy cooked spinach. All things I would have avoided in braces. It was really nice to be able to eat all this stuff without worrying about anything getting stuck in my brackets! Dessert was molten chocolate cake -- yum, my favorite! Anyway, I had a really nice time.

And yes, the lighting was very dim, so I don't think anyone noticed my covered-up-with-makeup awful skin. Which reminds me that I need to make an appointment with my dermatologist. I think I need to go on tetracycline to clear this up (I did that in my early 20s and it worked like a charm). Ironically, my skin is worse this month than it has been in probably 20 years (I'm not kidding) -- despite regularly (i.e., for several years now) using the stuff my dermatologist prescribed. Where is that "dry middle-aged skin" you read about in those cosmetic ads? Doesn't my skin realize I'm not a teenager anymore?! Sheesh!

z Wednesday, December 22 

Life in retainers had been -- for the most part -- pretty good so far. My number one complaint is my inability to speak normally when I'm wearing the upper retainer. A couple of new small gaps have also appeared between some upper teeth, which has me rather alarmed! (More on that later).

I've been wearing the retainers about 14 hours per day on average. I would wear them more, but I just can't deal with the speech impediment when I'm out and facing people. I don't think the retainer is sitting flush enough to my upper palate. It is also rather thick. These two factors contribute greatly to my speech problem.

I also have to get over the "yuck" factor: when you take out the retainers, saliva is, of course, stuck to them. Sometimes, a big strand of it comes out, too! YUCK!!!! I immediately want to rinse the retainers under some water. But if I'm out and about, and I take them out in the car, for example, I'd have to put them away yucky (which really makes me cringe). One way around this might be to simply leave them in until I get to a restaurant, and take them out in the restroom to rinse them off. 

I suppose it will take a while to get the hang of all this. I'm used to the braces -- they stayed in all the time! Even the elastics were no big deal to pop in and out. Retainers are much more conspicuous. And the last thing I ever want to do is gross out other people with my yucky retainers!

Well anyway, today my younger daughter got her expander, and Dr. Vogt took at look at my retainer. He agreed that the new gaps are not a desired outcome. We took another impression of my upper teeth (this time I choose strawberry flavor, which tasted much better). And I opted for blue with sparkles instead of plain pink. Dr. Vogt is going to add a wire near one tooth to encourage that new little gap to close. And this retainer will be made as thin as possible. Hopefully, if it sits more flush to my palate and is thinner, I will be able to speak more normally when I wear it. And if that's the case, I'll be glad to wear it around the clock if necessary. 

The new retainer will be ready after Jan. 1. In the mean time, Dr. Vogt made a few bends and adjustments in my current upper retainer to tighten things up. He also attempted to thin it out a little, which helps my speech a small degree. 


I had my teeth cleaned on Monday at my regular dentist. We did x-rays, as well. No new cavities to report (that's a relief!) Unfortunately, there is some gum recession on four teeth: the two front bottom teeth, and (to a lesser extent), two of the top teeth. I'm not happy about the recession on the lower front teeth. It doesn't look very good, and I think I'm going to need a tissue graft to restore it. This comes as some surprise. Truthfully, I hadn't noticed that level of recession on those teeth until the braces came off. Dr. Vogt said that they have looked like that for over a year (in other words, the recession has been "stable.") It was caused by the stress from the first six month of braces (pre-extraction). I suppose I just never noticed how "recessed" the gums were on those teeth. I am going to make an appointment with a Periodontist to discuss the matter. I don't know if I'll need a graft now, or if it could wait until later. Uugh, I'm not looking forward to it.

I also discussed the bonding and new lower composite fillings with my dentist. The fillings would be covered by insurance; the bonding probably would not. However, it's not as expensive as I'd feared: only about $160 per "surface," and I expect to have 3 or 4 surfaces done on my upper teeth (one functional gap, 1 to 3 aesthetic gaps -- depending on how the teeth settle in after the retainers do their job). I had originally thought that I'd need to wait 5 or 6 months before getting this work done, but today Dr. Vogt said 2 or 3 months is fine. I'm pretty excited about that, because it means that my teeth will be completely "finished" before the summer!

Am I happy about spending extra money for gum grafting and bonding? Of course not. But I'm realistic. I never expected to come out of this experience with totally perfect teeth and no problems. When those gaps weren't closing after months of power chains and tie wires, I knew I'd need bonding. The recession/grafting is an unpleasant surprise. But I hope that's the end of it. I'm getting pretty tired of having all this work done in my mouth. My husband asked me if I have "buyer's remorse." No, I don't. I really wanted straight teeth, and now I have them. It's just going to take a little more time and work to get things the way I want. Then, I'm leaving it alone. 


Whitening: The new frontier. Trays or strips? 22%, 18%, 16%? Carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide? It can be really confusing. I used about half of the Rembrandt 2-hour Whitening Kit and so far I like the results. However, the 18.5% solution was burning my gums. I decided to take a break from whitening for a few days.

My dentist said that his patients have gotten really nice results with the Crest Whitestrips. He had a kit (I've seen it in dental supply catalogues -- it contains a higher concentration of solution on the strip than the one you get in the drugstore -- plus a spinbrush and some toothpaste). It was actually cheaper for me to buy one from him than to buy a case from the dental supplier (especially with a $10 consumer rebate). Besides, I didn't want to buy a case -- I just wanted one!

The Whitestrips use a 6.5% hydrogen peroxide solution (the tray whiteners are usually carbamide peroxide). I have used the Whitestrips for 3 days now and I can see some gradual changes, but have suffered no gum or tooth sensitivity. My teeth already have white spots from Fluoridosis, and the Whitestrips seem to be evening things out. I plan to continue using the Whitestrips for the full 21 days. At some point, I'll probably use the rest of the Rembrandt kit, as well. I'm really happy that the yellow band at the middle of my teeth has faded -- and my teeth are getting whiter!

The Whitestrips are really easy to use. They come individually packaged. You peel off the membrane-thin clear plastic sheet and place it on your top and bottom teeth. The sheet wraps around the tops and bottoms to make a rather custom fit. You can go about your business while they're on. The instructions recommend wearing them twice a day for 30 minutes per treatment. 


The saga of the bad skin continues. Yes, I saw my dermatologist, and she agreed that it's time to take some oral medication to clear it up. Place the blame on my 40-something hormones going haywire. I'm on Minocycline, a type of Tetracycline. My skin is dry as sandpaper from all the topical stuff (uugh, I HATE that), but I take solace in the knowledge that it is all temporary, and my skin will be back to looking -- at least passable -- in a few weeks! In the mean photos for you guys! Sorry, I guess I'm just too vain. I promise to take a nice picture when my face is more presentable!

z Saturday, January 1, 2005 

Happy New Year, everyone!

Before I launch into a report about life in retainers, I want to ask you to please consider donating (even a small amount of money) to one of the relief organizations helping the victims of last month's horrible earthquake/tsunami disaster. Most of the people affected are the poorest of the poor -- they didn't have much to begin with, and now they have lost everything, including so many innocent loved ones.  My heart goes out to everyone who is struggling with this terrible tragedy. Please begin your new year with a much-needed act of charity. Thank you.


Next week I'm getting a new upper retainer, which I hope will be thinner and easier to speak with. Actually, I have been getting used to wearing my "old" one, and have even ventured out in public with it. My speech is still a bit "off" when I wear it, but I suppose my tongue has adapted, so I don't sound too abnormal. I'm getting to the point where it doesn't bother me anymore....THANK GOD!!!

One challenge of retainer wear is remembering to put the darned thing back in your mouth. I find that, despite my good intentions, I go many more hours without the retainer than I had planned. I just plain forget to put it back in -- and then it's almost time for another meal, so it doesn't make sense to put it back in for a half hour and then remove it again. So I'm trying harder to remember to replace it after eating. 

So far, it doesn't look like the retainer is cinching up those final gaps in my teeth (particularly the upper molar gap where food gets caught). My teeth are so darned stubborn! We'll see if the new upper retainer does any good in that realm. I'm still figuring on getting bonding done on those teeth in a couple of months.


My skin is finally clearing up. Phew! I tell ya,'s bad enough being 44 and looking "older" than you used to...but dealing with wrinkles and acne at the same time really sucks. 

The creams that the dermatologist gave me continue to leave my face looking sand-blasted in spots -- but that actually has an advantage, believe it or not -- it makes the wrinkles go away, too! (It's the same highly acidic stuff they prescribe for wrinkle reduction). 

Sometimes my skin is so dry, it's like a huge desert where my eyes are the only oasis. I'm so thankful for oil-free moisturizer! The antibiotic seems to be doing its job pretty well and finally isn't upsetting my stomach anymore. So all in all, it's getting better --  but I still hate having to take drugs for this. Half  the time I feel totally unpresentable and dread going out to face people. Some days, makeup doesn't really hide it very well. Needless to say, I'm still pretty upset about these breakouts, but now I'm hopeful because my skin seems to be making some progress.


It has been two months since my surgery, and I have regained a lot of mobility in my left arm and shoulder. Of course, I have been working hard at it, going to physical therapy twice a week and doing the exercises at home (including that really painful one with the 2-lb weight). So all my hard work is paying off. At this point, I have about 85% total mobility restored. We are still working on my left arm's "outward rotation" and the last 10% of overhead reach and behind-the-back reach. We're now moving toward strengthening exercises with the Therabands and I think in a couple of weeks I'll be on the weightlifting machines. This all makes me very happy, because of course I was worried that wouldn't fully recover.

I'm sleeping better, although I still do wake up with some amount of pain or aches in my left arm/shoulder several times per night. Instead of an "ouch, that really hurts" sort of pain, it has faded into a "gee, that feels stiff and achy" sort of pain.  Hopefully the pain will completely go away as the months pass. I can now sleep on my left side for short periods, which is a big improvement!

So, while things have been improving, I have felt well enough to  do regular workouts. I haven't done much aerobic exercise at all since my surgery in late October. When you're in pain, you just don't feel like doing aerobics! A couple of weeks ago, I began sporadically riding the exercise bike. Last week I felt well enough to be energetic on the bike, so I decided to get back to my usual every-other-day aerobic routine. This is a routine where I do strengthening exercises one day and aerobic exercise the next. Of course, the strengthening is all lower-body stuff for now (legs, abs, back). 

This week I finally got back outside and started jogging again. I'm doing the "walk-jog" routine and slowly trying to build back my endurance (at this point, the most I jog in one shot is 3 minutes, with a total of about 18 minutes of jogging broken down into 1,2, and 3 minute blocks with walking in between). I put on my MP3 player, which is loaded with great songs, and get out there in the cool fresh feels SO FANTASTIC!!!!


My New Year's Resolutions

Hopefully I'll be able to keep these!

1. Exercise regularly (both strengthening and aerobic). See how long I can jog without killing my knees.

2. Try to lose about 10 lbs with exercise and watching my food intake (lay off the junk calories). Eat more veggies.

3. Carve out a block of time each day to meditate. (This one is really tough...30 minutes of sitting still seems almost impossible on some days....this one will take a lot of discipline!)

4. Get back to playing my guitar and bass. Review various scales, learn some new stuff, improve speed and accuracy.

5. Keep writing.

6. Continue connecting with the local poetry scene, get out there and get further published.

7. Spend more quality time with my husband and kids.

8. Continue learning the fundamentals of Buddhist philosophy.

9. Get enough sleep every night.

10. Drink more water.

11. Try harder not to be late for appointments (I'm chronically 15 minutes late and I really hate that!)

z Sunday, January 16, 2005 

2005 is off to a pretty good start. I've actually been able to keep a bunch of my resolutions. Hopefully I'll be able to keep it up for the entire year!

Last week I got a new upper retainer, pictured to the left here. This one has a couple of extra wires. The wires push a couple of the teeth to the side, and ultimately help close some little gaps. And guess what? It's working! One gap used to be about 2 mm, and now it's almost closed! Three cheers for the Hawley Retainer! I don't know how much tweaking Dr. Vogt plans to do with the retainers in the next few months. I still have a few other gaps and have resigned that they will be fixed with bonding in a couple of months.

I've been a very good girl and have worn my retainers about 18 hours per day on most days. I suppose I've gotten used to them, because I don't lisp quite as much when I speak, and sometimes I forget that I'm wearing them. At first I really hated the Hawley retainers; particularly the upper. It made my upper palate feel claustrophobic. (I know that sound strange, but it's true). It really did take a while to get used to it.

So, my advice to the newly retained is: give it a month; it will get better.


I have taken a break from the tooth whitening because, after a bunch of sessions, one tooth got really sensitive. Yeah, only one tooth. Go figure. It's not unbearable, just a little annoying. So I'm brushing with Sensodyne for a couple of weeks before I resume.

I'm trying to decide if I should get my teeth professionally whitened before doing the bonding. And I don't mean the tray method -- I'm thinking of something like Brite Smile, mostly because of the white Fluoridosis marks on many teeth. It's rather expensive (around $500), but I look at it this way: once I get the bonding done, I won't have an opportunity to change my mind. The bonding material is usually matched to the color of the teeth. So if I do further whitening in the future, the bonding won't match. See my dilemma? I don't want a blinding white "fake-looking" smile, but I would like my teeth to be a little whiter than they are now, to make the Fluoridosis stains less noticeable. Is it worth $500? I'm still not sure. I'm still thinking about it. I might go to a local place for a consultation.

Lest you think I get a discount anyplace because I do this website, think again. It will be $500 out of my pocket. So I have to discuss this with my husband...


My regular physical therapist, Tim, returned last week. The poor guy had shoulder surgery similar to mine (actually his was more complicated). He's suffering with a lack of mobility, but he can still do his job, which amazes me. Anyway, the other PTs in the office are good, but somehow Tim has a way of working magic. After two sessions last week, I'm up from 85% to 95% mobility restored. Way to go, Tim!

And even better: I started doing the weight machines! I did the bench press and three others. Wahoo! Of course, wow did I pay for it later -- really sore. Those muscles haven't been worked in months. Before the surgery they weren't very strong, so I have a long way to go before I'm totally toned in my upper body. And an even longer time before I'm totally healed and done with physical therapy. I hate to bitch and moan, but I'm really tired of going twice a week. Yeah, I know that I have to go -- it's just hard to schedule those two 2-hour sessions into my week when I have so many other things to do. At least I'm making progress -- that motivates me to go and get through it.


My complexion is getting much better. I've been on the Minocycline for a month, and I think my dermatologist will keep me on it for a while. I'm actually looking decent enough to pose for a photo, so I think I'll finally post a new one for next month's update. Depending on what topical product I use, my skin can get very dry. But the breakouts seem to have stopped, and I can see visible signs of deep clearing. What a relief! 

Still, I don't know if I'm truly out of the woods. This acne was caused by the hormonal rollercoaster in my semi-middle-aged-body. And that won't be changing any time soon. 

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