My First Day in Braces

experiences of ArchWired readers

 Craig from Illinois

I am 32 years old and a high school teacher, so the last thing I wanted to do was get braces! I am now wearing them for the first time ever; I had them put on in June.

I was told when I was younger that I would need them as an adult and that I would have to have orthognathic (jaw) surgery to correct my open bite and cross bite. It was something that they had to wait on so that my mouth would be done developing, I guess. Well, needless to say, I didn't have the braces at 18 or the surgery because I got busy with college, etc.

About a year ago, I started having TMJ problems, though, so I decided the time to do this is now. I spent a year getting consultations and battling with my insurance company to get them to cover the surgery (they will). Due to my age, I was NOT able to get any coverage for the braces, but the surgery (which could be in the range of $20,000 to $40,000) will be all covered. I am wearing metal Damon braces, both upper and lower. The surprising thing to me and others is that I need braces at all, since my teeth are mostly very straight, but the braces are need to help align my teeth for post-surgery.

I have had the uppers on for almost two months, and the lowers for about one month. I was terrified of getting braces because of all the stories I read about the pain, but really, my pain has been minimal. The actual process of having the braces on didn't hurt at all, it was just annoying. Having that stretcher device in your mouth for so long is annoying, but it doesn't hurt. Your neck gets stiff from having sit still for so long, and you can't wait until you can sit up again (it only takes about 45 min. each time, but seems longer).

The biggest shock for me was how "tight" the braces felt on my teeth - not painful, just the actual presence of having them there. I kept reaching up to scrape them off, because it felt like food or something was stuck on my teeth, but that's just how they feel at first. It took me about five days to get used to eating with braces and having them on. There was mild pain with some individual teeth when I would eat. The hardest part was how the little balls and hooks where the rubber bands are looped onto scratch against the inner cheeks. My cheeks were very irritated, and I did use the wax, but not very much. I didn't want to get dependent on the wax, and what I found is that after about a week or so, my cheeks toughened up. Now there is hardly any irritation, and you don't feel the "tightness" after a while. Although I probably will feel it again after my first adjustment.

I only have to have ten-week adjustments, which is nice. Eating is difficult because you do want to avoid hard foods the first few days, but eventually you can eat almost anything you want, so long as you are careful. What's really disgusting is how much food gets stuck in the braces. I find myself brushing and flossing like crazy, which is good, I suppose! Eating out with friends is embarrassing, though, because E am afraid to talk with food stuck in my teeth. I have become pretty good at rinsing it out without being too obvious! And brushing your teeth in a public restroom can be embarrassing, and even pretty gross depending on the quality of the restroom! I recommend always carrying a travel toothbrush and one of those tiny cone-shaped brushes for going into tight places -- you'll be glad you have them with you at times!!

I have read on this site where people have had excruciating pain the day after their braces went on, but I honestly never had that, though I did take Tylenol anyway to possibly prevent any pain. Once you get through those first few days, you're past the hard part. And having the bottoms put on was not as bad as the tops because I knew what to expect. I will be in braces for 18-24 months, then I will have upper and lower jaw surgery, and then the braces will stay on another 6 months or so. Not looking forward to the surgery, yet at the same time I am very anxious to get it over with!!

If any of you are thinking about not getting braces, my advice would be DO NOT WAIT. Do it now so you don't look back in ten years and wish you did it before!

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