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Of Braces and Home Improvement

now it's a post-orthodontic journal

October to December 2006 
« z » Sunday, October 1 

A couple of months ago, I learned about a new TV sitcom that was going to feature an adult woman wearing braces. I was disappointed that the show was going to be called "Ugly Betty," mainly because I hate the stereotype that wearing braces turns you into a dork, a frump, a homely dateless get the picture. I never felt ugly or frumpy in the 3 years I wore my ceramic and metal brackets. Not to mention the elastic bands. No, I actually felt confident and....well....kinda cute. I was a "cute" 40-something woman in my braces. In our vanity-conscious society, I'll take "cute" at age 43 any day! It was better than Botox for my self-confidence.

Still, I was concerned. What if this Ugly Betty show became popular and our ArchWired members were suddenly earmarked as "ugly" just because they had braces? Life in braces is tough enough without coworkers or friends joking around, calling you "Ugly Jennifer" or whatever. And I was worried that adults who were contemplating orthodontic treatment (especially women) would be turned off if this character was viewed in a bad light, and the "ugliness" of braces became even more embedded in our society's consciousness.

But as I learned more about the show, I understood why the word "ugly" was part of the title. The show is based on a popular Hispanic novella (soap opera-type show) called Yo Soy Betty La Fea. That roughly translates to "I am Betty the Ugly One." So I suppose they felt it necessary to use the word "ugly" in the title to get the point across. The executive producer is Salma Hayak, a very talented actress who, hopefully, wouldn't create a show that makes fun of women. Yes, I was hopeful -- that Salma was a feminist with a conscience who wouldn't poke fun at someone just to make a buck.

Well, most of my fears were dismissed when I saw the first episode last Thursday night. Betty is actually a very intelligent, capable, hard working young woman (I would say age 21 or 22) who happens to be slightly overweight, sports a pre-pubescent hairdo, and has no fashion sense whatsoever -- which is unfortunate considering that she just landed a new job at a high fashion magazine and is now surrounded by size -10 supermodels. It's The Devil Wears Prada meets Univisión -- minus Meryl Streep and Don Francisco. Betty seems to literally be the Mary Tyler Moore of her young Hispanic generation. And I think she will "make it after all" whether or not she has braces on her teeth.

Which brings us back to the braces. Yes, they certainly were on her teeth. In fact, one newspaper described her as having "braces on her braces." Indeed, she does have a mouth full of metal. But so far, it hasn't been a source of condemnation on the show. Betty is viewed by everyone as a package -- a very frumpy overzealous package with a huge metal mouth smile.

And maybe that's a good thing. Because she isn't hiding her braces at all. In fact, she doesn't hesitate to give everyone a huge lip-popping grin. Betty is obviously comfortable with her braces, and I don't think she cares what other people think of them. When you think about it, she's actually setting a great example for us.

I don't know how much attention the writers and producers of this show will pay to her braces. Will they show her in the company restroom, grossing out the catty models as she flosses spinach from her teeth? Will we see her in pain after an orthodontic adjustment? Will her braces get caught on an expensive one-of-a-kind couture sweater, causing it to unravel? Will she wear rubber bands that cause her to mis-pronounce her words and create havoc on the phone with an important client? Wait, maybe one of her rubber bands could pop off and hit an evil model in the eye, causing her to wear an ugly black eye patch during an important runway show! Jeez, they should come to me for ideas, because I could cook up some doozies. Personally, I think Betty should discover, because we all would give her our full support.

Somehow, I don't think we should be worried about this show. Because although the models and magazine staff seem to abhor Betty because of her sub-par appearance, the audience knows that she has a heart of gold. Which really reduces the importance of a mouth of metal.

So I give my kudos to the creators of Ugly Betty. Nevertheless, they'd better watch their step. Because if they start poking fun at her braces, they will have OUR community to answer to. And that could indeed get very very ugly!

Thursday, November 1 

Last month's poll was very interesting. I asked, "What is the number one most important thing that your orthodontist can provide to you?" I was not surprised that Time to listen to my concerns got about 40% of the votes.

FYI, I plan to write an article about this for one of the dental/orthodontic trade magazines. I'm not sure if most Orthos realize how important it is that they listen to us and address our questions and concerns. Perhaps the statistics from this poll will catch their attention and validate the topic.

Some docs are very chatty, while others barely say two words to you during the monthly adjustment. If you are not happy with the amount of communication at your Ortho's office, then speak up! Schedule a separate conference if necessary. True, your doc may be very busy, but if you have questions, you deserve to get answers!


I'm sitting here sore as hell, but fortunately it's a good soreness. Recently my husband and I decided to join a gym, after years of exercising at home. The deciding factor in this change was a chance workout my husband recently did at a hotel gym. He realized that our Bowflex just wasn't cutting muster. We've had it for 5 years, and my husband was appalled at how little he could bench press now compared to pre-Bowflex. He wants to give the Bowflex the heave-ho.

I must admit, I've been getting pretty bored of the same old routine at home, although I do try to mix it up. I like the convenience of exercising at home, and I thought the Bowflex was OK for me mainly because I'm not lifting huge amounts of weight. Now I realize that it hasn't been giving me the best results, either.

After seeing a personal trainer (part of the new member package) and getting a program done for me, I am more sore than I've been in years. And that was with light weights and only two sets of reps! The trainer took into account my back, neck, knee, and shoulder problems and gave me a program to build up my strength and core stability (a combination of machines and mat work, some with a large stability ball). Some of the machines are the ones I did in physical therapy both for my back and my shoulder, so I know they will not hurt me.

This morning, it was so hard to get out bed; everything ached! But (she smiles) yea, my back doesn't hurt at all! I'm giving my body a break from the weights for a few days and taking this very slowly so I don't get hurt. This all comes at a really good time. At the beginning of the year, I had resolved to lose 10 lbs. By April I had lost 5 lbs, but somehow gained it back (which is weird for me, because I usually don't yo-yo.)  It turns out, my thyroid had slowed down -- which explains why I was also so tired all the time. After some blood tests, I'm now on a higher dose of Synthroid. But I can't totally blame my thyroid -- it is also my inability to be consistent. To lose weight you need to exercise consistently. It doesn't have to be every day, but it should be several days per week. I was letting too many things derail me. When you have a busy life, it's easy to get derailed and make excuses. But in the end, you suffer because of the compromises you make. Now I'm going to try harder to stick to the plan and make it a higher priority.

After exercising purely at home for the past 5 years, it's difficult to adjust to getting into my car and driving to a gym. But once I'm there, I'm THERE and I have trouble leaving! Having the discipline to get myself there (it's only 10 minutes from home) is the challenge! Some busy days, I have literally looked at the clock and said, "OK, I have 30 minutes to do the exercise bike and 5 minutes to cool down before picking up the kids from school!" So now I have to do more planning to get over to the gym. They have such a great variety of aerobic equipment there that I can do a lot of cross-training. I have really missed the electronic machines with the built-in programs!

In addition, I plan to continue to ride my bike and play tennis on occasional weekends while the weather is still good. Hey, I just realized that I never mentioned my new bike! OK, sidebar time. A few months ago I decided to replace my old Diamondback mountain bike with a hybrid touring bike. The main reason was: hunching over the handlebars was bad for my neck and caused me a lot of pain. The cost of modifying my mountain bike was almost as much as getting a new bike, so I traded in my Diamondback and got a really nice Trek 7100 Multitrack with high, fully adjustable handlebars (tilt and everything); shock absorbers; 21 speeds; and an ultra-padded seat. It's a real "girl's bike" but I don't care. I have been able to adjust it to my needs so that it is totally comfortable to ride. Finally, I can ride with a smile instead of a wince!

At home, we plan to replace the Bowflex with a set of free weights and a small bench. (We also have a basic non-electronic exercise bike, a Nordic Track, and an Ab Roller-type thing). So I guess I'm getting a head start on next year's resolution. Hopefully I will be able to lose that stubborn 10 lbs after all. If I can keep ahead of the dreaded "middle age spread" I will be ahead of the game!

Thursday, December 1 

Well, I have been pretty successful in keeping up the regular exercise this month. I even exercised on Thanksgiving! How's that for dedication?! Some days I have been truly too tired to do anything, but most days I did at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (either on the exercise bike, the elliptical stepper, my outside road bike, playing tennis, or at home with my Nordic Trak). I am lifting weights 2 to 3 times per week and am getting really strong now -- making progress. Sometimes my neck and shoulders bother me (but it's rare for that region NOT to feel stiff since I have disc degeneration in my neck). I've been slowly increasing weight on all the machines as I feel is needed. My back has been GREAT. No problem at all. That makes me the happiest of all. My legs feel really strong. My tennis game has improved and I have more energy. I haven't felt this way in years, actually. It feels so terrific...actually normal.

Now that I'm doing so well with this stuff, I'm thinking of taking a class (the gym has all sorts of classes). I will probably try spinning. I think that at this point I could do a 65 minute (gulp) class, because a few times a week I have been doing 45 or 50 minutes on some machines. There are traditional aerobic classes (one is called Body Pump), but I will still wait a while to try those. I picture a bunch of 25-year-old size-2 women energetically bouncing around and leaving me in the dust....I'm just not ready for that yet. Maybe in a month or two....besides the potential humiliation factor, I want to get stronger and in better aerobic shape before I take one of those classes, so I don't hurt myself. What ever happened to good 'ol fashioned Low Impact Aerobics?! Seems like everything is "extreme" or "intense." Sheesh!

Oh yeah, and I have lost a pound and a half. You'd think that with all this extra activity the weight would come flying off. But I suppose my metabolism is a bit slow because of my thyroid problem. I eat sensibly, but I don't starve myself. I let myself have a cookie if I feel like it. Notice, I said "a cookie" not "a bunch of cookies." I'm careful....most of the time....

So I consider this all very good progress.

Hubby is donating the Bowflex to a local charity.

I got into a conversation with a lady at the gym the other day and she asked what I do, etc. Anyway, when I started telling her about this website and DentaKit, she said "Isn't that something. I was just standing here thinking what a nice smile you have." After all I've been through with my teeth, it is so great to hear that. For so much of my life I was embarrassed of my teeth and nobody ever said that my smile was nice. 


I had a bunch of annual health tests done and I'm very happy that things are just fine. Remember all that trouble I had during the summer with the reflux, that horrible allergic reaction, etc? I had an endoscopy done and there is NO DAMAGE to my insides. So, there is no need to take anything other than OTC Zantac if I feel that I need it. Basically, the Augmentin screwed me up. Seems like my upper digestive tract is particularly sensitive to that drug and it causes my mild reflux -- which my gastro doc said is "only a little more than a normal person's" -- to get really out of hand. I will NEVER take Augmentin again unless my life depends on it! And if I ever have to take inhalers for a cough, I will go really easy on them. So that was really good news. Some close relative of mine have serious gastro problems -- so I'm relieved that I'm not following in their footsteps as I had feared.

One thing that this has taught me: if I catch a cold, I will lay off the acids. No tea with honey. No juice. No Emgergen-C powder. All these years, I have unknowingly made my cough worse by giving myself reflux from all the acids. So that is a word of advice to you: if you have a bad cough, lay off the acidic foods and beverages -- because they could aggravate any sort of mild reflux condition you have and make your cough much worse.


Well, this will be the last entry in this blog. As you know, my orthodontic treatment ended quite a while ago, and I find that I don't have very many teeth-oriented things to say about myself these days. I have received many emails over the years from readers who say that my candor has inspired them. I'm glad, because I started this blog (which went on to become an entire website) to help people.

So, dear readers, thank you for taking the time to listen to my story. I will still be around, of course, on the Metal Mouth Message Board, where I am webmaster and wearer of all hats. If I have something important to say, I'll say it there. You can always communicate with me through the message board.

Happy Holidays to everyone. I wish you love, peace, and of course -- great teeth! Oh yeah....and WEAR YOUR RETAINERS!


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