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Of Braces and Home Improvement

an orthodontic journal

April to May 2003
z Tuesday, April 1 

I had thought about writing a humorous fake "braces horror" story for today (April 1st, April Fool's Day), but Hubby didn't think that you guys would find it amusing. Well, maybe he's right.

In any event, we do have something new and fun for this month -- our first contest. The theme is: "Your most embarrassing moment in braces." The contest received entries from around the world, so have fun reading the stories and cast your vote!

I had another braces dream the other day. In real life, I had just gone for another adjustment. I guess my teeth were aching a bit in my sleep. I dreamed that the power chains needed trimming, so I took some scissors and snipped at them. To my horror, I snipped one off. "Oh great," I thought, "Now I have to run back to the doctor to have this fixed and he's going to give me such shit about it!"  When I woke up, I thought it really a strange dream. Why would anyone want to trim their power chains? Perhaps subconsciously I really want to finish with the chains already. Well LOL, the gaps aren't closed yet so it will be a few more months.

I asked Dr. Vogt if he thought that doubling up the chains or elastics was a good idea. He said that in his opinion, as long as the teeth are moving (even slowly), he doesn't like to mess with it. He said that if the teeth showed no progress for a few months, he'd consider it. But my teeth are moving, albeit slowly. He said that my gaps are closing slower than average: it has been 9 months since my extractions.

A few of my teeth have actually become a speck crooked in the past month. Dr. Vogt said that once the gaps are closed, we'll do some "fine tuning" to get things looking as perfect as possible.

Last month I wrote about the Zone Perfect bars. I wanted to report that I've tried some of the chocolate flavors, and they also are rather like a Rice Krispy treat, and not too chewy. I haven't tried any of the "caramel" flavors yet, so I can't tell you about those yet, but I assume they're chewy.

The end is within sight for my daughter's broken leg. April 16 is the magic day that she gets her cast completely off. We can't wait! Pushing her around in a wheelchair has taken its toll on all of us. My daughter is beginning to get really antsy. And me -- I have re-injured my shoulder pushing her up and down those ramps at school. I have calcium deposits near my rotator cuff and every so often they give me trouble. The last few days my left shoulder and neck have been KILLING me!

As I write, I'm on major prescription anti-inflammatories. I'm seeing the orthopedist soon, and will have a few different consultations with different orthopedists. I've had physical therapy for this before, (and I do special exercises on a regular basis), but it obviously keeps coming back. I think it's time to take a more aggressive approach and have arthroscopic surgery or something. I want those damned calcium deposits OUT already and I want to be able to do stuff without risking severe pain in my neck and shoulder. How did I get them in the first place? I think it's from holding my daughters mainly with my left arm when they were infants (i.e., repetitive stress injury). I never had this problem before having kids.

Last month's Braces Poll had an interesting result. How much did your braces cost you? On average, $4-5,000US. What really surprised me was the number of people who said that their orthodontic treatment exceeded $8,000US.

z Tuesday, April 8 

Today was my third cleaning since getting braces. It went pretty well. As usual, the Cavitron whirred and spurted away, followed by some scraping, polishing, and flossing. Apparently, the gum tissue at the two lower banded molars could be better. I suppose that since I don't floss them as much, the gums haven't been stimulated enough. The hygienist gave me rubber-tipped instrument and suggested massaging those gums with it. Other than that, it was a good cleaning and a good checkup.

This month I have silver colored power chains. I ate some curry last week. Much to my surprise, they didn't turn yellow, but green! They stayed light green for a few days, and now they seem to be back to their original silver color. Interesting. I don't mind green chains. But yellow looks just too yucky for me to stand. Maybe I'll stick with the silver. I had smoke colored ones a few months ago, but I didn't eat any curry that month, so maybe I'll try them again just to see how curry affects them. 

After my next adjustment, I plan to add a new photo of my treatment progress.


Today I was at school helping my older daughter at lunchtime. One of her friends remarked that we look alike (my daughter also has brown hair and we wear similar colored glasses -- I wear glasses for driving). My daughter said (jokingly), "Yeah, and I bet one day soon I'll be getting braces and then I'll look like a real dork, with braces and glasses, Dwoyyyy!" 

I laughed and said, "Just like your Mom, eh?" Her friends covered their mouths and giggled. "Aw Mom, I didn't mean YOU," my daughter declared. 

"Darned right," I told her. "You have the coolest Mom in the school and don't you forget it!" 

That kid gets out of her wheelchair in 8 MORE DAYS! Let's hear it for broken bones that heal! 


My shoulder is doing much better and I'm finally out of pain. The doctor gave me a cortisone shot (I've never had one before; it was interesting). Despite the improvement, I probably will have arthroscopic surgery sometime in the next few months. I go for a second opinion in a couple of weeks. I'd like to be able to play my guitar for hours WITHOUT any resulting pain. Not to mention doing bicep curls, flies, and pushups like I used to.  And it would be nice to play softball with my younger daughter, or tennis with Hubby without days of pain afterward.


As you may have noticed, I finally moved the photo gallery. It is now on the same host as this website, so there will be no access problems. Photos have been coming in, and I'm adding them as quickly as I can. I plan to update the photo gallery about once per week with any new pictures I receive. I'm sure the gallery will evolve as time goes on. Thanks to everyone for their photos! It's nice to be able to share photos and stories with everyone on the site!


This is totally off-topic, but have you been receiving the new gibberish-subject SPAM emails? SPAM emailers have reached a new low. Tired of being rejected by smart filters, they have resorted to sending emails with subject lines such as "bwana flort?" or "goodjeb hallod!" Oh yeah, that gets MY attention, alright....right into the trash folder. DELETE!!! As they said on Seinfeld, "....No clicks for you!"

z Tuesday, April 15

There was an interesting topic recently in the Metal Mouth Forum. A reader from the UK said that her orthodontist put springs on her teeth during her first adjustment (I don't envy her; that's one hell of a first adjustment!) The orthodontist hadn't told her that he was going to do this, and it was a complete surprise -- she didn't know about it until she looked in the mirror after the adjustment! When she questioned him about it, the ortho shrugged it off, saying that she needed the springs to help rotate a couple of teeth.

Personally I think this sort of attitude is very rude. We pay thousands of dollars to get our teeth straightened and I think we deserve some communication about the process. But remember  that communication is a two-way street. Some doctors (medical, dental, or whatever) never go out of their way to tell you the details of a procedure; you must ask. This is where it pays to be an informed and assertive consumer.

This communication can be a challenge in itself, because most of the time, the assistant does your adjustment and the ortho just pops over to take a quick look. If you're not satisfied that your questions have been answered, don't be shy about telling your ortho that you need to speak to them. Sure, it's a busy practice with lots of patients and a tight schedule, but you're paying your x-thousand dollars and you deserve your 5 minutes (or more if necessary).

Whenever I have an adjustment, I ask my ortho how it's going -- how do things look this month? Will I need anything new, or is it the "same old"? No treatment plan is set in stone. Your bite and your teeth change as your treatment progresses, and each adjustment brings the possibility of changes.

Our UK reader was worried that she was wrong to be miffed at her ortho. As most other readers responded, hell no! She had every right to be angry. If I had been in her place, I certainly would have been. After all, you're paying for ORTHOdontics, not EGOdontics!

So, the moral of our story: be an assertive and informed patient, and remind your ortho that you're an adult, not a 9-year-old!


Today my older daughter was supposed to get that darned cast off her leg, but no go. The doctor wants her to stay in it for another week, to walk on it. Well, at least I don't have to push that wheelchair anymore. The bone is apparently 80 percent healed. *SIGH*


The contest was a lot of fun. Congrats to Dave, Matt, and Mary, our top three prize winners!  That headgear hand mitt story is a classic! We'll do another contest in a few months; most likely Braces Haiku! Don't worry if you've never written a poem in your life; haikus are easy and fun. I'll include complete instructions on writing them, so everyone can take a crack at it!

z Wednesday, April 30

Another month, another adjustment. Things have been pretty stable for my teeth. The gaps are closing SLOWLY and there is definitely progress. During my last adjustment, Dr. Vogt kept looking in my mouth..."hmmmm.....hmmmmm," he said. All that hmmmm-ing amounted to a stronger arch wire on my bottom teeth. They are beginning to rotate inward slightly, and he wants to bring them back out into proper position. 

The new arch wire did make my teeth ache for a few days, but now things are pretty much status-quo again. I got smoke-colored power chains. I had assumed that once the gaps were closed, the power chains would come off and regular ligatures would go on instead. However, it seems that I'll be wearing the power chains until the bitter end. Once the spaces are closed, Dr. Vogt wants to keep them that way. I won't be surprised if I wind up having a permanent retainer put on the back of my teeth after this is all finished. A small price to pay.

I posted this new photo (with the smoke-colored power chains) on the Photos page. Today I had curry for lunch, and I thought it might be interesting to compare a "before curry" photo with an "after curry" photo. 

This photo was taken when the smoke-colored power chains were newly attached. They seem to disappear on the brackets, which is surprising, because they are gray. The silver-colored ones are also very similar.


This photo shows the power chains after a curry lunch and ONE brushing with a manual toothbrush (non-whitening toothpaste). They only look slightly green/yellow. I expect the greenish tinge to fade after a couple of brushings. Not too bad; certainly better than the "clear" ones which become shocking yellow and stay that way. I don't know whether I prefer this, or the light blue (which turns green and then fades to light teal). If only someone would invent elastic ligatures and chains which are CURRY resistant!!!


Speaking of photos, several new people were added to the ArchWired Photo Gallery, so check it out if you're so inclined. A few are finished, and I'm waiting on some info to add a few more (in the next couple of days). Thanks to everyone who submitted photos this month!


The results of April's survey are not surprising.  Most insurance plans don't cover adult orthodontics. Orthodontic coverage is a hit-and-miss thing. Sometimes you find a plan you can buy as an individual, but you have to go to an ortho in their network, which is either too far from your house, or isn't someone you'd necessarily want treating you. Sometimes you're lucky. If you have insurance that covers any amount of your orthodontic treatment, consider yourself part of the fortunate minority. At times I get emails asking for advice on orthodontic insurance. I can't really offer any. I don't have any personal experience with the plans offered on the internet. My best advice is: before buying any insurance plan, always research it carefully and thoroughly.

Also, be aware that if you are already in the midst of orthodontic treatment, most plans will not cover you for the rest of your treatment. In other words, if your treatment is "already in progress," you're out of luck. So if you want to sign up for an orthodontic plan, do it months before you start any treatment, and be sure that there is no "waiting period" involved!


Last Monday, my daughter's leg cast was removed! At first she needed crutches, but now she is limping around on her own. We arranged for her to have physical therapy. The joints in her foot and ankle are very stiff, and that's what they're working on. Her leg and knee are fine. Phew! I am SO GLAD that whole scenario is FINISHED! Will my daughter ever ski again? That's entirely up to her. If she decides not to, we'll certainly understand.


It's funny what you begin to notice when you have braces and become hyper-aware of other people's teeth (which I WASN'T before this whole process). I saw the new thriller Identity in the movie theater the other day. I'm a big fan of John Cusack and Ray Liotta. Well, if you see that film (which I recommend, because it was really great), you can't help but notice John Cusack's bottom teeth: crooked as bunch of drunken sailors! Lots of close-ups, lots of crooked bottom teeth shots. Throughout the movie, I kept thinking, "Hey John, it must be a real pain to floss them!" His top teeth look pretty nice, and he's a handsome guy; maybe he should try Invisalign! But then again, if YOU had HIS money and celebrity, and you could get any woman you wanted, would you really care how your bottom teeth looked? Hmmm....

z Wednesday, May 7

I've eaten curry a bunch of times since getting these smoke-colored power chains, and so far I'm pretty happy with them. They have turned a very slight yellowish green, and it's barely noticeable.  I don't know which I like better, the blue chains which turn light teal, or the smoke ones which turn green so subtly, you can barely see it. 

But overall, I'd have to say that I'm very happy with these smoke colored chains. They probably show the curry stains the least of everything I've tried so far.


That new heavier arch wire that Dr. Vogt put in a few weeks ago is definitely doing its stuff. My teeth don't hurt anymore, but I've noticed that a couple of the spaces here and there have changed. So the arch wire must be re-positioning those teeth.


My family and I are off to the UK and Paris for a couple of weeks. (Special thanks to a certain nice relative of ours for house-sitting while we're away!)

So if I'm not making a presence here at the site, that's why. I'll be lurking here and there when I have internet access, and maybe post a trip report over on the Metal Mouth Forum. My high school French is incredibly rusty, and much to my dismay, I haven't had time to "bone up" on French as I'd have liked. Hubby dove into a Berlitz course, and he's so good at languages, I'm sure he'll be able to make the waiters laugh a lot less than I would. My favorite romance language is Italian. We learned basic Italian for a trip we took about 10 years ago. I found it so easy and straightforward, and I did really well in it. My second favorite is Brazillian Portuguese. So lyrical and lovely; I could listen to it all day long. I knew how to speak it pretty well about 15 years ago (for a long trip to Brazil), but now alas, all I remember is "shta chovendu" (it's raining). We Americans are pitiful, aren't we? 


FYI, DentaKit is "closed" until I get back. You can place an order, but I won't process or ship it for two weeks. Any orders placed now should reach you by around May 29.

z Thursday, May 22

What an incredible two weeks we have had! London, Dublin, and Paris. Nobody broke their leg, nobody got sick from anything. As I had expected, my poor memory of French frustrated me ("damn, how did I use to say that?")...over and over again. But "eclair" is the same in any language! ;-)

I won't bore you with minute detail of my trip. The highlights included:

  • Going to a performance of Richard II at the reconstructed Globe Theater on the banks of the Thames.

  • Finally getting to see the changing of the guard after all these years (and two previous trips to London). Is it to be enjoyed or endured? I'm still not sure...

  • Seeing the wonderous Book of Kells and drinking a pint of freshly brewed Guinness in a typical pub (cheers!)

  • Realizing that my kids are actually learning something about Medieval history from this trip.

  • Seeing the look on my kids' faces when they realize how HUGE some of the artwork is in the Louvre and the Museum d'Orsay (and wow, the REAL Mona Lisa, Mom!)

  • Shamelessly devouring all the French pastries, fresh cheeses, and artisian chocolates we could possibly eat in 6 days. Diets be damned!

  • Accidently walking in to Notre Dame cathedral just before a church service and enjoying that incredible pipe organ while viewing all the relics, architecture, and artwork.

  • After eating a sandwich, brushing my very messy ucky teeth in the bathroom of the Rodin museum and enduring dirty looks; wishing I could say a few choice words to them in French.

  • Riding the Metro everywhere and staying out until almost midnight every night, enjoying Paris.

One very personal humorous moment came to me when I was squashed against the fence with my kids watching the changing of the guard in London. It was hot and I was really uncomfortable. And that's when my weird wild imagination set in. 

In front of me were the soldiers in their red uniforms, big bearskin hats and shiny black shoes, all lined up in rows. And the band was playing. Suddenly I wished they could break into a tap number. Yes, they would hoof around, using their bayonet guns as canes and their bearskin hats would become large tophats. The old guard and new guard would challenge each other to elaborate tap routines. And in a final climax, the Queen herself dances out of the doors of the palace, does an impressive little number and gets lifted up on their shoulders. Bravo! Now THAT would be a show. Why hasn't anyone choreographed that yet?! 


So I've eaten curry a bunch of times this month (several in London; yum) and in some places, my smoke colored power chains have turned green. Fortunately, the front part looks fine. But if you look closely at the sides of my smile, you see the green tinge. It isn't bad, just not as attractive as non-green. Better than yellow, certainly. I suppose I'll keep the smoke color ones when I get my next adjustment. When you eat curry, it seems that no color of ligature or chain is really perfect. Some are just less terrible than others.


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