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Of Braces and Home Improvement

an orthodontic journal

December 2002 to January 2003
z Sunday, December 1

What a busy month November was! I can't believe that it is actually the last month of the year. And, one year since I first seriously considered getting braces! At the end of this month, I will post a new photo of my teeth showing the progress.

The gaps have been slow in closing, but Dr. Vogt has been very pleased with my progress. I expected my teeth to absolutely KILL ME after he put the chains on all of them last month, but it hasn't been bad at all. They did hurt for a couple of days, then settled down. I was able to eat Thanksgiving turkey with no problem. Food is still getting stuck between the molars, however. I have to be super careful about keeping my teeth clean.

Here's something I've been meaning to mention. When I put my teeth together (especially the front ones), they creak! I'm not sure exactly what's creaking -- the teeth or the brackets. It has been this way for months. It doesn't bother me, but it's kinda weird, dontcha think?

This year, I cheated a bit at Thanksgiving. Because we were only having very immediate family at the dinner table (just my husband, my kids, and hubby's mom), I actually bought everything pre-made from the supermarket. I did very little cooking, and lots of "warming up." It was so incredibly stress-free, it was unbelievable! And the food was pretty good. The turkey was juicy and tender. And I didn't spend days slaving in my kitchen to prepare any of it! What more could you ask for? 

As we head into the holidays, I want to remind everyone to try to schedule their adjustments at least a week before any major event where eating takes place. If you try to plan it, at least you can enjoy special parties or dinners without major pain.

Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate the festival of lights. It came early this year! Braces make a great excuse to eat more of those latkes than usual -- as long as they're not too crunchy! 

I also want to thank those of you who have purchased a DentaKit from my other site. I hope you enjoy the product and that you find it helpful!

z Saturday, December 7

I went for a cleaning this past week. My diligence in cleaning my teeth has paid off. There was tartar, but nowhere near as much as 4 months ago. And the cleaning didn't take as long, either. I say: two thumbs up for my Sonicare!

Two days after the cleaning, my teeth ached slightly. I don't know if there's a connection. Probably just things shifting slightly. Food is still getting lodged between those two top molars, which is a major pain! I can't wait for that space to close up!

It's coming up on one year since I first got the braces, and I'm wondering when the dreaded rubber bands will be introduced. I assume that Dr. Vogt won't want me to use them until all the gaps are closed. I've got to say, I don't envy you people who have rubber bands. It sounds like a big pain -- changing them after each meal. Hopefully I won't need to have them on for long.

Some great news for this website: it's a winner of the Golden Web Award for 2002-2003! I have also applied for the Diamond Web Award. I think to win that one, you guys need to vote. So if you get a chance, please click on the "Diamond Web Award Applicant"  logo at the bottom of the home page and vote for this site! THANKS!

z Tuesday, December 10

News Flash! According to today's SF Chronicle newspaper, actor Nicholas Cage now has braces on his teeth!

First Tom Cruise, now Nick Cage. And Faye Dunaway (I think). Do you suppose John Cusack will ever get his crooked bottom teeth straightened? Well, knowing him, probably not. He doesn't seem like the type that has the patience for braces. It's interesting how some of these Hollywood men are opting for braces (whether out of necessity or esthetics). Who will be next? Perhaps we should have a fun poll in January: "Which celebrity needs braces the most?" 

OK, I'm in a goofy mood today, I'll admit it. Nothing new to report to you other than the blurb about Nick Cage. I have to get my butt in gear and try to interview these folks. IF (big "if") they would talk to me, it would be very interesting to hear about how braces affect their professional and personal lives. Hey Tom, Nick, and Faye: Enquiring Teeth Want to Know! Any readers out there have a Hollywood "in" that could help me? 

z Sunday, December 16

Well, as you can tell, I have re-designed the site and even re-named it to something a little more concise! I've been wanting to do this for a long time. I hope you like the new flow of things.

If you encounter any problems with any of the files, please drop me an email. I expect a few bugs at first.

z Thursday, December 19 - Elastics!

I saw Dr. Vogt for an adjustment, and much to my surprise, he started me on elastics. He said that the elastics will help to close the gaps quicker and start the process of aligning the teeth better. So, without any fanfare, I'm into the second phase of my treatment. I've had these braces on my teeth for almost a year, and I knew it would happen sooner or later.

The dental assistant showed me which teeth will be hooked up, and how to use the little elastics-stretching tool (a little plastic hook). The elastics form two little triangles on each side of my mouth. They stretch from one upper tooth to two lower teeth. 

At first, the feeling of pressure was a bit uncomfortable. But over the past few days, either I've become accustomed to it, or my teeth are moving and there isn't as much pressure as a result.

Dr. Vogt said that I only need to wear the elastics during sleep. But with all the research I've done, I know that it would be better to wear them more hours. I asked Dr. Vogt if it was OK for me to wear them during the day, and he said yes. Hey, I just want to get this over with -- the faster, the better!

So, when it's not inconvenient, I have been wearing them. My reaction is mixed. On one hand, when they're in, it's not too uncomfortable unless you try to open your mouth wide. On the other hand, it's a royal pain to keep changing the damn things every time I eat something.

Here's the drill: you wear them all the time. You take them off when you eat. Then you brush your teeth and put new ones on. 

In case you've never seen these elastics, they are tiny -- a circle smaller than the diameter of a pencil eraser. You need to stretch them pretty far to get them on the hooks of your braces. It takes some practice to do this without accidentally flinging the microscopic thing across the room, never to be found again. Good thing they come in packages of 100!

So far, I've become pretty good at just using my fingers to get them on and off. The elastics tool is in my DentaKit in my purse, and I've been too lazy to retrieve it to the bathroom. I stretch the elastic around my index finger to enlarge it, then use the thumb and index finger of the other hand to stretch it more and put it on the braces. In case you don't know, they are attached to the little hooks on your braces.

What does it feel like to have elastics on? A little weird. Here's a good analogy: when the elastics are on, it's like being in a business suit -- a little constricting, but you get used to it. When the elastics come off, it's like changing into a comfortable pair of sweats after work -- a big relief! 

I have to remember not to open my mouth too wide when I have them on. The other day, I was wearing them in the afternoon and I got angry at my kids. I never realized how wide I open my mouth when I yell. Ouch!  So, big yells and big yawns are out of the question for a while.

How long will I need to wear these things? Almost until treatment ends. Of course, over time the elastics will change position. Dr. Vogt might tell me to stop putting them on these teeth and move them to those teeth, etc. I just hope I don't have more than one pair in my mouth at any given time. That would be just a little too gothic.

So far, I haven't swallowed any elastics during my sleep, although I'm sure that day will come. Also, so far none have snapped in my mouth. I'm not looking forward to that eventuality! 

But strangely enough, I think the elastics are already doing their job. A couple of teeth seem to have shifted slightly. And that makes it more worthwhile to put up will all the inconvenience and discomfort.

Oh, one more thing. Tom Cruise has his braces off. That's according to his official publicist. Yes, I tried to get an interview, to no avail. The Nicolas Cage and Faye Dunaway people haven't gotten back to me. No doubt, they're not taking my request  seriously. C'est la vie....

z Friday, December 27 

Well, the elastics haven't been too much of an inconvenience. I've been wearing them at night and at odd hours during the day. They definitely put pressure on my teeth. It's only a little uncomfortable and very tolerable. I haven't even taken pain reliever for it.

I've worn them in "public" with no problems. I have noticed, however, that they make it a little difficult to speak. How can I explain it? It's not exactly a lisp. I just sound a little funny with the elastics on. I have a tendency to slur certain sounds, probably because I'm trying not to open my mouth too wide.

I think the elastics are doing their job already. It seems to me that at least one of the lower gaps has closed more since I've been wearing them. I forgot to mention -- at my last adjustment appointment, Dr. Vogt said that the gaps were 2/3 closed on the top and about half closed on the bottom. The process of closing these extraction gaps is slower than I'd expected, but at least I'm seeing good progress. It has been 6 months since I had those 4 bicuspids removed.

One thing I'll say about wearing elastics: they are great for losing weight. It's impossible to eat with them on (I don't think you're supposed to). And if you're between meals, it's a major pain to take off the elastics, eat, brush, then put them back on. So I find myself re-considering those between meal snacks. You just can't do impulse eating with elastics on your braces!

On a side note, I'm having deja-vu with my jacuzzi spa. It broke, out of the blue! Suddenly, it's not heating the water or filtering. If you've read this journal from the beginning, you'll remember that exactly one year ago, we were stressing about it malfunctioning. This really upsets me, because I really like using it in cold weather. Hopefully it won't be broken for long.

Anyway, I have to wonder if the planets are aligned some weird way in my zodiac sign this week. Things involving water are breaking! The spa broke. Then, the new faucet on my kitchen sink came off (fortunately it was easy to fix). Of course, it sprayed water all over me and my kitchen before I had a chance to shut it off. And today, I noticed a puddle in the upstairs bathroom and realized that the toilet tank had a big crack and was leaking! Between parts and labor, it will be about $300 for a new toilet. Just what I wanted for Christmas! I could muster up a few good puns here, but I'll spare you the agony.

I'd better keep an eye on that fish tank. Good thing we don't have a swimming pool...

z Tuesday, December 31  - Happy New Year!

I'm starting 2003 with a new bracket on one of my lower teeth. Without warning, the bracket came off the tooth yesterday! I guess the adhesive just gave way. I thought it felt weird after eating lunch, and after brushing I looked carefully and sure enough, the bracket was hanging next to the tooth! It is one of the teeth that has the elastics on it.

I called Dr. Vogt. He said that it could stay that way for a day or two, but the wayward bracket was putting uncomfortable pressure on the tooth. So, I snipped the elastic chain on each side of the bracket and removed it. I couldn't go right into his office to have it repaired because Hubby was at work, and my kids had friends over to play.

Dr. Vogt saw me today to replace the bracket, and of course I wound up getting the full adjustment out of the deal. He was amazed at how much progress the gap closures have made in the past few weeks. The elastics have really been doing their job! He said that the lower gaps have closed by a whole millimeter more! The top gaps have closed by about a half millimeter more. Eyeballing it at home the other day, it had seemed to me that the gaps were much smaller, too. In fact, I can barely fit the tip of my tongue into the upper gaps.


Ceramic vs. Inspire Sapphire Brackets

While I had Dr. Vogt's ear, I asked him about Inspire sapphire brackets versus ceramic brackets. In a nutshell, he said that he prefers the 3M Clarity ceramic brackets because they are reinforced with metal. He thought that the Inspire brackets were good and strong, but he's had good clinical success with Clarity and that is the brand he prefers. The Clarity ceramic brackets are the type that Tom Cruise had.

He also said that the Inspire brackets are very transparent and sometimes don't look as good on teeth that have a yellowish tinge (which describes most teeth). I suppose it all depends on aesthetics and what your ortho prefers to use. If you want to try the Inspire brackets, I suggest that you talk to your ortho about them and ask specifically why he does or does not use them. I don't think that orthos are used to us consumers asking about bracket brand. Often, the choice is totally up to the dentist, and the companies that make them only market them to dentists. 

Dr. Vogt did say, however, that plastic brackets are crappy and often break. So there's a caveat for you. The ceramic and sapphire brackets are superior if you're not going to use traditional metal. Plastic alone just doesn't stand up to the forces involved in moving teeth.

So, if you are new to orthodontics, be sure to ask your dentist exactly what is being used in your mouth, and why. 

Any Inventors Out There?

Here are two things that orthodontic patients would really love. If you could invent these, you'd make a ton of money:

1. Clear or tooth-colored arch wires that resist stains. Why hasn't anyone invented this yet? All arch wires are silver metal. Can't they coat the metal with some sort of tooth-colored material? And while they're at it, make it stain resistant?  While we're dreaming, how about a transparent arch wire?

2. Also, could someone please invent ligating modules (little rubber bands) and elastic power chains that are tooth colored and don't stain from curry, coffee, tea, and mustard?

z Thursday, January 9 

No other brackets have popped off, so I suppose it won't be a common occurrence. Later this month will be the one year anniversary of my initial banding (that is, when I first got my braces). It's amazing that an entire year has passed. I will take new photos after my next adjustment and post the progress to the Photos page.

There's nothing exciting to report about my teeth this week. I've continued using the elastics, and they are closing up those gaps, slowly but surely. I've really gotten used to the elastics and don't mind them, most of the time. I'm beginning to think that my fear of them "snapping" inside my mouth is unfounded -- an urban legend, if you will. 

Happily, DentaKit has received some great press recently in a few trade papers, including the one most dentists pay attention to, "Dental Products Report".

Speaking of DentaKit, I have added international shipping to the options, but customs fees and duties in other countries are very high. I'm looking into ways around the high fees, but I don't think there's much I can do about it. So, my overseas friends, you  can certainly buy one, but your country's fees will be added on top.

Resolution Rock

So, what are your new year resolutions? I have one big resolution -- to achieve more balance in my life. I had slacked off terribly in both exercise and guitar playing, and intend to remedy that situation. I've been doing all my back exercises, 30 minutes of aerobics, and soon hope to begin lifting weights again -- 3 times per week. And finally, today, I played my Strat again. Music is food for the soul. 

I took a trip this past weekend, a 2-hour drive -- an opportunity to blast some great old music on my car's CD player. XTC, Peter Gabriel, and Beck. Well ok, Beck is newish, but the others were "best of" albums. Have you ever heard the song "Life Begins at the Hop" by XTC? It originally came out in the late 70s/early 80s. Amazing song, meant to be absolutely blasted. It has a great bass line and a really fun guitar solo in the middle. That solo really bugged me. I just had to figure it out. And I did. Which is very satisfying. 

While I'm on the subject of music, here was the ironic moment of the week. A local cable channel airs a show called Merge, which is what MTV used to be -- a solid hour of music videos. Most of the videos are either old "new wave" or new local bands. So here's the ironic moment: the Ramones singing the song "Pet Cemetery." Standing in a cemetery, waiting to be buried. Joey singing, "I don't wanna be buried/in a pet cemetery/I don't to live my life again..." Joey and Dee Dee, we miss ya....maybe you're up there in Rock-n-Roll heaven jamming with Joe Strummer and Kurt Cobain...

z Friday, January 17 

I'm sitting around, having a perfectly normal evening, when suddenly I notice that one cheek feels really irritated. And then, after dinner, I notice it actually hurts. So I run my finger over my braces on that side of my mouth, and sure enough....the top archwire is poking me. WHY DOES THIS HAVE TO HAPPEN ON FRIDAY NIGHT WHEN THERE'S NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT?! Murphy's Law, I suppose.

This is the number one reason to choose an orthodontist that is near your house. You just never know when your teeth will move, displacing the archwire, and sending it straight into your cheek. Good thing I have plenty of wax. Although, there's not much you can really do for a poking wire, except have it clipped.

We have wire clippers at home, but Hubby would never endeavor to snip my archwire. And frankly, I don't blame him. Because after you snip off the tiny piece that has been poking you, it sits in your mouth for a few seconds until other person fishes it out with a tweezer. In Dr. Vogt's office, I always hold my breath and try not to swallow when this happens. I'm paranoid about swallowing a tiny piece of metal, and having it perforate something in my digestive tract. I could just see the headline: Mother of Two Killed by Braces, story at 11....and my kids spending their lives with crooked teeth because they were so traumatized. Hubby might go to jail for involuntary wifeslaughter, and then what would become of my crooked-toothed kids? Orphans, doomed to a life without a mother, a jailbird father, crooked teeth, and the worst irony of all -- hundreds of DentaKits to sell!

So, it's best that I wait for Dr. Vogt to snip that wire, dontcha think? ;-)

New photos will be coming soon! After my next adjustment, I'll have Hubby take new photos and post them beside my old ones. It will be interesting to see the difference now that I'm approaching one year of treatment.

z Thursday, January 23 

Dr. Vogt was nice enough to meet me at his office on Saturday to take care of that poking wire. I was due for an adjustment in just a few days, so he saved me the trip and did an adjustment for me on Saturday. What a relief that was! He brought his preschooler daughter to the appointment, and I brought my older daughter (who loves little kids) and they played together. Kids just love those "treasure boxes" that dentists have. I asked Dr. Vogt to look at my daughter's teeth for an opinion. So far, no braces are indicated. But her adult teeth are still growing in, so time will tell. She does have the beginnings of an open bite, just like her mom. Anyway, phew! Some of her friends already have braces, and they are under 10 years old!

Dr. Vogt is really happy with the progress my teeth have been making. He said that he thinks the extraction gaps will close up completely in about 3 to 4 months. Which will make it about 10 months total for the gaps to close. That is longer than I expected, but I'm just looking forward to getting it over with.

So guys and gals, I've been in braces one year. I can't believe the changes in my teeth, one year later. Since you don't see the changes on a daily basis, I was very curious to take the new photo and compare it to the first "non-braced" photo. It astounded me! Wow, I'm so happy about it! The most wonderful thing is, my teeth will never look so crooked ever again! I realize that the new photo doesn't show the elastics. I'll post an elastics photo soon....sorry, I just forgot!

That brings me to comment on this month's braces poll. The results are really surprising. I thought that I was the only person out there who hedged so much. But seeing that 25% of you waited more than 10 years before starting that's a surprising statistic.  Seems the people either do it right away, or wait a long time and think about it. 

Coming up, some new stuff will be added to the site next month. Mark from Australia wrote an essay about his braces experience (thanks, Marky!), and a reader from Europe sent website link to another person who has a really good adult braces journal (I wanted to thank the reader, but his/her email bounced)! 

We got a new piece of musical equipment the other day. A Dobro! Hubby wanted it for his b-day. What's a Dobro? It's a steel-body guitar that you play with a slide (metal or glass). Think twangy delta blues, Bonny Raitt, etc. We had fun playing some 12-bar blues riffs and experimenting with the Dobro. Neither of us really knows how to play it well, so the results are semi-comedic. I think lessons (or at least a good book or two) will be necessary. Slide LOOKS easy, but there's definitely a technique to it. Since I can finger pick really well, I'm a little more successful at it than Hubby. Still, it's REALLY different, since it's tuned differently than a regular guitar. Almost sounds like a banjo. We were playing the song Dueling Banjos with it (him on his acoustic, me on the Dobro). Fun, fun, fun!


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