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Of Braces and Home Improvement

an orthodontic journal

February to March 2003
z Saturday, February 1 

Last week I encountered my first real inconvenience from the elastics. I was at Costco, which is a huge warehouse wholesale store. Every day, they provide food samples for you to taste. Sometimes, there are a dozen or more samples of everything from dumplings to soup to chicken salad on crackers. I had planned to have lunch at home, but spent more time shopping than I had anticipated. Before I knew it, it was lunch time, I was hungry, and free food awaited. But I had the elastics in, and I didn't feel like trekking all the way across the massive store to the restroom.

So, I ducked into an empty aisle, plucked the elastics out of my mouth, and put them in my pocket. I was then free to schmooze, and schmooze I did. Fortunately, nobody saw me take the elastics out!

My teeth have been in pretty good shape lately. Nothing much to complain about. Every so often, the elastics make certain molars ache. I have been wearing the elastics almost 24/7, which (I'm sure) will speed up the process.

It may sound weird, but they FEEL straighter. Can teeth feel straight?! Or is it just my imagination?

For those of you with children under age 10....there's a really cute book that my daughter brought home from the school library. It's called "Open Wide, Tooth School Inside" by Laurie Keller. It is filled with some of the most adorable illustrations I have ever seen, and is a very humorous book about teeth and oral hygiene. To give you an example, the book has teeth at an amusement park riding the "molarcoaster," brainy wisdom teeth wearing glasses and spouting phrases like, "I chew, therefore I am", canine teeth that bark, and a teacher named Dr. Flossman. Very creative. I added a link to the book (just on the Links page for anyone interested. Any dental professionals reading this? Well, get that book for your waiting room! It's super cute and instructive, too!

This month's poll is the result of some debate from the Forum. There was a rather large thread where you guys were wondering whether more women wear braces than men. Can we consider this site a general cross-section of society? OK, a cross-section of web-savvy society....I know that one reader is a professional statistician, and he's probably shaking his head. Nevertheless, cast your vote. Hopefully you're all either male or female....or at least consider yourself one or the other (I live near San Francisco, so I think about these things.....)

z Friday, February 7 

The following little distraction popped into my head during an inspired moment today while reading Metal Mouth Forum. A reader commented that having braces was like being from another planet, to which I replied...

(fade music up)
You unlock this mouth with the key of imagination, beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of fright, a dimension of bite, a dimension of teeth. You're moving into a land of both overbites and underbites, of brackets and bands. You've just crossed over into . . . The Braces Zone.....
(dramatic crescendo...)

So, what's new in the Braces Zone this week? For starters, a curry stain on my elastic chains that doesn't seem to want to go away. I have light blue elastic chains and usually they turn day-glo green and fade to a pleasing neutral teal after one or two brushings. But not this time. I suppose I've eaten a lot of curry this month. Here's a photo. Sigh...well at least the brackets are unaffected...

As you can see, the elastic chains are greenish yellow on top and a combination of greenish yellow and teal on the bottom. Maybe I should take some liquid food coloring and give myself a rainbow mouth. Naah.

I was really upset earlier this week about the Space Shuttle crash. But once again, I think the TV media is overdoing it. I watched a few minutes of footage and turned it off. I just can't sit there to watch and listen to disaster for hours; I think September 11 was enough for a lifetime. Now they think it was a natural atmospheric electrical event that triggered the crash. It's all so sad, no matter the cause. My heart goes out to the astronauts' families.

Ironically, my family and I went to a space and science museum just two weeks ago. My kids love space, planets, and planetarium shows. The museum had some big telescopes and after dusk, we got to look through them and see Saturn and Jupiter. It was incredibly cool. 

I don't know if you guys noticed, but some of the links added to the Links page are other people's braces journals. There is another braces journal, and a jaw surgery diary, so check it out.

z Thursday, February 13

Phew! My elastic chains aren't greenish yellow anymore! It took a few days, but they are back to an understated light teal. I ate curry 4 or 5 times in the past few weeks (much more than usual). A local supermarket had this really great salad made of curried turkey, dried cranberries, and other stuff I can't remember. Anyway, it was so delicious that I was craving it and had it for lunch several days in a row. Tsk tsk.

Anyway, if you look at the picture from last week, you'll see that the bottom elastics look light teal. Well, that's what the upper elastics look like now, too. Quite a relief. As much as I love that turkey salad, I think I'd better lay off of it until I get these chains removed (whenever that will be).

Which brings me to a topic that I'm sure you can all relate to.

Foods I miss eating after one year in braces

  • Chocolates and cookies with nuts

  • Ice cream with nuts and hard pieces of stuff

  • Big overpacked sub sandwiches

  • Ribs you can sink your teeth into

  • Burgers with everything on them

  • Chewy caramel anything; chewy nutrition bars

  • Chewing gum

  • Chunky peanut butter

  • Biting into apples and hard carrots

  • Taking huge tasty bites into burritos

  • Very crunchy cereals

  • Eating curry with wild abandon

  • Oh hell, eating anything with wild abandon!

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! May your sweetheart give you a big box of delicious soft chocolate truffles and new toothbrush! Don't have a sweetheart? Well treat yourself! YOU DESERVE IT!

z Thursday, February 20

What and ordeal we have been through in the past few days. My family and I planned a ski vacation to Banff, Alberta Canada. We arrived on Friday evening and everything was going so well. We stayed in a beautiful hotel to make it an extra special vacation. 

The next morning we all went skiing. My kids have both skied before, and we had them in group lessons. Personally I haven't skied in about 5 years, so I took a lesson, too. Hubby is a black-diamond skier and went off on his own, agreeing to meet us in 2 hours when the lessons finished.

I went on two little runs as a refresher and then up on the ski lift with the instructor. "Who are your kids' instructors?" she asked me, "..because one of them has a hurt kid." Yes, it was my kid in the ski patrol sled. My older daughter. I called down to her, and she said that she hurt her ankle.

The instructor and I skied down the run and she took me to the medic hut, where my daughter was being checked out by a paramedic. I spent the next hour-and-a-half there, comforting my daughter, waiting for my younger daughter's lesson to finish. I couldn't find my husband -- he was on a black diamond slope someplace.

To make a very long story short, my daughter broke her leg -- her tibia. We spent the rest of the day at the Banff hospital in state of total disbelief. When we left the hospital, my poor daughter had a plaster cast from her upper thigh down to the tips of her toes.

Our vacation was effectively over.

We couldn't come home right away, because my daughter was in too much pain (despite Tylenol with Coedine). When you have an injury like that, there is a lot of swelling for the first few days. So we were room-bound. I don't ski well enough to take my younger daughter out, and after what happened, I didn't want to push our luck. My husband had to stay with my injured daughter, because to go to the bathroom, she had to be carried, and I couldn't carry her.

My younger daughter and I went on a little bus tour to help pass the time, but mostly we didn't do very much. There was some snow to play in, and a nice indoor pool. That kept the little one busy. We had brought our laptop computer, so we could access the internet and play DVDs. I also went into town and bought my kids a bunch of toys to keep them occupied. 

We ate most of our meals in the room or at the hotel restaurant. Fortunately, the hotel had a wheelchair to borrow. So when my daughter felt up to it, we wheeled her around the hotel, which was big and very nice. I don't know what would have happened if we'd been in a small hotel without elevators.

My daughter didn't feel up to going in the car for a drive. Because of that, we didn't get to see much of Banff or the surrounding areas. Sigh. There were so many things we had planned to do, and it all went down the drain.

But despite the inconvenience, I am relieved that it's *only* a broken leg. Broken bones heal and life goes on. God forbid it had been a concussion or a back or neck injury. For that reason, I'm rather stoic about whole thing.

We came home Tuesday night. We flew from Calgary to Denver and then into California from there. I have to tell you about an incident at the Denver airport. We arrived and a wheelchair was waiting at our gate with a female attendant. She wheeled my daughter to our next gate. But we had a 2-hour layover and were planning to eat dinner. The attendant said, "I need to take the wheelchair; it's signed out to me." 

"But my daughter can't walk and she can't use the crutches either. My husband would have to carry her. She needs the wheelchair."

"I need to take it back. You can rent a wheelchair if you need one."

I was fuming. Hubby went off to find the wheelchair rental place. He came back 10 minutes later. "It's closed," he said. "It's staffed by volunteers and they have all gone home." 

"I need to take the wheelchair back. I'm sorry but it's United Airlines policy." Apparently, it was a matter of liability -- she had to be the one pushing the chair. They'd rather dump an injured child at the gate than keep her comfortable until the next flight. Is that fucked up, or what?

"Listen," I said to the lady, "We are going to eat dinner. You are welcome to stay with us for 2 hours until our flight leaves if you need to watch your precious wheelchair, but my daughter isn't getting out of this chair."

She could call the friggen wheelchair police if she wanted, but my kid wasn't leaving that chair. The attendant left to "speak to her supervisor", but she never returned. We saw her 15 minutes later walking on the concourse. She didn't even have the courtesy to tell us that it was ok to keep the chair.

Well, that's the story of our Canadian adventure. We're home now and face many challenges in the 6 to 8 weeks ahead. I've rented a wheelchair for my daughter and hopefully she will be up on crutches soon. I hope she will be able to go back to school next week. She sees the doctor tomorrow. I pray that the leg was set correctly and won't need to be re-broken or anything horrible.


I'd originally had an appointment with Dr. Vogt on Friday for an adjustment, but rescheduled it for yesterday. I wanted to have my adjustment while Hubby could be home with the kids. This time I opted for smoke colored chains. So far, they look really terrific. We'll see what curry does to them as the weeks pass.

Two of my lower teeth are turning inward, so in addition to the power chain, they used metal tie wires on them. I thought I'd feel the wires, but I can't tell the difference at all.


In conclusion....I'm EXAUSTED!

z Sunday, February 23

The past few days have been challenging, to say the least. On Friday we took my daughter to our orthopedist. Thankfully, he liked the way the leg was set and cast, so he didn't want to change anything for another 3 weeks (which will make it a total of 4 weeks in that big cast). Then, if the x-rays look ok, he wants to change her to a fiberglass cast that is only below the knee. At least that will give my daughter some knee mobility and eliminate the need for her to stick her leg straight out all the time.

She will go back to school tomorrow, but it won't be easy. We decided to rent a second wheelchair, which will be kept at school. This eliminates the need for me to lug the wheelchair in and out of the car trunk (which would surely kill my back).

We also rented a wheelchair ramp for the entrance of our house. We have 3 stone steps in front. Thankfully, we don't have one of those houses with a whole bunch of steep steps in front (as many do in our area)! And everything "necessary" is downstairs on one level in our house (the upstairs was an afterthought, added by previous owners 10 years after the house was built).

I think my daughter will be ok at school, but going to the bathroom will be a major challenge. The school isn't 100% handicap compliant yet. So she will need to use the only handicap bathroom in the school, which is in the office and not close to her classroom. I expect to be going back and forth to school at least once each day to help her with lunch and the bathroom. It's a good thing I don't have a full-time office job!

Anyway, we're managing. The poor kid's leg itches and there's nothing we can do about it. But we're keeping her busy with craft projects, TV, videos, books, and TRYING to get her to do the homework she has missed (I've just about given up on that one -- she'll just have to catch up at school). She has had visitors and gifts, and we got a wireless internet extender so she can go to her favorite dot-coms downstairs (our main computer is upstairs, but the downstairs computer has never been hooked up to the internet).


Well, in the midst of all this, a wire started poking me from the adjustment I had on Wednesday, and tearing up my cheek. So in the middle of all this running around, I had to go back to Dr. Vogt for a wire clipping. I think the top gap will be closed in another two months; it's looking so much smaller. The bottom still has a little more to go, but it's getting there.

My cheek was pretty torn up from that poking wire. After the wire was clipped, I used that Colgate Ora-Base and some dental wax. By the next morning, it felt a lot better. That Ora-Base is a really nice product. A little pricey, but it does a good job in protecting mouth sores.

I haven't eaten any curry yet, but those smoke colored bands look really nice so far. If curry doesn't make them look horrible, I might stick with that color.


Regarding "home improvement" (which I haven't talked about in ages, have I?), I am making plans to FINALLY finish the kitchen. If you've been reading this journal for a while, you may remember that I still need to replace the kitchen's pocket doors and get the room painted (along with a few other minor things elsewhere in the house). When my daughter is out of her wheelchair, we're going to proceed on all of that. Originally I was going to have it all done right after our ski trip, but c'est la vie...

z Saturday, March 1

Well, we got through the first week of my daughter being back at school since breaking her leg. We have things down to a routine now, but it's still rather complicated. 

For example, either I or Hubby must come to school each day at noon to take her to the bathroom and sit with her at lunch. She can't join her friends at lunch on the playground (no handicap access). Her friends eat lunch with her in the classroom, but kids can't be left unsupervised in the classroom (the teacher is in the teacher's lounge). So an adult has to be there -- which leaves either me or Hubby. 

It's a challenge to stop what I'm doing at noon and go to school for an hour, but it's only for a few weeks. Even so, it's very disruptive. Our daughter is adjusting well to everything. It's an understatement to say that she can't wait to be out of that damned cast!

The orthopedist said that, according to a new x-ray, her bone was slightly out of alignment. He had to open her cast slightly and insert a wedge to push the bone over. We'll need to go for x-rays weekly to ensure that it's healing correctly. 


The results of the February Braces Poll were interesting but not entirely surprising. I think most of us know that more women have braces than men. But interestingly, more men were THINKING about getting braces than women! This is the largest poll we've ever had on the site, with over 400 responses (hopefully all unique).

There has been a lot of talk on Metal Mouth Forum regarding stained ligatures and chains. One reader mentioned some pearlescent chains that a friend really likes. I contacted the company that makes these pearlescent chains and they generously sent me a sample. Alas, they did not stand up to my curry test (I didn't wear them; I just dipped them in a curry mixture for a couple of minutes). Yes, they turned bright yellow. 

Then, to complete the test, I "brushed" them with my Sonicare and some whitening toothpaste. No effect. I dipped them into the new Rembrandt Stain Removing mouthwash for 15 minutes. No effect. And finally, I used some Dental White bleaching gel on them. Ditto. They are still as yellow as ever. Very disappointing.

If a company could make elastic ligatures and chains that are CURRY resistant, that would be an incredible breakthrough.

The pearlescent chains are very nice, and they probably do resist more normal food stains (mustard, coffee, etc) than others. But sadly, they didn't pass the curry test. 

I entertained the idea of dipping them in chlorine bleach, but since it's a poison, I would never suggest anyone put that in their mouth! Still, I wonder if a swab dipped in chlorine bleach would get some of the stubborn stains out, if you did it carefully enough and rinsed with a lot of water (out of desperation only, of course). Would the bleach break down the chain? Well, I guess that's another test I  could do, strictly out of curiosity.

z Wednesday, March 12 - Happy Birthday to ArchWired!

One year ago today, this site went live under the name "Of Braces and Home Improvement" on In the ensuing year, it has received more than 75,000 hits from people around the world.  When I first started this site, I knew very little about being a "webmaster." But I had plans and dreams, and today, this site comes very close to all that I imagined.

I just want to take this opportunity to express how rewarding it has been to evolve and maintain this site. I constantly receive emails and guestbook entries from readers who tell me how helpful the site has been. The site's success comes from two sources -- me in my persistence to bring you helpful unbiased information, and more importantly, you, the readers, who share your stories and your experiences in places like Metal Mouth Forum. Your warmth, humor, and candor have helped make this site a unique refuge for adults in orthodontia. 

My sincere thanks to all of ArchWired's readers around the world. May your treatment be short and painless, your ligatures unstained, and your midline aligned perfectly! 


Things have been pretty uneventful lately, as far as my braces are concerned. I've been wearing the elastics when I can during the day (and always at night). The teeth are slowly moving, closing those gaps. I recently had a nasty canker sore. Lord how I hate those.

On the Metal Mouth Forum, one subject of discussion recently was using double chains or even double elastics to make the job go faster. I would never advise anyone to do this on their own -- the people who wrote about it have been told by their orthodontists to do so. 

Anyway, it has been almost 9 months since those bicuspids were extracted, and I'm getting a little impatient. The top gaps are mostly closed, but the bottom right, in particular, seems to be taking its sweet time. So the next time I see Dr. Vogt I'm going to ask him if it's advisable to do anything additional to close the gaps faster. I'd be willing to put up with more pain if it accomplished the goal without harming my teeth. Of course, the health of my teeth and gums is my utmost concern.

Last time, I wrote about stained elastic chain and my curry experiments. (The chain is NOT in my mouth; it's a bunch of chain I received as a sample). Well, just out of curiosity, I dipped the stained chain in chlorine bleach for about 10 minutes. Would you believe it had very little effect? The chain was still yellow.

Then I had another bright idea. What about denture cleaner? Unfortunately, the chemicals in denture cleaner cannot be put into your mouth. Dentures are supposed to be cleaned outside your mouth. So even if a denture cleaning tablet worked, it would be beside the point -- because you can't put it (or the cleaning solution) in your mouth! The only denture cleaner that might fit the bill was Polydent, a toothpaste. After scrubbing the ligatures with Polydent, they were still yellow.

So folks, I guess we're back to square one. Darn! I've been wearing my smoke colored chains all month and haven't eaten any curry yet, so they still look great. I plan to eat it soon, before my next adjustment. That way if they turn yucky I won't have to live with it for long.

I'm actually thinking of writing to one or two of the companies that make ligatures and chains to ask about the curry problem. I think that this problem is mostly confined to adults. It seems that unless it's in their culture, most kids don't eat curry, so it's not a problem for them. And besides, most kids opt for those bright colored ones, which wouldn't look yucky anyway. One girl in my daughter's class alternates pink and orange ligatures. It actually looks really nice on a little girl -- Barbie colors!


Have you noticed what a mess you make on the bathroom mirror since getting braces? Seems like I'm always cleaning it. One product that I've found very helpful is these new pre-treated glass cleaner wipes. Windex makes a packet of them (25 sheets per packet), and I think other companies make a similar product. I keep the packet in my bathroom drawer. It's very convenient for fast touch-up jobs and doesn't take up much space. Of course, the same thing could be accomplished with a bottle of glass cleaner and a paper towel if you  had the space and the inclination. I find myself being drawn to these types of convenience products lately. The pre-moistened towels, the disposable "Swiffer" type mops -- neat time-saving inventions. 


Regarding my daughter, who has a broken leg, here's the latest. She will be in her big plaster cast until the end of March. Then she will be changed to a fiberglass cast that goes from below her knee to her foot. She still will not be able to walk on it or get it wet. She will wear that until the middle of April. Total time in a cast: 8 weeks. We've gone for several x-rays over the past few weeks and the bone is healing well.

She's doing fine, but I'm really worn out from all the running around I do for her. And lifting the wheelchair in and out of the car trunk (which I must do occasionally) is not good for my back. We're all counting the days until she can walk again! Maybe when she gets into that new lighter cast she will have the confidence and stability to use crutches.


March 17 is looming; the day that President Bush has set for this new war. I'm not going to launch into a huge debate on politics or world affairs, but do we REALLY need to do this? The direction of my country, and of the world in general, scares the crap out of me. And that (as Forrest Gump says) is all I have to say about that...

z Saturday, March 22 

This week I had a rite of passage: finally one of my elastics snapped inside my mouth. I was wondering if it would ever happen. Sure enough, the other morning, I gave a huge yawn, and SNAP! But here's the good news: it didn't hurt at all. The elastic broke, but it didn't snap against the inside of my cheeks. Phew!

My teeth have been very stable, so sorry to be boring, but I don't have very much to say about my braces this week. One of the gaps on the bottom is almost all closed, while the other one remains stubbornly larger. The top gaps are also almost closed. Well FINALLY! Unless Dr. Vogt does something new to close them faster, I think those three gaps will be all gone in a couple of months. The fourth one might take a month or two longer. It's so weird -- when I'm flossing, I actually forget which teeth the top gaps are between! I guess that it progress!

I've been really annoyed at, the host of our Metal Mouth Forum. They decided to do a system upgrade and gave us webmasters absolutely no warning. The Forum has been flaky, and I apologize, but it's beyond my control. I think the folks at voy are finally stabilizing it.

We have a new Photo Gallery and much to my chagrin, I found out the hard way that there's a viewing limit on the darned thing. (One of those "small print" things you don't see upon signing up.) So, just to let you know, I'm re-evaluating the Photo Gallery host. Originally I had wanted you guys and gals to be able to post photos yourself. But perhaps that isn't realistic. My own ArchWired webhost has plenty of space for photos, so I might decide to bring it here instead of having it at an off-site host. In any event, I apologize if you've been shut out of viewing the photos because we reached photoisland's stupid viewing limit. I'll get this situation under control within the next few weeks.


With all the running around I've been doing for my broken-legged daughter, it has been a challenge to fit meals, exercise, and chores into my day. I've been hungry and cranky a lot, which is never good. Before getting braces, I used to eat various types of high protein, low carb "power bars" in situations like this. But since most of them are incredibly chewy, I haven't been able to eat any for the past year. Fortunately, last week (thanks to Hubby) I discovered one that is easy to eat and (IMHO) tastes really good. It's called Zone Perfect bar. The bars have a little less protein than some of their ultra-chewy mega-protein counterparts, but definitely enough to be a decent meal replacement or high-protein snack: 16g protein and 20g carbs, with lots of various vitamins and minerals and 3MG of Omega 3 (one of those "good fats" we apparently never get enough of).

I have tried two of the flavors and they are really tasty: Apple Cinnamon Crunch and Blueberry Yogurt. There are bunch of fruit flavors. I don't know if the chocolately ones are chewy (I'll get back to you on that, because they might be -- I'm leery about anything that has "caramel" in it). But the fruit/yogurt ones are great! They're like really soft granola bars. Very easy to bite into, easy to chew (like a soft Rice Krispy treat). Not too sticky on your braces. I was surprised and delighted and decided to buy more. The fruit and yogurt flavors are: apple cinnamon crunch (no, it's not "break-your-teeth" crunchy; it's soft) , blueberry yogurt, strawberry yogurt, peach yogurt, lemon yogurt. The bars cost around $1.75 in a store, and I did a little snooping on the Web to see if I could buy them cheaper online. Sure thing: has a 12 pack for $16.99 and right now they're doing a promotion where you get a free 14-bar variety pack. So what the heck. I ordered a bunch (enough to qualify for free shipping) and got the free pack, too. If you want to know more about the Zone Perfect bars, here is a link to their website. If you do a web search on "zone perfect" you'll find lots of e-tailers selling them for various prices, and I'm sure you can find them in your local stores.


Speaking of my broken-legged daughter, she got her cast changed yesterday. Now she's in a fiberglass cast from her knee to her foot. For 4 more weeks. So although it's going to be a bit easier for her, nothing changes for us. I still need to schlep to school each day at noon to help her. The doctor told her she could stand/walk on this cast for limited periods, but she doesn't want to. She is scared to try crutches and we'd rather deal with the wheelchair and keep her safe and healing, anyway. 


So, the war in the Middle East is underway. I don't agree with it, but I hope it ends swiftly, with few deaths. Godspeed to our troops.


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