Monday, 24 August 2015

Braces, the final chapter

I've had a busy year with a new job and house move and have noticed I didn't publish my final blog about my braces. Here it is, apologies for the delay, it should have been published in May 2014.

At my last appointment my teeth weren’t quite perfect, but we were at the stage where all my teeth were in the right place apart from my wisdom teeth. With those, the cusps of my top wisdom teeth were biting inside, rather than outside my lower wisdom teeth. Much as my orthodontist is a perfectionist, he had to accept that waiting months for teeth to correct which no one would ever see was perhaps a little unnecessary. He gave me the choice as to whether I wanted to wait for my wisdom teeth to right themselves, or finish treatment as I was. I ummed and erred but decided that after 18 months, I didn’t want to wait another six months for a change that no one would ever see. It was time to give up on the braces.

My wires were refitted, moulds were taken for my retainers and I was sent away to return in a couple of weeks’ time. Due to holiday commitments, it was actually four weeks by the time I returned.

It’s fair to say I was pretty anxious on the day. My orthodontist suggested I should be excited, but I was bothered by the unknown. Metal brackets come off easily enough if flexed in the right way, but ceramic brackets are more difficult. The metal brackets on my back teeth were taken off first, and then onto the ceramics. If I could hear two cracks that was good, it meant that the bracket had come off in one go. However, frequently I heard one crack, which meant that it was going to take a little more work to take them off. This normally finished with a crunching sound, which is never a good sound to come from your teeth. It was a little uncomfortable, especially on my front teeth, where it felt like they were being twisted out of their sockets, but not painful. My wires were taken out when about half of the brackets were removed, when it was easy to slide them out. My orthodontist used a water jet to remove any remnants of brackets, it was pretty much like having a shower, the water went everywhere, even down my neck, but at least it broke my tension. He had a look at my teeth and gums and was happy that they were healthy, most people have some pocketing in their gums as it's difficult to keep everything clean with braces on, but I'd done a good job with the orthodontic toothbrush heads and TePes.

I was then sent to the waiting room to wait for the next part. This was the bit I was dreading. I'd had previous experience of the hygienist, she’s thorough, very thorough, verging on too thorough. She welcomed me in, checked I hadn’t looked at my teeth (I hadn’t) and set to work. She started with a water jet, removing as much of the glue as possible. Next came a polisher which made a grinding sound, it was like having a pneumatic drill in my mouth when she was doing my back teeth. She felt over the surface of my teeth with her finger to make sure she’d got all the glue off as otherwise it would be prone to staining. So far, so good. Next was the ultrasonic device to remove any plaque. My back teeth on one side were so sensitive that she had to give up with this, and use a hand implement instead. Once she'd removed all of the plaque build up she finished with paper (like really fine sand paper) which she used to clean between my teeth. After this, she sandblasted the backs of my teeth, to ready them for the retainer. It was only at this point I was allowed to look at them. They looked good, but not like my teeth, so I found it strangely difficult to comment.

With that it was back down to the orthodontist. He fitted my fixed retainers by gluing them to the backs of my front six teeth, top and bottom, in much the same way as my braces were fitted initially. He warned that they’d take some getting used to and would taste a bit odd initially, but they didn’t cause me any issues. I was given another mirror to look at my teeth and then had impressions taken for my vacuum formed retainers. I needed to come back after a week for those.

It was only when I was at home and caught sight of myself in the mirror that I really saw my teeth. The close up I’d seen at the surgery was fine, but suddenly I could see them in the context of my whole face. It was so odd, but good odd.

A week later I went back for my retainers. My orthodontist fitted them to check the fit and then I had to practice getting them in and out. They were a tight fit, particularly due to gaps in my lower arch, but I managed to get them in and out. I was then trained in looking after them. I had to wear them every night (well, nearly every night) until my next appointment and let them know if I didn’t wear them, I shouldn’t clean them with chemicals or toothpaste, but could use my toothbrush, I could buy retainer tablets to keep them clean, but I shouldn’t put them in hot water (or the dishwasher!) as they’d melt, should keep them moist and in my retainer case, should let them know if they get harder to put in as it will mean I should wear them more and shouldn’t let them near dogs or they’d eat them! I reckoned I could cope with that. They took final photos, and showed me how I looked before and after. It felt a bit of an anticlimax as after eighteen months there was no fanfare, but at least now I’m less self conscious about my smile.

I have to go back in three to four months for a check up and six months to see if I’m ready to be weaned off my retainers. I’ll then be seen for a year or two for checkups, just to make sure my teeth don’t go anywhere.

I've been a bit slow at publishing this post, so I can say that with hindsight it was well worth doing. I'm a lot happier with my smile and it was worth the cost, mouth ulcers and eighteen months of wires. I broke virtually all the food rules I was given when I my braces were fitted but didn't lose a single bracket, not that I'd recommend not following an orthodontist's advice!

My before and after photographs are below. Not the most dramatic change, but I'm really happy with the results.

It's now over a year since I had my braces off. I wore my vacuum formed retainers every night for six months and was then weaned off them. I now wear them when I remember, once every two or three weeks. My teeth have probably moved very slightly, but I'm still happy with the result.