Tag Archives: braces

Free the teeth!

My braces came off today. 😀 ← See?

The next stage is the retainer. Two retainers, really: a short bit of wire permanently glued to the back of some teeth, and a clear plastic shell that fits over all the lower teeth, and which I have to wear near-constantly for the next six months. This essentially means no tea until October, which has utterly thrown me. I also can’t talk without a lisp right now, which should probably bother me more than the tea issue, but doesn’t. After all, the instructions they gave me say my speech would get better with practice…although they don’t say when that will be, and come to think of it, they said “better,” not “normal.” Anyway, analyzing what I can and can’t say clearly is bringing back my old linguistics vocabulary: alveolar and alveopalatal fricatives—the s, z, sh, and zh sounds—are something of a struggle at the moment. The retainer fits so tightly that I can barely get it out, so they gave me a special tool to help pry it free. I can’t help but think of it as a baby crochet hook.

A hook for removing an orthodontics retainer.

And the orthodontist gave me a going away present:

Candies, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss.

That’s the middle-school student version. The adult version involved champagne, and I appreciate the symbolism, but candy is more fun.

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Embraced

My last post dealt with specialized dental floss, the kind that you can thread between braces. The reason I even know the stuff exists, much less have some, is because I’ve got braces. Again.

Someone's braces (not mine). See those little hook thingies on each bracket? Ow. [By Monica Nguyen from united states (week 4) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons]

Someone else’s braces. See those little hook thingies on each bracket? Ow. [By Monica Nguyen from united states (week 4) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) ], via Wikimedia Commons]

Back story: I had braces as a kid. But in the early 1980’s, it wasn’t well-known then that your teeth continue to move throughout your life, not just when you’re young. So I wore my retainer for a while, just like the orthodontist said to, and then quit, since he’d never said anything about “forever and ever.” Unrestrained, the teeth began to shift. Decades later, though, all this meant was that one tooth was visibly out of position. Sure, it took a bit more effort to brush around it, but that wasn’t enough to justify the effort and expense of braces. And I could have gone on this way for quite a while longer, except that my dentist suspected that that misaligned tooth was damaging another tooth, and so braces it was.

On the bright side, that first round of braces weren’t entirely a waste of time and money. My upper teeth are fine, so I only have to have braces on my lower teeth, which cuts the price by about a third. I can also tell you that unlike her 1980’s counterpart, the modern orthodontist has nifty toys at her disposal. I was sent home with a top-of-the-line electric toothbrush. A bit of online research reveals that it’s typical to have 2-minute timers built into these things. But I can tell the age range of her normal clientele: the toothbrush came with a packet of colorful stickers, and the timer shows a smiley face when you’re done.

But if my list of positives barely has enough items to qualify as a list, my list of negatives is more than sufficient. For starters, the misaligned tooth had to go. And since it was a healthy tooth, just in the wrong place, it didn’t go without a fight. (By the way, when they say “extraction,” they mean “pulling.” With forceps.) Secondly, flossing is proving to be quite the adventure. It’s a good thing I’ve had all this experience with fiber crafts over the years, because the success of my flossing depends on my ability to thread that specialized dental floss through the braces. (I’m having sewing flashbacks.) I’ve also learned the perils of cheap dental floss. Let it brush against the brackets, and it snags. If it snags too badly, scissors will be required to free yourself. Also, teeth can itch. No, I didn’t know that either.

Most of the major challenges involve food and the eating of same. I thought I knew the forbidden foods. I never did get back in the habit of eating caramels or chewing gum after Braces I, so I figured I wouldn’t miss much. I forgot biting into apples is verboten. Not that it’s that hard to cut up an apple, but it’s certainly not convenient, and I can’t manage it at all with the plastic knife they pack with box lunches. Crunchy vegetables and breads with hard or chewy crusts? Also frowned on. Nuts are off the list too. I carefully finished off my remaining crunchy peanut butter a few days ago and am now in creamy PB exile for the next year and a half. And some foods that aren’t officially forbidden are just too much trouble. Green salad is hard to chew when your teeth won’t touch the way you’re used to, and clementine oranges felt like they were trying to choke me. You know, I bet the whole reason I don’t remember having this many food problems during Braces I is because I was eating such a comparatively unhealthy diet. Green salad, fresh fruit, and all those bean/lentil/rice dishes I normally eat are difficult to chew, but the casseroles and canned vegetables of my childhood probably went down without a hitch. Really, October 2014 cannot come too soon.