Posts Tagged ‘retainers’

A matter of metal

May 31, 2012

In the long, sad slog that has been my “adult braces experience,” today marks a turning point: It’s the last day I am required to wear my retainers full-time. My glee is tempered by the knowledge that I am not free to burn or flush said retainers — instead I’ve been advised to wear them nightly for the rest of my life.

I refuse to think about that right this minute. Instead, I am concentrating on how great it’s going to be to cruise through the days with no metal in my mouth — something I haven’t done since July 27, 2010, not that anyone’s keeping track. No more awkward removal of top and bottom appliances just to accept a fellow cyclist’s offer of an energy gel. No more constant refusal of snacks (which just aren’t worth the dental annoyance). No more incessant exploration of the alien metal in my mouth with a constantly worried tongue.

Come to think of it, I bet my number of migraines drops once I get to remove this perpetual source of irritation from my daylight hours.

In preparation for tomorrow’s unveiling, I have been practicing with the whole naked teeth idea for a few hours at a time. I went snorkeling this week, and opted to avoid having snorkel mouthpiece meet dental apparatus. And a couple of parties have seen me sans retainers as well.

I also chose not to wear them to my first gym workout since, um … December. I thought it would be hard enough getting back into the swing of weight lifting without that annoyance.

As to the reason for my long absence from the gym, let me hasten to explain. Strictly speaking, it was not my fault. (So few things are, I’ve discovered.)

My trainer, you see, opted to pursue different opportunities. (How dare he, right?) Anyway, his decision, coupled with a severe lack of funds on my part, led an extended couch potato session. It’s hard to see how I could have done anything differently in that situation.

In summary, June will see me back at the gym on a regular basis sporting a metal-less mouth that will undoubtedly be more inclined toward smiling. I’m betting the changes will ensure a great summer, one in which I finish the book.

Count on it!


Braces off!

December 8, 2011

It’s entirely fitting that the dismantling of the massive and extended construction job in my mouth was long and arduous. The tightly secured metal bands had to be wrenched from my back eight molars, the ceramic brackets on the rest of the teeth had to be shattered (their word, not mine) and the residue of glue required grinding. Yes. Grinding.

If you’re wincing at the description, let me assure you I was doing my own wincing and worse during the almost 2-hour removal appointment. For some reason, I hadn’t anticipated such a brutal unveiling. But I shouldn’t be surprised. The nastiness of shedding your metal shackles is just one more detail no one mentions when you start down the merry path of Braces Land.

My first clue that removal would be painful was when the dental assistant offhandedly informed me last week that if they loosened one of my crowns during the process, not to worry, because they would re-glue it.

What?? Crown?? Loosened? Really??

Maybe it’s just me, but I considered this an extremely alarming thing to hear. However, I willed my face to remain impassive. For some reason, I don’t like to appear weak in the dental chair, which is probably due to some ancient imperative about being strong in the face of your mortal enemies.

“Could you tell me a little bit about the removal process?” I calmly asked. Which is when I heard about how the ceramic brackets must be broken off your teeth; and as you might guess, the process makes it sound like your teeth are breaking. “Don’t worry; it’s just the ceramic shattering,” is your cheery assurance.

Pulling the 360-degree metal bands off my back molars was easier on my crowns than my natural teeth. First time I’ve been glad for the number of crowns I have. After a couple of the more stubborn ones, I just waved a hand at the girl to stop for a moment so I could collect myself and be out of pain long enough to let her tackle the next one. She frequently let me go brush my teeth and rinse during the process, which was a psychological relief as well as a physical one. Your teeth feel icky and your breath is bad immediately after the removal.

Finally came the polishing process, which made my teeth feel slick and normal again. Well, not normal. Because my teeth were beginning to slightly collapse inward, the orthodontist “opened up” my bite. So my front teeth now push outward a bit farther than before I got braces. Whenever I close my lips over my teeth now, the teeth feel big and fat because of their new angle.

My mouth has been out of bondage less than 48 hours, so my teeth are still sore. Weeks ago, I scheduled a celebratory caramel apple-eating date with two girlfriends today, but truth be told, I’m not sure my front teeth are ready for the festivities. Biting into an apple makes me feel like wincing, and I believe I’ve reached my quota of wincing this week.

So was the whole thing worth it?

Many people said once I ran my tongue over my smooth, straight teeth I would declare the process worthwhile and heave a sigh of satisfaction.

That hasn’t happened yet. Monday I go in for my retainers and the contouring process. (Did you know contouring is the polite word for grinding? Now you do.) I’m willing to be “contoured” because I can already feel high spots and unevenness developing in my bite, as things begin to settle in this post-braces phase.

As for the retainers, I was previously told they needed to be worn at night, but on Braces-Off Day I was informed that for the next six critical months I should wear them at all times except while eating. I guess one’s teeth are determined to head straight back to their incorrect, unhealthy, ingrained positions. Lovely genetic encoding we humans are subject to, what?

I don’t meant to sound so ungrateful. Of course I’m glad to be braces free. Ecstatic in fact. Brushing and flossing is now a genuine pleasure, instead of a source of disgust and dismay. And I’m delighted to have shaved six weeks off my projected estimate of 18 months in braces. I was wretchedly obsessive about wearing my bands and always chose the earliest date for each appointment, hoping to hurry my progress. It paid off. Having a natural smile at Christmas is worth a LOT to me.

But is all forgiven? Am I like a mother cuddling her newborn while blocking out the birth process?

Nope. Maybe in a week or a month. Not today.

From various things that dental assistants have said along the way, I have gathered that my mouth was a particular challenge. Most recently, while attaching some wire or another, one commented, “Oh, you’ve even got hooks on your back molars. My goodness, we’ve thrown everything at you! You’re having the full orthodontic experience!”

Such asides, euphemistic as they are, let me know my path to dental conformity has been thornier than some. Perhaps, my jaded outlook is partially due to that fact.

But mostly I just feel deceived. I can’t think of another process that I went into with such anticipation and dedication, where I was so completely blindsided by the experience’s negative aspects.

Disclosure, people. Yes, you’ll lose a few patients if you tell the truth. But dentists have got to do a better job of warning adults what they’re getting into when they say yes to braces.

And since I’m pretty sure they won’t — consider this me just doing my part.