Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The nitty gritty of wearing dental braces as an adult - Part I

Forgive me for it will be quite a long and wordy post... Earlier this year, I decided that it was time to do something with my teeth. I had braces as a teenager, but the combination of not having a retainer (it's not that I did not wear it, they simply never gave it to me) and wisdom teeth getting out meant that both my upper and lower arches meant that twenty (ouch) years later, my teeth were an absolute overcrowded disaster.
Since I had stopped smoking I had a little bit of cash to spare every month, and thought it might be a good idea to invest it in something important.
I researched the dentists in my area, and saw that one in town was offering the Six Month Braces treatment. I must say that the idea of getting a nice smile by wearing clear braces for six months was much more appealing than getting it by wearing metallic train tracks for two years!
So I bit the bullet and booked an appointment in the middle of February.
The dentist spent a bit of time looking at my jaws, both arches, my bite, the way my teeth "connect" with each others, and told me that I should be suitable for the Six Month Braces treatment. She did however mention that the best in my case would be to go through the traditional orthodontics route with a two years treatment that would correct my bite; but that if I wanted to do the Six Month Braces my teeth would look okay in the end and that she would make sure of it. I did appreciate her honesty, and at no point was I made to feel pressured into signing up for it.

Once I confirmed that I was interested and willing to go through with it, she told me how it would work. First, I would need to book another appointment and have imprints made for both arches (this treatment is available for just the one arch if you need, but considering the state of my teeth, I had to get it done on both). Once the imprints were done, they would be sent to the Six Month Braces in the US, where they would devise a treatment plan through computer-generated wizardry. The brackets (the little square bits stuck on the teeth) would be clear plastic, and so would the donuts (the tiny elastics securing the wire to the brackets). The wire itself would be tooth-coloured. Considering the extensive movement needed on my teeth, I was advised that it was likely that the treatment would go on for more than six months.
She also gave me a few leaflets describing the treatment, and an informed consent form which she told me to read through and bring back with me when coming back for my next appointment.

I really appreciated that she gave me time to think about it, and did not pressure me in any way. She also told me that I could pay in full (2,450 euros) or by instalments without any costs added. The first instalment would be 400 euros on the day the teeth imprints are taken, followed by seven payments of 250 euros and a final payment of 300 euros. It is a lot of money, but I was determined to do whatever necessary to get nice looking teeth.  

I had made up my mind to do it by then, so I went downstairs and booked my appointment for the next week. I chatted a bit with the receptionist, who herself had this treatment done, and she was very open about it and what to expect.

So a week later, I was back in the chair to have the imprints done. if you have a sensitive gag reflex (as I do), I am not going to lie: it is as horrible as you think. They put something that looks a lot like silly putty in a tray, and then press it on your teeth to get a proper impression. I warned the dentist about my gag reflex, and although I did gag a lot (inevitable with the amount of putty that was in my mouth), she did do her best to make me as comfortable as possible and did the prints as fast as possible. The first one did not come out as well as she wanted, so she did it again and it finally worked!

Once done, she told me the prints would be sent to the lab in the US, and that it would take around a week and a half to have the treatment plan done. We booked an appointment for two weeks later to have the braces fitted, and I went my merry way.
She did tell me to take every opportunity and eat whatever I wanted during the next two weeks, as my diet would need to change to a much softer one.

Fast forward two weeks, and here I am again, mouth wide open on the dentist chair. She put a kind of plastic round shape in my mouth to keep it open and prevent my lips from touching my teeth. She then dried my teeth and painted a primer on my teeth. She then fixed each bracket by putting a drop of special glue on the teeth, then applying the bracket and curing it by using an UV hand-held light. Brackets on visible teeth are made of clear plastic, and the last ones on the molars are metallic. Once every single bracket was securely fixed, she then took a wire, snipped it so it would not poke my cheeks at the back, and secured it to each bracket with an elastic.
As a side note here, I must mention something important: you will spend the best part of an hour with your mouth stretched open. So do what I didn't think of doing: slather an obscene amount of balm on and around your lips, otherwise they will feel horrendous afterwards. Trust me, do it.
She warned me that the brackets rubbing against my cheeks and lips might get a bit painful, and she gave me a little box of dental wax to put on the offending bracket(s) if needed. She also said that it was temporary, and that once scar tissue develop, it would not be painful anymore.

Having the braces felt ├╝ber weird. It is like having a thick layer between your teeth and your lips, a bit like wearing a mouth guard. Good thing my appointment was on a Friday after work, as my speech was slightly affected and I had trouble pronouncing words containing the letter S (and believe me, there is an awful lot of words with an S in the english language).
I could definitely feel a lot of pressure on my teeth, and it felt odd. It was not painful and more like a nuisance, but I was definitely aware of it.

Food that evening and for the rest of the weekend was soups and mash. Do not even think about biting into something, and forget about your dreams of baguette, ribs or other foods you need to bite on to. Even that white bread sandwich will be a stretch. I did however manage a few bite size pieces of brioche, so it was a consolation.

So, that was the first part, aka The Prep. In the next one I will let you know how it is to live with braces , the fun parts and the not-so-fun ones, and of course the "I think I made a huge mistake" feeling that one can get at the beginning.

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