Thursday, June 19, 2014

An adult...with braces

I began considering getting braces at the end of 2013. In May I had a consultation with a great orthodontist who outlined a treatment plan that sounds like it will solve my problems, and leave my teeth in better shape for the future. Even with his assurances that this was a good idea, and my own agreement, I wanted to see how my peers had dealt with needing braces as an adult. So I turned to the internet, and was surprised to find very few accounts of adults who had gone through orthodontic treatment! So, after a 2 year absence from this blog, I’m returning so that this gets recorded in a place that someone like me might be able to find it.

This whole adventure started at my dentist’s office. During a routine cleaning and checkup, I asked him if it would be possible to have the permanent retainer on my bottom teeth removed. He said that probably wasn’t a good idea, and that I might even consider getting braces again to address the popping in my temporal mandibular joint, among other things. He referred me to an orthodontist, and after dragging my feet for a couple of months I made an appointment for a consultation. That first consult was…interesting. They outlined an entire treatment plan based off of surface observations—no x-rays. The orthodontist wasn’t even sure he could fix the popping that occurs when I open my mouth wide, and instead he recommended I just avoid opening past the point of pop. I was not impressed, and not ready to start treatment with them.

A couple of months later (yes, I’ve been slow about this), an ad on the radio and a quick check of his website, led me to another orthodontist. He too did an initial consult, peering in my mouth, looking at jaw alignment, and then scheduled a records appointment. This is where the money first comes into play—it’s around $400 for the x-rays and impressions they take; a cost you eat if you decide not to enter treatment, or that goes into your cost of treatment if you do go with braces. Before we even started talking x-rays this orthodontist had diagnosed the problem with my jaw, and said how he would probably go about fixing it. I returned for the true schedule of treatment discussion a week later, where we reviewed my x-rays and talked about the specific things that needed to be done, and pretty much decided then and there that having braces would be the best thing for me to do.

Even knowing that in order to protect the health of my teeth and avoid excessive wear that could result in costly, painful, and invasive dental treatments in the future, my vanity made me think long and hard about whether or not I should go through with it. I knew it was crazy to worry so much about what other people would think of me—this MY health we’re talking about!—but these little worries still bugged me. They did not, however, keep me from deciding to go with braces, and I’ve had them on for 10 days now.

It’s been an interesting 10 days. Everyone that notices the shiny new addition to my pearly whites and says something does it in a polite way, and the little bit of teasing about me looking like a 15-year-old is good-natured. Instead of relying on botox and beauty creams, people should just get braces! I got 10 years younger in just two hours at the orthodontist's office! That is something that makes me a little nervous—I’ve just reached an age where I’m hoping people stop looking at me like a kid and take me more seriously, and now I’ve returned to looking 15! But I can deal with it.

People wonder about the pain, too.  I had braces for the first time when I was 14 or 15. I don’t remember them being particularly uncomfortable. This time around, I’m a baby. I am very particular about what I eat, partially because my bite doesn’t line up and it is difficult to chew a lot of things, and partially because my teeth and cheeks are sore. My go-to foods have been smoothies, rice, and pasta. The rougher chewing involved with eating salads and other vegetables is not something I can handle right now, so leafy greens only make it into my diet if they are part of one of those smoothies.

I am prone to canker sores—almost any cut on the inside of my cheeks turns into a sore that lasts for about 10 days—and these little metal brackets cut! That, however, can be managed by using copious amounts of wax to cover the brackets (especially while sleeping), and by applying a cream my doctor prescribed to the beginnings of a canker sore so that it goes away without turning into an awful problem. I also didn't expect my speech to change, but I do have a slight lisp right now. I think that's due to the fact that my open bite has been made more open by cushions that were put on my back molars to keep me from biting down on brackets. If I speak slowly, I can avoid lisping. 

Right now I don’t love the braces, but I’m confident that when this is all over in 18 months I will still be happy with my decision to have them put on.

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