Monday, December 10, 2007

Brace free after three years!

Sorry for not posting about my brace-removal earlier ... kind of had a "perfect storm" of events that kept me away for the weekend. To top it off, I can't find my digital camera to take a current photo! I'm going to look around the house one more time but I really think I left it in Connecticut the last time I was up that way. Worst case scenario is that I'll treat myself to an early Christmas present :)

So, this past Friday I had an 8:30 am appointment with the Orthodontist to remove the braces. His office is in the National Naval Medical Center (Hospital) in Bethesda, Maryland which is, on a good travel day, about an hour's drive from where I live. At that time of the morning, however, you tend to hit the beltway traffic and a one hour drive could easily turn into a two and a half hour slow-jam. Not knowing how the traffic was going to be (it was drizzling rain / snow), I left the house at 6:00 am -- wouldn't you know it that traffic was light, there weren't any accidents, and I made the trip in under an hour. The problem was that the Orthodonist ended up running late because he had an appointment with a cardiologist that pushed back all of the Orthodonist appointments about an hour. So, I get there an hour and a half early and don't get seen until an hour after my scheduled appointment.

But I'm getting my braces off so it's all good!

Once in the chair everything went pretty smoothly. He started with the upper braces by clipping the bands around the molars and then prying off the brackets. With only one or two exceptions, they all popped off fairly quickly - I was surprised because I'd had them on for three years. After he finished with the upper braces he removed the lower ones and, if anything, they came off even easier.

Let me ask you guys who have had braces removed recently -- wasn't that a weird feeling the first time your lips touched your teeth after the braces were removed?!?

The next step was the grinding off of the bonding material and, while there wasn't any pain involved, I felt like there *should be* ... the sound of that high-speed grinding instrument made my skin crawl more than any other dental procedure I've been through.

But I had my braces off so it's all good!

Now, I don't know what I was thinking but I knew that I was getting temporary retainers once the braces were removed. I guess I thought they would use previous molds to create the retainers and they would be ready for me almost immediately. Little did I know that I'd be sitting through two more rounds of goop-filled metal trays! I'm not going to say I actually gagged while making the upper trays ... I will say I'm glad I didn't have breakfast that morning!

But I had my braces off so it's all good!

By this time it's about 11:00 am and the Orthodontist tells me that the temporary retainers will be ready by 2:00 pm (maybe sooner). The way the morning started I knew it won't be sooner and I definitely wasn't going to be driving home and coming back. Luckily the Medical Center has a pretty good cafeteria so I went down and had my first brace-free lunch - a basic fish & vegetable meal. Not too taxing on the newly brace-free teeth which, I have to say, were just a wee-bit sore after all the debonding and grinding from earlier in the day.

At 2:00 pm I stopped back by the Orthodontist's office and caught him as he was heading out for yet another appointment with the cardiologist. He went over the daily wearing and cleaning rituals with me and gave me some teeth whitening gel which could be used with the temporary trays - I guess this is pretty standard.

About five minutes later the dental assistant was finished sanding down the temporary retainers and I put them on for the first time. The top retainer fit perfectly and went on very smoothly. The bottom retainer, however, fits a lot snugger (if that's a word) but feels great once it's on. Getting them both off to eat is still a bit of a challenge because I don't have long finger nails and it's sometimes difficult to "break the seal" to remove them. Once I've gotten one side started, though, they come off pretty quickly.

And I have my braces off so it's all good!

Updated photos are coming ... I promise!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Seven Month Post Surgery Update

First - a quick shout-out to all my brother and sister Veterans! You guys keep me motivated!

So last week marked my seventh month since surgery and, I must say, I was getting a bit frustrated at not hearing those magical words from my Ortho ... "I think it's time we take those braces off you." Well, during my appointment last week he said it and it looks like I'll be getting them off at my next appointment!

As ready as I am, I'm a bit apprehensive as well. I kind of like the security of the bands while I'm sleeping and I know that my teeth won't be moving out of place as long as the arch wires are in place. And I have no idea how the teeth will look (whiteness-wise) once the braces come off. I almost wish it was like when Mrs Shanton (Stephanie) had her braces off - she didn't know until she showed up for her Ortho visit!

Kristen & Mary - if you guys read this: Do you recommend I schedule a cleaning on the same day immediately after the brace removal. I understand the Ortho will clean the teeth to remove the bonding cement and all but I'm not sure that's going to be enough after three years of braces.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Six Month Post Surgery Update

Wow, I'm having a hard time believing it's been six months already since the surgery. Time surely does fly by ... although when you're waiting on word that your braces are ready to come off it does seem to slow way down. Guess Einstein was right when he said that time is relative.

Here's my six month photo:

The Orthodontist is "fine-tuning" things at this stage and he has me wearing three elastic bands - one medium elastic band in a triangle pattern on the left and two heavy elastic bands in triangle patterns (two triangles) on the right. If you remember, two weeks before the first surgery the surgeons decided I didn't need to have the upper jaw surgery ... even though I had (have) a two millimeter cant. I keep thinking the Orthodontist wouldn't be having to do so much "fine-tuning" if I'd had both the upper and lower jaw surgeries.

My next appointment is Wednesday, 10 October so we'll see if I'm ready to schedule a debracing date. I tell myself that I'd rather get it as close to perfect as possible regardless of how long it takes but December will be my three year bracing anniversary and I'm anxious to get this over with.

On a separate note - does anyone have any experience with Porcelain Veneers? I've got significant tetracycaline staining on my teeth due to taking antibiotics as a kid and want to whiten them up (nothing Hollywood - just a natural color).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Belated Fourth & Early Fifth Week Updates

Sorry about the lapse in updates (if anyone is still reading this that is!) ... work and school have conspired to keep me a busy as of late.

Last time I mentioned that the Orthodontist had placed me in a *kind of* weird elastic pattern. Well, after a week the left side had moved significantly faster than the right, so I went back for an unscheduled appointment and he placed me in the more traditional *triangle* pattern. This is where the elastics are connected to the upper incisors as well as the two teeth on the lower jaw immediately below them. This is supposed to align the jaws on the *vertical* plane rather than moving them side-to-side on the *horizontal* plane. If you remember, the surgeons decided two weeks before my first surgery that I didn't need to have the upper jaw surgery even though I have an ~2mm cant ... this *triantle* elastic configuration is designed to better address that issue.

All I can say is -- Wow! these elastics work and they work FAST! I noticed a change within two days ... it's amazing how quickly these changes can happen.

Hopefully I'm still on track for debracing during October 2007. My next Orthodontist appointment is on September 11th so I'll post more photos then.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Good News This Week

What a difference one week makes. Last week I was concerned because the elastic bands seemed to be working on my left side and weren't on my right side. This was creating an edge-on-edge bite of a sort on the left side of my jaw. Well, a couple of days after writing that post the right side kicked into gear and the mid-lines lined up. I was still a bit concerned, however, because of the edge-on-edge bite.

Fast forward to yesterday to my Orthodontist appointment. I told the Orthodontist about my concerns and he said not to worry ... that he was going to be able to correct the bite using heavier elastic bands (heavy - 1/4 in. 6.4mm) and a different configuration. What he did was place the bands on both the left and right bottom incisors and the left and right upper back molar. I don't pretend to understand the intricacies of Orthodontia but the intent is to move the upper jaw forward a bit and the lower jaw back a bit. Well, for the past two days my jaws have felt like they're being squeezed in a vice ... not terribly painful but a constant ache. And, I've already noticed that the edge-on-edge bite is no longer happening! I'm supposed to wear this configuration for the next month and then I'll hopefully transition to night-wear only.

The really big news, though, is the Orthodontist is predicting an October 2007 de-bracing time-frame! It's not an exact date but I'll sure take it :)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Quick Update

Hey there. Just a quick mid-appointment update today.

So, I've been wearing elastic bands (which I can remove for eating and brushing) since the surgery in order to line up the lower mid-line with the upper mid-line. What I've noticed is that the left side of my lower jaw has moved into position but the right side has stubbornly refused to move. This has caused a slight edge-on-edge bite pattern on the left side and is very frustrating because it seems as if we're moving backwards on the treatment scale.

My next Ortho appointment is this coming Tuesday so hopefully he'll be able to work some magic and get the right side lower jaw moving.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Three Month Post Surgery Update

Hope everyone is well.

So, three months post surgery and things are progressing nicely. I had appointments with both the surgeons and orthodontist last week and, by all accounts, I'm where I need to be at this point in time.

The surgeons said my range of motion and my ability to open wide are good (I don't have exact measurements) and that the incision points have all healed as expected. They also reminded me they don't want me running or lifting heavy weights (basically anything that might cause me to clench my jaws) for six months post surgery ... I thought I'd definitely be back in the gym by now. They then said, "See you in four months" and I was out the door.

The orthodontist removed the archwires so I could brush and floss without them and put a couple of bends in the upper archwire to bring a couple of premolars down a bit. I tried to get him to commit to a debanding date ... no luck there. It's still way too early to start talking about that. My next appointment with him is in another three weeks.

Still a little bit of numbness on the left side of the lower lip and chin area and some residual swelling on both sides of the back mouth area. I know the updates have been slow lately, but that's the way the healing's progressing at this point.