Hey there. I’m 44 years old and have been a U.S. Marine for the past 26 and a half years. I had known for a long time that I needed orthodontic work to correct very crowded lower teeth as well as upper teeth that had a mind of their own. I also have a lower mid-line that is off-center to the left by about 4-5 millimeters and my upper and lower teeth meet “edge-on” instead of meeting in a normal bite.
My braces journey started in 2004 while I was assigned to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. I went to the Depot Dental Clinic for an annual check-up and cleaning and happened to ask the Dental Officer what, if anything, could be done to correct my wayward teeth (brushing and flossing were a real pain due to the significant crowding). Braces weren’t even a thought as I was actually interested in the possibility of veneers. The Depot Dental Clinic had a Dental Officer trained in cosmetic dentistry and she gave me a once over … turns out veneers weren’t an option due to my cross-bite. The Dental Officer gave me a consult to the National Naval Medical Center Bethesda Oral & Maxillo-facial Surgical Department and my journey began.
A little about the Department of the Navy Orthodontic Program. There are approximately 14 Naval Officers trained as Orthodontists servicing approximately a million Navy and Marine Corps personnel. These Orthodontists are assigned to major Naval Hospitals throughout the world. In order to be accepted into the Naval Orthodontic program a patient must be evaluated by one of these 14 Orthodontists with many x-rays and facial measurements taken. The Orthodontist then presents the case to a review committee and a decision is made as to whether or not the patient’s dental situation is of sufficient severity for acceptance into the Naval Orthodontic program. The vast majority of cases reviewed are not accepted … they are instead recommended to pursue orthodontic treatment in the private sector.
Once accepted into the Navy Orthodontic program you begin your treatment. A patient is supposed to remain in the geographical area for a minimum of two years (estimated treatment time) to ensure continuity of the doctor/patient relationship. As I’ll get to in a minute, this doesn’t always occur.
I was referred for Orthodontic treatment in January 2004 and my case was prepared for review during that time. Unfortunately, the case review boards were postponed due to a lot of the doctors being deployed in support of the Iraq War (this was the early stages of the war). What is normally a two month process ended up taking almost 10 months and, in October 2004, I received word from the Orthodontist that I had been accepted into the program and they were ready to begin my treatment. I was fitted for spacers a few days before Thanksgiving 2004 (not the ideal time for that) and received my upper brackets and first archwire the first week of December 2004. I had my lower brackets and archwire applied about six weeks later (January 2005).
I mentioned previously that a patient is supposed to remain in the geographical area for two years. In my case I was selected for promotion which necessitated my reassignment. Fortunately I was able to request assignment to the Northern Virginia area and am stationed within 40 miles of the National Naval Medical Center Bethesda. The Dental technicians in San Diego secured the archwires (basically wrapping wire around the brackets and the archwires) and I left San Diego in June 2005. Once in the Northern Virginia area it took about three months to get back into the swing of things due to scheduling conflicts and such but that eventually resolved itself and things have progressed smoothly from there.
A comment or two about the Oral & Maxillo-Facial Surgery Department staff. There is one Orthodontist assigned to this Department so I’m able to see the same person for each of my adjustments. The same can’t be said of the surgical staff. They work as a team and, in the past six months I’ve seen three different surgeons. A good thing is that the Orthodontist and Surgeons are co-located in the hospital so communication amongst the team is very easy … I’d have grave concerns if this wasn’t the case. I have no doubts that all of the surgeons are highly qualified; I’d just feel more at ease if I had one “primary” surgeon that I could go to with questions.
That’s about it for now. I’ll post in a bit about my upcoming surgery that’ll be conducted on Tuesday, 13 March 2007.