Adults in Braces?
Are Braces Just for Kids?
Here I am! The brave soul at the age of 27 years (30 now! Had a few birthdays since the start of this ;) ) who has decided to go through getting braces - as an adult. Growing up, brushing my teeth wasn't important to me and after asking for braces around the age of 12 and hearing what I expected, "we don't have the money," I essentially gave up. I ignored it for a long time. Worked hard at hiding my smile for the most part and it didn't matter so much to me when I was in consistent relationships, but I've been single for a while now (this changes too! Keep reading!). That has given me PLENTY of time to reflect on how I truly feel about the way I look.
It hurt to feel I wasn't being taken seriously because of my teeth. It still stings to think about a high school comment that came about from a "friend" and a guy I kinda liked at the time that involved putting a bag over my head. I've grown up under the subconscious impression that my body was going for me when my mouth wasn't. I know better than to truly believe that, but it's still a feeling that can be hard to shake.
Since I've decided to take the plunge, I think it's important to share with you my journey. While going through the internet doing extensive research on getting braces as an adult, I kept coming up short. I wanted more progress pictures. I wanted to know more about the actual experience. That is what I hope to accomplish here with this lens. You don't have to be alone. You don't have to feel that your situation is just too impossible. It isn't. It's time to take a personal inventory on how you feel about yourself and what benefits you ultimately hope to gain from going through with getting braces as an adult.
This lens is going to grow with me and my treatment progresses, so let's get started with it shall we? (Oh, hey, guess what?! Done done done! Yes, the process is done!)
I have an anterior cross bite where one of my top front teeth grew in at an angle, placing it behind two of my bottom front teeth. I have also had to have several tooth extractions over the years so that has left me with very few molars and two other top row teeth that you can see are missing if I happen to smile. Looking at this picture...I'm further mortified. I have to share them though because in the end, it's really going to be an amazing change.
To fix the crossbite, they put some composite filling on the very back molars on the left side of my mouth to "build up" and make my jaw stay open long enough for the tooth affected by the crossbite to be pulled forward so they could finish correcting everything.
Eventually, the places where I have gaps at are going to be corrected with crowns and bridges to help give a more normal and healthy appearance to my mouth and teeth.
What About You?
Have You Had Braces?
My First Day! - June 15, 2011 - Braces On!Click thumbnail to view full-size
There are some pictures to show my teeth the day that the braces went on. It was super difficult to take any because...well...after YEARS of trying your hardest to hide your teeth and suddenly actually TRYING to show them...that takes a little guts. I had to actually start out taking stupid pictures of me to get to a straight face!
As to be expected, the new metal in the mouth was a bit annoying, but I didn't experience a lot of major pain that everyone was suggesting would happen. Some soreness, yes, but actual pain was minimal - that day.
The day after was fine for the most part until I tried to eat something. OUCH! Talk about a lot of pressure on those chompers! Even brushing them was a chore! Everything was really tender. I have to wonder if that's what my next adjustment is going to feel like...
By the third day, I was using the wax that they had sent along in the starter pack for the braces because wires were already poking at me in the back and I couldn't seem to keep from sucking my lips up against the braces! Oye. The wax was a little awkward to use at first, but things worked out ;)
Ibuprofen is a big help as always. Getting used to the metal takes a bit and the biggest hurdle at times I think is to avoid being self conscious about it. It likely isn't a big ordeal as much as it feels like one ;) Expect people to insist on seeing them! I don't know what the fascination is but nearly everyone I came into contact with that knew me well insisted on seeing my train tracks. The more I looked in the mirror though, the more I came to realize that it really wasn't that awful compared to what it looked like when I didn't have braces and that I should take some personal recognition in the fact that regardless how embarrassed I felt, it IS obvious that I'm working to fix things. There should be no fear there, only optimism towards the future ;)
Week One - June 22, 2011Click thumbnail to view full-size
This first week was an interesting one, trying to learn how to eat and dealing with loosening teeth and poking wires!
Yep, I said loosening teeth! It's a weird sensation and one that's hard to keep your tongue away from, but it IS totally normal. Sometimes the teeth loosen up when they're moving but they reassure you that once it's in place for good, the gums will tighten back around it in its new, corrected position. I take the loose teeth as a GOOD sign!
Also, I had a deep teeth cleaning prior to the braces being put on and that cleaning uncovered another cavity that had been missed because of tartar build up. This cavity is on a bottom tooth, near the front but to the side of the tooth itself. I figured I'd have a little bit of time before it was an urgent issue to get it filled but from the looks of things, that tooth is moving fast! I have an appointment to get it filled on June 28th but I'm actually sweating bullets about it a little bit. Why? Because the placement of this cavity and how my teeth are being corrected...I'm afraid the cavity part is going to level out with the tooth next to it and inhibit the ability of my dentist to get it filled. How alarming!? I suppose we'll find out soon how that actually goes.
It is pretty fascinating up to this point though to be able to recognize that the teeth are moving.
One other thing I experienced already too with the teeth shift is between a molar and the canine on the right side of my mouth, the gum between the two apparently "pinched" and created a bit of a "blood blister" so to speak. It sounds far more painful than it really is. More than anything, it just feels like I have stuff in between my teeth there.
Ready for Week Two?
Week Two - June 29, 2011 - June 29, 2011Click thumbnail to view full-size
Things are getting easier...
As we wrapped up the week, I have to say that compared to the first week in braces, I'm definitely adjusting to having the extra metal in my mouth. It's becoming a fixture and not so bothersome. I've also quit using the wax for the most part.
Make sure you get all your fillings done BEFORE the braces go on if you can help it! Eeep! It wasn't painful but it's a very odd sensation to feel your other teeth "move" that aren't the ones being worked on because of the braces. But, they filled that cavity without a problem and I'm back to feeling good about my teeth straightening out :)
I also managed to (carefully) eat a couple of cheese burgers and am still finding a way to sort through what I can and can't eat since my teeth aren't making contact all the way around because of the build up to fix the cross bite.
Speaking of that! On the 27th of June, I could actually feel the tooth that's been affected most by the cross bite touching the bottom tooth when I bite down! I feel confident that within the week, that tooth will finally be past the bottom row and be "out of the cross bite." How cool is that? It's a huge thing to me since...well...from the pre-braces picture, you can SEE just how much that alone detracted from my appearance. The rest of the straightening process should speed along pretty well after the cross bite is "corrected." Then, we'll start getting into the other nitty gritty stuff to close in gaps and realign. So, it's a milestone for me :)
Who's ready for Week Three???
Week Three - July 6, 2011Click thumbnail to view full-size
This last week has been fairly uneventful. Things are still moving. I'm still experiencing tenderness every now and again but things are nominal. My thought that the tooth in the cross bite would be pushed forward was optimistic but it's still moving along. At this point in my progress, it seems to be touching the bottom tooth in a more centered way now. Before I think it was more hitting the actual bracket itself, and I had to make a little bit more of a concerned effort to feel it. Now though, when I bite down, I can feel the top and bottom teeth touching. I can also see that the tooth is more forward when I look in the mirror from a sideways point of view, but it's not really visible from the front.
For week four, I plan on doing a side by side view of all four weeks together. I wonder if there will be any visible changes that way. We'll see won't we?
Week Four - July 13, 2011Click thumbnail to view full-size
Wooo! A month already!
So, a quick recap: I'm eating a few more things like the softer tacos at Taco Bell and hot dogs, sandwiches, things like that. It still takes a while to chew a lot of it, but I'm getting better at it.
The one tooth that's been in the crossbite seems to be pretty even with my bottom teeth now which is a good benefit since it's helping to eat through some other foods easier ;)
You'll see in the pics above that I decided to take some side shots. Acuity Orthodontics will be taking updated progress photos when I go in for my next appointment on August 9th. I really think it's going to be interesting to see them since they'll be taking pics in pretty much the same position. Hopefully the excitement of the change will rebuild!
Three Months!Click thumbnail to view full-size
It's really amazing how time can just fly right on by!
In the pictures above, I decided to collect the best pics from each week I remembered to take pictures (since life has REALLY gotten in the way lately) and share them so you can go through them one by one and see the progress at your own pace.
Let's recap some things :)
At my visit August 9th, my teeth were a bit sensitive still so they chose not to put on the thicker wire on the top. That will be happening for my next visit which is on September 26th from what I understand.
I can eat pretty much what I want now. I have to be careful but it isn't that difficult and isn't NEARLY as painful as it was initially. I was actually a little disappointed after the last visit because I expected my teeth to hurt again and they didn't. I felt some pressure, but, that's about it. I guess I just like to feel it working like I did the first time around. I can't complain too much though. My teeth are moving :) In a small way, they don't seem AS crazy to me to look at anymore when I show them to myself in the mirror. Soooo, I'm hopeful :)
Now, the one habit that I HAVE picked up through all this...I suck on my teeth. It's hard to fully describe but...well it's like I'm trying to suck my lips into my braces/teeth like there's something in there, even when there isn't anything. When I wake up in the mornings, the skin inside my mouth feels "stuck" to the braces. Stuck is the wrong word but I can't think of the right one. I'm a side sleeper too so it's not as though laying on my face is causing it. And really, it's not bothersome either, just something that happens and that I continue to do throughout the day since I feel extra aware of the possibility of food getting stuck in places I have trouble reaching. I'm hoping to invest in a Water Pik too since those have been recommended to work well for people with braces. I just don't feel like I'm cleaning well enough sometimes!
Anywho, I'll update again soon so stay tuned!
Nine Months!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Wow! It HAS been a long time since I've updated! Yikes!
Right now, I'm around 9 months in on the progress. My bottom row still feels great and my top row is advancing along nicely too. One thing I have really noticed is with my two front teeth. Because of the crossbite I started with, one of the teeth always dipped down further than the other. Can you believe that they're about level now?? I think that's pretty awesome :) It already makes me feel like my smile is more normal so it's a nice thing for multiple reasons.
So, why has there been a delay in updating? Well, the holidays strolled through and I had a bunch going on. Then, I got the whammy just after the first of the year. I lost my job of almost 7 years. I can't exactly say I've felt in the mood to get excited about the progress with the braces with uncertainty looming over my head. I have people that care about me though, and they're making sure I'm taken care of while I try to find something that will be more fulfilling for me in the end.
I had a visit at the end of January where I got to experience the power chain. The one I got was basically this strong piece of "plastic" that they stretched across the two front teeth brackets to hold them together. I was having issues with the two front teeth "gapping" again (probably another reason for my disinterest in taking pics and posting an update) and the power chain helped keep them in one spot.
I just had a visit on March 13th where they changed the wires on top and bottom to stronger ones, meant to aid more in moving things around. They replaced the previous power chain with a piece of wire to make sure there wasn't anymore continued movement. I have another visit on April 9th where some more adjustments are going to be made and another power chain will be put on some neighboring teeth to correct some gapping issues that are surfacing there.
Overall, I still love the tight feeling in my teeth after an adjustment. The gum soreness is present, but minimal in comparison to the first few weeks in the braces. I'm still having trouble with the "lip sucking" and I seem to be working in some ulcers on my bottom lip. I may have to resort to wearing the wax again at night until it heals up some. I can't lie though, I hate the wax, so I'm resisting a bit there ;)
One final thing - my bite. My teeth feel SO different now when I bite down. Teeth feel like they're touching more where they are supposed to be. I don't feel one tooth hitting another before all the rest. It feels much more even. Oh and flossing! Flossing is SO much easier with the teeth straightening out! Did I mention that before? If so, it's worth mentioning again ;)
Hopefully I shall return after my next visit for another update! Poke me with a comment every now and again if I'm getting too slack ;)
13 Month Progress UpdateClick thumbnail to view full-size
Eeep! I still don't like looking at my face! But, you can see a LOT better now the differences so far over the course of the last year. They put me in bands at the beginning of July (which, yes, I've been VERY slack about wearing) and things have slowed down a good bit.
I had a visit with my general dentist in June so he could see the changes and start making plans for the final product. It's still a good ways off, but...well...it is nice to hear about regardless! I still have the huge gap from a previous tooth extraction in the front that they have to do some compensating for space-wise, but overall, things are straighter and my bite feels a lot better. I do still have trouble sometimes with my jaw wanting to lock up, but it's not as prevalent as it was in the beginning of the whole ordeal.
It still stands too, I'm ready for these things to come off. In the same token though, they've just become a fixture. Most of the time they don't bother me anymore.
Other added bonuses in recent months? I started a new job in July and met a great guy who loves me for me in May. So, having braces as an adult certainly isn't a life killer ;) Keep that part in mind my friends!
19 Months In...Click thumbnail to view full-size
I Haz A Sad
This has been a hard journey and I'm nearing the end of it. And today, I feel devastated.
You see guys, things have been going REALLY well with the braces. Standard appointments where they put on the power chains or lace my teeth with thin wire to keep them in place. The usual soreness on most visits and progress as to be expected. It's been almost TWO years now that I've been in braces. I remember when I started this lens that being where I am today seemed SO far away. The reality is that it's honestly moved quicker than I expected. And for that portion, I'm thankful.
But today. I had a cleaning scheduled with my general dentist. I really adore them. They care. They know what they're doing. And they've been around for a while in that one location, in the neighborhood I've spent the last 17 years in. After the cleaning, I let the assistant know that my orthodontist had wanted the dentist to look at where my teeth were and to make a call on how things were looking in comparison to what he needed to finish out all the work to give me that winning smile I've longed for through the years.
We started talking about what was next - a consultation with another lab technician who would do the ceramic work for the bridges and crowns that I need across the top. That consultation is scheduled for February 13. The part that was heartbreaking and is still to me...the part where he mentioned it would run about the same price as the braces.
Most people don't talk about the price of braces since it can be a very individual scenario and each location is different. I'll tell you though, my fine readers. The braces have run me about $5400. And that's about par for the course where I live here in the Charleston area of SC. Without in-house financing available (as is the case with most orthodontists), I wouldn't have been able to do this. And now here I sit, almost two years later, and I'm looking at owing a similar amount with the HIGH probability of not being able to make payments. And I'm getting married in May.
I had my hopes up too high to have the braces off and my smile be perfect for one of THE biggest days in my life. And I'm crushed because wedding or no wedding, I have no idea how I could possibly afford to pay that amount to FINALLY get the smile I've lusted after since my childhood. I make enough money to make it by with an occasional frivolous extra. But I don't have even 1/10th of the amount that I'll need to see the end of this journey.
See why I haz a sad? Le sigh. I'll update more when I can but I suppose this is my "warning" that it may be awhile yet before we see the finished product that I'm sure many of you are anxious for.
Until next time...
26 Months!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Holy poop. Things have been busy and full of distraction for me!
Yes my faithful readers, if you've made it this far - I am, in fact, a married woman now :) Braces and all!
As you can imagine, the braces weren't ready to come off in time for the wedding. And that's fine. Really, it had to be. And the closer the wedding got, the busier we got. I hardly had time to worry over them and it would have been fruitless anyway. Fretting wasn't going to make things move faster.
So here I am, a married woman. A far cry from when I started this journey! *Phew!* Isn't it crazy how things can change? A good thing too especially since the last time I wrote, I was incredibly worried, upset, and stressed out.
I'm admittedly still worried about the impending costs that remain with the crowns and bridges that are on the way, but there's a chance that a friend may be able to at least offer me payment arrangements so I can better afford the expense. We'll see what happens when we get there ;)
So, when will I get there? I'm still not quite sure at the moment. My next appointment is at the beginning of September 2013. The last several visits have been every 4 weeks and are called "Finish and Detail" visits. I'm anxiously waiting the time where they'll fit me for the permanent retainer, but they can't do that until this one final tooth MOVES.
I remember the first time they mentioned moving it and set up extra wire to do it. Nothing happened. I was actually fairly convinced it just wasn't going to move. The last couple of months though, after a slightly more aggressive adjustment, this tooth is just scooting along. I'm wearing my bands much more consistently now too to help this tooth move. I'm so sick of the metal in my mouth and really just want to get to the finished product. The wire still rubs the inside of my mouth in places and the bands have pinched the skin enough that I have small ulcers where they've hit. What can you do though? I just deal with it because the end of it all is so much closer. I run my tongue across everything and remind myself, "it's almost over; almost."
Here's to hoping for a firm date soon for the braces to come off!
And those of you in braces now, wear those bands! Especially when you sleep since the teeth seem to move around more then. They help!
To a Happy New Year!Click thumbnail to view full-size
It's been a LONG time since there was an update, and for that I apologize. There are times throughout this process that there's just not much to say. Things pretty much get straight and for a while, it's just fine tuning that one little thing. Visit after visit, making adjustments and checking progress.
I wanted to wait until there was a bit more to report on.
December 4th, 2013, I got my braces off! BUT. Yeah, there's one of those. For those of you with a full set of teeth, and not a whole lot going on, braces off day is exciting and wonderful! If you've gotten this far along though, you realize that I don't have an easy case. I'm missing quite a few teeth so more still needs to be done yet to see through to the final product.
January 3, 2014, I'm meeting with a new dentist, fortunately for me, a friend of mine, who has provided an even deeper discount for the remaining work to be done AND is allowing me to make payments. Since the braces have been paid off, I can at least use the funds that were going to them to pay for the rest of this dental work. It's a load off my mind compared to not knowing what I was going to do at all as I left this place last.
Things are finally in motion so we should see some more activity soon :)
Getting the braces off was a bit harrowing and I NEVER want to have to do that again. It was a little painful, but I do think that much of it was mental. I'm not clear on the entire process since 99% of the time, my eyes are closed while they're poking around in my mouth and I don't have that ability to look down on them doing the work on me ;) But, they give you a cotton roll to bite down on in strategic places while it feels like they are twisting the brackets loose from your teeth. So, there are times where it feels like they may take your teeth with them! Not my idea of a good time.
Once I had a chance to go brush my teeth again and look in the mirror, I was immediately horrified at the stains! And they aren't stains that show up like little light colored squares where the brackets were...just...look at the pics. I drank a LOT of coffee. Typically a pot of coffee a day...I'm sure that had a lot to do with the stains. But there I was, braces off and supposed to be excited and really feeling incredibly self-conscious all over again. They took a few more pictures and did an xray, then did the mold so they could fit me with temporary retainers to keep my teeth from migrating while I work on getting the additional work scheduled.
I went in the following week to pick them up and guess what they are? Basically, they're Invisilign braces. Hard but relatively thin pieces of plastic, custom molded to my teeth to snap on over top of them. After a week of not having anything securing my teeth, they were incredibly painful to fit and I had bad little visions in my head of how they just weren't going to cooperate with me. If you have a choice, please do NOT wait a week to get your retainers. Get them as soon as you possibly can. Please. Now that I've had them for a couple of weeks, they're much easier to handle, although still very much annoying. If you don't clean them or your teeth well, they will start to stink. Do not slack on hygiene.
I went for a consult with my new dentist on December 20, 2013 and got a plan of action in place. They gave me some bleach gel to start working on the lower teeth so that when it comes time to do the bridges and crowns on the top, we can get a better idea on the color choice to go with. January 3rd is when they'll be taking a mold of my teeth and getting a temporary set made, which I should be able to pick up a week later. They'll also be doing another cleaning at that time. I suppose how it's going to go is that I'll get my temps, and then within 2-4 weeks (? - I'm not really clear on the timing here), we'll be setting up to do the actual work on my teeth. I'll need to get another set of retainers made once the bridgework is done as well. I have to wear the retainers full time (with the exception of eating and brushing) until June. Afterwards, I can wear them exclusively at night and hopefully get something more permanent.
Anywho, that's where we're at right now. Check back around the end of January and there should be another positive update :) Are you ready like I'm ready???
Temps Are In!Click thumbnail to view full-size
It's January 24th, 2014 and I had my long appointment today to get my temporary bridge put in. Oh my OW! Seriously. That crap is no joke!
Modern Family Dentistry is the practice that is doing the final work on my mouth and they've been quite lovely :) Plans for today included doing a few fillings and the temporary but once they got started on the temp, they realized it would be a lot to do to me at one time to do the fillings too, so they've been put on hold until the next visit when I get the permanent stuff.
First, they numbed me up. I forgot just how EXCRUCIATING it can be to have those needles inserted into your gums to administer the Lidocaine. Tears were streaming down my face, it was that bad. But I didn't punch anyone or curse them out :)
Next came the prep work on my teeth. What they do here is grind away at your teeth until you basically have "puppy teeth" left! During breaks to allow some time for my jaw to relax, I'd roll my tongue over my teeth and they were little pointy nubs! I know that's what they have to do to properly fit the bridgework, but I can't lie that it made me wonder a little bit why I'd get braces in the first place if they were just going to grind my teeth down in the end - hah! Yes, yes, it's so the alignment is correct and things go together more smoothly. Still.... :)
The other fun part, cording. I don't really understand the whole process but I imagine it's to make room for the temporary bridge along the gums. They use this cord around all the teeth that are going to be affected by the temp to expose a little more tooth. It sounds AWFUL I know, but they numb you for a reason!
After all that, I got a bit of a break before they put some acrylic stuff inside the bridge to get a better form on the ground down teeth so the new stuff would fit over top of them. They did a test fit and then went to work on polishing it up a bit.
During this break, the numbness started to wear off in my teeth so when Beverly, the lovely assistant, came back to check the fit after polishing some more, I had another excruciating predicament when she tried getting the temporary bridge off my teeth. Yowch! I surely expected my poor little nubs were going to come off with it! Fortunately, they didn't, and Dr. Kolmodin hooked me up with some more numby stuff. At least with the first application of the lidocaine out of the way, the ones that followed were less horrible.
In the end, they had to test fit one more time and then worked on fitting it with the cement to hold it in place until the permanent stuff is created and ready for "install." I arrived at 12PM and left at 4PM! Just so you know what to expect if you're going through something similar.
It was about 35 out when I left the dental office and I have to admit that I was mildly amused that the bitter cold wind bit at my chin, but the top of my mouth and nose couldn't feel ANYTHING. And then coming home and trying to give my husband a peck on the lips just wasn't normal. After I updated him on the whole visit and just before he left for class, I gave him a kiss goodbye and his parting comment was, "You pushed too far :)" Ahh my man of jokes :)
It took about 2 hours for the numbness to wane enough that I could at least try to smile but now that I can, I realize I have a lot of retraining to do with my face! It's kinda hard to show your teeth when you smile when you've worked so hard for 20+ years to hide it!
Next up will be one appointment to take care of the fillings that we skipped today and to seat the permanent bridges and crowns. The final product is going to be two 3 teeth bridges and two crowns, one for each of my front teeth. For those wondering which teeth will have what, they are: bridge from tooth #6-8, crown on #9, crown on #10, and then a bridge between #11 and #13.
And FINALLY after that is done, I'll make another trip to Acuity Orthodontics to get fitted for new retainers and then about a week or so after that, I'll pick up what I'll be wearing until June. Oye! What a process!
I'll be back to update again once the crowns and bridges are done, but for now, this is as close to a final product as I've been and it's just CRAZY the difference! It IS worth it, even with as pricey (and painful if you have a case like mine) as the whole process will be for you.
Now, time to figure out how to eat something :)
And We're Done!
The Final Product
I'm a terrible slacker and am writing this almost ONE YEAR after having the permanent bridge and crown work put in place.
Life kinda sneaks up on you like that. Shame. My apologies my faithful readers.
With that being said, I don't remember a whole lot about the final session, with the exception of going through a few hours of torture, they decided to hold off on doing the fillings for another day.
I do remember more numbing, more tears, some "grinding" off of residual glue from the temporary bridge, achy jaws, and some work on grinding down some of the new work to make my bite more natural.
In the end, the compliments over the last year have been lovely. I've learned how to smile. Laughing hard and fully comes so much easier. I really feel I can let loose and enjoy something GOOD when it happens!
Do you know how liberating that is? If you don't because you're worried about your smile, please take the plunge and invest in your teeth. I know I've spent well over $10,000 (and for most people, it may be more if your teeth are as bad or worse than mine were), but I really can't tell you what it means to have that confidence.
It really is best described as liberating. Freedom to REALLY visibly enjoy life. It's a beautiful thing.
Inspiring? Depressing? Have questions? Sound off here ;)