The Whole Metal Enchilada

The sun rose on Tuesday morning, but I didn’t see it because I was asleep. I was asleep until my alarm went off, and until it went off again five minutes later. I was le tired, but le tired can’t get in the way of my orthodontia appointment!

The day had come. The day upon which I would complete my braces collection with the addition of the bottom row.

Early morning = brightness.

Top braces, your days of being an only child are almost over.

I walked into the office just as another patient was departing the welcome desk, so the receptionist herself actually checked me in this time. I spent a few minutes watching a knickknack-selling show on HGTV before I was beckoned to the back and motioned to join my orthodontist at the farthest chair.

“You are our next lucky contestant! Come on dowwwwwn!” announced my orthodontist in his best game-show-host voice as he waved me over. He mimicked holding a microphone. “Welcome! Can you tell us where you’re from?”

“Wellllll, I’m from my hometown,” I replied into the air microphone offered to me. We had a good laugh as I settled in for the initial examination.

“How do you feel? How are you adjusting?” he asked as he readied his shiny dental paraphernalia.

I told him that all was well and that the biggest adjustment had been the eating habits (oh, so much truth!).

“But!” I interjected. “It’s been so cool to see my teeth actually moving! ‘Cause when they were first put on, I was like, ‘Whoa! My teeth look all jacked up!’ But they moved, and they’re not so crazy anymore! And that’s been so cool to see!” (Eloquence on the fly: nailed it. :P)

He then informed me that I can track my progress online, since I have a patient account that features my “starting point” photos. Sah-WEET!

My orthodontist proceeded to examine the progress made in the past six weeks, poking about and peering into my metal-clad mouth. His commentary consisted of a few “OK, cool”s and a couple of “Excellent”s and a single “Aha.” His verdict: he was pleased with what he saw and I was cleared for bottom braces.

“You’re on the tarmac. You’re ready for takeoff,” he announced as he rose from the chair to let the tech who’d finished up my top row at my last appointment sit down next to my head.

The tech inspected my teeth, and at some point my bands and archwire were removed. (For some reason, Pre-Orthodontia Me thought that the archwire remained intact throughout the entire treatment. Now that I think about it, that doesn’t really make much sense, but it was a mythbusting revelation when I felt it pried from my brackets.) Since the orthodontist had another bonding appointment, it would be just a few minutes before we got started, so the tech offered me the giant keyring with the assortment of colorful bands so that I could pick a hue (I picked a blue-teal color this time around). She then cleaned my teeth with that intensely gritty substance.

“You’ve been keeping your teeth pretty clean, so there wasn’t a lot of buildup,” she remarked, which explained the brevity of the grit cleaning. I resisted the urge to frolic over to the sink and wash out my mouth and merely walked there and back.

A teenaged boy occupied the chair next to mine. One of the techs announced to the orthodontist that he had a broken bracket.

“Did you break another one?” asked the boy’s mother, who was standing at the foot of the chair. Apparently, this was news to her. “What were you eating?”

The boy shrugged and grinned as he settled back into the chair—you know, that shrug and about-to-giggle grin you do when you’ve been caught for a very minor offense. “I don’t know.”

His mother shook her head. She was definitely not actually angry—more like a mild level of disbelief coupled with the knowing look of a mom who’s used to hijinks. (Her other child, a daughter probably a couple of years older than the boy, had just finished her own appointment for a second orthodontic treatment series. She hadn’t worn her retainer after getting her first set taken off. Lesson learned!)

“Are you ready?” inquired the tech when I returned from my grit-swishing jaunt.

“Ready as I’ll ever be!” I affirmed.

Partway into the process, the tech asked the orthodontist something about rotation, which he approved from the far side of the room. The tech produced a few wires that were perhaps six or seven inches long and somehow affixed them to a few of my brackets (I wish I knew how this was done, but I can only see so much ;)). Several pairs of wires sprouted from my mouth, leaning this way and that while she worked on the next one.

“I think I can receive satellite now!” I said.

She laughed. “Hang on while I adjust your rabbit ears.”

The wires were clipped and we moved on. I particularly recall staring at the double fluorescent light fixture above me and being awash with a new wave of the fatigue that had dogged me when I woke up.

Oh, heavens, I thought. I might fall asleep! Uh, resist! Resist? Yeah. Don’t close your eyes.

You’ll be glad to know that I stayed awake for the entire procedure. I can only imagine what would’ve happened if I were a dental-work-fearing individual who required the aid of Valium to allow anyone bearing sharp tools within 20 feet of my mouth.

The application procedure for the bottom row of brackets was quite like the first, complete with several sweeps of that UV pen (which seemed to give off some warmth this time around). There were a couple of exceptions to the similarity of top versus bottom, though. There was one bottom tooth that had to be left bracketless because it’s so crowded that a bracket can’t be placed on it yet. Because of this (and the crowding of my bottom teeth in general), my orthodontist had to shave a tiny, tiny bit off the sides of two teeth to allow that wiggity-wack tooth some space to rotate.

Not gonna lie: I was hoping for expecting a little bit of smoke and a whiff of burning bone when he used that tiny circular saw. But nothing of the sort occurred. Quick and painless (and far better than pulling a perfectly good tooth to allow another perfectly good tooth to move).

Ta-daaaaa! I was good to go. I received a “next appointment” card with my recommended appointment week and a check in the box by the statement that indicated that my teeth were clean and in good shape. Time to face the world—but not before I procured a couple of the little pipecleaner doodads (which one of the techs referred to as “little Christmas trees”). Those things are the bomb at freeing lodged food bits.

Da-ba-dee-da-ba-die.

Bluetooth’d!

Why is my smile so awkward, you ask? Well, the thing about the bottom row of braces is that the top teeth have a tendency to overlap with them and pop ’em off. I am one of those cases.

Enter the turbo. (Yes, “turbo.” I wasn’t entirely sure that I was hearing them correctly, but apparently they were indeed saying “turbo.”) Some places use metal brackets affixed to the back of the front teeth, but my orthodontist utilizes a blue substance that looks sort of like dark gel toothpaste. I got to have a bit of it applied to the four farthest-back upper molars.

Hi-YAH!

Hippopotamus yawn, engage!

I don’t even know they’re there (until I bite down, of course). They’re quite smooth and unobtrusive. If they wear down or become damaged, I can pop back into the office for a touchup.

With regard to pain: I thought I was gonna be in the clear. I think my bottom teeth were just so surprised for the first few hours that they didn’t have time to hurt. But it’s back to the drawing board with all my food advances. It took me an hour to eat a Sonic grilled cheese sandwich, and it was gloriously soft and gummable. Oosh.

I broke down an took an aspirin before I went to sleep. The top row is fine, but the bottom row is still unhappy today.

So, to take my mind off the persistent soreness, here’s a picture of one of the apartment kittens:

Cute and fluffyyyyyyyy!

WARNING: Gratuitous cute-ity.

The Rundown

  • What’re your orthodontia accessories? All the braces in the worrrrrld! Top and bottom, that is.
  • Band color? Bluish-teal.
  • Any pain today? Yeh-heh-heh-he-e-e-e-e-e-esssssss. *tear* This bottom group is eating my pain tolerance’s lunch.
  • What sort, would you say? The soreness variety. And not even that kinda-satisfying I-totally-smoked-my-triceps-with-three-pound-weights-yesterday type (just me?).
  • Do you miss anything? Every food more strenuous to chew than a blissfully soft grilled cheese.
  • Looking forward to anything? Yes: the pain easing up.
  • On the bright side… Sonic is still running their half-price milkshake special!
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