Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I've finished paying for my braces!

This was a nice surprise for the middle of the week!  I logged on to my internet banking today to check my credit card and wondered why my orthodontic payment had not been debited this month.  After checking my treatment plan I realised that I actually made my final payment last month.  Of course the payments I have made cover my whole treatment plan so I will continue to be seen - it just means that I no longer have the expense each month.

Time for a happy dance!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Living with braces - dispelling some myths and my top tips

Braces - those magical things that move your teeth and can sometimes be a complete pain in the butt.  But what is it really like to live with braces?

Before I got my braces I heard all sorts of advice from different people.  Some who had braces themselves many years ago when the technology was not as advanced and others who have braces or know someone who has braces now.  After living with braces for more than a year, I have come to realise that there is a lot of mis-information about them.  So in my own experience, here are the biggest myths about living with braces:

"It's really difficult to eat and you will lose weight"
Oh how I wish this one was true.  Eating can certainly be annoying because of the food constantly getting stuck all around your mouth and there are certain foods to avoid, but I would not say it is difficult.  And unfortunately the weight loss part did not happen for me.

"You cannot eat anything crunchy or chewy"
With braces you do need to be aware of what you eat.  However as long as you are not chewing down on lead pipes, imitating jaws from the James Bond movies or eating raw steaks - you will be fine.  Cut any large or crunchy items such as apples and carrots into small bite size pieces, take your time to chew your food carefully and you will soon figure out what you shouldn't eat and what is just a pain in the ass.

"Wait until you get them tightened - that's really painful"
When I heard this I dreaded my first adjustment appointment.  I imagined that the wires would be wrapped around the brackets tighter and tighter causing me immense pain.  In reality, braces are not actually 'tightened'.  At each appointment (usually every 4-6 weeks depending on your treatment plan) the o-rings are removed allowing your brackets to open, the wire is then removed and usually replaced by a thicker/stronger wire.  While this can be a little uncomfortable, I personally never experienced any pain.

"Don't consume curries, coffee or red wine - you will stain your braces"
As if!  But seriously - this is a complete myth because your braces can not and will not stain.  When you consume these types of food its the o-rings and power chains which discolour, but these are replaced at every adjustment appointment.  Some people find that by using grey coloured o-rings instead of white, they stain less easily.  Personally I like the nice clean look of white/clear o-rings when they are replaced.  And if like me you drink a lot of coffee - use a straw!

My top tips for living with braces

So, there are some myths dispelled.  Now for my top tips on living with braces and how to make the journey as comfortable as possible.

  • Follow the advice of your orthodontist and dentist.  This may sound self explanatory but I have constantly read on online forums - 'Well they told me to do this, but I don't think I need to'.  Seriously, they are professionals and know what they are talking about.

  • Have a top-notch dental hygiene regime.  I cannot stress how important this is.  When you have braces it is even more difficult to clean and floss, so regular visits to the dentist for cleans are imperative.  I go for a clean every 2-3 months and use my Waterpik at home every day (see below).

  • Buy a Waterpik.  This is a device which is also known as a water flosser.  It uses high powered air and water and helps clean between your teeth, between your braces and everywhere in between.  I use this religiously twice a day and it has been one of my greatest investments.

  • Get lots of orthodontic wax - and I mean lots.  Braces rub against the inside of your mouth and can cause ulcers and soreness.  Orthodontic wax is a pliable wax which you can use to coat brackets and wires which rub - reducing discomfort greatly.

  • Invest in pixsters.  These are mini flossing tools which you can conveniently carry around with you.  Make sure you take them everywhere - especially when dining out as food will collect around your braces very easily.  I usually make a discreet bathroom visit as soon as I have finished eating.

  • Be positive!  While braces can sometimes make you dislike your appearance, just remember why you have them and think of the end results.  Positive thinking can go a long way in terms of healing and how you deal with the reactions of others.

That's all for this update and for all you horror movie fans out there, enjoy the related YouTube video below!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

It's been too long - here's an update to my journey

A blog is a big commitment and sometimes it can be really easy to think 'I'll update it next week'.  I've been super busy with work, travelling quite a lot for both work and pleasure and I also moved to a new apartment.  Then I realised that almost a year has passed by since my last post.  I am still very much on my journey and the biggest step is yet to come, so I thought I would finally give an update and will commit to keeping this blog up to date.

So what has happened in the last year?  

To start with the expansion device had to stay in my mouth for a good 3-4 months after the braces were on so my jaw could stabilise.  It was a bit awkward having both in my mouth so you can imagine my joy when it was finally removed - I could touch the top of my mouth with my tongue again!

Since then it has been braces all the way - and my face has changed a lot.  I knew that it would take a while to close the huge gap that was between my front teeth - I just didn't realise it would take so long, but now I am really happy to say that the gap has almost closed.  In fact, there is only a 0.25mm gap right now thanks to orthodontic power chains.  You can see the result for yourself in the photo below - needless to say I am extremely happy with the result.  When I used to smile wide, there used to be huge gaps at each side of my upper jaw due to how extremely narrow it was.  Now my teeth are as wide as my smile.

When you look at yourself in the mirror every day you do not always notice the changes.  Looking at my upper jaw here though - it's amazing to see the changes.  And yes, it's another stupid pose!

I mentioned power chains - but what are they?

Well they are definitely not as scary as they sound.  At first when I heard about power chains I expected metal chains to be placed in my mouth and across the braces.  In reality, a power chain is just a plastic set of links similar to the o-rings that hold the brackets closed on your braces.  They go over the top of your regular o-rings and are quite tight, and that tension pulls the teeth together which in turn closes any gaps you may have.  There are different types of power chains and as the gaps get smaller, so do the links between each o-ring on the power chain.  In the image below, you would start with the power chains at the bottom of the image and slowly move to the ones at the top. 

Other results of the braces

Aside from the closing of the gap, the braces have also greatly reduced the over-jet of my front teeth. I didn't expect the result to be so dramatic because reducing the over-jet has in turn reduced the appearance of the overbite.  I still need double jaw surgery to fully correct everything, but I am well on my way to having a functional jaw.

This side profile shows the reduction of the over-jet

Of course the main function of braces is to straighten teeth and while my upper teeth were always nice and straight, my lower teeth were a mess.  I had a fang on each side of my lower jaw and these were not in line with the other teeth - but the braces soon worked their magic and straightened these teeth out.  In fact this only took a couple of months before there was a big change.

And that's it for now!  I will be posting a couple more updates soon on how to live with braces and the next steps in my treatment leading up to surgery.  Until then, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment - your support means a lot and your questions are always welcome. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tax time and medical expenses

For those of you in Australia and keeping up to date with tax laws, you will know that as of today - 1st July 2013, the Australian government has done away with the net medical expenses tax offset.  The tax offset helped people who spent a large amount of money on medical expenses during the tax year, by providing a rebate of either 20% or 10% over a set threshold - depending on your income.  The offset had been declining over the years, so I guess it was inevitable it would go - however this will affect a lot of people, especially pensioners who spend a lot of money on medical services.

What a lot of people don't know (and I only just found this out myself) is that while as of this year it has been scrapped, if you claimed the offset in the 2012-2013 tax year, you can also claim it in 2013-2014. And if (and only if) you also claim it in 2013-2014, you will be able to claim for one final year in 2014-2015.  This is great news for people like myself who are due to spend another $20-$30K or so.  It won't stop the government further raising the threshold and lowering the rebate, but at least it's something for the next couple of years.

That's it - just a quick post really, but useful information for those who need it.  And remember, if you did claim it in 2012-2013, ensure you continue to keep good track of your medical expenses.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The braces are on!

Hello again bloggerland!

A major event occurred a few weeks ago - I finally got my braces fitted.  Of course I wanted to update my blog straight away, but life has been super busy since then. With a work trip to Melbourne, then my own trip to Melbourne and a busy schedule, I've hardly had enough time to think.  Forgive my tardiness, I will make up for it I promise :)  Long blog post - beware!

So on Monday 27th May I had an appointment with my orthodontist to first remove my palatal/maxillary expander (my torture device) and then have upper and lower ceramic braces fitted (my new torture devices).  Having the expansion device removed was quite an ordeal because the metal bands of the device are glued to the teeth, so there was lots of pulling and quite strenuous physical labour (on the orthodontists part) to remove it from the jaw.  I usually have quite a high threshold for pain, but I must admit I winced a couple of times during the removal.  Now as you know I'm not going to shy away from the gory details in this blog - the smell was awful!  I couldn't believe that something that smelled so bad could be in my mouth.  My orthodontist explained that food gets stuck around the expander and some of it is almost impossible to floss/clean, so the devices are usually smelly once they have been removed.  Lovely.

Now for the braces - and for all the fuss made by many people that I know who have had them, I have to say that getting them fitted was not uncomfortable or painful and I actually almost fell asleep at one point.  Hats off to the amazing orthodontic team at Sydney Smile Specialists.  While I'm here, I may as well give them a plug - if you are looking for an orthodontist in Sydney, I really don't think you could find a more professional, friendly and caring team of people.  You can view their Facebook page by clicking their name above.

The ceramic brackets that will be adhered to my teeth, made by 3M.

The first step in getting the braces on is for the teeth to be prepared.  This involves popping a plastic device into the mouth to stop the lips touching the teeth, giving the teeth a thorough clean and then gluing each bracket to the surface of each tooth.  The majority of the brackets are clear ceramic, while a couple towards the back of my mouth are metal.  Having the lips away from the teeth ensures they are completely dry otherwise the glue will not adhere.

Ready to get the braces on

Once the brackets are on the wires are threaded (kind of) through the brackets.  One wire for the upper jaw and one for the lower jaw.  O-rings are then placed around each bracket (a little uncomfortable) which close the opening of the bracket and hold the wire in place!  Phew!  The wires are very flexible, but also have a tendency to want to retain their shape.  It is these characterises that apply tension to the brackets and so the teeth, and eventually move them into the original shape of the wire.  My orthodontist advised that I have a 'super-cable' on the lower teeth which is a stronger type of wire to move misaligned teeth a little faster.  That's a nice way of saying my lower teeth need a lot of work!

The whole process including the removing of the expansion device and the fitting of the braces took around 1 hour and 30 mins, with the braces taking up about an hour.  Not bad at all really.  And once my braces were fitted I couldn't stop looking at myself in the mirror - I'm so happy to finally have them on.  I was given cleaning and care tips and was on my merry way.

Here I am with my braces on

And you know how I love these beautiful close up shots

Over the next 4-5 days a couple of my lower teeth did get very sore, but I was told this was to be expected.  I took painkillers, ate lots of yoghurt and other soft foods and after a few more days the pain was gone.  Happy days.

One week later I had to visit the orthodontist again because even though I had my expansion device removed, I had to get a new metal arch fitted in the roof of my mouth.  This one is called a Trans-Palatal Arch (TPA) and it is designed to keep the expansion of the jaw stable and to stop the molars moving back inwards.  Yes, it's another metal device in my mouth but much smaller than the expansion device - in fact I hardly notice it's there.

Now to the downside.  Eating.  It's not painful or sore - just very inconvenient.  My upper and lower front teeth have never met, but before the jaw expansion the majority of my side teeth did.  Due to the massive expansion I have now undergone, only a couple of my teeth meet on each side.  This along with the gap in the front teeth (yes I know it will eventually close) and food getting stuck all around my braces make eating rather tiresome.  It's not due to the braces - they are just another obstacle in the way of me doing some serious chow down.  Eventually the braces will rotate my lower teeth outwards to meet my upper teeth, and of course there will be the main surgery next year, so until then it's a waiting game.  And the result will be worth it.

And that's all for now!  Hopefully you are still reading and enjoyed this post.  Feel free to leave me a comment or ask away if you have any questions.