Author Topic: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain  (Read 20264 times)

Offline bfat

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STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« on: 17. January 2018, 20:36:59 PM »
Early September 2015

It seems a bit crazy that I'm writing the first entry of a diary about getting braces. Life is weird sometimes.

For the sake of proper documentation – after all, I'm a grad student (!) – a bit of context: I started grad school here three weeks ago on a scholarship; I finished my undergrad in psychology last spring. I'm 22, from a boring middle-class family from a boring middle-sized city. I'm in a graduate dorm/residence at this university in a bigger, more interesting city, and the first two weeks have been about getting settled, meeting advisors, getting stuff for my room, learning about the city, etc.

This residence has three private rooms and a common area, and it was clear from about 5 seconds after getting here that Janice, one of my two dorm-mates, would be one of my best friends. Super energetic, excited about everything, and just a good vibe from the very start, and so we've hung out together endlessly.

About a week after getting here (and meeting her), she came bouncing into the common area, which she likes to call "the den" (because it sounds like a thing dudes would call it, and she loves the irony). "How do you like your smile?" she asked. I was like, what? "I mean, do you like it? Are you happy with your teeth?"

I'd worn some kind of drool-inducing, awkward appliance for two years when I was about ten years old. Then I finished, and my dentist was happy with my bite. My teeth are still healthy, cavity-free and I don't think about them much. I told her this. "Me too," she said. "Well, my dentist in junior high said I had the best natural bite that he'd ever seen. He used to show other patients photos, because it's pretty unusual. But my wisdom teeth came in a few years ago, and look at this:"

She opened and pointed at her lower front teeth. One of them overlapped the other, just slightly. On her upper jaw, one of her upper canines looked a bit vampire-esque.

"I don't love this. And please don't hate me, Annika. But. Your teeth are fine, but they could look AMAZING. I can be an objective critic, and that's my assessment."

At this point I think I ran my tongue over my teeth.

"Anyway," she said, "I was at the student center and I saw a poster that said that the faculty of dentistry does orthodontic treatment for students at reduced rates, and so I dropped in." She said this very casually, like she'd stopped to find out about a recycling program. "Because we're grad students, and because we're both TAs on an undergraduate course, the reduced rate is pretty great."

"What's pretty great?" I asked.

"Free!" she said.

I thought about it for a second, and then I said: "I'd need to think about this a bit longer. This is honestly the first time I've thought about it at all. And we're 22 years old. Do you want to be walking around with braces at this age, especially when your teeth are fine?"

"Short-term pain for long-term gain," she replied. "And way easier if we both do it."

"I'll think about it, I said."

So then I went to a meeting with an advisor about my courses, and literally for the next five days Janice kept pestering me about it in her enthusiastic way. More than once I spent a bit of time staring at my teeth in the mirror and agreeing with her assessment – my smile was nice, but it could be AMAZING. So I decided it couldn't hurt to find out more.

Janice made us an appointment exactly one week ago, and this morning we went to the dental faculty building and into an office/reception area that was pretty much indistinguishable from a dentist's office. I think they try to make it seem similar so it's more like the real thing for patients and for the students. Janice had explained enough to them ahead of time so we went in together and sat in a room with a treatment person, Suzie, who was full-time professional staff rather than a student. On the shelf behind her were various models showing braces on teeth. Suzie's teeth were literally perfect.

She explained the program: free treatment for faculty members, which we indeed somehow qualified for as TAs, and we'd be treated by upper-year orthodontics students, who either had moved straight from graduating from dentistry or had returned from dental practice to add this speciality. It was run like a large clinic, so we wouldn't have a single orthodontist, but each would have access to the treatment plan and they would review progress together with faculty members. Treatment time would be the same as anywhere, but chair time might be longer because they would document stuff in more detail, take more impressions and photos throughout, and occasionally discuss the case for classroom rounds, blah blah blah. Any questions?

"So, I'm not a teenager, obviously," I said. "I'm assuming you've got options like Invisalign?"

"We don't work with Invisalign because it's a proprietary system and most of the work is done remotely at their facilities," Suzie said. "Because this is about training and experience, the one condition here is that your treatment will be standard orthodontics, where the students can work with and see the physics and mechanics of your teeth and bite, to understand first-hand how the process works."

It was pretty clear Suzie had answered these questions before.

"What about clear braces?" I asked.

"These are available, but they would require an additional out-of-pocket payment. Basically anything that isn't strictly necessary for your treatment would cost extra. So if you wanted the college logo on your retainer, you'd have to pay for it."

We asked a few more questions. If we dropped out of the graduate program we could continue with the treatment but we'd need to pay the (still-reduced) fees from then on. We ran out of questions and Suzie started wrapping things up. If we wanted, she said, she could book us in for an exam to move things forward. It didn't mean committing.

"Sure," Janice said. "Let's do it."

Offline bfat

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #1 on: 17. January 2018, 21:34:12 PM »
Late September 2015

This morning was the exam/consultation appointment. Janice and I went together, she as enthusiastic as always, but we were ushered into different rooms for the actual exams.

My exam was pretty much like my sort of fuzzy memories of when I had orthodontic treatment when I was a kid, except there were two orthodontists (students) and one supervising orthodontist from the faculty. The supervisor was a man of probably around 50 who really didn't say a word, and the students were a kind of Asian-looking guy and a white woman both probably around 30. The orthodontist (students) poked around in my mouth, had me open and close my mouth. They took some photos and showed them to the older  faculty guy, who looked at them and said "good".

Then they asked me why I wanted treatment. "Hmmm," I said. "I guess I just know my teeth could be better than they are. I'm pretty sure they're functionally fine, but if it's reasonably easy and free to make them better, why not?"

"Better how?" the woman asked.

I hadn't thought about how to articulate this. "Well, I guess they're not entirely even. And I've seen, like, wider smiles on people? I'm mostly pretty happy with them, but I know there's room for improvement."

We talked a bit longer and then the three of them left the room and asked me to wait a few minutes. They came back in about fifteen minutes later and finally the older faculty guy spoke.

"Annika, the way we do these initial exams is two or more students participate and then individually discuss their initial findings with a faculty member so we can evaluate the effectiveness of their individual observations. These are two top students and they both had exactly the same initial reading of your case, so I'm happy for them to proceed to give you their thoughts. We do this step so you're confident that the treatment plan is professional."

"Uh, great," I said.

The Asian guy, Dr. Jack (he already was a dentist), said: "Annika, your bite is fairly good, but slightly Class II on your right side. And as you noted your teeth aren't completely even. We'd still need to take X-Rays and impressions and study those to create a comprehensive plan, but it's clear to us that the next step for you would be to fit you with standard braces."

"Right," I said. "How long do you think it would take?"

"That's a harder one to define, but it's not a super-complicated case, so my guess would be 12 to 16 months?" Jack looked at the faculty guy, who nodded in agreement.

"That seems pretty reasonable," I said.

The woman, Dr. Amy, said: "You don't have to decide now, but if you're ready to move ahead we can do those impressions and X-rays now."

I channelled Janice and tried to enthusiastically say: "let's do it!"

"OK, fantastic," Dr. Amy said. "I'll get someone to prepare the paperwork, and we can get to work."

I guess this is happening, I thought. How weird!

So then I did impressions (which I'd done a bunch of times when I had that appliance years ago) and some weird X-Rays (which seemed new to me). Then they took me back to the chair and Dr. Amy said they'd put my spacers in – to make room for molar bands on my back teeth. Dr. Amy put in two spacers, which are basically little blue rubber rings, between my back lower right teeth and two more between my back upper right teeth. Then Dr. Jack did the same on the left side, all under the watchful eye of the faculty guy. He then pulled on some gloves and a mask, checked their work, removed one spacer and replaced it with a new one.

"Just a bit off to the side on that one, Amy," he said.

I got out of the chair, shook all their hands, and then walked out to the reception area. I signed a few documents about faculty affiliation and acceptance of terms, and made an appointment – TO GET BRACES IN A WEEK AND A HALF. Then I sat down and waited for Janice. She came out about 10 minutes later and signed her own set of papers and walked over to me.

"Looks like we're doing this," I said.

"You're in?" she said. "I thought you'd back out."

I opened my mouth and pointed to the spacers on my lower teeth.

She pointed to hers and then we started giggling.

"When's your appointment?" she asked, finally. I told her and she went back to the desk and made her own. Same day, same time.

Offline bfat

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #2 on: 17. January 2018, 22:50:23 PM »
Early October 2015

OK, this was a bit of a weird day. I'm pretty sure I'm not friends with Janice any more.

So we got up early, ate together, brushed and flossed and all that, and then headed over to the dental building.

For the past 10 days we'd sort of not talked about this day. I mean, how much can you talk about getting braces, in the end? One day, Janice asked what it was like when I got my terrible appliance when I was 10, and I told her what I remembered – it was an awful day, I was super nervous about getting some kind of "appliance" and then it was worse than I had imagined. It basically filled my whole mouth, and my dentist, who I liked before and after that, was pretty clinical about it when he fitted it. I couldn't talk at all, at first, and the idea of wearing it ALL THE TIME seemed impossible when I was sitting in the chair with it in my mouth for the first time. I can remember blushing uncontrollably when I finally walked out into the reception area, and then my mom and the dentist having a super loud conversation about it right there at the desk in front of the whole reception area. The first few days at school were the worst, but I actually did wear it all the time, except for eating, for a little over two years. Actually, there were three different versions of that appliance, if I remember correctly, but I'd just go in for an appointment and leave with the new one when that happened.

When I was telling Janice that story I remembered that then I got a retainer to wear at night and I wore that pretty religiously until I was about 14.

So we got to the office and then they came to get us. I was like "should we hug?" and Janice was like "let's high five", so we high-fived before getting braces.

"Good luck!" we said at the same time.

Then we went off to separate rooms. Dr. Amy was there, the same faculty old guy, and a different student who introduced himself as Dr. Lorenzo. Dr. Amy was happy to see me, which was weird since I'd really only spent an hour with her poking around in my mouth. She wasn't wearing her mask and I saw for the first time that she wore braces.

"I didn't actually know you had braces," I said as I sat in the chair.

"Oh yeah, you didn't see them last time. I'm 9 months in to this treatment."

"THIS treatment?"

"This is my second time. I wasn't as obsessed with moving teeth when I was a teenager and I wasn't very good about retainers ... and they're free here, of course."

"Of course."

"So Annika," Dr. Lorenzo said, looking straight at me, "as promised we've studied your models and X-rays and developed your treatment plan based upon that information and the consultation last month."

His chairside manner was very professional, I noticed immediately. I guessed that he had worked as a dentist before coming back to school for orthodontics.

"Great," I said, hesitantly.

"As discussed, we'll be able to unwind the slight crowding of all your teeth without too much trouble. As for your observation about the width of your smile, some minor palatal expansion is still possible even in your adult jaws, and we should be able to widen your arch for a very satisfactory result."

(I have to say here that I remember mentioning wider smiles but I was really just trying to answer their question and babbling a bit.)

"During the expansion phase there is an increased risk of unwanted molar movement, which we'll address with extra-oral anchorage. Overall, it's a fairly simple case, and my classmate Dr. Jack's estimate of 12 to 18 months of treatment still seems accurate with good cooperation."

Dr. Lorenzo looked at me and waited to see if I had a reaction. I'd read a bit about braces in advance of this appointment and one term alarmed me.

"I'm glad the estimate still holds up," I said. "Can you explain what extra-oral anchorage is?"

Dr. Amy answered: "Standard headgear in your case, Annika." She walked over to the counter and said "Here, we actually have everything ready to go over here," and then held up a metal facebow and a blue strap, folded neatly in half and still inside a plastic package.

"Um," I said. I have a problem where I'm at a loss for words at the worst times. This was one of them.

After a pause where they were maybe waiting for me to say more, Amy said: "I'm sure you've cleaned your teeth thoroughly, but we're going to want to give them an extra cleaning now and then we'll get started. Are you ready?"

She lowered the chair and deftly pulled out my spacers, and then got a lip-spreader thing which I vaguely remembered from years ago and carefully fitted it into my mouth. She added a plastic device that held my tongue back, and then connected a suction hose. Then she and Dr. Lorenzo brushed, flossed, swabbed, rinsed, and did a whole bunch of other stuff to my teeth.

"We're going to start by fitting your expanders and your molar bands," Dr. Lorenzo said, standing back. He went to the counter and held up two metal devices, each with four bands attached. "The upper one is activated by turning a screw. The lower one uses a spring action to push the palate wider. Both are precision fit to the models of your teeth, but the spacers will have moved things slightly so we'll probably have to make a few adjustments. We'll test how they fit, then take the lip-spreader out, test them a bit more and then cement them in."

Dr. Lorenzo tried the lower one, which didn't fit easily, I think, as it took him about 15 minutes of making adjustments and consulting with the faculty guy. Then Dr. Amy went to work on the upper one, which took less time. Once they were satisfied with the fit, they took them out and put them on the counter. Then they each test-fitted two molar bands on my very back upper and lower teeth, he working on the left side and then she the right. They took the bands out, and packed my cheeks with cotton rolls, and then removed the lip spreader. Dr. Amy now put the lower expander into my mouth and had me bite on a wooden stick held over each band in turn, which she said would help seat it completely onto the teeth. The faculty guy pulled on gloves and examined the fit and approved it. Amy removed the expander again, dried it and my teeth with some kind of air tool, then added cement to the bands and reinserted it. I bit down on the stick four times again, she and the faculty guy had another look, and then she shone a UV light tool on everything to cure the cement.

Dr. Lorenzo repeated that process with the upper expander, and then they went through a similar pattern with the back molar bands. Finally, they replaced the lip-spreader and replaced the cotton rolls.

I will say that at this point I was pretty shellshocked. Was this really happening?

"This next stage is much easier, Annika," Dr. Amy said. "Expanders can be a bit gruelling to install, but we made it. You're doing great."

Then they began putting brackets on my other teeth. I could sort of see my teeth and the brackets reflected in the eye protection they wore as they leaned over me, and I watched as they positioned each bracket on a tooth, got faculty guy's approval of the location, and then flashed it with that UV light. That part took less than an hour, versus the 90 minutes or so of fitting the expanders.

Dr. Amy then got the facebow she'd showed me earlier from the counter and she and Dr. Lorenzo both worked on it inside my mouth for a few minutes before returning it to the counter. Then they took out the cotton rolls and the lip-spreader and raised the chair. They gave me a cup of water to rinse with. My mouth felt so weird! I couldn't decide whether the brackets on my teeth felt weirder, or the metal devices on my upper and lower palates. Dr. Amy handed me a tube of lip moisturizer and I smeared a bunch onto my lips.

Holding up two curved wires, Dr. Lorenzo said: "Annika, these are your very first archwires!" I chose a light-blue color for the ligatures they used to secure the wire into the notch on each bracket, and they methodically put the archwires into position.

"How do they feel?" Dr. Amy asked.

"I'm not sure if I can answer that yet," I replied. My tongue kept probing the complicated device in the roof of my mouth.

"Well, this is your final step today," Dr. Amy said, once again picking up the facebow, "and then you're free. Do you have a hair elastic?"

I pulled the elastic from around my wrist and gathered my hair into a ponytail. Then I opened my mouth - because what else was I going to do? – and Dr. Amy slid the facebow into place. This time I could feel it reach the desired position, somehow through my teeth. It had been more confusing when they were fitting it earlier, but now I could tell that the two arms had some kind of intended resting place.

At this point Janice walked in and her eyes got very big. My lips had just closed around the facebow for the very first time.

"Holy ..." she said.


Offline erin_wires

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #3 on: 18. January 2018, 02:43:09 AM »
Great story! Cant wait for more!

Offline OtherNotion

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #4 on: 18. January 2018, 08:55:22 AM »
Great work, wish my school had such a program and that my Ortho worked at that pace. I waited months before my fitting.

Offline carking

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #5 on: 18. January 2018, 17:40:59 PM »
What a surprise going in for braces and walking out with upper and lower expanders and headgear! Awesome! Looking forward to the next post.

Offline jonjon

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #6 on: 18. January 2018, 18:54:58 PM »
Great so far I think Annika mite regret her decision.

Offline bugbathe43

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #7 on: 18. January 2018, 19:38:05 PM »
very good so far, I walked out of my orthodontist office my first day with a headgear too ;D ;D

Offline jay82

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #8 on: 19. January 2018, 00:50:08 AM »
So far, so good!

Offline Braceface2015

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #9 on: 19. January 2018, 03:52:08 AM »
I added this story to The Archive. Keep up the good work. I am enjoying this story.

Offline radian

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #10 on: 19. January 2018, 13:37:58 PM »
Really great start ! I hope the next part will be published soon !

Offline kari

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #11 on: 19. January 2018, 16:28:01 PM »
Wow, what a great start. I love it!

Offline ortho218

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #12 on: 19. January 2018, 20:09:10 PM »
great story so far, keep it coming :)

Offline bracesfanza

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #13 on: 20. January 2018, 03:56:50 AM »
Fantastic story.
Cannot wait for more

Offline Wired_hg

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Re: STORY: Short-term pain for long-term gain
« Reply #14 on: 28. January 2018, 00:21:11 AM »
Very good detail in your story!  I like the direction this is going so please, do continue and let us know how these two characters interact with their new but different braces.