Friday, September 26, 2008

Braces off!

From Jaw Surgery 2007

From ortho photos

There's a couple more in my surgery and teeth galleries. More to come!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Naked Lunch

I'm free! My braces are history, woohoo! I'm am super happy with my new smile! Unfortunately you'll all have to wait to see it because my main computer broke recently so my webcam is out of commission right now, please don't be mad at me! :o) I promise to post photos as soon as possible, I have a new computer on the way!

I arrived a few minutes early and Jasmin was just finishing writing my name on the white board - "Congratulations Graham, you're getting your braces off!". It has been a very long time coming waiting to finally see my name on that board, I feel like I just graduated grade 8, haha! All was quiet so Jasmin took me in right away. Everyone in the office was commenting on my big day and I was feeling bittersweet about it, hard to believe I have reached this point in my journey after 2 and a half years.

The first step was to put in my permanent retainer wires, one on top and bottom, bonded across the back side of the front 6 teeth. Jasmin used a neat little trick with strings to harness it in place before curing the cement, I wondered how they would do that because the wire is very thin and delicate, easy to drop or bend. The process was much like getting brackets on and went quickly. It feels smooth and bumpy on the back of my teeth now, kind of like peas in a pod. I think I'll be able to get used to it pretty quickly.

And then the fun part, snapping all the brackets off! A couple of the steel ones didn't want to go so she had to use the burr tool around them first and that did the trick. A couple of the ceramic ones shattered and so she had to grind them off with a really awful sounding tool that was like nails on a chalkboard, ick! The rest of the glue came off easily with the burr tool and I only had a few sensitive spots so it was pretty bearable; plus I've had brackets replaced a handful of times so I already knew what to expect.

I could feel myself getting emotional as she was getting close to finished with the burr, and hearing Chasing Cars on the radio didn't help but I managed to keep my composure. She then did a quick polish and it was time for my final rinse before the big reveal!

I took a deep breath, this was my moment! I stood in front of the mirror and let my smile shine! Wow, amazing! They look so huge! My smile finally looks like I want it to and I am feeling great about it! Dr Waese was commenting from across the room saying he wanted free front row tickets to the next movie I'm starring in, ha! Yep, I'll be walking the red carpet at the film festival next year!

Jasmin then went and got my first set of photos from 2005 and we were comparing, amazed at the difference. She then showed me how to floss with the retainers and Dr Waese came over to check my bite with some contact paper, which was all fine.

"Now that we're all done we have a little presentation for you, Graham. Come on over here," Dr Waese motioned. I knew I would get emotional now! Dr Waese blew on a whistle and the whole staff lined up and sang me a song, "You got your braces off today, hurrah, hurrah!" to the tune of The Saints Go Marching In. I lost it, and with tears in my eyes and a shaky voice I said "thank you all so much!" and shook everyone's hand. I knew I would be back next week for new molds but I really didn't want to leave! That office has been my happy place for 2 and a half years. As I walked out the door the tears of joy kept flowing and I decided to just walk home rather than take the subway to give me some time to let it all sink in.

Next week I get new molds taken for my TMJ splint and then the week after that I go back to try it out and make sure it fits.

Today feels better than my birthday, such a personal triumph for me, a long journey that has changed my life. I can't thank my dream team of doctors and technicians enough. Enduring this process has been worth it 1000 times over.

Photos coming as soon as I can get them up. Now time for my first naked lunch!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Freedom day September 24th!

Freedom day is September 24th! More on that shortly.

Let's take a step back first. I had adjustment #17 five weeks ago but I didn't post anything because the changes were so small that it wouldn't really be noticeable. That said, he did tighten up my bite a little bit more by bringing my pre-molars closer together. I do see an improvement, especially on the left side now. I also asked about the last molars at the back on my left side, the upper one feels like it's too far out, but he looked at it and said that it looks good and that he wouldn't want to put any more torque in the wire but just to give it a bit more time. He also put more expansion in the top wire as well as moved my top eye teeth down very slightly. The last five weeks have been steady and I've felt the changes taking place. If I sleep on the side of my face I can feel my teeth shift with the pressure but then shortly after I get up I feel them push back into place, it's a weird feeling, like someone put a rope on them and is slowly pulling, but not painful at all.

Today is what I was sure would be adjustment #18 but to my surprise he said he thinks I'm done! He wants to make sure I'm psychologically ready though and said that he wouldn't take them off until I was ok with it. My two main concerns were as follows:

1) My right eye teeth seemed to be slightly clashing and stopping my right side occlusion from completely closing. He took a close look and explained that it may appear as clashing but in fact it's just the way things are fitting together because of the shape of my teeth. He also used some contact paper to prove it. There was a small dot and so he ground the lower tooth down ever so slightly. I think I can feel a difference. The other option would have been for him to move the upper eye teeth down a bit more and then do more grinding but it may make me look like I have fangs, so he really didn't recommend it. Since my eye teeth are not worn down - since they were never in my bite previous to orthodontics - they don't have the same shape as might be expected and so they don't perfectly close the space between the upper and lower eye teeth.

2) My last molars on the left don't totally overlap. This is the same issue I've been talking about over the last two or three appointments. He looked closely again and said they look good even though they may feel off or different from the right side. Consider also that my right side has a bracket on both molars whereas the left has a bracket only on the top tooth. (Actually it does have a bracket but the wire is not attached so the tooth is free to move if it wants to.)

So back to the being psychologically ready part. He spent a fair bit of time discussing the overall situation with me and that he believes we have done all we can do with the orthodontics side of things and that it's time to move into the retention phase. The reasons why it appears as though things still aren't quite perfect is because of my genetics, that is, some of my teeth aren't ideally shaped, and that the level of granularity that orthodontics can offer is not at the same level that the human nervous system can detect, so in the case of my molars, they may feel off but physically they aren't really. So we have come to the limit, and anything beyond this will likely have to be cosmetic, but he wants me to wait because we don't know yet what will happen once my braces come off. He is planning to use fixed retention (willy wires, hehe!) on both top and bottom plus night time TMJ appliances, so it's a very strict retention plan.

Let me just say that I am definitely thrilled with my results; the difference is like night and day and I credit Dr Waese with getting me to that outcome. He is a very intuitive man and is as much an artist as he is a scientist. I will definitely miss him and his staff as they have treated me like gold since my first day!

So, September 24th is when I get my fixed wires on and braces off. One week later I go back for final records. And then a week after that I go back to have my TMJ appliances fitted. And then? A new chapter!

As usual, check out my latest photos in the gallery, my last set before braces come off!