Laura’s straight teeth journey
article by Laura Walker
An account from a dental nurse’s perspective
As a dental nurse, I see patients every day who are self-conscious about their crooked teeth. But I also used to have crooked teeth and hide my smile, it was holding me back in many aspects of my life.
Lights, Camera, Get out of the way
I didn’t like the appearance of my top front teeth; they crossed over in the middle, and my lower teeth were crowded. Every time I saw myself in photographs all I could see were my terrible teeth. I started smiling with a closed mouth for photos or avoided angles that showed my teeth. Most of the time I ran for cover and avoided the camera. Lots of patients that I speak to avoid smiling for photographs and I completely understand why.
Nervous about going to work...
Despite being a dental nurse and seeing patients every day I was still a little apprehensive about my first appointment. At my initial consultation with Anna, I explained to her what I didn’t like about my smile, she listened and advised me of the options available to me.
Why I went with metal “ugly betty” braces
The Dental Suite offers a range of braces that I could have chosen from including metal, ceramic, clear braces, or even clear aligners such as Invisalign. I decided to go with metal six-month braces, as these are the most cost-effective and quickest solution.
Many of our patients choose clear aligners such as Invisalign because they are virtually invisible and people don’t even know that they are undergoing treatment. It is an excellent discreet option if you don’t want to straighten your teeth while enduring a metal mouth. Straightening with these clear aligner systems typically takes longer as patients sometimes forget to wear their aligners.
With fixed metal braces, you have much more control of the tooth movements, and you are pretty much stuck with them until your dentist takes them off, so they are always moving your teeth and working to get them into the perfect position.
Consent & risks
Once I decided to go ahead, Anna went through some consent forms with me that explained the procedure in detail, gave me an idea of what to expect, and the possible risks involved. Even though I am a dental nurse and I know what’s involved everyone has to go through the same process so that they fully understand what all their options are, this is explained in an easy to understand way.
She then took a series of photographs of my teeth and face from various angles which became part of my dental records. She also took an impression of my teeth using dental putty; this is an imprint of my teeth which is then used to create a cast/model of my teeth. This cast was used to plan the individual tooth movements and also form part of my clinical records.
Having my braces fitted... I fell asleep!
At my next appointment, my braces were fitted. Before this appointment, Anna had mapped out my treatment plan so that she knew the exact bracket placement on every tooth to give me the best possible result. I was super confident because I knew I was in great hands, Anna has so much experience; she has literally straightened over 10,000 smiles, and she’s a perfectionist.
It took less than an hour to fit my braces, the brackets were glued on each tooth in a precise location, after this, she fitted the wire onto the brackets with elastics. The wire pulls the brackets (and the teeth attached to them) slowly towards their final position. The position in which the brackets are placed, combined with the angle in which the wires are bent determine the direction of each individual tooth movement. Anna is a genius at figuring all this out down to a fraction of a millimetre, she has an eye for detail.
Anna also placed some bite blocks on my back teeth, these prevented my mouth from closing fully, so that my teeth could freely move during the initial stages of treatment. The procedure itself was very comfortable, and at one point I nearly nodded off. After I had the braces fitted they felt a little bit strange because something new was in my mouth.
Food, Pain & Cleaning
It took about a week for me to get used to my new braces; initially, my speech had altered slightly, and eating was a little bit more difficult than usual due to the bite blocks. On the day after my braces were fitted my teeth were tender, but this resolved itself within 24 hours.
The biggest downside to having braces was that cleaning my teeth took a lot longer because I had more areas to clean, and I had to use a special brush to clean in between the braces and the teeth I also made sure to brush after every meal just to remove any food that had stuck in my braces. Patients who choose Invisalign aligners don't have this problem, they simply remove them and clean their teeth as they normally would.
Wax was my new best friend
In a few areas, my gums were sore where the brackets had been rubbing, I rubbed some dental wax over these areas to help protect my gums which provided instant relief. The wax was my new best friend!
A month later...
About four weeks after having my braces fitted I had my first review appointment with Anna. My teeth had already started to move and become straighter. Anna changed my wire to adjust the tooth movements and keep them moving according to her treatment plan. The elastics that hold the wires in the brackets get discoloured with food and drink, so it was nice to have these changed and refreshed. After this appointment, my teeth did feel tender again for about 24 hours.
Teeth Shaving & Coil Springs
The next few weeks flew by, and the results were already amazing, my teeth were a lot straighter. At the next appointment, Anna changed the wires and elastics. Because my lower teeth were so close together and crowded, she had to shave a fraction of a millimetre off the sides of each tooth to create a little bit of space so that they could move past each other. This process of creating space between teeth is called interproximal reduction, and dentists often call it "IPR" for short. At this appointment, Anna also placed a small coil spring over one of my brackets at a steep angle to create more space and help to turn the tooth into alignment.
15 weeks in and my teeth looked a lot straighter. I had my wires, and elastics changed again. The metal coil spring that Anna had placed at the previous appointment had done its job and created the space that was needed to move the problem tooth correctly into position. Even though I was wearing braces, I started smiling a lot more and felt confident. Lots of patients asked me about my braces, and it was helpful for them to speak to me about my experience.
Saying goodbye to my braces
Having the braces off was an exciting experience! These braces had been with me and a part of my mouth for the last five months, but it was time to say goodbye. Having the braces removed was a completely painless procedure. Anna removed the wires and simply cracked off each bracket with a special tool and then polished all of my teeth to remove any excess glue.
Retain or pay the price again
I had a wire retainer fitted to the back of my teeth, and I was also given a set of clear retainers to wear over the top of my teeth at night. It’s essential to wear your retainers every day otherwise your teeth will start moving back to their original position.
At the Dental Suite, we always follow-up our patients for 12 months after they’ve had their retainer fitted and this is included in the price. I can’t stress how important the retainers are because the majority of people that we see in the clinic with crooked teeth have previously had braces but they didn’t wear their retainers and so had to have them straightened twice!
If you are thinking about having braces to straighten your teeth, do not hesitate. Come and speak to me and I’ll be happy to explain everything in more detail and answer all of your questions.
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