This post is long overdue, by three months – I had planned to write it almost immediately after getting my braces taken off but, of course, life with a new baby took over and blogging took a back seat.
Finally, here we are, at the end of May, exactly 13 weeks after having my ‘train tracks’ removed. This photo was taken a few days ago, so is a pretty accurate reflection of how they look right now. (Scroll to the bottom of the post to see before and after photos – they’re not great because I lost the originals when moving files from my old phone to my new phone.)
But back to the matter in hand. The easiest thing is probably to list what happened on the day and how it felt, then I’ll talk about how I feel since then.
A bit of background
My braces were fitted in November 2017, and they were removed in February 2019. The process took 15 months. You can read my blog post on getting braces here, and another post ten months into the treatment here.
To summarise, each tooth had a metal bracket glued to it, which opened and closed in order to hold a metal wire in pace. Every six to eight weeks I would have the wire taken out shortened, and put back in the brackets. This would cause headaches and an achy jaw for five to seven days, but paracetamol helped at the worst points. Additionally, for the last six months of my treatment I had to wear tiny rubber bands – where the brackets and wires were to straighten the teeth, the rubber bands were to improve the bite.
Wearing the braces was not nice for the first week or so, not pretty for the first couple of months, and thereafter I hardly noticed them at all. That said, when my removal appointment came through, I was counting the days…
Monday 25 February, 10am
My appointment was at the same place as the rest of my treatment had been, the Dundee Dental Hospital. Professor David Bearn was my consultant and he oversaw and delivered most of my treatment. However, for the removal of my braces I was under the care of final year dental students with his supervision.
Prof Bearn took the top four brackets off first as these are very difficult to remove – he put all his strength into squeezing the pliers (for lack of a better word) and pulling the brackets off each tooth.
This. Was. Horrible.
It was painful and felt exactly like what was happening – that someone was using all their might to pull metal off my teeth, and every tooth felt it right into the root. The last of the four brackets was the worst and just as the bracket pinged off I thought I was going to either scream and cry or pass out. Thankfully, the rest of the teeth are stronger than those four front uppers and so the rest of the removal didn’t feel as intense or as raw – it was much duller, and much more bearable. If they had all felt like those first four (and let’s remember, these were in the hands of the expert) I honestly don’t know if I’d have coped. I would certainly have asked for a sedative, and that is not me being a diva!
After around ten to fifteen minutes the front four upper brackets were off and Prof left the two students to share the rest of the work. One did the remaining upper teeth and then they swapped, letting the second student do the lower teeth. Both were careful, caring and efficient. (I always allow students in any of my NHS treatments – they’re the next generation of carers so I feel somewhat obliged to help them learn, especially because I work at the university they’re studying at!)
Removing the rest of the brackets took around an hour, perhaps not quite. By halfway through it had already felt long and I must admit I was starting to feel fed up. But, as with everything, it came to an end eventually and Professor Bearn was back to check the work and the teeth and was happy that everything was in order. That meant it was time to see my new teeth.
11.10 am and I was handed a mirror. I didn’t think too much about it and lifted the mirror to my face. I smiled, opening my mouth to get a good look, and the first feeling was of shock: these were not my teeth. I didn’t look like me. My teeth were huge. They were yellow. They suddenly looked so obvious, the size, the colour, my lips looked smaller, everything just looked very weird and all of a sudden I was very aware of my face. I think I felt more self conscious than when the ugly braces went on. I forced a smile and politely said, “Wow! That’s amazing! In such a short time, too. They look great, thank you so much.” And then I lay back down while a my moulds and photos were taken, struggling to process what I’d just seen. The sight had hit me hard, as if I’d been winded. I wanted to cry. Let me be clear: this was not disappointment in the result. It was more about saying goodbye to a piece of me.
The appointment was over after an hour and a half, or thereabouts, and I made my way back to my car. I couldn’t stop checking my teeth in the rear view mirror as I drove home. The more I looked at them, the more I began to see how wonderful they looked. I could see each tooth, there were no longer any ‘vampire’ teeth, and the bottom teeth were so neat that I almost wished they were visible at all times. It didn’t take long for me to accept my new teeth, but it has taken a while for me to recognise my mouth as my own since that appointment.
I ate lunch with Nathan and filmed an Instagram Story with him to let my followers see me without the braces on. This Story is saved as Highlight on my Instagram profile if anyone is interested in seeing how I felt immediately after having the braces off. I received so much positive feedback from everyone (on my teeth and Nathan too!). It hit me: I was so lucky I had been eligible to get this treatment on the NHS.
Monday 25 February, 3.30pm
It was back to the dental hospital to see Professor Bearn for the final time. He fixed a permanent retainer behind my front four upper and lower teeth (a very thin wire secured there with the same stuff they use for white fillings) so that the teeth would be more stable. I probably could have had night time retainers, which is standard as far as I know, but it was decided that due to the extensive work I’d had, a permanent fixture would be safer in terms of a) forgetting to put my retainers in wouldn’t be an issue and b) maintaining the final result for as long as possible. This appointment was much shorter – 20 to 30 minutes – and I was home again by 4.15pm.
The permanent retainer feels a bit weird but the glue has since softened so I don’t notice it at all really. Sometimes I feel the upper wire with my tongue but this is mostly because I have a habit of clenching my teeth when I’m stressed… hopefully this will settle more as Kittie continues to improve. The plus side is I don’t have to remember to wear my retainers, or take them with me if I’m away overnight, or indeed, remember to pack them to take home. The downside is that yes, I do feel them a bit, and they leave me with a slight lisp. However, when compared to the actual brace I’m reminded how insignificant the retainer actually is.
Two months later: Wednesday 24 April, 11am
After a couple of months with my new teeth I thought they had moved. I was sure that both the upper and lower teeth all ran very evenly along a straight line after having the braces taken off, and now I felt like they were leaning, ever so slightly, back towards their original places. Nobody but me would have noticed because I was so in tune with my old teeth, I knew exactly which way each teeth went and having had them repositioned, I could see even the tiniest change.
I asked for another appointment which was given to me quickly with a different consultant. I saw a final year student, who made his judgement and then had the supervising consultant check too. Both agreed my teeth had barely moved, but that yes, they had settled into what would probably be their permanent position. I was assured this was to be expected and that the consultant did not anticipate much more change, if any. I left feeling reassured and much less paranoid! However, my original consultant has asked to see me anyway to make sure that he is happy with how things have developed – this appointment is yet to be arranged.
No one prepares you for how you might feel after ‘fixing’ your teeth. The shock of seeing such a change to a face I’d known for 36 years was immense. I wasn’t prepared for that, and it has taken some adjusting to my new look even though I am absolutely delighted with the result and I am so glad I finally went ahead with the treatment after years of feeling self conscious about my teeth.
Personally, I’d like to lift the colour a little. Not too much, but a little – now that I can see the teeth so well the staining is more obvious to me. I wouldn’t mind spending the money on whitening (using a professional dentist) but I am concerned about a) the sensitivity that often comes with whitening and b) the fact we know so little about the effects of teeth whitening in the long term. (If anyone has any professional advice or wants to share their personal experience, please do leave a comment or get in touch via social media or email.)
Something else that no one tells you is that you’ll miss your braces. Not in the sense that I’m longing to have them back on – um, no thanks – but, rather, that it feels VERY weird not having all that metal in my mouth. Even now, three months later, I still haven’t quite got used to my teeth feeling smooth on the outside, to my mouth looking less bulky. I find myself in a sudden flap now and then, panicking that I’ve forgotten to put my rubber bands in and I feel terrible guilt and then sudden relief. It’s all really rather odd.
But then I remember that my braces are off. And that my teeth are better, not just cosmetically but they’re also easier to keep clean. I remember that I am no longer afraid to smile in photos, I’m no longer afraid to smile openly at people in the street, that I’m not internally paranoid about people looking at and thinking about my teeth.
The thing is, most people probably didn’t give a toss about my teeth, but I felt like they did. And now I feel differently, I feel better. And that in itself makes it all worth it.
With thanks to our NHS for providing such a brilliant service.
Top, before. Bottom, after. Sorry these aren’t great quality – the original photos were lost.
Top image: Kris Miller.