Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Braces for Lesley-Anne

Lesley-Anne has commenced her journey on braces. It was one that she faced with great trepidation but I'd insisted on it as she has quite a few crooked teeth and one tooth in particular that grew behind another. I have crooked teeth myself and always wished that I'd gotten braces when I was young. Having a great smile makes such a difference to one's features.

We visited our family dentist/orthodontist right after Lesley-Anne's PSLE. We figured that it would be a good time to start since she had time on her hands to adjust. Upon examination, the dentist said that Lesley-Anne's overlapping tooth meant that her bite was wrong and she wasn't able to grind her teeth sideways. If this was not corrected, it would affect her jaw growth and she might end up with what he called a "banana jaw".

So what started out with cosmetic intent became a necessary procedure for developmental reasons. Before this, I was hazy about the process for braces - it was very educational for me too, so I'm going to share what we learnt so far from Lesley-Anne's experience, for the benefit of others who might be considering this step.

We'd heard that many people had to have extractions when they did their braces and this was a major fear factor for Lesley-Anne. I'll try and explain what the dentist said: Often, the reason for crooked teeth is that there's simply not enough space - either the teeth are too large or the jaw too small or both. When that occurs, the teeth start growing in whatever space they can find, in whichever direction. In such instances, it's usually necessary to remove some teeth to make space for the remaining ones. 9 out of 10 people who have braces require extractions. The catch is that if this is deemed necessary, you'll need to remove a total of 4 teeth - 2 from the bottom and 2 from the top, for an even set of pearly whites. If you hate extracting one tooth, imagine extracting 4.

Lesley-Anne was extremely fortunate in this respect. According to the dentist, she only lacked half a tooth space, ie only one tooth was half overlapping. If he was to perform the extractions, she would have too much space to fill, meaning that when her teeth were all straightened out, they would collapse inwards too much, creating a much smaller arc. Conversely, if she were to keep all her teeth, they would make a slightly larger arc than currently, to compensate for the missing half a space. In other words, she'll just have a fuller, toothier smile. Think Julia Roberts.

The choice was obvious and it was the dentist's recommendation anyway. I could see Lesley-Anne relax her grip on the armrests once she heard that she wouldn't need extractions!

So this was the timeline: The first step was putting in the separators, which are to create a space in between the molars. A week later, she had molar bands fitted and metal brackets (to hold the wires) stuck onto each individual tooth. I never realised that these were simply glued on! Lesley-Anne said it felt strange having so much metal in her mouth. The next day (last Saturday), she had the wires put in. Braces now come in a variety of colours and she chose a dark blue.

This is the part where the discomfort sets in. Because the wires have hooks, they sometimes catch onto her lips and ulcers can set in. Chewing food that's too hard can hurt too, so she's surviving on a soft food diet at the moment. She's braving it like a trooper though, I think it will get less uncomfortable with time. We've told her that everytime she feels discomfort, just think: "No extractions!"

From now on, it's back to the dentist once every few weeks to tighten the wires. The discomfort will always be felt most when the wires are newly tightened. This process will continue for two to three years, depending on the individual. According to the dentist, don't be too happy if you're able to remove your braces very quickly because it means your teeth are very loose, which isn't a good sign.

The braces will set us back by $3,850. But perfectly straight teeth and a healthy jaw? Priceless.


Unknown said...

Dear Monica, I found your blog about half a year ago. Although I am not an English educated mom, I like to read your blog with great interests and have learnt a lot since then, be it PSLE, DSA, or braces. Thank you!
My son is the same age as Lesley-Anne, just had PSLE, and coincidently just had his teeth braced yesterday without teeth extraction. I pick "Damon self ligating brackets (in silver colour only)" (as the orthodontist suggests)for my son without doing much research. As you choose different type (with many colours) , I am wondering if I made the wrong decision. Thanks for sharing!

monlim said...

h2: Thanks for reading! The dentist did say after PSLE is a popular time for parents to start their kids on braces. Lesley-Anne chose the colour herself, I don't think there's a right or wrong decision for the colour, purely cosmetic!

Your English is pretty good, btw :)

Yve said...

I totally agree with all you've written. I didn't get braces for myself until I was 30! The few years' investment was well worth it, though.

And yes, post-PSLE is the best time to embark on the orthdontic journey. My niece had hers started then and I've that in mind for my kids too, but haven't braced (pun intended) the subject with them yet. Two more years to go for the elder child.

Gwyn said...

Hi Monica, try Zilactin for the canker sores. Mt dentist recommended it to me a few years ago & it's wonderful. It numbs the area so you can eat without pain. To prevent canker sores from braces, ask your dentist for some putty (not sure what the name/term is). It's something my dentist gave me when I had braces. You put a small piece over the brackets & it prevents the brackets from rubbing & catching on the inside of the mouth. Tell Lesley-Anne to hang in there. The results are very worth it.

monlim said...

Yve: So what my dentist said was true then - the children who have the best teeth are those whose parents had bad teeth! Because of our experience, we take care of our kids' teeth better. He says his own kids have terrible teeth, ironically :P

Gwyn: Thanks so much for the rec! Sounds wonderful. I'll ask him about it the next time.

Jo said...

Hi Mon

I was one of those few who got the removable braces type when I was in sec sch. Hated it, gave me a lisp. In top of that, my dentist did not extract teeth from both the left n right side (only removed right side upper & lower) so I ended up with an alignment problem ! Plus I hated the days after each appt...ouch...soft diet !

I think braces have come a long way in the last 20 years. Have been keeping track of my daughters' teeth, definitely the younger one is heading for braces, small space between the baby teeth. Elder one so far so good..hopefully I can save on 1 set !


monlim said...

Jo: Oh no! I heard about those rogue dentists who only removed teeth from one side, then you end up with the alignment problem. My sympathies!

Yes, braces have come a long way. Hopefully your elder kid won't need them. I'm pretty sure Andre is heading the same way as his sister though! Sigh... gotta start saving now.

Patricia said...

I chanced upon your blog a few days ago and have enjoyed it since. It's been very enlightening and delightful to read of your parenting style and beliefs. I'm thoroughly impressed by your intelligence (in all forms) and consistencies in the bringing-up of children.

Btw, I love Les Mis too! I literally pluck the name Cosette off the musical for my own kid.

monlim said...

Thanks Patricia! Wow, such compliments, my head is getting bigger as I type this :P

Cosette? How sweet! That's the first time I've heard of anyone having that name in real life. You must bring her to watch the musical sometime!!

breve1970 said...

Hi Mon

I used to have ulcers after all the pricking by the wires. Am not sure if the dentist could recommend a soothing gel (can't remember what its called) where you can apply it at the tip of the wires.

Believe it or not, I wore braces for the longest time... from Sec 3 till I turned 21! 6 years... all because I had a change of 3 orthodontists at IDH over the years!

monlim said...

Ann: L-A was given an ulcer gel but not sure if it helps much. 6 years of braces??? Golly! You must have felt so strange when they were finally taken off!

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