Three years, five months, and 25 days.
Monday, May 9th was debonding and retainer fitting.
Honestly, there’s not much to tell. It was just as anticlimactic as Dr. S. had promised when I sat down in the chair. He used his bracket-remover tool to pop off all my brackets — archwires and chains still attached — which took all of about a minute. Then his assistant used a power tool to scrape all the glue off my teeth — which was weird and sometimes uncomfortable, but not much more so than a normal cleaning.
After that came picture time, where the assistant took about a zillion close-ups with a little digital point-and-shoot. Then she took impressions for my retainer. The medium seriously didn’t taste like anything; imagine pureed paper pulp, maybe, but with the consistency of soft Play-Doh. It wasn’t even all that awkward or uncomfortable — I had expected much worse, like the Nine Inch Nails-esque contraption that held my mouth open while they put on new brackets last time.
I brushed my teeth probably five times that morning, between debonding and impressions and whatnot. Surprisingly to me, I didn’t have that bad of discoloration on my teeth after 3½ years in braces, either.
My first post-braces meal was a grilled ham and cheese sandwich (courtesy of the Snackster), which I enjoyed at home with Aaron. (He’s the Snackster-master.) Nothing special — but, man, was it nice not having to worry about shit getting stuck in my brackets.
Not long after lunch, I found myself back at the orthodontist’s office, getting my retainers.
It was a short visit, wherein the assistant showed me how to insert and remove my clear retainers. They were mighty tight that first day, but she assured me they would loosen up a bit after a while. She gave me some pointers on keeping them clean and safe (e.g. ALWAYS keep them either in their plastic case or in my mouth), gave me some paperwork to sign (basically, if you don’t wear these and your teeth move, you’ll have to pay for more treatment), and sent me on my way.
It did take me a day or so to get used to speaking around my retainers. The day I got them, I went straight from my retainer appointment to a hair appointment, and it was a challenge trying to talk without drooling all over myself.
I have another ortho appointment scheduled in six months — well, five months, now — for a check-up on how my teeth are doing. When I put my retainers back in after more than a couple of hours, I can definitely tell where they want to migrate: one of my top front teeth wants to keep rotating, and my bottom front teeth want to lean forward. I’d rather not have to have a permanent retainer installed, but that decision is a long way off — at least five months, more likely a year.
In any case, I’ll be wearing my retainers full-time for a year, and at night forever. And I’m fine with that.
So, what’s the biggest impact of having had braces? It’s partially cosmetic, sure — who doesn’t like having a nice, straight smile? But it’s also hygienic — flossing is SOOOOO much easier now, where it was a near-impossible chore before braces. It’s also a bonus not to have my own incisors poking me in the upper lip from their awkward rotation.
It’ll be a while before I don’t have to think about my teeth at all, thanks to my full-time retainers. For now, though, I’m going to say that the years of discomfort (and sometimes all-out pain) and inconvenience were definitely worth the end result.