Category: Health

Embracing braces

(if the tenses seem completely incongruent, it’s not because I have a completely warped sense of time (or maybe I do, but not so much that I can’t tell the difference between yesterday or two months ago!), but because, as usual, I procrastinated posting this and so it combines experiences from when I first got braces fitted to present (2 months later)).

It’s been such a long time because of my mother’s (dentist) insistence on ‘settling down’ before starting orthodontic treatment. Since we were moving around like nomads during my teenage years, the prerequisite for braces was not met, and we never got around to it till I saw a periodontist and he strongly advised I do get braces. So, in these few weeks, my mum found a good orthodontist, pulled out four of my teeth (originally she didn’t have the inclination to extract her own daughter’s teeth (like taking one’s own flesh?!), but then the disconcert probably subsided), got separators put in last week, and today got the brackets cemented on and the archwires pulled through. The whole process isn’t as daunting as it seemed. I’ve never had teeth pulled out, so naturally I was anxious… but it didn’t actually hurt. The injections hurt… especially the upper gum, but somebody was really clever and told me to think of it as just like ant stings (speaking of which, an ant bit my knee the other day and now puss is squirting out. yummy). The important thing is try not to panic! I did panic a bit and felt quite dizzy: breathe in slowly and deeply, to avoid that happening (easier said than done!). The actual extractions didn’t hurt a bit, I think the pain is more psychological, as if you’re forever removing a healthy part of yourself. But it’s necessary, at least in my case of severe overcrowding. After the anaesthesia wears off, there will be a dull pain on the site where the teeth were, lasting no more than one to two days, but the worst bit is having to taste your own blood.

The separators are just tiny little rubber bands that are placed between your back teeth to allow for space to place the bands. They are good because they allow you to get accustomed to the sort of ‘discomfort’ you’ll get with braces in smaller areas and without the strange metal contact a week before the actual braces are fitted. The ache only occurs when you’re chewing down on food: otherwise it doesn’t hurt.

I was pretty indecisive about whether to get ceramic or metal brackets (for the upper teeth, metal is needed for lower): I know they all say it’s about the same, but I was still unsure and wasted a lot of time researching about it on the internet. While most people my age would think that ceramic braces are more aesthetically pleasing, I have to say I think metal braces are way cuter. At the very last minute (literally), while sitting on the ortho’s chair, I finally decided on ceramic braces. They are indeed a bit bigger and have a smoother texture than metal braces, but after a week, you get so accustomed to the feeling that the feeling has habituated (unaware sense). There are times when ulcers will develop because of the constant friction with soft gums, but they clear up. Braces has definitely made oral hygiene even more laborious because you have to thread the floss through each wire and the actual braces themselves are such obstructive things, but I noticed that interdental cleaning is easier because of the bigger gaps. Eating food is also quite annoying when everything gets jammed in between the wires, refusing to budge even with vigorous mouth rinsing, and you keep tasting your lunch from 4 hours ago as the flavours (that also taste strange because the enzymes have degraded it!) seep out.

I have had one adjustment (monthly), and while the process itself does hurt a little, the pain afterwards was nowhere near as intense as the first fitting, when I was forced to eat soggy Weet-Bix the next morning (my previously most hated breakfast food: but now it seems I am “Australian-ising” and becoming less picky…), and pureed (baby) food for a week afterwards (not really baby food. Pureeing the common family dinner… but even chicken was a bit tough and required some sore gnawing even after pulverisation). I think I loved the blender during that time because it allowed me to evade the usual Chinese “remedy-for-all-ailments” of congee (which I am not fond of at all!)… After that week, I was able to chew on pretty much anything, and after a fortnight, even hard foods like apples and nuts are okay to bite on (although they say to avoid nuts.. obviously I’m not a good patient am I?! I’ve also been eating Twix lately, hopeful the caramel isn’t that detrimental… :P).

Results are clearly and quickly visible. Only just two months into treatment and it’s already straightened considerably, especially the lower teeth. It makes me at awe of the wonders of technology and love orthodontics (I think orthodontists have an unfair advantage to all other dentists because everybody loves getting straight teeth without too much pain!). However, the heart-wrenching thing is the loosening of my teeth… I am wishful that they will still be an intact part of me for a long time to come…

Some interesting things I notice about what has happened because of braces… (I know, just two, pretty pathetic list eh?):

~I can’t whistle loudly! (like I proudly could before! Only a very weak, pathetic one!) Something to do with the hole that the lips form?

~Before, my top right canine (which formed a lump (anterior) on the gum) always (or… a lot of the time) had an itchy feeling. Now it is only occasional.


I’m wondering if it’s hypocritical of me to yearn for braces, yet disapprove of plastic surgery. Where does the line for beautification stop? Is it that I approve of braces because it’s only ‘natural’ (as mother nature intended, but obviously a screw-up happened somehow for some with unlucky genes) that a smile is straight, thus making braces an evolutionary necessity? Is it because crooked teeth are so ghastly that it entirely warrants the alteration of one’s appearance? Or is it that practically EVERYBODY with crooked teeth (I mean severely crooked teeth here, not teeth that are near-perfect that aren’t perfectly aligned) will get braces to correct this problem? So that would make me a conformist? But I know I’m not. No, perhaps it is precisely because everybody has normal teeth, that I don’t want to stand out with a grotesquely deformed smile.

What about plastic surgery? Considering I am against this procedure (unless a person was deformed in an accident), but how is it different to the straightening of teeth? Both is changing the natural appearance of a person. Maybe it’s because a relatively straight smile is just a person’s right, every person should be entitled to an un-malformed smile; it’s when you’re expressing your happiness, how can you feel ugly when you express your happiness?! But plastic surgery…is different because, to be honest, no person on this earth has a ‘deformed’ face (excluding those with inborn or external accidents), and so in essence, everybody has a ‘beautiful’ face, thus making plastic surgery an unnecessary aesthetic improvement. I guess if you view it in terms of severity, it justifies braces but it doesn’t for cosmetic surgery; many people have ‘deformed’ teeth, so many people get it fixed, it doesn’t make them conformists that it just so happens to be a common problem among the human race. However, I get quite irked when others with near-perfect teeth are nitpicking and complain of their ‘crooked teeth’. Those who have just slightly bent teeth that is hardly noticeable would have little grounds to get braces.

On the other hand, it is extremely rare for people to have a ‘deformed’ face, and naturally they want to fix up this abnormality, a completely natural desire, but those who don’t have a ‘deformed’ face but just want to make themselves the ‘ideal’ is doing so for vanity. It can also be said that braces do have some functionality as well, like making chewing and cleaning easier, but that’s not so for the purely aesthetic cosmetic surgery.

Maybe I’m just trying to rationalise my hypocrisy. Maybe. or maybe not…

Either way, even though people strive to be the face of ‘perfection’ in their own vanity, I guess it is their right, and I accept it. You could even say that part of my criticism lies in the possibility that I am actually subconsciously jealous: jealous that these people are going to be more attractive than they really are just because of some operation they had. But I have not been through what they have been through, so I can’t judge them.

What about transexuals? I don’t frown upon it, although I do admit I find it rather bizarre. I guess they can’t help their feelings, and in this case, plastic surgery is more about fulfilling a sense of identity rather than narcissism.

All things aside, I know I want to get braces. And today, I finally got them. My mouth is full of metal: it’s painful, it’s uncomfortable and distracting, it sucks the joy out of eating, it makes ugly teeth even more conspicuous and ugly, it has made oral hygiene 10x more tedious, it traps bits of food in every imaginable nook and cranny that refuses to dislodge even with rigorous rinsing, it impedes speech, but boy am I very happy. 😀 For 10 years (approximately) ever since my teeth started overcrowding, I’ve been longing for it intensely, ever so self-conscious and ashamed whenever I smiled or laughed. And while most people were lucky and got it in their younger years, my patience paid off, and I am finally on my way to a more beautiful smile.