Of which I’ll go through the entire list, piece by piece. Brace yourselves! (ooh, unintended pun right there!)
Separators: these are the little blue plastic square-shaped things which kind of look like the parts of a baby’s jigsaw puzzle. The orthodontist snaps the separators on between your molars for about a few days to a week before the actual day when you get your braces so there will be enough space to fit a molar band in around your molars. Pretty much from what I’ve researched online, some people find separators annoying if they dig into the gums and others don’t really have a problem with them. The separators didn’t bug me at all. In fact, I’d say I was the one bugging the separators by constantly running my tongue over them to check if they were there. But they were pretty painless, unlike…
Molar bands: now these things are like a medieval torture device made for the mouth! The actual bands don’t really affect me, but it’s the cleats on the back and front of the rings that really kill me. When I first got my braces, I was constantly covering the front cleats with orthodontic wax because they literally cut into the sides of my mouth.
Sidenote: Orthodontic wax is a lifesaver – I’ve been using it like it’s going out of fashion! I’m the type of person who’s really prone to mouth ulcers so that was probably my biggest fear about the braces – all that metal irritating your mouth and cutting at the inside of your cheeks and causing ulcers. Sadly, that has so far proven to be the case, so if it wasn’t for the wax, my mouth would probably be one giant ulcer right now. And it seems to be my sad fate that the moment one part of my braces stops annoying my mouth, another part starts acting up – first it was the right top bracket with a hook for elastic bands (I haven’t been fitted out with actual elastic bands yet; I hear it’s used to help the teeth move along faster so maybe I might get some later on down the track if my teeth don’t move fast enough? Grrr, teeth, hurry up and move!). Then, just when my mouth gets used to having a little hook at the top right bracket, the left top bracket hook starts to dig in! Then it was the right molar cleats, followed by the left ones, then the right ones started acting up again, and at the same time, the arch wire of my bottom brace starts digging into the inside of my lip, leaving little wire indents till I swear I was going to be the only person to have the inside of her lip garrotted by an brace wire…thank goodness, it never really drew blood, but I’d hate to think what could happen if someone accidentally whams me one in the jaw with a football or something…
Brackets: With the exception of the above-mentioned right and left top brackets with hooks for elastic bands (and they eventually stopped bothering me about a week or so in when my mouth learned to adjust around the brackets), the brackets have been the least bothersome part of my braces. Even having the orthodontist put them on was no fuss at all – he just glued them on and there they were!
Archwire: As mentioned above, the archwire on the bottom row of my braces did annoy me for a little while with their tendency to press against my bottom inner lip, but they never actually drew blood like I feared they would. They do continue press against my inner lip every now and then, usually when I’m asleep and my mouth is dry and I’ve been sleeping with my face against the pillow, but it’s more a mild annoyance that doesn’t last, rather than any actual pain.
However, as the archwire works its miraculous magic, pulling my teeth into place, it gets longer at the back of the mouth, eventually sticking out and poking at my cheek. So it’s a case of good and bad, good because the archwire is doing its work and straightening my teeth (oh, happy day!) and bad because the wire is now poking at my cheek. I’ve put some orthodontic wax on the pokey bit for now. Technically, I should be able to go see my orthodontist any time to get it snipped because that shouldn’t take too long, but I’m going to wait and see if I can last out til my next appointment, which is in a couple of weeks. But if you’re in my situation and the wire is really bothering the hell out of you, all advice I’ve received is – call your orthodontist and make an appointment ASAP!
So, all around – do braces hurt or what???
Well, with the exception of the molar band cleats playing hell with my mouth – no, not really. The braces are uncomfortable, especially at the beginning, kind of like sitting in a really crappy chair with bad wires and the cushion worn away so you can feel the metal frame digging into you. Uncomfortable, I’d say, but not painful.
Some people complain about their teeth being sore or hurting heaps, but I can’t say that was my experience. My teeth did feel rather tender, but they weren’t aching in an I-need-painkillers kind of way (actually, sorry, maybe I am not the best candidate for telling you whether it’s the kind of pain that requires painkillers because I’m the kind of person who never takes painkillers, not even for a headache. Or a mouth ulcer. I kind of just sit and wait out the pain. Yes, I know, I’m weird that way.)
When I first got my braces, I couldn’t talk or eat properly – I couldn’t even close my lips fully around my braces, let alone do a close-lipped smile (which never looked good on me, even pre-braces anyway). There was just so much going on – there was a whole metal party going on in my mouth! I felt like a rapper with grill. I felt like my teeth were stuck in jail! But eventually my mouth figured out how to make room to accommodate the current metal tenants. And I still have a really bad close-lipped smile but that’s something I always had pre-braces anyway, and I actually love my ceramic braces smile now that I can do a big, open smile without discomfort!
Dry mouth: Another major thing I didn’t enjoy about braces – dry mouth! I’d fall asleep at night and wake up to find my braces had stuck themselves to the insides of my mouth and it was sooo annoying to have to peel them away and drink some water and feel not just my mouth rehydrate, but the metal bits as well! Gross! The first couple of nights was the worst, and I also had dry lips throughout the day – part of it is caused by all the time you spend with your mouth open while the orthodontist is patiently gluing and inserting brackets and bands. I had a similar issue with dry lips and a dry mouth after my teeth extractions because of all the time I spent with my mouth open in surgery (wow, I don’t even want to know what I looked like to the surgeon and his assistants with my mouth wide open and my face swollen and whatnot on the operating table) not to mention all the sprays and stuff they give you anyway to dry up your mouth right before the surgery.
What can you do to cure dry lips/mouth? I’m sorry to say I’ve never met a lip balm that actually cures chapped or dry lips. And I’ve tried heaps of them. I found the best thing was just to wait it out – eventually your mouth gets back to normal in a few days or a week at the longest.
However, for those of you who have a dry mouth issue that you can’t stand or which won’t go away, I’ve done some digging around (I was pretty impatient; didn’t enjoy the idea of waiting out the dry mouth issue to resolve itself), and found that there are some special toothpastes/mouthwashes for dry mouths. Bioetene is one recommendation. And Sensodyne and Colgate also offer mouthwashes made for dry mouths. You can get them at most chemists so have a look around!
And finally…. How long would it take to get used to these friggin’ braces?
This is a question that’s been asked time and time again, and which I have Googled over and over again. I’ve learned that kids seem to get used to braces really fast, as they do to most things. Adults tend to take longer. We also tend to whine a lot more.
Some people take a few days. A week is average. Others take up to two weeks to get used to them. Sadly, I turned out to be one of those who had to wait two weeks before I woke up thinking, ‘Hey, maybe braces are a good idea after all’, rather than, ‘Oh my gawd, what have I done to myself? Fifteen months of this torture! Shoot me, somebody!’ But it’s now been two, almost three weeks. I’ve stopped using orthodontic wax on everything except the archwire bit poking out at the back and I plan to get my orthodontist to file down the cleats the next time I see him so they won’t bother me as much (thank you, adult braces Internet forums for letting me know I can get the cleats filed down to a more manageable shape/size). I still haven’t reached that stage where I completely forget my braces are there, but hopefully I will one day! Very, very soon! Until then, I’m still glad I’ve got my braces and I can’t wait for my awesome, straight smile!