I was absolutely thrilled to learn that my braces were going to be removed after only 21 months. This was even better than the estimated 24-28 month treatment time and WAY better than the 8 YEAR treatment time I’d been quoted as an adolescent! As an added benefit, the debanding came a few weeks before my ten-year high school reunion!I popped a couple of ibuprofen and applied a massive amount of lip balm in preparation for the event, which was yesterday. The removal process took a total of about 1 hour 15 minutes. The first 10 minutes or so involved removal of the arch wire, brackets, and molar bands. The molar band part was somewhat uncomfortable because the tool used to take them off required the Ortho to torque in a way that put a lot of pressure on my lower lip/mouth. However, it was a very quick process, and I never once felt like my teeth were close to getting pulled out as I had feared. My lower metal brackets popped off very quickly, and my upper ceramics also came off surprisingly quickly (although the associated sound and flying glue pieces were a little unpleasant!)
The horrifying part of it all came next and took about 25 to 30 minutes – but it felt like a lifetime! The ortho used a dremel-like high-speed rotary device to sand off the residual glue. I have extremely sensitive teeth, so this was really the most agonizing thing I experienced during the entire course of my braces experience. Not only was the grinding itself terrible, but the tool was spinning at such a high speed that it was generating a wind that was blowing across my now super-sensitive teeth. Of course, at least I was able to remind myself that it was all for a good cause! I tried to distract myself by breathing deeply and visualizing myself relaxing on a beach…but I still have marks on my arms where I dug in my fingernails to keep from screaming out loud! The ortho then put a slightly different rotary attachment on the dremel and shaped some of my teeth to address some of the little chips along the edges and to make my canines slightly less pointy.
The rest of the experience was a breeze, although my jaw hurt by the end of it all from being held open so much. I got to brush and see my new smile in the mirror for the first time! Then came X-rays, making molds for my retainers (just holding trays of goop in my mouth for a couple of minutes), and “after” photos for my chart. I picked up my retainers a few hours later, and I’ll return in 8 weeks for a retainer check-up.
Thanks to some gum recession, I’m not 100% happy with my new smile – I’ve got a rather noticeable “black triangle” (gap near the upper part of the teeth) between my two upper front teeth. However, it’s overall a HUGE improvement from my former overcrowded, crooked smile with what I referred to as “fangs” sticking out in the front! My Ortho said that in rare cases, gum tissue regenerates to fill in the black triangles, but if that’s not the case in 6-12 months, I may want to consider bonding.
Unlike other people who have shared their stories here, my mouth didn’t feel particularly different when the braces came off. My teeth didn’t seem slimy or look unusually large to me, and my lips still feel like they close the same way. The only weird part is that after wearing elastics constantly for the past year, I keep freaking out when my tongue goes to the sides of my mouth and doesn’t hit an elastic – out of habit, I’ve repeatedly reached for my bag to grab a new set of elastics!
I’m now in upper and lower Essix retainers (i.e. Invisalign style), which I’ll wear 24/7 for about three months and will then wear only when I’m “at home” (so not just at night, but also not in public!). I’m quickly learning how to speak without a lisp, although it’s been quite an adjustment that’s included some good-natured teasing from my friends! My recommendation for retraining your speech: sing along to the radio like crazy whenever you’re in the car alone! I’m sure that I’ll get used to the retainers, but they currently feel like more of a hassle than braces given that I absolutely HAVE to brush my teeth after every meal and can’t just, for example, keep a cup of coffee on my desk to sip throughout the morning. Yet I know the 24/7 wear will conclude soon, so I’m just thinking of this period as a continuation of my treatment.
I should mention that I had a dental cleaning this morning and was cavity-free…like others have expressed, I had feared what might be lurking under those molar bands. My teeth are somewhat yellowed in spots that were difficult to clean because of the braces, but I don’t have any areas of discoloration that look strange because they’re a defined shape (such as a square where a bracket was). My Ortho told me I can’t try whitening for a few months, not even Crest Whitestrips at home, because my teeth are still so loose that he doesn’t want me to have my retainer out for the time it would take to whiten.
So I think that covers it! It’s such an amazing feeling to have made it through the process and to no longer have that lingering “maybe I should consider braces” feeling that’s hit me so frequently over the years. Thanks to everyone on this site for the insight along the way, and best of luck to those of you at various stages of the journey!