Hey friends! I have sorely neglected poor Truthbutter recently, as I’ve been focusing my energies on getting my shit together (figuratively and literally). Also because I have grand plans for a new and improved website that will be my namesake, where I will write extensively on IBD, the gut-brain-microbiota connection, and why extraction/retraction orthodontics need to go ahead and GTFO. Also probably food and travel and dog training, because hey – it’s my website.
But as I’ve begun my third round of orthodontia, I’ve run into several instances where I become so infuriated with the orthodontic injustice in the world that the only apparent viable solution is to once again shout my fury into the void of the internet. And since Truthbutter’s hosting doesn’t expire until later this year…I mean, might as well, right?
Also, there’s still SO LITTLE info on this topic online that I feel like my experience could be helpful to some people. Hopefully. (Please let me know if these posts are helpful to you!)
SO. Here I will be chronicling my self-directed orthodontic journey of palate-expanding, bite-correcting, smile-widening, and hopefully face-beautifying discovery. Later (on the aforementioned fictional future website) I will write about this topic in a more formal educational way. But for now, feel free to follow along as I document my progress, post pictures, and rant at length from my soapbox about how people with degrees I don’t have should do their jobs.
If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, do not fret. All will become clear in due time, young grasshopper.
To set the stage for where I’m at now, here’s a recap of my lengthy orthodontic journey thus far.
Edit 3/3/20: For more on my history and why I ultimately decided to go with AGGA, click here!
It begins: 8-year-old Alyssa has 11 teeth pulled and is in braces for four years (exhibit A)
Like many (most?) children in today’s Westernized society, I had significant tooth crowding when I was young. The go-to solution for this was, and still is, pulling permanent teeth (usually bicuspids) to make extra space, then using braces to close the spaces and straighten the teeth.
This approach is at the root of so many modern dental and health problems, it boggles the mind. It certainly set me up for many long and expensive years with metal in my mouth.
To correct my crowding, they pulled my two permanent upper bicuspids (along with tons of baby teeth that are irrelevant in the long run), but left my lower bicuspids. I was in braces for four years total (FOUR. YEARS.), and came out the other side with straight teeth. My parents thought I was done. I thought I was done.
A braces reprisal: 18-year-old Alyssa is too trusting of her orthodontist (exhibit B)
Five or six years later, I had begun to notice wearing on the edges of my front teeth. My acupuncturist (of all people) pointed out that this was because my upper and lower incisors met end-to-end, instead of having the slight overjet typical of a healthy bite. I also noticed that my teeth didn’t touch at all on the left side of my mouth.
Being the forward-thinking person I am, I decided that getting a second round of braces was a worthwhile sacrifice to fix my bite for good and prevent excessive wear and future jaw problems.
Pretty impressive decision for a self-conscious 18-year-old about to start college, I’d say. Good job, Alyssa.
So I did my research and found an orthodontist who supposedly specialized in proper bite alignment and jaw joint health. Having found such a specialist (and parted with $7,000), I implicitly trusted his decision-making forevermore. Whoops.
I got a full mouth of braces for the second time in my life, complete with rubber bands to retract my lower teeth back behind my upper teeth. Two years later, I had perfectly straight teeth (which, granted, I’d already had), as well as a bite that felt good…sometimes. My lower teeth were now slightly behind my upper teeth, and my left molars touched, but only when my jaw was in a certain position.
This was supposedly the “relaxed, natural” position, according to my orthodontist. But then why did it never feel relaxed and natural? (There were a lot of other decisions my ortho made that I didn’t agree with at the time, and I should’ve stood up for myself more, but I’ll spare you those details for now.)
A year later, despite religiously wearing my array of retainers and night guards, my bite had essentially reverted to what it was before – end-to-end contact in the front, and no contact on the left. But now the worn edges were no longer perfectly adapted to each other, and my teeth didn’t fit together so well, so chewing became awkward. As a result, I started to have occasional minor jaw pain.
Third time’s the charm: Alyssa becomes her own orthodontist because she now trusts no one
The problem was, my orthodontist never addressed the actual problem with my bite. The simple fact is that because I’m missing two upper permanent teeth, my upper dental arch is simply not large enough to accommodate the lower arch. The minor fixes we did with braces just weren’t drastic enough to create a lasting solution.
Seems incredibly obvious now, and feels like he (as a professional) should have known this, but whatcha gon’ do?
So, that brings us to my current quest. Orthodontists clearly can’t be trusted (refer above to exhibits A and B), so I am taking matters into my own hands (per usual). With the help of the Internet, I determined that to have a normal, healthy bite, I need to essentially reverse the extraction/retraction orthodontics that I underwent as a youngun. In other words:
1) Expand the upper palate/dental arch
2) Replace the missing bicuspids with two dental implants
The main sticking point is with step 1. According to most orthodontists and dentists, it’s not possible to expand the palate in adults, because the mid-palatal suture has closed, so no new bone will form.
The posts that follow will chronicle my attempt to prove them wrong. Most likely in a gratuitously detailed manner. So stay tuned!