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Why I embarked on orthodontic treatment despite having straight teeth.

I count myself as having been pretty lucky health wise. I have little time off sick, have had no fillings for years, take no regular medication except coffee and wine and cycle to work every day. There were however some underlying worries, a bit heavier than I would like, frequent wakeful periods at night, headaches, regular colds and neck pain. Much of this I attributed to my job and lifestyle and accepted it as part of inevitable “middle age”. (Cont...)

When I became increasingly interested in the function of the jaw joint and the inter-relationship between teeth and the muscles that control the jaw I invested in equipment to measure some of these things. Out of curiosity I started measuring my own jaw joint and muscle function and discovered to my amazement that there were quite a lot of things going wrong. These problems did not stop me from eating or even cause me direct pain but I became aware that they were having a profound indirect effect on my health.

The crowding of my teeth had been corrected when I was in my teens by removal of four teeth to allow space in my jaw. I had nice looking straight teeth but unfortunately they were restricting my lower jaw and tongue, causing me to breathe through my mouth.  I started noticing other things about my face, my jaw shifted off to one side when I bit my teeth together and my upper lip was rather narrow and mean-looking. I was aware that my teeth were very sensitive and the gums started receding from around my upper front teeth and the teeth themselves were actually quite worn.

Reluctantly, because I had no real dislike of the appearance of my teeth, I embarked on some treatment. Initially I wore an appliance in my upper jaw which opened up my bite, freeing and straightening my lower jaw and at the same time changing the way I swallowed by pushing my tongue up onto the roof of my mouth. It was difficult to eat and speak with at first but almost immediately I noticed interesting changes. I suddenly started sleeping through the night, my mouth stopped feeling dry in the morning and my headaches disappeared. Continuing wear of the appliance and adjustment started causing changes to my teeth. The upper teeth started spreading out, my jaw started getting bigger, my upper lip changed shape and the gums and tooth sensitivity settled down. The improvements continued but were accompanied by an unfortunate deterioration in the alignment of my teeth. Ultimately my upper front teeth moved forwards by over 7mm in a matter of months and I felt great. I took up triathlon (running, cycling and swimming), lost some weight (still some work to do) and found I had energy to spare. The problem was now just my crooked teeth. These have been corrected by some orthodontic treatment which was carefully managed to ensure that no restriction was placed on my jaw joint or tongue.

My personal experience of the treatment that we now offer to many of our patients has given me a very valuable insight into both the potential benefits and inevitable difficulties of the treatment and especially the decision to embark on the treatment. Appliances in the mouth temporarily interfere with the enjoyment of food, disrupt speech and can be uncomfortable. Teeth can be in the wrong place for function while looking very good so outsiders often make assumptions that the braces are for vanity reasons. Maintaining hygiene around a brace is tiresome and time consuming and frankly the whole process can be mildly embarrassing. The benefits of the end result however, clearly outweigh the disadvantages of the process. I compare the experience to pregnancy; each of my pregnancies yielded a wonderful result but I did not like the inconvenience and discomfort of being pregnant. At the time, nine months seemed to stretch for ever but once over it has faded to a short blip in my memory.

Posted on 19 October 2011
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