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A Pain in the Teeth

Updated: Oct 16, 2019

Well it's official; I've got orthodontics!

In July I began the very first step of preparing my mouth for orthodontics. I don't think I was quite ready for all that it would entail or at least I FELT rather unprepared. Thankfully, as an RMT who works a lot with TMJ pain and headaches, once I got a taste of what I was in for I knew how to manage it.

In July of this year I got my first sets of spacers put in on the top. Who knew two little plastic (rubber?) rings could be so troubling? Thankfully I had the day off so I laid on a lawn chair and cradled my poor aching head. The pain was impressive, easily reaching a gloomy 7/10. The following day at work the headache was much harder to manage; it's one thing to lay in a lawn chair all day testing your very tender teeth, it's another thing entirely to have the same 7/10 headache and have to work on people while looking down. The acetaminophen helped to a point but ultimately the headache was still very much there.

Pro Tip #1: you will need rest. If possible, try to schedule orthodontic adjustment days on days you have off, or days that are just light and keep your analgesics handy as you will likely be glad to have them.

The appliance is on the left, the cast of my teeth on the right.

In July the spacers came off and the first appliances were put in. These things are like science fiction! I have a bite plate in order to correct my very deep over bite. This is when the top teeth completely cover the bottom teeth; a normal bite will have only a few millimetres of coverage from the top front teeth over the bottom front teeth. The bite plate actually holds my teeth apart so none of them are touching, utterly impeding my ability to chew food. This will encourage the bone of my mandible to grow, bringing my lower teeth up towards my top teeth, correcting my bite. Science fiction becomes science FACT! In addition to having an over bite, I have an overjet. This is when the space between the backs of the top front teeth and the fronts of the bottom front teeth is greater than 2mm.

Pro Tip #2: When they say you won't be able to chew they MEAN you will NOT be able to chew. Take this to heart and plan your groceries accordingly. Presently I can eat smoothies, liquified soups, scrambled eggs, very soft cheeses, apple sauce finely pureed, mashed potatoes and over cooked noodles (really over cooked). I miss nachos and sandwiches and cookies and potato chips and toast and... I am however getting pretty good at making tasty smoothies.

This piece plus the bottom piece in the photo above are what the elastics are attached to that will pull my upper teeth back.

At my last visit, the final piece for the current phase was added; two little brackets on my canines (third teeth from the top middle), with a wire across the teeth and I was given three bags of elastics. I actually have a visceral, full body shudder just thinking of these elastics, the current bane of my happy existence. The purpose of these parts is to draw my front teeth back to correct both the overbite and overjet. If I thought my teeth were sore and tender yesterday, today I feel almost trapped inside my mouth. No doubt these elastics will do their job.

Pro Tip #3: learn some simple self massage. Truly it is not that difficult. Likely your natural inclination will be to rub where it hurts. In this case. Rubbing your fingers over your lips against the maxilla and under the cheek bones and massaging the temporalis and masseters can help relieve the pain a great deal as well, if only for the short term.

By no means is my orthodontic treatment plan the most invasive. For one, I am not getting any teeth removed (yay!) and for two, I do not have to wear any external pieces (ie head gear). So, in terms of orthodontic suffering, smooth foods and some short term discomfort are something I will gladly take to correct my teeth and bite.

If you are struggling at all with pain from orthodontics, please don't hesitate to book an appointment. My treatment plans for TMJ pain focus a lot of giving you the skills to care for your jaw pain yourself.

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