Tag Archives: oral hygiene

The benefits of a metal-free mouth

13 Jun

I’ve quickly come to believe that the best thing about not having arch bars on my teeth is that it’s much easier to keep my teeth clean. Food was always getting stuck in the arch bars and the wires that secured them to my teeth, and it would often take fifteen minutes or so to clean them with the toothbrush and the WaterPik and then dental floss. Without the wires, it’s much easier: I just brush and then floss.

Another great thing about having the arch bars out is that my gums don’t hurt all the time. I can’t remember whether I mentioned this in a previous post, but when I had the arch bars on my gums would always hurt a little bit where the wires touched them. Sometimes the arch bars and wires would move slightly, and then my gums would hurt a bit more. It wasn’t that bad, because I eventually got used to it and stop noticing it, but now that the pain is gone, I notice that my gums feel much better.

Advertisements

Teeth cleaning

12 Jun

I just got back from my routine six-month cleaning at the dentist’s office. I only saw a hygienist; the dentist didn’t look at my mouth. To my relief, she didn’t find any cavities. She told me that one of my back teeth has a deep groove in it that will need to be brushed extra carefully, but she emphasized that this was the anatomy of the tooth rather than a cavity.

When my mouth was wired shut, I was unable to brush most surfaces of my teeth, so I find it quite remarkable that I don’t have any cavities. A large part of this, as the hygienist pointed out, is that I’m lucky to have hard enamel. What I don’t owe to luck, I owe to my WaterPik, which proved to be an absolutely indispensable tool for cleaning my teeth and the wires around them.

I also learned that the dentist’s office has already billed my second insurance for the rest of the charges on my account. I should be receiving a bill for whatever they don’t pay in a few weeks. The statement of benefits from the insurance company, however, will probably go to my parents’ address.

Various updates

9 May

In no particular order, here are the latest pieces of news that relate to my jaw in some way:

  • I’m now able to open my mouth pretty far. I can get my fingers far enough into my mouth to floss normally. There isn’t quite enough space to brush the back teeth normally, but it’s getting close.
  • I made an appointment to see my dentist in a couple of weeks. I would have liked to do it sooner so I could get the chipped teeth repaired by the time I’m able to chew again, but the receptionist at the dentist’s office said I should wait until I can open my mouth further.
  • When I called the dentist’s office, the receptionist remembered me when I explained that I had chipped my teeth in an accident but had to wait to get them repaired because of a broken jaw. I guess this means my injuries are at least somewhat distinctive.
  • I gave somebody driving directions yesterday for the first time since the accident. I don’t know why, but I like giving directions, even though I dislike cars. This time, I shouted the directions halfway across the street. It was satisfying.
  • I’ve been able to incorporate some kiwis (the fruit, not the bird) and bananas into my diet.
  • I got another packet of rubber bands from the oral surgeon on Wednesday, but already, I’m running low. The quality of these rubber bands is inconsistent. It seems like at least two thirds of them break  the first time I try to put them in my mouth. Those that survive this initial hurdle may last for a day or more.

The state of my mouth

2 May

I’ve been unwired for a few days, and there are a few things that seem worth mentioning at this point.

  • I still can’t open my mouth very far, and I can’t really tell if it’s improved any. The Google knol on jaw fractures says “[it] will take a lot of effort on the patient’s part to re-obtain facile use of the jaw.”
  • I still can’t really brush the insides or tops of my teeth, but I was surprised that even from the first day, I was able to floss in between most pairs of adjacent teeth. Yesterday, I purchased some CVS brand Dental Flossers, apparently an imitation of a product called Plackers.  These allow me to floss without putting a finger in my mouth, which is helpful. For everyday use, these would seem wasteful, but given the circumstances, I don’t mind using them.
  • I left a message for my oral surgeon on Friday to see if I should be doing something about the discomfort I was experiencing, but I haven’t heard back. It’s generally feeling, better, though. I don’t know if this is actual improvement, or just a reflection of the fact that I didn’t talk much today.
  • The arch bars are held in place by some wires around the teeth, and these move around a bit now that my mouth can move. Not surprisingly, this can be uncomfortable at times.
  • For a while, I thought that eating, and specifically sucking, was creating some discomfort in  my jaw. I realized, though, that it wasn’t the bone but the gums near the wires holding the arch bars in place that hurt. Obviously that way it doesn’t make me worry that my jaw will break again, which is good.
  • I’ve noticed that the right side of my mouth tends to open a little bit further than the left side. I’m not sure if this is something that will go away over time.
  • When I first opened my mouth after the wires were removed, my top and bottom teeth felt sort of soft or mushy against each other. It occurred to me today that it no longer feels this way, but I have no idea when things changed.

Mandible liberation

29 Apr

I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to go to a dentist as I was today. As I walked there, I started to feel nervous, though.  What if I were to open my mouth for the first time in three weeks and hear my jaw break again? I tried my best to forget about this thought.

When I got to the oral surgeon’s office, the receptionist recognized me and was ready with a waiver for me to sign for the procedure. I signed the waiver, which warned me about a number of things, many of which should have been irrelevant to this procedure (i.e. dry socket). A woman whom I hadn’t seen in the office before took me back to a room with a dentist’s chair and asked if I had any questions. I asked what my diet should be like with the wire off, and she said I should stick to soft foods, which didn’t surprise me. She had me sit down in the chair and asked if I wanted nitrous oxide. I asked if I needed it, and she said the surgeon would need to numb me for the procedure.

Just then, the surgeon walked in through the door, and said, “No, I don’t. She’s lying.” He explained to her that he was only taking off the wires fastening my jaw shut, and not the “arch bars”, which I gathered were the braces on my upper and lower jaws. He assured me that the procedure would be painless, and he wouldn’t even have to touch my gums. He went on to add, “You know what is going to hurt? When you try to open your mouth.” He explained that this was because I hadn’t used the muscles in my jaws for three weeks, and he compared it to the pain of getting up off the couch after sitting there without moving for three weeks. I didn’t tell him this, but I felt that the analogy was a failure because I had never sat on the couch for that long. He did, at least, tell me that it would get better relatively quickly, and I wouldn’t need to do any jaw exercises.

In any case, he looked into my mouth, and told me he was impressed  by how clean it was. “Hygiene is important,” he said, “It plays a big role in how you feel about yourself.” My self esteem has never been tied to my oral hygiene, but perhaps that’s because I don’t have a degree in dentistry. He then cut off the wires, and told me, “You’re a free man.” I started to get up out of the chair, but then he said, “You can open your mouth,” and I realized what he had meant. So I opened my mouth nice and wide, and somehow it didn’t hurt. Then I opened it a little bit wider and it hurt quite a bit, so I closed it again. I opened my mouth again, this time stopping before I felt any pain, and then slowly closed my mouth again. On the left side, my teeth felt soft against each other, but I hoped that this was just because I was unaccustomed to my top and bottom teeth moving relative to each other.

The oral surgeon explained that my bones will be considered to have healed in three weeks, and for the intervening time, I’ll have rubber bands in my mouth. As for eating, I’m not allowed to chew; the rule is that if I can slurp it, I can eat it. He warned me against Wonderbread (in which I have no interest, even not knowing whether it’s vegan) with peanut butter and jelly because that requires chewing. He listed a number of foods I can eat, including refried beans and rice, pasta, and mashed potatoes. I’m skeptical of his claim that pasta and rice can be eaten without chewing (unless blended), but I should be able to find enough to eat without his suggestions. After three weeks, I’ll be able eat some foods that require chewing, but apples will still be too hard. I’m also free to have my dentist repair my chipped teeth now.

The oral surgeon had his assistant give me toothpaste and a children’s toothbrush and instructed me to brush my teeth and my tongue while he went and did something else. The toothpaste, of course, was the non-vegan Crest, but I used it because I didn’t have my own toothpaste with me. I brushed the outsides of my teeth as I have been doing for the last few weeks, but when it came time to brush my tongue and the insides and tops of my teeth, I realized that I wasn’t able to open my mouth enough for the toothbrush (even being a children’s size) to fit through. I ended up having to settle for cleaning those parts of my mouth by rinsing. I might be a free man, but only in the sense that somebody who gets out of prison and put on house arrest is free. I’m more free than in the immediate past, but I’ve had better.

After I had cleaned my mouth, the surgeon showed me how to hook rubber bands onto the braces, which he explained were to make sure my teeth are “in the right ZIP code.” I can take the rubber bands out, but only when eating or brushing my teeth.

He told me I should come back to check in with him in two weeks. He isn’t planning on doing anything except taking a look at my mouth then, but he said that he’d have to wire it shut again if my teeth were in the wrong place. I was relieved to hear that he’s only had to do that once, but it didn’t occur to me at the time to ask how many patients he’s treated with this kind of injury.

After a quick stop at the front desk to schedule my appointment, I was on my way back to my office.

Monday shopping

6 Apr

I made a quick stop at the Safeway across the street from my dentist’s office after my appointment so that I could buy some full-sized straws. I also ended up buying some bananas for smoothies and some chocolate soymilk, which was on sale.

After a brief stop at the office to arrange a ride home from the oral surgeon’s after my procedure, I went to Walgreens. There I acquired a Water Pik (I opted for a cordless model since my bathroom doesn’t have any outlets), a two-pack of children’s toothbrushes, and a package of little brushes, called Brush Picks and made by a company called DenTek. Although nobody had suggested this last item to me, I bought it because the brushes reminded me of some brushes that I used to use when I had orthodontic braces. They came eight to a package, and each one has a small brush at one end and a flexible pick at the other end. Eight is more than I’ll probably need, but this was the only size package I could find.

I then caught a bus to Whole Foods Market, where I purchased soy protein powder, antibacterial soap, natural mouthwash (Tom’s of Maine brand) and a couple of Amazake smoothies. I bought some frozen fruit with the dual purpose of adding to smoothies and icing my jaw on the bus ride home.  I also looked for a calcium supplement, which proved to be harder than I thought. The supplements were organized by brand, so I had to look through each brand separately (rather than finding all of the calcium supplements in one place). I couldn’t find one that was specifically labeled as being vegan, and eventually an employee came over and asked if I needed any help. I told her what I was looking for, and she told me that calcium citrate should be vegetarian. I didn’t have the energy to explain the difference between veganism and vegetarianism, but I was baffled that somebody working in the supplement section of Whole Foods in Berkeley could lack that knowledge. She started pointing out different supplements to me, but I had already decided that she wasn’t going to be much help. Eventually, she left to check on something else (for which I was relieved), but she told me she would come back. I managed to find a supplement whose ingredients looked vegan (although it was only labeled as “Suitable for Vegetarians” and free of dairy). It seemed good enough, especially given the circumstances, so I took it to checkout and paid.

%d bloggers like this: