By Roz Rogoff
TeethUploaded: Dec 14, 2012
This Friday's blog is about my teeth. No wait, wait, it's not as bad as it sounds. It's about adult orthodontics and new innovations in teeth straightening. If you have crooked teeth, even a little, you might learn something here.
When I was in High School in the 1950's, many of my classmates had braces. I didn't need braces on my top teeth, but my bottom teeth were a little crooked. My dentist asked if I wanted braces and I said no. I felt that I didn't need them for my bottom teeth; so I left them a little crooked.
As I got older they got more crooked. One was jutting out a little and occasionally cut into my lower lip. It was annoying but not enough to do anything about it.
I moved to San Ramon in 1997 to take a job as a Tech Writer for a software company in Bishop Ranch. One of the benefits was a Dental Plan that included adult orthodontics. I was surprised that this was a company benefit and that there is even such a thing as adult orthodontics.
I decided I might as well take advantage of the opportunity to get my lower teeth straightened out. An Orthodontist, Dr. Randolph Okamoto, had an office in the Market Place Shopping Center near where I lived. So I made an appointment.
Dr. Okamoto put braces on my lower teeth and I wore them for about seven months and then switched to a retainer. My dental insurance paid $900, which was about 1/3 of the total cost. I probably could have had covered more but the treatment crossed over from one year into the next, and my company had to change dental plans after the New Year to keep the adult orthodontics coverage. I guess I was the first employee to use this benefit and like most insurance, as soon as someone uses it, the price goes up.
I used the retainer full time for two months and then at night for a couple of years. Dr. Okamoto offered to make a new retainer for me at no additional charge, but I told him I didn't need it and the one I had was fine. And it was for several years, but gradually my lower teeth started to shift back to their old positions.
Last month one of the shifting teeth was rubbing against my lower lip and was so irritating I tried to find the old retainer but couldn't. So I thought I would have to go back to Dr. Okamoto for a new retainer or maybe even new braces again.
I tried to call him but he wasn't at his old office in the Market Place; so I called my Dentist, Dr. John Eberle to see where Dr. Okamoto had moved. I thought he might have retired. I asked Dr. Eberle to recommend another Orthodontist.
Dr. Eberle told me Dr. Okamoto died a couple of years ago from cancer. I was very sorry to hear that. Dr. Okamoto was a good Orthodontist and a good person. Dr. Okamoto recommended Dr. Eberle to take the X-rays I needed before the Orthodontics. I've been seeing Dr. Eberle on or off (mostly off) for the last 15 years.
I thought I had been there at the beginning of this year, but Dr. Eberle said it was the beginning of last year. It really didn't seem that long ago, but I was due for a checkup and cleaning so I made an appointment and asked him to recommend another Orthodontist.
Then Dr. Eberle surprised me by saying he could provide a new retainer when I came in for the checkup and it would be adjustable so it could straighten my teeth too. I knew that the Invisalign process uses something like retainers to straighten teeth, so I wonder if that's what this was. But I was surprised that a Dentist was offering this.
I went in for the checkup three weeks ago. Dr. Eberle's assistant took a mold of my bottom teeth for the retainer. I came back last week to pick it up. It's adjustable, but comfortable. Dr. Eberle fit it into my mouth and told me to come in once a week for a month to adjust it, and every other week after that.
This week I had my first adjustment. I asked Dr. Eberle's assistant (she doesn't want me to user her name) if Dentists are now taking over straightening teeth and would that take business away from Orthodontists? She said it's only for very slight adjustments. Orthodontists still use braces and other treatments for major corrections.
So if you have read this far, and you have a few crooked teeth that are not too bad, the adjustable retainer including the weekly adjustments cost me $595, which is less than one quarter of what the original orthodontics cost. So far it is working well and I can see the improvement already after only two weeks.