You know the spiel. New year, new you. Make more of yourself, feel good about yourself, get your teeth into a new project. I think I speak for us all when I say I've been thinking about a new me, way beyond my first crack at the fizz on New Year's Eve. Which is why I've spent the past year researching, planning and plotting a way to fix the first on my list of 'a better me'... My cronky teeth ... And what's more... without anyone noticing.
Once perfect (nigglingly, not that long ago) like most of us, old age has got the better of me and cruelly chose to begin this downward spiral with my gnashers. So this, I can bravely pronounce, is the year of the brace.
Forget Ugly Betty, I may work in the fashion department, but I'm far too vain to endure the eye-spiking torture of train tracks. I'll only brave it if I can go incognito...
So, after lengthy discussions with the woman&home beauty desk and the ultimate soul savers, the Feel Good You team, we came to the conclusion there was only one woman for the job, Dr. Uchenna Okoye. Not just any dentist.... Uchenna has saved the smiles of countless celebrities and her London practice Londonsmiling.com has a sparkling reputation... I couldn't resist.
Dr Uchenna Okoye
Scared witless, off I trundled, nerves nibbling away at me, for my first consultation at Uchenna's practice, London Smiling, in Goodge Street.
Sleek and chic, this wasn't like my normal dentist. Would you like a cappuccino? What flavour lip balm would you like? Would you like a herbal neck pillow? Yes! Yes! Yes! Anything to stop my knees knocking together.
In I went and was immediately put at ease by Uchenna who welcomed me into the chair. We talked, we took pictures (ewwwww) and we decided there was only one solution. Lingual braces, which incidentally, are also know as 'Incognito'. Hurrah! Just what I was after.
Here are the facts: My alignment is out, my crowding is becoming like a Harry Potter Premier and one front tooth looks like it's half-way to Glasgow. Whooppeee! Uchenna says we can fix it and the best bit? She says it may only take a year. With this new Powerplate technology, exclusive to London Smiling, the whole process is going to be a whole lot quicker. Phew, things are looking up.
Great. It sounds easy but the whole process is really a lot more complicated. With a tooth missing (removed by a cruel orthodontist back in the 80s) and a mis-aligned bite, I'm in for full metal, top and bottom. But now for the clever part... they will be fixed behind my teeth, so no one will ever know. Incognito is a bespoke service, hence the hefty price tag, which is tailored using moulds, to fit perfectly to your individual teeth. Just like the train tracks many of us endured as teenagers, they are metal, there are wires, but since no one can see them, this already feels like I've made a brilliant decision.
Apart from coming out the other end with my teeth straight, sparkling and with a whole lot more confidence, it turns out this is going to have lasting, long-term effects too. Uchenna has revealed that simply having braces can slow down the ageing process; they will stop my gums shrinking, which will help prevent wrinkles. It seems the earlier you can invest in your smile, the better. More good news - this is music to my ears!
'I chose Incognito appliances for Julia as they are custom made braces; a bespoke brace designed to specifically correct her malocclusion (teeth and bite problems) in the most predictable way.
They are lingual braces (glued to the inside surface of the teeth) mainly made with gold, which has low allergy risk and high bio- compatibility. The braces gradually move the teeth according to the information given to the wire that runs across them.
The braces are likely to make the tongue sore and give minor ulcers, but this usually only lasts for a few weeks. This is why I fit one arch at a time, giving enough time to get used to it and making the whole experience more pleasant.
With any lingual brace, you may get a little lisp at first, which is usually reversible in a few days. Being custom made braces, Incognito are low profile only affecting speech for a short period of time.
The length of treatment may vary according to how fast her teeth move. Although this speed can not be perfectly predicted, I would expect Julia will need braces for 1 year.'
So following my initial consultation a date was set with Leone Giacosa, London Smiling's orthodontist and Uchenna's righthand man. Leone has been assigned to my treatment and needed to formalise my treatment plan.
Fun and super friendly, Leone carried out the routine checks - pretty much as you'd expect from a normal check up, then talked me through the whole process, and showed me models of how the braces were going to look. Yikes. This was starting to feel real. My main concern has always been my speech... I can handle the pain surely... I just don't want to sound ridiculous. I explained all of this to Leone and he put me immediately at ease - assuring even his celebrity patients were back in front of the camera or up on the mic in no time.
So just one more appointment until the braces are put in place. The moulds. Not the most comfortable experience, but in terms of potential dentist visits, this was child's play. Remember prepping your gum shield at the start of the season? There was a mould, there was some gooey stuff, but the hardest bit was keeping my mouth dry and at this time of year with a troubling cough, this called for serious concentration.
With the moulds set in place, it was now for the clever part. Off they were sent to the technical team in Germany, where they would spend the next 6 weeks building my brace.
Finally my date was set to have the braces fixed: Tuesday 14 February. Valentine's Day.
It was a busy day in the office and I had shoots stacking up. Busy and feeling nervous is a bad combination, so the thought of breakfast simply slipped my mind. And to make matters worse... so did lunch. Was I mad? At this point, it hadn't even occurred to me, that this might be my last meal!
I arrived at London Smiling not really ready for what I was about to take on. ‘Did you have a nice lunch?' asks Leone. Er? 'Oh no,' he explains, 'You can't eat anything for at least two hours after the braces are fixed.' Damn it, I'm starving, why on earth didn't I think of this! And so the process began.
Today they were fitting my lower brace - just the one for now. The top one will go in 6 weeks later. One step at a time and here's how...
There was more dry mouth - uncomfortable, but not painful... and then in seconds the braces were on. Why on earth I thought they would put each little block on separately with tweezers? With one bite on the techno guys' mould, the braces cleverly stuck to the glue and my lower brace was in place. They carefully clipped in the wire, trimmed the ends and I was good to go.
NO crusty bread
NO chewing gum
NO haribo (shame)
Just one last test. 'How long did you say you were away on your last shoot?' he asked. 'Six days', I replied. Woah, there it was, THERE WAS THE LISP! He was testing my speech. Why couldn't it have been ‘five days'... I would have felt so much better.
But off I went, with my convenient little cleaning kit and who knew how it was going to go from here...
Felt fine for first couple of hours but as it started to grate my tongue it was harder to talk. What a Valentine's supper! Had hummus and aubergine and really couldn't cope - even mashed up. Gave up after a couple of spoons. Went home and cleaned teeth... Serious pain and it really hurt to swallow.
Not much difference. So hungry! Tomato soup for lunch- couldn't even chew the tiny bits of soft tomato as teeth feel super sensitive and out of alignment. Had to meet Twiggy this afternoon to discuss her new range with M&S... very self conscious about my speech... but i don't think she cottoned on! Supper: mashed potato with cheese. Still very hard work.
Painful all day. Teeth feel like they're moving when I touch them. Was on a vip reader shoot and couldn't eat studio lunch... so had MORE soup. Supper - MORE soup. Desperate for solids and real food. Substituting it with red wine. Just read lots of other blogs about pain and hoping it will be gone in 2 weeks.
Woke up in agony ... Headed straight to chemist for ibuprofen. Really hard to talk today as mouth so sore. It's London Fashion Week so I've got to sparkle arghhh! Being asked to talk to camera today is not ideal. In pieces by lunchtime. Amazing friend has a special supper arranged for me at the pub.
Feeling a lot better today and teeth are feeling much stronger. Hoping I'm on the road to recovery. At the shows then meeting a colleague for a posh brekkie. Even considering not having yoghurt. Unlikely but a nice thought never the less.
Feeling brave today... I'm off to the cinema and have found the courage for a curry before! My best meal yet... tried a little bit of chicken, and although quite hard work I can see a light at the end of the tunnel! Poppadoms... still impossible!
Catching a plane tonight and worried what they're going to give me. When in doubt... get SOUP at the airport! Thanks to Itsu... the Miso saw me through.
Tom Yung Goong. Need I say more.
Tomato, chicken, squash, lentil, miso, cauliflower, cream of Tomato (Heinz obvs), oxtail, tom yung goong, chicken and coconut... and now BEETROOT! Are there any left to try?
My first soup/sauce free meal... instead FISH! Doing a lot better, but it was such an effort to eat it, I only made it half way through. Uchenna did mention you often come back thinner on your second visit! This is starting to make sense!
The most exciting day of all. I ate my chicken! A whole skewer of REAL FOOD! Woop! Woop! (Truthfully... I left one piece... I simply didn't have the energy)
Doing much better on the food front...and even tried some red meat for supper. Speech is going down hill. Can't work out what's making it worse, but can hear myself lisping. Think it's because I am tired.
Still struggling with my speech at night. Relying on my wax to stop the wires digging in. Teeth still wobble when I touch them.
Roast beef. Heaven. Plus, met 6 of my closest friends for lunch. The ones I hadn't already told, didn't notice a thing. This must be working!
Making progress. Do feel my speech has been suffering this weekend, but going to experiment this week and see if I can go without the wax. Had 8 meetings today -so far so good. Think being thin has gone out the window... am back to my greedy self... :-(
Feeling good and going without the wax. Tomorrow is the big day... the top braces!!
Wow! An hour and a half with your mouth wide open. Definite jaw ache! So... the top ones are in. Now they're in they've really highlighted how bad my bite is. They have added small covers at the back of my molars to stop over-biting on my brace and snapping it off. My lisp is terrible - am I ever going to speak again???
The good news? They've now shown me a model of how they will look when I'm finished. I'm delighted: Uchenna has cracked it and managed to get my top and bottom both aligned perfectly at the front. Can't wait until it happens in reality! Then with a bit of ‘recontouring' as they called it... at the end, everything will be perfect and even. This is definitely worth it. So excited.
Still on the soup... Doesn't feel like it will last as long as last time - hoping to back on solids next week. Still lisping - very noticeable.
Losing the lisp a little bit. Ate some soft fish so getting there.
Still got the lisp.Ughhhhh!
I think it's gone!!! Woop! Starting to eat solids and nice to know that friends haven't noticed my speech.
Wow. Really starting to notice that my teeth have moved. My bottom set are very near perfect. I can't believe it. Feels like it's happened over night - so exciting to see a difference.
Think the top ones that were crossed are sorting themselves out too. So nice to start seeing results. Can't wait for my Powerplates now. Bring it on!
My first proper pr lunch. Just realized how tricky it is to talk and eat at the same time. Really struggled. Very good at doing one, but not both.
Really noticing a difference. My bottom teeth are virtually straight... one more week and I reckon they will be lined up beautifully. My front teeth are definitely slipping into place... they're much closer together and protruding less.
My front teeth are really starting to line up... Wow.
Back in the office after a week away shooting. The girls in the office have noticed straight away that they've moved and can't believe it's happened so quickly. So happy.
My next wire change. Woah... This was quite tricky this time as the wires are now getting bigger and stronger. I've now got a squared wire on my bottom teeth (which are looking super straight) so that the wire can't roll around. They've said it will give my teeth more support and force them to the right angle. I've also got a new wire on the top and a lot of 'metal ligature' reinforcements. I can really feel the wire this time. I've got a dull ache - can really feel the tension. Not got my power plates yet though - next visit. Very happy as Leone seemed pleased with my progress so far.
Just woken up and this hurts. BUT on the bright side... It may be me, but I'm pretty certain the really dodgy one, which is the one we're now focussing on, has moved overnight? Amazing if it has. Once this one is straight it will make ALL the difference.
Day 77 pm
Nightmare. Stupidly ate a crisp and my wire has flicked off at the the back. Panic! Panic! Will have to get an emergency appointment for them to slot it back in. Makes it even harder to eat... Grrr.
Serious jaw ache. Obviously a lot stronger tension with these wires - have felt a dull pain all day. Note to self: must stop talking
Back to London Smiling today, to get my wire fixed.
Wow! Can't believe how quickly 100 days has gone... and more to the point - just how much my teeth have moved in such a short space of time. Compared to friends that have had alternative straightening treatments, this is by far the quickest results. Couldn't be happier.
Can really feel my front teeth have all moved forward. The dodgy one has definitely moved now and is slowly slipping into place. Definitely recall Uchenna explaining they would have to move forward in order to straighten up, before moving them back into position. Can certainly feel the difference.
The dodgy one is looking hugely better and just needs to move to the right angle now so its more upright. Saw some old friends last night who (unusually) were being very complimentary... if only they knew it was my teeth not me! Didn't say a word!! Back to London Smiling for a wire change in the morning. Looking forward to the next stage. Bring it on.
Woah. The hardest session i've had so far. Both wires were changed... top and bottom and now both are set with the 'squared' wires. The will really firm up where my teeth are meant to be. They had to press pretty hard to put everything back into place... think the expression is 'grin and bear it'!! Everyone seems very happy with my progress so far and the most exciting thing... i've now got my Power Plates!
Power Plates are all set up and i'm ready to go. Like a small gum shield, i have to charge it up daily and wear it for 20 minutes a day. Going to have to be in the morning. The small vibrations made by the plate will encourage blood flow around my gums, meaning my teeth will move at a quicker pace - speeding up the whole process. Very excited about getting started.
Two days in... and the Power Plates are seeming easy to manage. I haven't forgotten to use them and the vibrations are much more gentle than i had expected. Think they'll easily slip into my routine.
Last night was tough. I can definitely feel the Power Plates are doing their work. My back teeth are trying to move and are really pushing against my gums. Woke up in the night feeling it. All died down a bit today though and actually good to know they are working their magic.
Just back from London Smiling with two new wires - top and bottom. Pretty hardcore this time and tricky to get in - but can already feel them working their magic.
Off to a festival - but even that won't stop me taking my power plates along!
Can feel they've moved again... Power plates are definitely the way forward. Really hope they are living up to their promises and speeding up my treatment by up to 50%.
Racing through my treatment - can't believe i've got another wire change tomorrow - it's gone so quickly. Moved so much i've even got a tiny gap at the side now... obviously making room to line them up perfectly.
Back at London Smiling HQ for my monthly appointment. They've changed my bottom wire again, not too painful... But added a new power chain to my top. This chained elastic is seriously hardcore, really yanking my teeth together. Not the most comfortable experience getting it on. Can really feel how tight it is... Hope this wears off after a couple of days.
All feeling pretty good now. The tension has settled in. Sure they move much much more in the first few days after each appointment. Definitely feels like it.
In again and this time for another new bottom wire. On top they've just added new metal ligatures. I think these are just tweaking the tension on individual teeth to pull them into place. Can really feel it pull... Cripes.
Can't believe it's London Fashion Week again. Must mean i'm half way through my treatment. Woop!
Have noticed gaps on one side starting to open up. Can really sense how much they must be moving. Hoping they will close these up on my next visit - slightly uncomfortable to eat.
The impossible press lunch. Why on earth did i order the beef. Was starting to take an embarrassingly long time to eat... so i had to throw in the towel - starving!
Looking forward to visiting the dream team at London Smiling tomorrow. Although we've made huge progress so far it feels like they are all still moving all of the time. Front don't feel perfectly straight yet... Hoping this will be the next stage.
It's time to tighten and turn... To focus on closing my contact points and gaps - plus another power chain on top. There's no wire change this time, but boy pushing on that power chain isn't for the faint hearted.
Back teeth really rubbing in the night... Keep waking up with a really sore mouth. I must be moving my teeth in my sleep.
Out of the country and out for a meal... and on my last mouthful i felt something go. Was there a piece of plastic in my food that got caught... Or has a metal ligature come free. Stupidly i tried to pull it out... To no avail. Good job i didn't - turns out my power chain had snapped. Fingers crossed i can get into LS as soon as i'm back... Not painful in the slightest... But seriously annoying.
And i'm in! Just 3 days with the chain snapped and it's caused more problems than i imagined. The huge change in tension has meant my teeth have opened up gaps, thinking they were free to move. They've removed my last bracket and refixed it with a new wire. Random teeth are feeling really painful... Hoping once the new chain is in place this will fade.
Ouch... The top row are feeling really sore. Think i might be back on the soup for a couple of days.
Well that was unexpected. Turns out we're at the stage where my jaw needs to move and in order to do so the dream team want to attach elastics that cross my mouth diagonally to pull my axis in. The big shocker? They wanted to attach hooks on the front of my teeth! Freak out! So after a lot of moaning, whimpering and negotiating we've agreed that i can wear them on the hooks behind (which already exist) and style them out at night. The thought of turning up at a fashion event with my jaw on springs pretty much fills me with dread. Hoorah - we've settled on a deal.
So it seemed simple when i left London Smiling. Just hook one end on one tooth and attach it diagonally opposite. Problem is every time i think they're securely in place, the second i rest my head on the pillow they ping off! This is going to take some getting used to... Exhausting.
A few successful nights and some not. Have woken up a couple of days ready to swallow the elastic for brekkie. But otherwise good. Only time will tell if we can sort my alignment.
Back in to London Smiling today and they're upping the strength of my elastics to 'Australias' - super strong elastics with which you can really feel that pull! They're pleased with the progress though and it's lining up slowly! A few tweaks and a couple of awkward turns and i'm out pretty pain free. Straight off to my work Christmas lunch - thank goodness i can still eat! But... the most exciting bit...? They've done some contouring work on my front teeth, to smooth out the chip on one of them and make them a perfect shape. This has been, by far, the most exciting bit of my treatment! This makes all of it worth it... it doesn't get better than this.
It's the new year and i'm feeling an end in sight. Not sure how much longer to go, but we're surely nearly there. In again today and it's time for a full power chain to really pull all my top teeth into place. We're closing down the gaps and pushing them back. The long chained elastic is looped over every top bracket and boy can i feel it pull. Not so much happening with the bottom teeth but one has tuned slightly outwards meaning they have to physically turn my teeth back into place. Yikes... but it only hurts for a second. Back with the elastics... hopefully we're on the last stretch.
So today, it's all about that one tooth that still seems to be out of line. Wow- I can't say it was the most comfortable experience but at least they kept me laughing throughout. Extra pressure had to be applied to encourage this tooth into position.
Still on the buzz.
Still on the elastics.
Back in today and I've finally got an end date! 2 months. Seriously exciting.
Leone has repositioned my bottom wire and I think I've got less power chains. We're really nearly there. We took more pictures and pulled up my old ones. The difference is incredible.
It is however, decision time. As I have a tooth missing, Uchenna would like to balance out my smile by adding to one of my front teeth slightly with composite- to widen it to match the other side. I've got a week to decide if I want to go ahead....
It's a big decision but I've decided to keep my teeth as they are. I don't want anything extra to worry about later... And I really don't think anyone would notice. Next step... Finding out when they're coming off!
I called London smiling this morning expecting one more appointment until they're actually off... But to my huge surprise they're taking them off next time I'm in. It's the weirdest feeling- as I've grown so used to them. Who'd have thought I couldn't imagine a life without them. Kind of scared as I've heard it's pretty traumatic taking them off... With all the prodding and poking my teeth has seen this year mind, I'm slowly convincing myself it won't be that bad.
It's Monday morning and I can't believe this is my last week. This time next weekend- they will be gone. Am I actually going to miss them?
The finish line is getting closer and closer. Question is? What happens next? I've heard a bottom wire (glued) and an upper retainer are both on the cards. Crikey- I hope I only have to wear it at night!
And they're off! I can't believe it - super excited. Although it was an hour and half session, it seemed the braces themselves were off in seconds. They were easily removed with some kind of pliers and I didn't feel a thing. After a lot of cleaning and polishing, Leone attached my fixed retainers. Just teeny, tiny wires behind my front teeth and and bottom teeth, with small bits of composite to hold them in place. Compared to the braces... this was child's play!
We then took moulds for my plastic retainers. They'll be sent away and I'll collect them next week.
Question is? What will I have for lunch!!!!!!
Just been in to collect my retainers. Just as I thought, these are thin, clear and plastic... and are just like wearing a gum shield. They feel a little tight, and I've been warned my gums may be sore for the first few nights... but all in all, they're pretty comfortable. I'm sure in a couple of weeks, I won't even notice them. I need to wear them every night for a year... then maybe move to one night a week. As long as my teeth don't move again, I'm up for anything.
Just a few consultations with Uchenna to go, and my treatment is done.
427days... and worth every minute
Thank you London Smiling... it couldn't have gone better.