3 years of pain, 5 thousand dollars, and my teeth are worse than when I started...
September 1, 2009 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Dentist filter: How to manage being unhappy with the results of braces? Teeth not straight, discolored, and full mouth retainer causing panic attacks.

A few years ago, I got braces because I didn't like my bottom teeth. The dentist wanted to correct my overbite, which didn't bother me, but he said was important to fixing the overall health of my teeth. He also wanted to fix the gap between my front teeth, which had gotten larger with time.

Now I've had the braces off for about two months, and a month ago the dentist gave me a "full mouth" retainer, which is like something boxers wear when they fight...in that if you have it in, you can't talk, eat, drink, etc. It has these little metal prongs in it that grab your teeth when you put it on, that happen to hit where I have crowns, so when I take it off, it's pulling on the crowns.

I'm supposed to wear this thing for 4 hours a day, plus at night. I can't wear it at night, because when I've tried, I have massive panic attacks about not being able to breathe, and I almost pulled out my teeth trying to get it out of my mouth. It was horrible.

Finding time in the day when I don't talk has been tricky, but I have managed to find time to wear it, even though I'm concerned about losing my crowns...which will cost as much as the braces if I have to get them all replaced.

Despite all of this, my teeth look worse now than before I started. My teeth are seriously crooked again, layering on top of one another in a way they never did before, the top spacing is atrocious and I'm embarrassed to open my mouth or smile. They're dingy and yellow from the braces, there's still bits of epoxy (or whatever they use to etch your teeth and then attach the brackets) everywhere, despite having them cleaned 3x in the last month, I've got a ton of pits, brown spots, and cavities now where the bands were, and all in all, I feel like I paid 5k to make my teeth worse.

When I took my son to the pediatric dentist last week, and she told me that he was going to need braces when he got older and I told her that I'd just gotten mine off, you should have seen the look of horror on her face when she looked at my teeth. Her first comment was "He's not an orthodontist, is he?".

I didn't know that general dentists could do ortho work without being orthodontists, I thought it was required specialist qualification, but apparently in Texas, it does not. Any dentist can do it.

I have an appointment to see the dentist this morning, it's the first time I could get in since getting the retainer...what is the best way to approach what I see as radical problems with the treatment I've received, and what solutions should I ask him to undertake?
posted by dejah420 to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
don't talk about your misgivings with the dentist. get a lawyer to do that.
posted by lester at 7:26 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Poor mouth.

I'd give the dentist at least one clear chance to make good before contacting a lawyer.

Be very clear and blunt that you are "not satisfied" and "not happy" with the results, and give him openings in which to offer to make the situation good. As in "I am not happy with the results at all. What can you do?"

And decide in advance what satisfaction you'll require. A full or partial refund? A second attempt at no charge? And then stick to that. In the future, a theoretical judge's first question will be "What did you do to attempt to resolve this dispute?"

Legal action is expensive and annoying, but that applies to him too. Orthodontist or not, there will be a licensing board he answers to. And he is insured for this. And he's a businessperson who should be realistic about cost/benefit. Odds are, he'd rather fix the problem himself, one way or another.
posted by rokusan at 7:32 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Braces suck, just be happy that you don't have them on anymore. My advice? (and IANAD)Shell out the $300 or whatever to get your teeth whitened. Sounds like the discoloration is bothering you and that is something in your power to fix.

I hated hated hated having braces and when I finally got them off they gave me a full mouth retainer like the one you describe. After a week of finding it stuck in my hair in the morning (apparently I would spit it out when I slept), I gave up on it completely and never went back to an orthodontist again. Sixteen years later, my teeth are very slightly crooked (and only the bottom ones, so it's not even visible) but fine with me. Honestly, I'd find a new dentist and if you need corrective othrodontic work, make sure it's someone you trust and was recommended by people you know.
posted by emd3737 at 7:39 AM on September 1, 2009

Discoloration and cavities come with the problems of cleaning around braces. I'm not sure you can hold him accountable for those things.

However, epoxy can be cleaned off your teeth. He should also give you a retainer you can wear, so that your teeth don't move (I assume that your teeth were straight when you got your braces off, and have since moved). So, that's what I'd ask for: Clean the cement off, and get a good-fitting retainer.
posted by Houstonian at 7:40 AM on September 1, 2009

Here's two (bad) pictures of the retainer...one to show the full-mouth thingy, and one to show the little metal prong thingies
posted by dejah420 at 7:42 AM on September 1, 2009

I wouldn't trust this guy to actually do the fixing. If he were able to fix it, he wouldn't have messed it up in the first place. Do go back and let him know his work was unacceptable and see if you can get your money back or something. Or start talking to a lawyer. But I would go to someone else to do any real fixing.
(I definitely feel for you, I had the braces-gone-wrong thing too. I fantasize about getting Invisalign some day when I have money).
posted by amethysts at 7:43 AM on September 1, 2009

Yeah, he's been my dentist for over 10 years, so legal action wasn't my "go to" first choice, but is it reasonable to ask him to put invisilines or some other sort of braces (that god willing aren't the giant metal things of doom) on to fix the spacing and crooked teeth? We couldn't do the invisible braces on the first go-round apparently because we were moving too much stuff...or something. I don't really remember why, but he was sure it wasn't an option the first time around.
posted by dejah420 at 7:46 AM on September 1, 2009

I can't speak to the other issues (thoug it seems you have good advice here re: your dentist did a poor job it seems) but I too was given a full mouth retainer as a teen. It was *miserable*. I lost it -accidentally but my mom didn't believe it- and it was too pricey to get aother so my orthodontist gave me a retainer (one of the ones that fits against roof of mouth with a wire across front of top teeth to wear at night and for the bottom, a wire (cemented in) retainer that ran behind my bottom teeth.
I wore the night retainer and had the bottom wire for 4 years but they were fantastic compared to that damn full mouth thing and my teeth look awesome!

This was done by an orthodontist who consulted with a dental surgeon because my braces and retianers would have been useless without the extractions I needed.

Good luck!
posted by pointystick at 7:51 AM on September 1, 2009

Holy shit, I thought those "hockey puck" retainers were ancient when I had one 15 years ago! there should at least be some vents in that thing so you can breathe. Sounds like legal action is the way to go.
posted by notsnot at 7:54 AM on September 1, 2009

The Hawley retainer (the one that fits against the roof of your mouth, and has a wire across your teeth) can be used to move your teeth slightly. Of course, I have no idea if that would be true in your case, but it was in mine (back in the old days).
posted by Houstonian at 7:58 AM on September 1, 2009

Wow, I had no idea that they had those types of retainers anymore. Mine, which I had more than 10 years ago was the Hawley type.

You can also get retainers that are just cemented in behind the teeth like this one. They can do both top and bottom and, other than getting used to it in the beginning and having to get special floss threaders to clean behind it, one eventually gets used to it; when I first got mine on my bottom teeth, my ortho told me I could take it out in a couple years, but I've now had it for 10 years and have no intention of having it removed because I barely even notice it anymore.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:08 AM on September 1, 2009

Holy crap that retainer is awful! I used to have a very thick retainer/bite guard for my bottom teeth and I hated it. I used to have nightmares about my teeth falling out, and I would manage to take it out in the middle of the night!
posted by radioamy at 8:18 AM on September 1, 2009

Despite all of this, my teeth look worse now than before I started. My teeth are seriously crooked again, layering on top of one another in a way they never did before, the top spacing is atrocious and I'm embarrassed to open my mouth or smile. They're dingy and yellow from the braces, there's still bits of epoxy (or whatever they use to etch your teeth and then attach the brackets) everywhere, despite having them cleaned 3x in the last month, I've got a ton of pits, brown spots, and cavities now where the bands were, and all in all, I feel like I paid 5k to make my teeth worse.

Ha, yeah, the same stuff happened to me, with the added bonus in my case of botched jaw surgery that accidentally shattered my jaw. Some metal plates and screws being put in, a few days in the ICU, and a month with my jaw wired shut later, I had gone through enough pain and hassles that I didn't want to wear a retainer that made me unable to sleep at night for a year, so I just said screw it and stopped wearing the retainer and showing up to appointments.

The epoxy stuff or whatever eventually goes away. Overall my teeth are pretty much back to normal, except slightly more crooked than they used to be (they were actually pretty much straight before, it was mainly a problem with my jaw alignment). At this point I just go to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned and the usual stuff. And when I switched dentists a while ago they definitely seemed surprised that I had had braces in the past.

As far as what you can do to fix it, I have no idea, based on my bad experience I'm not going to go back to an orthodontist or oral surgeon any time soon. On the embarrassment side of not having perfect teeth, I personally just stopped letting it bother me. There are a lot worse things that could be wrong with you than having screwed up teeth, and life's too short to spend a lot of time feeling bad about it.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:04 AM on September 1, 2009

I had a bonded retainer like the one urbanlenny linked to on my bottom teeth for about 10 years. It was great not having to worry about putting a retainer every day. See if that's an option.
posted by zsazsa at 9:07 AM on September 1, 2009

I would actually get a second opinion about what work you would need done to rectify things. Your case is sounding very eerily similar to mine -- four years in braces here, but I was only 10 when I started, so my jaw was still growing, and then another two years of a series of ridiculous retainers and other more and more unusual appliances that didn't seem to be doing anything.

Then finally my parents had my brother's orthodontist (who was a different guy) look at my teeth -- I was sixteen at this point -- and they said "yeah, the retainers aren't doing anything, the only way to fix this would be to break your jaw and rewire it. We have no idea what this guy could be thinking." My parents had a conversation with the other orthodontist about the cost involved, whether breaking my jaw would be a necessary fix or just a cosmetic one (as in, "would it be okay if we just....left things as they are? or would that mess up her mouth more?") and decided to leave things alone and tell my own orthodontist that they were stopping his services, thank you very much.

What I've since found out is that my orthodontist, about the time I was fourteen, actually began literally going crazy, and so his judgement about my treatment was a little...impaired. I've also learned that a number of people were encouraging my parents to file a malpractice lawsuit against my orthodontist, but they decided against it because they didn't want the hassle. Meanwhile, my lower jaw is functional, but noticeably crooked, and the more time passes the more I wish my parents had sued the fucker so I could have had proper teeth. I'm seriously contemplating getting it broken and fixed myself as it is, but there's no way in hell I can afford it, and that's making me wish they'd done it back then at the time.

So in short -- get a second opinion from a more reputable orthodontist, and go with what he recommends. And especially -- if he says "shit, you could sue this guy over this," listen to him.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:35 AM on September 1, 2009

If there is one lesson that i've learned in this area, it was ALWAYS go to the specialist, and always get two opinions. I've had a ton of mouth problems by having general dentists do work they weren't qualified for. See a lawyer.
posted by arimathea at 9:37 AM on September 1, 2009

I'm seriously contemplating getting it broken and fixed myself as it is, but there's no way in hell I can afford it, and that's making me wish they'd done it back then at the time.

That sounds like what they were trying to do with my jaw. Just FYI, aside from the weird complications involved with mine (which is apparently very rare) there's also a non-zero risk of having permanent lip or chin numbness due to nerves being damaged during the surgery. They didn't tell me that until after I had already signed up for the surgery and it was too late to change my mind, although luckily in my case I didn't have any nerve damage.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:44 AM on September 1, 2009

Well, I've just gotten back, and what he told me was...and I quote:

"Well, you just need to take some xanax and wear the tooth positioner for 12 hours a day, or we can put you back in braces, which will cost between 2400 and 3600 dollars, depending on how long it takes to undo the damage you've done in the month since we gave you the positioner."

Now, even if I *could* survive a benzo haze and wear the positioner for 12 hours a day, it means I can't talk, can't answer the phone, can't look for a job, can't *take* a job if I find one, will probably lose my crowns...which will cost thousands of dollars to fix, AND there's no guarantee it will fix the teeth that have shifted. And I'll have to give up either breathing or sleeping, because I can't breathe with this thing in my mouth without conscious effort.

Needless to say, I didn't have him put new braces on.

I'm still trying to decide what my next course of action is...besides finding a new dentist, obviously. Unless I get the 5k back from this dentist, I cannot afford to do braces again. But, 5k is still small claims in Texas, so no lawyer is likely to be interested, and winning a small claims case in Texas against someone with malpractice insurance and the insurance lawyer is nigh-onto impossible. (Texas doesn't allow you to sue for pain and suffering anymore, if I understand the legislation correctly...but IANAL, so I could be wrong.)
posted by dejah420 at 10:22 AM on September 1, 2009

A reasonable course would be to bring your concerns to your dentist, with whom you have a ten year relationship, and express your concerns over the outcome first. If you have not achieved the goals of your treatment (straight teeth, comfortable bite, or whatever), this is the first thing (before the retainer) that needs to be resolved. Ask him if he would recommend a specialist to offer a second opinion. Do not pin your hopes upon being able to resolve a complicated ortho problem on 'invisible' braces, look toward the ideal outcome of the treatment whatever the modality, and then decide if you can handle it.
Relax over the financial details at this stage, if you have paid for the outcome, and it has not been reasonably met, you have every right to expect that you will not incur additional fees unless you made compromises on the ideal outcome from the beginning.
Of course, IANYD.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:34 AM on September 1, 2009

OHenry, see the comment above yours for the story of what happened when I saw my dentist this morning.
posted by dejah420 at 10:36 AM on September 1, 2009

Seems we were posting at the same time, so i did not see that you had reported back from your visit, which, obviously, did not go well.
I would find an orthodontist next, have him examine your situation and then get records from your (now) previous dentist. with a diagnosis and new treatment plan in hand you will have the ammo you need to get remuneration/satisfaction from the first guy.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:40 AM on September 1, 2009

PM me if you'd like
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:40 AM on September 1, 2009

He should have told you from the beginning that you were going to need your teeth bleached when this was done. I've been through two orthodontists now and both of them were very clear about that--as an adult with a normal fondness for coffee and tea and soda, that was basically going to be my first stop after getting them off, but that was normal and I should just expect it. The one said that kids can often get away without it unless they're heavy soda-drinkers, but all the adults they've done have needed it.

As far as what to do about unsatisfactory results... I finally just wrote it off. It was unfortunate, but it just wasn't enough money to be worth lawyering up. I got a new orthodontist and basically started over. It's not ideal so I'm not necessarily recommending this, because it's been expensive and I kinda wish I'd at least tried to go after my old ortho for part of the fees to pay the new guy, but I've lived through it anyway. Good luck. It amazes me how many incompetent people are out there doing this.
posted by larkspur at 11:12 AM on September 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

This really sucks.

I'd go to a proper orthodontist for at least one session anyway:
a) Because the epoxy the dentist (should have *crosses fingers*) used, shows up under a special blue light that orthodontists have, but normal dentists often don't have, which means an orthodentist can properly clean those remnants off (I know this because I went to a normal dentist to get it cleaned off when I had a metal retainer break, and they didn't tell me this till afterwards which means I can still feel & slightly see some remainder).

b) Get the Orthodentists professional opinion. Get it in writing preferably. This will be easier if you get copies of your original x-rays and details of the treatment off your current dentist.
Then, go back to your current dentist with this is backup, and see if he'd be willing to make a deal/partial refund - If it's cheap enough for you to go to small claims, make sure he knows you are willing to do it!
Go to small claims with opinions from two other specialist orthodontists, and just present them, no lawyer, it's only small claims. The hassle on him & his insurance to get him a lawyer would be bigger than it is for you. If you are willing to put up with THAT much hassle anyway.

c) Get a quote on a retainer from the orthodontist. See what they could minimally do to help the situation.

d) Get your teeth cleaned - this can happen as part of epoxy clean. Use a mild whitening kit, and see if you feel better about it.
posted by Elysum at 1:21 AM on September 3, 2009

Did you tell/ask the dentist about the crown issue?
posted by Nameless at 1:16 AM on September 25, 2009

so...what ended up happening?
posted by amalgamator at 8:55 PM on September 27, 2009

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