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Undoing orthodontic work
I have joined this forum because I have started mewing in order to widen my palate. My story is as follows:
I had a fairly normally developed palate and teeth all my life. I had a very minor case of lower incisor crowding (slight overlap between the front two incisors) and a very minor overjet. I had a symmetrical and attractive face. When I turned 38, I for some reason decided that I wanted to get rid of the tiny bit of crowding and overjet. I thought if the bottom incisors were straightened out, the arch would expand forward a bit (because more room would be needed to accommodate the newly un-overlapped teeth), and the overjet would disappear. I thought it would be a short and simple procedure.
To my surprise my orthodontist told me that he would have to extract the top and bottom 1st premolars (4 teeth in total) for the treatment. I went along with it because I didn’t know any better. I had never had any orthodontic work done and I had no clue about anything. I just did what the “expert” said I should do.
A year and 9 months later the braces came off and my teeth were straight. However, within weeks of the braces being removed, the extraction spaces started opening up despite my wearing my retainers. Clearly, although the arches had been reduced, the palate hadn’t shrunk correspondingly, so the teeth were moving out again to match the wider palate.
The orthodontist said I should get braces in again to close the spaces that were opening up. I complied because I didn’t like food getting stuck in the gaps.
Almost a year later the 2nd lot of braces came off. The gaps were closed and my teeth were straight again, but this time I noticed that my face had changed for the worse in the meantime. Evidently during the 2nd lot of braces, my palate shrunk to match the smaller and narrower dental arch, making my face look long, narrow and flattened at the front. I had also developed difficulty breathing, as if the sinuses were permanently blocked. I went online and did some research and realised that these problems had been caused by the braces. So I went back to my orthodontist and asked him if he could widen my arch again, closer to its original state. He said since my bones had already remoulded it would not be possible to go back to the original state, but that he could try to widen the arch a little. After a year in braces (the third lot), during which minimal improvements were made, the braces came off for the final time in December 2017.
I am now 43 years old and stuck with a long, flat face, narrow palate and arches, breathing problems, and 4 fewer teeth than I started out with. I bitterly regret the decision to get orthodontic treatment, trying to obtain the last 1% to reach perfection when I should have left well alone.
During my research I came across Mike Mew and the concept of correct tongue posture. I am not sure what my tongue posture used to be before braces, but during the time I had braces I started placing my tongue in the middle of the mouth and mouth breathing. This was because I had lingual braces (braces attached to the backs of the teeth) and my tongue was always getting cut on the metal brackets. Therefore I developed a habit of putting my tongue where it was least likely to come into contact with the brackets, which was in the middle of the mouth, and opening my mouth to hold the brackets away from the tongue. Combined with the narrower airways, this created perfect conditions for mouth breathing.
After the 3rd lot of braces I wanted to see if I could widen my arch by mewing, but I was scared to mess up my teeth by not wearing my retainers. So, since the 3rd lot of braces came out at the start of Dec 2017 until now, I have been wearing my retainers and my teeth have not shifted at all. They are exactly as they were when the braces were removed.
I have finally decided to stop wearing my retainers and start mewing to see if I can widen my arch and maybe even my palate. I don’t know if mewing can swing the maxilla up/forward, etc., and I hold almost no hopes in that area. All I am aiming for, and would be happy with, is if I can widen my arch/palate and can breathe better. Aside from the health aspect, the reason I want to widen my palate is that I would like to widen my lips horizontally. Prior to getting braces I had full lips and a wide mouth. After braces my lips have shrunk in width (side to side length) and fullness. I now look like I have a tiny mouth at rest because the lip support is gone. Even worse, I have excess skin/flesh on the sides of my mouth, kind of bunched up and saggy, a bit like when people are left with saggy skin after major weight loss. The volume that used to hold out the skin (in my case, teeth and jaw bone) has shrunk, leaving an empty casing, as it were.
I will periodically try to put my retainers on to see if the arch has expanded at all. If the arch has widened, the retainer will be too small and no longer fit. I will give updates on my progress and hope to share good news. Thanks for reading.
This is a good account of your terrible tale. Your observation about how orthodontic appliances change tongue posture is particularly acute. I suffered orthodontic treatment as an adult for the same problem. I think the braces on my lower teeth changed my oral posture and because of the time they were on when they were removed I did not revert. I think this probably did quite as much damage as the braces. Also I was advised to retain the change in my teeth by a wire stuck along the back of my lower incisors. The orthodontist advised that I should keep this permanently. I did till it fell out, many years. I think this too changed my oral posture in causing my tongue to retreat back into my mouth.
You have identified a change to your lips. It is undoubtedly a consequence of the change in your teeth. There are currently a couple of threads on the main forum about lip posture leading the change we seek in the teeth. I think you would do well to put some effort into trying to hold your lips as you did formerly even though it will not be natural without the support of the teeth. This combined with proper tongue posture should provide your fastest route to righting things.
This is slow work but do not heed those who suggest that change is barely possible after 25 years old. In your case it sounds like your jaw and teeth have already shown a will to return to how they were before the extractions. Good luck.
Thank you for your kind words and the suggestion that I should try to hold my lips as I did before braces. That makes sense.
I too have a permanent (wire) retainer on the back of my lower incisors. It covers the front 6 teeth (lower arch only). I hope this won’t stop me getting any improvements from mewing. If at any point I feel that the retainer is causing problems I will go and get it removed. I have completely stopped using my removable Essix retainer.
@lizzybennet "Experts" hey, very sorry you went through all that ☹
My new dentists, who is otherwise great, tried to talk me into getting invisalign for the slight overcrowding I have and I am very glad I decided against it. Very worried about my son though, and experiencing no small amount of guilt for going ahead with braces. He's had 4 teeth removed, and the braces have remodelled his teeth significantly, but not a single word from the orthodontist on how this is all meant to stay in place except that he'll need retainers "for some time".
I've got a thin plastic mouthguard that was made to stop me teeth grinding which like your retainers is going to be a good gauge on whether I'm getting some palate widening. I am rather looking forward to it not fitting and showing that to my dentist 😉
I measured my intermolar distance using my upper retainer to see what my starting point is. It is 41mm (inside measurement of retainer is 39mm and the plastic is 1mm thick). Last night I caved and put my Essix retainers back in (after 5 days of not using them) because when I tried them they felt tight, and I got scared that it was because my teeth were getting crooked. Of course, there is a possibility that my retainers felt tight because my arches were widening, but I couldn’t be sure and didn’t want to take the chance. I am looking for a way to measure tiny changes in the intermolar distance, so I can mew without putting my retainers in for a week, then measure the intermolar distance to see if it has increased or reduced. If it has reduced I can put my retainer back in immediately before my teeth has had a chance to move too much. If it has increased, I can continue to mew without putting my retainers back in. However, I can’t see a way to measure the kind of miniscule changes that could happen in a week. And I don’t want to leave my retainers out for more than a week at a time in case my arches narrow to the point where the retainers no longer fit. I am stumped.
That is SUPER SCARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes.... if you widen, your palate will drop and it needs to be allowed to. If it is not allowed to widen, it jams up the nasal area. Met a woman holding a cardboard sign just last night with similar issues. She had a functional appliance for about a year and it was never shaved down. See more on this at the bottom of my post about aborting treatment. Hoping and praying it closes back up nicely.
@lizzybennet The retainers question is a big one isn't it, and one I'll be hitting with my son soon when he gets his braces off. I guess the question is whether we can put our faith in the orthotropic premise - that the tongue and the lips will keep the teeth in a balanced position, and so act as a natural retainer. I completely understand not wanting to lose any of what you've gained through 3 rounds of braces, it's a big concern!
But it seems to me that key aspect to making that premise workable is being able to place the tongue comfortably against the palate, so it can just sit there 90% of the time and act as a built in retainer. I certainly can't do that right now, my palate is too narrow, and my teeth are pretty sharp on the inside, so every second day or so I'm in quite a bit of pain by the end of the day!
You said on my progress thread you're having similar troubles, though your palate is actually a fairly good width, I wonder if it's more the depth in your case? Do you have your wisdom teeth still? Tongues are pretty flexible, but they still have to fit into the available space, so it's width x depth, and even x height as well, that is more vaulting of the palate might be good in some cases if it helps the tongue fit.
So I'm totally spitballing here, but I wonder if mewing with your retainer in could help you get more room by pushing the maxilla up and forward, but without widening your palate and risking your teeth alignment in the process.
Bigger question is whether we have the whole story yet, given most of the experts in orthotropics are working with children, and thus are trying to get in before any other orthodontic work is done, and especially before teeth are removed.
I think the tongue space problem for me is a combination of two factors:
1. Depth is definitely the biggest problem. I don’t have any wisdoms, I have only 24 teeth. Hence, my back to front distance is very short. This means I have to widen and shorten my tongue in order for it not to stick out past my front teeth.
2. My mandible is set to the right of my maxilla (also a problem caused by braces) and the tongue is attached to the mandible. So when I put my tongue up to the roof of my mouth, it lies on the right side of my upper arch. So, the left side of the tongue fits ok inside the arch, but the right side grazes against the right molars.
I think I am veering towards what you said about mewing with the retainer in, hoping to move the maxilla up without moving the teeth themselves (and hence risking moving them in the wrong direction). I would consider it a success if I could even just shift the mandible back to the centre so that it lines up with the maxilla rather than being skewed to the right.
Having read some accounts of people who stopped using their retainers, relying on their tongue to keep their teeth from crowding in, and ended up with teeth crowding / arch narrowing, I don’t think I would like to take the risk, not for the time being anyway, since I am only just over a year out of braces.
So, to summarise, I mewed without retainers 04/02-08/02/2019, and mewed with the retainers thereafter until now. Even in the 4-5 days that I didn’t wear my retainers, my teeth shifted quite a lot. When I put the retainers back in on the 5th day, I got a really bad pressure headache and sore teeth for 3 days. That really worried me. Given that the shift in teeth was not big enough to correctly ascertain which direction my teeth had moved, I could only guess from analysing which parts of the arch hurt the most, and how the retainers had to bend to fit over the teeth. From this, it seemed that my upper arch had widened slightly (of course, we are talking a fraction of a millimetre here) and my lower arch had narrowed! As I said, this is only a guess, so I could be totally wrong. Or maybe this happened because of the way my lower arch and my upper arch do not correctly line up against each other.
Since you are interested to know for your son who will be in a similar situation, I will give updates on this thread as to whether mewing with the retainers achieves anything.
@lizzybennet Thankyou, I would definitely be interested in hearing how you go.
I'll also post up the conversation I have with the orthotropist when I take my son post braces - be pretty interesting to hear his opinion on if/how to wean off retainers.
I seem to have some changes. Since it’s been only 10 days since I started mewing, I am actually a bit perplexed that anything would happen already. But I noticed this change as I was flossing my teeth half an hour ago, and wondered if my eyes were playing tricks on me. So I took some photos to make sure.
The change concerns my midline. After braces my lower arch midline was more than a millimetre to the right of my upper arch midline. In the 14 months that my braces had been out, this had not changed. Initially when my braces were taken out at the end of my orthodontic treatment, I noticed the midline mismatch, and I thought maybe over time it would fix itself, but it did not.
Well, now I can see that the midline difference has reduced, and is now less than a millimetre. The top photo was taken mid-January 2019, and the bottom photo was taken mid-February 2019 (today). This change only occurred AFTER I started mewing because I examine my teeth regularly, when I floss, etc. Since it had already been 14 months after getting the braces out when I started mewing, this can’t have been a spontaneous shifting of teeth just from the removal of braces.
Wonderful how you have approached with such gusto rectifying the unfortunate orthodontic treatment/extractions you got.
I am curious why you have not considered opening up the extraction spaces. This is what I am attempting to do now, in my fifties, after having been hit with consequences of my own extractions: jaw pain, tinnitus, neck and back tension, and frustration with tongue space.
I also wonder why your doctor told you you cannot remodel your bone now--when he remodelled it at age 38! The reason most people with premolar extractions cannot remodel is because they had extractions as children, and their jaw bone stopped growing at that time. The jaw only grows as far as the teeth are.
In your case, the maxilla was fully grown when you had it, so was not affected. What is causing the sagging is the missing teeth, not the missing jaw bone. This is very lucky news for you.
I know it's been 3 times with braces and that's enough. But I wonder if getting back tooth and arch structure--even mini-implants--could help you. The arch of the teeth can be changed with opening spaces. In your case (and at your age), I wonder if the palate did not change, but just the teeth arch: it's easy to confuse the two. I wonder why your ortho did not give you that suggestion. Usually they do not offer it because opening spaces is complicated and few are willing to do it.
Again, I am not a doctor, but someone struggling with the same thing (but worse, as the jaw bone did not grow).
As you undergo correction in the near future, please consider keeping records for your own sake and for others. Pictures of dental impressions, scans, medical reports reports can be very helpful even with all personally identifying information blocked out.
Your input could help many, many people