Monday, July 1, 2013

Tax time and medical expenses

For those of you in Australia and keeping up to date with tax laws, you will know that as of today - 1st July 2013, the Australian government has done away with the net medical expenses tax offset.  The tax offset helped people who spent a large amount of money on medical expenses during the tax year, by providing a rebate of either 20% or 10% over a set threshold - depending on your income.  The offset had been declining over the years, so I guess it was inevitable it would go - however this will affect a lot of people, especially pensioners who spend a lot of money on medical services.

What a lot of people don't know (and I only just found this out myself) is that while as of this year it has been scrapped, if you claimed the offset in the 2012-2013 tax year, you can also claim it in 2013-2014. And if (and only if) you also claim it in 2013-2014, you will be able to claim for one final year in 2014-2015.  This is great news for people like myself who are due to spend another $20-$30K or so.  It won't stop the government further raising the threshold and lowering the rebate, but at least it's something for the next couple of years.

That's it - just a quick post really, but useful information for those who need it.  And remember, if you did claim it in 2012-2013, ensure you continue to keep good track of your medical expenses.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The braces are on!

Hello again bloggerland!

A major event occurred a few weeks ago - I finally got my braces fitted.  Of course I wanted to update my blog straight away, but life has been super busy since then. With a work trip to Melbourne, then my own trip to Melbourne and a busy schedule, I've hardly had enough time to think.  Forgive my tardiness, I will make up for it I promise :)  Long blog post - beware!

So on Monday 27th May I had an appointment with my orthodontist to first remove my palatal/maxillary expander (my torture device) and then have upper and lower ceramic braces fitted (my new torture devices).  Having the expansion device removed was quite an ordeal because the metal bands of the device are glued to the teeth, so there was lots of pulling and quite strenuous physical labour (on the orthodontists part) to remove it from the jaw.  I usually have quite a high threshold for pain, but I must admit I winced a couple of times during the removal.  Now as you know I'm not going to shy away from the gory details in this blog - the smell was awful!  I couldn't believe that something that smelled so bad could be in my mouth.  My orthodontist explained that food gets stuck around the expander and some of it is almost impossible to floss/clean, so the devices are usually smelly once they have been removed.  Lovely.

Now for the braces - and for all the fuss made by many people that I know who have had them, I have to say that getting them fitted was not uncomfortable or painful and I actually almost fell asleep at one point.  Hats off to the amazing orthodontic team at Sydney Smile Specialists.  While I'm here, I may as well give them a plug - if you are looking for an orthodontist in Sydney, I really don't think you could find a more professional, friendly and caring team of people.  You can view their Facebook page by clicking their name above.

The ceramic brackets that will be adhered to my teeth, made by 3M.

The first step in getting the braces on is for the teeth to be prepared.  This involves popping a plastic device into the mouth to stop the lips touching the teeth, giving the teeth a thorough clean and then gluing each bracket to the surface of each tooth.  The majority of the brackets are clear ceramic, while a couple towards the back of my mouth are metal.  Having the lips away from the teeth ensures they are completely dry otherwise the glue will not adhere.

Ready to get the braces on

Once the brackets are on the wires are threaded (kind of) through the brackets.  One wire for the upper jaw and one for the lower jaw.  O-rings are then placed around each bracket (a little uncomfortable) which close the opening of the bracket and hold the wire in place!  Phew!  The wires are very flexible, but also have a tendency to want to retain their shape.  It is these characterises that apply tension to the brackets and so the teeth, and eventually move them into the original shape of the wire.  My orthodontist advised that I have a 'super-cable' on the lower teeth which is a stronger type of wire to move misaligned teeth a little faster.  That's a nice way of saying my lower teeth need a lot of work!

The whole process including the removing of the expansion device and the fitting of the braces took around 1 hour and 30 mins, with the braces taking up about an hour.  Not bad at all really.  And once my braces were fitted I couldn't stop looking at myself in the mirror - I'm so happy to finally have them on.  I was given cleaning and care tips and was on my merry way.

Here I am with my braces on

And you know how I love these beautiful close up shots

Over the next 4-5 days a couple of my lower teeth did get very sore, but I was told this was to be expected.  I took painkillers, ate lots of yoghurt and other soft foods and after a few more days the pain was gone.  Happy days.

One week later I had to visit the orthodontist again because even though I had my expansion device removed, I had to get a new metal arch fitted in the roof of my mouth.  This one is called a Trans-Palatal Arch (TPA) and it is designed to keep the expansion of the jaw stable and to stop the molars moving back inwards.  Yes, it's another metal device in my mouth but much smaller than the expansion device - in fact I hardly notice it's there.

Now to the downside.  Eating.  It's not painful or sore - just very inconvenient.  My upper and lower front teeth have never met, but before the jaw expansion the majority of my side teeth did.  Due to the massive expansion I have now undergone, only a couple of my teeth meet on each side.  This along with the gap in the front teeth (yes I know it will eventually close) and food getting stuck all around my braces make eating rather tiresome.  It's not due to the braces - they are just another obstacle in the way of me doing some serious chow down.  Eventually the braces will rotate my lower teeth outwards to meet my upper teeth, and of course there will be the main surgery next year, so until then it's a waiting game.  And the result will be worth it.

And that's all for now!  Hopefully you are still reading and enjoyed this post.  Feel free to leave me a comment or ask away if you have any questions.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Before and after jaw widening

Throughout my whole SARME experience I have of course noticed my jaw getting wider.  This is mainly because of the gap that has formed between my front teeth.  However because I look at myself every day, I don't think I realised just how much wider my jaw actually is.  Last night I took a photograph of the roof of my mouth and compared this to the same photograph I took before the surgery/widening and I am truly amazed at the difference.  So here are the photographs side by side, so you can see the difference too!  When I look at these, I have no doubt that I am doing the right thing.  

Enjoy the lovely nostril shots...

Friday, May 10, 2013

It's almost time for braces!

Today I am excited.  Apart from the fact that it is Friday (which calls for some dinner and red wine this evening), in just 17 days (May 27th) I will be getting my braces fitted.  There are many different types of braces to choose from, but i have opted for ceramic lingual braces.  These are braces which sit on the outside of the teeth but where the brackets are made from a clear ceramic rather than metal.

Originally I was only due to get my lower braces on and I presumed this was because my upper jaw needed to recover further from my SARME surgery. I have since found out that there was some confusion and my orthodontist thought I was having incognito braces on my upper jaw.  Incognito braces sit on the inside of the mouth behind the teeth and have to be custom made, and from what I gather it is mostly an aesthetic choice.  As I am not worried about the aesthetics of ceramic braces, I have opted for the ceramics on the upper jaw too.  So to cut a long story short (if you know me, no story is short) I will be getting both jaws fitted!  This is why I am so excited.

For all the other children of the 80's out there, the picture in this post will make sense.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pass that paper bag

It's been a strange few days.  Last weekend I suddenly became extremely self-conscious and aware of the stares I get in public due to the gap in between my front teeth, and a Facebook post where I vented my frustration prompted an interesting conversation with a very good friend.

Why am I worried about people staring at me, when I have this blog which is showing my jaw (and journey) for all to see?

I thought that was a very good question because my blog if anything, is quite explicit in the descriptions I give and the photographs I share.  To me, it comes down to control and context.  When I post an update to my blog I am putting my face right out there for all to see.  And while I have no control in who reads the blog, the reactions of people who read it are not displayed to me right away.  If someone is reading my blog, they know I am going through surgery and so for my readers, things are put into context.  This is quite different to what happens in public.

When I am out and about in public, people stare.  They can't help it but they just do.  I have had people stare so much that I turn around and they are still looking.  On one occasion the stares have led to all out laughing which was very obviously directed at me.  The issue is this - they do not know I am having jaw surgery, they do not know this is all part of a larger plan and they do not know that I haven't been in a fight and had my teeth knocked out (because after all, I am quite butch).  Of course I don't blame people for looking because unlike my blog there is no context, however after a while the stares make me uncomfortable.  Of course the laughing to me is another matter and just plain rude, and prompted my Facebook frustration.

So there is a bit of an insight into how I am feeling and why stares in public are very different to someone reading my blog!  It has definitely highlighted my coping (or lack of) mechanisms and this is something I will be working on.  On a more positive note, this situation has prompted me to contact my orthodontist who has said they can put some temporary composite (the same material fillings are made from) across my front teeth which will disguise the gap.  It won't look like a tooth, but I won't have a huge gaping hole either so in the short term I can get back to looking fairly normal.

Now all I need to do is wait until the upper braces are fitted and the gap starts to close...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

SARME Surgery post-op day 33 - mind the gap!

It's been a few weeks since I posted to my blog, because to be honest nothing much has been happening apart from the gap getting bigger and bigger!  I've become quite self conscious (although not  enough to stop me from posting this) because the wider the gap has become, the more you notice the slant in my jaw.  This has led me to covering my mouth a great deal while out in public and I have become quite sensitive, even dare I say, high maintenance.  Of course I always knew that my jaw had grown downwards at a slant - the gap just exaggrates it greatly and I'm looking more and more like Cletus from The Simpsons.  The slant in my jaw will be fixed up though through a combination of the braces and my jaw re-alignment surgery next year.

The exciting news is that I went to see my orthodontist on Monday and they instructed me to stop turning the expander as the upper jaw has now been widened enough.  So that's a total of 25 days expanding twice a day, and I'm quite glad that stage is over.  While expanding never caused me any pain as such, I did feel a lot of pressure on my jaw after each expansion.  As each expansion was only 12 hours apart - the pressure was almost constant all day, every day.

Anyhow they do not call it a rapid maxillary expansion for nothing, and the photo's below show my expansion progress since my last blog post.

Post-op day eight (six days turning the device)
Post-op day twelve (ten days turning the device)
Post-op day 20 (18 days turning the device)

Post-op day 28 (26 days and the turning has stopped!)

In five weeks time I will be getting my lower braces on - I'm quite looking forward to that.  The upper braces will not be able to go on for a further four weeks though as my upper jaw needs time to heal in the new position.  This does mean the gap will remain for at least nine more weeks until the braces can start closing the gap, and the expansion device will need to remain in my mouth for that length of time, but at least things are moving along.  I still have virtually no feeling in my upper jaw or gums, but now the jaw has started healing the feeling should start to come back.  I have been advised though that it could be a number of months for the feeling to fully return.

Eating is still a chore and while I can eat semi-solid food, I still cannot eat anything too chewy or crunchy.  I've been making up for it with the soft foods though and have been eating so much yoghurt that I've put on a couple of kilos!

As a last note, I had a really strange dream last night (which was partly red wine fuelled) where my front teeth fell out and new ones instantly grew in their place.  I think this highlights the anxiety I have been feeling, but I'm still in good spirits.

Over and out.

Monday, March 18, 2013

SARME surgery post-op day seven - Look at my gap!

It has now been seven days since my SARME surgery and I'm glad to say that everything is going pretty well.

I went to see my Maxillofacial Surgeon for the first time since the procedure and he has commented that my gums are nice and pink and that I look like I am healing fast.  I still have no feeling in my upper teeth and my gums are completely numb, but he has said it can take months for the feeling to come back!  I mentioned to him my concern over one side of my jaw sitting slightly lower than the other, but he assures me this is normal and that it will be fixed up during both orthodontics and my bi-maxillary surgery next year.

I'm really surprised with how quick my upper jaw is widening.  I know I said before that it would widen by 0.25mm with each turn and yes I know it's called a 'rapid' maxillary expansion, but I didn't realise how quickly it would become a large gap.  After four days of turning the gap is extremely noticeable and I am able to do all sorts of tricks with my gap such as whistle or direct a stream of water through it.

Anyway that's all for now - enjoy the photos below and check out my sexy (not) gap!

I'm sexy and I know it
I can almost fit a straw through the middle