The Journey to that Perfect Smile! Part 1

Disclaimer: This is a lengthy post. Prices are subjected to my memory so it might be a little inaccurate and no, this is not a paid advertisement.

Hello everyone! No idea if I’m fortunate or unfortunate to be starting my braces journey. Fortunate being that I’ll be having totally straight teeth after one and a half years. And I’ll be able to get rid of the tooth which is protruding out of nowhere at the top left (you will understand later). Unfortunate being that I’m “forced” to do this due to my rotten (as used by the dentist. more commonly used term would be decayed) pre-molar tooth );

The Story

I had totally no intention of getting braces even though my clique kept feedbacking to me saying my lower set of teeth is so messy! But in my opinion I was thinking that since when I smile, only my upper set of teeth can be seen braces just to rearrange those messy ones below is so wasteful! My friends always describe my lower teeth as tsunami -.- So sad. Sigh. But anyways, what drove me to this decision was what I have mentioned earlier, my ROTTENNNN pre-molar tooth. As you all know, after a tooth extraction, it would be unwise to leave a gap there as neighbour tooth from both sides will start to shift or tilt towards the centre in order to fill up the space. The other matching teeth depending on whether your extraction is top or below will also start to grow “longer” since it cannot find its “friend” ):

The dentist gave me four options to choose from: root canal + crowning, bridging, dental implants or braces. The first wasn’t recommended as my tooth as told was pure ROTTEN so the chances of a successful root canal is low hence OUT. Second one requires the neighbour tooth to be reduced in size which is so so harmful to healthy tooth so OUT too. Third, it costs a bomb D: 4k plus as quoted. So I’m left with the last resort, braces. Especially since I’m young (said by the dentist but I do not feel that way anymore).

The Plan

I searched online forums intensively, determined to find an orthodontist that suited my budget and expertise. Finally decided on About Braces after numerous positive comments given by people in the forums. According to them, Dr Stefan Vaz is an awesome orthodontist and it is worth the price he quotes. Therefore I decided to give it a try!

The Experience

I called them to ask about their prices since almost nothing was on the official website. The response was really prompt. I got an email replying to my queries the next morning and to ensure that I have seen it, the receptionist gave me a call. After that, she also tried to clarify further doubts I have which was really good and in no time, I had an appointment made for the next day.

First Visit: Taking X-rays and constructing a mould Upon reaching, the receptionist was very patient and recognized I was a new customer immediately. Gave me a form to fill in and in less than 15 minutes, I was in the waiting room. Once inside, a nurse assisted me to get ready and wait for Dr Vaz. When he came, he checked the condition of my teeth and asked why I wanted braces which I honestly gave a reply to. For some reason, I had a feeling it wasn’t the answer he wanted so he replied “But you want to make your teeth straight as well right?”. I nodded and the nurses tended to me after he left the room.

They started to prepare for dental plaster to make a exact mould of my teeth then two X-Rays. She also took a few pictures of my facial features so that they can analyse my jaw structure, etc. After which, I was told that I can leave (pretty shocked, thought there’ll be more) upon payment and making the next appointment for the advising of braces choices. I paid $200++ for the X-Rays and mould which the receptionist said would be refunded if I ever decide to do braces with them as it’ll be included in the package. The earliest appointment which I could make was a month later unless I am able to make it during mornings.

Impression till now: Pretty good service even though I saw the orthodontist for less than 5 minutes. I expected that anyways  because when I was waiting, almost every five minutes, a patient came in. So I guess they have the appointment packed really tight. Efficiency at its maximum. The nurses were very helpful, definitely knowledgeable about what they are doing and are quick to respond to any queries you may have.

Second Visit: Advice on braces choice A month passed. This time once I reached the place, Dr Vaz was free to attend to me immediately and started to explain what the arrangements would be. First he elaborated about which teeth I needed to extract with guiding illustrations from the X-ray taken the previous appointment and the already ready mould. I had to extract four tooth (seems reasonable), two from each side, top and bottom. I didn’t take a picture of the mould but this was how it is.

Diagram of my teeth
Diagram of my teeth

The picture pretty much explains the condition of my teeth and what I would have to do next (No my teeth aren’t too little. It’s just that I couldn’t find any diagram that is completely the same as mine). Oh, and the lower row of my teeth is supposed to be messy. Not like how it seems on the picture. And so, four pre-molar tooth to be extracted. Next, he continued and advised me on the type of braces they had. Basic metal ones were $4800, ceramic additional $500, self-ligation additional $1400 and invisalign starting from $7000. I chose the first one since he felt that self-ligation braces have no substantial evidence on it working faster than normal ones. Plus, ceramic is just for colour sake and invisalign is too expensive and troublesome as I’ll have to go back every 2 weeks to get a new set.

I was also told that they outsource the extraction services to dentists at Mount Elizabeth or a Bishan branch. Prices vary by around $10 with ME being more expensive. Then the receptionist assisted me with the referrals. I wanted to choose ME because I trusted their expertise more but she said that the next appointment would be in late April which I couldn’t accept. So I decided to go along with the Bishan option and had my two appointments arranged 5 days from each other in the following week. That’s pretty fast. Then, I was able to book my next appointment which included having seperators inserted and cleaning of my teeth (cleaning includes 8 or 10 sessions spaced throughout the entire braces duration and costs an additional $200++).

Impression till now: Really smooth delivery and I couldn’t ask for more. All I had to do was turn up at the dental clinic at Bishan, hand them over a referral letter and the dentist would do the rest. Sounds good.

Third & Fourth Visits: Extraction of teeth I had a hard time finding the place despite using Google Maps because being located at the shophouses, the layout was really messy. In the end, I realised I took a long detour which wasn’t needed to reach the dental clinic. To my surprise, the receptionists was really friendly (Pardon my stereotyping). Completed a really short form and in 1 minute, the dentist was ready to see me (I was early by 15 minutes for my appointment). As I have not stepped into a dental clinic since two years ago for the extraction of my wisdom tooth, I was feeling really fidgety.

The dentist Dr. Tang was very approachable. He puts me at ease with his outgoing personality with questions like “Where are you studying now? How is it?”. In no time, I was feeling much relaxed than before. He proceeded to numb my gums which wasn’t painful at all (I do not generally feel much pain for injections). The only slight sting was when he injected into my gum bed which I was grateful for because I do not want to suffer the aftermath of inadequate anesthetic. He gave me the option of extracting both from my right or left first. I had no preference and left it to his discretion since he was the professional here. He admitted that it was a challenging decision to make as both sides are quite on par.

The right side where there is a decayed tooth at the top is a tough one as it might not withstand the pressure while extracting and crack halfway. This would result in a minor operation to cut my gum to remove the remains. The other side where the tooth is growing out of nowhere would require much wriggling as it is difficult to grab hold of it with the instrument (I had a tooth extracted when I was in primary one due to decay. After that, it refused to grow till I was secondary two and my remaining teeth had already grown. So it had no space and therefore protrude).

The extractions at the left side was amazingly fast. My decayed tooth was able to come out in a piece (thank god, no surgeries) and Dr. Tang was relieved too. He started to joke that he must be really good at this and was really proud of himself (lol). The healthy tooth gave way easily.

For the right side, the protruding tooth proved to be a huge problem. I swore he used 4 tools to try and wriggle the tooth out. However no matter how he tried, it just keeps wavering there and does not come out. Every time he changed a tool to grip hold of that stubborn fella, it would chip a little and he would say “Oh no. Now it gets a little more challenging”. That wasn’t very assuring. Me on the other hand who was trying to tell the tooth mentally to just give up. Finally after five minutes or so, the tooth gave way and as predicted by Dr. Tang, it was a curved root. The root was hinged between the neighbouring tooth and therefore was stuck unless pulled in the other direction. A clearer illustration is as seen below (Pardon my drawing skills through paint :p).

Curved root
Curved root

After the extractions, I was given a mask so as to not scare others away with my blood. My own walking dead series (haha). Paid $145 for the right side and $165 for the left side as it was more complicated.

Impression till now: I feel guilty for stereotyping and doubting his expertise. He’s really skilled in what he is doing. Have to stop judging them by where they are located.

For four days after the extractions, I couldn’t eat properly. My mum was so excited and bought one whole cupboard full of baby liquid food for me to eat and I was trying to tell her that I can’t finish them all. Oh well, now that I can eat solid food already, I’ll have to think of ways to finish all these -_-” But I’m still grateful to my mum because she’s so worried I will not be able to get much nutrition and kept cracking her brains to think of foods which I would be able to take in easily. Mash potato, ice cream (BEST FOOD EVER), potato porridge, baby cereal/oat, tauhuey, agar agar, etc.

Okay, shall end here as this post is getting far way too long! Next post will be about the cleaning of my teeth and separators (:


  1. teo lijuan
    September 30, 2014

    May I know the 4800 is all in a package ? Xray, retainers, braces

    1. hwee
      November 5, 2014

      Hi there, sorry for late reply. Yes it is. Not inclusive of scaling and polishing though and X-rays.


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