Save Your Teeth During National Candy Month

shutterstock_142437043The website for the National Confectioners Association lists a year’s worth of candy-related holidays. For example, January 3rd is National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day, April 12th is National Licorice Day, and November 7th is National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day. But watch out! Candy makers are claiming the entire month of June as National Candy Month.

Of course, dentists, orthodontists, and other dental professionals shudder at the thought of National Candy Month. While, it’s OK to have candy now and then, we wouldn’t want anyone to think of June as a month to gorge endlessly on candy, which as you know, can cause tooth decay. So here are five things to consume in order to survive National Candy Month with your teeth intact:

  1. Fresh fruit

Melons are great during summertime; they’re light, refreshing and very sweet. Select watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew or others. Or reach for other types of sweet fruit too—oranges and peaches, blueberries and strawberries—you name it. Even the fresh fruits that are higher in sugar such as grapes, bananas, mangos and cherries are preferable to candy.

2. Quality chocolate

The chocolate typically found on candy racks at convenience stores and vending machines contains very little actual cacao, the basic ingredient in chocolate. And this type of mass-market chocolate is high in sugar and saturated fats. It’s not good for your teeth or your body. On the other hand, quality chocolate, which is made from cacao beans, have polyphoneols and tannins which are ingredients that can stop the development of bacteria in the mouth and plaque. Choose dark chocolate without too much sugar to enjoy cacao’s oral and other health benefits.

  1. Sugar-free options

You can increasingly find sugar-free candy, especially in stores that stock natural and organic foods. These candies may use natural sweeteners like fruit juice or sugar-alternatives like Xylitol which has been shown to inhibit the growth of the oral bacteria that causes cavities. But be careful of the preservatives and other ingredients in sugar-free candies that are acidic, which upsets the pH balance in your mouth and can contribute to tooth decay.

  1. Snacks that aren’t sweet

Just because the National Confectioners Association says it’s national candy month, you don’t have to buy into their hype. Choose nuts, string cheese, pretzels, or chips. While many snack foods can be classified as junk food and aren’t necessarily good for your teeth, it’s still better for your teeth to avoid junk food with lots of added sugar.

  1. Your homemade treats

Still crave something sweet? Make them yourself. Look for recipes for granola or muffins. Generally speaking, homemade confections are healthier for you than store bought ones, and you can choose recipes with lower levels of sugar and otherwise have total control over what you’re eating.




8 Common Misconceptions About Orthodontics

The field of orthodontics is no exception to common misconceptions. Below are some of the common misconceptions we often hear at our practice: Misconceptions

Misconception 1 – Orthodontists and dentists are the same

Truth – Both dentists and orthodontists go to dental school, but orthodontics is a specialty within the field of dentistry. Orthodontists spend an additional two to three years after dental school studying the complexities of moving teeth and correcting malocclusions (misaligned bites), and once they begin practicing, that’s all they do. Meanwhile, dentists are often called “general dentists” because they handle the non-specialized tasks for maintaining oral health such as doing check-ups, filling cavities, and cleaning teeth.

Misconception 2 – Only kids get braces

Truth – This misconception is going away, because according to the American Association of Orthodontists, around 20% of people with braces are over age 18, and some statistics put that figure much higher. Meanwhile, the number of adult orthodontic patients keeps going up every year.

Misconception 3 – Only kids with all their adult teeth should see an orthodontist

Truth – The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that visits to an orthodontist begin at age 7. For patients at that age, the orthodontist can foresee problems in the future. Also, young children have more malleable facial bones. The orthodontist may want to use devices to reshape the dental arch to avoid the need to pull teeth later on.

Misconception 4 – Braces will make you have a “metal mouth”

Truth – Braces used to involve a lot more metal than they do today. Now, the brackets are much smaller, lightweight, and discreet than ever before. Patients can also choose lingual, or behind-the-teeth braces. Treatments like Invisalign involve no metal at all.

Misconception 5 – Braces are out of reach financially

Truth – Orthodontic treatment can be expensive, it’s true, but our practice offers various payment plans and work with patients to find ways to make braces affordable. We feel it is important to make orthodontic care accessible to all.

Misconception 6 – Braces are only for cosmetic purposes

Truth – People with straight teeth and aligned bites have decreased risk of plaque build-up, tartar, cavities and gum disease. Teeth also wear more evenly which helps them remain strong and resistant against infection. The cosmetic aspect shouldn’t be discounted either, as an attractive smile correlates to higher self-esteem and psychological health.

Misconception 7 – Braces are painful

Truth – When patients periodically have their braces tightened, their teeth may feel sore for a day or two, but medical advances have made braces so comfortable that patients typically forget they have them on.

Misconception 8 – Treatment takes a long time

Truth – Depending on a patient’s medical situation, treatment in braces can take as little as one year and rarely longer than three. “Long” is a relative term, but treatment times are demonstrably short when measured against a lifetime of benefits. Patients who keep their orthodontic appointments and follow their orthodontist’s instructions will see results the most quickly.


National Stress Awareness Month

Let’s not forget teeth during National Stress Awareness Month, which comes around every April. Stress is most often associated with conditions like heart attacks, insomnia, and ulcers, but stress can also cause damage to your oral health.Stress

Several oral conditions are often closely linked to stress. Outbreaks of common mouth sores, such as canker sores and fever blisters (cold sores), are thought to be the result of stress, at least in part. Stress may also lead to behaviors that can in turn cause dental problems such as eating sugary foods, failing to brush or floss properly, or chewing on pens, fingernails or other items that will damage your teeth.

Stress can also cause people to grind their teeth, either during the day or while they are asleep. This condition, which is known as bruxism, is one of the most significant dental conditions that stress can bring on. If left untreated, bruxism can lead to a range of problems, including damage to your teeth and dental work, as well as pain throughout your head, neck, jaws, and ears.

If you believe that your oral health is being adversely affected by stress, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist or orthodontist. They might suggest mouth guards, recommend over-the-counter remedies, or prescribe more targeted forms of treatment.

And if you think that stress might be having a negative effect on your overall health and well- being, you don’t have to live life all tense and wound up. There are lots of ways to alleviate stress in your daily life:

  • Go for a walk
  • Meditate or do yoga
  • Do any form of regular exercise
  • Take a few deep breaths whenever you feel tense
  • Slow down your life and figure out what you can cut out of your schedule
  • Structure your cell phone usage so you’re not always connected
  • Hang out with friends and family

There are countless other suggestions too. Just find ways to relax that work for you!


How Long Do I have to Wear Braces?

shutterstock_94862020We like to think our patients love us and enjoy visiting us at our practice, but we also know they want their orthodontic treatment time to go by as quickly as possible. When we discuss braces with a new patient, one question that always comes up is “How long will I have to wear braces?” The general answer is that braces can take 18 months to 3 years to straighten your teeth. If that seems like a wide range, indeed it is. We can typically offer a narrower window for everyone’s individual situation, but the real answer is always “It depends.”

That answer naturally gives rise to a follow-up question. “What does it depend on?” Well, several things, including:

  1. The severity of the problem

Sometimes a patient’s teeth are just somewhat crooked. Other times, the patient’s jaws are misaligned (what’s medically called a malocclusion), and in some cases the misalignment can be quite pronounced. Naturally, correcting a severe malocclusion will take more time than straightening teeth in jaws already in their ideal alignment.

  1. Age

Adolescence is the prime years for orthodontics because the adult teeth have grown in, but the jaw is still developing. Orthodontists take advantage of the developing jaws to correct malocclusions relatively quickly. In some cases, we can start diagnosing problems and prepping the patient for orthodontics as early as seven years old. It’s not at all uncommon these days for adults to get braces, but because their jaws have stopped developing, treatment can take longer.

  1. The types of braces or appliances used

When we can, we give our patients a choice for their orthodontic treatments. There is typically a trade-off between expense, aesthetics, and treatment times for the various choices. For example, many patients prefer the look of ceramic braces, but metal braces are stronger and can work more quickly. Lingual (behind-the-teeth) braces do a good job of hiding the hardware, but again, this choice can extend treatment times. The Damon system uses a type of braces that are typically faster than traditional braces, but they can cost a little more.

  1. Oral hygiene

When you have braces, keeping your teeth clean can take a little longer than normal, but it’s important to make the effort. Infections and tooth decay will extend treatment time (and cause additional dental problems as well).

  1. Compliance

Compliance basically means how well you follow your doctor’s instructions. For example, if your treatment is Invisalign, you will likely be told to wear the aligners for 20-22 hours a day. But if you wear them only now and then or whenever you feel like it, treatment will not progress according to schedule. The same goes for headgear, retainers, rubber bands, and other orthodontic tools. Comply with our recommendations to have treatment go as quickly as possible.

And there are also the unknowns.  When trying to move 32 teeth into place while aligning jaws, there are a lot of moving parts. The endeavor is complex, and sometimes things can go quicker or take a little longer than planned.

So remember, when we say “It depends” to questions about treatment times, the answer is not an attempt to dodge the question. It’s just an admission that many different factors come into play.

Ways to Make Flossing Easier While Wearing Braces

shutterstock_101867863If you wear braces, it is even more important that you floss regularly in order to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Because of the hardware in your mouth, particles of food will find more spaces on your teeth and in between them to stick around. If these particles of food are not regularly cleaned away, your chances of having problems with tooth decay go way up.

At the same time, your braces provide additional challenges when it comes to flossing correctly, because your teeth are harder to access. Fortunately, there are tricks and devices that can make the task easier.

Use Waxed Floss
You will likely find it easier to slide waxed floss between your teeth without it catching on the metal pieces of your braces. The floss can be threaded over and around the wires of your braces and pulled through to fit in between each of your teeth.

Purchase a Floss Threader
A floss threader can make it even easier to get in between your teeth. Simply thread a piece of floss though the eye of the threader and place the threader underneath the wire of your braces. Once you have done this, you can floss like you normally would.

Look Into Superfloss
Superfloss has a stiffened end that makes threading the floss underneath the wires easier.

Try a Pick
A pick is a simple device that is made up of a thin control arm and a small piece of floss. The pick is designed to eliminate the task of having to thread floss around the brace wiring using just your hands. These devices are designed to be highly durable and can even clean between back teeth effectively.

Find a Proxy Brush
The working part of a proxy brush flares out in a cone of bristles. It might remind you of a brush you use at the sink to clean glasses, but it is of course much smaller and the bristles are softer. The way the bristles fold when you stick them between your teeth make proxy brushes well-suited for getting around orthodontic wires.

Invest in a Water Jet
If you want even more cleaning power, a water jet can do the trick. This device usually comes with a small tank that you fill with water. You can then use the handheld attachment to clean around your braces and teeth by pushing a button that shoots out a water stream. It is best to hold the attachment at a 90 degree angle toward your gum line so that the water can effectively get rid of any trapped food and built-up plaque.

Even though it is more difficult to floss while wearing braces, trying these methods and devices can make the process more manageable. Keeping your teeth clean will pay off when you’re able to show off a healthy smile when it is time to remove your braces.


Invisalign Q&A

If you are considering Invisalign instead of traditional braces to straighten your teeth, you probably want to know more about what it is. Here are some questions we frequently get at Birth-Stewart-Fletcher Orthodontics about Invisalign:

What is Invisalign anyway?

Invisalign is a teeth-straightening system that involves a series of smooth plastic trays, or aligners that fit directly over your teeth. You switch one tray out for the next every two weeks or so. Each tray is a little different, and as a system, they gradually move your teeth into place with the last tray matching your final teeth alignment.

What is the treatment process?

At the beginning of Invisalign treatment, we will take x-rays and impressions of your teeth in order to create a digital 3-D model of how your teeth look now, how they should move, and how they will arrive into their ideal positions. Based on this treatment plan, we will order the trays for you. Once you begin wearing the trays, you will need to come to the office about every six weeks so we can make sure your teeth are moving according to plan.

What are the advantages of Invisalign over traditional braces?

The main reason patients choose Invisalign is because the trays are virtually invisible and don’t call attention to themselves. Invisalign has other advantages as well. Since there are no metal brackets or wires, Invisalign will not cut or scrape the inside of your mouth. Also, you will never have to make an emergency visit to the office to fix a bracket that popped off or a wire that broke.

Should I wear Invisalign all the time?

You should take out your Invisalign trays when you eat, floss and brush. You might also want to take them out for certain activities, such as when playing a contact sport or a musical instrument that requires using your mouth. But aside from such exceptions, you should always wear the trays to make sure your treatment keeps moving along nicely.

Can Invisalign replace traditional braces for anyone that wants it?

Invisalign is not a suitable treatment option in all cases. Come to the office for a complimentary consultation, and we will let you know if Invisalign will work for you.

Is Invisalign treatment any faster than traditional braces?

Not necessarily. Treatment times are about comparable.

What are any disadvantages of Invisalign over traditional braces?

Invisalign is typically a little more expensive than traditional braces. You might speak with a lisp at first until you get used to the trays in your mouth (but that can happen with traditional braces, too). And the fact that the trays are removable are an advantage, but you have to remember to wear them consistently. You also have to be sure not to lose or break them.

Do I Really Need to Wear My Rubber Band?

In a word, Yes. Our doctors would not have made rubber bands part of your orthodontic treatment if they didn’t determine them to be necessary.

The typical purpose of rubber bands is to correct an overbite or underbite. Once treatment is over, your teeth will fit together nicely. Your smile will look lovely, and eating will be a lot easier. Rubber bands can also be used along the brackets of one jaw to help move teeth in a way that braces might not be able to do alone.

Tips for wearing rubber bands:

  • Wear them consistently – You will need to take out your rubber bands now and then, during brushing for example. But be sure to wear them consistently. If you take them out and don’t put them back in, even if just for a little while, your jaw or teeth can start moving back to original positions, which can significantly extend treatment time. In effect, you might be starting all over.
  • Use the right rubber bands – Rubber bands come in different diameters and elastic strengths. Make sure you use the ones given to you by us, or your jaw won’t move into place properly. If for some reason you want to order some rubber bands off the Internet, don’t do it. Instead, call us. We’ll give you the ones you need.
  • Don’t improvise – Patients have been known to double up on rubber bands thinking that it will make their teeth move faster. In reality, it doesn’t work that way. Patients might also wear a set of rubber bands longer than instructed instead of replacing them daily or as directed. But rubber bands can lose their elasticity quickly, and wearing one set too long will negatively affect treatment.

How you wear your rubber bands will depend on our instructions. Some patients who wear rubber bands need to wear them all the time. Others only need to wear them while sleeping. Some will need to wear them throughout their entire treatment time, but others will only need to wear them for a portion of it.