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Can You Chew Gum and Wear Braces?

August 12th, 2020

Well, of course you can chew gum and wear braces. But, should you chew gum and wear braces? That can be a sticky question.

For many years, the answer was a firm “No.” Not only did our favorite chewables literally gum up the (dental) works, but they were filled with loads of the sugar that cavity-causing bacteria love to feed on. The result? A much better chance of damage to your orthodontic work, and a higher risk of cavities near your brackets and wires.

But times, and gum recipes, change. Today’s sugar-free gum provides us with some new ideas to chew over.

  • Sugarless gum is much less sticky than regular gum, so it is much less likely to stick to your appliance. If there is any chance that gum will damage your wires or brackets, we’ll let you know that it’s best to wait until your braces are off to indulge.
  • Some orthodontic patients find that their jaws and ligaments are less sore if they chew gum for a few minutes after an adjustment.
  • Most important, studies suggest that chewing sugarless gum might actually help prevent cavities from forming. How is that possible?

Because chewing gum increases our production of saliva! Okay, we don’t normally find saliva an exciting, exclamation-point-worthy topic, but let’s look at the dental benefits:

  • Saliva washes away food particles and bacteria. And because braces can trap food when we eat, it’s great to have some help washing away any meal-time souvenirs.
  • Saliva helps neutralize acids in the mouth. The acids found in foods and produced by oral bacteria lead to cavities, so diluting and neutralizing their effects provide important protection for our enamel.
  • Saliva helps bathe the teeth in minerals that can actually rebuild weakened enamel. Acids in the mouth attack minerals in the enamel such as the calcium and phosphate that strengthen our teeth. Fortunately, saliva provides calcium, phosphate, and fluoride that can actually help rebuild weakened enamel.

So, should you chew gum and wear braces? The real question is, should you chew gum while you’re in braces? Dr. Priscila Denny and our team are more than happy to provide the right answer for you! Talk to us at your next visit to our Birmingham or Helena, AL office about the potential benefits and drawbacks of dentist-approved sugarless gum. Depending on the kind of gum you choose and the kind of orthodontic work you are having done, the answer just might surprise you.

Just Add Water

August 5th, 2020

One of the many benefits of your clear aligners is that you can remove them to eat. You should brush after every meal, just like you would with traditional braces, but cleaning your teeth is much easier without having to work around and between brackets and wires.

But when you wear your aligners 22 hours a day, you might be tempted to leave them in when you’re just having a sip of something when you’re thirsty. Unless you’re drinking water, please don’t.

What’s the problem with a can of cola or a cup of coffee?

  • Staining

The virtue of your clear aligners is that they are, well, clear! Probably one of the reasons you decided on this method of treatment was because you liked the idea of an inconspicuous appliance.  Unfortunately, dark beverages such as colas, coffee, tea, and red wine can stain your aligner, making it more visible.

  • Warping

Very hot beverages might actually affect the shape of your aligners. Since they are formed using heat, it makes sense that heat can also de-form them. If hot teas and coffee drinks cause a change in the shape of your aligners, they will not move your teeth the way they were meant to.

  • Affecting Tooth Health

Even though our enamel is very strong, sugary and acidic drinks can damage it. Acidic foods can erode enamel, and the sugars in our diet provide food for cavity-causing bacteria, which then produce acids that erode enamel.

Normally, saliva provides some protection from acids and sugars by diluting them and washing them away from the teeth. When you drink a cola or an orange juice with your aligners on, some of the liquid will get in them, and can stay in them until the aligners are removed. You will actually give these problem beverages the opportunity to bathe your teeth in sugar and acid over a longer period of time, without exposure to saliva to help offset potential harm. And after all your work to create a beautiful smile, you certainly don’t want new cavities!

How to protect your aligners and keep them their cleanest—and most invisible?

  • Take your aligners out before drinking beverages that can stain them, or, if you can’t, try using a straw. Clean your aligners according to Dr. Priscila Denny and our team’s instructions to keep them as clear as possible.
  • Don’t drink very hot beverages with your aligners in place. Try icing your coffee and tea if you can’t remove your aligners. And if you think your aligners have changed shape, please give us a call.
  • Drink water! Water hydrates you, doesn’t damage enamel, and keeps your aligners clean. Tap water is your best option, as even bottled waters can be acidic.

If your aligners should become stained, remember that you change them frequently, so the staining can be a temporary problem. If you do have a drink of something hot and your aligners feel “off,” give our Birmingham or Helena, AL office a call. We’ll let you know if you need to replace them.

But prevention is always best! Avoid staining from the start by removing your aligners before you drink dark beverages. Don’t expose your aligners to heat. Think about replacing unhealthy drinks with water. And certainly brush right away, or rinse with water if that’s not possible, if you drink a sugary or acidic beverage. These simple precautions will help keep your aligners, and, most important, your teeth, looking their best.

Orthodontic Myths

July 29th, 2020

Some myths never wear out their welcome. If the Tooth Fairy helps your child transition from baby teeth to adult teeth, more power to her! On the other hand, some myths we can do without. Here are five common misconceptions about orthodontics, and the reality behind the myth.

  • It’s Only Cosmetic

If you think orthodontists can make a crooked smile straight, you’re right! Creating a beautifully aligned smile is one of our specialties. And if your primary interest is in a straight, even smile for you or your child, that’s a good thing. You can’t underestimate the confidence a beautiful smile brings. But please don’t think that’s all we do. In orthodontics, aesthetics and function work together. An essential part of an orthodontist’s work is diagnosing and treating malocclusions, or bad bites. The correct alignment of teeth and jaw is what makes a beautiful smile a healthy one as well.

  • I Don’t Need an Orthodontist for Orthodontic Treatment

All dentists receive comprehensive training and experience in order to earn their dental degrees. But did you know orthodontists like Dr. Priscila Denny receive two to three years of additional formal training, concentrating specifically in the field of orthodontics? An orthodontist is a specialist, and diagnoses and treats problems with tooth alignment while taking into account dental, jaw and facial development. That is why an orthodontic specialist is best qualified to create a unique, custom-tailored treatment plan for each patient in order to achieve a beautiful, balanced, and healthy smile.

  • My Child is Too Young for Orthodontic Treatment

We actually recommend that every child see an orthodontist for an evaluation by the age of seven. It’s important to be aware of any potential orthodontic problems that might affect your child’s later years, but we can also treat problems even before braces are on the horizon. If your child’s mouth is very small, we may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander to accommodate adult teeth as they erupt. If a baby tooth is lost too soon, we can provide a space maintainer so your child’s permanent tooth can erupt in the right place. We can even treat bite problems before all the adult teeth arrive. A visit when your child is young might help prevent the need for more complicated treatment in the future.

  • I’m Too Old for Orthodontic Treatment

You’re really not. As long as your teeth and gums are healthy, orthodontic treatment is a great way to keep them healthy. Crowded teeth and malocclusions can lead to problems like worn or cracked enamel, headaches, jaw problems, increased tooth decay, and periodontal disease, to name but a few. And today’s orthodontics offer a much wider variety of treatment options than the metal gear you remember from your high school days. Which leads us to our last myth of the day:

  • Those Metal Braces Aren’t for Me

In that case, it’s a good thing we have many other options to offer. Ceramic brackets and clear elastic ligatures make traditional braces much less visible. Lingual braces use brackets and wires placed behind the teeth, which are almost impossible to detect. And clear aligners allow you to subtly reposition your teeth with each new aligner tray—and are removable if need be. In fact, even those metal braces you might remember from your own high school days have gotten smaller and sleeker. Talk to us about the many discreet options available for older and younger patients.

If you are interested in what orthodontics might do for you, give our Birmingham or Helena, AL office a call! We are here to help you discover what’s possible and then to design the best possible treatment plan in order to achieve it.  Let’s make your beautiful, healthy smile a reality!

Emergency Care for Orthodontics

July 22nd, 2020

It’s vital to understand the difference between an orthodontic emergency and minor orthodontic issues. Minor issues can be handled the next day, or at your next scheduled appointment. When a real orthodontic emergency occurs, however, you will need to see a doctor immediately.

Emergencies can include injuries to your teeth, jaw, mouth, or face. Whether you have braces or oral appliances in your mouth at the time or not, it’s crucial to fix the problem before it gets worse. If you have an injury that affects an orthodontic appliance, that may need to be replaced or adjusted, depending on the extent of the injury.

You can watch for and address some common minor issues on your own, or wait to have them fixed at your next appointment with Dr. Priscila Denny:

  • Poking wire
  • Loose bracket
  • Loose elastic band
  • Loose wire
  • Loose appliance
  • Headgear does not fit
  • Lost or broken elastic band
  • General soreness

These minor issues may arise if you eat hard or sticky foods that damage your braces or other orthodontic appliances. Make sure to be extra careful, and avoid brushing your teeth too aggressively to avoid causing damage.

These problems should not be treated as emergencies unless they begin to cause prolonged pain and discomfort. If you notice this happening, contact our Birmingham or Helena, AL office and we can provide a solution.

Some at-home remedies you can try can include covering loose brackets or wires with wax. Wax can prevent canker sores from forming by covering sharp metal pieces that poke into your gums. If you have wires that have poked out into your gums, you can use tweezers to push the wires gently away from the direction of the sore area. Always make sure you use alcohol to sterilize anything you intend to put into your mouth.

When you get braces initially, you may notice some soreness of the jaw or small abrasions from your mouth getting accustomed to foreign materials. You should not worry too much about this temporary pain.

A warm salt-water solution can be used to alleviate any swelling or discomfort you’re experiencing. Many drug stores have ointment for canker sores that will numb the area if they continue to bother you. If you notice that your pain or swelling doesn’t get better, schedule an appointment with a medical professional as soon as you can.

When in doubt, contact our Birmingham or Helena, AL office if you are unsure or still have questions about an orthodontic problem you’re facing. If the situation becomes an emergency, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with our team, so we can help provide you with a solution.

Orthodontic emergencies should be taken care of promptly whenever they arise.