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There’s an App for That!

May 5th, 2021

Modern orthodontic technology has led to major changes in the world of braces. Brackets are smaller and come in both metal and ceramic materials. Wires are more efficient and more comfortable. Elastic bands come in a variety of vivid colors, or you can choose brackets which work without bands. You can even decide on clear aligners, with no brackets or wires at all.

And since modern software technology has given us a program for just about everything, it’s no surprise that you can install apps to help make your modern orthodontic treatment more convenient and more enjoyable. What can an orthodontic app do for you?

  • Keep Track of Your Appointments

There are many apps out there that are designed to help you keep your treatment on track with appointment reminders. This sounds pretty basic, but when you have school, work, sports, and activities filling your days, it doesn’t hurt to get a timely reminder that our Birmingham or Helena, AL office will be expecting you in the near future. And, since missed appointments delay your progress, you are making sure you achieve your beautiful, healthy smile in the shortest amount of time.

  • Mapping Out Your Routine

You know how important it is to keep track of the hours you wear your aligners. Apps can help remove the guesswork with a timer to make sure you’ve got the hours you need to progress to the next phase of treatment. Apps can also remind you when you’re ready for a new aligner, and let you track your progress in one convenient place with selfies after each aligner transition. After all, it’s really exciting to see just how far you’ve come.

If you wear traditional braces, there are apps with very helpful reminders for you, too. For example, forgetting to wear your elastics can really delay your progress. An app can let you know when it’s time to wear your rubber bands and keep track of your hours. It can also remind you to replace your bands regularly, because elastics become less elastic through the day. And take advantage of the countdown feature some apps offer to see just when you can expect to be done with your treatment when you keep on top of your routine.

  • Brushing and Flossing? Apply Yourself!

A big part of making your smile look its best after your orthodontic treatment is making sure you take care of your smile during your treatment. This means keeping up with daily brushing and flossing, and using proper technique. Two minutes brushing, twice each day, and flossing at least once a day are the basic recommendations for preventing cavities and gum disease. (During orthodontic treatment, you might need to increase your brushing and flossing—ask us how often is best for your needs.)

And to help you make sure you get a solid two minutes of brushing twice a day? Try an app that plays two minutes of your favorite music with a perfectly timed brushing playlist. Apps can also send you brushing and flossing reminders, let you know when it’s time to change your toothbrush (every three months, please!), and give you tips on better brushing and flossing techniques.

  • Have Fun with Your Appearance

Not sure just how you’ll look in braces? Get a preview with an app that uses one of your selfies to model different types and styles of braces, brackets, bands, and aligners. Metal brackets? Ceramic? Elastic bands in your favorite colors? No bands at all? Hardly visible aligners? Find the look that works for you!

  • When Problems Happen

Some apps will even guide you through common orthodontic problems, such as applying wax to an irritating bracket or relieving discomfort. Always remember, though, an app is not an orthodontist. If you have a serious problem or concern, call us immediately.

  • Orthodontist Approved

If you’ve checked out the orthodontic apps available for your operating system, you know that there are a lot of options out there. If you’re looking for an app providing information about your treatment, tips for dealing with your braces, or a convenient way to track your progress or even be part of a community, you want the best information, tips, and conveniences possible—and hopefully all in one place.

To help you find the best orthodontic app for you, talk to Dr. Priscila Denny! We might know just the app for your specific needs. Whether you choose aligners or brackets and wires, consider all the wireless options that can make your life easier, your dental care more complete, and—just maybe—your orthodontic experience a little more fun.

Power Chains

April 28th, 2021

By now, you’re very familiar with the basic building blocks of your braces. Brackets, wires, and ligatures are no mystery to you. But suddenly, you’re hearing a brand new term—“power chains.” What exactly are these power chains, and why does your orthodontist think you need them? Let’s see how power chains are *linked* to your orthodontic treatment.

  • First, why power chains?

They’re not really chains in the necklace or bike chain sense—in fact, they’re only very rarely made with metal. These chains are most often a string of O ring loops just like your elastic ligatures, attached in a row to resemble a chain.

Chain lengths are tailored to your specific needs. Dr. Priscila Denny will attach each individual loop in the chain around a single bracket, linking selected teeth together. Chains might stretch across a few teeth, several teeth, or your entire upper or lower arch.

  • Second, why power chains?

Because these chains are usually made of the same elastics that your ligatures, or bands, are made from, they want to hold their original shape. They will try to return to that original shape even as they are stretched between your brackets. As they contract, they help move your teeth together. 

Over time, just like an over-stretched rubber band, they lose their elasticity, and won’t work as effectively. That’s why you’ll probably get a new power chain whenever you come in to our Birmingham or Helena, AL office for an adjustment.

  • Third, why power chains?

This is the most important question. How can a power chain improve your smile?

Usually, power chains become part of your treatment after the first phase of alignment. They can be used to help align your teeth or correct your bite, but are most often used to close gaps between the teeth.

You might have a gap after a tooth has been extracted. Or, as your teeth move into their new positions, you might suddenly see noticeable spaces between them. Power chains move the teeth closer together to eliminate these gaps, and do it more quickly than brackets and wires alone can do.

  • How long will you need them?

This is something Dr. Priscila Denny will discuss with you. Whether it’s a matter of weeks or months, your treatment plan is designed to move your teeth into their best positions, and to do it carefully for a lasting, healthy alignment.

  • Power chain options

Depending on the size and spacing of your teeth and your treatment plan, these chains usually take one of three forms: closed/continuous, short, and long. The only difference is the distance between the rings.

We will choose the type of chain that’s best for your treatment. Your contribution is to personalize your power chain. Power chains come in a rainbow of colors, allowing you to mix and match. You can even coordinate with your ligatures if you have ties as well as chains. If your goal is to have your braces blend in, various shades of white, silver, or clear colors are available. Want to mix things up? Choose a different color with every adjustment.

  • Anything else?

You might experience some discomfort for the first few days with a new power chain, just as you might with any adjustment. Dr. Priscila Denny will have suggestions for making those first days as comfortable as possible.

Also, like brackets and ligatures, power chains can trap food particles, so be sure to follow our instructions for keeping your teeth and your braces their cleanest.

Now that you’re all caught up on what power chains are and what they can do for you, let’s mention one more benefit. This is a process where you can actually see the gaps between your teeth closing over the weeks you wear your power chains. Keep a selfie record of your progress as you create your beautiful, healthy smile. That’s an em*power*ing experience!

The Hazards of Smokeless Tobacco

April 21st, 2021

Many smokers believe that chewing tobacco is a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. This simply isn't the case! In fact, smokeless tobacco can cause serious health concerns.

Smokeless tobacco comes in many forms and goes by many names: dip, snuff, snus, or simply chewing tobacco. Use of these products usually involves sucking or chewing on shredded or loose tobacco leaves, sometimes flavored, for a prolonged period. There are even products that emulate a dissolvable candy-like consistency which are made of compressed tobacco powder.

What are risks and smokeless tobacco?

Whichever form a tobacco product takes, the dangers of using or consuming them is very real. According to a 2007 study by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, there are upwards of 28 cancer-causing chemicals in smokeless tobacco that are known to cause cancer. And these products are habit-forming just like any other tobacco product that contains nicotine. Using them will increase your risk for many serious diseases including but not limited to: cancer (especially oral and esophageal), gum and heart disease, cavities, and pre-cancerous mouth lesions.

At the end of the day, long-term use of smokeless tobacco can cause serious health issues. These products really take a toll on both your oral and overall health. They put a strain on your immune system and make it less capable of warding off infection and disease.

Dr. Priscila Denny and our team strongly advise you to stop using smokeless tobacco—or any kind of tobacco product—and not to pick up the habit if you aren't. There is no safe level of tobacco use, smokeless or otherwise.

Need to quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco products?

You can and should always talk to your doctor, healthcare practitioner, or Dr. Priscila Denny for help quitting. But there are many other resources available today for those who'd like to quit. The National Cancer Institute offers information, support (local and online), and tools to help smokers and smokeless tobacco users quit. They offer live online chat with cessation counselors Monday through Friday and even have a smartphone application available to help people who are serious about quitting.

You can take a look at their website at smokefree.gov or call them toll-free at 1–877–44U–QUIT (1-877-448-7848). There is also help available from your state's quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Make the best choice for your health and well-being; avoid the bad habit of tobacco products. If you have any questions about how tobacco related products affect your oral health and hygiene, please don't hesitate to ask one of our Birmingham or Helena, AL staff members.

Start Your Day Off with a (Healthy) Smile!

April 14th, 2021

If there’s one meal that can claim the title of “Sweetest Meal of the Day,” it’s almost certainly breakfast. Sugary cereals, syrup-covered waffles, oatmeal with honey, cinnamon toast (which is literally sugar poured on toast)—it’s hard to imagine another menu even coming close. But you’re trying to keep your diet as healthy as possible. What to do?

First, no need to deprive yourself of the occasional pastry or stack of pancakes. The real problem with breakfast isn’t so much sugar as it is added sugar.

  • Just a Spoonful of Sugar? What’s So Bad About That?

Nothing! Many healthy foods have natural sugars. Milk contains lactose sugar, and it also contains calcium and is enriched with vitamin D—both of which are essential for strong bones and teeth. Fruits get their sweetness from a sugar called fructose, and deliciously provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber to our diets.

Even processed sugar is surprisingly low in calories. In fact, a teaspoon of white sugar has only about 15 calories. But this teaspoon is also rich in nutrients for cavity-causing bacteria. The oral bacteria in plaque use sugars and carbohydrates from food particles as a fuel source to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and lead to cavities.

Choosing breakfast foods without additional sugars, then, is an easy way to reduce the number of empty calories in your diet while safeguarding the health of your teeth. We have a few suggestions.

  • Be Selective with Cereals

If the word “sugar” or “honey” or appears on the box, that’s a hint that your favorite cereal is heavy on the sugar. But there’s a more scientific way to tell just how much sugar is in that spoonful.

While the colorful packaging and playful mascots are eye-catching, check the black-and-white panel with nutritional facts found on every box. If one serving equals 27 grams, and the sugar in that serving equals 15 grams, you know you have a problem. And cereals marketed to children are especially “rich” in added sugar.

But luckily, you don’t need to give up your morning bowl. Many cold cereals are available that offer whole grains, protein, and fiber without a lot of added sugar. Spend some time in the cereal aisle comparing, or, to make life easier, there are many online sites which recommend the best (and worst) cereals in terms of sugar content.

  • Use Your Judgment with Juices

Fruits are packed with important nutrients. Not only do they provide essential vitamins and minerals, they’re a great source of water and fiber. If you drink 100% fruit juice, you are getting the benefit of most of the vitamins and minerals found in fruit. (You’re also getting less of the fruit’s natural fiber, and more of the fruit’s natural sugar, so consider fresh fruit as an option occasionally.)

But when fruit juice comes with “cocktail,” or “punch,” or “ade” attached to the end of it, there’s often something else attached—added sugar. For natural fruit flavor and the least amount of sugar, stay with 100% unsweetened fruit juice.

  • Search Out “Surprise” Sugars

Remember the childhood excitement of searching through your cereal box for the prize inside? Fun! What’s not so much fun? The surprises you might find when you search through the labels on your favorite breakfast items—because added sugars make their stealthy way into many of our morning favorites.

When you compare plain, Greek, and low-fat yogurts, for example, the low-fat options are often higher in added sugar. A container of low-fat yogurt can provide 19 grams of sugar—that’s a tablespoon and a half!

And while you’re at it, be sure to compare the sugar content in granola bars. Some are full of nuts and grains, and some are full of added sugar.

Going out for a breakfast smoothie? Those can contain 70 grams of sugar and more. Making your own at home might be a little more time-consuming, but if you use fresh fruit as your sweetener, you can make sure that what you’re not consuming is added sugar. If you’re on the go, check out all-fruit options at your favorite smoothie shop.

Dr. Priscila Denny and our team aren’t asking you to eliminate sugar from your breakfast diet altogether. (Everyone loves a doughnut now and again.) But substituting some alternatives for your regular menu choices can reduce the amount of added sugars by tablespoons every meal. That’s another great reason to greet the morning with a smile!