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Why Do I Need Rubber Bands?

June 19th, 2019

Getting braces is a huge step in creating the beautiful smile you want. It’s easy to see how important your wires and brackets are. Week by week, you and your family and friends can see the progress you’re making as your teeth become straighter. That makes all the careful brushing, periodic adjustments at our Menlo Park or San Carlos, CA office, and annoying loose ligatures worthwhile.

And while straight, even teeth are the visible reward you get for your months in braces, there’s a benefit that’s every bit as important that might go unnoticed by your friends and family—a healthy, properly aligned bite.

Many people have some kind of malocclusion, or bad bite. There are several different bite problems we treat. Some of the most common are:

  • Overjet (the upper front teeth protrude too far forward over the bottom teeth)
  • Underbite (the bottom teeth overlap the top teeth)
  • Crossbite (one or more teeth haven’t come in in the proper position, often with an upper tooth fitting inside a lower tooth)
  • Open bite (the upper and lower front teeth don’t touch).

When the jaws and teeth don’t fit together properly, you might be looking at damaged teeth, headaches, and painful problems with the temporomandibular joint, or jaw joint, in your future. That’s why correcting your bite early is so important. Using rubber bands with your braces is one of the most popular and effective ways to help create a better bite.

Bands are used with your braces to gradually move your teeth into their best position. Specially designed brackets with tiny hooks are bonded to very specific teeth. Why so specific? Because the placement of the brackets depends on which type of malocclusion we are correcting. Rubber bands are then attached to the bracket hooks, usually from an upper tooth to a lower one. When they are in just the right position, those little bands provide just enough force to move your teeth more quickly and effectively than braces alone can.

If you need bands to help correct any kind of malocclusion, you will play a very important part in your orthodontic treatment. It will be your job to attach your bands every day. Don’t worry—while it can seem confusing at first, we’ll make sure you know exactly how and where to place them.

How long should they stay in? You’ll probably need to wear your bands 24 hours a day. It’s while you’re moving your mouth and jaw muscles that your bands are working their hardest. Talk to us about removing them for brushing and flossing, and whether you should wear them while you eat.

Can you use the same bands over several days? Not a good idea. Bands are selected for size and strength to move your teeth very precisely from visit to visit. When bands stay on too long, they become too stretched out to supply the proper pressure needed to move your teeth efficiently. Dr. Kathleen Tavarez will let you know how long is too long for your specific bands.

Are two bands better than one? Absolutely not. Again, the bands you’re given at each visit are designed for your specific needs. Too much pressure can actually be harmful. Just keep to your recommended schedule of replacing bands, and your orthodontic treatment will stay right on track.

Attaching rubber bands? Keeping them on all during the day? Replacing them as needed? All of these responsibilities might seem a bit overwhelming at first, but we are here to give you all the information and support you need to succeed. Because straight, even teeth and a bite that is healthy and functional? That’s truly how you create your beautiful smile!

 

Tips to Keep Braces Clean

June 12th, 2019

Orthodontic technology changes and improves all the time. Today’s braces are lighter, smaller, and more efficient than those of past years. Wires are thinner and more flexible. Even brackets come in different styles and colors. These developments are all great news for braces wearers. Unfortunately, there is one advancement we haven’t been able to offer: self-cleaning braces.

Brackets and wires can both trap food particles and make brushing them away more difficult. This can lead to increased plaque, cavities, and staining around the area of your braces. But with the proper supplies and habits, keeping your braces clean will become routine in no time.

Braces-healthy Supplies

  • Toothbrush

Your old toothbrush might work well enough with some brushing adjustments. We can show you how to angle your brush so it works most effectively, and how to make sure the bristles clean around your braces. Or, if you like, there are actually manual toothbrushes designed just for braces. These have V-shaped bristles to make cleaning around the brackets easier. Some people find an electric toothbrush works best. Whichever type of brush you use, be sure you use it often!

  • Floss

Again, if regular floss works for you, stay with your normal products. If you are finding it difficult to get into the narrow spaces around your braces, there are floss threaders to get the floss into tight spaces, and flosses specially designed to work with braces.

  • Interproximal brush

A big name for a tiny brush! These little cone-shaped brushes can clean around your brackets and under your wires—a great way to reach parts of your teeth your regular brush can’t.

Braces-healthy Habits

  • Brush after every meal and sugary drink

Because food particles tend to stick to your braces, and the bacteria in plaque feed on these particles, your enamel is under attack without thorough cleaning after meals. Take a toothbrush and supplies with you to school or work so that you can always brush after eating. If there is absolutely no way to brush, be sure to rinse immediately with water.

  • Brush carefully

Pay attention to each tooth, the area around your braces, and your gum line. And don’t forget the tops and inside of your teeth! A common suggestion for braces wearers is to devote at least ten seconds to each tooth. We might also recommend a special mouthwash to reduce bacteria and help keep your mouth and breath fresh.

  • Brush on the go

Put together a cleaning kit for when you are out of the house. A brush, some floss, and toothpaste in a handy container will let you brush whenever you need to, wherever you may be. Leave it in your backpack or bag, and you’re ready for anything!

  • Watch your diet

Foods that stick to teeth will stick to braces, so avoid caramels, licorice, chewy candies, and any other sticky treats. Why make your life more difficult?

While braces can make brushing and flossing more complicated, you can still keep your teeth clean, bright, and cavity-free. And remember, regular dental exams and professional cleanings are more important than ever during this time. At your next visit to our Menlo Park or San Carlos, CA office, talk to Dr. Kathleen Tavarez about the best products and practices for the cleanest possible teeth and braces. We have plenty of ideas to help make sure you’ll have the healthy, beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard for when those braces come off!

Taking Charge of Your Dental Health

June 5th, 2019

Now that you’re a teenager, you have a lot more responsibility and independence. Choosing high school classes and electives. Getting a driver’s license. Landing your first job. And those new responsibilities extend to your dental health as well!

  • Braces

If you’ve just gotten braces, you might feel a bit overwhelmed. Learning how to brush and floss effectively, attaching rubber bands several times a day, keeping track of your hours if you’re wearing clear aligners—it can seem like a lot. But you can do it! With time and practice, caring for your braces will become just another part of your daily routine. Dr. Kathleen Tavarez and our team are here to make sure you have all the information and tools you need to succeed. The most important thing to remember is that the better you follow our instructions, the quicker and more effective your orthodontic treatment will be.

  • Retainers

If you’ve successfully completed your orthodontic treatment, dealing with your retainer should be a piece of cake! We will give you clear instructions on how long each day you should wear your retainer. Sticking to this schedule is really important--if you don’t wear the appliance as directed, you can undo some of the progress you’ve worked so hard to make. And when you’re not wearing your retainer, be sure it has a safe life outside your mouth. Keep it in a protective case, and keep it someplace where the puppy/the washing machine/the cafeteria trash bin won’t find it.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! Whether you have an over-the-counter device or a custom fabricated guard, it won’t do you any good hiding in your locker. A mouthguard cuts down on tooth and facial injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And if you wear braces, ask about a mouthguard designed to fit around them. These custom devices protect your braces and your mouth.

Finally, remember that sticking with your dental routine—two minutes of brushing morning and night and thorough flossing each day—will keep your gums and teeth healthy throughout your teen years. And, if you have any questions about your dental health in general, or a specific dental concern, give our Menlo Park or San Carlos, CA office a call! We’re here to work with you for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

What Are Adjustments?

May 29th, 2019

If you’ve just gotten braces at our Menlo Park or San Carlos, CA office, you’ve probably also learned a whole new vocabulary. Malocclusion, brackets, archwires, ligatures, elastics—you’ve got the definitions down. But now you’re scheduled for an “adjustment.” What exactly does that mean?

Why Do I Need an Adjustment?

After all, you’ve just gotten braces! But the fact is, moving your teeth to their ideal location is a process that involves many steps. The brackets and wires you have today are only a starting point. Wires, and rubber bands if you need them, put gentle pressure on the teeth, gradually moving them into a better position. Every time we see you, we check the progress you’ve made and adjust your braces to move the teeth into even better alignment. It’s a careful process to make sure your teeth and jaws fit together perfectly for straight teeth and a healthy bite.

What Will Happen at an Adjustment?

Because your braces are made specifically for you, there is no one answer for everyone or even every appointment. Usually, your ligatures (the colorful bands around your brackets) will be removed, and often the orthodontic wire that is attached to your brackets will be removed as well. We’ll check to make sure you are brushing and flossing properly around your wires and brackets, and check on the condition of your braces.

Your wire might be adjusted, or bent, or tightened, or replaced all together. In the beginning, the wire will probably be more flexible. Later in your treatment, you might get a thicker, firmer wire to move your teeth more effectively, or we might bend a wire to move specific teeth.

If you need rubber bands to make sure your bite is in alignment, we’ll show you how to attach and take care of those. We’ll also look for other adjustments that might need to be made to your brackets. If you have any concerns about brackets, wires, or any other part of your braces, let Dr. Kathleen Tavarez know! And once we’re done adjusting your braces, this is your chance to change the color of your ligatures for a new look.

Will It Hurt?

You might suffer some discomfort in the hours after an adjustment, so treat yourself gently! Stick to soft foods for a few days, and treat yourself to something cold and soothing like ice cream, yogurt, or a smoothie. Brush gently if your teeth are sensitive. Usually, over-the-counter pain relievers will take care of any soreness. You can even take a pain reliever 30 minutes to an hour before the adjustment if you are expecting some discomfort. We have more great ideas on how to reduce any tenderness you might feel—let us know if we can suggest some.

Within a day or two, you should be back to normal. If you ever suffer serious discomfort, or if the soreness lasts more than a few days, give us a call.

Remember, each adjustment brings you closer to your goal—straight teeth and a healthy bite. And that’s the definition of a beautiful smile!