Our Blog

Tips to Keep Braces Clean

June 5th, 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 Jenison, MI office, talk to Dr. Mark L. M. Powell 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!

Awesome Archwires

May 29th, 2019

When we think braces, we can’t help but think of the brackets on each tooth and the colorful ligature bands that surround them. But actually, the whole point of those brackets and bands is to hold the archwire in place as it gradually moves your teeth to create a better bite and a straighter smile. Let’s learn more about this talented part of your braces!

  • Wire We Wearing These, Anyway?

Archwires use gentle, continuous pressure to move your teeth into alignment. That sounds simple, but there is actually a lot going on. Teeth often need more than realigning. Some teeth need to be turned a bit, some tilted. Your teeth need to be better aligned with those next to them, of course, but also need to fit properly with the teeth above or below them. You might have a malocclusion, or bad bite.

How can one wire handle all that? Well, it can’t. That’s why there are different types of wire. We often use thinner, flexible wires at the beginning of treatment, to put gentle pressure on the teeth as they start their movement. Other wires are firmer, and can be helpful in later phases, when each tooth is carefully moved to its specific, ideal spot. Archwires can be round or rectangular, thicker or thinner, springy or stiff, remember their shape or be bendable—all depending on what they need to do.

Whew! This sounds confusing, but Dr. Mark L. M. Powell and our team are archwire experts! At every adjustment appointment, we check on the progress of your alignment and choose the exact wire you need to take you to the next stage of your orthodontic journey.

  • Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Wire

Now that you have braces, it’s more challenging to make sure that your teeth are clean after eating. We’ll give you advice on how to get rid of the pesky food particles that sometimes get stuck in your braces. First, that’s absolutely not the look you’re going for. But, more than that, bacteria can use these “leftovers” as fuel to create the acids that damage your enamel and cause cavities.

There’s a whole new world of dental products out there waiting to help get your braces clean. Special toothbrush heads work in the spaces between your teeth and the archwire. There are floss threaders that can get dental floss into tight places, and flosses with one stiff end you can guide under the wire so you can direct the floss to where it’s needed. There are even tiny cone-shaped brushes called “interproximal brushes” that can fit under your wires to clean around your brackets and teeth.

Take a care kit to school or work with you so you can keep the tooth surface under your wires and around your brackets free of plaque. After all the hard work you’ve put in with your braces, the last thing you want is cavities once you’ve achieved your beautiful smile!

  • Down to the Wire

We said archwires were awesome, but we didn’t say they were perfect! We couldn’t leave without suggestions for handling any wire-related problems that might come up.

One of the most common problems is the irritation caused by the end of a wire that has somehow come loose. You might be able to use a cotton swab to gently push the wire flat against the tooth. If that doesn’t work, orthodontic wax can be used to cover the end of the problem wire and smoothed into place. We’ll provide you with instructions on how to handle these and other minor wire problems at home. 

Other problems should be run past us first. If you feel your wire is coming loose, or if a loose end is causing a lot of pain and irritation, call our Jenison, MI office. We’ll give you instructions on how to help, and make an appointment if necessary for a professional fix.

In fact, call us anytime you have questions about your braces. We’re here to help you understand each phase of the orthodontic process as you move step by step on the path to a healthy bite and a beautiful smile. And what’s more awesome than that?

Orthodontics: From Tooth Fairy to Retainer

January 23rd, 2019

You might be surprised to learn that Dr. Mark L. M. Powell and our team recommend an orthodontic appointment even before your child has had that last visit from the Tooth Fairy. In fact, orthodontic assessments at our Jenison, MI office can be beneficial at many stages of your child’s life. Let’s look at some of the reasons why.

The Right Spaces

There’s a reason why we recommend that every child see an orthodontist by the age of seven. If there’s room enough in your child’s mouth to accommodate all the permanent teeth that will be arriving soon, you’re good to go. But if it looks like there won’t be enough space for those adult teeth, there are solutions we can offer to make the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth a smoother one.

  • If your child’s mouth is small, the permanent teeth might have too little room to fit in when they arrive. We may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander. This device will provide room for the adult teeth, and could potentially shorten second phase treatment time.
  • Too much space can also be a problem. If a child loses a baby tooth too soon, too much space between the remaining teeth can cause them to shift out of position, leaving the wrong spot open for the adult tooth to come in. We might recommend a space maintainer so that there is no shifting of the teeth, and there is room for the adult tooth to erupt in its proper spot.
  • If there is a bite problem, early treatment can prevent more serious problems down the road.

If no treatment is necessary immediately, we can monitor the development of your child’s teeth and bite during periodic visits.

(Stay in) The Right Places

Once your child has achieved that perfect smile, it’s time to maintain it. Teeth actually move and shift throughout our lives, whether we have had orthodontic treatment or not. But with orthodontic treatment, the bone tissue and ligaments around the teeth remodel over time to hold the teeth in their new and improved positions. That’s why it’s often important to wear a retainer constantly for several months after the braces come off, as bone and ligament become a firm, strong anchor for the newly aligned teeth and bite.

But there’s no one expiration date on retainers! Worn nightly as needed, they help teeth stay securely in their new positions for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Healthy Smiles Mean Happy Faces

If you think your child is ready for any phase of orthodontic work, give us a call. We will be happy to make sure there is ample room for permanent teeth to erupt in their proper spots even during the baby teeth years. If braces are indicated at a later date, we will analyze any potential alignment and bite problems and present all of your treatment options. Finally, after the orthodontic work is completed, we want to make sure your child knows the best way to maintain that beautiful smile with conscientious retainer wear.

If you have any concerns about your child’s teeth or bite, even before the permanent teeth arrive, give our Jenison, MI office a call. Early treatment can often prevent future problems and might even lead to faster orthodontic results. At each stage of your child’s growth, we are here to provide your best options for healthy, happy smiles.

Braces-Friendly School Lunches

January 16th, 2019

If your pre-teen or teenager is home for the summer, it’s easy to provide braces-friendly lunch options. The school lunchroom, though, presents another challenge altogether. What menu selections are most compatible with braces? And what can you put in that lunch box or brown bag to provide a tempting, healthy lunch during school hours? Let’s look at some options!

From the Cafeteria

Encourage your student to stick with soft foods that don’t require biting into. Some good choices include:

  • Soup, either creamy or with soft vegetables
  • Salads without crunchy vegetables or croutons
  • Soft, shredded chicken or beef
  • Egg or tuna salad
  • Tofu
  • Pasta
  • Meatloaf
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Soft casseroles
  • Steamed vegetables
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soft breads or tortillas

Bringing a Lunch?

There are many great options for packing a lunch bag! Just remember to keep foods at the proper temperature, with insulated containers for hot foods and two cold sources, such as two frozen gel packs, for cold foods.

  • Sandwiches with soft filling (no chunky peanut butter!) on soft bread. Thinly sliced, easy to chew cold cuts will work, but cold cuts like salami are too chewy. Cut the crusts off if necessary. Cutting sandwich wedges into smaller portions will also make them easier to eat.
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Hummus and soft pita wedges
  • String cheese and soft crackers
  • Applesauce
  • Yogurt
  • Soft fruits such as berries or bananas
  • Jell-O or other gelatin dessert cups
  • Pudding cups

When to Say “No, Thank You”

If you have to bite into it, if it’s chewy, or if it’s crunchy, it’s best to choose something else! Here are some common culprits when it comes to broken brackets and wires:

  • Caramel
  • Hard candy
  • Popcorn
  • Whole carrots
  • Whole apples
  • Hard rolls
  • Pizza
  • Corn on the cob

And remember to send your child to school with a brush and floss to clean teeth and braces after lunch. Dental hygiene is very important now, because 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 the braces. If it’s impossible to brush, be sure to remind your student to rinse thoroughly with water after eating.

Lunch hour should be a time to relax, get together with friends, and recharge for the rest of the school day. Talk to us about the most (and least) braces-friendly foods and recipes. By learning what foods to avoid and adjusting some old favorites, your school-age child can continue to enjoy healthy, tasty lunches. Most important, visiting Dr. Mark L. M. Powell at our Jenison, MI office for an emergency repair will not be on anyone’s list of afterschool activities!