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Invisible retainers in a red and grey case, centered on a blue background.

The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Your Retainer

By Orthodontics No Comments

You deserve a straight and healthy smile! So how does cleaning your retainer affect your oral health? Well, a retainer sits on your teeth for a long time — in fact, 8-10 hours when you’re sleeping!

So it’s not surprising that food debris, bacteria, and plaque can accumulate on your retainer. If your retainer plastic looks like it has a milky film, that’s plaque. What’s on your retainer can transfer onto your teeth and lead to tartar — the hardened form of plaque — as well as tooth decay and cavities.

The first step to a clean retainer? A soft-bristled toothbrush. We suggest having a designated toothbrush used only for cleaning your retainer. Brush your retainer daily to keep it free of sticky plaque and minimize your replacement time.

Check out these dos and don’ts for how to clean the Invisalign retainers and Essix retainers we offer at The Brace Place:

 

 

Do’s for Cleaning your Retainer

 

Do brush your retainer under cool or warm water. You might think that hot water will get rid of bacteria better. However, really hot water can warp your retainer, causing it to lose its custom shape. And if your retainer doesn’t retain its fit, your teeth may not be getting the retention they need.

Try a paste of water and baking soda. A paste of water and baking soda is a gentle yet effective everyday retainer cleaner. It kills odors, bacteria build-up, and plaque on your retainer without using chemicals. Make a mix of 50/50 water to baking soda — the mixture should be thick enough to stick to your retainer. Brush the paste inside and outside your retainer, then rinse off with cool or warm water. 

Make a fresh batch of baking soda/water paste every time you clean your retainer. That way, you minimize bacteria in the paste from the last time you dipped your toothbrush into it. 

Do soak your retainer in a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide. Make a 50/50 solution of warm water and 3% hydrogen peroxide. This solution helps take away yellowness in your retainer and kills bacteria, but it doesn’t remove plaque build-up. Ensure the plaque is gone by first brushing your retainer with the baking soda paste above. Soak your retainer in this solution for 30 minutes and rinse well with warm water before putting the retainer into your mouth. 

Or soak with water and vinegar. If you don’t have hydrogen peroxide at home, you can use vinegar instead. Make a solution of 50% warm water and 50% white vinegar. Soak your retainer for 20 minutes and rinse well so you don’t taste the vinegar! 

Do use a premade retainer cleaner. Yes, you can find many ready-made retainer cleaners at the drugstore if you prefer not to make your own. We at The Brace Place understand that some patients like the convenience of a commercial product and feel more comfortable with it. 

So how do you clean retainers with a store-bought cleaner? Most, like Brite retainer cleaner, come in tablets; you simply drop one of these retainer cleaner tablets into water to activate its cleaning power. Submerge your retainer for the amount of time instructed. Retainer cleaner tablets result in clean-looking retainers, minimal to no odor, and no more bacteria. 

Not sure which one to use? Dr. Patel and the team at The Brace Place are happy to suggest which retainer cleaner tablets will work best for you.

Do drink lots of water. Water helps wash away food debris and sugars from your teeth and retainer. Food debris and sugars cause bacteria to increase and acids to weaken your tooth enamel. Weakened tooth enamel makes your teeth more susceptible to tooth decay and cavities. So long story short, water keeps oral bacteria at bay. Water also helps prevent dry mouth, which is linked to tooth decay.  And a dried-out retainer is more prone to damage and hardened plaque.

Do keep your retainer case clean. Bacteria can thrive in your retainer case just as much as on your retainer. Clean your case with mild dish soap once or twice a week, then wipe with a clean paper towel or cloth. You can also put your retainer case in the top rack of your dishwasher once a week (empty, not with your retainer in it).

 

Don’ts for Cleaning your Retainer

 

Don’t clean your retainer with disinfectant wipes. You know, like the kind you’d use to wipe counters and other surfaces. These wipes say they kill most bacteria, but it’s not the same kind as the bacteria on your retainer. Plus, the chemicals in these wipes will harm your teeth and leave an unpleasant taste on your retainer.

Don’t rinse or soak with hot water. As we mentioned earlier, hot or boiling water can warp your retainer. A retainer that has lost its original shape can change the positioning of your teeth, moving them into new misalignment or allowing your teeth to shift back towards their old spots. 

Don’t use mouthwash as a retainer cleaner. You might have noticed that the wall of mouthwashes at your local drugstore is quite colorful. As nice as it is to look at, the color in your favorite mouthwash can stain your retainer’s plastic, so don’t soak your retainer with mouthwash.

Don’t brush your retainer with toothpaste. Is this a surprising no-no for how to clean retainers? Perhaps, but we don’t suggest using toothpaste to refresh your retainer because toothpaste can be too abrasive on your retainer, scratching or dulling the plastic.

Don’t store it without a case. It’s worth the extra few seconds to place your retainer in its case. Leaving your retainer out on its own or even wrapped in a tissue or napkin can dry it out, and as we mentioned previously, a dry retainer is more prone to breakage and plaque.

 

 

Cleaning Permanent Retainers

 

At The Brace Place, we not only offer Essix and Invisalign removable retainers but permanent retainers, too. A permanent retainer doesn’t have the same cleaning do’s and don’ts as a removable one since it’s made of a thin wire bonded to the backs of your teeth. To ensure permanent retainers stay clear of plaque and food debris, pay extra special attention to brushing and flossing the backs of your teeth, similar to your diligence with braces

 

 

Caring for your Retainers with The Brace Place

 

If you have any questions about caring for your teeth after braces or Invisalign, Dr. Patel and The Brace Place team are happy to help you find the right retainer for you and provide retainer cleaning instructions that suit your lifestyle. 

Contact us at our Tulsa, or Claremore OK office today!

Invisalign and Braces for Seniors

Invisalign and Braces for Seniors: Considerations, Treatment Options and Benefits

By Orthodontics No Comments

When you think of straightening teeth, the first thing that might come to mind is generations of braces-wearing teenagers. But, in fact, orthodontic treatment like braces or Invisalign® isn’t just for young people. Today, adults, and even senior adults, are getting healthy smiles with adult orthodontics.

 

Dr. Patel has had many adult patients come in and ask, “Am I too old for braces?” The simple answer is, no, you’re never too old for orthodontic care — our oldest patient at The Brace Place was 78-years-old! Adult braces and Invisalign for adults not only address aesthetic concerns but can also fix and prevent oral health problems that can arise with age. 

 

So what kinds of orthodontic concerns might indicate you’re a candidate for adult orthodontics? And what are the benefits of getting Invisalign or braces for seniors? Let’s answer these questions and talk about what you need to know.

 

In this post about adult orthodontics, we’ll cover:

 

  • Why get adult orthodontics for seniors?
  • What are my adult orthodontics treatment options?
  • What is Invisalign like for senior citizens?
  • Invisalign pros and cons for older adults?
  • What about braces for senior citizens?

 

Why get adult orthodontics for seniors?

Let’s start with why orthodontics for seniors is a good idea. Like we mentioned earlier, orthodontics for seniors can help with getting the smile you’ve always wanted or address dental health issues that have cropped up over time. Adult orthodontics can also prevent new orthodontic issues from happening. You might have even had braces in your youth, but your teeth have relapsed over time and you’re now looking to refresh them.

 

We also want to say that the senior years can be the perfect time to get a healthy smile with orthodontics. It’s a chapter when you might finally have the means and time to focus on yourself and get the smile you deserve. The retirement years are also longer and more active these days, with many older adults taking up new hobbies, new adventures, and choosing healthy lifestyles. Adult braces or Invisalign can be a welcome aesthetic enhancement to this vibrant chapter of life, and help with feeling more youthful, confident, and attractive.

 

Adult orthodontics can also improve your quality of life. Some seniors have a hard time eating, drinking or even speaking like they used to because of problematic teeth. And if you’re suffering with jaw pain, migraines, or TMJ associated with orthodontic issues, you can return to a pain-free life with Invisalign or braces treatment.

 

Correcting misaligned teeth or a bad bite benefits your oral and physical health too. Straight teeth are easier to brush and floss, meaning you’re less prone to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease. And your physical health? Some studies have linked poor oral health with serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

 

Here are the benefits of orthodontics for seniors and why having straight teeth matters:

 

Improving efficiency – If you’ve been experiencing difficulty with chewing in your later years, this might be because your teeth don’t fit together in a proper bite. An open bite or overjet can make it hard to chew food, causing a lot of frustration. Aligning your bite can stack your teeth into alignment and help you eat again with ease.

 

Better oral hygiene – Simply put, crowded, crooked teeth are harder to keep clean; you have to brush and floss more diligently to clean properly around and in between your teeth. And lackluster oral hygiene makes you more prone to tooth decay, cavities, gum disease, and even tooth loss.

 

Avoiding tooth wear and damage – As we age, our bites tend to deepen. And a seriously deep bite can be hard on teeth, contributing to tooth wear. Worn down enamel doesn’t grow back, so you might need procedures like veneers or crowns to lengthen your teeth and bring back normal functioning.

 

Preventing future issues – Maybe you’ve had some mild teeth issues throughout your adult years but they haven’t intruded on your oral functioning or your everyday life. But teeth do continue shifting as we age, and your mild orthodontic problems can become more complex in your senior years. Adult orthodontics can prevent issues from getting worse. 

 

What are my adult orthodontics treatment options?

 

Now that you know how adult orthodontics can benefit you in your senior years, we can dive into treatment options. At The Brace Place, we offer Invisalign and braces for our senior patients, just like we do for all our patients. And you might be pleased to hear that most patients who walk in the door are candidates for Invisalign or braces — even complex cases can be treated with orthodontics because of Dr. Patel’s 20+ years of orthodontic expertise. 

Now, you might be concerned that older teeth are fully set in their positions and won’t respond well to orthodontics. We’re happy to tell you that isn’t true! With the right pressure and treatment plan, teeth can move at any age if your teeth and gums are healthy. And if they’re not? Maybe you have gum disease or tooth decay. Rest assured, Dr. Patel can work with your dentist and other specialists to get you to a place where treatment is possible.

 

What is Invisalign like for senior citizens?

 

Let’s talk about Invisalign treatment. Invisalign is a series of clear, removable, BPA-free plastic trays that you fit over your teeth. The trays are custom-designed by Dr. Patel using state-of-the-art, digital technology. You can even get a preview of what your tooth movements will look like from start to finish before your treatment begins!

Invisalign moves teeth incrementally into their optimal positions — which means less discomfort than braces. A slow and steady push force moves your teeth to align with each set of clear aligners before you move on to the next set. Typical treatment plans include 18-30 sets of aligners and lasts about 1-2 years, though it’s worth mentioning that treatment sometimes takes longer for seniors or if you don’t follow your plan to a “T”. You wear your Invisalign aligners for 22 hours a day, only taking them out when you eat, drink anything other than water, and when you clean your teeth. 

We’ve found that many of our adult patients choose Invisalign over braces because clear aligners are more discreet and work well for busy lifestyles. With Invisalign, you don’t look like you’re doing orthodontic treatment, and you don’t have to change your eating and drinking habits to avoid damaging your appliance, like you do with braces. 

Understandably, Invisalign for seniors can seem a bit more complicated than Invisalign for younger patients, since dental work like crowns or bridges is more common in older adults. So can you get Invisalign with crowns or other dental work? The good news is that, yes, you can get Invisalign with crowns, implants or other types of cosmetic or restorative dental work. You can even get Invisalign if you’re missing some teeth or have large gaps. 

Depending on the complexity of your case, Dr. Patel might recommend Invisalign attachments or rubber bands in your treatment. These additions help fix more serious orthodontic issues like twisted or leaning teeth, or jaw alignment that’s impacting chew and bite functioning.

 

Invisalign Pros and Cons for Seniors?

A list of pros and cons always helps weigh out a life-changing decision like Invisalign. Here are some points to consider about Invisalign for seniors:

 

Pros of Invisalign for older adults:

  • You get a beautiful smile – Your smile journey results in a smile you can be proud of.
  • Straight teeth make you look younger – straight teeth create a wider smile, making the skin around your. mouth look tighter and more lifted. Straight teeth also give the impression of good health and vitality.
  • Straight teeth equals healthy teeth – You’re less prone to plaque building up and leading to tooth decay or gum disease — straight, well-spaced teeth are easier to keep clean.
  • Clear aligner treatment is discreet Invisalign is nearly invisible so it’s not obvious you’re getting your teeth straightened like it is with braces.
  • Appointments are short – You see your orthodontist for a brief check-in every 6-8 weeks, and there’s no adjustments or tightening needed.
  • Eat and drink as usual – You can continue enjoying the foods and drinks you love and not worry about damaging your appliance.
  • Treatment is comfortable – Aligners are trimmed to the gums for a precise fit and there are no wires or brackets to irritate your mouth.
  • Oral hygiene is easy – Just take out your aligners, then brush and floss as usual. Cleaning your aligners is a quick task of brushing them with warm water and a soft toothbrush, then rinsing them before putting them back in.

 

Cons of Invisalign for older adults:

  • Success and treatment length is based on compliance –  If you don’t stick to your Invisalign treatment plan, your teeth can take longer to shift.
  • Clear aligners can be misplaced – If you lose a set, waiting for a replacement might prolong your treatment time.
  • Cost might be out-of-pocket – By retirement, you might not have a dental plan that covers Invisalign. Fortunately, we have flexible payment options at The Brace Place, like our in-house, interest-free monthly payment plans.

 

What about braces for senior citizens?

The alternative to Invisalign is braces. You might be interested to know that for older adults and seniors, braces have risen in popularity over the last 10 years. And if you’re asking, “Am I too old for braces?” look to older celebrities like Faye Dunaway and Danny Glover who have flashed their braces proudly in recent years. Teeth braces for senior citizens can combat the orthodontic issues that naturally happen as we age and correct or prevent their effects. 

 

Choosing braces as a senior citizen is beneficial for issues like:

 

  • Shifting teeth
  • Crooked teeth and misaligned bites
  • Wear and tear on tooth enamel
  • Bone loss in the jaw
  • Tooth decay
  • Headaches, TMJ and jaw pain

 

Are you wondering about how braces will look? You’ll be happy to know that braces aren’t the clunky metal appliances that you recall from generations past. At our Tulsa and Claremore, OK offices, we offer two types of modern braces: the latest metal braces that have smaller brackets and thinner wires, and clear ceramic braces with white composite brackets that blend in with your smile. Ceramic braces are especially popular with our adult patients because they’re less noticeable than metal braces.

 

Healthy Smiles with Adult Orthodontics

Invisalign and braces for seniors at The Brace Place

Ready to ask us about Invisalign or braces for your senior years? You deserve a functional, confident smile in your golden years! As an award-winning orthodontic specialist and Silver Invisalign provider, Dr. Patel has the expertise to help you get the smile you’ve always wanted.

 

Contact our Tulsa or Claremore office today for a free initial consultation.

How to Fix a Gummy Smile

How to Fix a Gummy Smile

By Orthodontics No Comments

A gummy smile. It’s safe to say that we can recognize one when we see it — it’s when a narrow band of the upper gums is visible when a person smiles. For some, this proportion of teeth to gums isn’t an issue. For others, a gummy smile isn’t appealing, and can even make you feel self-conscious. If you think you have too much of your gums showing and want to know how to fix a gummy smile, a consultation with Dr. Anand Patel at The Brace Place is a great place to start.

 

But what is a gummy smile exactly and what causes it? And how do you fix a gummy smile? Here, we’ll cover all you need to know about gummy smiles.

 

 

What is a Gummy Smile?

 

Dr. Patel has seen a fair number of gummy smiles in his two decades as an orthodontist. Also called “excessive gingival display,” experts calculate that about 14% of women and 7% of men have gummy smiles, although this is based on treated cases. The actual number of people with gummy smiles is likely higher.

 

So what is considered a gummy smile? First, let’s clarify that aesthetically, a gummy smile is a matter of perception and personal taste. Some people find it perfectly normal to have gums show in a smile, while others feel their gummy smile needs improvement.

 

But technically speaking, a smile that shows four millimeters or more of gums above the upper teeth is considered a gummy smile. In a study that included dentists, plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and the general public, consensus was that two millimeters was a normal smile. Participants started noticing the gums at three millimeters, and by four millimeters, they felt too much gum was showing. 

 

 

What Causes a Gummy Smile?

 

There are several causes for a gummy smile. And even though it’s called a “gummy smile,” it’s not just about the gums. In fact, a gummy smile is a result of how the gums, teeth, lips and jaw are working together.

 

Think of a gummy smile as a combination of some or all the following:

  • The size and shape of your teeth
  • Excessive gum tissue 
  • Excessive wear on your teeth
  • The length and shape of your upper lip
  • How the upper lip moves when you smile
  • The vertical position of your upper jaw and teeth relative to your upper face

 

Teeth and Gums

 

The size and shape of your teeth – Genetics dictates how your adult teeth will erupt and how they’ll look. Ideally, crown length — the visible part of the tooth — is about 10 millimeters, and the width of teeth about 75-85% of their crown length. However, sometimes you inherit smaller-than-normal teeth, which causes more exposed gums when smiling.

 

Excessive gum tissue – Sometimes excess gum tissue covers the tops of your teeth, leading to a high gums-to-teeth ratio and a gummy smile.

 

Excessive wear on your teeth – A lifetime of chewing can cause your teeth to wear down, which is normal. But excessive wear can make them incrementally shorter. This triggers teeth to erupt very slowly towards the opposing teeth and is your body’s way of trying to maintain a functional bite with shorter teeth. As worn teeth move, so do the gums they’re attached to, elongating your gums and making them more visible when you smile.

 

The Lips

 

The length and shape of your upper lip and how the upper lip moves – If you have a thin upper lip, more of your upper gums might show when you smile. Or you might experience exposed gums when smiling if you have a hypermobile lip — one that moves up more than 6-8 millimeters when you smile.

 

The Jaw

 

The vertical position of your upper jaw and teeth – Are your teeth, lips, and gums all proportionate but you still have a gummy smile? If so, your gummy smile might be because of a longer upper jaw.

 

Called “maxillary excess”, this is an overgrowth of the upper jaw which makes the gums bulge out or sit lower from the upper face. As a result, it’s difficult for the upper lip to stretch in a smile without lifting up and showing your gums.

 

 

How to Fix a Gummy Smile

 

Now that we know what causes a gummy smile, we can talk about how to correct it! Once an orthodontist like Dr. Patel has examined your teeth, gums, and lips, your facial structure and jaw, they can suggest treatments for how to fix a gummy smile that will work best for you.

 

 

Gummy smile surgery

 

Gummy smile surgery ranges from correcting upper lip movement on the minor end, to jaw surgery for more complicated cases. If your gummy smile is due to lip shape or movement, a doctor might suggest severing the muscles that elevate the upper lip when you smile. Then your upper lip won’t rise up as high and expose your gums.

 

If your gummy smile is due to maxillary excess, jaw surgery might be an option. This type of gummy smile surgery involves repositioning the upper jaw upward and securing it in its new spot with plates and screws. Orthognathic surgery, as it’s called, is typically a lengthy process that can take up to two years and includes surgery as well as orthodontic treatment like braces or Invisalign®.

 

Gummy smile BOTOX®

 

You might be surprised to know that a gummy smile can be treated with BOTOX. Treating a gummy smile with BOTOX means paralyzing the muscles of your upper lip that activate a smile with BOTOX injections. Then your upper lip doesn’t contract and move up as much when you smile. Gummy smile BOTOX treatment typically lasts 3-4 months but lasts a bit longer with every treatment.

 

Reshaping your gums with laser treatment

 

When a gummy smile is due to small, short teeth or excessive gums, Dr. Patel might suggest laser treatment. Excess gum tissue is removed with a laser, showing more of your teeth and reducing the gums.

 

Crowns and veneers

 

Another solution for a gummy smile is veneers or crowns that change your teeth’s visible appearance. Veneers and crowns placed over your teeth make them look longer and improve your tooth-to-gum ratio.

 

 

Fix A Gummy Smile with The Brace Place

 

Now that you know all about gummy smiles, let the experienced team at The Brace Place help you take first steps towards a smile you’ll love. 

Book a free consultation at our Claremore or Tulsa office, or set up a virtual appointment today. Dr. Patel is here to help you improve your gummy smile!

should you replace your retainer

How Often Should You Replace Your Retainer?

By Orthodontics No Comments

How Often Should You Replace Your Retainer?

 

It’s exciting when the braces come off or you throw your last set of clear aligners in the trash. You’ve successfully finished your orthodontic treatment and now have the straight and healthy smile you deserve! Now it’s time to make sure those newly-aligned teeth stay that way for life. How? With a dental retainer. Yes, using a retainer after braces or clear aligner treatment like Invisalign® is a typical for maintaining a new smile.

 

Many of our patients at The Brace Place have lots of questions when it comes to this next step in their orthodontic journey. So in this post, we’re sharing all you need to know about wearing a retainer, including the answers to one of the biggest questions we get: How often should you replace your retainer?

 

But before we get to that one, let’s cover the basics of retainer-wearing to make sure you’re starting off on the right foot. We’ll first answer:

 

  • What’s a retainer?
  • How long do you wear retainers?
  • How often should you replace a retainer?

 

 

What’s a retainer?

 

Simply put, a dental retainer/orthodontic retainer is an orthodontic appliance used after braces or clear aligner treatment to help maintain the new alignment of your teeth. After all, you want your new smile to last a lifetime, right? In the immediate months after you’ve finished with orthodontic treatment, a teeth retainer after braces or Invisalign® helps your teeth settle securely in their new positions after months of shifting and working hard. In the long term, wearing a retainer prevents your teeth from moving back, which happens naturally as your body grows and changes. Most orthodontists —Dr. Patel, included — offer three retainer options for using after orthodontic treatment. The one you use will depend on your orthodontic history and your orthodontist’s examination of your teeth.

 

Essix retainer: this is a retainer that many people are familiar with. It’s entirely plastic, covers your entire dental arch, and is removable.

 

Hawley retainer: this retainer is made up of an acrylic part that sits up against your palette, and a wire that sits against your teeth to hold them in position. A Hawley retainer is removable.

 

Permanent retainer: Attached to the lingual (tongue) side of your teeth, a permanent retainer is just that — permanent. A thin wire is bonded to the back of your teeth to maintain their alignment. Because it’s on the back side of your teeth, it’s virtually invisible. But even though it’s hard to see, you do have to pay special attention to brushing and flossing the backs of your teeth since food debris and plaque can collect around the wire.

 

Teeth retainers are also sometimes used on their own because they can help correct many mouth issues. In other words, they’re not only used for smile retention after braces or Invisalign®. Retainers can also be used for:

 

Fixing small gaps in teeth: Sometimes orthodontists recommend them for addressing small gaps in teeth if they can do the job instead of braces or clear aligners. In this case, a retainer will be used to both close small gaps and maintain your teeth’s new spacing once the gaps are closed.

 

Correcting mouth issues: Certain retainers are used to help correct issues that might otherwise lead to jaw or teeth misalignment. For example, if your child has tongue thrust, a special retainer called a crib or tongue cage retainer can be used to train the tongue to rest against the palate, instead of pushing against the front teeth. These retainers can also prevent the tongue from going forward between the front teeth when speaking because they have small metal bars that hang down from the top. Correcting tongue thrust can help prevent the need for braces or Invisalign later on. Of course, it goes without saying that the amount of time a child needs to wear a retainer for an issue like tongue thrust depends on the individual case.

 

Alleviating TMJ: Another use for a retainer is to help alleviate pain in the jaw from TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder). TMJ pain is typically caused by a misaligned bite and/or teeth grinding (also called “bruxism”). Teeth grinding puts stress on the temporomandibular joints — the joints that connect your lower jaw to your skull. This stress can affect the joints themselves and the surrounding muscles and ligaments, causing jaw pain or headaches. A retainer prevents your top and bottom teeth from touching so that you can’t grind your teeth.

 

 

How long do you wear retainers?

 

The length of time you wear your retainer will be prescribed by your orthodontist, but most often, it’s forever. At The Brace Place, Dr. Anand Patel will examine your teeth after you’ve finished wearing your braces or Invisalign® and determine what your dental retainer schedule will look like. Initially, many patients have to wear their retainer 24 hours a day — for about 4-6 months. They can usually transition to only wearing their retainer at night once Dr. Patel has given the thumbs up. On the other hand, other patients are cleared for night-time retainer wear only right from the start. You’ll see that just like braces or Invisalign®, retainer schedules are different for everyone. As for the long haul, adults typically have to wear their retainers indefinitely, as we mentioned, while teens might be able to stop wearing their retainers after about 10 years.

 

How often should you replace a retainer?

 

Knowing you have to wear a dental retainer for the rest of your life, the next question you might have is, “How often should you replace a retainer?” Typically, you’ll have several retainers over your lifetime, and how often you replace them depends largely on two things: the kind of retainer you have, and your regimen around caring for your retainer. Of the removable retainers, Hawley retainers typically last longer than Essix retainers. And permanent retainers last longer than the removable ones since they’re attached to your teeth. 

 

In terms of caring for retainers, we recommend being gentle so you don’t have to replace them prematurely. Here are some helpful retainer instructions for making sure your retainer lasts:

 

  1. Take it out when eating or drinking. It’s best to take out your retainer when eating, drinking, and brushing your teeth. Eating with your retainer can put a lot of pressure on the wire of a Hawley retainer, bending or damaging it. And drinking anything other than water with a retainer in — like soda, sports drinks, and flavored water — can discolor your retainer and break down the plastic over time.

 

  1. Use your fingers to put it back in. Whether you have an Essix or  Hawley retainer, always put your retainer back in your mouth by pushing it onto your teeth with your fingers — don’t bite it into place. A habit of biting down on it can eventually crack or break the plastic. 

 

  1. Store it to protect it. Make sure to store your retainer in its case when you’re not wearing it so it doesn’t get knocked onto the floor, stepped on, chewed on by pets, lost, or bent out of shape.

 

  • Make sure it fits! A retainer that doesn’t fit properly or feels uncomfortable means it doesn’t maintain the alignment of your teeth like it should; this can affect how long your retainer lasts. A board-certified orthodontist like Dr. Patel will ensure that your retainer fits your teeth properly from the start.
  • Don’t fiddle around with it in your mouth. Some patients click their retainer on and off their teeth. This can loosen the retainer and reduce its effectiveness.

 

  1. Don’t let it heat up. Leaving your retainer in a hot car or drinking hot drinks while you’re wearing it can warp the plastic.

 

  • Have a backup retainer. Even a few weeks without a retainer can cause your teeth to start shifting back. So having an extra orthodontic retainer means that if your main one gets damaged, you don’t have an interruption in keeping your teeth straight.

 

So when do I need a new retainer if I’m careful and it doesn’t get damaged? In his 20 years of orthodontics, Dr. Patel has seen that the natural lifespan of a removable retainer is about 5-10 years before it shows signs of needing replacement. Permanent retainers can last decades if cared for properly. However, if your retainer starts to feel like it doesn’t fit snug against your teeth or it’s warped, it’s time to visit your Tulsa and Claremore orthodontist to get your retainer adjusted (if it’s a Hawley retainer) or replaced.

 

 

How to clean retainers

 

Now we can’t end this post about how often you should replace your retainer without including some tips on how to clean them. It goes without saying that a clean retainer is much more pleasant to wear than a smelly, dirty one. Yes, a retainer can start to smell if it’s not cleaned well since it can harbor the same bacteria that collects on your teeth! Here are our suggestions for how to clean your removable retainers on a daily and weekly schedule:


Daily: Brush your removable retainer gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a non-abrasive, non-whitening toothpaste whenever you’re also brushing and flossing your teeth. So at least twice a day. This helps get rid of sticky plaque and food debris. Rinse it well with water before putting it back in your mouth or storing it. 

 

Once a week: Soak your retainer in distilled water to keep it fresh. Add some baking soda for extra cleaning power! Alternatively, soaking your retainer in some white vinegar, non-whitening mouthwash, or denture cleaner is effective. However, if used too often, denture cleaner can turn your retainer yellow. There are also some specific retainer cleaning solutions out there, too. 

 

Cleaning permanent retainers:

If you have a permanent retainer, approach your dental hygiene like you’re wearing braces. Be sure to brush and floss the backs of your teeth thoroughly to get any food debris or plaque that’s stuck around the wire, and floss diligently between your teeth and the wire. It may take a few tries and a few special flossing tools to figure out how to floss well, but once you’ve mastered it, it becomes second nature.

 

 

Your retainer expert in Tulsa and Claremore, OK

 

Whether you’re getting a retainer for the first time or looking to replace your retainer, The Brace Place is your go-to orthodontist for expert retainer service. Dr. Anand Patel and his friendly team will help you maintain your confident smile and are always ready to answer any of your retainer questions. Contact us today for a free in-person or virtual consultation!

invisalign with missing teeth

Invisalign With Missing Teeth? Why You May Need Orthodontic Treatment Before Getting a Dental Implant

By Orthodontics No Comments

Invisalign With Missing Teeth? Why You May Need Orthodontic Treatment Before Getting a Dental Implant

 

You’re ready to fill gaps and improve the look and health of your smile. Congratulations! But you might be wondering, “Can you get Invisalign with a missing tooth?” or “Can you get braces with a missing tooth?” The answer to both is, yes! You can definitely have braces or Invisalign with missing teeth. In fact, getting orthodontic treatment first and then replacing missing teeth with dental implant surgery is a great combination for achieving a full, straight, and healthy smile.

 

So why would you first use Invisalign or braces and then fill gaps? Simply put, getting Invisalign® when you have missing teeth will move your existing teeth into their ideal positions, giving gaps the right amount of space for dental implants to fit. If you’ve been missing teeth for a while, you might have noticed that the teeth around an empty space have drifted to fill the gap, making the space smaller and not big enough for a tooth implant.

 

Don’t worry, this movement is natural — teeth have a tendency to shift into open areas. Although your teeth feel like they’re sitting pretty solidly, they’re actually held in place by elastic-like periodontal ligaments and tiny filaments that allow for movement. (And you might have guessed, this is also how we’re able to move your teeth in orthodontic treatment!)

 

Getting Invisalign with Missing Teeth

Let’s dive into the process of getting Invisalign® when you have missing teeth. First, you’ll be happy to know that the steps are the same as if you had all your teeth from the start. Many of our adult patients at The Brace Place ask about Invisalign® (vs. braces) because it’s a discreet treatment that works well for busy, professional lifestyles. So if Invisalign® sounds appealing to you, here is how the Invisalign® process works with your Tulsa and Claremore Invisalign® provider: 

 

 A 3D Scan of Your Mouth –  Your free, initial consultation involves a 3D scan of your mouth with our iTero® digital scanner. These quick, painless scans are sent to our computer to create a 3D digital model of your mouth. 

 

Invisalign® Treatment Plan – Dr. Anand Patel plans your Invisalign® treatment on the 3D model so you can see your smile transformation. He digitally moves every tooth into their ideal positions and can visualize different outcomes for your perfect smile. When using Invisalign® with missing teeth in preparation for tooth replacement, Dr. Patel will ensure that your tooth movements create the right amount of space for your tooth implants.  

 

Your custom prescription is sent to the Invisalign lab who produces your clear aligners based on Dr. Patel’s specifications. Since you have gaps in your teeth, your clear aligners will have spaces that correspond with where your dental implants will eventually sit once you finish Invisalign treatment.

 

Invisalign Treatment – Depending on your treatment schedule, you’ll change your clear aligners about every two weeks. It’s exciting to see your teeth straighten and gaps open up in preparation for your dental implants!

 

Can Invisalign Close A Missing Tooth Gap?

At this point, you might be wondering, “Hold on, can Invisalign close a missing tooth gap, too? Or is it only for opening up space to replace a missing tooth?” Invisalign is typically recommended for closing small gaps between teeth like diastema, not for closing large gaps. We recommend seeing Dr. Patel so he can examine your specific case and determine how Invisalign® can work best for you to close or expand your gaps.

 

Can You Use Invisalign with Dental Implants?

Now some patients already have dental implants but want to straighten their smile with Invisalign® or braces. Perhaps age has shifted teeth and an implant — which is stationary — now looks out of place. Or maybe an implant was aligned with crooked teeth and now you want a straight smile. We’re happy to report that you can still get the smile you want. An orthodontic specialist like Dr. Patel will consider how long ago your implant was placed, and if it can stay where it is while still aligning properly with your other teeth. Alternately, your implant could be removed then replaced after your orthodontic treatment is finished.

 

Can you Get Braces if you Have a Missing Tooth?

We’ve talked at length about Invisalign® with missing teeth but maybe you’re more interested in braces? After all, most people are quite familiar with braces since they’ve been around forever! If you’re weighing Invisalign® vs. braces and leaning towards the latter, you might be thinking, “Can you get braces if you have a missing tooth?” And what about braces to close the gap from a missing tooth? Generally, what we’ve mentioned about Invisalign® applies to braces as well.

 

However, braces can close up large spaces when many teeth are missing, which isn’t always the case with Invisalign®, and this reduces the number of dental implants you’ll need afterwards. Remember, everyone’s case is unique, so a consultation with an orthodontist like Dr. Patel will clarify your treatment options.

 

Tooth Replacement Options

Let’s turn to the next step: tooth replacement. As mentioned previously, treating missing teeth is important aesthetically and for your oral health. The most common tooth replacement option is dental implants which mimic the look, feel, and function of real teeth. What are dental implants? Permanent, prosthetic teeth that require dental implant surgery to insert. A titanium post is fitted into your jaw and acts like an anchor.

 

Then a crown is attached as the visible part of your tooth. Dental implants are considered the best tooth replacement option because they perform like real teeth, are durable, and can last a lifetime if well taken care of. It goes without saying that a dental implant “before and after” is quite remarkable! Pair that with straight teeth from Invisalign or braces and you’ve got your dream smile.

 

Dr. Patel and his team are experts in helping patients get the smile they’ve always wanted, regardless of how complicated the case! Interested in Invisalign or braces but have missing teeth? No problem. Book a free in-person or virtual initial consultation with your Tulsa and Claremore, OK orthodontist and get started on the smile you deserve!

how to floss with braces

How to Floss With Braces Using 4 Common Flossing Tools

By Orthodontics No Comments

How to Floss With Braces Using 4 Common Flossing Tools

 

Getting braces means that before you know it, you’ll have a beautifully straight smile you can be proud of. And while your braces work hard to align your teeth, it’s important that you practice excellent oral hygiene so that your teeth move to their ideal spots as efficiently as possible — braces are most effective in a healthy oral environment. Taking good care of your teeth means both a healthy smile and a properly aligned one when your braces come off! 

 

So it goes without saying that your oral hygiene toolkit should start with the basics: a soft toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, mouthwash, and dental floss. Now, brushing your teeth and rinsing with mouthwash are the same with braces or without, but flossing with braces requires a slightly different approach than usual. Understandably, flossing with braces can seem confusing and tricky at first. But don’t worry, you’re not alone! In Dr. Anand Patel’s 20 years as an orthodontic specialist, how to floss with braces has been one of the top questions asked by new braces patients. 

 

To help you get started, we’ve put together this primer that covers 4 ways to floss with braces — read on and you’ll be a flossing pro in no time!

 

Why is Flossing with Braces Important?

 

If you didn’t floss daily before braces, having braces is a great time to start since there are more nooks and crannies around braces, wires, and between teeth for sugars and food debris to hide. Floss gets into those difficult spaces and cleans where a toothbrush can’t clean as thoroughly. And the often-asked question of whether to floss or brush first? Your Tulsa and Claremore orthodontist suggests flossing before brushing. Studies have shown that cleaning your teeth in this order is more effective than the other way around.

 

With flossing, you not only get the sticky sugars and bits of food between teeth and around braces but you also help remove plaque build-up between teeth and at the gumline. Neglecting to floss can lead to tooth decay, cavities, or gum disease which can potentially disrupt and prolong your braces treatment. It’s fair to say that most people want to get their braces off sooner than later. In extreme cases, some patients even have to get their braces removed in order to get their dental health issues resolved. 

 

4 Different Tools for Flossing with Braces

 

Now that you know why flossing with braces is important, let’s talk about 4 key flossing tools that will help make flossing easy, quick, and effective.

 

1. Dental Floss

If you were in the habit of flossing once a day before you got braces, we’re glad to hear it! However, now that you have braces, you might find yourself flossing a few more times a day, and we recommend using a waxed dental floss if you weren’t using this kind already. Waxed dental floss is preferable over non-waxed when you have braces because unwaxed floss can shred, leaving little threads that can get stuck in your teeth and appliance.

 

When it comes to waxed dental floss, there’s plenty of variety so take the time to find one that works for you,  is comfortable, and is easy to use. Some are flavored with breath-freshening mint or tasty fruit flavors. If you’re a new flosser and experience some tenderness or bleeding from flossing, your team at The Brace Place suggests starting with a dental floss called dental tape until your teeth get used to being flossed. Dental tape — or ribbon tape — is broader and flatter than dental floss and can be a bit gentler on teeth unused to flossing. Dental tape can also be a bit easier to handle. 

 

There’s also the option of Superfloss, a floss by Oral-B that has three styles of floss in one: a stiff floss that makes it easier to insert the floss behind your appliance and clean under it, traditional floss that cleans between teeth and in the gumline, and a wide, spongy section especially designed for cleaning brackets and around wires.

 

To floss with dental floss, follow these step-by-step flossing instructions for flossing with braces:

  1. Take an 18” long piece of dental floss.
  2. Thread one end of the floss between your wire and your teeth.
  3. Pull the dental floss through and wrap the ends around your index fingers.
  4. Use firm but comfortable pressure to insert the floss between your teeth. Holding the floss in a “C” shape, floss into your gumline at the base of your tooth as well as flossing the sides of each.
  5. Pull out the floss and go through steps 2-4 for the next teeth.
  6. Repeat until you’re done!

 

2. Using Dental Floss with a Floss Threader

If inserting your dental floss between your wires and teeth seems tricky, a floss threader can help make it easier to position your floss correctly. A floss threader is a small, thin, flexible plastic tool with a large loop on the end of a handle. To use it, thread dental floss through the loop, and if you want to, tie it on.

Insert the handle end of the floss threader in the space between your wire and teeth. Pull the floss threader through that space until it completely passes through and your dental floss is now positioned between your wire and teeth. Floss your teeth into the gumline and along the sides as usual. Pull out the floss. Repeat for the rest of your teeth until you’re done. 

 

3. Orthodontic Flosser

We promise, learning how to floss with braces comes easily with this flossing tool. An orthodontic flosser is a small, plastic tool with two narrow arms that have floss strung tightly between them and a handle for maneuvering the floss. This handy tool makes getting floss behind your archwires a simple and fuss-free motion. Orthodontic flossers also eliminate the need to wind dental floss around your fingers.

 

With an orthodontic flosser, hold the plastic handle and position the floss where you want to clean between teeth and into the gumline. Slide the floss in between teeth and use a “c” motion to get into the gumline at the base of each tooth. Repeat for all teeth. Now we should mention that most orthodontic flossers are single-use, so if you’re looking for a more environmentally-friendly option, reusable orthodontic flosser handles are available. With these, you thread floss onto them yourself before each flossing session.

 

Orthodontic flossers are great for on-the-go flossing. Keep some in your purse, car, or backpack to quickly and easily floss your teeth when you’re not at home.

 

4. Waterpik Water Flosser

An entirely different and very thorough method for cleaning between teeth and around braces is using a water flosser. There’s a reason why orthodontists and dentists spray a directed jet of water at teeth to clean teeth and braces. As an additional step to brushing and daily flossing with dental floss, a water flosser for braces wearers is one of the best floss methods for a deep oral clean.

A water flosser like the Waterpik®  sprays a strong, steady blast of water that removes the sugars, food particles, and plaque that has accumulated between teeth, along the gumline, and around brackets and archwires. In fact, one study reports that participants who used a Waterpik® in their oral hygiene routine experienced an almost 75% reduction in overall plaque versus those who only used dental floss. 

 

Using a WaterPik® for cleaning braces and teeth is easy and refreshing:

  1. Fill the water reservoir with lukewarm water and insert your flosser tip onto the water flosser handle.
  2. Lean over the sink and close your mouth slightly around the flosser.
  3. Set your water flosser to low pressure to start. You can turn up the pressure once you get going.
  4. Turn it on and direct the spray at your gumline, starting with your back teeth and moving towards the front teeth. Spray water both along the outer and inner gumline to ensure you spray around the entire base of each and every tooth and be sure to spray directly at your braces brackets. 
  5. Move on to the next tooth and repeat until you’ve water flossed your entire mouth.

 

You will find that many of the Waterpik® brand water flosser kits come with a special orthodontic tip shaped especially for cleaning braces, but the regular tip works well too. 

 

On top of floss, a toothbrush, and mouthwash, you can supplement your braces-cleaning toolkit with extra orthodontic tools that make maintaining a healthy smile with braces even easier. Interdental picks or a braces mouthguard are accessories to consider for boosting your oral care routine.

 

How to Floss with A Permanent Retainer

 

Once your braces come off, Dr. Patel will prescribe a retainer to help maintain your new smile. Retainers are a typical after-care appliance and are either removable or permanent. If you have a removable retainer, flossing is just like it was before braces. Simply take out your retainer to floss. However, if you have a permanent retainer, flossing requires a technique similar to flossing with braces.

 

A permanent retainer is a thin wire permanently bonded to the back of teeth (also called the lingual side) and is only removable by your orthodontist. Your wire will either be a single thin wire or a thicker, twisted wire attached with bonding on each tooth or just at the ends. Permanent retainers are more often used on the lower teeth — and typically only for the front 4-6 teeth between the two canine teeth. Flossing well when you have a permanent retainer is similar to how you floss with braces: 

 

  1. Using a floss threader with dental floss, slide the threader from below the wire (close to the gums) and pass it up above the wire until the threader is clear of the wire.
  2. Floss into the gumline and between the teeth.
  3. If your wire is bonded on only two teeth (at each end of the wire), floss from tooth to tooth, from one side to the other.
  4. If there is bonding on each tooth, repeat the process of inserting the floss threader for positioning the floss correctly and flossing around each tooth.

 

Sometimes the placement of your permanent retainer’s bonding can make it difficult to pass a floss threader from below the wire. If this is the case for you, a second method for how to floss with a permanent retainer is to pass the entire floss threader with the dental floss attached from the front of your teeth to the lingual side. In either case, since you’re used to flossing with braces, learning how to floss with a permanent retainer quickly becomes second nature!

 

We Help You Get the Most Out of Your Braces

 

Ready for a new smile with braces and want to keep your teeth clean and cavity-free during treatment? Contact us today for a free initial consultation and we’ll help you make it happen! At The Brace Place, we believe everyone deserves a confident, healthy smile; your Tulsa and Claremore orthodontist, Dr. Patel, and the entire team at The Brace Place are here to transform your smile comfortably and efficiently.

snack ideas for kids with braces

5 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids With Braces

By Orthodontics No Comments

5 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids With Braces

Now that fall is here, many kids are back into the school year routine of coming home and grabbing an after-school snack. But if your child or teen is new to braces, it takes some extra thought to come up with snacks that are braces-friendly.

To help you, Dr. Anand Patel at The Brace Place has a wealth of snack ideas for kids with braces. As an orthodontic specialist of nearly 20 years, he’s helped countless kids get their dream smiles so he knows a thing or two about braces-friendly foods. But, wait! Before we dive into snack suggestions, let’s start with a quick refresher about which foods to avoid with braces and which foods are okay to eat.

Foods to Avoid with Braces

Wearing braces means a slight change in eating habits, but the reward is a beautiful smile for the rest of your child’s life! So what foods can they not eat with braces while waiting for their new smile? Crunchy, hard, sticky or chewy foods should be off limits. These foods can damage or even break braces, possibly resulting in a treatment delay or wearing braces for longer.

Foods to avoid with braces include:

  • Bagels and pizza crust
  • Chips, popcorn, and hard taco shells
  • Nuts
  • Chewing gum
  • Licorice, gummies, and hard candies
  • Caramel
  • Jerky
  • Anything you have to bite into like apples, carrots, or corn on the cob

Foods to Eat with Braces

It might seem like a long list of foods your kids can’t eat but think of all the foods they can! Consider soft foods, which are gentle on braces, and cold foods which soothe teeth new to braces or teeth that feel sensitive from adjustments. Here’s a starting list of the many foods you can eat with braces:

  • Smoothies, applesauce, and milkshakes
  • Yogurt
  • Pasta, noodles, and rice
  • Quinoa and couscous
  • Steamed, cooked, or roasted veggies
  • Soft fruits
  • Oatmeal
  • Soups and stews
  • Eggs, fish, and tofu

Snacks Ideas for Kids with Braces

Now that you’re caught up on what your kids can and can’t eat with braces, let’s get back to talking about healthy snack ideas for kids with braces. 

  1. Fruits and Veg in Bite-Sized Pieces

Soft fruits like bananas are an easy snack. Or make fruit salad ahead of time and store it in the fridge for a few days’ worth of nutrient-packed snacking. Cut up your kids’ favorite fruits into small, bite-sized chunks for easy eating with braces. You can even include harder fruits like apples if you cut them small — they’re safer for braces if they’re in bite-sized pieces. 

As a bonus, many braces-friendly fruits are also foods that can whiten your teeth: strawberries contain a stain-fighting enzyme called malic acid. And the tartness in citrus fruits causes extra saliva production which helps wash away sticky, stain-causing bacteria and sugar.

Cooked veggies — maybe from dinner the night before — are great soft snacks for those with braces. Plus, you get to use up leftovers!

  1. Smoothies

The unicorn of healthy eating, smoothies are a definite go-to snack for kids with braces. With an endless amount of ingredient combinations, you can easily find a smoothie recipe (or make up one yourself) that your kids will love. A smoothie gives your braces-wearing kids the vitamins, minerals, protein they need all in one go. Our pick is this blueberry smoothie found on All Recipes.

  1. Cheese, Yogurt, and Cottage Cheese

As soft snacks for kids with braces, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese add calcium, vitamin D and protein to your after-school menu and help keep teeth healthy. In fact, studies have shown that children who eat cheese get less cavities! And if your kid or teen is concerned about keeping their teeth stain-free, cheese is one of the foods that can whiten teeth. Cubes of cheddar, mozzarella, or gouda help clear out mouth sugars and bacteria that can cause stains and tooth decay. 

Yogurt is a great soft snack for braces-wearers — cold and soothing for sensitive teeth. It’s also considered one of the foods that whitens teeth: research suggests that the protein in yogurt binds to teeth, fighting against acids that cause cavities. Be sure your yogurt doesn’t have too much sugar or you’ll counteract its stain-fighting benefits.

Better yet, make a yogurt parfait for after-school snacking: layers of plain yogurt, fresh fruit, and granola are healthy, satisfying, and yummy. Pro tip? Let the granola soften in the yogurt so it doesn’t damage braces or get stuck in the wires.

And cottage cheese? Pair it with pear, peach, or cantaloupe for a soft, dessert-like snack that’s sure to get a thumbs up from kids with braces.

  1. Energy Balls: A Healthy Alternative to Fruit Snacks

Some Tulsa and Claremore parents have asked us, “Can my child eat fruit snacks with braces?” If you’re talking the prepackaged kind, we typically don’t recommend them. Processed fruit snacks are high in refined sugar and their gummy texture is a no-no when it comes to caring for braces.

Instead, The Brace Place team suggests homemade energy balls; they’re sweet, and the protein and carbs give kids the boost they need for active, after-school pursuits. Typically made of nut butter, seeds, grains, and unrefined sweeteners, energy balls also contain healthy fat and fiber. Ensure your kids swish well with water after eating to unstick anything that’s coating their teeth and braces and to dislodge any seeds. Here’s a fun recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Energy Bites to get you started.

  1. Lunch Leftovers

Sometimes kids don’t finish their lunches at school. A packed lunch can come home at the end of the day, well, still packed. When this happens, we suggest letting your kid snack on their lunch after school. You already know their lunch is braces-friendly, plus, eating leftover lunch helps avoid food waste!

We’d love to hear if our five snack ideas have helped your child or if you’ve come up with some great ideas you can share. Contact us today to book your child’s next appointment at our Tulsa or Claremore orthodontic office!

what is diastema

What is Diastema and How Can it Be Treated?

By Orthodontics No Comments

Our smile says a lot about us. It’s one of the first things people notice about us and a feature that people tend to remember long after you’ve met them. And if there’s something particularly unique or special about a person’s smile — like diastema between their two front teeth — we tend to remember it as a defining feature, also named as Diastema.

So What is Diastema?

It might not be obvious from just looking at the word itself, but diastema is typically easy to recognize once you see it. Simply put, diastema is a gap or space between your teeth, the most noticeable kind is often the gap between the two front teeth. Maybe a few celebrities come to mind who have a signature gap in their smile. That’s diastema, and it can show up in anyone — from children to adults. It refers to gaps in either the upper or lower jaws and is a fairly common orthodontic issue that affects around 25% of people. Diastema is a type of malocclusion or misalignment of teeth. Other types of malocclusion include crowding, overbites, underbites, and crossbites. 

 

We should mention that when kids have gaps in their baby teeth, this is not considered diastema and shouldn’t cause parents to worry. Gaps between teeth at this stage are a good sign! Big gaps between baby teeth indicate that there should be room for the larger adult teeth when they come in. However, there are cases when gaps between teeth remain, even after all adult teeth have come in. This would be considered diastema.

 

Now that we’ve answered, “What is diastema?” you might be wondering whether or not having a gap in your teeth is an oral health concern. Yes and no. Diastema can indicate that you have an oral health issue like gum disease, but, no, just having diastema itself doesn’t automatically mean you have an oral health issue. In other words, the gaps in your teeth might just be aesthetic unless your Tulsa and Claremore orthodontist, Dr. Anand Patel, or your dentist finds otherwise.

 

Case in point, when patients come to The Brace Place with concerns about their diastema, it’s more often for aesthetic reasons. Some patients feel they would smile more confidently without a gap. Or sometimes spaced-out teeth can cause speech issues like lisping, especially if the gap is between the front teeth. In this latter case, orthodontic treatment paired with speech therapy can help eliminate speech difficulties.

What Causes a Gap Between Teeth?

Gaps between teeth happen for a variety of reasons. In his 20 years of experience, Dr. Patel has seen every cause for gaps in teeth and is highly experienced in treating them. Here, we’ll talk about the most common causes for gaps in teeth: 

Genetics

Have you noticed that your siblings, parents, or grandparents have gaps between their teeth? Or maybe they used to but had their gaps fixed. Diastema is sometimes hereditary, passed down from parent to child. Your genes can contribute to orthodontic issues like:

The size and shape of your jaw

If your jaw is too large for your adult teeth, then there might be gaps between your teeth. On the other hand, the opposite orthodontic issue of diastema is crowding, where teeth are too tight together because the jaw is too narrow and shallow.

The size and shape of your teeth 

Think back to when you were a kid. As we mentioned earlier, big gaps between baby teeth is a sign that there will be room for the larger adult teeth once they come in. But if the adult teeth that erupted are still quite small, this can result in diastema.

The proportions of your maxillary labial frenum

Feel your gums above your upper front teeth. There’s a connective tissue there called the maxillary labial frenum that joins the upper lip to your upper gums. If this tissue attachment is too wide or shallow, you might have frenulum tissue attachment which can create a tension that pulls the teeth away from each other, causing gaps between your front teeth.

Adult Teeth that Didn’t Erupt

It’s possible that once a baby tooth has fallen out, its adult replacement just doesn’t come in and there’s a gap in your smile. Sometimes this is hereditary and sometimes not. Research shows that about 20% of people are born with at least one adult tooth missing. In other cases, an adult tooth that fails to erupt might be because of external factors during development.

Prolonged Baby Habits

Another cause for diastema is infant habits like thumbsucking or tongue thrust that continued too far into early childhood. It goes without saying that these habits are a normal part of infancy: thumbsucking is a natural part of a baby’s self-soothing reflex, while tongue thrust shows that a baby knows how to prevent choking, pushing pureed foods away from the throat when it’s not wanted. 

However, when these habits continue on into the toddler or early-elementary school years, they can affect a child’s orthodontic health, including creating a gap between the front teeth. So how does this happen?

Thumbsucking 

This habit typically starts to lessen between ages 2-4, but if a child continues sucking their thumb into elementary school, the constant pressure against their front teeth and upper jaw can cause teeth to move outward and away from each other.

Tongue Thrust 

Tongue thrust in older kids or adults can look like:

  • the tip of the tongue sticking out between the teeth when you’re resting, sleeping, or swallowing.
  • mouth breathing, even when you’re not congested
  • you can’t completely close your lips
  • slow, fast or messy eating
  • lisping the “s” and “z” sounds when talking

 

Poor Oral Health

Another cause for gaps in teeth is poor oral health. Near the top of this article, we mentioned that diastema isn’t automatically a health concern. But it can be a sign of poor oral health. You see, gaps between teeth can create spaces for food debris to hide, resulting in inflamed or sore gums. If not addressed, this can lead to gum disease that loosens teeth, causing them to drift apart, flare, or even fall out, resulting in gaps.

 

Teeth Grinding or Jaw Clenching

Also known as bruxism, persistent teeth grinding and jaw clenching can cause diastema. Bruxism puts undue pressure on the upper teeth and makes them flare out, leaving a gap between them.

 

Complications from Diastema

Earlier on in this post, we talked about poor oral health as a possible cause of diastema. It’s also possible that diastema — combined with poor dental hygiene habits or other misalignment issues — can result in oral health issues like tooth decay and gum disease. It can be a bit of a vicious cycle: gaps in teeth can cause extra spaces for food debris to hide and gum disease to happen; gum disease can cause loose teeth that move apart and cause more space!

 

Another outcome of diastema is that the gaps between your teeth can result in bite issues. For example, if there’s a big gap in between your front teeth, this might not leave enough room for the teeth on either side. So those teeth end up crowding or becoming crooked.  

 

Of course, we can’t forget to mention that diastema can also affect a person’s confidence. Some people feel embarrassed about their diastema and it prevents them from fully smiling. It’s safe to say that many of our patients who have gaps in their teeth come to us with concerns about how their teeth look and how that affects their self-confidence. 

 

How to Treat Diastema: Braces and Invisalign

 

Now that we’ve covered what there is to know about diastema, you’re likely wondering how it’s treated. Can braces close gaps in teeth? How about Invisalign for gaps?

 

The answer to both is, yes! Both braces and Invisalign are effective for diastema closure. At The Brace Place, Dr. Patel and his team are experts in fixing gaps with braces and Invisalign. The one you end up using for your diastema will depend on your specific case. Considerations include- the severity of your gaps, whether you’re leaning towards braces or Invisalign, your budget, and lifestyle. 

 

When you come to our Tulsa or Claremore office for your free initial consultation, a friendly team member will take complimentary x-rays and Dr. Patel will do a thorough exam to assess your diastema and overall orthodontic issues. We’ll then walk you through your diagnosis and suggested treatment.

 

If your diastema is because of a frenulum tissue attachment, you might need a frenectomy before starting braces or Invisalign treatment. For this simple and quick surgical procedure, a small portion of the maxillary labial frenum is removed so it stops pulling your teeth apart. It takes a few days for the frenulum to heal and then you’ll be ready for your braces or Invisalign.

 

Braces for Fixing Gaps in Teeth

 

Braces are typically the first recommended option for closing gaps between teeth and we’re experts with them. After all, we’re called The Brace Place! 

 

We offer modern metal braces and ceramic braces that are discreet and streamlined. Trust us, these aren’t the bulky braces of generations past! These braces have smaller brackets and thinner wires that fix gaps between teeth discreetly, comfortably, and efficiently. Braces are a popular choice with our teen patients and those who like to express themselves with their choice of colorful elastics.

 

Traditional metal braces are still the most widely used for fixing gaps in teeth and other malocclusion issues. Another braces option is ceramic braces — also called clear braces. Ceramic braces have brackets made from a composite material that blends almost invisibly with your smile for a very discreet look. We offer our patients 3M Clarity™ ADVANCED ceramic brackets which withstand staining well, are durable, and low profile for comfort. 

 

Treatment time with braces depends on the severity of your gaps. Some of our patients have had their gaps fixed with braces in as little as six months. But no matter how long it takes for braces to fix the gaps in your teeth, you’ll be happy to know that your braces “before-and-after” will be like night and day! 

 

Invisalign Clear Aligners for Diastema Closure

 

At first, Invisalign was recommended by orthodontists only for milder malocclusion. But today, Invisalign, in the hands of an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Patel, can fix a wide variety of orthodontic concerns, including diastema.

 

Many of our adult patients in Tulsa and Claremore are interested in Invisalign for gaps in their teeth — they’re a great option for busy, on-the-go lifestyles. Invisalign is comfortable, easy, and you can barely see them. You wear your Invisalign clear aligners for at least 22 hours a day and you can eat and drink whatever you want. Take them out when eating, drinking anything other than water, and when brushing and flossing your teeth. Then simply pop them back in! 

 

How long does it take for Invisalign to close a gap in teeth? Since every Invisalign treatment plan is customized to a patient’s orthodontic needs and smile goals, timing is different from person to person. A patient using Invisalign treatment for diastema can expect 18-30 sets of aligners that are switched out every 1-2 weeks.

 

Start Fixing Gaps in Your Teeth Today

We hope this post has helped you answer the questions, “What is diastema?” and “How do you treat it?” If you have more questions or are ready to start your journey towards a gap-free smile, please contact us for a free, in-person consultation at our Tulsa or Claremore, OK, office or book a virtual appointment today.

 

how to get your braces off faster

How to Get Your Braces Off Faster

By Uncategorized, Orthodontics No Comments

The payoff for wearing braces is a beautiful straight smile for the rest of your life. But we at the Brace Place understand that sometimes the waiting can feel like ages and wonder how to get your braces off faster. Some of our patients to know how to get their braces off faster so they are ready for high school graduation — prom, photos, cap, and gown… all those moments would be that much more perfect with a new smile. Other patients just feel impatient with the process and want fast braces while still achieving the straight teeth they’ve always wanted.

So how long do braces last?

In any case, what is life with braces like? One of the first things many of our Tulsa and Claremore patients ask us is, “How long do braces take?”

For braces to work properly and shift teeth gradually (and comfortably) into alignment, they typically take about 18 months. So whether it’s a milestone event you’re aiming for or you just want to be braces-free as soon as possible, here are some tips from Dr. Anand Patel for how to get braces off sooner than later.

Follow Food Guidelines

Diet Do’s and Don’ts With Braces

It goes without saying that wearing braces requires a slight change in what you can and can’t eat. Regardless of whether you have modern metal braces or clear ceramic braces, you want to avoid foods that can damage or even break your braces. Braces that are less than 100% functional can delay your treatment. During the time your braces are out of commission, the pause in treatment might set back your teeth movements and extend your treatment time. 

For these reasons, braces-wearers who want to expedite their treatment and have faster braces should stay away from hard, sticky, crunchy, or chewy foods that can damage braces such as:

  • Bagels and pizza crust
  • Chips
  • Hard taco shells
  • Nuts
  • Chewing gum
  • Licorice
  • Jerky
  • Hard candies
  • Popcorn
  • Caramel
  • Anything you have to bite into, like apples, carrots, or corn on the cob

This might seem like a long list, but there’s plenty of foods considered safe for braces, and sticking with braces-friendly foods will ensure you’re taking good care of your oral health and your braces at the same time. You can eat soft foods like yogurt, pasta and rice, eggs, tofu, soup, and soft fruits to name a few.

Food Preparation With Braces

You can also cut up your food into smaller pieces if you’re really missing those raw vegetables and fruits, those hearty, crusty bread, or chewy meat dishes. Try softening vegetables by steaming or roasting them or blending fruit into sippable smoothies.

oral hygiene for braces

Keep your mouth healthy

Good oral hygiene is your best bet against tooth decay and gum disease. A healthy mouth can help keep your orthodontic treatment on track, or in some cases, result in faster braces. Clean, healthy gums are more likely to allow teeth to move faster. Be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day — in the morning and before bed — and after every meal. Don’t forget to floss first before brushing!

Now, we should mention that proper brushing and flossing with braces does take a bit longer, but you’ll most likely agree that a few extra minutes in diligent oral care every day is worth the extra time and effort. When your braces come off, you won’t just have a straight smile but a fresh and healthy one, too!

When you can’t brush your teeth after a meal, say, if you’re eating out and don’t have your toothbrush handy, we suggest at least a few thorough swishes of water to help remove food debris and sugar. Rinsing your mouth with water will also help your mouth go back to a pH level that’s less hospitable to the bad bacteria that can turn into plaque.

Wear your elastics

The elastics that Dr. Patel will give you are a must to get braces off faster. Be sure to follow the instructions you’re given for wearing them — these elastics play a big role in aligning your teeth. Only take them out when eating and make it a habit to check you’ve got them in before you turn in for the night. 

So elastics are in… but what’s out? If you’re prone to chewing on the end of pens or pencils, or you’re a nailbiter, now would be the time to quit. Chewing on these could damage your braces. As we mentioned earlier, that’s not something you want when your goal is to get braces off faster.

Go to all your appointments!

Now, you might think your braces treatment is coming along nicely and you can skip a check-up or two to the Brace Place. However, only an orthodontist can properly assess your progress. If Dr. Patel hasn’t seen your teeth at the prescribed times, this might extend your orthodontic treatment. You could be wearing those metal braces or clear braces for a little while longer instead of the faster braces you were hoping for.

We can’t forget to mention that seeing your dentist twice a year is also important. As mentioned previously, your oral health does affect your braces treatment, and who doesn’t want both a healthy and beautiful smile?

Be gentle on your teeth

Your teeth and gums are working really hard during the straightening process. In essence, your braces are stretching ligaments on one side of the teeth roots which results in compressed ligaments on the other side. This stretched ligaments/compressed ligaments scenario signals osteoblasts to create bone tissue in the space created on the stretched side, while osteoclasts go about breaking down tissue on the compressed side. So it’s recommended you take it easy on your mouth and teeth. 

Try to break any habits that put extra stress or pressure on your teeth like teeth grinding or clenching your jaw. Use over-the-counter pain relief if you’re feeling discomfort — especially after an adjustment. And if you play sports, be sure to wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth and braces from accidents that could prevent you from your goal to get braces off faster.

It’s safe to say that there’s no shortcut with braces. But following these tips for how to get braces off faster can help towards revealing your brand new smile quicker. If you have more questions about getting braces off faster or are still asking yourself, “How long do braces last?” Dr. Patel and the team at The Brace Place are happy to help. Contact us at our Tulsa or Claremore offices, or book a virtual appointment.

happy young woman smiling with not braces stains

Worried About Braces Stains? Here’s How to Avoid Them

By Orthodontics No Comments

How Do Braces Stains Happen?

As an orthodontist with 20 years experience, we’ve helped thousands of adults and children in Tulsa and Claremore get their dream smile with braces. While we can all agree that excellent oral hygiene is a must while wearing braces, in reality, sometimes we fall off the bandwagon with our diligent oral care routines. So whether you’re new to wearing braces or further along in your treatment, teeth stains from braces might be something you’re worried about.

Here, we’ll talk about topics of braces stains:

When you have braces, the brackets and wires create more nooks and crannies for plaque buildup and tooth decay. Plaque can build up around your braces brackets and in the gumline. Since brackets are bonded to your teeth with an air-tight seal, you don’t typically find teeth stains under the bracket, or they’re not as developed.

Admittedly, you have to be more diligent with brushing and flossing to keep your teeth cleaner around the brackets and between each tooth. But it’s not always just about oral hygiene. Here are the other most common causes for teeth stains from wearing braces, apart from lackluster oral care:

Constant Eating or Drinking

It’s fair to say that having a more scheduled eating and drinking routine is easier on the health of your teeth than if you’re constantly snacking. When you take in foods or drinks, the pH level (acidity level) in your mouth can drop below 5.5 from the act of eating. Any pH level below 7 is considered acidic. Cavities are more likely to develop in an acidic environment because acidity weakens teeth. If your mouth is constantly at a pH level of 5.5 because you eat frequently, your teeth can begin to demineralize, meaning minerals like calcium and phosphate that make up your protective enamel layer begin to erode. This can make your teeth more susceptible to tooth decay around your braces. Having breaks between meals and drinks (excluding water) gives your mouth a chance to return to a neutral pH of 7 or to a more alkaline level. These are safer for your tooth enamel.

Sugary Foods and Drinks

Another food-related cause of braces stains is the type of foods and drinks you consume — sugar is a main culprit. We all know that for both our oral and overall health we should moderate our sugar intake. But according to one study, it’s about the frequency of your sugar intake, not the amount when it comes to teeth. The teeth-damaging effects of sugar are more serious when you consume sugary foods on a regular basis versus the quantity of sugar you eat. In other words, exposing your teeth to sugary foods frequently is more likely to contribute to braces stains than eating a lot of sugar only once in a while. 

Keep in mind that what’s considered “sugary foods” isn’t just the obvious: desserts, candy, soda and fruit juice. Starchy foods like potatoes, rice, breads and pasta contain a form of sugar, making your mouth both more acidic and leaves sugar on your teeth. And the milk that many of us grow up drinking to make us healthy and strong? Though it does have health benefits, milk contains lactose, another form of sugar. Again, sugary foods don’t contribute to teeth stains in and of themselves — it’s how often we eat them, and, as we’ll cover later, if we clean our teeth in between times.

Acidic Foods and Drinks

Apart from sugary foods and drinks, acidic foods like citrus fruits and drinks, vinegar, sports drinks, the carbonation in sodas and anything sour can erode our tooth enamel. These acidic foods and drinks can create a mouth environment more susceptible to braces stains if we consume them on a regular basis.

Sticky Foods

Sticky foods often fall into the sugary category we mentioned above. Foods like caramel candies and chocolate can contribute to braces stains down the road because they coat your teeth easily.

Colorful Foods That Can Leave Stains

Depending on which ones, colorful foods might or might not contribute to a more acidic environment in your mouth, to plaque build up or tooth decay. But they can stain teeth and braces brackets if consumed frequently — red and yellow-colored foods are more likely to stain ceramic braces than metal braces. Overall, bright or deeply-hued foods to consume less frequently are:

  • Beets
  • Berries like cherries, blackberries, blueberries
  • Currants
  • Curries
  • Grape juice, pomegranate juice
  • Red wine
  • Tomatoes
  • Mustard
  • Coffee

Teeth-Whitening Products

Moving on from foods and drinks, you might be surprised to know that using teeth-whitening products when you’re wearing braces can hinder a beautiful white smile. Because braces brackets adhere to your teeth with an air-tight seal and adhesive, your teeth underneath the brackets aren’t affected by whitening products. We at The Brace Place suggest waiting on teeth-whitening treatment until your braces are off. We’re happy to suggest the best methods for taking this next step toward a brighter, confident smile!

Tobacco Products

Smoking cigarettes stains teeth a telltale yellow, so it’s not the best habit to have with braces. Smoking can also make your teeth more prone to plaque and weaken or cause damage to your gums and the bones in your mouth. Unhealthy gums, bone or teeth can also affect or delay the results of orthodontic treatment. And the smoke itself? Smoke can penetrate through the adhesive that holds your braces brackets to your teeth, staining the tooth surfaces underneath. 

coffee in a red mug

What Do Teeth Stains from Braces Look Like?

Now that we’ve covered what can cause braces stains, let’s talk about what these stains look like. Your first thought might be that braces stains are just yellow or gray. And you’re right! Plaque build up does yellow your teeth. But stained teeth after braces come off can also look like white spots on teeth. If you see these dull white spots after braces, they are typically the result of tooth decay that happened around your brackets. 

How to Avoid Braces Stains

Our team at The Brace Place spends a lot of time educating our patients about the best techniques for brushing and flossing with braces. Hands down, a thorough and careful oral hygiene routine is your best defence against braces stains.

Brush Thoroughly and With Care

When you didn’t have braces, the rule of thumb to brush twice a day worked great. But with braces, brushing after every meal is preferable. You want to get rid of any food debris that’s stuck in your brackets and wires or sweep away any sugar that’s stuck to your teeth with a good, 2-3 minute brushing. Position your soft-bristled toothbrush — manual or electric — at a 45 degree angle and brush away from the gumline with a fluoride toothpaste. (But not the whitening kind!) Brush at the gumline in small circles. Make sure you give yourself 10-15 minutes for your entire oral hygiene routine to make sure you clean well and help avoid stained teeth after braces. 

You’ll be pleased to know that you don’t always have to brush right away after a meal. Waiting half an hour after eating can allow your saliva to wash away acids from your food, give your mouth a chance to increase its pH balance and give your enamel a chance to settle. 

On the off-chance that you’re not at home or don’t have a toothbrush with you, swishing water around your mouth after a meal or drinks can help clean your teeth and braces. Let’s just say it’s better than nothing and can tide you over until you can brush later!

Floss At Least Once A Day

Flossing once a day is the recommendation of most dentists and orthodontists. However, you might find yourself flossing more often when you wear braces because bits of food can get stuck in them. Flossing helps remove food debris and the plaque build-up around your braces brackets that can lead to braces stains. Traditional, waxed floss will do the job, but if you’re having a tricky time threading the floss around your braces, we suggest trying floss products especially for braces wearers:

Floss Threaders – These are small, plastic, inexpensive tools that help you maneuver your dental floss around your braces wire.

Waterpik –  A device about the size and shape of a toothbrush, Waterpiks spray a stream of water between teeth and at the gumline. Look for a Waterpik that has a tapered end made especially for orthodontic care which cleans more easily around brackets and wires.

Dental Tape – If you’re not used to flossing every day, your gums might be sensitive to traditional dental floss; they might feel a bit sore or bleed. Dental tape is a gentle way of getting your teeth and gums used to flossing yet is still effective. Dental tape is spongy, wider and flat like a ribbon. It can be tricky to use at first, but you get used to it quickly. Then once your teeth get used to flossing, you can switch to traditional dental floss.

Do I Brush or Floss First?   

We can’t talk about brushing and flossing without answering the age-old question, “Do I brush or floss first?” A recent study found that flossing before you brush your teeth is more effective. 

Choose Foods and Drinks That Won’t Stain Your Teeth

As you’ve already gathered, there are foods you can and cannot eat with braces. Many of these suggestions help with lessening plaque build up and stains. Remember to follow up a meal or drinks with good oral hygiene! 

Foods That Can Help Prevent Stains

Earlier on, we mentioned that plaque and tooth decay are more likely to happen in an acidic oral environment. You’ll be glad to know that some foods can actually bring your mouth’s pH to a more neutral or alkaline state, creating an environment helpful for remineralizing your teeth against further staining. How to slowly get rid of braces stains? Whether during or after braces treatment, include the following all-star foods daily:

Cheese – Yes, it’s dairy. But unlike milk, cheese has minimal amounts of lactose sugar. Cheese gets its stain-fighting power from calcium, which, according to a 2003 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, counteracts the effects of eating sugar. If you don’t like cheese, try other calcium-rich foods like dark, leafy greens, beans and legumes, or edamame and tofu.

Water – Seems pretty basic, right? And easy to do. Swishing with water helps take away some of the stubborn sugar and food debris after a meal or drink. It’s also the most recommended form of hydration by health professionals and your go-to replacement for sugary sodas, sports drinks and fruit juices.

Probiotics – Probiotics help if they are the same kind as what’s naturally in your mouth. And take them everyday for the best outcomes! Look for probiotic supplements or yogurt that has the following types:

  • bifidobacterium
  • reuteri
  • rhamnosus
  • salivarius

Visit Your Dentist and Orthodontist

Keep up with your twice yearly check ups with the dentist and your scheduled orthodontic visits with us at The Brace Place. Professional cleaning and assessments of your oral health will reveal any staining or tooth decay and you can get them addressed.

A Word About How Genetics Affects Your Tolerance Against Stains

We should mention that just like eye color or the shape of your earlobes, genetics plays a part in how your teeth respond to stain-causing foods or habits. If you’re someone who doesn’t get many cavities regardless of how well you brush and floss, we congratulate you! (And maybe envy you a little bit.) Dr. Anand Patel and The Brace Place team still recommend you follow our suggestions about how to avoid stains on your teeth with braces. It can only do you good!

Treating Stained Teeth After Braces

So your braces are off, congratulations! That first look at your new smile is an exciting moment. But if your teeth could use a little whitening, how do you get rid of braces stains? If you see that your teeth are whiter where your braces were, don’t fret, the unevenness will lessen over time with your saliva. But if you’re itching to get your straight smile even more dazzling, you can brighten your grin post-braces with:

  • Drugstore whitening products like whitening strips, toothpastes and pens
  • At-home bleaching trays: we highly recommend getting the trays and gel from your dentist or orthodontist for  safer, quicker results. Drugstore whitening gels take longer.
  • Professional services at the dentist or orthodontist office. We at The Brace Place don’t offer whitening but can refer you to trusted colleagues who do.

Let’s Keep Those Braces Stains At Bay Together

Your Tulsa and Claremore orthodontist is your ally against stains on your teeth. Just like you, we want your smile after braces to be healthy and confident! Contact us if you want to know more about keeping your teeth stain- and cavity-free during your braces treatment. We offer in-office and virtual appointments — choose whichever works best for you!