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New Year’s Resolutions—Counting Down to a Beautiful Smile

January 5th, 2022

Traditionally, January is a great time to choose some bad habits you’d like to lose, and some good habits you’d like to develop. If one of your goals this year is to help make your orthodontic treatment as efficient and successful as possible, we have the perfect resolutions for your New Year.

  • Brush after every meal

If you’ve grown up brushing for two minutes twice each day and flossing regularly, you have been doing everything right! But now that you have braces or aligners, you should plan on brushing after every meal and each snack.

Food particles can stick to wires and brackets, which is nothing to smile about. Worse, plaque can be easy to miss around your braces, which can lead to enamel erosion and possible cavities. Brushing after eating is the best way to eliminate food particles and plaque from braces and enamel, but if you can’t brush, be sure to rinse well with water.

Patients with aligners benefit from brushing, too, to keep food particles and sugary or acidic beverages from remaining trapped around the teeth after the aligners are replaced. If you absolutely can’t brush, remember to rinse carefully with water after eating and drinking and before replacing your aligners.

  • Watch your diet

Changes to our diets are probably one of the most common resolutions, so it’s no surprise we have recommendations for your dental diet. Dr. Kathleen Chan and Dr. Ivy Chen and our team are happy to provide you with a comprehensive list of the foods that can harm your wires and brackets, or which are especially difficult to keep from sticking to your appliance and enamel. No tempting caramels or buttery ears of corn are worth damage to your braces! Follow the guidelines for braces-friendly foods, and you’ll help keep your treatment problem-free and on track.

  • Do your part

Wearing braces or aligners can require some interactive work on your part. If you are supposed to wear your aligners for 22 hours a day, be sure to follow those instructions to keep your treatment plan on schedule. If you have bands that you need to wear with your traditional braces to help correct your bite, wear them as directed. And never try to make up for lost time by doubling your bands—this can actually be harmful to your teeth.

If we can help demonstrate or explain anything you need to do at home, don’t be afraid to ask!

  • Keep your retainer case handy

When you finish orthodontic treatment, you will probably have a retainer to help your teeth maintain their new, healthy alignment. Keep your retainer healthy by making sure to use your case whenever you’re not wearing it. Bent, broken, or lost retainers should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible to avoid changes in that smile you’ve worked so hard for.

  • Keep your appointments

The more you stay on schedule, the faster you will achieve your ideal smile. And if you have a problem between appointments, call our Andover office! Broken braces and aligners aren’t effective and can delay your progress, so let us know if you think you might need to see us earlier than scheduled. Finally, don’t forget your regular exams and cleanings at your dentist’s office.

Traditionally, the beginning of the year is a great time to choose some bad habits you’d like to lose, and some good habits you’d like to develop. But you needn’t wait for that New Year’s Eve countdown clock.  Adopting these orthodontic resolutions at any time of year will keep you on track for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.

New Year's (Orthodontic) Resolutions

December 29th, 2021

Why are New Year’s resolutions so often negative? A depressing reminder of things-you-should-be-doing-but aren’t. A new set of rules-that-must-be-obeyed. A nagging list of changes you should make right this very . . .  

No! That’s no way to start the year! Let’s make your resolutions for the New Year a positive, proactive guide to help you achieve your goals for the next 12 months. And high on that list? Creating a beautiful, healthy smile.

If you are working with Dr. Kathleen Chan and Dr. Ivy Chen to improve the alignment of your teeth and bite, here are some easy, affirmative resolutions to make sure your treatment stays on track.

  • Be Healthy

Brushing is always important. That’s why we recommend brushing at least twice a day, at least two minutes each time. But when you wear braces or aligners, brushing regularly is even more important.

After every meal and every snack, food particles collect around brackets and wires. If you wear aligners, food particles on and between the teeth can end up trapped there.

No one wants more opportunities for cavities to develop, so follow our advice on brushing and flossing around your braces whenever you eat a meal or snack, and be sure to clean your teeth before replacing your aligners.

  • Be Thorough

Brushing carefully is important not just for preventing cavities, but for a brighter smile. And while you want a whiter smile, what you don’t want is white spots on your teeth. These discolored spots are caused by decalcification. What’s decalcification, you ask?

Bacteria and plaque stick to our teeth, and, when not brushed or flossed away, produce acids which eat away at minerals in our enamel. In places where minerals such as calcium and phosphorus leach out of the enamel, a white spot on the tooth appears. Left untreated, these weakened areas can develop into cavities.

Avoid having to deal with this discoloration when your braces or aligners are removed by careful brushing and regular professional cleaning.

  • Be Safe

If you play sports or live an active life, you might already be using a mouthguard. Good for you! Mouthguards have prevented countless injuries. Now that you have braces, talk to Dr. Kathleen Chan and Dr. Ivy Chen about whether a custom mouthguard is a good idea.

  • Be Responsible

If you have braces, brackets and wires can come loose. You can reduce the chances of that happening by following our instructions on what and what not to eat, and by brushing thoroughly-but-gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

If you have aligners, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for caring for them. Exposing them to heat, or eating with your aligners in, or not keeping them in their case when you’re not wearing them, can cause warping or breakage.

If you have a retainer, always make sure it’s in its case when it’s not in your mouth.

  • Be Adaptable

When you visit our Andover office, ask us about better brushing tools and techniques, so once your braces or aligners come off, you’ll have a bright, beautiful, healthy smile as the reward for all your hard work.

  • Be Finished!

Dr. Kathleen Chan and Dr. Ivy Chen will give you precise instructions on when and how long to wear your bands or your aligners. Failing to put in the hours now means that you will have to spend more time in treatment later. And, of course, make sure you keep all your orthodontic appointments.

Resolving to follow our advice can bring you a healthier, happier smile before you know it. Positive goals lead to positive results, so let this be the year that your proactive resolutions lead to a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Heading Off to College? Maybe It’s Time to Graduate to an Electric Toothbrush!

December 22nd, 2021

Your trusty manual toothbrush has been with you from pre-school through high school—well, obviously not the same manual toothbrush, because that would be seriously unhygienic—but it’s the kind of toothbrush you’re used to and comfortable with.

Now, though, you’re off to college, and your lifestyle will be changing. Late night study sessions complete with study session snacks. Getting caught up in a project and making dinner from dorm vending machines. Grabbing fast food on the way to the practice field, or work-study job, or evening class. You get the point—meals can be hectic, unscheduled, and less than tooth friendly.

And if you’re wearing braces or aligners, you know you need to keep on top of brushing more than ever. It’s challenging to brush away cavity-causing plaque when it sticks around brackets and wires. And with aligners, teeth don’t benefit as much from the constant cleansing action of saliva, so it’s really important to brush away plaque and food particles before you replace the aligners after eating.

Maybe it’s time to consider an electric toothbrush. After all, anything that can make your life easier and more efficient during busy college days deserves a spot in your dorm room.

  • Electric Brushes Are Effective

The most important reason to switch to an electric toothbrush is its effectiveness. Several studies have shown that regular use of an electric toothbrush leads to a marked reduction in plaque, that bacteria-filled film which sticks to the teeth and leads to cavities and gingivitis. And it’s really no surprise that an electric brush can out-perform a manual brush.

Electric toothbrushes offer several design options, from oscillating/rotating brushes to oscillating/rotating/pulsating models to brushes using sonic vibration technology. What these technologies all have in common is the ability to remove plaque far more efficiently than we can on our own, because electric brushes provide the equivalent of thousands and even tens of thousands of brushstrokes per minute, compared to the hundreds we can achieve by hand.

There might be a bit of a learning curve to discover how to use your brush around wires and brackets. Ask us for the best method of using an electric brush with your braces, and check out brush heads specifically designed for orthodontic work.

If you use buttons with aligners, electric toothbrushes should be safe to gently clean around the buttons to remove built-up plaque. It’s usually best to stick with a manual brush for cleaning your aligners themselves—we’re happy to give you your best cleaning options, no matter which brush you choose.

You know by now what your brushing habits are like. If you tend to be a bit cavalier with your brushing and flossing, make sure you set yourself up for success. Because you have better things to do during semester breaks and summer vacations than visiting Dr. Kathleen Chan and Dr. Ivy Chen!

  • Electric Brushes Can Make Life Easier

Several of today’s electric brushes come with options designed to do more than simply remove plaque. They can let you know if you’ve brushed for the recommended two minutes and remind you when it’s time to replace the brush head. They can even alert you if you’re brushing too hard, which is especially important when you’re wearing braces.

Want more from your electric brush? Some models offer apps that can map out just where you’ve brushed, in case there are a few spots that often get overlooked. Or provide different brushing modes for daily cleaning, deep cleaning, whitening, and more. Or come with a travel case that can recharge while you’re busy exploring the world—or going home for a visit.

In the end, it’s up to you. Do some independent study and research the toothbrushes that will give you the best results for your individual brushing habits. You might not need or want a brush with all the technological bells and whistles.

If you’re comfortable with your manual brush and you get good grades when you visit our Andover office, stick with it. But if you think you might benefit from the ease and efficiency of an electric toothbrush, if an electric toothbrush makes your teeth and gums healthier and your smile brighter, that’s extra credit worth pursuing.

Tube Talk

December 15th, 2021

The topic is tubes. No, we’re not talking about TV shows, or sports socks, or British subway systems. We’re talking toothpaste! With so many options out there, which toothpaste should you be looking for to keep your teeth their cleanest and healthiest during orthodontic treatment?

  • Fantastic Fluoride

The last thing you want while you’re wearing braces is a cavity. Cavities develop when plaque sticks to a tooth. The oral bacteria found in plaque produce acids that weaken your enamel. Over time, these acid attacks lead to the breakdown of the enamel and a cavity forms. But you have a way to stop this process. Fluoride provides protection against cavities. Fluoride toothpastes contain minerals that actually strengthen your enamel, and can even repair early damage before a cavity has a chance to form. Whichever toothpaste you choose, fluoride is the most important ingredient.

  • Terrific Tartar-Control

What is tartar, anyway? Tartar, or calculus, is hardened plaque. It’s so hard, it can’t be removed by brushing alone—that’s why your dental hygienist uses special tools to remove it when you have a cleaning. Tartar buildup can lead to receding gums and gum disease, so prevent this buildup before it starts by using a toothpaste especially formulated to remove plaque.

  • Desensitizing Decisions

There are many causes for tooth sensitivity. If painful sensitivity is caused by hot or cold drinks, it could mean a dental issue such as decay or a damaged tooth, and your dentist can help diagnose and treat the problem. Sensitivity be a sign that you’re not cleaning around your braces well enough, leading to sore and inflamed gums. Sometimes sensitivity can actually be caused by over-enthusiastic brushing. Remember, massage, don’t scrub! For some extra-sensitive teeth, a desensitizing toothpaste or even a prescription toothpaste can help. If you find that your teeth are more sensitive only after an adjustment, give us a call. This is usually temporary.

  • What about Whitening?

Whitening toothpastes do a good job of taking care of some surface stains, so why not use them? Because they take care of some surface stains. When your braces are in place, your brackets cover a small portion of your enamel—a portion that won’t be whitened as you brush. Generally, because whitening toothpastes don’t make a huge difference in tooth color, this might not be a problem. Talk to Dr. Kathleen Chan and Dr. Ivy Chen before you decide to whiten, and we’ll have suggestions just for you.

In fact, if you have any questions about the best toothpastes for orthodontic patients, contact our Andover office! Getting your braces is a great step forward on your way to a beautiful smile. Let us help you choose the right toothpaste to make sure that beautiful smile is a healthy and lasting one.

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