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The Origins of Valentine's Day

February 12th, 2020

When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of cards, flowers, and chocolates. We think of girlfriends celebrating being single together and couples celebrating their relationship. We think of all things pink and red taking over every pharmacy and grocery store imaginable. But what Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek and our team would like to think of is when and how this joyous, love-filled day began.

Several martyrs’ stories are associated with the origins of Valentine’s Day. One of the most widely known suggests that Valentine was a Roman priest who went against the law at a time when marriage had been banned for young men. He continued to perform marriage ceremonies for young lovers in secret and when he was discovered, he was sentenced to death.

Another tale claims that Valentine was killed for helping Christians escape from Roman prisons. Yet another says that Valentine himself sent the first valentine when he fell in love with a girl and sent her a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”

Other claims suggest that it all began when Geoffrey Chaucer, an Englishman often referred to as the father of English literature, wrote a poem that was the first to connect St. Valentine to romance. From there, it evolved into a day when lovers would express their feelings for each other. Cue the flowers, sweets, and cards!

Regardless of where the holiday came from, these stories all have one thing in common: They celebrate the love we are capable of as human beings. And though that’s largely in a romantic spirit these days, it doesn’t have to be. You could celebrate love for a sister, a friend, a parent, even a pet.

We hope all our patients know how much we love them! Wishing you all a very happy Valentine’s Day from the team at Garai Orthodontic Specialist!

The Truth about TMJ

February 5th, 2020

TMJ is the quick way of referring to your Temporomandibular Joint. Pardon the pun, but that’s quite a mouthful! What is this joint, what does it do, and, if your Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek and our team have told you that you have a TMJ disorder, what can we do to help?

The Temporomandibular Joint

Your two temporomandibular joints are amazing works of anatomical design. These are the joints where the temporal bone in the skull meets the mandible bone of the jaw, and allow our mouths to open and close, move back and forth, and slide from side to side. Muscle, bone, and cartilage work together to provide easy movement and to cushion the joint. But sometimes, the joint doesn’t work as smoothly as it should, and this can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.

When Should You Suspect You Have TMD?

You might have TMD if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Painful chewing
  • Pain around your TMJ, or in your face or neck
  • Earaches
  • Changes in your bite
  • Jaws that are limited in movement or lock open or shut
  • Clicking, popping or grating noises when you open and shut your jaw

There are many conditions linked to TMD. If you grind your teeth at night, have arthritis in the jaw, have suffered an injury or infection in the area, or have problems with your bite, for example, you might be more likely to have TMJ problems. If you suspect you have TMD, or suffer from any of the symptoms listed above for an extended period, give us a call.

Treating TMD

During your visit to our Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA office, we will check your medical history, and examine your head and neck. We can take an X-ray or scan if needed for further examination of the joint. Because there is no real scientific agreement yet about the best way to treat TMJ disorders, a conservative treatment plan is often best. If you do show signs of TMD, we might first suggest relaxation techniques, over-the-counter pain relievers, or the use of ice packs or moist heat compresses. A change to a softer diet can help, and you should stop chewing gum and making any exaggerated jaw movements.

If these self-care practices aren’t effective, we might suggest a nightguard. This appliance is a comfortable and flexible mouthguard custom fitted for you, and will bring relief from teeth grinding when worn at night. If this treatment is not effective, talk to us about other options.

Luckily, most cases of TMD are temporary and don’t become worse over time. But any persistent discomfort is a good reason to visit us. Whether you have TMD, or any other problem causing you pain in the head or jaw, we want to help.

Braces-Friendly School Lunches

January 29th, 2020

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

From the Cafeteria

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

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

Bringing a Lunch?

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

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

When to Say “No, Thank You”

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

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

And remember to send your child to school with a brush and floss to clean teeth and braces after lunch. Dental hygiene is very important now, because brackets and wires can both trap food particles and make brushing them away more difficult. This can lead to increased plaque, cavities, and staining around the area of the braces. If it’s impossible to brush, be sure to remind your student to rinse thoroughly with water after eating.

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

Electric Toothbrush: How do you choose?

January 22nd, 2020

Since the introduction of the power toothbrush in the 1960s, this tool has undergone many technological advances, from design and bristle motions to rotation oscillation and sonic vibration.

What is rotation oscillation? That’s when the head of the toothbrush alternately rotates in one direction and then the other. Power toothbrushes can deliver up to 50,000 strokes per minute, which is much more effective than the average 300 strokes per minute with a manual toothbrush.

A smaller brush head is available for hard-to-reach areas, which is a good alternative for small mouths. The brush heads are replaceable and should be changed every three to six months. Each family member should have his or her own brush head while sharing the base motor. What a great deal! Check the handle size. A large handle is better for members of the household with arthritis, children, or family with other physical disabilities.

A rechargeable toothbrush is ideal. It should deliver enough power on a full charge for one week of brushing.

We recommend you brush for a minimum of two minutes. Some electric toothbrushes include a signal you can hear, such as a beep every 30 seconds, to indicate it's time to switch to a different area of the mouth. Others sound an alert after the full two minutes has elapsed.

Will an electric toothbrush harm the teeth or gums? Studies indicate that people tend to apply more damaging pressure to their teeth and gums during manual brushing than when they use an electric toothbrush. If you experience tooth sensitivity, choose a model with pressure sensors that stop the toothbrush any time you press too hard.

Who would benefit from an electric toothbrush? Everyone! Consumers with a physical disability may have specific needs that power toothbrushes can address. Children also tend to maintain better oral health hygiene when they use an automatic toothbrush. Plus, many of them find it fun to brush!

Automatic toothbrushes really do remove debris better than the old-fashioned way. You may have heard the term “biofilm.” Better known as plaque when it occurs in the mouth, biofilm is the debris and bacteria that cause infections to your teeth. It regenerates quickly, so healthy habits are the best defense for a healthier you! With a healthier mouth, you face a lower risk of gum disease and other conditions like heart disease: mouth health has been linked to heart health.

When you're ready to make your decisions, be a wise comparison shopper. Consult with Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek at Garai Orthodontic Specialist to decide what is best for you!

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