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Your First Winter in Braces? Tips for a Warm and Wonderful Holiday

December 2nd, 2020

If this is your first winter with braces, you might be wondering how to make the best of the holiday season. Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek and our team have some suggestions for happy and healthy holiday smiles.

Treat Yourself

Winter means tasty holiday treats, and just because you wear braces doesn’t mean you need to step away from the holiday table! You can enjoy your favorites if you remember to check your list for the usual problem foods. Hard, crunchy, chewy, and sticky items? Naughty list.

  • Crunchy vegetables on the appetizer plate
  • Nuts
  • Hard rolls
  • Candy canes and other hard sugar treats
  • Caramels, Toffee and other sticky candies
  • Pecan pie
  • Fruit cake

Luckily, there are plenty of nice alternatives.

  • Turkey and ham—remember, small pieces are best
  • Dressing and stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soft breads and rolls
  • Pumpkin pie—but skip a tough crust!
  • Cheesecake
  • Soft cookies and cakes
  • Soft chocolates

We’re happy to provide recommendations for braces-friendly holiday foods. And we don’t expect you to turn down every sweet treat this season.  Just be sure that if you enjoy something sugary, brush carefully after indulging.

Express Yourself

While you’re decking the halls, or pinning up the New Year’s balloons and streamers, or even choosing a great holiday outfit, don't forget that your ligatures can be decorative as well as functional.

  • Celebrating Christmas? Red and green bands around your brackets are jolly and traditional.
  • How about Hanukkah? Try blue and white!
  • Love the season? Icy silvers and pale blues are a frosty statement—and can have the benefit of making your teeth look whiter, as well. Snowy white? The arctic idea is great, but white bands can sometimes make teeth look more yellow, or become stained themselves.
  • Glam New Year? Gold adds sparkle to your smile, but can bring out any yellow tones in your teeth. Silver might be the perfect choice, because it is generally neutral with enamel shades.

Check out our ligature colors for the best possible choices for your teeth and coloring. Take advantage of these options to create a fresh, confident look for the season. Give others the gift of your smile!

Look After Yourself

Winter comes with some special reminders about your dental health.

  • Winter sports are a great way to celebrate the snow and ice, but be sure to protect your teeth and braces. If you enjoy skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, hockey, or any other winter activities, talk to us about why a mouth guard is so important.
  • While you enjoy your winter break, don’t forget to keep up with your dental routine. And because ‘tis the season for holiday treats, be especially careful to clean your teeth and braces after sweet desserts and snacks. Don’t forget to floss!
  • What do cold breezes and hot chocolate have in common? They can both trigger tooth sensitivity! While some sensitivity is normal after an adjustment, if you find you are experiencing tooth sensitivity more often or more strongly than you usually do, give us a call. It might be something as simple as brushing habits, or you might need to see your dentist.

If you have any questions about your braces, in this season or any other, just ask when you visit our Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA office. Your beautiful, healthy, and confident smile can make this the most wonderful time of the year!

Just Add Water

November 25th, 2020

One of the many benefits of your clear aligners is that you can remove them to eat. You should brush after every meal, just like you would with traditional braces, but cleaning your teeth is much easier without having to work around and between brackets and wires.

But when you wear your aligners 22 hours a day, you might be tempted to leave them in when you’re just having a sip of something when you’re thirsty. Unless you’re drinking water, please don’t.

What’s the problem with a can of cola or a cup of coffee?

  • Staining

The virtue of your clear aligners is that they are, well, clear! Probably one of the reasons you decided on this method of treatment was because you liked the idea of an inconspicuous appliance.  Unfortunately, dark beverages such as colas, coffee, tea, and red wine can stain your aligner, making it more visible.

  • Warping

Very hot beverages might actually affect the shape of your aligners. Since they are formed using heat, it makes sense that heat can also de-form them. If hot teas and coffee drinks cause a change in the shape of your aligners, they will not move your teeth the way they were meant to.

  • Affecting Tooth Health

Even though our enamel is very strong, sugary and acidic drinks can damage it. Acidic foods can erode enamel, and the sugars in our diet provide food for cavity-causing bacteria, which then produce acids that erode enamel.

Normally, saliva provides some protection from acids and sugars by diluting them and washing them away from the teeth. When you drink a cola or an orange juice with your aligners on, some of the liquid will get in them, and can stay in them until the aligners are removed. You will actually give these problem beverages the opportunity to bathe your teeth in sugar and acid over a longer period of time, without exposure to saliva to help offset potential harm. And after all your work to create a beautiful smile, you certainly don’t want new cavities!

How to protect your aligners and keep them their cleanest—and most invisible?

  • Take your aligners out before drinking beverages that can stain them, or, if you can’t, try using a straw. Clean your aligners according to Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek and our team’s instructions to keep them as clear as possible.
  • Don’t drink very hot beverages with your aligners in place. Try icing your coffee and tea if you can’t remove your aligners. And if you think your aligners have changed shape, please give us a call.
  • Drink water! Water hydrates you, doesn’t damage enamel, and keeps your aligners clean. Tap water is your best option, as even bottled waters can be acidic.

If your aligners should become stained, remember that you change them frequently, so the staining can be a temporary problem. If you do have a drink of something hot and your aligners feel “off,” give our Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA office a call. We’ll let you know if you need to replace them.

But prevention is always best! Avoid staining from the start by removing your aligners before you drink dark beverages. Don’t expose your aligners to heat. Think about replacing unhealthy drinks with water. And certainly brush right away, or rinse with water if that’s not possible, if you drink a sugary or acidic beverage. These simple precautions will help keep your aligners, and, most important, your teeth, looking their best.

Mouthguard Protection

November 18th, 2020

Let’s talk about mouthguards.

We could talk about how important wearing a mouthguard is when you lead an active life. If you play sports, ride bikes, skateboard, or participate in many other kinds of exercise, mouthguards protect your teeth, mouth tissue, and jaws from accidents. 

Or we could talk about how wearing a mouthguard while you’re wearing braces has extra benefits. Besides its normal protection, your guard helps protect your brackets and wires from damaging contact, and your delicate mouth tissue from impact with your braces.

But we’re not going to talk about any of these important topics today. Instead of looking at how your mouthguard protects you, today we’re going to look at how you can protect your mouthguard.

If you want your guard to last longer, work better, and stay (and smell!) cleaner, some basic tips make all the difference.

  • Keep your guard clean.

This can’t be stressed enough. Without a good cleaning routine, your guard can become discolored, develop an unpleasant odor, and even cause illness. Not very appealing, right? Happily, keeping your mouthguard clean isn’t difficult.

When you wear your guard, the same plaque that is present in your mouth makes itself at home in your appliance. And when your guard is in its case, that dark, moist environment makes it a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

As soon as you take your mouthguard out, rinse it off. Brush with a soft toothbrush to remove all the plaque, saliva, or food debris that might be lingering in your appliance. (If you are on the playing field, in the park, or at some other inconvenient location, rinse it and brush as soon as you can.) Toothpaste can help get your guard its cleanest, but can be too abrasive for some appliances.

Once you’ve cleaned it, let your guard air dry in a clean spot for about 30 minutes. Air drying helps prevent bacterial growth. After your guard has dried, return it to its case.

Once a week, you might need to give your mouthguard a good soak in a mouthwash or other dental cleaning solution.

Since cleaning instructions can be different depending on which type of mouthguard you have, be sure to follow our instructions if you have a custom guard, or clean as directed by the manufacturer if you have a store guard.

  • Keep it safe.

When your mouthguard isn’t in your mouth, it should be in its case. Floating loose in your locker or tumbling around in your gym bag puts your guard at risk for breakage and bacteria.

And don’t forget to clean your case thoroughly every few days and air dry it as well. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and other unwelcome guests can collect in your case, too.

  • Keep it only as long as it’s in good condition.

You can purchase mouthguards from sporting or drug stores, or Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek can make you a mouthguard designed to fit your teeth and braces perfectly. These appliances are made to be strong and durable, but they’re not indestructible. Over time they can wear down or become damaged, especially if you treat them carelessly.

Bacteria can lurk in dents and cracks, and you can cut your mouth on rough, sharp, or broken edges. But if your mouthguard isn’t fitting properly, don’t resort to self-help! Trying to repair, reshape, or trim your appliance yourself is not a good idea, because it might affect its fit and protective ability.

Any sign that your guard isn’t fitting properly or shows signs of wear and tear could mean it’s time for a replacement. You can replace a store model, or see Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek about replacing or repairing your custom guard. A mouthguard that doesn’t fit, doesn’t keep you safe.

Take care of your guard, and it will take care of you. The reward for the small amount of time and effort you put into caring for your mouthguard is braces that will last through your treatment at our Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA office and a smile that will last you for a lifetime. Those are benefits we can talk about all day!

Tooth Extraction and Braces

November 11th, 2020

Perhaps you’ve heard from parents or older relatives what braces used to be like years ago—obvious, uncomfortable, hard to clean, and with inevitable tooth extractions to start off the whole lengthy process.

Today, brackets are much smaller and wires are more pliable. You can even choose ceramic brackets or clear aligners for an almost invisible effect. New tools make cleaning your braces easier than ever. And new braces technology means that treatment is often shorter. But what about extractions? Are they still inevitable?

For orthodontists like Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek, the objective is saving teeth. And modern practices and technology have made this goal more attainable than ever before. There are several ways that modern treatment procedures can help avoid extractions.

  • Early Intervention

We recommend that children visit our Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA office for an orthodontic evaluation by age seven. Because a child’s jaw is still forming at this age, early intervention can lead to orthodontic treatment that expands the jaw in order to make room for permanent teeth, or starts correcting bite problems before they become more serious.

  • High-Tech Planning

Today’s technology allows us to map out the progression of your treatment before we begin. Scanners, X-rays, and computer programs help us to design a treatment plan which will accurately predict how best to move your teeth and correct your bite, taking into account the size and development of your teeth and jaw.

  • Surgical Options

By the time you reach your late teen years, the jaw bones have stopped growing and it’s no longer possible to expand them without surgery. Oral surgery can treat serious jaw problems that impact your teeth and bite, usually as part of a combined treatment plan designed by your orthodontist and your oral surgeon.

Because we always work to keep teeth intact—using these methods and others—you can be sure that, if we recommend extraction, it is absolutely necessary. What could make an extraction necessary?

  • Severe overcrowding. Sometimes, there’s just not enough room in the jaw for all of your teeth.
  • A tooth or teeth that prevent us from correcting a problem with your bite.
  • Wisdom teeth. Usually, orthodontic work takes place before a patient’s wisdom teeth start to erupt. If yours do make an appearance before or during treatment, we can adapt our treatment plan accordingly.
  • An extra tooth. It’s rare, but an extra, or supernumerary, tooth sometimes develops, and your jaw is not designed to accommodate extras!

It’s important that you talk to Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek about every step of your treatment, including extractions. We want you to understand the treatment plan which will give you your best outcome. If we recommend extraction, it is because this decision is the best way to achieve a healthy bite and alignment, creating your beautiful smile—and protecting it—for a lifetime.

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