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Make this the Year You Stop Smoking

January 4th, 2023

It’s a new year, and it couldn’t come fast enough for many of us! Let’s do our part to make this a better year in every way—and you can start by making this the year you quit smoking once and for all.

You know that smoking is very damaging to your body. Smokers are more likely to suffer from lung disease, heart attacks, and strokes. You’re at greater risk for cancer, high blood pressure, blood clots, and blood vessel disorders. With far-reaching consequences like this, it’s no surprise that your oral health suffers when you smoke as well.

How does smoking affect your teeth and mouth?

  • Appearance

While this is possibly the least harmful side effect of smoking, it’s a very visible one. Tar and nicotine start staining teeth right away. After months and years of smoking, your teeth can take on an unappealing dark yellow, orange, or brown color. Tobacco staining might require professional whitening treatments because it penetrates the enamel over time.

  • Plaque and Tartar

Bacterial plaque and tartar cause cavities and gum disease, and smokers suffer from plaque and tartar buildup more than non-smokers. Tartar, hardened plaque which can only be removed by a dental professional, is especially hard on delicate gum tissue.

  • Bad Breath

The chemicals in cigarettes linger on the surfaces of your mouth causing an unpleasant odor, but that’s not the only source of smoker’s breath. Smoking also dries out the mouth, and, without the normal flow of saliva to wash away food particles and bacteria, bad breath results. Another common cause of bad breath? Gum disease—which is also found more frequently among smokers.

  • Gum Disease

Smoking has been linked to greater numbers of harmful oral bacteria in the mouth and a greater risk of gingivitis (early gum disease). Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is much more common among smokers, and can lead to bone and tooth loss. Unsurprisingly, tooth loss is also more common among smokers.  

  • Implant Failure

Tooth implants look and function like our original teeth, and are one of the best solutions for tooth loss. While implant failure isn’t common, it does occur significantly more often among smokers. Studies suggest that there are multiple factors at work, which may include a smoker’s bone quality and density, gum tissue affected by constricted blood vessels, and compromised healing.

  • Healing Ability

Smoking has been linked to weakened immune systems, so it’s harder to fight off an infection and to heal after injury. Because smoking affects the immune system’s response to inflammation and infection, smokers suffering from gum disease don’t respond as well to treatment. Smokers experience a higher rate of root infections, and smoking also slows the healing process after oral surgeries or trauma.

  • Dry Socket

Smoking following a tooth extraction can cause a painful condition called “dry socket.” After extraction, a clot forms to protect the tooth socket. Just as this clot can be dislodged by sucking through a straw or spitting, it can also be dislodged by the force of inhaling and exhaling while smoking.

  • Oral Cancer

Research has shown again and again that smoking is the single most serious risk factor for oral cancer. Studies have also shown that you reduce your risk of oral cancer significantly when you quit smoking.

  • Consequences for Orthodontic Treatment

Finally, if this is the year that you’re investing the time and effort needed to create an attractive, healthy smile with orthodontic treatment, don’t sabotage yourself by smoking!

Cosmetically, smoking doesn’t just discolor your tooth enamel—tar and nicotine discolor your aligners and braces as well. If one of the reasons you chose clear aligners or ceramic brackets is for their invisible appearance, the last thing you want is yellow aligners and brackets.

More important, smoking, it’s been suggested, can interfere with your orthodontic progress. When blood vessels are constricted, your gums, periodontal ligaments, and bones can’t function at their healthy best, moving your teeth where they need to be steadily and efficiently. This means that your treatment could take longer. And if your smoking has caused gum disease, you might have to put any orthodontic treatment on hold completely until it’s under control.

Quitting smoking is a major accomplishment that will improve your life on every level. It’s always a good idea to talk to Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek for strategies to help you achieve your wellness goals for the new year. Make this the year you stop smoking, and the year your health improves in countless ways because you did.

Common Issues with Braces: How to avoid bad breath

January 4th, 2023

A bright, beautiful smile is often achieved with braces. The time you spend wearing braces is an investment in the good health and appearance of your smile. However, Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek and our staff know that having braces on your teeth can pose challenges. Many of these challenges are commonly faced by all who wear braces, such as flossing, getting food stuck in your braces, and bad breath.

Today, let’s address bad breath and what to do about it. There’s no reason you have to shy away from conversation for fear that you’ve got bad breath.

Fresh Breath Tips for Braces Wearers

  • Eat a Healthy Diet. Unhealthy foods that are laden with sugar can contribute to bad breath. Stick with healthy produce, protein, grains, and dairy found on the list of foods your orthodontist says are safe to eat with braces.
  • Drink Non-Sugary Beverages. Likewise, steer clear of sugary sodas and juices for the same reason. They contribute to bad breath.
  • Stay Hydrated. A mouth that’s continually dry can lead to bad breath by inhibiting your production of saliva. Regular production of saliva removes bacteria and excess food from your mouth, both of which cause bad breath.
  • Brush Often. Brush your teeth and tongue first thing in the morning, after each meal and snack, and before you go to bed, to remove food particles and bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • Don’t Forget to Floss. Flossing with braces might seem tricky, but it is a necessity. Ask Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek to show you the best way to floss effectively with braces.
  • Mouthwash Use. Use the mouthwash recommended by Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek. For the best results, swish the mouthwash around in your mouth for 30 seconds.
  • Get Regular Cleanings. Regular dental exams and cleanings are more important when you have braces. Cavities can delay your treatment progress, so be sure to visit your dentist every six months.

Practice Good Hygiene Daily

Good oral hygiene practices are important every day, whether you wear braces or not. But they become even more important during the months you wear braces. In addition to your regular orthodontic checkups, see your general dentist for cleanings and exams.

Together, you and our Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA team will keep your mouth healthy and fresh during and after your orthodontic treatment.

Not-So-Sweet Sweets: The five worst candies to eat during orthodontic treatment

December 28th, 2022

Sticky, hard, and gooey: these candies fill your dopamine receptors with spasms of sugar-filled joy, but if you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment at Garai Orthodontic Specialist to straighten your teeth, then these sweets are not so sweet. While you may have a Willy-Wonka-sized sweet tooth, there are some candies you’re going to have to avoid while wearing braces.

Here are five bracket- and wire-destroying culprits that Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek and our team recommend leaving on the candy aisle and not put in your mouth, no matter how tempting they may be.

  1. Gum is sticky and stringy. It can get tangled like fishing net in your braces. You don’t want to be that boy or girl trying to pull knots of Wrigley’s out of your braces without being seen.
  2. All chewy, gooey candies need to be avoided. When you’re wearing braces, don’t even think about putting a caramel candy in your mouth. Caramel will not only stick to your braces, making it look as if you haven’t brushed your teeth in a week, but the gooey texture can pull apart the wires, and trigger an emergency visit to Garai Orthodontic Specialist.
  3. Hard candy may seem like a safe choice, but it’s not. What’s the problem? Nobody ever just sucks on hard candy; sooner or later, we bite down on it. Biting a hard candy may cause part of your braces to snap. Furthermore, once the candy is broken into a bunch of little pieces, it’s not uncommon for one of those sugary shards to get wedged between your braces and teeth … and that’s a cavity waiting to happen.
  4. The taffy you enjoy getting at a seaside boardwalk is going to have to go on the back burner. Like caramel, taffy can pull apart and damage your braces. You don’t want to have your expensive orthodontic gear replaced.
  5. Please, just one lollipop? Nope. A lollipop is nothing more than hard candy on a stick. If you can’t have hard candy during orthodontic treatment, then you shouldn't have hard candy on a stick either.

Have any more questions about what you can and can’t eat when you have braces? Please give us a call at our convenient Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA office to learn more, or ask Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek during your next adjustment visit!

What is a palatal expander?

December 28th, 2022

If Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek and our team at Garai Orthodontic Specialist have recommended a palatal expander, you might be wondering what it is and how it will help you. A palatal expander is a small appliance fitted in your mouth to create a wider space in the upper jaw. It is often used when there is a problem with overcrowding of the teeth or when the upper and lower molars don’t fit together correctly. While it is most commonly used in children, some teens and adults may also need a palatal expander.

Reasons to get a palatal expander

There are several reasons you might need to get a palatal expander:

  • Insufficient room for permanent teeth currently erupting
  • Insufficient space for permanent teeth still developing which might need extraction in the future
  • A back crossbite with a narrow upper arch
  • A front crossbite with a narrow upper arch

How long will you need the palatal expander?

On average, patients have the palatal expander for four to seven months, although this is based on the individual and the amount of correction needed. Several months are needed to allow the bone to form and move to the desired width. It is not removable and must remain in the mouth for the entire time.

Does it prevent the necessity for braces?

The palatal expander doesn’t necessarily remove the need for braces in the future, but it can in some cases. Some people only need braces because of a crossbite or overcrowding of the teeth, which a palatal expander can help correct during childhood, when teeth are just beginning to erupt. However, others may eventually need braces if, once all their permanent teeth come in, they have grown in crookedly or with additional spaces between.

If you think your child could benefit from a palatal expander, or want to learn about your own orthodontic treatment options, please feel free to contact our Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA office!

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