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Fantastic Elastics

June 12th, 2019

If you already wear traditional braces, you know all about these helpful little rubber rings. But if you are new to the world of braces, you might like to know just what kind of elastics are available and what they can do for you.

  • Ligatures: Alignment Assistance

When you get your braces, the brackets you’ve chosen will be bonded to your teeth. Once they are attached securely, an arch wire will be threaded through the brackets to provide consistent gentle pressure, moving your teeth into their best positions. But what holds that wire in place? This is where those tiny, colorful bands, called ligatures, come in. Fit snugly around the wire and the bracket, they keep the wire where it needs to be to move your teeth to a better alignment.

There are also ligatures call “c-chain ligatures,” or “power chains.” These tiny ligature bands are connected to each other, and fit across the brackets in one long strip. This design lets them not only hold your wires in place, but help move your teeth closer together at the same time. They come in a variety of sizes depending on the spacing of your teeth, and might be worn weeks or months as needed.

One thing to remember is that while ligatures are essential, they are not permanent! Every time you have your wires tightened or replaced, you can make this an opportunity to express your personality through your choice of bands. There is a wide variety of color choices available, so take advantage of it!

Show your school spirit by displaying your high school’s colors. Go orange and black for Halloween. Match your ligature tones to your go-to clothing colors. Or, go monochromatic. Match grey or silver bands to your brackets, or choose white or clear bands if you have ceramic brackets. (One word of caution—light colored ligatures can pick up stains from dark foods and drinks. On the other hand, they won’t be around that long!)

  • Rubber Bands: Building Better Bites

While ligatures are the colorful attention-getters in the elastics world, there are other bands that do very important work. When you have a malocclusion, or bad bite, your upper and lower jaws don’t fit together perfectly. We use rubber bands to align your bite correctly and carefully move it into the proper position. This is accomplished by attaching bands to tiny hooks on specially chosen brackets on the upper and lower teeth. The bands usually connect an upper bracket to a lower one, and are specifically placed to correct your unique bite problem.

If you need this type of elastic, you will play a very important part in making your orthodontic treatment work. You will probably need to wear your bands 24 hours a day, removing them only for brushing and flossing. (Talk to us about how to work with your bands when you are eating, playing an instrument, or wearing a mouthguard.) And they need to be replaced several times a day, which is where you come in.

Even if the bands look perfect, after hours of work, they lose the tightness needed to keep moving your teeth to their best position. Bands that are too loose won’t be as effective. On the other hand, doubling the bands is a bad idea because that might apply too much force. Bands come in a variety of sizes and strengths, and yours have been chosen for this specific phase of your treatment. Keep calm, keep to a schedule, and keep a supply of bands on hand in case one breaks, and everything will work out.

If this sounds like a lot of confusing information, don’t worry! Dr. Gill will supply you with the right bands for your treatment, clear instructions on where and how to place them, and practice time for putting them in. You’ll probably need a mirror at first, but you’ll become an expert in no time.

If you ever have questions we can help you with, contact our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office immediately. We are here to guide you through the process and help you with any problems you might have. Wearing your bands consistently and correctly will help you achieve your beautiful smile in the shortest time possible. And that’s an accomplishment that is truly fantastic!

Tips to Keep Braces Clean

June 5th, 2019

Orthodontic technology changes and improves all the time. Today’s braces are lighter, smaller, and more efficient than those of past years. Wires are thinner and more flexible. Even brackets come in different styles and colors. These developments are all great news for braces wearers. Unfortunately, there is one advancement we haven’t been able to offer: self-cleaning braces.

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 your braces. But with the proper supplies and habits, keeping your braces clean will become routine in no time.

Braces-healthy Supplies

  • Toothbrush

Your old toothbrush might work well enough with some brushing adjustments. We can show you how to angle your brush so it works most effectively, and how to make sure the bristles clean around your braces. Or, if you like, there are actually manual toothbrushes designed just for braces. These have V-shaped bristles to make cleaning around the brackets easier. Some people find an electric toothbrush works best. Whichever type of brush you use, be sure you use it often!

  • Floss

Again, if regular floss works for you, stay with your normal products. If you are finding it difficult to get into the narrow spaces around your braces, there are floss threaders to get the floss into tight spaces, and flosses specially designed to work with braces.

  • Interproximal brush

A big name for a tiny brush! These little cone-shaped brushes can clean around your brackets and under your wires—a great way to reach parts of your teeth your regular brush can’t.

Braces-healthy Habits

  • Brush after every meal and sugary drink

Because food particles tend to stick to your braces, and the bacteria in plaque feed on these particles, your enamel is under attack without thorough cleaning after meals. Take a toothbrush and supplies with you to school or work so that you can always brush after eating. If there is absolutely no way to brush, be sure to rinse immediately with water.

  • Brush carefully

Pay attention to each tooth, the area around your braces, and your gum line. And don’t forget the tops and inside of your teeth! A common suggestion for braces wearers is to devote at least ten seconds to each tooth. We might also recommend a special mouthwash to reduce bacteria and help keep your mouth and breath fresh.

  • Brush on the go

Put together a cleaning kit for when you are out of the house. A brush, some floss, and toothpaste in a handy container will let you brush whenever you need to, wherever you may be. Leave it in your backpack or bag, and you’re ready for anything!

  • Watch your diet

Foods that stick to teeth will stick to braces, so avoid caramels, licorice, chewy candies, and any other sticky treats. Why make your life more difficult?

While braces can make brushing and flossing more complicated, you can still keep your teeth clean, bright, and cavity-free. And remember, regular dental exams and professional cleanings are more important than ever during this time. At your next visit to our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office, talk to Dr. Gill about the best products and practices for the cleanest possible teeth and braces. We have plenty of ideas to help make sure you’ll have the healthy, beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard for when those braces come off!

Electric Toothbrushes vs. Regular Toothbrushes

April 3rd, 2019

Convertible or sedan? Downtown or suburbs? Electric or manual toothbrush? As life decisions go, it’s certainly not choosing your next car, or deciding where you want to live. But, even when you are selecting a toothbrush, it helps to make a list of the pros and cons of the contenders before you make that final selection.

  • Efficiency

The most important factor in choosing a toothbrush is finding out which model works best to eliminate bacteria and plaque. And studies have shown that, used properly, both electric and manual toothbrushes do a great job of removing plaque. Some electric models can reach the backs of teeth and the gumline more easily, some manual head designs work better for your individual mouth and teeth, so your particular needs should dictate which style of toothbrush you use. Talk to us about the best methods to brush with your preferred toothbrush, and we’ll let you know if one type of toothbrush or the other might work better for you.

  • Health Considerations

Brushing too energetically can actually harm teeth and gums, causing sensitivity and damage to the enamel and gum tissue. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any pressure from the brusher. This might be the model for you if you have a too-vigorous approach to brushing, or sensitive teeth and gums.

An electric toothbrush can also be more efficient for older and younger brushers, those with limited mobility, and those with health conditions or injuries that make brushing with a regular toothbrush more difficult.

  • Cost

An electric toothbrush is not a one-time investment. You should change the removable head as often as you change your manual toothbrush (every three to four months, please). But this cost is offset if an electric toothbrush is more efficient in removing your plaque, easier to use, or even if you just prefer it to manual brushing. If you find that you brush better and more often with an electric toothbrush, the added expense is well worth it.

Whichever brush you decide on, the most important part of the brush is the person holding it! A regular appointment with your toothbrush for two minutes of thorough brushing in the morning and two in the evening, daily flossing, and regular visits to our office for checkups and cleanings will keep your teeth healthy and strong no matter which toothbrush you choose.

Questions about your toothbrush choices? Don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Gill at our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office.

Braces and Band? Play On!

March 27th, 2019

You’re in the band and you’re getting braces. Now what? If you are a member of the string or percussion sections, you can go back to rehearsal. You’re good to go. When your talents have seated you in the reed or brass sections, though, a little adjustment might be necessary to keep your instrument and your braces working in harmony.

If you play a wind instrument, you know the term embouchure—the way you position and use your lips, tongue, facial muscles, and teeth to produce the sound you want. Depending on the instrument you play, you might be completely unaffected when you get your braces, or you might need to develop a more comfortable embouchure to accommodate them.

Wires and Woodwinds?

If you play a wind instrument such as the flute or piccolo, you might find that your normal lip positioning or blowing angle is affected by your braces, but usually the adjustment time is fairly short. Reed instruments such as the saxophone, clarinet, oboe, and bassoon are considered some of the easiest to adjust to when you have braces, but even though the single and double reed mouthpieces don’t require as much pressure as brass instruments, there can still be an adjustment period. One thing you should look out for is more condensation in your mouthpiece or instrument—be sure to keep your instrument clean to keep your sound pure.

Brackets and Brass?

Brass instruments require mouthpiece pressure. This leaves your lips pressed between the mouthpiece and your braces. For this reason, many brass players have a more challenging adjustment when wearing braces. Smaller mouthpieces (trumpet, French horn) usually require more pressure than larger ones (tuba, trombone). It’s important to learn how to use technique to avoid cuts, irritation, and other injuries caused by the pressure of your braces against your lips. Learning to play with less pressure on the lips and more air control and breath support will help you to recover your tone and range of notes while protecting your lips and mouth.

How Can We Help?

Let Dr. Gill know if you play, or plan to play, a wind instrument. We might be able to offer some suggestions. For regular metal and ceramic braces, some musicians find extra wax is helpful in preventing lip and cheek injuries. There are brace guards available that can be applied over the braces to protect your lips and mouth if wax doesn’t do the trick.

There are also alternatives to regular bracket-and-wire braces, depending on your orthodontic needs, cost factors, and length of treatment. Invisalign® devices fit smoothly over your teeth and can even be removed when it is time to practice or play, as long as you get the necessary hours of wear in per day. In some cases, lingual braces, where the brackets and wires are placed behind the teeth, might be the best choice for you.

Finally, don’t forget to talk to your music instructor. Don’t be dismayed if you find the quality of your playing has been affected. Your teacher might have valuable suggestions for adjusting your embouchure, playing with less pressure on the lips, and developing better air and breath support. You might need to shorten your practice time at first, and there might be another period of adjustment after your braces come off.

Above all, take care of yourself! If something is poking your lip or cheek, call our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office immediately before it causes injury. It might be difficult at first, but finding an embouchure that works for your comfort and technique is worth it. And remember, these temporary fine-tunings will lead to a wonderful coda: skilled musicianship and a beautiful, healthy smile. Bravo!