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what is a palate expander

What is a Palate Expander and Why Would I Need One?

By Blog

What is a Palate Expander and Why Would I Need One?

So, you’ve been told your child or teenager needs to wear a palate expander. This can come as a surprise, but it’s actually a really common orthodontic appliance. At Houston Orthodontic Specialists, we can use expanders in phase 1 orthodontic treatment or as part of comprehensive orthodontic treatment with expansion. Our treatment plan will depend on your child’s specific orthodontic issues and needs. 

Since a palatal expander expands, or widens, the upper jaw, it’s typically reserved for patients who are still growing because, at this point, we can much more easily manipulate jaw and facial development. In certain cases, the payoff of wearing a palatal expander is huge and will ensure your child is able to get a broad, beautiful smile without the need for tooth extractions, lengthy treatment or even corrective jaw surgery in adulthood. 

To help give you a better idea of what treatment with a palate expander entails, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about the appliance. 

In this post, we’ll go over:

  • What is a palate expander?
  • How does a palate expander work?
  • Why does my child need a palate expander?
  • How long does a palate expander stay in?
  • Does a palate expander hurt?
  • What to expect when wearing an expander
  • How to adjust an expander
  • How to care for an orthodontic expander

What is a Palatal Expander?

As we said, a palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance that widens the upper jaw. It’s used to make the bone larger in order to fit all of the permanent teeth, as well as to fix discrepancies between the upper and lower jaw, so that the top and bottom teeth come together properly. Aside from addressing functional issues, a palate expander can also help to create a broader, more aesthetic smile. 

Anatomy of the Upper Jaw

We know the idea of widening the jaw can sound kind of terrifying. However, it’s actually straightforward and painless. The maxilla, or upper jaw, is made up of two distinct halves that don’t fuse together until the mid-teen years. By using an expander before this fusion occurs, we’re able to very gently separate the bones to make the palate wider. 

Incorporating an Orthodontic Expander Into Your Child’s Treatment Plan

When your Bellaire or Houston orthodontist uses an appliance like an orthodontic expander to guide facial or jaw growth, we refer to it as dentofacial orthopedics. An expander is responsible for orthopedic correction, while braces or Invisalign for kids can be used to correct tooth positioning. 

Sometimes, a patient will wear an expander on its own during their phase 1 orthodontic treatment. Then, they’ll have a resting period before getting conventional braces, Damon braces or Invisalign® Teen in phase 2 orthodontic treatment. For other early orthodontic treatment plans, the expander is combined with additional appliances like a habit-breaking appliance. However, an expander can also be used as part of one-phase, comprehensive treatment when a preteen or teen patient is ready to kick-off Invisalign Teen or braces treatment but we need to expand the jaw. 

How Does a Palatal Expander Work?

While there are several different designs for orthodontic expanders, they all work in the same general way. Typically, for growing patients, we use a rapid palatal expander, which is a custom-made, stainless steel appliance that fits around several of the back, upper teeth. It has two halves that are joined together by a center screw. 

Once the palate expander is in place, you or your child will activate it by turning the screw using a key. This creates tension that puts gentle pressure on the upper molars and the junction (technically called the intermaxillary suture in orthodontist-speak) of the two maxillary, or palatal, bones. This causes the bones to move apart and the jaw to widen. Once the desired amount of expansion has occurred, the expander will stay in place for a bit longer, giving time for new bone to form, stabilizing the expansion.

Why Does My Child Need a Palate Expander?

The three most common reasons why a child or teen requires upper expansion are:

  • A Crossbite – A crossbite often occurs because the upper jaw is too narrow to fit properly with the lower jaw. This causes some of the bottom teeth to bite outside of the top teeth. While patients can have an anterior crossbite or posterior crossbite, a palate expander is typically needed to fix a posterior crossbite. If a severe crossbite isn’t addressed with early orthodontics, patients may compensate by shifting the jaw to one side, which can lead to permanent, unwanted changes to the facial structure, as well as jaw and TMJ pain and excessive wear of the enamel. 
  • Severe Crowding – One of the reasons the American Association of Orthodontists recommends kids have their first orthodontic evaluation by age 7 is because an orthodontist can determine if the jaw will lack space to accommodate all of the permanent teeth before they even come in. When we do spot emerging crowding, and it appears as if it will be severe, a palate expander can widen the jaw to fit the permanent teeth, which minimizes future crowding and prevents the need for tooth extractions. 
  • Impacted Teeth – Sometimes, other teeth can block a permanent tooth’s path, stopping it from erupting into its correct place on its own. When the tooth gets stuck beneath the bone or tissue, it’s called an impacted tooth. This is usually seen with the canine teeth (eye teeth). A palatal expander can help to make enough space for the impacted tooth to erupt without needing more invasive intervention or extractions. 

In addition to correcting a crossbite, preventing crowding and making space for impacted teeth to come in naturally, a palatal expander might also be indicated in cases of:

  • An underbite
  • Breathing difficulties and sleep-disordered breathing (sleep apnea)
  • A narrow smile

How Long Does a Palatal Expander Stay In?

It usually takes a few weeks to reach the correct amount of expansion. Afterwards, most patients will continue to wear their orthodontic expander for about six more months. During this time, new bone will form in the gap between the maxillary bones, which stabilizes the expansion. 

Does a Palatal Expander Hurt?

Palatal expansion is not usually painful. However, it’s normal to feel some soreness and pressure after the key is turned, especially during the first few days. Discomfort is mild and having your child stick with liquid foods (smoothies, soup, etc.) for a day and then moving on to soft foods for several days to a week will be helpful. 

What to Expect When Wearing an Expander

It can take your child or teen a little while to get used to having a palatal expander in their mouth. Patients sometimes find the appliance interferes with chewing and speaking. This usually only lasts a few days. Once your child acclimates to their orthodontic expander, their speech and ability to chew will return to normal. 

If you see a space developing between your child’s front teeth during their palatal expansion, don’t panic. This is totally normal and means the expander is doing its job of widening the upper jaw. When your child’s orthodontic treatment is complete, they’ll have straight teeth with ideal spacing and a healthy bite to show for it! 

How to Adjust an Expander

In order for the expander to work its magic, it needs to be activated. We usually recommend activating the palate expander at bedtime so by the time your child wakes up, the pressure from the turn has disappeared.  

We always show our patients how to adjust an expander so they feel confident doing it on their own. While the exact specifics will depend on the type of expander, for most patients, the basics will remain the same. 

Here’s how to adjust an expander step by step:

  • Tip your or your child’s head back.
  • Place the key you were given into the hole of the appliance. 
  • Push the key completely towards the back of the mouth until it stops and you’re able to fully see the next hole in your appliance. 
  • Carefully remove the key by pressing back and down towards the tongue. The new hole for the next activation should be visible. 

What if I Forget to Activate My Expander?

If you forget to activate your expander, do not double up and do two turns the next day. Instead, continue with one turn each day until you reach the amount of expansion your Bellaire or Houston orthodontist prescribed. Keep in mind, adjusting the appliance as directed will ensure your child or teenager keeps on schedule with the rest of their orthodontic treatment plan. 

How to Care for an Orthodontic Expander

Oral hygiene is important when wearing an orthodontic expander. To keep the rapid palate expander and their mouth sparkling clean, children and teeangers should gently brush the appliance, including the screw and metal bars, in the same way they brush their teeth. Just as we recommend when caring for braces, when your child has an expander, they’ll want to brush in the morning, after meals and snacks, and before bed. If they’re out and about and unable to brush after eating, have them swish water around in their mouth to get rid of any food particles. 

There are a few foods to avoid with a palate expander, including anything really hard, chewy or sticky, such as caramels, licorice, hard pizza crust, taffy, and whole, raw apples and carrots (cut raw fruits and veggies into bite-size pieces). Aside from these exceptions, kids can continue to eat most of their favorite foods during their expansion. 

Schedule a Complimentary Consultation to Get Started

To find out how we can bring out the best in your child or teenager’s smile, schedule a complimentary consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists today! If your kiddo does need a palate expander, we’ll walk you through the process, fill you in on exactly what to expect and answer any questions you have. We’ll also give you instructions on everything from how to adjust an expander to how to keep it clean. Book your child’s visit online or by calling us at (832) 536-1246 (West Houston office) or (346) 250-5080 (Bellaire office).

teen after receiving invisalign treatment

Invisalign for Kids and Teens? Why Clear Aligners Could be the Best Choice

By Blog, Orthodontics

seperators for orthodontic treatment

Invisalign ® for Kids and Teens? Why Clear Aligners Could be the Best Choice

Metal braces used to be a middle school and high school rite of passage. That’s not the case anymore. These days, while metal braces, particularly the self-ligating braces we use at our practice, are smaller, more streamlined and attractive, they’re not the only option. Younger patients who want to skip the metallic hardware can opt for clear braces, which are less noticeable than their metal counterparts. Patients can also straighten their teeth without braces at all thanks to Invisalign®. With upgrades in engineering, materials and treatment planning capabilities, as well as the unparalleled experience of our Bellaire and Houston orthodontists, Invisalign for teens and kids is a viable solution for many patients. 

In this post, we’re covering:

Can Kids Get Invisalign?

Yes, many kids can get Invisalign. Every patient is unique but as certified specialists in orthodontics, Dr. Tabakman, Dr. Muller, Dr. Wadler and Dr. Bloome are experts in dental and facial development and are able to determine the treatment option that will bring out the best in a growing smile. For some children and teens, that’s clear aligners. 

Is Invisalign for kids under 13 possible? In certain cases, kids can get Invisalign even if they don’t have all of their permanent teeth. This is because while Invisalign Teen works the same way as Invisalign for adults, it’s designed especially for younger patients. It has eruption tabs to accommodate erupting teeth, which means using Invisalign for kids under 13 doesn’t require that they have their permanent molars. 

How Does Invisalign Work for Kids and Teens?

So, how does Invisalign work? Whether we use Invisalign for kids, teens or adults, the basic principles are the same. The size and features of the aligners are really the only things that are different. 

Here’s how Invisalign works for younger patients:

  • Your child or teen will come in for a consultation and one of our Bellaire or Houston Invisalign Diamond Plus Providers will evaluate their diagnostic records and perform a thorough examination. This will allow the doctor to develop an accurate diagnosis and make personalized treatment recommendations. We’ll answer any questions you have and walk you through the process.
  • If it’s decided that Invisalign Teen is the best option for your child or teenager, a team member will take quick, comfortable digital impressions using our iTero® scanner (no goopy, mess molds!). The scans will be uploaded to our computer and a 3D model of your child’s mouth will be created. The orthodontist will plan out your child’s treatment directly on the model, moving each individual tooth into its ideal position. They can visualize different outcomes and troubleshoot in advance, to create the perfect smile for your kiddo’s unique facial features, while also ensuring treatment is efficient. 

Using the Invisalign Outcome Simulator, they can even show you what your child’s smile will look like when they finish treatment. Once the treatment plan is in place, the orthodontist will send their specifications off to the Invisalign lab. 

  • At the Invisalign lab, the orthodontist’s instructions will be translated into a series of custom, 3D-printed aligners. When your child’s Invisalign aligners are ready, you can come pick them up. 
  • Your child or teenager will wear their Invisalign Teen aligners for about 20 to 22 hours per day, taking them out to eat, drink anything aside from plain water, and brush and floss their teeth. The aligners fit snugly against the teeth and exert steady, gentle pressure to shift teeth into place. Each set of aligners is pre-programmed to achieve certain tooth movements, so as your child makes their way through the series, their smile will take shape bit by bit. 
  • Kids will change to a new set of Invisalign aligners according to their treatment plan, typically every week. They’ll come in occasionally for a check-up so Dr. Tabakman, Dr. Bloome, Dr. Muller or Dr. Wadler can keep an eye on their progress. We also offer Grin® Remote Dental Monitoring to keep tabs on your child’s smile remotely. Using a smartphone and a reusable mouthpiece, your child can take orthodontist-ready scans of their teeth in under a minute. They’ll send them through the Grin app, usually once a week, and their orthodontist will assess their progress, cutting down on the number of in-person visits needed. 
  • When your child takes out their final set of Invisalign aligners, they’ll have a beautiful, healthy smile to show for it. They’ll come in to be fitted for a custom retainer (be sure to ask us about our Retainer Club!). Wearing a retainer is the only way to prevent the teeth from shifting back to their old places and, eventually, it will only need to be worn a few nights per week. We offer clear retainers, sometimes called Invisalign retainers, that fit just like Invisalign aligners and are equally as under-the-radar and comfortable. 

What are the Benefits of Invisalign for Kids and Teens?

There are a number of benefits of Invisalign for kids and teens, including:

The Aligners are Virtually Invisible

Invisalign Teen aligners are made from smooth, BPA-free, clear plastic and they slip right over the teeth. Most people won’t notice your child is wearing aligners, and they can continue to smile with confidence all throughout their treatment. 

There are No Food Restrictions

Patients sometimes ask things like, can you eat lollipops with Invisalign? Is popcorn allowed during clear aligner treatment? Yes, you can eat lollipops with Invisalign and popcorn is fair game. The aligners are removable, so there are no food restrictions. Kids can continue to eat all of the things they love, including popcorn, pizza crust and candy, as long as they take their aligners out first and brush their teeth before putting the aligners back in. You won’t have to worry about your child eating something hard at school and breaking their appliance or having to skip out on sweets during the holidays. 

Brushing and Flossing are a Breeze

The fact that the aligners are removable also means kids can brush and floss as they normally would and don’t have to navigate around brackets and wires. If your kiddo isn’t the best with oral hygiene, this is something to consider when comparing braces vs. Invisalign

Treatment is Comfortable 

Invisalign aligners are smooth and comfortable. They won’t irritate the mouth like braces can. While during the first week with Invisalign, and sometimes after putting in new aligners, kids may have some sensitivity, it’s mild and aligners are well tolerated among our Houston Invisalign Teen patients. 

Kids and Teens Will Get Used to Wearing Aligners Quickly 

Speaking of the first week with Invisalign, getting acclimated to wearing aligners is easier than getting used to wearing braces thanks to the lack of hardware. The only complaint some patients have about their first week with Invisalign is a slight lisp, but speech returns to normal quickly.

Great for Active Teens

Musicians and athletes will love Invisalign Teen. Kids don’t have to worry about getting hit in the mouth during a game or cutting their lip while trying to hit a high note. 

Effective for a Variety of Orthodontic Concerns

Invisalign works for a wide range of cases when treatment is planned by an Invisalign expert like the orthodontists at Houston Orthodontic Specialists. We can use Invisalign for an overbite, spacing, crowding, an open bite, and more. 

Ideal for Special Occasions

While kids will have to wear their clear aligners for 20 to 22 hours per day, they can remove their aligners for special occasions, like class pictures, school dances or to wear a mouthguard when playing sports. Invisalign will have a minimal impact on their daily life. 

Are There Are Any Cons to Invisalign Teen?

While there are a lot of benefits to Invisalign for younger patients, there is one potential drawback: Kids will have to keep track of their aligners and be diligent about storing them in their Invisalign case when they’re not wearing them. Invisalign aligners being removable, while a perk for some, can be a con if your child tends to lose things easily.

If you don’t think your child or teenager will be responsible for their aligners, braces could be a better option since they’re bonded to the teeth and stay put throughout their entire treatment. The good news is, there are a few free replacement aligners included for you kids in the Invisalign Teen system.

How Much Does Invisalign Cost for Kids and Teens?

Now, the million dollar question: How much does Invisalign cost for kids and teens? The exact Invisalign cost for kids varies depending on several factors, the most important being the complexity of your child’s case. Once a Bellaire or Houston orthodontist completes an examination and develops a diagnosis at the initial consultation, they’ll fill you in on the exact Invisalign price. 

We strive to make braces and Invisalign affordable for all of our families. We accept most insurance and if your insurance covers orthodontic treatment, this can greatly reduce how much you pay out of pocket. We can also work with your HSA or FSA and we offer flexible financing options, including no-interest, in-office financing to make treatment work for your budget. 

Now that you know, yes, kids can get Invisalign in many cases. Are you ready to find out if clear aligners are the best option for your child or teen? Schedule a complimentary consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists today. We’re not just a leading Houston Invisalign provider, we’re also among the top 1% of providers in the country. We have the experience to treat patients of all ages with Invisalign, including those with complex cases. And the best part (well, aside from the results)? We make the process positive and fun for kids and parents alike! 

Teenage-Girl-With-Dental-Braces-Visiting-Orthodontist-In-Clinic

How Diabetes Affects Oral Health?

By Blog

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that impacts how the body uses or produces insulin, a hormone that enables the body to convert sugar (glucose) into energy. If diabetes isn’t managed, it can lead to serious health complications. Yet, aside from affecting your overall health, did you know diabetes affects your teeth, gums, and general oral health too, particularly if it’s not well controlled? If you’re one of our current or prospective Bellaire or Houston braces or Invisalign® patients, you might be wondering what the implications are for orthodontic treatment with diabetes. 

As a Houston and Bellaire orthodontist, we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know. In this post, we’ll be covering:

  • How diabetes affects oral health
  • The link between diabetes and gum disease
  • What you should know about diabetes with Invisalign or braces 
  • Whether or not you can still get Invisalign or braces with diabetes
  • Tips for maintaining healthy teeth and gums if you have diabetes to ensure your orthodontic treatment is successful. 

How Diabetes Affects Oral Health

When it comes to diabetes and oral health, one of the first questions patients often ask at our office is: Does diabetes affect your teeth? The answer is, yes, it can if it’s not treated.

So, how diabetes affects your oral health? These are a few ways the condition can negatively impact your mouth:

  • You might produce less saliva from diabetes itself or from the medications you need to take to manage it, which can cause dry mouth. Since saliva is essential for remineralizing the teeth and balancing the pH in the mouth, this also puts you at a higher risk for tooth decay, or cavities.
  • You’re more likely to develop gum disease and experience swollen, inflamed or bleeding gums.
  • You’re more susceptible to oral infections, including a fungal infection called thrush.
  • Wounds and sores in the mouth can take longer to heal.
  • In kids with diabetes, the teeth sometimes erupt sooner than they normally would.

The Connection Between Diabetes and Gum Disease

Perhaps the biggest concern as far as diabetes and oral health is its link to gum disease. What is gum disease? Gum disease, technically called periodontal disease, is an infection of the soft tissues that support the teeth and hold them in place. Gum disease is caused by a build-up of harmful bacteria that wasn’t eliminated by brushing and flossing.

In its earliest stages, gum disease is called gingivitis. Gingivitis can be reversed with professional dental care and a diligent oral hygiene routine. Once gingivitis advances into periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease, it can only be managed and not reversed. Periodontitis can cause the tooth-supporting gums, tissues and bone to erode, eventually leading to tooth loss. 

Why is this related to diabetes? Well, people diagnosed with diabetes are much more likely to develop periodontal disease. This is because a complication of diabetes is an inability to effectively fight infections and gum disease is just that, a bacterial infection. The risk increases as you age and if blood sugar isn’t controlled properly. Not only can diabetes make you more susceptible to gum disease, but having gum disease, as with any infection, can cause a rise in blood sugar and make controlling your diabetes more difficult, leading to an undesirable cycle. 

What to Know About Getting Braces or Invisalign With Diabetes

Since diabetes does affect your teeth and gums, it can also impact your orthodontic treatment. Teeth move most effectively in a healthy oral environment. Additionally, braces and Invisalign exert force not only on the teeth but also on the gums. So if you’re considering Invisalign or braces with diabetes, it’s crucial that any gum disease has been treated and is under control for a safe, ideal outcome. 

Another thing to consider about orthodontic treatment with diabetes is the fact that you’re prone to dry mouth. Dry mouth with Invisalign and braces can occur at the start of treatment, even without diabetes, as you adjust to having an appliance in your mouth. Patients with diabetes may experience more severe braces or Invisalign dry mouth, which can cause discomfort or lead to cavities, in extreme cases, if not addressed. Of course, there are things you can do to fight dry mouth and boost your oral health with diabetes, which we’ll share shortly. 

Can I Still Get Braces or Invisalign if I Have Diabetes?

Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t get orthodontic treatment. As long as your blood sugar levels and gum disease, if you have it, are under control, orthodontic treatment is absolutely a possibility. At Houston Orthodontic Specialists, Dr. Tabakman, Dr. Muller, Dr. Bloome and Dr. Wadler are experts in treating patients of all ages and levels of health. They can coordinate with your dentist or any specialists to ensure that your teeth and gums are healthy enough for orthodontic treatment and that you’ll still achieve excellent results.

While you can get braces with diabetes, for some patients who currently have or have had gum disease, Invisalign might be the better option. Invisalign aligners are removable so you can brush and floss as you normally would to remove bacteria and plaque from around the gumline. This will prevent gum disease from progressing and causing unwanted tooth movements during your treatment. 

Tips for Keeping Teeth and Gums Healthy During Orthodontic Treatment With Diabetes

Amazing oral health and diabetes can go hand in hand. Here are some tips for healthy teeth and gums that will allow you to breeze through orthodontic treatment and get the outstanding results you deserve:

  • Control your blood sugar and overall health by eating healthy, exercising regularly and taking any prescribed diabetes medications. 
  • Brush your teeth in the morning, after meals and snacks, and before bed, whether you have braces or Invisalign. 
  • Floss once daily. While you can floss normally during Invisalign treatment, when flossing with braces, an orthodontic flosser or floss threader will make the job easier and more effective. 
  • An antibacterial or antimicrobial mouthwash with fluoride can zap harmful bacteria and strengthen enamel for healthier teeth and gums. Swish the mouthwash in your mouth for 60 seconds twice a day for maximum benefits. 
  • Consider adding some oral hygiene extras like a Waterpik, or water flosser, and a proxabrush, also called an interdental brush or proxybrush, to your oral hygiene routine. You can use a Waterpik for braces or Invisalign. It doesn’t take the place of regular flossing and is an additional step, but water flossers are amazing for keeping gums healthy and getting teeth extra clean. 

A proxabrush is another fan favorite among our Bellaire and Houston Invisalign and braces patients. Use it to get rid of the plaque, bacteria, and food particles that can accumulate in the tight spaces around your braces brackets.

  • Quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco with diabetes can worsen gum disease and lead to a number of other oral health concerns that can also affect your orthodontic treatment. 
  • Limit sugary drinks and treats. You’re probably doing this anyway to manage your diabetes, but limiting sugary drinks and treats is even more important when you’re in orthodontic treatment. Your appliance gives plaque more places to hide and the bacteria in plaque feed on sugars and starches. When they do, they release acids that eat away at the tooth enamel, which can cause cavities. As for how to get rid of a sweet tooth if you struggle with that, enjoy sugars and staches in moderation and opt for healthy alternatives when possible. Always brush your teeth after having a treat. 
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water to combat dry mouth and encourage saliva production. As we said, as far as diabetes and oral health, dry mouth is very common. Having diabetes can also make run-of-the-mill braces or Invisalign dry mouth worse. Drinking plenty of water will help. 
  • Another way to beat dry mouth and get your saliva flowing is to chew sugarless gums after meals. Of course, you can chew gum with Invisalign since the aligners are removable. But can you chew gum with braces? Yes, you can chew gum with braces as long as it’s sugar-free because the sugarless varieties are less sticky. Plus, sugarless gum, especially if it contains xylitol, has a number of oral health benefits, including killing bad bacteria and reducing the risk of cavities. It’s also thought that chewing sugar-free gum can help alleviate discomfort when you first get braces put on and after adjustments. 
  • Keep up with visits to your general dentist throughout your orthodontic treatment. Regular check-ups and cleanings are essential for ensuring your teeth and gums are healthy. Your dentist will make sure your diabetes isn’t affecting your oral health. During professional cleanings, they can also remove hardened plaque that you can’t get rid of at home with a regular toothbrush. This will go a long way in eliminating or controlling gum disease and preventing cavities.
  • The brackets and wires from your braces may cause irritation or sores during the first few weeks of braces treatment. This will go away once your mouth toughens up and gets used to your new hardware. However, when undergoing orthodontic treatment with diabetes, it’s a good idea to avoid or minimize irritation because it will take longer to heal and you’re prone to infection. Opting for Invisalign can be a good idea since the aligners are smooth and there are no brackets and wires. 

If you do get braces, use orthodontic relief wax at the first sign of irritation. Break off a small piece of wax, roll it in a ball between your fingers to warm it up and stick it on the parts of your braces that are bothering you. You can also swish with a saltwater rinse (a teaspoon of salt dissolved in a glass of warm water) as needed to promote healing and reduce discomfort. 

Now that you know how diabetes affects your oral health but orthodontic treatment with diabetes is still possible. You can still get your beautiful dream smile. Schedule a complimentary in-person or virtual consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists in West Houston or Bellaire today. Be sure to let us know that you have diabetes and we’ll create a personalized treatment plan and work with your dentist to help you get your best smile in a way that’s healthy and effective. 

babies-playing-after-using-pacifiers-for-bad-for-teeth

Are Pacifiers Bad for Teeth?

By Orthodontics

Pacifiers are one of those things that are the subject of a lot of debate in the parenting world. From when to give a baby a pacifier to whether or not pacifiers are bad for teeth, there is a ton of conflicting information. As Bellaire and Houston orthodontists, we can’t give you a definitive answer on whether a pacifier is right for your infant, but we can address the subject from an orthodontic angle. In this post, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about pacifiers and teeth. 

 

Is it Okay to Give a Baby a Pacifier?

Babies are born with a natural sucking reflex. In fact, some babies start sucking their thumbs and fingers in the womb! It helps them soothe themselves. Plus, putting things in their mouths, thumbs and pacifiers included, is a way infants learn about the world around them. It’s perfectly normal for babies to suck their thumb or use a pacifier and it’s nothing for parents to worry about. 

While sucking on a thumb, fingers, or a pacifier is okay during infancy, eventually, you will want to get your child to stop thumb sucking or using their pacifier. Since the thumb is attached to their body, breaking a thumb-sucking habit can be much more challenging than stopping the pacifier. This is one reason why some parents prefer pacifiers and make an attempt to offer a pacifier during the first few months of a baby’s life. Additionally, there have been studies done on pacifier use and SIDS that have found giving a newborn a pacifier at sleep time can decrease the risk of SIDS. So, as you can see, pacifiers aren’t harmful for babies and may even have some benefits. 

Are Pacifiers Bad for Teeth?

Now, back to the original question, can pacifiers cause dental problems? It depends. Pacifiers aren’t bad for an infant’s teeth, especially considering they don’t even have all of their teeth. However, prolonged pacifier use can lead to misaligned teeth and orthodontic issues, particularly if the habit is still going on when the permanent teeth are beginning to come in. In cases where a child vigorously sucks their pacifier, which is usually evidenced by a popping noise when they take it out of their mouth, issues can occur with the primary teeth as well. 

As for a pacifier’s effect on teeth, prolonged and/or vigorous pacifier use can lead to a variety of different types of malocclusion (improper bite), including:

  • Protruding Front Teeth – When kids use pacifiers or suck on their thumb, it often places pressure against the top front teeth, which can cause the front teeth to stick out, sometimes referred to as “buck teeth.” When the front teeth protrude, they’re more likely to be damaged or injured.
  • Overbite – Another common dental problem from pacifier use is an overbite. This is where the top teeth sit too far in front of the lower teeth when the mouth is closed. Orthodontics for an overbite is recommended when the space between the upper and lower teeth reaches a certain degree because it can cause uneven wear of the teeth, make the front teeth susceptible to injury and lead to jaw pain.
  • Anterior Open Bite – An open bite is sometimes the result of oral habits, including pacifier use. When a patient has an anterior open bite, the top and bottom front teeth don’t meet when the jaws are closed. It can make biting into food and chewing difficult and may lead to speech issues.
  • Spacing – Spacing, also called gap teeth, is when there are gaps between two or more teeth. The constant pressure from a pacifier or thumb may create gaps between teeth. Gaps or spacing can occur on their own or in conjunction with other issues like an overbite.
  • Posterior Crossbite – A posterior crossbite can result from pacifier use. This is when some of the back lower teeth sit in front of the top teeth. Since patients often compensate by moving their jaw to one side so the molars can come together, it can lead to permanent changes in the facial structure if not addressed early.
  • Changes to the Roof of the Mouth – Prolonged pacifier use can cause changes in the roof of the mouth and interfere with proper development, leading to the roof of the mouth being narrower and affecting the distance from molar to molar.

What are Pacifier Teeth?

So, what are pacifier teeth? What do pacifier teeth look like? All of the orthodontic concerns that can result from pacifier use listed above are sometimes lumped together and referred to as “pacifier teeth.” Essentially, pacifier teeth are teeth that are misaligned due to using a pacifier or thumb sucking. Often, the front teeth will stick out and, in certain instances, this is combined with other problems like the back molars not coming together properly (posterior crossbite) or the teeth being tipped forward so far they don’t come together correctly (overbite) or meet at all (anterior open bite). Pacifier teeth may also be crooked or have spaces between them. 

How to Fix Pacifier Teeth

Unfortunately, any teeth damage from pacifier use won’t correct itself and the teeth will not shift into place on their own as a child gets older. Changes to the roof of the mouth, jaws and teeth will need to be addressed by an orthodontist. The good news is, for certain issues, by intercepting the problem early while a patient is still growing, we can guide jaw growth and the eruption of the permanent teeth. This will prevent more serious issues and make treatment down the road easier. 

In these instances, during phase 1 orthodontic treatment, Dr. Tabakman, Dr. Muller, Dr. Bloome or Dr. Wadler will use certain appliances to encourage proper jaw development, ensuring the jaws will align correctly and the permanent teeth will all fit. Then, after a rest period, they’ll finish up with phase 2 orthodontic treatment and use braces or Invisalign Teen to align the teeth. 

This highlights the importance of following the recommendation of the American Association of Orthodontists and having kids visit an orthodontist for an evaluation by age seven. At this stage, we can much more effectively manipulate jaw growth in order to correct any of the negative effects of pacifier use. Once a patient has all of their permanent teeth and their jaws are done growing, fixing the issue will be more challenging. 

When Should Babies Stop Using Pacifiers?

As for when to take away the pacifier, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend caregivers start weaning from the pacifier in the second six months of a baby’s life, because this can reduce the risk of otitis media (a type of ear infection). It is also a little easier to take away the pacifier at this point than it is when children are older. 

When should babies stop using pacifiers to avoid dental problems? Well, some little ones exhibit effects from pacifier use as early as 24 months. This is usually the case when the baby sucks on the pacifier vigorously and uses it constantly. However, most kids don’t develop malocclusion from a pacifier until after the age of four. After the age of four, especially once kids start losing teeth, orthodontic issues can be much more severe. In general, if you can get your child to wean from the pacifier by age two, you likely won’t have to worry about pacifier teeth issues. 

The majority of kids will stop pacifier use and thumb sucking on their own between the ages of two and four if parents don’t intervene before then. If your child hasn’t stopped the pacifier by age four, you’ll want to make a concerted effort to break the pacifier habit and, if you’re not successful, reach out to a pediatric dentist for guidance.

How to Stop Pacifier Use

Though we can fix pacifier teeth, preventing misaligned teeth or malocclusion by weaning from the pacifier early is always preferable. Of course, taking away a baby’s pacifier by age one or two sounds great in theory but for many parents, we know it can be a challenge. Little ones may begin to rely on the pacifier to fall asleep and use it as their main method of self-soothing. Here are some ideas for how to stop pacifier use in little ones that may help:

  • Go Cold Turkey – You can simply take the pacifier away from your child when they reach the age of one, or whatever predetermined age you have in mind. Tell your child ahead of time that the pacifier will be going away on a certain date. This method does take patience, and you’ll have to stay strong and not give in even if your child cries or throws tantrums. While there can be some tears and sleepless nights, most kids handle it surprisingly well and adapt in less than a week.
  • Take a Gradual Approach – You know your child best and cold turkey may not work for every family. You can also stop pacifier use gradually. Start by taking away the pacifier when your child is happy and busy playing. They’ll usually be distracted enough that they won’t notice it’s not in their mouth. After a week or two, begin only using the pacifier at home and not bringing it with you when you leave the house. Again, in a new environment, babies and toddlers will often be stimulated and excited and won’t miss their pacifier.

Eventually, transition to only giving your baby their pacifier when they’re in their crib for naps and nighttime. Keep decreasing until your baby only has their pacifier at night before taking the pacifier away completely. 

  • Teach Alternative Coping Mechanisms – Sucking on a pacifier is a way babies soothe themselves. When the pacifier is gone, you may notice changes in their behavior and sleep patterns. Teach them new ways to cope with frustration or sadness like cuddling with mom or dad, talking about what’s bothering them (if they’re older), or taking deep breaths. If the habit is tied to anxiety, getting to the root of what’s making your child anxious and dealing with it will go a long way.
  • Create a Bedtime Routine – A bedtime routine is always recommended, however, it’s even more important when stopping pacifier use since using a pacifier helps many infants fall asleep. When taking away the pacifier, replace it with a soothing bedtime routine. When it gets close to bedtime, start turning the lights down low, turn off the television and other devices, and keep the house quiet. You may want to give your baby a bath and spend some time snuggling or reading a book to help them unwind.
  • Use Distraction – The first few days after taking away the pacifier can be challenging. If your baby gets fussy, try to distract them to take their mind off of it. Go for a walk, read a book, or play a game. We promise, fussiness won’t last forever and before you know it, your child will barely remember their pacifier.
  • Offer Positive Reinforcement – After stopping the pacifier, if your child is struggling to adjust, offer positive reinforcement by telling them how proud you are of them for being such a big boy or girl and giving it up. At times they would normally turn to their pacifier, if you notice they do something else to soothe themselves, praise them. However, while positive reinforcement is a powerful tool, if you take away your child’s pacifier and they don’t seem bothered, then it’s probably not a good idea to continually bring up the lack of pacifier even in the context of positive reinforcement since it will just remind them that their pacifier is gone.
  • Seek Help – As we mentioned earlier, if you haven’t had any success in taking away your child’s pacifier and you notice teeth effects from pacifier use or your child is over the age of four, it’s a good idea to talk to their pediatric dentist. Your child’s dentist can offer you further guidance on how to stop pacifier use and other oral habits.

As you can see, while pacifiers are bad for teeth with prolonged use, if you do decide to offer a newborn a pacifier, you can rest assured that with early weaning, they aren’t likely to have any negative effects on their teeth or jaws. If your child did develop bite problems or misaligned teeth from pacifier use or other habits like thumb sucking, schedule a complimentary consultation for your kiddo at Houston Orthodontic Specialists in Bellaire or West Houston today! We’ll evaluate your child and let you know if early orthodontic treatment would be beneficial or if they can wait until they’re older. As a bonus, they’ll be able to join our awesome Kids’ Club. Schedule your child’s visit by requesting an appointment online or by calling us at 832-536-1340 (West Houston) or 346-361-8226 (Bellaire).

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Do Damon Braces Move Teeth Faster?

By Orthodontics

https://www.houstonortho.com/?p=12512&preview=true

At Houston Orthodontic Specialists, one of the things that really sets us apart is our use of advanced treatment options and techniques to help our patients get better results more comfortably and efficiently. Self-ligating braces fit the bill. We’ve been offering Damon™ braces for years, which are a type of self-ligating braces, and we have to say, we do love the braces system. There are several key advantages to self-ligating brackets, which we’ll be covering in a bit, that also make them a popular option with our Bellaire and Houston braces patients. Before we get to whether or not Damon braces work faster, we’ll dive into the basics of what self-ligating braces are and the mechanics behind them to give you a clear understanding of their true benefits. 

What are Damon Braces?

Damon system braces are a type of self-ligating braces. At our practice, we offer Damon metal braces and Damon clear braces. All braces utilize brackets and wires to shift the teeth into place. However, self-ligating braces connect the archwires to the brackets using slides, doors or clips. The Damon system relies on a patented slide mechanism. The wires move freely and there is less friction. Traditional braces, on the other hand, use elastic ties or metal wires, known as ligatures, to hold the archwires in place, which causes more friction.

Damon system braces also use lightweight, shape-memory archwires in conjunction with the self-ligating brackets. The high-tech wires exert light force to shift the teeth into place efficiently. 

How Do Self-Ligating Braces Work?

All types of braces, whether conventional or self-ligating, work by exerting force, which stimulates the process of bone remodeling. In response to the force, the bone and tissues that support the teeth break down, allowing the teeth to move. Eventually, new bone forms around the teeth, locking them in position. How is the force applied to the teeth? Well, the braces archwires are bent and inserted into the brackets. As the wires return to their original shape, they put pressure on the teeth, while also acting as a track to guide them in the correct direction. With Damon braces, the wires are allowed to move freely within the brackets and don’t have to rely on the pressure from the braces elastics to do so. 

Do Damon Braces Work Faster?

No, technically, Damon braces and other self-ligating braces don’t move teeth faster. Your teeth move in response to pressure and it doesn’t matter whether the force is coming from Damon system braces, conventional braces or clear aligners. Your teeth don’t know or care what brand of braces or type of appliance is used to shift them into place. 

That being said, sometimes, treatment times can be slightly shorter when using self-ligating braces vs. traditional braces. This is because self-ligating braces, like Damon braces, eliminate some of the mechanical inefficiencies associated with conventional braces. The teeth essentially take a more direct path to their final destinations because of the lack of friction and the free-sliding technology. We don’t need to change braces elastics or ties and the wires will still adjust and move, which shifts the teeth for a longer period of time on their own without intervention or frequent adjustments from your orthodontist. Most importantly, if you look at Damon system before and after photos, you’ll see that these self-ligating braces help us achieve excellent results. 

What are the Benefits of Self-Ligating Braces?

There are several key benefits of Damon braces, including:

  • Since the wires move freely and with less friction, patients sometimes experience less sensitivity and discomfort during treatment.
  • Both Damon clear and metal brackets are much smaller and smoother than conventional braces brackets. This makes them less noticeable, even the metal variety, and they’re less likely to cause irritation to the lips, cheeks or tongue, which our Houston braces patients love. 
  • Oral hygiene is easier with self-ligating braces. Braces elastics and ties collect plaque and it’s difficult to effectively brush around them. Since self-ligating braces are tie-less, that’s one less component to deal with and one less place for plaque and food particles to hide.
  • Visits to our office are shorter with self-ligating braces. Self-ligating braces don’t have elastics that need to be removed and replaced, so taking wires out and putting new ones in is faster and easier.
  • There may be fewer office visits overall during your treatment. Damon system braces require fewer adjustments. The wires move the teeth for several weeks longer between appointments when compared to conventional braces.

As you can see, while self-ligating braces aren’t a magic treatment option, there are key advantages. If you take a look at Damon system braces reviews, it’s immediately obvious that patients of all ages are big fans and for good reason. If you’re interested in finding out if our Bellaire or Houston Damon braces are the right choice for your smile, schedule a complimentary consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists today!

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The Best Soft Foods for Braces and Invisalign Patients (With Recipes!)

By Blog, Orthodontics

Patients often wonder, do braces hurt? Will Invisalign® aligners cause pain? The answer is, no, you should never feel real Invisalign or braces pain. However, when you first start treatment and sometimes following braces adjustments or after putting in a new set of clear aligners, your teeth and jaws can feel a little sensitive. Eating soft foods for a few days can help. Thankfully, there are a lot of great soft foods for sore teeth that taste good and will give you the nutrients and energy you need without causing discomfort. While we’re focusing on soft foods to eat with braces or Invisalign, our suggestions will also work great if you have actual pain, such as in the case of a toothache or after oral surgery. 

In this post, we’ll be covering:

  • How to handle sensitivity from orthodontic treatment
  • The best soft foods for braces, Invisalign or sore teeth in general 
  • A round up of some delicious soft food recipes for sore teeth

Handling Sensitivity From Orthodontic Treatment

Before we get into the soft foods for braces and Invisalign patients, let’s talk about sensitivity from orthodontic treatment. When you start treatment, have adjustments or wear new aligners, the discomfort you feel will be mild and it will go away on its own in a few days. However, there are things you can do to help manage sensitivity in the meantime, including:

  • Making a salt water rinse (½ teaspoon of salt dissolved into eight ounces of warm water) and swishing it around in your mouth before spitting it out. You can repeat this as often as necessary.
  • Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever according to the manufacturer’s or your doctor’s instructions. You can take whatever you’d use for a headache.
  • Knowing the foods to avoid with braces and steering clear of them. We’ll give you a list of the foods you can’t eat with braces, which includes anything really hard, chewy or sticky. These types of foods can damage your appliance. Additionally, eating really hard food that requires a ton of chewing won’t feel great on sensitive teeth, so even Invisalign wearers may want to avoid these types of foods when they first start treatment.
  • Trying the soft foods for sore teeth listed below. As we mentioned before, sticking with soft foods, as well as cold foods and drinks for the first few days after getting braces or starting Invisalign treatment will be super helpful.

The Best Soft Foods for Braces or Invisalign Patients

Okay, now on to the good stuff. Here are some of the best soft foods for braces or Invisalign patients who are experiencing sensitivity, or anyone with sore teeth:

  • Oatmeal
  • Cream of wheat
  • Scrambled eggs
  • Pancakes
  • French toast 
  • Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Applesauce
  • Cooked fruit
  • Fruit cups
  • Very ripe fruit like bananas or peaches that have been cut into small pieces
  • 100% fruit juice with no sugar added
  • Soft sandwich bread
  • Peanut butter
  • Egg salad, chicken salad or tuna salad
  • Cooked beans or refried beans
  • Meatloaf
  • Soft-cooked, shredded meat
  • Soft-cooked, ground meat
  • Tofu 
  • Cooked tempeh
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Steamed or cooked vegetables
  • Couscous
  • Soft-cooked rice
  • Quinoa
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Pasta and noodles
  • Soft cheeses
  • Soup with soft vegetables
  • Avocado 
  • Hummus
  • Soft tortilla shells (steam or microwave them first)
  • Smoothies
  • Protein shakes
  • Milkshakes
  • Ice cream and sorbet
  • Pudding and custard
  • Jell-O

Soft Food Recipes for Sore Teeth

Now that you know the foods you can eat with braces or Invisalign, we thought we’d share some orthodontist-approved soft food recipes for sore teeth:

  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Overnight Oats from Eating With Clarity – These overnight oats are simple to make and you’ll wake up to a nutritious, delicious breakfast that’s easy on your teeth. If you’re allergic to peanuts, try using an alternative like Sunbutter.
  • Cold-Day Chicken Noodle Soup from Taste of Home – Soup is really one of the best foods to eat with braces or Invisalign when you start treatment. With this chicken noodle soup, you’ll get lean protein and vegetables. Plus, it doesn’t get much more comforting.
  • Gordon Ramsay’s Scrambled Eggs – These scrambled eggs take a little more hands-on work than you might be used to but they’re well worth the effort. Gordon Ramsay’s technique leads to the tastiest, softest scrambled eggs, making them ideal for sensitive teeth (or just Sunday breakfast).
  • Banana Spinach Protein Smoothie from Garnish With Lemon – When considering soft food recipes for sore teeth, look for ones that are nutrient dense. This way, you’re still covering all of your nutritional bases even if you’re not chewing as much as you normally do. This green smoothie fits the bill. It has fruit, veggies, protein and calcium, and you won’t taste the spinach!
  • Creamy Butternut Squash Pasta from Two Peas & Their Pod – Butternut squash makes a healthy, creamy and surprisingly decadent sauce. To make this dish even easier to chew, you can swap out the linguine for a smaller pasta like elbow macaroni.

Hopefully our list of soft foods for braces and Invisalign patients, and the accompanying recipes, will help you continue to eat the foods you love even if your mouth is feeling sensitive. After seeing all of the delicious choices, are you ready to learn more about your options for braces or Invisalign in Houston or Bellaire, TX? Schedule a complimentary in-person or virtual consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists today!

Braces-On-Top-Teeth-Only

Can You Just Get Braces on Your Bottom Teeth or Top Teeth?

By Blog, Orthodontics

We sometimes get asked at our Bellaire and Houston orthodontic practice about getting braces on the bottom teeth only or just getting braces on the top teeth. In the world of orthodontics, this is what we call single-arch orthodontic treatment. There are the occasional instances where it’s a possibility, which we’ll cover. Yet, there are a number of considerations we take into account to determine if a patient is a candidate for getting braces on their top teeth or bottom teeth alone. 

What is Single Arch Orthodontic Treatment?

Single-arch treatment, sometimes called one-arch treatment, is when we use Invisalign or braces on bottom teeth only or top teeth only but not both simultaneously. Every so often, an orthodontist will put braces on the top teeth first and then address the bottom teeth, or vice versa, but this is a little different than true single-arch orthodontic treatment because, eventually, we’ll be shifting the teeth in both arches into place. 

When Would Top or Bottom Teeth Only Braces be Effective?

Single-arch treatment can work in a limited number of cases. However, to determine whether it’s feasible, your orthodontist has to perform a careful evaluation. It’s important to keep in mind that when you move the teeth, you’re impacting the bite, or the way the bottom and top teeth come together. Some cases where single-arch treatment might work include:

  • If you have crowded bottom teeth, straight top teeth and a large overbite, getting braces on the bottom teeth only may be an option. This is because the crowded bottom teeth would shift forward a bit once they were straightened, which could help reduce the size of the overbite
  • Getting braces on the top teeth only could work in some instances when a patient has spaces between the top teeth, straight bottom teeth and an overbite. While straightening crowded teeth tends to cause them to move forward, closing gaps does the opposite and teeth often shift back. This would mean we could eliminate the spacing between the teeth and lessen the overbite. 
  • If you have an underbite, where the top teeth sit inside of the bottom teeth, and you also have crowding in the upper arch, single-arch treatment might be a consideration. However, it will depend on your bite in the back. 

The Drawbacks of Just Getting Braces on the Top or Bottom Teeth

There are risks to single-arch orthodontic treatment. Your orthodontist isn’t just concerned with how straight your teeth are, they also look at your bite, or how your teeth come together. Your bite is a surprisingly complex relationship that involves both teeth and jaws. Ultimately, you want straight teeth and aligned jaws so the upper and lower teeth will meet properly. This allows your jaw to distribute forces evenly so that you can chew and speak properly, prevent uneven wear of the teeth and prevent undue stress on your jaw joints. Single-arch treatment shifts the teeth in only one arch, which can throw off the entire bite.

For example, as we noted before, crowded teeth tend to move forward once straightened while the teeth shift back when we close gaps. If you have an overbite and crowded top teeth, getting braces on the top teeth only will cause your overbite to get bigger throughout your treatment. If you have an underbite and crooked bottom teeth, bottom teeth only braces will worsen your underbite. While in both cases your teeth would look straighter, the way your teeth meet would be off and this would have negative consequences on the function and health of your smile. 

The only way to find out if getting braces on your bottom teeth or top teeth only is a possibility, is to visit a certified specialist in orthodontics for an evaluation. Our expert Bellaire and Houston orthodontists are able to determine the best treatment plan to safely and effectively give you your dream smile. If you only have mild issues and you’re hesitant to sign off on comprehensive treatment, often, instead of single-arch treatment, limited treatment would be your best bet. We offer Smile Express at our practice as an option for patients who want a shorter, less expensive way to touch up their smile while still getting amazing, functional results. Schedule a complimentary in-person or virtual consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists today to learn more!

COVID UPDATE – August 2020

By Blog

Dear Patients + Families of Houston Orthodontic Specialists,

We are continuing with extra safety precautions to keep our patients and staff safe and healthy.

Safety for you, your family, and our team is our highest priority.

We will continue to provide all our patients with a questionnaire (which must be completed prior to your appointment to identify patients who have travelled to certain countries, are experiencing flu-like symptoms or have been around others who have experienced flu-like symptoms). This will need to be completed prior to every visit.

COVID 19 QUESTIONNAIRE

  • A temperature screening will be done for doctors, staff, patients and accompanying family members. Anyone presented with a fever of 100 F/37.7 C will need to be rescheduled in accordance with CDC guidelines.
  • Masks are required while in our office for all adults and all kids over the age of 2. If you do not have a mask, we will happily provide one for you!
  • Please wash your hands in our clinical area prior to being seated for your appointment and prior to leaving our clinic after your appointment.
  • We have temporarily closed our beverage area, tech bar, game area, and removed all magazines from our waiting areas.
  • Please brush your teeth prior to your appointment, as brushing stations have been temporarily closed.

SCHEDULING

  • To provide our highest level of protection, we will be scheduling according to appointment type and risk level of the procedure. For example, routine adjustments, growth check-ups, and Invisalign scans will be seen together. The appointments requiring the use of dental handpieces and air and water use, such as placing or removing braces, require higher measures of protection and will be scheduled accordingly.
  • Some appointment types like retainer checks are done only virtually to minimize risk and exposure for our patients and to limit capacity in-office.
  • We understand that flexibility is important in this unprecedented time, and we are here for you! We offer appointments as late as 6:30 Pm on Wednesdays, and we are open Fridays and Saturdays!

CONCIERGE TEAM

To provide you with the best service, we have added a Concierge Program to guide you through your visits with us. Due to restrictions on the number of guests that we can have in our facilities at one time, our Concierge Team will facilitate your check-ins, procedures, and check-outs. We will anticipate your arrival, check you in for your appointment, and even deliver aligners from the comfort and safety of your car! When it is time for your appointment, we will let you know and guide you to your appropriate treatment area. A greeting space is set up in front of our reception where we can read temperatures to ensure everyone’s safety.

We love siblings and visitors at our practice but during this time we ask that you help us in minimizing the number of people who enter our office for an appointment. We understand this may present a challenge as schools are closed, but we ask unless it’s necessary that only 1 parent/guardian accompanies your child to their appointment and adults come alone.

VIRTUAL SERVICES AVAILABLE

Our virtual appointments are available to all new and existing patients! New patients can schedule virtual consultations from the comfort of your home. For those in treatment with our practice, we are able to offer virtual visits, allowing you the option of virtual check-ups with our doctors and staff. Our virtual options will allow for the ultimate level of convenience by eliminating trips to the office while assuring that you are receiving the highest level of care that you have grown to expect under the direct supervision of our team. Explore our website to learn more!

We continue to closely monitor local and federal regulations and guidelines to ensure our community is safe. We are excited to be able to service our patients at our state of the art facilities in Bellaire and West Houston, along with virtual consultations and virtual visits.

Continue to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates, or if you have any questions, feel free to email us at [email protected].

With gratitude,
The Doctors and Staff of Houston Orthodontic Specialists

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Top Tips to Keep Your Smile in Shape

By Blog

One of the most important things you can do during braces or Invisalign treatment is to keep your teeth healthy. After all, teeth move most efficiently in a healthy oral environment and getting cavities or having other issues could potentially stall your progress. While our offices are open again and we’re seeing patients in person, we also understand that some people may still need to stay home for the time being, which makes caring for your teeth and gums even more important! To help, our Bellaire and West Houston orthodontists are sharing some top tips to keep your smile in shape.

  • Brush Your Teeth Twice Daily or More if You’re in Orthodontic Treatment – Under normal circumstances, you should brush your teeth for a full two minutes in the morning and before bed. If you’re in orthodontic treatment, brush in the morning, after meals and snacks, and before turning in at night. Braces wearers will want to brush their teeth for three minutes each time. With Invisalign, you can stick with two minutes but you’ll want to brush after meals and snacks too since your aligners can trap food and liquid against your teeth, which could cause tooth decay. After having a beverage, you can rinse your mouth out before putting your aligners back in.

Brush using circular motions along the gum line and brush every surface of your teeth, including those back molars. It’s a good idea to give each individual tooth some attention. If you have braces, you can also use a proxy brush to get around your brackets and wires. 

  • Floss Once Daily – If you don’t floss, you’re missing significant tooth surfaces. Flossing gets rid of pieces of food and plaque between your teeth and around your gumline. It’s really key to healthy teeth and gums. Floss once a day. If you have braces, use a floss threader or orthodontic flosser to help make things easier.

We’re sometimes asked if a Waterpik for braces is safe and it is. While using a Waterpik isn’t a substitute for flossing, it can be a great addition to your oral hygiene routine for both braces and Invisalign wearers since it helps get your mouth even more squeaky clean.

  • Visit Your General Dentist Regularly For Cleanings and Exams – When it comes to how to have healthy teeth, this is one of the most important things you can do. Even if you’re in orthodontic treatment, you’ll still need to see your general dentist at least every six month, or as often as they recommend. Professional dental cleanings remove hardened plaque, or calculus, that you can’t get rid of on your own with a toothbrush and floss. This helps promote healthy gums. Additionally, at your exam, your dentist can look for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, wear of the enamel and even oral cancer. By catching issues early on, they can address them while they’re still easier and less invasive to treat.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet Full of Healthy Food for Teeth – A balanced diet full of fresh vegetables and fruit, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and whole grains is important for promoting healthy teeth and gums. While sticking with healthy foods that aren’t overly processed will go a long way in keeping your smile in shape, you can also try to include some healthy food for teeth that have smile-friendly benefits. For example, low-fat yogurt has probiotics that encourage good bacteria to flourish in your mouth and the calcium and other nutrients help strengthen teeth.
  • Limit Sugary Drinks and Treats – The bacteria in your mouth feed on sugars and starches and produce acids that eat away at your tooth enamel, which can ultimately lead to tooth decay. So, try to limit sugary drinks and treats, as well as starchy foods and enjoy them on special occasions. When you do have them, drink or eat them in one sitting, preferably with a meal. This is because it takes about a half hour or so for the pH in your mouth to return to normal and neutralize those plaque acids after eating. So, when you slowly sip on something sugary or leisurely enjoy a treat, you keep restarting the clock with every bite you take. As for sports drinks, they can seem like a good idea but the acidity weakens the enamel and makes it more susceptible to damage.
  • Embrace Fluoride – Fluoride helps to strengthen teeth and can reduce your risk of cavities. It’s not just for kids either. Adults can benefit from using a fluoride toothpaste too. You may also want to consider adding a fluoride mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine as well.
  • Visit an Orthodontist – While, of course, getting a fantastic smile is a huge benefit of orthodontic treatment, it also improves your oral health and, in turn, your overall health. As our Bellaire and Houston Invisalign and braces patients can attest, straight teeth are easier to clean, which can help ward off cavities and gum disease. When the teeth or jaws are misaligned, it can also lead to undue stress on your jaw joint, uneven wear of the teeth, difficulty chewing or speaking properly, and other issues.

While the American Association of Orthodontists recommends visiting an orthodontist for an evaluation by age seven, it’s never too late to improve your smile and see if orthodontic treatment could boost your oral health. At your complimentary consultation, Dr. Tabakman, Dr. Muller, Dr. Wadler or Dr. Bloome will examine you and evaluate your diagnostic records before presenting you with personalized treatment recommendations.

  • Encourage Saliva Flow – Saliva is crucial for healthy teeth and gums. The minerals found in saliva neutralize plaque acids and help promote the remineralization of teeth. Saliva also helps wash away food debris and plaque. To encourage the flow of saliva, try chewing sugar-free gums after meals, drink plenty of water and eat foods that contain a lot of water like fresh fruits and vegetables.     

By using these tips for healthy teeth and gums, you’ll keep your teeth healthy. If you’re ready to visit a Houston or Bellaire orthodontist, schedule an in-person or virtual consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists today!