Skip to main content
Category

Blog

how long do i have to wear retainer

How Long Do I Have to Wear Retainers?

By Blog, Orthodontics
how long do i have to wear retainer

Is Wearing a Retainer Necessary After Braces or Invisalign Treatment?

You just got your braces removed or you took out your last Invisalign® tray and you have a stunning smile to show for it. Of course, you’ll want to maintain your results for life. The only way to do that is by wearing orthodontic retainers. When a patient hears this, the first thing they usually ask is, how long do I have to wear retainers? Well, our Bellaire and Houston orthodontists have you covered. 

In this post, they’ll talk about:

  • What is a retainer?
  • Why do I need to wear retainers?
  • How long do I have to wear retainers after Invisalign or braces?
  • What if my retainer doesn’t fit anymore?
  • How long do retainers last?
  • What retainer instructions should I follow?

What is a Retainer?

Before we dive into how long you have to wear retainers, let’s have a refresher on what a retainer is. A dental retainer is a custom-fit appliance that holds your teeth in their new positions after they’ve been straightened. When you finish braces or Invisalign, Dr. Tabakman, Dr. Bloome, Dr. Wadler or Dr. Khan will design custom retainers for you and you’ll kick off the final phase of your treatment, known as the retention phase. 

There are two main types of retainers:

Removable Retainers

Removable retainers are, well, removable, hence the name. There are two kinds of removable retainers:

  • Essix Retainer – An Essix retainer, sometimes called an Invisalign retainer by patients, is a clear plastic retainer that looks like an Invisalign aligner. It fits over the entire arch of teeth and is made from smooth, BPA-free, clear plastic, so it’s virtually invisible and comfortable. The majority of our Bellaire and Houston patients opt for clear retainers after braces or Invisalign treatment. 
  • Hawley Retainer – A Hawley retainer, or wire retainer, is made of an acrylic piece that sits against the roof or bottom of the mouth and an attached metal wire that wraps around the teeth. The wire is visible and this type of retainer is more noticeable than a clear plastic retainer. We don’t use Hawley retainers that often anymore at our practice, however, occasionally we’ll recommend them because they can be adjusted to achieve minor tooth movements. 

Fixed Retainers 

A fixed retainer, also called a permanent retainer or bonded retainer, consists of a thin metal wire that’s bonded to the back of the teeth on the tongue side, so it’s not visible when you smile. Permanent retainers can remain in place for years or even decades with proper care. We use fixed retainers when we need to provide an extra layer of stability for teeth that are likely to shift. Most commonly, patients who need a fixed retainer will have it placed on the bottom teeth and they’ll wear a removable retainer on the top teeth. 

Why Do I Need to Wear Retainers?

During the active phase of your orthodontic treatment, which is when you’re wearing your braces or Invisalign, your jawbone breaks down and the periodontal ligaments loosen to allow the teeth to move where we direct them. While this process, called bone remodeling, has to happen in order for your new smile to take shape, it takes time for new bone to form and the ligaments to tighten back up in order to secure your teeth in position. Retainers hold your teeth in their new places while this happens, helping to stabilize your teeth and bite and lock in your results. 

If you don’t wear a retainer after braces or Invisalign treatment, your teeth will shift back towards their old positions. Wearing retainers is the only way to stop this and protect the investment you made in your smile. Even after your tooth positions are stable, the teeth will still move a bit over time and most people experience natural changes to their smile as they age. Retainers keep these changes to a minimum too. 

How Long Do I Have to Wear Retainers After Invisalign or Braces?

Now for the million dollar question: How long do you have to wear a retainer? For the first few months after braces or Invisalign, we have most patients wear their retainers full time while the bone and tissues rebuild to hold the teeth in place. Just like with Invisalign aligners, you’ll only take your retainers out to eat, drink anything aside from plain water, brush and floss your teeth, and wear a mouthguard when playing sports. 

After several months, your teeth will be more stable and the risk of relapse will be lower. At that point, you’ll only wear your retainers at night. While it can vary depending on your individual needs, this stage of wearing retainers every night usually lasts at least as long as you had braces or Invisalign.

Eventually, you’ll transition to wearing your retainers a few nights a week. Do you have to wear a retainer forever? Ideally, yes. While wearing a retainer is most crucial in the time immediately after your orthodontic treatment, wearing retainers a few nights a week for life will prevent teeth shifting, as well as natural age-related changes. In fact, one of the most common reasons our adult braces and Invisalign patients visit us for treatment is because they experienced a relapse after not wearing their retainer for several years. 

What if My Retainer Doesn’t Fit Anymore?

Even after just a few days of forgetting to wear your retainer, it can feel tight. After not wearing a retainer for a month or more, it will be uncomfortable. If you can put in your retainers without having to force them, continue wearing them. Any tenderness or aching will subside with regular use. 

If you find you need to force a tight retainer over your teeth, you shouldn’t wear it. Instead, give our office a call as soon as possible and we’ll make a replacement for you. Don’t put off getting a new retainer, because a retainer is designed to hold your teeth where they are. If you have significant shifting, that could mean needing another round of orthodontic treatment. 

How Long Do Retainers Last?

How long a retainer lasts depends on how well you care for it. A permanent retainer can last for decades as long as you keep it clean. If plaque builds up around it, it can lead to tooth decay and could need to be removed. 

Removable Hawley retainers and clear retainers don’t last as long as bonded retainers, however, they too can be used for years. To prolong your retainers’ life spans, keep them in their retainer case when you’re not wearing them, avoid exposing them to extreme heat (such as leaving them in a hot car or drinking hot coffee with them in) and handle them with care. If you notice any cracks or chips or the retainer isn’t fitting properly, it could be time for a replacement. 

What Retainer Instructions Should I Follow?

To keep your retainers in top-notch shape and ensure they’re able to hold your teeth in place, your Houston or Bellaire, TX orthodontist will give you retainer instructions. While your exact retainer instructions may vary slightly depending on your needs, the following will ensure your retention stage is a success:

  • The only way your retainer will work is if you use it! Follow Dr. Tabakman, Dr. Bloome, Dr. Wadler or Dr. Khan’s schedule for wearing your retainer. 
  • At Houston Orthodontic Specialists, patients come in for occasional visits during the first year of their retention period. Keep up with these appointments, so we can monitor your smile and make sure your retainer is working properly. Bring your retainers with you to these retainer checks.
  • If we place a permanent retainer after Invisalign or braces, be diligent about brushing and flossing your retainer and keep up with your regular dental visits. Similar to caring for braces, using an interproximal brush or floss threader can be helpful for getting underneath the wire. Removing plaque is key to preventing tooth decay. 
  • When you take out your retainers to eat, put them in their retainer case. If you put them on a napkin or tissue, there’s a good chance you’ll accidentally throw them away. 
  • Keep Hawley retainers and clear plastic retainers away from pets. They love to chew on them!
  • Remove your retainers before eating or drinking anything aside from plain water. If you have a clear retainer, this is especially important, because food and liquid can get stuck under the retainer, which can increase your risk of cavities and staining. 
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and mild, unscented dish soap or non-abrasive toothpaste to clean your retainers whenever you brush your teeth. You can also soak your retainers in a retainer cleaning solution once a week or so to give them a deeper clean. 
  • Don’t leave clear retainers in a hot car or leave them in your mouth when you drink a hot beverage like coffee or tea. And, always rinse them in lukewarm, not hot, water. Extreme heat can cause the plastic to warp and affect the fit of your retainer. 
  • In the case of a damaged or lost retainer, call Houston Orthodontic Specialists right away. You’ll want to have it replaced immediately so your teeth don’t shift. 

Join Our Retainer Club and Never Worry About a Lost Retainer

Our Retainer Club is the most affordable way to ensure you always have a retainer on hand. For a reasonable, one-time charge, which can be included in your 0% financing at the start of treatment or purchased any time after, you’ll be able to replace one upper or lower Essix retainer per quarter without having to pay a replacement fee. Give us a call or ask us at your next appointment for more details.


Now that you know how long you have to wear retainers and why they’re important, we hope you have all of the information you need to take care of your new smile. Not a patient yet? Let’s change that! Schedule a complimentary consultation with a Bellaire or Houston orthodontist today!

Can You Get Braces With Missing Teeth?

By Blog, Orthodontics
braces with missing teeth

Having missing teeth can make you feel extremely self-conscious about your smile. You may find that you keep your mouth closed in pictures or try to position yourself so others can’t see the gap when you’re talking to them. Aside from impacting your confidence, missing permanent teeth also affect the health of your gums, remaining teeth and jawbone. 

Whether you lost a tooth (or teeth) due to injury, decay or gum disease, you might be wondering about the best way to restore your smile. Can you get braces with missing teeth? What about Invisalign? Our Bellaire and Houston orthodontists have the answers!

Why Fixing Missing Teeth is Essential for Oral Health

Before we talk about getting Invisalign or braces with missing teeth, let’s go over why treating missing teeth is so important:

  • When a teenager or adult loses a permanent tooth, the teeth surrounding the gap have a tendency to shift to fill in the space. This can lead to crowding and misalignment. Since misaligned teeth are harder to brush and floss, it increases your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. 
  • When you chew, you stimulate the jawbone that supports the teeth, helping it to maintain the necessary density. When a tooth is no longer there, the bone isn’t stimulated and the body reabsorbs it. This bone loss compromises your oral health and changes your facial structure, causing the face to sink in or collapse, which makes you look older. 
  • Missing teeth also cause difficulty chewing, which impacts your nutrition and, ultimately, your overall health. The remaining teeth bear more of the brunt from biting and chewing, which results in excessive, uneven wear of the enamel. The imbalance puts undue pressure on the temporomandibular joints (TMJ), leading to jaw pain and TMJ dysfunction too.

Can I Get Braces With Missing Teeth?

Thankfully, yes, you can get braces with missing teeth. Whether you’re interested in braces with a missing front tooth, back tooth or even multiple teeth, the first step is visiting an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Tabakman, Dr. Muller, Dr. Wadler and Dr. Bloome. They have the expertise to evaluate your teeth, gums and bite and determine the best course of action. 

If you have existing crowding and your overall oral health is good, braces alone might be enough to fix a missing tooth. Braces will shift the rest of your teeth into place and close the gap.

If you have several missing teeth, orthodontic treatment could help close some of the spaces. This can potentially reduce the number of dental implants or bridges you need, helping you save on your tooth replacement costs. 

In other cases, however, your orthodontist may recommend that the missing tooth be replaced. If you need a dental implant or bridge, you can still get braces. The braces will create proper alignment and prevent the adjacent teeth from shifting into the space left by the missing tooth. When you do decide to replace the tooth, your dentist will then have enough room for a restoration. 

If you lost teeth and waited on getting treatment, then the surrounding teeth might have already shifted, creating misalignment. This can mean there isn’t enough room for your oral surgeon or dentist to place a dental implant. This is actually a common reason why oral surgeons and prosthodontists recommend braces for adults with missing teeth.

In this scenario, your Houston or Bellaire orthodontist will use braces to widen the space to make room for the implant. When you finish your braces treatment, you’ll then see your oral surgeon for the dental implant procedure. When the permanent crown is placed on the implant, it will look lifelike and natural and fit right in with your newly aligned bite. 

Can I Get Invisalign With Missing Teeth?

Not into the idea of braces? Are you wondering if you can get Invisalign with missing teeth? Yes, you can get Invisalign with missing teeth too. In fact, if something like chronic gum disease or tooth decay led to your tooth loss, Invisalign might be the better treatment option. Since the aligners are removable, you’ll be able to brush and floss as you normally would, allowing you to maintain excellent oral health throughout your smile journey. 

Getting Invisalign with missing teeth will involve the same considerations as getting braces. If you have moderate to severe crowding, our Bellaire and Houston Invisalign providers might be able to close the gap with clear aligners alone. This will make it appear as if you never had a missing tooth. Or, Invisalign could be used as a way to maintain or make space where the tooth is missing so that it can be replaced in the future. 

Can You Get Invisalign or Braces With a Dental Implant or Bridge?

If you already replaced your missing teeth with a dental bridge or implants, but still suffer from misalignment, is it too late for orthodontic treatment? No. While many times, getting braces or Invisalign before getting a dental implant or bridge is preferable since the implants themselves won’t move, we can still achieve excellent results after the fact. 

Dr. Tabakman, Dr. Bloome, Dr. Muller and Dr. Wadler are experts in the biomechanics of tooth movement and are experienced in adult orthodontics (about half of our patients are adults!). They can create a braces or Invisalign treatment plan that accounts for your bridge or dental implant, ensuring your bite will be stable and your smile will look stunning.

Learn More About Getting Braces With Missing Teeth in Houston or Bellaire, TX

Experience is key when it comes to getting Invisalign or braces with missing teeth, dental implants or a bridge. As a leading Houston orthodontic practice, our doctors have the knowledge and skill necessary to ensure orthodontic treatment will be safe and effective. They’ll take a number of factors into account, such as your overall oral health, your bone density and the alignment of your remaining teeth, in order to create a personalized treatment plan that will restore your smile. 


To get started, schedule a complimentary consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists today!

am i a candidate for invisalign

Am I a Candidate for Invisalign if I Grind My Teeth?

By Blog, Orthodontics

If you’re one of the millions of people who clench or grind their teeth, technically called bruxism, you might be wondering if you’re a candidate for Invisalign. After all, won’t teeth grinding wear down your Invisalign aligners? And can the aligners protect your teeth from the effects of bruxism like a night guard can? As one of the few Diamond Plus Invisalign Providers in the Houston area, we’ve helped thousands of patients perfect their smiles with clear aligners and we’re sharing everything you need to know about Invisalign and teeth grinding. 

Read More

Can You Get Canker Sores From Braces?

By Blog, Orthodontics

You kicked off your orthodontic treatment and a few days or weeks later, you realize you have canker sores. Well, the good news is, though sometimes painful, the sores aren’t usually serious. But you might be wondering if you can get canker sores from braces? And, if so, will they come back throughout your treatment? 

Read More
damon clear braces

7 Reasons our Bellaire & Houston Orthodontic Patients Love Damon™ Clear Braces

By Blog, Orthodontics
damon clear braces

7 Reasons our Bellaire & Houston Orthodontic Patients Love Damon™ Clear Braces

At Houston Orthodontic Specialists, we offer a variety of different types of braces, including Damon System self-ligating braces. While the Damon System metal braces are small, comfortable and effective, many of our adult and teen braces patients prefer Damon clear braces. The ceramic, self-ligating brackets have the same straightening power and benefits as their metal counterparts, but they’re incredibly clear. 

What are Damon Clear, Self-Ligating Braces?

Before we get into the benefits of Damon clear braces, let’s have a quick overview of exactly what they are. Damon System braces are self-ligating braces, meaning they don’t rely on ligatures (elastics or metal ties) to hold your archwires in place in the brackets. 

Instead, Damon System braces are tie-less and have a unique slide mechanism that secures the thin, shape-memory archwires. While typically the orthodontist would manually tighten your braces wires, with self-ligating braces, the wires are able to slide and adjust, letting the teeth move more freely and with less friction. The lightweight archwires also exert light force and help move the teeth efficiently. 

The Benefits of Damon Clear Braces

Here are some of the main reasons our Houston and Bellaire, TX braces patients love Damon clear braces:

  1. They’re nearly invisible.

Some traditional clear braces still have visible metal components. That’s not the case with Damon clear braces. The brackets are made from a durable ceramic material and they’re smaller and more streamlined than standard clear braces brackets. Damon clear braces are virtually invisible and blend in with your smile for a truly aesthetic option. They don’t rely on metal or elastic ties and the wires used with the Damon System are super thin and lightweight for a much more under-the-radar look. 

  1. Damon clear braces are stain resistant.

The material used to make Damon clear braces is durable and resists staining. That means you can drink coffee with your clear braces without worrying about the brackets becoming discolored and noticeable. Additionally, even with other types of stain-resistant, clear brackets, there are still elastics that can turn yellow, drawing attention to your braces. Damon clear braces don’t require elastics, so this isn’t an issue. 

  1. Oral hygiene is easier when compared to traditional braces.

With traditional braces, the elastics and ties trap bacteria, food and plaque and it’s hard to clean around them. Since Damon System self-ligating braces are tie-less, there’s one less braces part you’ll have to keep clean, making oral hygiene easier. 

  1. More comfortable.

The wires move more freely and with less friction with self-ligating braces. Plus, the shape-memory archwires are designed to exert light, gentle forces. This is why some patients experience less sensitivity and discomfort with Damon braces. Beyond that, the brackets themselves are smoother, so they’re less likely to irritate your lips, cheeks or tongue. 

  1. Self-ligating braces can save you time.

Because the teeth move for several weeks longer between appointments with self-ligating braces, and you’ll require less frequent adjustments, many patients have fewer office visits overall. The appointments you do have will be shorter as Dr. Tabakman, Dr. Bloome, Dr. Muller and Dr. Wadler won’t have to change out your elastics whenever you have a check-up.

  1. They move the teeth efficiently.

We talked about this in our post on whether or not Damon braces really move teeth faster. While Damon clear braces won’t exert so much force that your teeth just zip right into place, which would actually be dangerous, they do eliminate some mechanical inefficiencies and friction, allowing the teeth to take a more direct path to their final positions. This can mean treatment with self-ligating braces is slightly shorter. The light forces used also promote optimal oral health by preserving tooth roots and preventing gum recession. 

  1. Fantastic braces results!

Thanks to our expert orthodontists, our high-tech diagnostics and treatment planning, and the advanced brackets and wires used with Damon clear braces, you’ll get straight teeth, an aligned bite and a broader, more beautiful smile. Whether we’re using braces to fix your jawline and bite or to correct a minor smile concern, the end results will be tailored to your unique facial features to help you look your absolute best. 

How Much do Damon Clear Braces Cost?

While we’d love to give you an exact Damon clear braces cost, every patient is unique and a number of factors will influence the price, including how complex your case is. You can use our payment calculator for a general idea of what your monthly payments for braces will be at our practice. 

However, to receive a definitive Damon clear braces cost, you’ll want to come in for a complimentary consultation. Once a Bellaire or Houston orthodontist has the chance to examine you, take diagnostic records and develop a treatment plan, a team member can go over the fees for your treatment. 

In our efforts to make Damon clear braces affordable for our patients, we work with most major insurance companies. If your dental insurance covers orthodontic treatment, this can greatly reduce your out-of-pocket braces cost. We also offer a variety of payment plans and options, including those with no down payment, zero interest and low monthly payments, and we can work with your flex spending account.

Now that you know the reasons our Bellaire and Houston orthodontic patients love Damon clear braces, would you like to find out if these self-ligating braces are the best option for your smile needs? Schedule a complimentary consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists today! 

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. 

soft-food-for-braces-patients

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!