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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, your orthodontist 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 or Dr. Bloome’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!

Kid wearing dental braces

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 the doctors at Houston Orthodontic Specialists. 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. 

Our doctors 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. 

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Person experiencing canker sores while wearing dental braces

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? 

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damon clear braces

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

By Blog, Orthodontics
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 your orthodontist 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! 

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, our doctors 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 your orthodontist 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! 

patients of Houston Orthodontic Specialists back in Feb 2020

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, your orthodontist 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).


Do Damon Braces Move Teeth Faster?

By Orthodontics

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!

Family cooking pancakes in a kitchen

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 consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists today!


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 consultation at Houston Orthodontic Specialists today to learn more!