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Heading Back to School? Save Some Room in Your Backpack!

August 3rd, 2022

If you’re heading back to classes in the next few weeks, you’re probably getting your gear together now. So let’s talk about some of the items you can pack to make orthodontic care easier during school hours.

  • Dental-Healthy Food

Watching what foods you eat is especially important now. If you’re carrying your lunch or snacks in your pack, you want to be sure that they’re approved for braces and aligners.

If you wear braces, avoid foods which are sticky, chewy, or crunchy. They can stick to your teeth (making it easier for cavities to develop) or cause damage to your brackets and wires (making repairs necessary). Your orthodontist will give you a list of braces-friendly foods.

If you have clear aligners, even though you’ll remove them to eat, that sticky rule still applies. You don’t want food trapped in your aligners if you can’t brush right after eating, because that food is also food for the oral bacteria which cause cavities.

Bringing a water bottle with you is a great idea if it’s hard to brush after eating. Rinsing with water is a good way to get rid of loose food particles, and staying hydrated helps maintain normal saliva production—which also helps wash away food debris.

  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Floss

It’s best to clean your teeth after every snack and meal if at all possible. A travel-sized brush, toothpaste, and dental floss or picks designed for braces will help you get rid of any unwanted dental leftovers. And a small mirror can help you discover any lingering food particles.

It’s especially important now to practice careful hygiene, so be sure to wash your hands before and after cleaning your teeth or appliances.

  • Your Aligner or Retainer Case

Whenever you take off your retainer or aligners to eat, you should always have your case handy. Cases make sure your appliances stay off germy desk and table surfaces—or worse, floors—and protect them from breakage. A case is also a good way to make sure your retainer doesn’t accidentally end up in a trash bin after lunch.

Again, before and after you handle your braces, aligners, or retainer, be sure to wash your hands carefully.

  • Dental Wax & Extra Bands

Sometimes a wire comes loose or a bracket irritates the inside of your cheeks or mouth. In this case, dental wax is a great way to protect yourself from irritation and injury. And if a band is lost or breaks, it’s always good to have a spare (or two) handy. As always, handwashing rules apply!

  • Your Mouth Guard

If your afterschool activities involve contact sports, a mouthguard is always a good idea, and especially when you wear braces. Dr. Diaz can create a custom guard which will protect your teeth, your delicate mouth tissue, and your braces from many impact injuries.

  • Your Orthodontist’s Phone Number

One important item that takes up almost no space in your backpack, locker, or phone is the phone number for our Orlando, FL office. If your braces are damaged, or if your aligner or retainer is lost or broken, we will let you know what to do until you can safely visit the office in person.

Talk to our team about how to care for your braces or aligners while you’re at school, and talk to your school about how you can manage your dental care safely during school hours.

Interproximal Cavities: The Inside Story

July 27th, 2022

Time to brush! So, you make sure you gently brush the plaque off the outside surfaces of your teeth. You want to present a gleaming smile to the world, after all. And you make sure to brush the inside surfaces as well, because who wants to feel a fuzzy patch of plaque every time their tongue hits their teeth? And, naturally, you remember to clean the tops of your molars, because those crevices make them more cavity-prone than any other surface.

Done? Not quite!

You might be surprised to learn that no matter how well you’ve brushed all the visible surfaces of your teeth, you’ve left quite a bit of enamel untouched—the adjoining, or touching, surfaces of the teeth that sit next to each other.

You’ve probably noticed that your bristles can’t . . . quite . . . reach all the enamel between your teeth (especially between your molars!) when you’re brushing. This means that food particles and plaque have an easier time sticking around. And when the bacteria in plaque are left undisturbed, especially with a banquet of food particles available, they produce acids which gradually eat away at the enamel covering our teeth, creating a cavity.

Here’s where we work in some specific dental vocabulary. “Interproximal” means between the adjoining, or touching, surfaces of the teeth. And an interproximal cavity is a cavity that develops on one of those side surfaces of your teeth.

  • Preventing Interproximal Cavities

Fortunately, prevention is about as basic as it can be—brushing and flossing effectively. Dentists recommend brushing for two minutes at least twice a day and flossing once each day. While most of us are good about keeping up with brushing, sometimes that daily flossing is more a goal than a reality.

But it’s flossing which really does the trick when it comes to interproximal cleaning. If you floss correctly, food particles and plaque are removed from between the teeth and around the gum line—places where bristles just can’t reach.

When you wear braces, though, flossing isn’t quite so basic. Getting that floss just where it needs to be in between brackets and wires and in between teeth can be a challenge!

The good news is there are many products designed just to make flossing easier while you’re in orthodontic treatment:

  • Floss threaders are flexible hoops that help you thread floss behind your wires easily.
  • Precut floss strands use a stiff tip at one end for threading floss through wires.
  • Interproximal brushes are tiny, cone-shaped brushes which can fit between your teeth and braces for precise cleaning.
  • Water flossers eliminate floss altogether, using a pulsing stream of water to clean between and around teeth and braces.

During your next visit to our Orlando, FL office, Dr. Diaz can give you tips on how to use any of these tools effectively for cleaner teeth and cleaner braces.

Preventing cavities on the exterior surfaces of your teeth is probably pretty much automatic by now, but don’t forget the potential for stealth decay! If we find signs of erosion on the sides of your teeth, or if your hygienist lets you know that you’ve got a lot of interproximal plaque buildup, work with your dental team to make sure “interproximal cavity” doesn’t become a working part of your dental vocabulary.

Great Gifts for Grandparents

July 20th, 2022

Our grandmothers and grandfathers, our moms and dads—we’ve known them our whole lives. So, why are they so hard to shop for?

If your older family members have all the sweaters, socks, and scents they need, consider a gift that can make life a bit easier and perhaps a lot healthier—an electric toothbrush!

  • Easy Efficiency

The most important reason to choose an electric toothbrush is its effectiveness. Several studies have shown that regular use of an electric toothbrush leads to a marked reduction in plaque, that bacteria-filled film which sticks to the teeth and leads to cavities and gingivitis. And it’s really no surprise that an electric brush can out-perform a manual brush.

Using a manual brush is not just a matter of applying toothpaste and scrubbing. Proper technique means short brush strokes at a 45-degree angle for the outer and inner surfaces of the tooth, thoroughly cleaning the uneven chewing surfaces of the molars, and brushing the inside of the front teeth with gentle vertical strokes. Meticulous cleaning of all these surfaces can be difficult, especially for people with dexterity issues.

Electric toothbrushes offer several options, from oscillating/rotating brushes to oscillating/rotating/pulsating models to brushes using sonic vibration technology. What they all have in common is the ability to remove plaque far more effectively than we can on our own, because they provide the equivalent of thousands and even tens of thousands of brushstrokes per minute, as opposed to the hundreds we can achieve by hand.

  • Comfortable Control

An electric toothbrush can be not only more efficient, but also more comfortable for older brushers. For those with arthritis, limited mobility, injuries, or other health conditions, the larger handles can be easier to control and much more grip-friendly. And, with the work being done by the brush head, users avoid repetitive hand and wrist motion.

Also, the pressure applied to teeth and gums with an electric brush is designed to clean thoroughly while protecting the mouth. Heavy-handed manual brushing can irritate delicate gum tissue and even damage enamel over time. With an electric brush, users only need to guide it along teeth and gums as it supplies all the power needed. There are even pressure sensors available to warn users that their brushing is too vigorous.

  • Apps, Anyone?

If your grandfather likes to keep things old school, a basic model with a convenient two-minute timer and several cleaning modes will offer all the bells and whistles he needs. But if your nana has more Instagram followers than you do, consider a more tech-savvy option.

Several of today’s electric brushes come with features designed to make brushing even more effective. They can let her know if she’s brushing long enough, alert her if she’s brushing too hard, and remind her that it’s time to replace the brush head. Some models link to handy apps that will map out just where she’s brushed, in case there are a few spots that get overlooked. Or choose a model which comes with a travel case that can recharge while she’s busy seeing the world.

Okay, all that being said, we’ll admit it—a toothbrush might not be the most glamorous gift your grandparent unwraps on that special day. But helping a favorite family member brush more effectively and comfortably while improving dental health? That’s a gift that keeps on giving!

Toothbrush Science

July 13th, 2022

Let’s talk science! From the vastness of the cosmos to sub-atomic particles, science helps us understand the world around us and how it works. So, let’s take some familiar scientific fields of study and apply them to your toothbrush.

My toothbrush?

Yes, indeed! When it comes to your oral health, your toothbrush is the first line of defense, so understanding how and why it works so well might help us use this handy tool even more effectively.

Biology—the study of living organisms

Unfortunately for your toothbrush, the living organisms we’re talking about here are the bacteria which cause tooth decay and those which can lead to illness. How do these problems arise, and how do we prevent them?

Fight Plaque

Plaque is the sticky film that builds up on teeth, and millions of oral bacteria help make up this biofilm. These bacteria convert sugars and other carbohydrates in the foods we eat into acids. And these acids erode our tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. (More on this when we get to Chemistry.) The best ways to get rid of plaque?

  • Brush often. The recommended minimum is two minutes of brushing twice a day, but when you’re having orthodontic work done, it’s even more important to banish the plaque that can stick to your braces or inside aligners. Ask us what brushing schedule is best for you.
  • Try an electric toothbrush. For some people with braces, cleaning the teeth is easier and more thorough with an electric brush.
  • Replace your brush regularly. Brushes become worn and frayed after three or four months, and you won’t be brushing as effectively.

Stop Germs from Spreading

  • Don’t share. Sharing toothbrushes can lead to an increased risk of colds and infections.
  • Rinse thoroughly after brushing, making sure you remove any toothpaste or debris left after you brush.
  • Store the brush upright and let it air-dry. Covering the brush or keeping it in a closed container can promote the growth of bacteria more easily.
  • Keep different brushes separate when they’re drying to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Replace your brush regularly!

Chemistry—the study of what makes up substances, their properties, and how they interact

When it comes to improving your brushing chemistry, the best thing you can do for your toothbrush is to put a dab of fluoride toothpaste on it! Why fluoride? Let’s look at the chemistry of tooth enamel.

Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—even stronger than bone. But it is not indestructible, and acidic substances can dissolve the mineral bonds which give our enamel its strength, whether they come from the bacteria in plaque or are found in our favorite foods and drinks (sodas, coffee, tomatoes, and citrus are among the tasty, but acidic, culprits).

The enamel in our teeth contains calcium and phosphate ions, minerals which help make it the strongest substance in our bodies. But when the level of acidity in our mouths becomes too high, these minerals begin to dissolve. Eventually, teeth become pitted, bacteria can penetrate more deeply, and decay is the result.

So what can we do? While our saliva helps neutralize acidity naturally, and we can cut back on acidic foods in our diets, using fluoride toothpaste actually helps restore the strength of our enamel in a process known as “remineralization.”

Fluoride works on the surface of enamel to both attract and anchor calcium ions, reducing mineral loss and strengthening the weakened enamel. Fluoride also interacts with the calcium and phosphate compound to create a new compound that is even stronger and more acid-resistant.

When you brush with fluoride toothpaste, you help replace and restore the mineral composition of your enamel—and there’s evidence that fluoride might even interfere with oral bacteria’s ability to produce acid. Now that’s good chemistry!

Physics—the study of matter and energy and their interactions

The matter here is your tooth enamel, and the energy is the force you use when brushing. And this is one time the force should not be with you.

  • Over-vigorous brushing can not only damage your brackets, but can also irritate delicate gum tissue and wear down enamel. A “sawing” back-and-forth motion is both hard on your enamel and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. We’ll be happy to show you the safest and most effective way to brush with braces. Just remember, “Massage, don’t scrub.”
  • A soft toothbrush is almost always your best option when you use a manual brush, but if you’re still a heavy-handed brusher, or have sensitive teeth and gums, consider an electric model. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any heavy pressure from the brusher. Some models will even let you know when you are brushing too hard.

Brushing harder is not brushing better, and your teeth, gums, and braces will be heathier with careful brushing habits. If you need tips on brushing with braces, contact our Orlando, FL office and ask!

There’s a lot of science in the simple act of brushing, but we don’t need to spend hours studying to get a passing grade in dental health. The things you do normally—brushing at least two minutes twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste, and applying proper brushing technique—will help create a smile which will earn you top marks from Dr. Diaz for a lifetime!

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Orlando, FL 32837
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