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Start Your Day Off with a (Healthy) Smile!

January 19th, 2022

If there’s one meal that can claim the title of “Sweetest Meal of the Day,” it’s almost certainly breakfast. Sugary cereals, syrup-covered waffles, oatmeal with honey, cinnamon toast (which is literally sugar poured on toast)—it’s hard to imagine another menu even coming close. But you’re trying to keep your diet as healthy as possible. What to do?

First, no need to deprive yourself of the occasional pastry or stack of pancakes. The real problem with breakfast isn’t so much sugar as it is added sugar.

  • Just a Spoonful of Sugar? What’s So Bad About That?

Nothing! Many healthy foods have natural sugars. Milk contains lactose sugar, and it also contains calcium and is enriched with vitamin D—both of which are essential for strong bones and teeth. Fruits get their sweetness from a sugar called fructose, and deliciously provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber to our diets.

Even processed sugar is surprisingly low in calories. In fact, a teaspoon of white sugar has only about 15 calories. But this teaspoon is also rich in nutrients for cavity-causing bacteria. The oral bacteria in plaque use sugars and carbohydrates from food particles as a fuel source to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and lead to cavities.

Choosing breakfast foods without additional sugars, then, is an easy way to reduce the number of empty calories in your diet while safeguarding the health of your teeth. We have a few suggestions.

  • Be Selective with Cereals

If the word “sugar” or “honey” or appears on the box, that’s a hint that your favorite cereal is heavy on the sugar. But there’s a more scientific way to tell just how much sugar is in that spoonful.

While the colorful packaging and playful mascots are eye-catching, check the black-and-white panel with nutritional facts found on every box. If one serving equals 27 grams, and the sugar in that serving equals 15 grams, you know you have a problem. And cereals marketed to children are especially “rich” in added sugar.

But luckily, you don’t need to give up your morning bowl. Many cold cereals are available that offer whole grains, protein, and fiber without a lot of added sugar. Spend some time in the cereal aisle comparing, or, to make life easier, there are many online sites which recommend the best (and worst) cereals in terms of sugar content.

  • Use Your Judgment with Juices

Fruits are packed with important nutrients. Not only do they provide essential vitamins and minerals, they’re a great source of water and fiber. If you drink 100% fruit juice, you are getting the benefit of most of the vitamins and minerals found in fruit. (You’re also getting less of the fruit’s natural fiber, and more of the fruit’s natural sugar, so consider fresh fruit as an option occasionally.)

But when fruit juice comes with “cocktail,” or “punch,” or “ade” attached to the end of it, there’s often something else attached—added sugar. For natural fruit flavor and the least amount of sugar, stay with 100% unsweetened fruit juice.

  • Search Out “Surprise” Sugars

Remember the childhood excitement of searching through your cereal box for the prize inside? Fun! What’s not so much fun? The surprises you might find when you search through the labels on your favorite breakfast items—because added sugars make their stealthy way into many of our morning favorites.

When you compare plain, Greek, and low-fat yogurts, for example, the low-fat options are often higher in added sugar. A container of low-fat yogurt can provide 19 grams of sugar—that’s a tablespoon and a half!

And while you’re at it, be sure to compare the sugar content in granola bars. Some are full of nuts and grains, and some are full of added sugar.

Going out for a breakfast smoothie? Those can contain 70 grams of sugar and more. Making your own at home might be a little more time-consuming, but if you use fresh fruit as your sweetener, you can make sure that what you’re not consuming is added sugar. If you’re on the go, check out all-fruit options at your favorite smoothie shop.

Dr. Anna Salas and our team aren’t asking you to eliminate sugar from your breakfast diet altogether. (Everyone loves a doughnut now and again.) But substituting some alternatives for your regular menu choices can reduce the amount of added sugars by tablespoons every meal. That’s another great reason to greet the morning with a smile!

Keeping It Clean—Better for Your Retainer, Better for Your Oral Health!

January 12th, 2022

Now that you’ve graduated from your braces or aligners, you might think you’re finished with orthodontic cleaning tips. Not quite yet! Your retainer needs love, too—not just because it can look or smell “less than appealing” without your help, but because it’s good for your dental health.

Removable Retainers

If you have a Hawley retainer or a clear retainer, cleaning it whenever you remove it is a great idea. Unappetizing white patches mean plaque or mineral deposits from your saliva have dried and hardened on your retainer’s surface. And if you notice an unpleasant taste or odor, it probably means that germs and bacteria have made themselves at home and are growing in and on your appliance.

You don’t want old plaque or new bacteria in your mouth! Here are some ways to keep your retainer clean and fresh:

  • After wearing it, you can clean your retainer with a toothbrush, but don’t brush too vigorously. You might scratch it. Use a soft or even extra-soft brush to clean out all the nooks and crannies, and then rinse.
  • Use cleaning products which have been recommended by Dr. Anna Salas if your retainer needs a deeper clean. Denture cleaners, retainer cleaners, and even toothpastes can be too abrasive or cause discoloration, so use the products made for your specific retainer.
  • Let your retainer dry before storing it in a dry place after cleaning. Shutting a damp retainer into a closed case provides bacteria with the damp, dark environment they thrive in. (PS—clean your case regularly, too!)
  • One of the benefits of a clear retainer is that it’s almost invisible. And you can help keep it that way by removing it whenever you eat or drink. Your retainer can become stained from colored foods or liquids.

Fixed Retainers

A permanent retainer is a small piece of wire that is custom-fit and bonded to the inside of selected teeth to keep them from shifting. Because food particles and plaque can accumulate around a fixed retainer, brushing after meals and at least twice a day is recommended. Bacteria and plaque cause bad breath, cavities, and tartar buildup, and removing tartar might require removing your retainer.

While a fixed retainer can be tricky to clean, there are techniques and products that make cleaning easier and more effective:

  • An orthodontic toothbrush with a smaller head might reach behind your teeth more comfortably.
  • Don’t forget to floss! Using a floss threader will help you get that wriggly floss behind the retainer and between your teeth.
  • Try a water flosser. These handy devices direct a stream of water right into hard-to-reach places for more thorough cleaning.

If you’re having trouble keeping your retainer clean, our Houston, TX orthodontic team can teach you all you need to know about tools and techniques to keep your retainer—and your teeth and gums—healthy. An attractive smile is a great thing. A healthy, attractive smile is even better!

Clearing Up Your Questions About Clear Braces

December 29th, 2021

First, let’s clarify what we mean about clear braces. We’re not talking about clear aligners, which can be a great option if you want treatment that is a) removable and b) almost invisible. But sometimes only traditional brackets-and-wires braces will do when it comes to your orthodontic treatment. Does this mean you can’t opt for a more subtle, less visible treatment plan?

No! Orthodontic advances in materials and design mean that you have more options than ever before when it comes to selecting brackets and wires. If you prefer more inconspicuous braces for professional or personal reasons, some of the current options in clear braces might be just the (inconspicuous) look for you.

“Clear braces” can refer to several styles of brackets and wires:

  • Brackets themselves can be crafted in porcelain, ceramic, or plastic. High quality materials make them strong and stain-resistant.
  • Brackets can be transparent or can be carefully tinted to blend in with your enamel.
  • Some of these brackets require the usual ligatures (those tiny rubber bands holding the wire to the brackets), so it’s important to choose a band color to coordinate for a monochromatic look.
  • Some of these brackets are self-ligating, designed to hold the archwire with built-in clips and needing no ligatures at all.
  • Finally, there are coated and even non-metallic archwires that are designed to blend in with your enamel color and work without calling attention to themselves. Depending on your individual bite and tooth alignment, these wires might be an option.

Some of the common questions about clear braces include:

  • Can everyone use clear braces?

While clear braces generally function just as traditional metal braces do, there are some cases where they might not be ideal depending on the amount and type of alignment and bite correction you need. Dr. Anna Salas will let you know the best options to treat your orthodontic problems as effectively as possible.

  • Are they as strong as typical metal braces?

Clear brackets are quite strong, but they’re not as durable as metal brackets. If you choose porcelain, ceramic, or plastic brackets, we’ll give you all the information you need for their care.

  • Do clear braces take longer to work?

They might take a bit more time to bring your teeth into alignment, or they could work just as quickly as traditional braces. They often take less time than aligners. Today’s orthodontic treatments work more efficiently and therefore more quickly than ever before, so if there are any differences in wear-time, they probably won’t be significant.

Your individual orthodontic needs will dictate how long any treatment plan will take, and if different treatment options will add or save you time. Before you choose any orthodontic plan, we’ll go over all your options and give you an estimate for treatment time for each of them.

  • Any notable differences from metal brackets?

Clear brackets can be larger than metal versions. Because they can also be somewhat abrasive, they might be suggested only for your upper teeth. We’ll let you know if these brackets are a good fit for you.

  • Do clear braces stain?

Today’s clear brackets aren’t prone to staining—that would certainly defeat the purpose of choosing them! We’ll give you instructions on keeping them as clean and clear as possible. Do remember, if you use ligatures, that these little bands can stain if your diet is big on coffee, tea, cola, blueberries, or any other colorful food.

  • Are clear braces more expensive?

Cost of treatment is based on several factors, including the type of braces you select. We’ll be happy to compare the costs of your various treatment options.

If you want the benefits of traditional braces, but don’t necessarily want the visibility of regular metal brackets, consider the many transparent and tinted options available. Want more clarity? Talk to a member of our Houston, TX orthodontic team! You might discover that clear braces are the clear choice to create your healthy, beautiful smile.

Orthodontics and Implants

December 22nd, 2021

Maybe you’ve wanted braces since childhood. Maybe you had them, but your teeth have shifted over time. Maybe you’re tired of living with an uncomfortable bite. Good news! If you’re not happy with your adult smile, that doesn’t mean you’ve missed the opportunity to have the healthy, attractive smile you’ve always dreamed of.

While there are many benefits to having orthodontic work done as a child, there’s a lot to be said for orthodontic treatment as an adult. After all, you know exactly what you want. You’re dedicated to following your treatment plan. You have plenty of discreet orthodontic options available now, from clear aligners to lingual braces, to make your treatment as inconspicuous as possible.

But, on occasion, adult treatment does come with some adult baggage. Worried about your crowns, fillings, or veneers? If these restorations are part of your dental history, we can generally work with them. Dental implants? Those might fall into a slightly different category.

Implants are a great way to restore your smile because they function like your natural teeth. They are designed to look just like natural teeth, and they allow you to speak, chew, and bite with confidence. Implants even stimulate the jawbone when we chew just as natural teeth do, helping to prevent bone loss in the jaw as we age.

But there is one important difference between implants and natural teeth: implants are firmly anchored in the jaw, while your natural teeth can change position.

Why is this a concern? Because tooth movement is one of the basics of orthodontic treatment. Unlike implants, our teeth aren’t firmly anchored in our jaws. They are held in their sockets by a ligament which cushions them and connects the tooth to the bone.

When braces or aligners gently apply consistent pressure to the teeth, the ligaments and eventually the bones holding the teeth reshape themselves in response to this pressure, and then become stable again during the retainer phase of treatment.

Implants, on the other hand, are crowns attached to a metal cylinder or screw that is surgically implanted into the jawbone. After several months, osseointegration takes place—which is a technical way of saying that the metal base fuses with the bone. This means that there won’t be any movement taking place—good when you’re chewing, but not helpful for realignment!

If you haven’t yet replaced a missing tooth with an implant, it’s often best to wait before starting orthodontic work. We can design treatment around a missing tooth, leaving room to accommodate an implant in just the right spot when your orthodontic treatment is finished.

If you have an implant already, the placement of your implant will help determine your treatment:

  • If your implant is already perfectly placed for your future alignment, braces or aligners can be designed to work with and around your implant.
  • If the placement is almost ideal, you might find a very small degree of misalignment acceptable, and we can plan your treatment around your existing implant.
  • If it’s not possible to work with your implant where it’s presently located, it is possible to remove an implant. You would then have the implant procedure redone after your orthodontic work is complete.

Talk to Dr. Anna Salas about your treatment possibilities. By analyzing your orthodontic goals and working with your dental history, we can let you know exactly what can be done for your teeth and bite—even if you have an implant.

True, there are many benefits to having orthodontic work done in your childhood, but there’s a lot to be said for orthodontic treatment as an adult. And the greatest benefit of all? You’ll finally have the healthy, self-confident smile you’ve always dreamed of. Talk to our Houston, TX team about making that smile a reality.