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Why Adults Are Choosing Invisalign®

December 11th, 2018

These days, it’s become more common to see adults at our office getting their teeth straightened with Invisalign clear aligners . . . that is, if you can see them! Whether they are seeking to overcome the stigma that “braces are just for kids,” or simply want straighter teeth without a mouth full of metal, Invisalign is an effective and easy solution.

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, from 1994 to 2010 the number of adults 18 and older who request braces increased by 58 percent: from 680,000 to 1.1 million a year. Many adults enjoy how discreet the aligners are and that the user doesn’t need to avoid any foods or make dietary changes the way you would with traditional braces. Also, each treatment is unique to the patient.

With an Invisalign treatment, you can expect to enjoy the following benefits over traditional braces:

  • The total treatment time is more precise with Invisalign because your treatment is modeled by a computer. Traditional braces depend more on an estimate and aren’t as exact.
  • You’ll make fewer trips to our Houston, TX office, since you’re able to change your trays on your own every few weeks or whatever is prescribed.
  • Without brackets to place over your teeth, there’s less risk to the health of your tooth enamel.
  • Invisalign aligners are clear and practically invisible, so most people won’t even know you’re wearing them!

If you’re interested in Invisalign as a treatment option, please let Dr. Anna Salas know. We’d be happy to help you on your journey to a straighter, healthier smile!

Braces-Friendly Recipe: Lunch

December 4th, 2018

Getting braces comes with a lot of rules. No sticky candies, watch out for popcorn, and steer clear of chips. These rules leave many braces-wearers wondering what they can still eat without hurting their teeth or their expensive orthodontic appliances. Fortunately, constructing a braces-friendly lunch is straightforward once you know which foods to avoid.

Foods to Avoid When Wearing Braces

There are a few food categories to avoid when you have braces. Sticky foods also stick to the metal in your braces, and can potentially break wires or individual braces. For example: bubblegum, candy bars, caramel, licorice, fruit roll-ups, and Starbursts should be avoided. Many of these foods also contain high levels of sugar, which can cause plaque build-up if not brushed away properly.

Also, be wary of hard foods that can harm your orthodontic appliances. Avoid eating hard taco shells, chips, Rice Crispy treats, hard candy, beef jerky, and popcorn. Some healthy foods, such as carrots, apples, corn on the cob, and nuts, are hard on braces. To eat these foods safely, cut them into smaller pieces before eating.

Remember that certain habits may be harmful to your braces. For example, crunching on ice cubes may be a reflexive response when you’re enjoying a cold beverage, but this can significantly harm your braces and extend treatment time. To stay on the safe side, Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics recommend you drink beverages without ice or add crushed ice whenever possible.

Lunch Recipe

Even with braces, it’s easy to enjoy a healthy, nutritious lunch. For example, make a panini on whole wheat bread with slices of turkey deli meat, a piece of Swiss cheese, and tomato slices. Spread 1 tbsp. of mustard or mayonnaise on the bread before toasting the sandwich in a panini grill. Serve the panini with ½ c. low-fat cottage cheese and a sliced pear or apple for a balanced meal. Then grab a pudding cup or some JELLO for dessert. Wash it all down with water containing a lemon wedge or all-natural fruit juice. Make sure to brush your teeth or rinse with mouthwash after lunch to wash away sugars and food residue that can get trapped in braces and cause decay.

If you have any questions about what you can and can’t eat with braces during your treatment at West U Orthodontics, be sure to ask our team during your next appointment at our Houston, TX office!

No Wooden Teeth, Please! Why Oral Health is So Important

November 27th, 2018

Your teeth are precious. Once your permanent teeth come in, they need to last you a lifetime. Extensive tooth decay can lead to dental caries and the need for fillings, crowns, bridges, and dentures.

While these fixes can go a long way toward maintaining your quality of life, they cannot compare to your natural teeth. Getting braces is no excuse to let up on your thorough oral health routine: You need to take good care of your teeth before, during, and after braces to benefit completely from the gains you get from newly straightened teeth.

Why You Should Maintain Good Oral Health for Life

Begin a complete oral health regimen as early as possible in life, and maintain this routine throughout your life. Keeping your (or your child’s baby) teeth clean establishes a routine. It preserves healthy baby teeth whose function is to save space for the permanent teeth when they are ready to come in. Care of your permanent teeth helps preserve the enamel and prevent decay.

Take Special Care with Braces

It is important to pay attention to oral health when you have braces. If you do not take special care of your teeth during the months or years that you have braces, you risk irreversible damage to your teeth. Care is more difficult with braces because food can easily get stuck. In addition to brushing twice daily and flossing each day, Dr. Anna Salas and our staff suggest avoiding sticky foods.

Is Invisalign® Right For You?

November 20th, 2018

When patients ask Dr. Anna Salas about who benefits from Invisalign clear aligners, the simple answer is this: almost everyone. Unlike conventional braces, they are removable, which makes eating and cleaning your teeth much easier.

They are molded to fit each patient’s mouth and are practically invisible. Because aligners apply less force in straightening teeth than metal braces, the risk of harm to your teeth is reduced.

Benefits to adults

Traditional braces are associated with children and teenagers. Many adults want to have their teeth straightened but hesitate to wear metal braces. They also worry about having to change their diet and not be able to eat the foods they normally enjoy.

If you are an adult who’s considering braces, our team at West U Orthodontics will tell you Invisalign aligners is a great option for discreet teeth straightening. Your teeth will be straightened with virtually invisible braces.

The aligners are easily removable when you eat, so you can enjoy any food you normally would consume. You simply clean your teeth normally after eating and you won’t have to worry about getting food stuck in your braces.

If there is a special occasion during which you do not want to have any braces in your mouth at all, you can remove the aligners for up to four hours without causing any damage.

Benefits to teenagers

Dr. Anna Salas and our team know that teenagers are often involved in sports and other after-school activities, and generally lead pretty busy lives. If your teen plays a musical instrument, you may be concerned that having metal in his or her mouth will interfere with ability to play. Invisalign aligners avoid the damage that can happen with traditional metal braces.

For sports that require players to wear mouthguards, the expense of specially constructed mouthguards to fit over braces is also eliminated. The aligners can be removed during sports activities and teens can easily wear a mouthguard. Teenagers who play musical instruments simply remove the aligners while practicing or playing in the band or orchestra.

Teenagers routinely have trouble flossing teeth between the wires and brackets of traditional braces, but Invisalign allows for easy dental cleaning. Since Invisalign aligners are removable, brushing and flossing are simpler and more likely to be performed.

For more information about Invisalign or Invisalign Teen® treatment, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office!

Elastics and Braces

November 13th, 2018

If you’ve visited West U Orthodontics, then there’s a good chance you’re looking to perfect your smile by straightening your teeth with braces. At some point during your treatment, you may need to use elastics, otherwise known as rubber bands, for a certain period. These are used to apply additional pressure that will move your teeth in the right direction.

Placement of the elastics is specific to each patient’s teeth. These small rubber bands stretch over the tiny loops on both the top and bottom brackets. At first, Dr. Anna Salas may recommend you wear the elastics both day and night for an extended time.

You may be told to switch only to nighttime wear once the teeth are set in the correct position. By consistently wearing the elastics, you can shorten the overall time your braces will have to be on.

The elastics are made from medical-grade latex. If you have an allergy to latex, make sure to let Dr. Anna Salas know, so you can be given an alternate material. We will show you how to take elastics on and off when they’re given to you at your appointment.

You should remove them when you eat so they don’t become overstretched or break. It’s important not to overstretch the bands, and always to replace them if they break. Eventually it will become a familiar habit to carry the bands around with you for times when this might happen.

The Do’s and the Don’ts

  • DO … always wash your hands before removing or replacing the rubber bands.
  • DO … call us if you run out of elastics.
  • DO … get in the habit of carrying around extra rubber bands as replacements.
  • DON’T … double up on elastics because this can exert too much pressure on your teeth and could actually harm the roots.
  • DON’T … overstretch the rubber bands or they will lose strength and become ineffective.

If you were recently given elastics as well as your braces, feel free to ask any questions during your appointment, or call our Houston, TX office any time. Using elastics correctly is one more step in your journey to a perfect smile!

Orthodontic Treatments

November 6th, 2018

It’s not unusual for a patient to be unaware of the range of services that orthodontists can provide for their patients. Knowing which services Dr. Anna Salas and our team perform can help you better understand your options and why we might select a particular method of treatment.

Both orthodontists and dentists care about good oral health, but they approach treatment in differing ways. You know that dentists clean teeth and treat gum disease, tooth decay, toothaches, and other oral health problems.

But what does your orthodontist do besides help straighten teeth with the help of braces? Orthodontists are commonly known to help fix or realign crooked teeth. Many of the patients at West U Orthodontics come in for appointments that relate to their braces.

Dr. Anna Salas and our team recommend that children be seen around the age of seven to evaluate their potential orthodontic needs. Common problems may include overcrowding of teeth, large gaps or spaces, and overbites or underbites, among other things.

In order to address these common problems, we offer several methods of treatment besides standard braces and retainers:

  • Space maintainers can be used to fill the spaces left by missing baby teeth so other teeth don’t shift and occupy the adult tooth’s location.
  • Jaw repositioning appliances, sometimes known as splints, are used to reposition the upper and lower jaw bones correctly.
  • Lip and cheek bumpers can also be used to avoid having to pull teeth. These bumpers are placed in the mouth so the patient’s lips or cheeks don’t put pressure on specific teeth.
  • A more common appliance that orthodontists use is expanders. If your mouth is crowded, expanders will be placed on the curve of the upper and/or lower jaw(s) in order to make room for teeth to be properly aligned.
  • As a last resort, an orthodontist may turn to headgear. This is normally provided to slow down the growth of the jaw. It must be worn a number of hours each day.

When you visit our Houston, TX office, we will go over these options with you and pick the best course of treatment, depending on the current state of your oral health.

No matter which oral appliances you end up with, Dr. Anna Salas and our team will go over all the available options with you to give you a beautiful smile. If you have questions regarding your treatment method, don’t hesitate to call our office and we can provide you with some insight.

Understanding the different options your orthodontist can provide should make matters less confusing if you should need to select a method of treatment.

The Intriguing History of Halloween

October 30th, 2018

Halloween is fast approaching, and Dr. Anna Salas wanted to be sure to wish our patients a happy day, no matter how you might celebrate this holiday. The Halloween that is familiar to most people today bears little resemblance to the original Halloween; back in the "old days" it wasn't even called Halloween!

Festival of the Dead

Halloween started out as a Celtic festival of the dead that honored departed loved ones and signified a change in the cycle of the seasons. The Celtic people viewed Halloween, then called "Samhain," as a very special day – almost like our New Years day in fact, as their new calendar year began on November 1st. Samhain was the last day of autumn, so it was the time to harvest the last of the season's crops, store food away for winter, and situate livestock comfortably for the upcoming cold weather. The Celts believed that during this day, the last day of winter, the veil between this world and the spirit world is the thinnest, and that the living could communicate with departed loved ones most effectively on Samhain due to this.

Modern Halloween

Halloween as we know it today started because Christian missionaries were working to convert the Celtic people to Christianity. The Celts believed in religious concepts that were not supported by the Christian church, and these practices, which stemmed from Druidism, were perceived by the Christian church as being "devil worship" and dangerous.

When Pope Gregory the First instructed his missionaries to work at converting the Pagan people, he told them to try to incorporate some of the Pagan practices into Christian practices in a limited way. This meant that November 1st became "All Saints Day," which allowed Pagan people to still celebrate a beloved holiday without violating Christian beliefs.

Today, Halloween has evolved into a day devoted purely to fun, candy, and kids. What a change from its origins! We encourage all of our patients to have fun during the holiday, but be safe with the treats. Consider giving apples or fruit roll-ups to the kids instead of candy that is potentially damaging to the teeth and gums.

Remind kids to limit their candy and brush after eating it! Sweets can cause major tooth decay and aggrivate gum disease, so to avoid extra visits to our Houston, TX office, make your Halloween a safe one!

What are the benefits of early orthodontic treatment?

October 23rd, 2018

Orthodontic treatment should begin earlier than most parents are apt to assume. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, orthodontic treatment should start at around seven years of age.

Dr. Anna Salas can evaluate your child’s existing and incoming teeth early on to determine whether treatment might be necessary or not.

What is early orthodontic treatment?

Early orthodontic treatment usually begins when a child is eight or nine years old. In stage one, bite problems such as underbites and the jaw’s growth pattern are corrected. It can also help to make room in the mouth for the permanent teeth to take their proper places as they come in, which reduces the chance that the patient will require extractions later, due to overcrowding.

Does your child need early orthodontic treatment?

If you notice any of the following characteristics in your son or daughter, you may want to have a chat with Dr. Anna Salas.

  • Early loss of baby teeth (before age five)
  • Late loss of baby teeth (after age five or six)
  • Your child’s teeth do not meet properly or at all
  • Your child is a mouth breather
  • Front teeth are crowded (you probably wouldn’t see this until your child is about seven or eight)
  • Protruding teeth, typically in the front
  • Biting or chewing difficulties
  • A speech impediment
  • Your child’s jaw shifts when he or she opens or closes the mouth
  • Your child is older than five years and still sucks a thumb

 

What are the benefits of seeking orthodontic treatment early?

There are many benefits to early orthodontic treatment. One of the biggest is that, because a child’s jaw and bones are soft and pliable, corrective procedures such as braces can work much faster than they do for adults.

Treatment at our Houston, TX office can enable your child to avoid lengthy procedures, extraction, or surgery in adulthood. Early orthodontic care will give your son or daughter a healthy, stable smile.

Safety of Dental X-Ray Radiation

October 16th, 2018

We all want to live our healthiest lives. We know that part of keeping ourselves healthy is regular visits to our Houston, TX office for checkups and necessary dental work. And that dental work might require an X-ray. Should the amount of radiation in an X-ray concern us?

First, it is helpful to know that the radiation you are exposed to from a dental X-ray is very small. A set of most bitewing X-rays, for example, produces an amount of exposure about equal to the amount of background radiation we get from our normal surroundings in a typical day. We also take care to minimize your exposure even further by using specially designed equipment and protective shielding, and taking only necessary X-rays. If your child is very young, if you are pregnant, or if you have other health concerns, talk to us about the advisability of X-rays and whether they are essential to treatment.

Second, much of our careful general examination will be done visually. Dr. Anna Salas can check for cavities and other problems and assess tooth and gum health. But sometimes, there are conditions which can’t be detected without an X-ray.

  • Decay that isn’t visible in an oral exam—if a small cavity develops between teeth, or is hidden underneath a filling, an X-ray will catch it before more damage can take place.
  • Infection—An X-ray will reveal infections such as abscesses that can damage both bone and tooth, and gum disease that has harmed bone and connective tissue.
  • Orthodontic and periodontal issues—We might need an X-ray to determine the spacing and development of your child’s incoming teeth and maturing jaw structure, to properly create braces for adults or children, or to place an implant within the jawbone.
  • If you are a new patient, it is helpful to have complete X-rays taken as a baseline of your current dental health and previous dental work. This baseline allows us to track tooth and jaw development, if necessary, and to evaluate any future changes that might be a concern. (If you have had X-rays taken in another office, we can help you have them transferred so we have a background of your dental history.)

Even though the radiation from a dental X-ray is minimal, be assured that we will never request any unnecessary procedure. When we recommend an X-ray, we do so to make sure there is no decay or infection threatening the health of your gums and teeth, and that we have the essential knowledge we need to treat any dental, periodontal, or orthodontic condition. Because we all want to live our healthiest lives—and part of that healthy life is both active and proactive dental care.

Ask Us About Invisalign Teen® Treatment!

October 9th, 2018

We know that being a teen is hard, and we know that adding braces to the mix can often elicit a less-than-enthusiastic response. Luckily, teens can now have straighter teeth without the hassle, discomfort, and embarrassment of metal braces!

Dr. Anna Salas proudly offer Invisalign Teen clear aligners to our adolescent patients.

One of the main benefits of Invisalign Teen aligners is that they are virtually invisible. They are also removable, which means teen patients are free to eat anything they choose. The aligners are also easily replaceable, should they ever get lost! The best part? They make it easy to keep up with a healthy brushing and flossing routine. 

The aligners are made from a lightweight, plastic material that fits precisely on the teeth. Invisalign Teen treatment has become a popular treatment here at Houston, TX because it helps our younger patients achieve a straight, beautiful smile without undergoing the dreaded metal-mouth.

For more information on Invisalign Teen clear aligners, please feel free to give us a call at our Dr. Anna Salas office today!

Fall Holiday Guide for Braces

October 2nd, 2018

If this is your child’s first holiday season with braces, here are some tips on how to help children get the most enjoyment from these celebrations without compromising their braces or leaving them feeling left out of the festivities.

Halloween

When you think dental health, “Halloween” is not usually the first thing that comes to mind. Halloween can be tricky, but with some planning and intervention, you can make sure your child doesn’t miss out on the treats that make the holiday a favorite.

Braces present other challenges besides dealing with the scary amount of sugar in every trick-or-treat bag. Certain treats can be a challenge to clean from braces, and can even cause broken brackets and wires. How to avoid these frightful results?

  • Go through your child’s treat bag when you get home after neighborhood trick-or-treating. Anything which can damage braces, such as regular gum, candy with nuts or caramel, or hard or chewy candies should be discarded. Perhaps you and your child can choose a selection of soft candy such as plain chocolate and peanut butter cups to trade for those tricky treats. Your child’s favorite soft fruits, cupcakes, and cookies could also be safe substitutes.
  • Party time? Candy apples, bowls of candy corn, and popcorn balls are favorite treats at Halloween parties, but very bad for braces. Help your child recognize what should be avoided before attending, and suggest safe options like soft cupcakes.
  • Finally, even safe treats will leave more sugar than normal in your child’s mouth and therefore more potential for plaque build-up. Brush and floss more often, if needed, and rinse regularly with water.

Talk candy guidelines over in advance with your child. If you’d like, Dr. Anna Salas can recommend safe alternatives. With your help, Halloween won’t be a fearsome experience for you or your trick-or-treater.

Thanksgiving

Now, this is a holiday to be thankful for! Almost all of your traditional favorites are perfect for family members with braces.

  • Appetizers: Offer soft food options such as silky cheeses and deviled eggs instead of crunchy vegetables, chips, and nuts.
  • Dinner: Turkey is a required dish on many tables, and no need to miss out! Just make sure pieces are bite-size and off the bone. Creamy mashed potatoes and gravy and jellied cranberry sauce are also braces-friendly traditions. Any cooked vegetable should be fine, but do cut the corn from the cob first. Dressing is a great side dish if your child avoids any crunchy tops and edges, as are soft, nut-free rolls and muffins.
  • Dessert: Pumpkin pie, cheesecake, and apple pie with ice cream are all safe (and delicious) choices. Leave the pecan pie, caramel sauce, and anything nutty or chewy off your child’s menu. And remember to brush and floss carefully after the feast!

If you are concerned that following the usual food guidelines might be a little more difficult during this time of year, talk to us. Dr. Anna Salas and our team are happy to suggest ways to make your child’s first holidays with braces memorable for all the right reasons. The last thing you’ll want is an emergency visit to our Houston, TX office!

Braces: Not just for kids anymore

September 25th, 2018

Despite the common assumption that braces are for kids, more and more adults are choosing to pursue orthodontics to correct their smiles. Just hearing the word “braces” and picturing a mouth full of metal can cause many grownups to hesitate about getting treatment for a straighter smile.

We’re here to give you the information you need to evaluate your treatment options and make the right choice for yourself. Whatever your personal history, wearing braces as an adult is an excellent way to create the straight, confident smile you’ve always desired.

What are my options?

Recent advances in orthodontic medicine have created numerous options for adults who need braces.

These are best for individuals who have severely crooked teeth or a significant bite problem, or who require other major orthodontic changes. The greatest drawback to wearing metal braces as an adult is the visible appearance of metal and wires.

Clear ceramic braces offer a solution to that, though they cost more. They’re are a good alternative for correcting highly crooked teeth or bite issues. Smoking or drinking red wine, soda, and other dark beverages may stain the adhesive that binds the brackets to your teeth, so you have to commit to being mindful and taking good care of them.

Another popular option for adults who need braces is a clear-aligner treatment, such as with Invisalign®. This system works in a different way from traditional braces by using a series of clear, retainer-like aligners.

In general, the Invisalign process lasts anywhere from three to 18 months. Keep in mind, however, that Invisalign is not as effective as traditional braces in treating bite problems or severe overcrowding.

The prospect of getting braces as an adult can be intimidating, but you should not let your fears prevent you from obtaining the smile of your dreams. A consultation at our Houston, TX office with Dr. Anna Salas will address your concerns and provide more information about the best course of treatment!

Play Sports? Use Mouthguards.

September 18th, 2018

Dr. Anna Salas and our team recommend always wearing a protective mouthguard to participate in most physical sports. We especially encourage this if you have braces that can potentially cut your mouth or cause damage to your teeth. You have various choices to consider when you’re looking for a protective mouthguard.

One option is a full facial guard, which is often used for contact sports, such as football or hockey. This type offers full protection of the face from external impact. You should also consider an additional mouthguard to protect yourself from cuts inside your mouth, and avoid possible damage to your braces.

Boil-and-bites are another version of mouthguard that can be used for more physical sports. This type is used just the way its name implies: You warm the mouthguard in water to soften the material, then bite down gently once it’s at the correct temperature to form it into the shape of your mouth. These are fine to use temporarily, but they don’t always provide the best protection if they don’t fit properly.

Another option is to have Dr. Anna Salas make a custom mouthguard for you. The mouthguard will be designed with built-in layers to protect both your teeth and braces when it’s worn. Having Dr. Anna Salas create a custom-fitted mouthguard will ensure optimal protection and a comfortable fit whenever you participate in physical activities.

Protecting your teeth and braces is essential when you compete in sports. Accidents happen, and having a preventive mouthguard can potentially save you from oral pain and damaged braces. Our Houston, TX office is happy to assist you in creating a custom-made mouthguard for any sports activities you want to pursue.

If you’ve experienced a mouth injury that has caused damage to your braces, please contact us immediately so we can fix the problem right away. Remember, prevention is key when it comes to your oral health!

Invisalign Teen® Treatment Benefits

September 11th, 2018

Many teens want straighter teeth but dread a mouth full of metal. Because of that, Invisalign Teen treatment has become a popular choice among teens. It produces great results without the hassle of traditional braces.

If you’re like most teens at our Houston, TX office, you love hanging out with your friends, and you don’t want to look different or have to watch what you eat. If you’re unsure about the benefits of Invisalign Teen clear aligners, we’re here to explain some of the perks.

You can eat what your friends eat

Invisalign Teen aligners can be removed easily for meals and snacks, so you can eat just like you normally would. You don’t need to worry about food getting stuck in your braces or a bracket popping off. Unlike with braces, you can enjoy the following foods with your friends during Invisalign Teen straightening treatment:

  • Popcorn at the movies
  • Trail mix with dried fruit ribs and chicken wings
  • A peanut butter sandwich, apples, and carrot sticks

You can take care of your teeth more easily

Since Invisalign Teen aligners are removable, you won’t have to worry about finding tooth decay once your braces are removed. You can brush and floss your teeth as you normally would, just by taking the trays out of your mouth.

People won’t know you’re wearing them

We’ve saved the best for last: Invisalign Teen aligners are nearly invisible. Chances are, the only people who will know you’re getting your teeth straightened are the people you tell yourself!

Getting straighter teeth can be a massive confidence-booster in the long run. With Invisalign Teen clear aligners, the treatment isn’t that bad! Learn more at our Houston, TX office.

Tips for Caring for Your Braces at School

September 4th, 2018

School can present a few issues when it comes to caring for your braces and mouth, since you won't have the luxury of the time and tools you have at your disposal while you're at home. But if you head to school prepared, you shouldn't have any trouble keeping your braces and mouth in great shape. Below is a list of helpful tips to care for your braces throughout the entire school year.

  • Bring a kit that includes all of your oral health care items. This is a seriously smart thing to do and probably the most important of all the tips. Pack things like a toothbrush, floss, wax, retainer case (if needed), a mirror, a small cup for rinsing, a small bottle of water (if you don't already have some water with you), and some OTC pain medicine or a natural pain remedy. Keep the kit in your locker or backpack. Having all these items on hand will save you a lot of trouble and discomfort, and also ensure you don't have anything unsightly stuck in your braces or teeth!
  • Take advantage of breaks and lunchtime. After eating lunch is a great time to pop into the restroom and give your braces and teeth a once over to make sure you don't have any food debris caught in them and to tend to any sore spots. If you've just had your braces adjusted, you may have soreness on your gums or cheeks. This is where the wax you packed will come in handy.
  • Eat the right food for your braces. Avoid all the foods that wreak havoc on your braces like gum, candy, popcorn, hard chips, apples which aren't cut into wedges, nuts, beef jerky, ice, etc. You know the foods we're talking about; you've heard it enough already. Steering clear of these foods will help you prevent any possible mishaps with your braces, like breaking a bracket or wire, which is the last thing you want happening at school.

If you follow these tips and also keep up on your oral health routine at home, you'll be maximizing the effectiveness of your braces and making them as comfortable as possible. Do you have questions about caring for your braces during the school day? Ask Dr. Anna Salas or anyone in our Houston, TX office and we'll gladly help you out!

What's the best dental floss?

August 28th, 2018

Dental floss is similar to a lot of products that depend mainly on the consumer’s preference. Fact is, floss comes in a wide variety of flavors, coatings, and other variations, but all types of floss essentially do the same thing. After all, that is what is most important: that the dental floss you buy is functional—cleaning the areas in between your teeth. If you want to know what the best dental floss is, the answer is the kind that enables you to successfully and regularly clean those areas. So to help you find the right type of floss for you, here are some options.

Flavored Dental Floss

Many people that floss prefer a flavored dental floss because it freshens their breath even more than unscented floss. The latter can also take on the smells associated with bacteria in your mouth. And we all know how bad that can be. So, if flavored dental floss is what you prefer, and it allows you to floss your teeth regularly, then it is automatically best for your mouth.

Flossers

There are also products on the market called flossers, which usually consist of a plastic instrument with strung floss and a pick on the opposite end. This option can be both effective at cleaning the areas in between your teeth and scraping off plaque. These flossers also come flavored in mint and various other varieties.

Gentle Dental Floss

Some people find that typical dental floss is too harsh on their gums. For that reason some companies make floss with soft coatings that are less abrasive on the gums. For the most part these types of floss are just as effective as regular floss, and for those people that require a more sensitive approach to flossing, especially when just starting out, this is the best option.

Of the aforementioned options, it is difficult to name an absolute best type of floss. However, Dr. Anna Salas and our team say that the type of floss that works best for you, giving you the greatest chance of succeeding at regular flossing, is the best. For more information on floss, contact our Houston, TX office.

I got my braces. Now what?

August 21st, 2018

You’ve taken the first step toward a healthier and more beautiful appearance by getting braces at West U Orthodontics, and you’re probably wondering what comes next. The first week is the period of biggest adjustment, and there’s a lot to learn in this short time. Don’t worry; in a few short days your braces will feel completely natural.

The first week

On the first day, your braces will probably feel very odd in your mouth; it will take time to get used to them. By the second day, you may feel some soreness or pain. If you are going to experience any pain, the second and third days are when it will happen. Most pain can be dealt with by taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as Tylenol.

What about sore spots?

Your cheeks and tongue are getting used to your new braces, just like your teeth are. You may develop sore spots where this soft tissue rubs against the harsh metal of your braces. The best way to avoid this and allow your mouth to heal is by covering the metal spot with orthodontic wax. Break off a small piece and roll it into a ball in your hands. Dry the metal of the braces with a cotton swab, then wrap the wax around the sharp spot to create a cushion.

What if they break?

Braces are held onto your teeth with special orthodontic glue. Once in a great while, part of your appliance may come loose from the surface of a tooth. This won’t harm anything; it will just be slightly inconvenient. Call our office right away and we will be able to glue the bracket back on.

Make sure you avoid hard items such as ice, brittle, and other hard candies, and don’t open packages with your teeth. These habits can contribute to braces popping off. Even fairly innocent-sounding items like popcorn or French bread can be a culprit, so avoid eating any hard foods, or cut them up into small pieces before consuming.

If you have questions about which foods to eat and avoid, or if your braces are more sore than expected, feel free to contact our Houston, TX office and ask Dr. Anna Salas and our team. We’re more than happy to help!

Make Your Braces Bands Work for You!

August 14th, 2018

Well, of course, they already are working for you—as an essential part of the alignment process. Rubber bands, also known as elastic ligatures, are used to secure the wires inside your brackets. But bands can be more than functional. Since the ligatures around each bracket are replaced when you visit our office, why not use that opportunity to choose a new color scheme as well?

  • Make a Statement

Bands offer a chance to coordinate your braces to an interest, team, or event. Are you a swimmer? Maybe cool blues and turquoises appeal to you. Batman forever? Black and yellow. (That will work for beekeepers, too.) Have a favorite sports team? Choosing team colors will support your team with every smile. Love your school? Show your spirit by wearing bands in your school colors. Favorite time of year? Celebrate by selecting festive bands in holiday colors.

  • Suit Your Mood

Fiery reds and oranges, tranquil blues and greens, millennial purples and pinks, or exuberant neon—you know that there are just some colors that suit your personality. Showcase that personality with your choice of band color. And if your mood changes, choose shades that express a completely different side of you.

  • Coordinate Your Colors

Match your bands to your eye color, your makeup, or the clothing colors you choose most often. If there’s a color profile that works for you, make your bands a part of it. If you don’t want everything matching, complement your coloring or clothing with a different but coordinating shade for a cohesive effect.

  • Keep a Low Profile

Most adults will stick with a monochromatic set of bands, and this might be a look that appeals to you as well. Grey and silver bands will blend nicely with silver braces. If you have clear or white brackets, you might want to test out which bands will be least noticeable. Clear bands can become discolored, and white bands can make teeth look darker. If there’s a band which mimics your own tooth color, this will be the choice for you.

  • Make Color Theory Work for You

Certain colors and tints bring out the best in your tooth color and work with your skin tones. White and yellow bands might make teeth appear duller, and any shade combination that resembles food particles (greens, browns, and black) is probably not a look you’re going for. Have fun with a color wheel and decide which colors you find most flattering.

Make your bands more than a tool—make them an accessory. There are so many colorful options available that you are bound to happen on a color scheme that just suits you. And if you change your mind? Change it up during your next visit to our Houston, TX office!

Generic Clear Aligners vs. Invisalign®

August 7th, 2018

You may have a talent for home repairs. You may be able to rebuild your computer. You may even be able to put together a whole room of furniture armed only with flat-box kits and an Allen wrench. But, please—don’t try do-it-yourself orthodontics!

Now that generic clear aligners are available, you might consider giving them a try to save some money. But is straightening your own teeth really a good idea? Before you are tempted, let’s look more closely at the products and the dental science involved.

Invisalign®

  • Invisalign clear aligners are used by orthodontists and dentists with experience in custom treatment for your smile. A 3D image of your teeth will be captured by the iTero Element® scanner. Using special software, your doctor can map out each projected shift in your teeth, and even show you a projection of your finished smile!
  • Your Invisalign aligners will be tailored to fit your teeth precisely using the 3D scan and 3D printing. They are made from SmartTrack® material, a product specifically engineered for a perfect, comfortable fit. Invisalign aligners are even trimmed to fit your individual gumline to prevent irritation.
  • When your first sets of Invisalign aligners arrive at our Houston, TX office, Dr. Anna Salas will check for fit, answer any questions you might have about use and care, and let you know what to look for and what to expect. Your progress will be monitored with visits every six to eight weeks. (And for parents of teens, Invisalign aligners can offer blue “compliance indicators” to let you know they are being worn the 20-22 hours a day necessary for the best and fastest results.)

Generic Aligners

  • You might be required to make a putty mold of your own upper and lower teeth, which is not the easiest thing to do well, and to take selfies of your teeth.
  • The aligners will be sent to you in the mail. They are generally made of hard plastic with generic gumlines. There will be no one to tell you if the aligners fit properly.
  • They are sometimes less expensive because there is no in-person medical supervision. A dental professional working for the company will look at the model created from molds you submit, and recommend a series of aligners to correct the problems he detects by looking at the model and your selfies. This supervisor will not be able to assess the overall dental health of each patient to make sure teeth and gums are healthy and ready to start treatment, and will not be able to tell if the teeth are moving properly or improperly once the aligners are in use.

Finally, while generic aligners may potentially have some success in minor tooth straightening, they are not created to deal with complex bite issues or malocclusions.  In fact, using generic aligners with no supervision can cause more serious dental problems than a patient started with.

Sure, sometimes a do-it-yourself project turns out well. But your teeth and bones are too important for home improvement. When it comes to creating a beautiful, even smile and balanced, comfortable bite while making sure of your dental health, it’s always best to trust a professional like Dr. Anna Salas to provide you with gentle, tested, and successful care!

The Importance of Wearing Your Retainer after Orthodontic Treatment

July 31st, 2018

It's the big day and your braces are finally coming off! Does that mean you are completely done? Not so fast! After you complete your treatment here at West U Orthodontics, Dr. Anna Salas and our team will recommend you wear a retainer, which must be worn routinely after treatment in order to hold your teeth in their proper, new position while your gums, ligaments and bones adapt. Most patients are required to wear their retainer every night at first, with many also being directed to wear them during the day. It's important to know there are different kinds of retainers, and today we thought we would explain the differences between them.

Hawley Retainers

The Hawley retainer is one of the most common types of retainers. It is a removable retainer made of a combination of a metal wire that typically surrounds the six anterior teeth and is designed to keep your teeth in place. This retainer is made from impressions of your teeth so that it fits snugly and comfortably in the roof of your mouth, while the wire and acrylic framing keeps your teeth in an ideal position. The acrylic can also be personalized with a large number of colors or patterns.

Essix (Clear) Retainers

The Essix retainer is a transparent removable retainer that fits over the entire arch of your teeth. This clear or transparent retainer fits over the entire arch of teeth and is produced from a mold. Similar to Invisalign’s clear aligner trays, Essix retainers have no metal or wires. They can also be used to produce minor tooth movements and can be helpful in prevention of tooth wear due to tooth grinding at night.

Bonded Retainers

Bonded lingual retainers are cemented directly to the inside surface of your lower canines. Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics encourage our patients with bonded lingual retainers to be careful with their bite as the bonding material may break due to incorrect biting and cause your teeth to shift. As with removable retainers, it is important to keep your bonded retainers clean. When brushing, make sure to carefully clean the inside of your lower teeth, as well as the wire itself.

The retention phase of treatment begins when the patient’s braces are removed. Retainers are worn full time, typically for the first nine months, except while eating. Retainers should also be removed before brushing your teeth.

If you have any questions about the retainers we offer or to learn more about post-orthodontic treatment, please feel free to contact us at our convenient Houston, TX office and we will be happy to answer any of your questions!

Should I Get Braces?

July 24th, 2018

If you’re thinking about investing in braces, there are a few things you should take into consideration. It’s normal for adult teeth to come in crooked, which is why braces are a common solution for teens and adults who desire a beautiful smile.

Your dentist may recommend orthodontic treatment if crooked teeth begin to affect your or your child’s oral health. But many factors go into whether braces would be right for you or your child, or not.

Modern orthodontic treatments offer numerous options for the typical issues people face, such as crooked teeth or jaw alignment problems. Malocclusion, otherwise known as having a bad bite, is common in patients with crooked teeth.

Braces can be worn for a short period of time to correct uneven jaw alignment, which may be the cause of an underbite or overbite in patients. A retainer is worn afterward to keep the newly straightened teeth in place.

Now that one in five braces wearers is an adult, grownups have a variety of braces options. Braces are typically left on for at least one year to straighten teeth effectively. Options can include regular metal braces, clear braces, or Invisalign® aligners.

If you’re an adult and would prefer a discreet treatment, clear braces or Invisalign retainers are your best options. Dr. Anna Salas will be able to provide you with a recommended best route of treatment depending on what you’re trying to accomplish and what your budget is. Before getting braces, it’s worth learning about all the methods of treatment available at West U Orthodontics.

Be sure to contact your insurance company before your appointment to see if orthodontic treatments are covered; otherwise, you may want to plan to pay for out-of-pocket costs. If you have questions regarding the types of treatment we provide for our patients, call our Houston, TX office for more information.

 

Dangers of DIY Orthodontics on the Internet

July 17th, 2018

All over the Internet you'll find videos and articles showing how you can close the gap between teeth or space them out. There is a plethora of DIY orthodontic techniques out there — you can even mail order your own impressions to get clear aligners, without even seeing a dentist or orthodontist. Following the instructions laid out in these videos and articles (by people who have zero training in orthodontics) is about the worst decision you can make for your overall oral health.

Performing DIY or at-home orthodontia can lead to or cause:

  • Loss of teeth
  • Infection
  • Cavities or infections that are missed or undiagnosed
  • Gum damage

Dr. Christina Carter, president of the Northeastern Society of Orthodontists, says that DIY orthodontics can have terrible consequences. She spoke to TODAY about closing gaps between teeth using rubber bands or elastics:

"The teeth are connected to the gums and the blood supply and there is a risk of infection, of tearing the gums which might not heal properly, and a risk of damaging the attachment between the tooth and gums so the tooth no longer gets the support it needs." She also noted, "A simple rubber band can actually slide up the tooth and cut all the attachments to it and you can actually lose a tooth."

One of the worst parts about DIY orthodontics is that you never consult with a trained orthodontist, so you're really operating on a dangerous lack of information. It's best not to risk damage to your teeth or infection. Let Dr. Anna Salas know what you want to accomplish with your teeth and we will help you find the safest and most cost-effective way to achieve it.

Dr. Anna Salas want you to be informed and practical about your oral health. Should you have any questions about orthodontic treatment options, please do not hesitate to give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office.

Adults and Braces

July 10th, 2018

Nowadays, many adults are taking advantage of getting straighter teeth with braces. Dr. Anna Salas and our team love to help patients create the dazzling, confident smile they’ve always wanted.

Our adult patients usually fall into two categories: some had braces in the past but didn’t wear their retainers, while others are brand-new to wearing braces. Either way, both groups want the same thing: straighter teeth and a beautiful smile!

You will have several options for getting braces, depending on your financial situation and how quickly you would like your treatment to finish. Traditional metal braces are a less-expensive option and can help people who have severely crooked teeth. But many adults may not prefer this option because they dislike the appearance of metal brackets.

If you’re concerned about how you’ll look, we offer clear ceramic braces that aren’t as visible. These are more expensive than metal braces, and patients need to be careful with colored drinks that can stain them, such as coffee or red wine.

Another popular option is a clear aligner treatment called Invisalign®. This type is practically invisible; it uses a series of aligners that are customized to fit your teeth. The process of straightening your teeth can last anywhere from three to 18 months. For people who have extreme bite problems or crowded teeth, a different method may work better.

Don’t hesitate to call our Houston, TX office today to set up a consultation. Dr. Anna Salas will help you choose the best option so you can be on your way to a straighter, more confident smile!

Happy Fourth of July!

July 3rd, 2018

Happy Independence Day from Dr. Anna Salas and team! The Fourth of July celebrations in America may have changed a lot over the years, but there is no doubt that we Americans love to celebrate the anniversary of our country's independence! Today we're devoting the West U Orthodontics blog to some fun facts about the Fourth!

  • My, how we have grown! This year the United States Census Bureau estimates that our country has 313.9 million residents celebrating the Fourth of July this year, but back in 1776 there were just 2.5 million members of the country.
  • Our country loves to show how proud that we are of our independence. Did you know that there are 31 United States places with the word “Liberty” in their names? The state of Iowa actually has four towns with the word Liberty in the name: Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty, and West Liberty.
  • The United States loves Fourth of July food! It is expected that around 150 million hot dogs are eaten on the Fourth each year. One of the Fourth's most popular sides, potato salad, goes just perfectly with the hotdogs and hamburgers that are standard Fourth of July fare. Some people choose potato chips instead, but we wouldn't have such a plethora of potatoes if not for the prodigious production of the states of Idaho and Washington -- they provide about half of all the potatoes in the United States today!
  • Americans love celebrating the Fourth outdoors: About 74 million Americans fire up their BBQ grill every Fourth of July.
  • The Chinese contribution: Did you know that Americans have spent more than $211 million on fireworks that were imported from China?

No matter how your family chooses to celebrate the Fourth, stay safe, take precautions, and don't forget to brush after your fabulous Fourth feast!

How a High-Tech Office Helps Your Orthodontic Treatment

June 26th, 2018

Our office strives to bring you the latest and greatest in orthodontic techniques and technologies. Being on the cutting edge of the industry is important—it ensures you, as our patient, are getting the best orthodontic treatment you possibly can while keeping costs down!

The goal of a high-tech office is three fold: to have effective treatment, to have efficient treatment, and to make the whole process easy, painless, and cost-effective for you.

Here are some of the technologies being implemented by Dr. Anna Salas to do just that:

3D oral scanners: If you've ever experienced getting impressions the traditional way, it isn't very fun! Having a gag reflex is common and it takes several minutes on both the top and bottom of the mouth to get a successful impression.

With 3D oral scanners, we create a perfect digital scan of your teeth without radiation. We then use the results of the scan to create accurate braces, retainers, and other appliances for your unique teeth and mouth.

Digital Imaging: New digital imaging provides us with accurate, panoramic, and cephalometric views of your teeth and their supporting structures. This lets us plan and implement treatment with the utmost precision.

Not only does this kind of imaging expose patients to far less radiation than traditional X-rays but it also gives us immediate access to the images, whereas X-rays had to be developed. This expedites treatment time and means fewer trips to our Houston, TX office for you.

New, high-tech braces options: There are so many more choices when it comes to braces these days! Advances in the industry like Invisalign®, self-ligating braces, and lingual braces, allow patients to not only get highly accurate and precise treatment, but do so discreetly without anyone else even knowing.

Digital scanning and imaging takes the guesswork out of braces. Instead of the orthodontist estimating tooth movement and treatment progression, these days it's all computer modeled with exacting detail. The result? Your braces do exactly what they're intended to do in less time with a picture-perfect outcome.

These are just some of the advances in the orthodontic industry. Needless to say, they all make the entire process that much easier and effective for you. If you have any questions or are interested in treatment, please don't hesitate to contact our Houston, TX office!

Periodontics and Braces Treatment

June 19th, 2018

Most people think braces are all about their teeth. While it is true orthodontics is meant to move your teeth into proper position, there's more to it than that. To safely move your teeth with braces, you're going to need healthy and stable gums (or periodontium—the tissues that support your teeth).

For this reason it's critical to have your periodontal health evaluated prior to getting braces. This applies particularly to adults, since a 2013 study by the Center For Disease Control found that an estimated 47.2% of adults 30 years of age and older had periodontitis (gum disease). If you do have periodontitis, moving your teeth with braces will only make things worse.

Conversely, there is also risk for periodontal disease if you don't get orthodontic treatment. Malocclusion, as well as crooked and spaced teeth, can all contribute to periodontal disease. In these situations your teeth and gums are more difficult to clean and become breeding grounds for disease causing bacteria. Bad oral hygiene combined with these traits can greatly contribute to the development of periodontitis.

So, periodontics and braces have a tricky relationship. On one hand, you shouldn't get braces if you show signs of developing or have periodontitis, while on the other hand, braces can help prevent the possibility of developing periodontitis by correcting the bite and straightening the teeth.

If you are 30 years of age or older and are considering getting braces, it would be wise to first:

  • Let Dr. Anna Salas know about your desire to get braces
  • Get an exam to make sure you're in good periodontal health and a good candidate for braces
  • If you are a good candidate, keep an eye on your teeth and gums and get regular dental checkups throughout your entire course of treatment.

If you are in any doubt about the status of your teeth and gums, it's always best to get them checked before embarking with braces treatment. For more information or to have your periodontal health assessed for braces treatment, please contact our Houston, TX office.

Invisalign® and Invisalign Teen®

June 12th, 2018

There are so many adults and teens in our Houston, TX office who would love to have their teeth straightened but that are unwilling to go through the long and unsightly process of traditional metal braces. Well, that's where Invisalign® and Invisalign Teen® come to the rescue; the most advanced clear aligner systems in the world!

There are several reasons why, if you're considering getting braces, you should consider Invisalign too. Here are some of them:

  • You can eat whatever food you'd like, without worrying about it getting caught in wires or breaking brackets.
  • Most people won't even know you're wearing them!
  • If you need to, you can remove your aligners at any time.
  • The removable aligners let you brush and floss as you normally would, making for better overall oral health.
  • Since they are made of a smooth BPA-free plastic, Invisalign aligners are simply more comfortable to wear than traditional braces. No metal means no more roughed up gums or irritated tongue!
  • You'll need to visit our Houston, TX office less often — only once every six weeks or so.
  • With Invisalign Teen, you’ll receive up to six replacements for lost or broken aligners.

Before you get started with treatment, you’ll have a consultation with Dr. Anna Salas to see if Invisalign or Invisalign Teen is right for you. If your case is a good fit, then you’ll have X-rays, pictures, and impressions of your teeth taken. That information will be used to make the 3D models of your teeth that let Dr. Anna Salas see how they will move throughout the entire treatment and approximately how long it will take.

After that, you’ll receive your aligners based on the treatment plan we recommend. You’ll get a new set of aligners every two weeks. Then all you need to do is wear your aligners 22 hours a day and you’ll be on your way to a straighter healthier smile. Don’t hesitate to a member of our Houston, TX team for more information about Invisalign!

Going on vacation? Remember these simple tips!

June 5th, 2018

If you are wearing braces and are planning a vacation, our team at West U Orthodontics would suggest that you be prepared. We put together a list of items that will be handy to have with you at all times while you are out of town. They include:

  • Toothpick, flosspick, or other interdental cleaners
  • Travel toothbrush
  • A water bottle or a mini bottle of mouth rinse
  • Orthodontic wax to help with discomfort from protruding wires
  • A small mirror for examining any possible issues in your mouth

Putting these items together in a “braces/oral hygiene kit” may be wise. You may even buy pre-made braces kits. Please ask us for more information.

If you happen to be on vacation and experience problems reaching our office, we suggest going online and searching for orthodontic practices in your area. Most orthodontists will lend a helping hand to another orthodontic patient and get him or her out of pain or discomfort.

We also suggest avoiding the following foods to prevent broken brackets and/or wire distortion while you are on vacation:

  • Chewy, sticky, or gummy food
  • Apples, pears, and other whole fruits (cut fruit into wedges before consuming)
  • Bagels and hard rolls
  • Corn on the cob
  • Hard candies
  • Hard cookies or pretzels
  • All varieties of nuts, including peanuts, almonds, and cashews

Finally, if you are wearing clear aligners and happen to lose your tray, don’t worry! Simply put in either the previous tray or the next tray and contact us as soon as you get home!

Follow these tips and you can have a worry-free vacation! Please give us a call if you have any questions!

Adults and Braces

May 29th, 2018

Braces aren’t just for kids. Many grownups are taking advantage of orthodontic treatment and having their teeth straightened at a later age.

Sometimes, patients include adults who already had braces in the past, but their teeth shifted over time once they stopped wearing their retainers. In other cases, adults who have never had braces are tired of having crooked teeth and ready to invest in a beautiful smile.

Whatever the case may be, if you’re looking to straighten your teeth with braces, Dr. Anna Salas would love to help you with this process. Having a dazzling smile can increase your confidence in all areas of your life!

Depending on what you’re willing to spend and how quickly you would like to complete the process, you have various options for getting braces. We all know what traditional metal braces look like. This is a less-expensive route for individuals who have severely crooked or displaced teeth. However, many adults avoid option because the braces are noticeable or distracting in a professional atmosphere.

For people concerned about aesthetics, clear ceramic braces may be a preferable option. This type can still fix extremely crooked teeth or jaw alignment issues. It may be slightly more expensive than traditional metal braces. Patients who choose this treatment route need to be careful not to stain the clear adhesives by drinking too much coffee, red wine, soda, or other beverages that can discolor teeth.

Another great option for adults who don’t want to have visible braces is a clear aligner treatment known as Invisalign®. This popular option differs from traditional braces by featuring a series of clear aligners that are each custom-made for your teeth.

The entire process can take anywhere from three to 18 months to straighten your teeth completely. This may not be the best choice for patients who have an overcrowded mouth or extreme bite issues. Invisalign is often the most expensive option, but it’s great if you’re concerned about your appearance while your teeth are being straightened.

If you’ve been thinking about straightening your teeth with the help of braces, don’t hesitate to contact our Houston, TX office to set up a consultation. From there, Dr. Anna Salas can figure out the best course of treatment, depending on your budget and overall needs.

Adult braces can be a great way to boost your confidence and finally give you the smile you’ve always wanted.

Memorial Day: Parades, remembrance, and the unofficial start of summer!

May 22nd, 2018

“The purpose of all war is peace.” - Saint Augustine

Fire truck sirens, baton twirlers, marching bands covering patriotic tunes, colorful floats, costumes, and millions of red, white, and blue American flags being waved in the air on a beautiful day in late May, that is what Memorial Day is all about. It is a federal holiday celebrated with town parades, remembrance, and a sense of unity and community togetherness.

Our team at West U Orthodontics wants to take this time to wish you and your family a happy Memorial Day, as well as pause for a moment to reflect on what this holiday means and how it has changed over time. No, this is not a history lesson, but just a couple of thoughts and observances for you to take with you on your way to the next barbecue.

On the last Monday in May, America observes Memorial Day as a time to remember and celebrate the men and women who have lost their lives while serving our country in the Armed Forces. The holiday originated after the Civil War; at that time it was known as Decoration Day. While holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter remain the same from year to year, Memorial Day has changed over time, and in the 21st century we observe a far different holiday than what Americans did after the Civil War, or even the World Wars.

While many people place flags at cemeteries and visit national memorials in order to honor those who have passed away serving the country, Memorial Day is also a time for family barbecues, pool parties, trips to the beach, blockbuster movies, long weekend getaways, and fireworks. In America, Memorial Day has come to represent the unofficial start of the summer – a long, sunny, warm weekend devoted to family togetherness, outdoor events, and community.

It is time to load up the potato salad and the apple pie and head over to the neighbor’s house for their annual barbecue. And yes, contrary to popular belief, we do eat sweets, especially homemade apple pie! Everything in moderation, of course.

So whether you’re in the Houston, TX area or beyond, Happy Memorial Day to you and yours from Dr. Anna Salas!

Tips for Handling and Avoiding Orthodontic Emergencies

May 15th, 2018

The best way to avoid orthodontic emergencies is to know how to take care of your braces properly throughout your entire treatment. However, emergencies are … well, emergencies, and sometimes no matter how cautious you are or how well you take care of your braces, the wires loosen, the bands pop, or you experience orthodontic discomfort.

Common orthodontic emergencies include broken braces, poking wires, lost or broken retainers, mouth sores, and mouth injuries sustained playing sports, which often happens when you don’t wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth and appliance.

Food

It’s important to avoid foods that can damage your braces. Most people wear braces for about two years. All chewy, sticky, crunchy, and hard foods should be avoided during that time. While this may seem like a long time to go without popcorn or bubble gum, hard foods can break the brackets of your braces and sticky foods can bend the wires. If you have a loose wire, don’t try to fix it yourself. Call West U Orthodontics. In the meantime, if a wire is poking into your cheek or lip and causing irritation, put wax or a wet cotton ball over it to dull the sharp edge.

Pain and Discomfort

Some discomfort is a normal part of orthodontic treatment, especially in the hours after the braces are placed on your teeth or after a recent tightening or adjustment. However, if the pain doesn’t subside in three to five days, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment at West U Orthodontics. Until then, try dissolving a teaspoon of salt in an eight-ounce glass of water and gargling with the solution. Over-the-counter pain medication will relieve discomfort, too.

Playing Sports

Just because you wear braces doesn’t mean you can’t play sports. You just need to take some extra precautions. Sports-related injuries to the mouth and jaw are common. The best way to protect your mouth and your appliance is to wear a mouthguard. There are several different types of mouthguards available, so be sure to ask Dr. Anna Salas what’s best for you.

Brushing and Flossing

In order to keep your braces in good condition and avoid orthodontic emergencies, it’s important to brush and floss thoroughly after every meal. It’s easy for small particles of food to get trapped in your braces, and if the food isn’t removed, it gets wedged between the teeth and gums and causes plaque.

Need more tips on how to avoid orthodontic emergencies? Just ask any member of our Houston, TX team.

Not-So-Sweet Sweets: The five worst candies to eat during orthodontic treatment

May 8th, 2018

Sticky, hard, and gooey: these candies fill your dopamine receptors with spasms of sugar-filled joy, but if you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment at West U Orthodontics to straighten your teeth, then these sweets are not so sweet. While you may have a Willy-Wonka-sized sweet tooth, there are some candies you’re going to have to avoid while wearing braces.

Here are five bracket- and wire-destroying culprits that Dr. Anna Salas and our team recommend leaving on the candy aisle and not put in your mouth, no matter how tempting they may be.

  1. Gum is sticky and stringy. It can get tangled like fishing net in your braces. You don’t want to be that boy or girl trying to pull knots of Wrigley’s out of your braces without being seen.
  2. All chewy, gooey candies need to be avoided. When you’re wearing braces, don’t even think about putting a caramel candy in your mouth. Caramel will not only stick to your braces, making it look as if you haven’t brushed your teeth in a week, but the gooey texture can pull apart the wires, and trigger an emergency visit to West U Orthodontics.
  3. Hard candy may seem like a safe choice, but it’s not. What’s the problem? Nobody ever just sucks on hard candy; sooner or later, we bite down on it. Biting a hard candy may cause part of your braces to snap. Furthermore, once the candy is broken into a bunch of little pieces, it’s not uncommon for one of those sugary shards to get wedged between your braces and teeth … and that’s a cavity waiting to happen.
  4. The taffy you enjoy getting at a seaside boardwalk is going to have to go on the back burner. Like caramel, taffy can pull apart and damage your braces. You don’t want to have your expensive orthodontic gear replaced.
  5. Please, just one lollipop? Nope. A lollipop is nothing more than hard candy on a stick. If you can’t have hard candy during orthodontic treatment, then you shouldn't have hard candy on a stick either.

Have any more questions about what you can and can’t eat when you have braces? Please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office to learn more, or ask Dr. Anna Salas during your next adjustment visit!

Summer is Almost Here: Tips for a bright, white smile!

May 1st, 2018

Summer is almost here, which means a season full of vacations, adventures and great memories is just around the corner for our patients at West U Orthodontics.

Everyone wants a glowing and radiant white smile when the sun comes around and we have a few reminders to keep your pearly whites healthy and beautiful over the summer! Try to stay away from drinks that will stain your teeth like coffee, soft drinks, or dark colored juices. Not only will drinks like this weaken your enamel but they will also darken that fabulous smile you're working on! Another tip is to try and focus on brushing your teeth; everyone knows that when busy schedules start picking up, getting a good brushing session in tends to take the backseat! A good tip for keeping your mouth safe from staining and other possible pitfalls is to rinse your mouth with water after any meal you can’t fully brush your teeth after. Your teeth, inside and out, will benefit!

And remember, whether you are headed to a barbecue, a camping trip, or just having fun in the backyard this summer, we want to hear all about it! Make sure to let us know what you’re up to below or on our Facebook page! We also encourage you to post any photos from your adventures!

When should I floss during the day?

April 24th, 2018

A vital step in your oral health routine is flossing. We hope our patients at West U Orthodontics maintain good oral hygiene, including daily flossing between each visit to our Houston, TX office. A toothbrush is not always enough to get to the hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. When food remains between your teeth, bacteria starts to grow and will break down your enamel. This is where flossing comes in!

Should you floss before or after brushing?

Whatever your personal preference, you may floss before or after you brush your teeth. When you floss first, you can brush away any leftover dislodged food debris from your teeth. On the other hand, when you brush first, you will loosen the plaque between your teeth, which makes flossing more effective.

The essential aspect is that you floss thoroughly by using a fresh strand of floss and make sure to get between every tooth. Even if your teeth look and feel clean, don’t skip flossing or plaque will begin to build up on your teeth.

When is the best time to floss?

Although you should brush your teeth at least twice a day, Dr. Anna Salas and our team recommend flossing your teeth thoroughly once a day. Many people prefer to floss before bed, so that plaque doesn’t sit between their teeth all night.

What kind of floss should I use?

You may choose between interdental cleaning picks or flexible floss strands to perform your daily flossing routine. If you have permanent oral appliances or restorations, be sure to follow the flossing instructions provided to you.

Do you need help flossing?

If you’re having trouble flossing or have questions about which floss is best for your teeth, contact our Houston, TX office and we can provide you with support. Be sure to keep up with your daily flossing routine, and we will see you at your next appointment!

Kristin Cavallari and Palatal Expanders

April 17th, 2018

It’s no easy feat to have one of the best smiles in Hollywood. The reality TV starlet Kristin Cavallari attributes her gorgeous smile to routine oral hygiene, the removal of two impacted wisdom teeth, and having undergone orthodontic treatment. Kristin’s treatment began in sixth grade when she was fitted with a device Dr. Anna Salas and our team call a palatal expander, which is used to guide upper jaw growth in our younger patients.

What is a palatal expander?

A palatal expander “expands” (or widens) your upper jaw by applying gentle pressure on your upper molars, and is used to make the bottom and upper teeth fit together better. In addition, palatal expanders work to create more room for teeth, as well as promote a broader, more appealing smile.

Do palatal expanders hurt?

Palatal expanders are usually not painful, however you may experience difficulty speaking and swallowing for the first few days. Adjusting your palatal expander as instructed by Dr. Anna Salas will ensure there are no delays in regards to your treatment plan.

Typically, it takes a few weeks to achieve the desired amount of expansion, after which you will keep wearing your expander for about six months, giving time for the new bone to form and stabilize. Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics will give you detailed instructions about how to adjust your appliance and can answer any questions you may have about your palatal expander.

If you have any questions about your palatal expander or your treatment plan with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call at our Houston, TX office!

What is a palatal expander?

April 10th, 2018

If Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics have recommended a palatal expander, you might be wondering what it is and how it will help you. A palatal expander is a small appliance fitted in your mouth to create a wider space in the upper jaw. It is often used when there is a problem with overcrowding of the teeth or when the upper and lower molars don’t fit together correctly. While it is most commonly used in children, some teens and adults may also need a palatal expander.

Reasons to get a palatal expander

There are several reasons you might need to get a palatal expander:

  • Insufficient room for permanent teeth currently erupting
  • Insufficient space for permanent teeth still developing which might need extraction in the future
  • A back crossbite with a narrow upper arch
  • A front crossbite with a narrow upper arch

How long will you need the palatal expander?

On average, patients have the palatal expander for four to seven months, although this is based on the individual and the amount of correction needed. Several months are needed to allow the bone to form and move to the desired width. It is not removable and must remain in the mouth for the entire time.

Does it prevent the necessity for braces?

The palatal expander doesn’t necessarily remove the need for braces in the future, but it can in some cases. Some people only need braces because of a crossbite or overcrowding of the teeth, which a palatal expander can help correct during childhood, when teeth are just beginning to erupt. However, others may eventually need braces if, once all their permanent teeth come in, they have grown in crookedly or with additional spaces between.

If you think your child could benefit from a palatal expander, or want to learn about your own orthodontic treatment options, please feel free to contact our Houston, TX office!

More Adults Are Opting for Invisalign®

April 3rd, 2018

These days it's becoming more and more common to see adults at our Houston, TX office getting their teeth straightened with Invisalign clear aligners — that is, if you can see them! Treatment with Invisalign is effective and aesthetically pleasing for all ages, but adults have certainly taken to them.

For some it may be to overcome the stigma that "braces are just for kids," but for others it may be the displeasing appearance and discomfort of traditional braces. According to the American Association of Orthodontics, from 1994 to 2010 the number of adults 18 and older getting braces increased by 58 percent, from 680,000 to 1.1 million annually. Many of these adults opt for Invisalign because of how discreet they are and since they don't need to avoid any foods or make dietary changes like you do with traditional braces.

The benefits of getting your teeth into proper alignment are many, and so are the advantages of Invisalign. By following your individual course of Invisalign treatment, you can expect to enjoy the following benefits over traditional braces:

  • The total treatment time is more precise with Invisalign since your treatment is modeled by a computer, as compared to traditional braces where it is really just an estimate.
  • You'll need to make fewer trips to our Houston, TX office since you can change your trays on your own every few weeks or as prescribed.
  • There's less risk to the health of your tooth enamel since there is no need to place brackets on your teeth.
  • Invisalign aligners are clear and practically invisible, so most people won't even know you're wearing them!

If you're interested in Invisalign treatment, please let Dr. Anna Salas know. We'd be happy to help you on your journey to a straighter, healthier smile!

The Hazards of Smokeless Tobacco

March 27th, 2018

Many smokers believe that chewing tobacco is a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. This simply isn't the case! In fact, smokeless tobacco can cause serious health concerns.

Smokeless tobacco comes in many forms and goes by many names: dip, snuff, snus, or simply chewing tobacco. Use of these products usually involves sucking or chewing on shredded or loose tobacco leaves, sometimes flavored, for a prolonged period. There are even products that emulate a dissolvable candy-like consistency which are made of compressed tobacco powder.

What are risks and smokeless tobacco?

Whichever form a tobacco product takes, the dangers of using or consuming them is very real. According to a 2007 study by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, there are upwards of 28 cancer-causing chemicals in smokeless tobacco that are known to cause cancer. And these products are habit-forming just like any other tobacco product that contains nicotine. Using them will increase your risk for many serious diseases including but not limited to: cancer (especially oral and esophageal), gum and heart disease, cavities, and pre-cancerous mouth lesions.

At the end of the day, long-term use of smokeless tobacco can cause serious health issues. These products really take a toll on both your oral and overall health. They put a strain on your immune system and make it less capable of warding off infection and disease.

Dr. Anna Salas and our team strongly advise you to stop using smokeless tobacco—or any kind of tobacco product—and not to pick up the habit if you aren't. There is no safe level of tobacco use, smokeless or otherwise.

Need to quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco products?

You can and should always talk to your doctor, healthcare practitioner, or Dr. Anna Salas for help quitting. But there are many other resources available today for those who'd like to quit. The National Cancer Institute offers information, support (local and online), and tools to help smokers and smokeless tobacco users quit. They offer live online chat with cessation counselors Monday through Friday and even have a smartphone application available to help people who are serious about quitting.

You can take a look at their website at smokefree.gov or call them toll-free at 1–877–44U–QUIT (1-877-448-7848). There is also help available from your state's quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Make the best choice for your health and well-being; avoid the bad habit of tobacco products. If you have any questions about how tobacco related products affect your oral health and hygiene, please don't hesitate to ask one of our Houston, TX staff members.

Foods can Wreak Havoc on Your Enamel

March 20th, 2018

It’s possible to develop tooth decay even when you take great care of your teeth. Brushing and flossing may not be enough to keep your teeth healthy, depending on your diet. Cavities, discoloration, and decay are still possible when certain foods feature in your daily intake. Keep an eye out for foods that will damage your enamel and cause the very issues you’ve been trying to avoid.

What causes enamel damage?

Tooth enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth that is made of various minerals. Tooth decay results when the acids in your food react with the minerals in your enamel. Strongly pigmented foods may also cause unsightly discoloration on the surface of your teeth. Avoid wreaking havoc on your beautiful smile by identifying the foods that can harm your enamel.

Acid

Acidic food is your teeth’s worst nightmare! This is the greatest cause of enamel damage, even if you brush and floss regularly. To avoid damaging your teeth, make sure you can determine whether a food is acidic or not.

The pH levels are a way to determine acidity on a one-to-seven scale. This defines the relative acidity or alkalinity of a food or substance. Foods with high pH levels are not as likely to harm your enamel.

It’s wise to avoid or minimize foods that are high in acids. Highly acidic food can include fruits such as lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, grapes, and apples. Moderately acid foods may surprise you; they include tomatoes, maple syrup, pickles, and honey.

Not surprisingly, eggs and dairy products such as milk and cheese contain the least amount of acid. Red wine and coffee can also discolor your enamel if they’re drunk in excessive amounts.

What can I do to prevent enamel damage?

There are plenty of ways to avoid discoloration and decay of your enamel. The best thing to do is limit the amount of high-acid foods, including sugary juices and soda, in your diet.

Another way is to brush and floss regularly, an hour after each meal. If you can’t make time to brush, an easy solution is to swish your mouth with water or mouthwash to rinse away any leftover acidic particles.

Damaged tooth enamel may be common, but is avoidable when you know which foods to stay away from and the steps to take after you do eat highly acidic foods. Take our advice and you’ll be sure to slow down any future discoloration and decay that happens in your mouth.

For more advice on protecting your enamel, give our Houston, TX a call to learn more!

St. Patrick's Day

March 13th, 2018

On March 17, everyone has a little Irish in them. St. Patrick’s Day is a joyous celebration of Irish heritage. The holiday originated as a commemoration of Saint Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland. The saint arrived in Ireland in 432 and earned the reputation of a champion of Irish Christianity. March 17th, the day of St. Patrick’s death, has been commemorated by the Irish for over 1,000 years. St. Patrick’s Day is still observed as a religious feast day by several Christian denominations, but it is better known in the public imagination as a rich celebration of Irish culture.

St. Patrick’s Day has been an official public holiday in Ireland since 1903. Each year, the Irish celebrate with a several-day festival that includes theater performances, music, fireworks, and festive parades. The celebration is also a public holiday in Northern Ireland, Montserrat, and Newfoundland and Labrador. In other parts of the world with heavy Irish populations, it is an unofficial celebration of Irish heritage. Parts of Great Britain, Canada, Argentina, South Korea, Switzerland, New Zealand, the United States, and Australia commemorate the holiday each year. Typical celebrations in these countries include drinking green beer, wearing green, eating traditional Irish foods, parades, and shamrock decorations.

Many people, Irish and non-Irish alike, take part in the “wearing of the green” on St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, the color originally associated with Saint Patrick was blue. His use of shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish made the green clover emblematic of the holiday, leading to the traditional green attire worn by thousands on St. Patrick’s Day. Other little-known facts about St. Patrick’s Day include the following:

  • Each year, the United States and Ireland face off in a rugby competition called the “St. Patrick’s Day Test.”
  • Montreal celebrates the holiday with an annual parade, which has been held each year since 1824. The Montreal city flag even features a shamrock in its corner, as a nod to its Irish heritage.
  • The Guinness World Records named St. Patrick’s Day the “Friendliest Day of the Year.”
  • Along with Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most widely celebrated saint’s day in the world.

No matter your cultural heritage, St. Patrick’s Day is a great time to let loose and celebrate your inner Irish-ness! Don your greenest attire and exclaim “Erin go Bragh!” (Ireland forever!) to everyone you meet. From Dr. Anna Salas - have a great St. Paddy’s day!

Foods that are Safe for Braces

March 6th, 2018

Orthodontic braces are used to straighten the teeth, which not only creates a more pleasing appearance, but also helps prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems. Braces are only effective when they are properly cared for, however. Certain foods, for example, are better suited for individuals who have braces, as opposed to hard and sticky foods that can cause damage. So, what types of foods should you or your kids eat to protect dental appliances?

The best foods to eat with braces are those that are not high in sugar and do not require excessive chewing. For breakfast, try eggs, yogurt, bacon, wheat toast, or oatmeal. Lunch may steer toward a banana rather than an apple, a salad without nuts, and a glass of water. If you are looking for some after-school snacks for your kids, consider baked tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole, or try string cheese with fruit.

A healthy dinner can include most types of vegetables, so long as they are cooked to an appropriate softness. Pair that with a lean protein, such as fish or chicken, and follow up with dessert. Just be sure to brush afterward!

Post-Tightening Foods

As braces begin to adjust the alignment of the teeth, our team at West U Orthodontics will periodically tighten them to continue the alignment process. After tightening occurs, the teeth may be sore and sensitive to certain foods. During this time, it is best to eat soft foods. Examples include:

  • Pudding
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soup
  • Ice cream
  • Cottage cheese
  • Peas
  • Pancakes
  • Pasta

Foods to Avoid

Anyone who wears braces – whether fixed or removable – should avoid excessive snacking and should aim to eat a healthy and balanced diet. It is also important to avoid foods that could cause damage to the braces, such as:

  • Hard candies
  • Gum
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Certain raw vegetables (for example, carrots)

Considerations

Regardless of what types of foods you eat with braces, it is important to keep the crevices between the teeth and around the braces very clean. That means brushing and flossing after meals to prevent the build-up of plaque and decay. Not only can failing to do so damage the teeth, but it can also cause discoloration.

Have more questions about orthodontic treatment? The West U Orthodontics staff is always ready to answer all of your questions and help you get the most out of the treatment plan prescribed for you by Dr. Anna Salas!

Why is orthodontic treatment important?

February 27th, 2018

The goal of orthodontic treatment at West U Orthodontics, which may include the use of braces, retainers, and aligners, is to straighten your teeth. Treatment often starts in the pre-teen or teenage years, but adults may also need orthodontic treatment. The treatment can feel like a chore that lasts for several months or a couple of years, but it can fix important problems. These include:

  • Crowded teeth spaced too close together
  • Gaps between your teeth
  • Crooked teeth
  • Overbite or underbite
  • Upper and lower teeth that do not meet

Straight Teeth are More Attractive

You are more likely to be proud of your smile when your teeth are straight and evenly spaced. Pride in your appearance can give you more confidence and encourage you to try new things. This can be particularly important for adolescents. In addition, people often judge others based on first impressions. A smile that shows straight teeth is more attractive.

Better Oral Health is Easier

Brushing and flossing your teeth are two basic components of an oral health routine to protect your teeth from conditions such as tooth decay, gingivitis, and plaque build-up. As Dr. Anna Salas and our staff know, caring for your mouth is easier when your teeth are straight. The American Dental Association says the following conditions are less likely to occur if you have the proper orthodontic treatment.

  • Dental caries
  • Gum disease or gingivitis
  • Tooth loss
  • Impaired speech
  • Worn tooth enamel

Orthodontic Treatment Improves Nutrition

Poorly aligned teeth can reduce your ability to chew properly or make certain foods more difficult to eat. Many of these more challenging foods are healthy, and avoiding them can cause you to limit your diet to softer, often less-nutritious foods, such as ice cream and canned soup. Straighter teeth and a better ability to chew let you eat crunchy foods, such as apples and carrots; stringy foods, such as asparagus and chicken; and chewy foods, such as raisins.

How Braces Can Work at Any Age

February 20th, 2018

Are you an adult who is considering getting braces? Perhaps you’ve had them before, but over the years that dental work has been reversed. Or maybe you’ve never had any orthodontic work done, but are considering braces for the first time. In either case, West U Orthodontics can help you enjoy straighter teeth, an improved bite, and a more beautiful smile. If you are considering getting braces, here is what you need to know about adult orthodontic work from Dr. Anna Salas.

Can braces work for adults?

Absolutely! Braces work for just about anyone. However, there are several different types of braces, and not all of them may work for you. Different types of orthodontic treatments include:

  • Ceramic braces
  • Metal braces
  • Self-ligating brackets
  • Lingual brackets (braces behind the teeth)
  • Invisible braces
  • Rubber bands for bite correction
  • Headgear and other appliances

By scheduling a consultation, we can determine which treatment or combination of treatments would be best for your specific needs.

How do I get started?

Getting braces can be a little bit daunting. At first glance, the process may appear expensive and time-consuming. However, if you take it step by step, getting braces can be a simple and relatively pain-free experience. Here are the first steps you need to take to get on the road to straight teeth:

First, you need information. If you are nervous about getting braces, or are having trouble getting started, learning more about the process can help ease your mind. Here are a few sample questions to ask:

  • What kind of braces do you recommend for my teeth?
  • How long will the treatment take?
  • How often will I need to come in for adjustments?
  • What is the total cost of the treatment? Do you accept insurance? Will you require the full amount up front, or do you have payment plans?

Asking these types of questions will help you understand what to expect during the entire process, which can aid your decision on the proper course of action.

The next step is to complete any prerequisite treatment. During your first meeting with Dr. Anna Salas, we’ll need to take some X-rays and molds of your teeth, and then help you determine an appropriate treatment plan. Recommendations may include some preliminary dental work before you get your braces, which can be an important step in making sure your orthodontic treatments are effective.

Once you have completed these steps, you are ready to get started! After you’ve chosen a treatment plan and undergone any necessary prerequisite dental work, you’ll be able to get your braces. Just like that, you’re on your way to a better smile! If you’d like to get started right away, call our Houston, TX location today!

Team Dark Chocolate

February 13th, 2018

Valentine’s Day is the holiday to celebrate all the treasured relationships in your life. It’s a time to honor love in all shapes and forms with cards, social gatherings, and sometimes even binge eating of sweets.

It's hard to look the other way when grocery stores and pharmacies are invaded with goodies connected to the Valentine’s Day theme, and especially if you’re on the receiving end of some of these sweets. We get it. In fact, we’re all for it!

However, we also support a cavity-free smile. So in the interest of your dental and general health, and because we think it’s genuinely tasty, Dr. Anna Salas recommends an alternative to the Valentine treats you may be accustomed to: dark chocolate. 

Yes, Healthy Chocolate Exists

Studies have shown that dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, an ingredient found in the cocoa beans used to make chocolate. Flavonoids can help protect the body against toxins, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the heart and brain.

By opting for dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, you get to reap these benefits! Pretty sweet, right? Just make sure to stick to high-quality dark chocolates that have undergone minimal processing.

Dark Chocolate, AKA Protector of Teeth

Not only does dark chocolate provide some nice benefits for your overall health, it also helps protect your teeth against cavities! According to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, dark chocolate contains high amounts of tannins, another ingredient present in cocoa beans.

Tannins can actually help prevent cavities by interfering with the bacteria that causes them. Think of them as scarecrows for bacteria. They don’t always prevail, but isn’t it nice to have them there?

Smooth Never Sticky

Unlike many popular candies, dark chocolate is less likely to stick in the crevices of your teeth. Chewy, gooey sweets are more likely to hang around in your mouth for longer periods of time, which means they raise the odds of your harboring cavity-creating bacteria.

While some dark chocolates have additives like caramel or marshmallow, it’s best to opt for the plain varieties, which are just as delicious. If you’re feeling festive, though, a dark chocolate with caramel is still better than a milk chocolate with caramel, so that’s the way to go!

While dark chocolate has some pretty sweet benefits, the most important thing to remember (whether you go the dark chocolate route or not), is that moderation is key. That being said, we hope you have fun satisfying your sweet tooth and shopping for treats for your friends and loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at West U Orthodontics!

The Effects of Biting Your Nails

February 6th, 2018

Also known as onchophagia, the habit of nail biting is one of the so-called “nervous habits” that can be triggered by stress, excitement, or boredom. Approximately half of all kids between the ages of ten and 18 have been nail biters at one time or another. Experts say that about 30 percent of children and 15 percent of adults are nail biters, however most people stop chewing their nails by the time they turn 30.

Here are four dental and general reasons to stop biting your nails:

1. It’s unsanitary: Your nails harbor bacteria and germs, and are almost twice as dirty as fingers. What’s more, swallowing dirty nails can lead to stomach problems.

2. It wears down your teeth: Gnawing your nails can put added stress on your pearly whites, which can lead to crooked teeth.

3. It can delay your orthodontic treatment: For those of our patients wearing braces, nail biting puts additional pressure on teeth and weakens roots.

4. It can cost you, literally: It has been estimated that up to $4,000 in extra dental bills can build up over a lifetime.

Dr. Anna Salas and our team recommend the following to kick your nail biting habit:

  • Keep your nails trimmed short; you’ll have less of a nail to bite.
  • Coat your nails with a bitter-tasting nail polish.
  • Ask us about obtaining a mouthguard, which can help prevent nail biting.
  • Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you get the urge to gnaw on your nails.
  • Think about when and why you chew your nails. Whether you are nervous or just bored, understanding the triggers can help you find a solution and stop the habit.
  • If you can’t stop, behavioral therapy may be an effective option to stop nail biting. Ask Dr. Anna Salas and our team for a recommendation.

What is dentofacial orthopedics?

January 30th, 2018

You may have noticed that we specialize in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. And while most people we talk to have heard of orthodontics, many are confused by the dentofacial orthopedics part of the title. Today, Dr. Anna Salas and our team thought we would explain the difference.

While orthodontics entails the management of tooth movement, dentofacial orthopedics involves the guidance of facial growth and facial development, which occurs for the most part during childhood, and is a reason why kids are often the best candidates for receiving dentofacial orthopedic therapy. Dr. Anna Salas will examine and monitor your child’s growth to determine when starting treatment will be most effective. If your child begins orthodontic treatment before his or her adult teeth have erupted, it is known as Phase-One treatment. During this phase, Dr. Anna Salas will use treatments designed to correct your child’s jaw growth and make sure that the jaw bone is properly aligned before beginning the next phase of treatment, which usually involves placing braces to straighten your child's teeth.

Dentofacial orthopedics is also used to treat adult patients at West U Orthodontics, however, this process may involve surgery. With our younger patients, we know the jaw bones are still forming, making it easier for our team at West U Orthodontics to control bone growth and tooth movement. Adults, however, are a different story; their bones are no longer growing, and their jaw bones have hardened, so it is more difficult to adjust the bite and move teeth into proper alignment. Dr. Anna Salas may recommend surgery to adjust the jaw bone and establish the proper bite alignment before beginning treatment.

Because our team at West U Orthodontics is skilled in both areas, we are able to diagnose any misalignments in the teeth and jaw as well as the facial structure, and can devise a treatment plan that integrates both orthodontic and dentofacial orthopedic treatments.

We hope that helps! To learn more about dentofacial orthopedics, and to find out if this type of treatment is right for you, please contact our Houston, TX office and schedule an initial consultation for you or your child. It’s never too late to get a great smile, and we can’t wait to help you or your child get started.

Worst Candy for Braces

January 23rd, 2018

Most kids love candy; actually, most people in general love candy. So when it comes time for you to get braces there can often be a natural conflict between candy consumption and maintaining the integrity of your braces. For that reason, Dr. Anna Salas and our team know that it’s good to know which types of candy are not good for your braces. To better illustrate, here are some candies that you will want to avoid.

Caramel

Caramel is a sweet and often exceedingly sticky and chewy type of candy that just does not mix well with braces. Caramel can cause a mess in regular teeth, but teeth with braces are a whole other story. The sticky candy can very easily get lodged and stuck between the teeth, gums, and braces, making for a difficult task of cleaning your mouth. And if your teeth don't get cleaned properly, cavities can easily form. If you get cavities while you have braces, that could mean additional appointments at our Houston, TX office and an extended treatment time.

Salt Water Taffy

Another sticky and chewy candy to avoid with braces is salt water taffy. For many of the same reasons as caramel, it is best to avoid taffy until you get your braces removed. It may be a long wait, but when it comes to the health of your teeth, and the purpose of your braces, it really is best to avoid taffy.

Popcorn

Popcorn of any kind is best to avoid when you have braces. The kernels can easily do damage to the braces as you chomp on them, and they can get stuck between your teeth and the braces causing discomfort and further complications. In this sense it does not matter which flavor of candy popcorn you eat, all popcorn is bad news until you get your braces off.

Generally speaking, any candy that is chewy, crunchy, or sticky is not a good idea to eat with braces in your mouth. These types of candy will make life wearing braces much more difficult than if you were to just wait until your braces come off. With a little patience you will be back to eating all your favorite candy again, and with straightened teeth at that.

TMD Problems and How You Can Prevent Them

January 16th, 2018

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) describe a set of conditions that involve trouble with your jaw and face muscles. They result from a problem in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is a hinge that connects the temporal bones, in your skull in front of each ear, to your jaw. The joint enables you to talk, yawn, and chew by letting your mouth move.

TMD can be very painful and interfere with functions such as eating and speaking. This what to watch for and how to try to prevent TMD.

Risk Factors for TMD

You are at higher risk for TMD if you are a women than if you are male. The disorder is most common among adults between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Other risk factors for TMJ disorders include the following.

  • Arthritis in the area, making movement more difficult
  • Excessive tooth grinding, because it increases stress on the joint
  • General stress, which can lead you to clench your teeth and strain facial muscles

Symptoms of TMD

Symptoms of TMD can last for just a short while, or for several years. Seeing Dr. Anna Salas is important if your symptoms make it impossible for you to eat regularly or if you have unbearable pain or discomfort. The following symptoms can occur on both or one side of your face.

  • Aching or very tired facial muscles
  • Jaws that are fixed open or shut without you being able to unlock them
  • Grating or popping sounds when you chew or close or open your mouth
  • Pain in the entire area, including the mouth, jaw, neck, or shoulders, that comes on when you chew or yawn

Preventing TMD

You can try to prevent TMD by focusing on reducing risk factors. If you grind your teeth at night, ask Dr. Anna Salas about wearing a mouthguard. If you are overly stressed, look into ways to better manage your stress and relax your muscles. Another strategy for trying to prevent the development of TMD is to avoid chewing gum, since that puts stress on your jaw.

If you have questions about TMD, don’t hesitate to contact our Houston, TX office.

Orthodontic Treatment through the Internet

January 9th, 2018

You can learn just about anything on the Internet these days. You can also order just about anything on the Internet these days.

But would you order your braces on the Internet? There’s a new trend involving websites that claim to offer a solution for straightening teeth, without your ever seeing a dentist or orthodontist in person.

These companies usually have patients take an impression of their teeth using putty and a tray. Then you mail the impressions back to the company where a dentist reportedly examines them and suggests a course of treatment using 3D modeling software.

A series of clear aligners are made, to be worn by the patient in order to attain the desired result. Although this form of orthodontic treatment may cost less than seeing an orthodontist in person, there are several reasons why you should avoid it:

  • Potential health hazards are missed: If your oral health is not up to par (e.g., you have cavities, gingivitis, chipped teeth, etc.), an orthodontist would not suggest orthodontic treatment. Only after these issues are addressed would treatment be considered as an option. Whether this is the case with a person can’t be known when all the doctor sees is a set of impressions.
  • Lack of information about the patient: Before you receive any orthodontic treatment, an orthodontist will have X-rays taken to make sure you are a good candidate. If the bones or teeth do not look like they would align properly with treatment, another course of care may be suggested, even necessary. None of this background is available to over-the-net orthodontic providers.
  • No regular checkups: The purpose of regular checkups with Dr. Anna Salas is to ensure that everything is moving properly, on schedule, and most important, safely. This lack of hands-on care with Internet orthodontics could be a hazard for you as a patient and has the potential to do more harm than good.

It’s not worth the risk of getting orthodontic treatment over the net just to save some money. Our Houston, TX office is committed to working with you, whatever your financial situation may be.

Let’s work together to give you the smile you deserve!

Pick the right electric toothbrush!

January 4th, 2018

The electronic toothbrush has undergone several technological advances since the 1960s. Everything from design and bristle motions to rotation, oscillation, and sonic vibration has led to dramatic changes in this necessary tool over time.

Rotation oscillation happens when the head of the toothbrush rotates from one direction to the other. The benefit of powered toothbrushes is that they can produce 50,000 strokes per minute, compared to 300 strokes with a manual toothbrush.

When you’re thinking about brush head size, smaller brush heads are best for hard-to-reach areas and small mouths. Brush heads should be replaced every three to six months as needed. A good way to save money is to designate a brush head for each family member which can be taken on and off a shared base motor.

Having a base motor or rechargeable toothbrush can deliver enough power on a full charge for a week of brushing, which makes it convenient for travel or when life gets busy. Some toothbrushes include audible signals that let you know when to switch the area of your mouth you’re brushing or when a full two minutes has gone by.

Do you have sensitive teeth? Studies have indicated that people tend to apply more pressure on their teeth when they use a manual toothbrush. This makes an electric toothbrush a preferable option if you’re having issues with sensitive teeth or gums.

There are even electric models with pressure sensors that will stop the brush from spinning when you press too hard against your teeth!

Everyone can benefit from having an electric toothbrush. A large handle size can be taken into consideration if a member of the household is young, or has a physical disability or arthritis. They’re even recommended for children in order to maintain good oral hygiene from a young age.

Biofilm is a term used for plaque or debris that builds up in your mouth. If not properly addressed, this can cause serious bacterial infections to your gums and teeth. If you want to remove biofilm in the most efficient way, an automatic toothbrush is the way to go.

When you're ready to make your decision, make sure to consult with Dr. Anna Salas at our Houston, TX office to decide which electric toothbrush is right for you!

Smile, the New Year is Almost Here!

December 26th, 2017

We’ve been celebrating the new year for a really, really long time. It goes way back, but it started formally in 1582, when Pope George XIII made January 1st the official holiday for ushering in the new year. The idea was to yell, cheer, and blow horns to scare away all the evil spirits of the previous year with the hope that the new one would be filled with happiness and opportunity.

While scaring away evil spirits isn’t what’s on our mind these days, we still ring in the New Year by cheering and hollering with friends and family. It’s a time to set new goals, refocus on old ones, and look forward to all the surprises the coming year will bring.

Whether you’re saying hello to the New Year snuggled up at home on your couch in the Houston, TX area or by gathering your friends for a social celebration, here are some tips to help ensure you welcome this new chapter with a smile.

Tips for a great New Year’s Eve celebration from West U Orthodontics

  • Stay safe. This one’s vital, because nothing puts a damper on your party like an emergency trip to the hospital. Stay responsible and try to plan ahead, whether that means taking a taxi, staying with a friend, or recruiting a designated driver. Do what you have to do to keep yourself and everyone around you safe.
  • Spend time with the people you love most. The way we see it, the whole point of the holiday season is to cherish your family and friends. Regardless of what you’re doing, make sure there’s something for everyone. It’s essential to do something the whole group will enjoy!
  • Smile! Whether you get all dressed to go out or have a quiet gathering with family and friends, make sure you accessorize with a smile. There’s always something to smile about!

We can all agree that change can be scary sometimes, but ringing in the New Year is an observance we all welcome with open arms. We hope you’ll enjoy this transitional holiday in a fun, healthy, and safe way. You have endless possibilities ahead of you!

From Dr. Anna Salas, have a fantastic New Year!

Why should I visit the dentist during my treatment?

December 19th, 2017

So, you just got your braces on, and you're wondering why you should continue visiting your general dentist since you’re seeing Dr. Anna Salas every other month. Patients always ask us if they should continue to see their dentist while in orthodontic treatment. In short, the answer is yes.

Today, we thought we would share a few reasons why it’s crucial to keep up with your regular visits with your dentist in addition to coming in for your regular adjustments at West U Orthodontics.

One of the best reasons to visit your dentist while you undergo orthodontic treatment is to remove plaque and tartar. Having braces provides additional nooks and crannies in which food particles and bacteria can hide. Eventually, plaque and tartar can form around your brackets, bands or other appliances which can lead to cavities. Having your teeth professionally cleaned can help ensure most, if not all, plaque and tartar is removed. Even if you are undergoing clear aligner treatment, dental checkups and cleanings are equally as important.

The next reason to visit a dentist is to help protect your teeth from decalcification, or the loss of calcium in your teeth. A potentially serious condition in which white spots on your tooth surfaces, decalcification is irreversible and if left untreated, can lead to cavities. Decalcification is preventable; patients who cut down on sugary sweets and acidic foods, practice good oral hygiene, and visit their dentist regularly can help prevent decalcification.

The final reason we recommend visiting your dentist while you have braces is this: cavities can prolong your treatment. If you are interested in completing your orthodontic treatment on time and without any delays, visiting your dentist every six months or as recommended can go a long way toward making that a realistic goal. Your dentist can provide fluoride treatments or other treatments that strengthen your teeth and protect them from cavities.

Making sure to visit your dentist will help ensure your teeth look their best once your braces come off. If you do not have a general dentist and would like a recommendation on finding one in the Houston, TX area, please give us a call or let us know at your next adjustment appointment!

How much do braces cost?

December 12th, 2017

This is one of the most common questions that is asked at West U Orthodontics and, unfortunately, it does not have a simple answer. Just as every patient we see is unique, so is their treatment plan. Some patients have very simple problems which require less appliances and time, while other cases are much more complicated and may require multiple appliances and phases.

The treatment fee usually reflects the amount of orthodontic work required to complete the treatment plan. The only way to find out how much braces will cost is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Anna Salas. During your consultation, we will perform a complete oral examination, listen to your concerns, and explain how we will address your needs.

Our findings will include the cost of orthodontics and how long the treatment will take to complete. Give us a call today at our convenient location in Houston, TX for a consultation and discover how quickly we can make you smile!

What should I ask during my orthodontic consultation?

December 5th, 2017

If you have been thinking about undergoing orthodontic treatment to straighten teeth or correct jaw alignment, the first step is scheduling an orthodontic consultation at West U Orthodontics. During the consultation we will actively listen to your concerns and address all of your questions, as well as discuss a treatment options that would best suit you or your child's situation.

Here are the top five questions that most patients want answered during their initial orthodontic consultation:

  • Can I benefit from orthodontic treatment, and if so, how long will it take?
  • How frequently will my appointments be scheduled?
  • Can I expect any pain when getting braces? (Ask Dr. Anna Salas about the ways we address pain management).
  • Will I need to have teeth extracted, headgear, expansion appliance, etc.?
  • How much will it cost and what payment options do you offer?

Visit our website for more answers to your questions prior to your initial consultation. Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics are happy to answer all your questions and concerns, and excited to explain all aspects of your treatment plan, as well as the expected outcome. We believe your orthodontic experience should be comfortable, hassle-free, and most importantly, leave you with the smile you've always wanted.

Are you ready for orthodontic treatment?

November 28th, 2017

If you’ve been hiding your smile because you have crooked teeth or gaps between your teeth, it’s time to consider orthodontic treatment with Dr. Anna Salas. Preparing for treatment is an important part of getting the smile you want.

Basic exams

The first step of preparation is the examination. An oral exam and X-rays taken at our office are necessary to identify potential problems and ensure the right steps are taken to prepare for orthodontic treatment at West U Orthodontics.

Dr. Anna Salas will first examine your teeth and take X-rays to determine if it is necessary to extract any teeth or additional work is necessary before braces are possible. You will be prepared for the next step of treatment after your exam is complete and potential problems are identified.

Model for bite

The next step in preparing for orthodontic is taking a plaster model of the mouth. With the model, Dr. Anna Salas will be able to determine how the jaw is aligned so that appropriate adjustments can be made to the mouth and jaw with braces.

Depending on the situation, the model may be used to help evaluate your jaw and make decisions about appropriate treatment for your specific needs. Dr. Anna Salas can create a model of your mouth with the bite indentation that is taken during preparation.

Extracting teeth

If it is determined that a tooth extraction is necessary, then the final step of preparing for orthodontic treatment is the removal of teeth. Only Dr. Anna Salas can determine if it is necessary to remove any teeth before moving forward with the procedure to put on braces.

When your teeth are crooked, have a gap, or otherwise make you unhappy, orthodontic treatment at West U Orthodontics may be an appropriate solution. Although it may take time to prepare for the actual procedure, making the decision to seek treatment can provide the opportunity to show the world a beautiful smile.

For more information about orthodontic treatment and its benefits, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office!

Thanksgiving

November 21st, 2017

At West U Orthodontics, we love to celebrate the holidays with vigor! Dr. Anna Salas would love to share some unique ways of celebrating Thanksgiving from beyond the Houston, TX area to the national level!

When Americans sit down to dinner on the last Thursday of November, the day that Abraham Lincoln designated as the day on which Thanksgiving would be celebrated, they do so thinking that the first Thanksgiving feast was held at Plymouth in 1621. According to National Geographic, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez Coronado and his men celebrated a feast of Thanksgiving in Texas in 1541, giving Texas the distinction of being the first place where Thanksgiving was celebrated.

Different Types of Celebrations

Native Americans had rituals around which they celebrated in hopes of ensuring a bountiful harvest. The Cherokees had a Green Corn Dance that they did for this very purpose. The Pilgrims (not to be confused with the Puritans,) rejected any type of public religious display. They held a three-day long non-religious Thanksgiving feast. Although they said grace, the focus of their celebration was on feasting, drinking alcohol (they did have beer,) and playing games.

The Pilgrims at the Plymouth Plantation celebrated a different day of Thanksgiving in 1623. Plagued by a crop-destroying drought, the settlers prayed for relief. They even fasted. A few days later, they got the rain they so desperately needed. Soon thereafter, they received another blessing when Captain Miles Standish came with staples they couldn't otherwise get. He also told them that a Dutch supply ship was en route. In gratitude for the abundance of good fortune, the Plymouth settlers celebrated a day of prayer and Thanksgiving on June 30, 1623.

The Story of Squanto

No discussion of Thanksgiving is complete without a discussion of Squanto, or Tisquantum, as he was known among his people, the Patuxet Indians. It is believed that he was born sometime around 1580. As he returned to his village after a long journey, he and several other Native Americans were kidnapped by Jamestown colonist, Thomas Hunt. Hunt put them on a ship heading to Spain where they were to be sold into slavery.

As fate would have it, some local friars rescued him and many of the other kidnapped natives. Squanto was educated by the friars. Eventually, after asking for freedom so he could return to North America, he ended up in London where he spent time working as a ship builder. By 1619, he was finally able to get passage on a ship headed to New England with other Pilgrims.

Upon arriving at Plymouth Rock, he learned that his entire tribe was wiped out by diseases that accompanied earlier settlers from Europe. In gratitude for passage on their ship, he helped them set up a settlement on the very land where his people once lived. They called the settlement Plymouth. Since they knew nothing about how to survive, let alone how to find food, Squanto taught them everything, from how to plant corn and other crops, how to fertilize them, how and where to get fish and eels and much more.

After a devastating winter during which many settlers died, thanks to Squanto's teaching, they had an abundant harvest. After that harvest, they honored him with a feast. It is this feast of 1621 which was celebrated between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians that is widely considered the first Thanksgiving celebration.

About the Meal of the Plymouth Settlers

Surviving journals of Edward Winslow that are housed at Plymouth Plantation indicate that the first Thanksgiving feast was nothing like what Americans eat today. The meal consisted of venison, various types of wild fowl (including wild turkey,) and Indian corn. There were no cranberries, stuffing, pumpkin pie, potatoes, or any of the other “traditional” foods that appear on modern menus.

Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, the day that Abraham Lincoln designated as the holiday. It is still a day of feasting, and for some, a day of prayer and thanksgiving. For others, it is a celebration of gathering, especially for families. Still others may celebrate in entirely different ways, including watching college football bowl games, or by playing family games.

If you ever wonder why you're so tired after the Thanksgiving meal, it's because turkey contains an amino acid, tryptophan, and it sets off chemicals whose chain reaction combine to make people sleepy.

Braces-Friendly Foods

November 14th, 2017

Having braces can be frustrating when you have to be cautious about eating certain foods or having to avoid them altogether. Making sure your braces don’t bend or break is vital when you’re trying to straighten your teeth quickly and properly. Dr. Anna Salas and our team have come up with a list of foods to avoid, and which foods you can enjoy while you have braces.

No matter how careful you are, excessive chewing of hard-to-eat foods will eventually cause problems for you and your braces. Knowing what you can and cannot eat at a meal may be helpful when you first get your braces on.

Some foods are too hard for braces, because they can break wires or create damage that will have to be fixed by Dr. Anna Salas. Avoiding the following snacks will prevent this from occurring:

  • Hard candies
  • Gum
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Some hard raw vegetables or fruits (carrots, apples)
  • Ice
  • Chips

There are plenty of safe options for breakfast. They include eggs, yogurt, pancakes, oatmeal, soft toast, bananas, and even bacon.

For lunch, avoid hard or abrasive foods, undercooked vegetables, or apples. Safer options include a delicious stew, soft-breaded deli sandwich, or a mixed salad. Always be careful when biting into foods, and try to cut solid meal items into small chewable portions whenever possible.

A healthy braces-friendly dinner can come in many forms. Soft, steamed vegetables paired with a lean protein make a great option. The addition of rice or quinoa can complete the meal. Just remember to brush and floss after, because these small grains are likely to get stuck between braces and teeth.

During your treatment, Dr. Anna Salas will tighten your braces at each checkup. Braces tightening can sometimes leave your teeth feeling sore afterward. During this time, we recommend picking soft food options until the pain goes away, such as:

  • Pudding
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soup
  • Ice cream
  • Cottage cheese
  • Peas
  • Pasta
  • Yogurt
  • Muffins

It’s also essential to pay close attention to your oral health routine. When food is stuck between braces, you’re more likely to experience plaque and decay buildup. If you want to keep your teeth from appearing discolored when your braces come off, keep up with brushing and flossing after every meal!

If you notice your braces are damaged after you’ve eaten a meal, contact our Houston, TX office to schedule an appointment right away. Our team is here to help with any issues that come up while you are in braces, and to answer any questions you may have about which foods you can and cannot eat.

How to Choose the Best Mouthwash

November 7th, 2017

As we all know, or should by now, the key to maintaining great oral health is keeping up with a daily plan of flossing, brushing, and using mouthwash. These three practices in combination will help you avoid tooth decay and keep bacterial infections at bay.

At West U Orthodontics, we’ve noticed that it’s usually not the toothbrush or floss that people have trouble picking, but the mouthwash.

Depending on the ingredients, different mouthwashes will have different effects on your oral health. Here are some ideas to take under consideration when you’re trying to decide which type of mouthwash will best fit your needs.

  • If gum health is your concern, antiseptic mouthwashes are designed to reduce bacteria near the gum line.
  • If you drink a lot of bottled water, you may want to consider a fluoride rinse to make sure your teeth develop the level of strength they need.
  • Generally, any mouthwash will combat bad breath, but some are especially designed to do so.
  • Opt for products that are ADA approved, to ensure you aren’t exposing your teeth to harmful chemicals.
  • If you experience an uncomfortable, burning sensation when you use a wash, stop it and try another!

Still have questions about mouthwash? Feel free to ask Dr. Anna Salas during your next visit to our Houston, TX office! We’re always happy to answer your questions. Happy rinsing!

A Fun Halloween with Braces

October 31st, 2017

Having teeth encased in braces can be discouraging during Halloween. If you or your child has braces, there are certain candies to avoid this holiday season—and in general—while you have braces. Candy can be tempting, especially for children.

But don’t worry; other sweet treat options can readily take their place. Take a look at the American Association of Orthodontists’ tips on how to keep your braces safe.

Treats to avoid because they can cause damage to your braces include:

  • Hard candies
  • Chewy candies
  • Nuts
  • Caramel
  • Licorice
  • Jelly beans
  • Taffy
  • Bubblegum
  • Hard pretzels
  • Popcorn

These goodies should be avoided because they have the potential to bend or break your braces. Broken brackets and loose wires can waste time and money.

Switch out hard, chewy, and sticky candies for these options in the mean time:

  • Soft chocolate
  • Peanut butter cups
  • Gelatin treats
  • Ice cream
  • Smoothies
  • Root beer floats
  • Apple cider

Encouraging your child to stay with alternative, braces-friendly treats may prevent her from trying to eat candies that could break or damage braces. Halloween can still be fun, especially if your youngster (or you) don’t have to visit our Houston, TX office get braces fixed.

Make sure to remind your child to avoid harmful candies, and encourage him to exchange treats with friends to make it more fun. Only passing out candies that children can eat safely, such as soft chocolates, can make them feel included.

Dr. Anna Salas and our team hope you enjoy your Halloween season, regardless of whether you are wearing braces.

How does wisdom tooth removal affect orthodontic care?

October 24th, 2017

The purpose of braces and other forms of orthodontic treatment at West U Orthodontics is to correct malocclusion, also known as crooked or crowded teeth, or “bad bites.” Past orthodontic practice dictated that wisdom teeth be removed, especially in cases of crowding.

The wisdom teeth are the last teeth to come in, and are officially known as the third molars. The teeth typically erupt, or break the surface of the skin, in young people between the ages of 13 and 20.

Sometimes, wisdom teeth are impacted. That means they cannot break through the gum tissue. This typically happens when the mouth or jaw is too small to accommodate the teeth. Impacted wisdom teeth can become infected, and some dentists and orthodontists may want to remove them as prophylaxis to prevent possible future infection.

Justification for removing wisdom teeth

Dr. Anna Salas will tell you that in some cases, wisdom teeth attempt to come in the wrong way, either tilting in the jaw, or sideways. If the mouth is too small to accommodate these additional teeth, they inevitably become impacted. Swelling or infection of the gum flap above an impacted wisdom tooth may cause pain. The greatest danger is pericoronitis, a potentially dangerous infection that can occur in the gum area around an impacted wisdom tooth, or around a wisdom tooth that has erupted.

Orthodontists base their decision to remove wisdom teeth on each patient's individual circumstances. To learn more about the impact wisdom teeth have on orthodontic treatment, or to schedule a visit with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office!

How Your Pearly Whites Can Help You in Life

October 17th, 2017

At West U Orthodontics, Dr. Anna Salas and our staff have found that patients who like their smiles have better self-esteem. People who don’t like their smiles are often skittish about talking to other people. According to the National Women’s Health Resource Center, when women are asked about what they’d most like to change about themselves, many point to their smile. Despite wanting to change their smiles, quite a few of the people who are unhappy about that part of themselves won’t consider getting braces.

Most Americans Don’t Have Straight Teeth

The American Association of Orthodontics estimates that 4.5 million Americans wear braces or other orthodontic equipment to straighten their teeth and to get a healthier mouth. One in five of those braces wearers are women. The organization’s statistics also show that about 75 percent of the population doesn’t have straight teeth, and those people would benefit from getting braces.

While the main benefit of braces is straight teeth, and to improve the look of your smile, there are other benefits that make braces even more useful, including:

  • Straighter teeth help people chew better.
  • Straighter teeth give people a proper bite.
  • People speak better when they have straighter teeth.
  • When people have straight teeth, they have better overall gum and mouth health. A healthier mouth means flossing and brushing are easier, and that means your entire mouth stays healthy.
  • A healthy mouth is also linked to a healthy body.

When you feel proud of those pearly whites, you feel better about your smile, and that contributes to a better self-image and improved self-esteem. Ultimately, that can lead to greater career success and a more fulfilling social life.

My teeth don't line up any more. Why?

October 10th, 2017

If your teeth don't line up like they used to any more, you may be suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, often called TMD. This is a term that can actually be applied to any condition that occurs because the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is inflamed.

The temporomandibular joint is essentially the hinge that holds your lower jaw to your skull, and when it is inflamed or damaged in any way, it can be extremely painful. You have two temporomandibular joint, one on each side of your jaw, and it is typical to experience TMD in both sides at the same time.

Shifting of the Teeth

The reason that your teeth may not line up as they once did is that the ball and socket joints are often out of alignment and, as mentioned above, often very inflamed as a result. In order to correct the problem, Dr. Anna Salas may prescribe dental orthotics such as a lower jaw splint.

Sometimes, the wisdom teeth can play a role in the shifting of the teeth as well. If shifting wisdom teeth is combined with TMD, it may be necessary to have your wisdom teeth removed. Dental splints may follow if your teeth don't shift back to their proper positions on their own.

TMD is certainly a difficult thing to deal with, so if you experience your teeth shifting, scheduling an appointment at our Houston, TX office is the smartest course. We want to help you get your smile back, so give us a call anytime.

October is National Orthodontic Health Month

October 3rd, 2017

What does the month of October mean to you? For people in the northern hemisphere, October is when the weather starts to get a little chilly: heavy jackets might come out of storage and the summer clothing gets packed away. You might start making plans for the upcoming holidays or looking at the beautiful and changing autumn scenery. October means something a little different to our team at West U Orthodontics because this is National Orthodontic Health Month. During October, orthodontic clinics all over the country work together to promote their services and inform the community about the important work we do.

National Orthodontic Health Month is an awareness campaign created cooperatively by orthodontists and other dental health professionals. During this month, we make a special effort to promote dental health and orthodontic health in particular. This is a great time to get your questions answered by dental professionals in your community and to learn more about exactly what an orthodontist can do for you and your family. Events held in connection with National Orthodontic Health Month are also an opportunity for us orthodontists to come out and meet community members. If you have never been to an orthodontist before, you might not know what to expect. Meeting one of us in person before your checkup is a great way to find out what kind of person you’ll be seeing during your appointment.

Meeting Dr. Anna Salas in a relaxed “meet and greet” atmosphere can be especially helpful for any young orthodontic patients in your family. Kids of all ages–and their parents!–can feel anxiety about going to the dentist. Getting to know the person you have an appointment with can make the experience a lot less stressful for everyone. We don't want anyone to avoid seeing a dental professional for regular checkups just because they don't know who we are. Just meeting and talking with the orthodontist you'll be seeing may be enough to make you feel more comfortable about your upcoming appointment.

Dental health is something that affects everyone; healthy teeth and gums contribute to a healthy smile and a lifetime of comfort and well-being. Orthodontists are just one of the various dental practitioners you could visit at some point in your life, so taking a little time to learn who we are and what we do is certain to be a helpful experience. We look forward to seeing you and your family this October at our Houston, TX location!

Cosmetic Braces Options

September 26th, 2017

If you’re like most adults, you aren't enthused about the idea of having to get traditional metal braces. The look, feel, and cost keep many people from getting the smile they want.

However, many options are available at our Houston, TX office if you’re looking for a cost-effective and more discreet way to straighten your teeth.

Choosing the right kind of cosmetic braces depends on the severity of your situation. Some cosmetic braces, such as clear aligners, are best suited for mild to moderate spacing or crowding of the teeth, and minimal bite alignment issues. But there are options for people who need more intense treatment.

Below is a list of some of the most popular options available today.

Invisalign® involves multiple clear aligner trays that you wear in a predetermined order to achieve the desired treatment result. Most people won’t even know you’re wearing them, and they offer solid results. Clear aligners might not be suitable for all cases; they are mainly for those with mild to moderate spacing or crowding of the teeth and minimal bite alignment issues.

Ceramic braces are similar to traditional braces, but less visible due to translucent ceramic brackets and/or wires. They are not quite as discreet as clear aligners such as Invisalign, but they are more subtle than traditional braces and can be used for most cases.

Lingual braces are attached to the back of your teeth instead of the front. They are highly discreet but effective at moving teeth and correcting bite issues. Their cost is higher due to the materials involved, and the additional time and effort required to place them accurately.

Self-ligating braces are similar to traditional metal braces, but no elastics (ligatures) are required on the bracket because they have built-in clips to hold the wire against your teeth. People will perceive you’re wearing them, but they don’t need as many adjustments from Dr. Anna Salas, so you’ll require fewer appointments and undergo a shorter treatment time.

It’s only natural to have questions before you embark on a course of braces treatment. Speak with Dr. Anna Salas or any of our staff members at our Houston, TX office about your goals, budget, and timeframe, and we’ll help you find the right fit!

Keep that candy at bay during your treatment!

September 19th, 2017

Now that you have braces, it is more important than ever to maintain good oral hygiene during your treatment, as Dr. Anna Salas will tell you. While we trust you will continue brushing and flossing on a regular basis throughout your treatment at West U Orthodontics, you also have to mindful of what you eat. While all those sweet, sour, and sticky candies may taste great, these treats can actually damage your teeth and braces!

Sour candies  can be acidic to your teeth, and actually wear down the enamel that protects them, resulting in tooth decay and cavities. If you do indulge in eating these candies at some point during your treatment, be sure to wash your mouth out with water, drink milk or eat a few slices of cheese. These foods will help neutralize the acid in your mouth.

Besides cavities and tooth decay, many people do not realize that good oral health and hygiene are important to your overall health, too; researchers have discovered the connection between periodontal disease and other major health concerns, such as heart disease. Therefore, it is important to maintain a good oral hygiene routine just as you did before your braces. This includes visiting your dentist here in Houston, TX every six months, brushing and flossing daily, and using an antibacterial mouthwash, as well as visiting Dr. Anna Salas for your regular adjustment appointments.

For more questions about foods you should avoid while wearing braces, or if you have any general questions about your treatment, we encourage you to give us a call, ask us at your next adjustment appointment or ask us on Facebook!

When Clear Aligners aren’t the Answer

September 12th, 2017

Clear aligners like Invisalign® have become increasingly popular over the past several years and rightly so. They’re removable, easier to clean than braces, and hardly anyone knows you're wearing them. They are great in treating many cases, but they aren't for everyone.

Below, Dr. Anna Salas and our team cover some of the instances where clear aligners just aren't the answer:

  • If drastic tooth movement is required – Fixed appliances deliver much more significant tooth movement. So if your case is a drastic one, clear aligners may not be the best choice.
  • If you need to move molars – Molars have much stronger roots than your other teeth and would require significantly longer to move with clear aligners. A fixed appliance is the best choice in this instance, especially if you have a substantial overbite or underbite that needs to be dealt with.
  • If you're the type who often forgets or loses things –If you would forget to wear your aligners for the prescribed amount of time (usually at least 22 hours per day), clear aligners are probably not the best choice for you. Forgetting to wear them can delay treatment and even make it so you need to regress to the previous set of aligners to be able to move forward with treatment. And let's face it, if you're not careful, removable aligners are easy to lose. Losing aligners delays treatment and is expensive since you need to buy replacements to stay on course. Replacing a lost set of aligners usually takes between seven and ten days—a definite setback in treatment.
  • If you're looking for the fastest treatment possible – Clear aligners usually can't move teeth as quickly as fixed appliances. So if you're looking for the fastest way to achieve your desired result, clear aligners may not be the best bet.

Feel free to talk with Dr. Anna Salas about your options regarding braces and clear aligners. We know there are pros and cons to both, so let’s find the option that works best in your life and for your specific needs in terms of treatment. Schedule an appointment at our Houston, TX office today!

Going Back to School with Braces

September 5th, 2017

Going back to school is already an exciting (and sometimes nerve-racking) time so we don't want your braces adding to that. Our Houston, TX team has compiled some helpful tips to make the process as easy and fun as possible.

1. Make sure you pack or purchase braces-friendly lunches

Try to avoid overly crunchy foods (think carrots, celery, hard crackers) especially if your teeth are sore from having your braces tightened. But you shouldn't stop eating healthful foods that fall in this category. For instance apples can be sliced into wedges or carrots can be cut into coins.

You should also avoid sticky foods like candy or gum that can and will stick in your braces like glue! Softer foods are easier on your teeth and braces, so aim to make a good portion of your lunch on the softer side.

2. Have a braces kit in your backpack or locker

Having some useful items on hand at school when you need them is one of the most helpful things you can do. Pack some wax for sores or tenderness, floss and/or flossing tools made for braces, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a small cup for rinsing, a small mirror to check for trapped food, and some lip balm if your lips tend to chap. With these tools on hand, you'll avoid most if not all braces-related nuisances!

3. Know that you're not alone

If you're feeling self-conscious about your braces, don't. Be proud of them! There are many other people your age who have braces, and if they don't have them now, they probably will in the future. Relax and know that you're on the path to a straighter and healthier smile.

If you have any questions about making your transition into "braceshood," just ask Dr. Anna Salas or any member of our Houston, TX team! We're here to help make your braces experience (and your smile) the best it can be.

Celebrate Labor Day by Getting Away

August 29th, 2017

Labor Day honors the contributions that workers have made to this country, and for many Americans, the holiday is a great time to relax at home with family and friends. But there are quite a few people who celebrate the holiday by getting out of town, with an estimated 33 million people traveling more than 50 miles over Labor Day weekend each year. If you’re dreaming of a great Labor Day escape but you’re not quite sure where to go, here are a few ideas from our team at West U Orthodontics to give you some travel inspiration.

Explore a National Park

On a national holiday like Labor Day, it’s only fitting to experience the beauty of America’s landscapes by heading to the nearest national park. If you’re confined to an office most days of the year, national parks can provide a relaxing and scenic escape, whether you’re by yourself, traveling with a group of friends, or bringing the whole family along. Depending on how close you live to the nearest park, you can stay for an afternoon or for longer than a week. With 58 parks located in 27 states, there are plenty of beautiful areas to choose from.

Chow Down in a BBQ Haven

Barbecuing is a popular Labor Day activity, but instead of sweating over your own grill or oven, try visiting one of the country’s BBQ capitals. U.S. News and World Report names Memphis as the top BBQ destination, with more than 80 BBQ restaurants in the city, most notably Corky’s BBQ and Central BBQ. Kansas City is also known for the sweet taste of its sauces, while central Texas is said to have perfected the technique of smoking tender and flavorful brisket.

Relax on the Beach

Many people think of Labor Day as the unofficial start of fall, which brings cooler temperatures, more rain, and for many people, an end to lazy days at the beach. End your beach days with a bang by taking a trip to one of the coasts or to a lakeside beach. For an added dose of festivity, find a city or town that celebrates the occasion with a fireworks display over the water.

Whether you’re looking to turn your getaway into a full week affair or you simply want to experience a quick escape, make the most of your holiday by changing your surrounding scenery. Happy Labor Day from the orthodontic practice of Dr. Anna Salas!

What happens if I have an orthodontic emergency while I'm on vacation?

August 22nd, 2017

At West U Orthodontics, there are a few things we want to remind you of when you're on vacation, so that a day with friends and family won’t be spent dealing with an orthodontic emergency. Firstly, we are here for you whether you are in town or out of town on vacation. Give us a call and we may be able to address the problem over the phone. Second, if we are unable to help you fix the problem over the phone, we will help you find an orthodontic practice in your vacation area that can help you.

If you experience problems reaching our office, we suggest going online and searching for orthodontic practices in your area. Most orthodontists will lend a helping hand to another orthodontic patient and get them out of pain or discomfort.

If you have braces, whether they are metal, ceramic, or lingual, Dr. Anna Salas and our team suggest steering clear of the following foods to avoid broken brackets and/or wire distortion while you are on vacation:

  • Chewy, sticky, or gummy food
  • Apples, pears and other whole fruits (cut fruit into thin wedges before consuming)
  • Bagels and hard rolls
  • Bubble gum
  • Corn on the cob
  • Hard candies
  • Hard cookies
  • Pretzels
  • All varieties of nuts, including peanuts, almonds, and cashews

Finally, if you have clear aligners and you lose your tray, don’t worry! Simply put in either the previous tray or the next tray and contact us as soon as you get home!

Follow these tips and you can have a worry-free vacation!

Five Tips in Caring for Your Braces During Orthodontic Treatment

August 15th, 2017

After getting your braces, it is important to know how to take care of your teeth in order to ensure that your braces stay intact and do their job so that your teeth are in top-notch condition after you complete your orthodontic treatment. Today, our team at West U Orthodontics thought we would provide you with five tips you need to know to ensure you undergo successful treatment at our Houston, TX office.

Flossing
Flossing twice a day or after every meal can help you clean areas between teeth and other places a toothbrush can miss. We also recommend using a floss threader, which can be used to help you navigate safely around your braces and brackets. It is vital to floss twice a day, preferably after lunch and before bedtime to keep gum disease and tooth decay at bay.

Brushing
Teeth and appliances should be brushed after every meal and before bedtime using fluoride toothpaste and gentle, soft strokes. We recommend using an interdental toothbrush, which can help you clean the hard-to-reach areas under wires better than an ordinary toothbrush.

Using Elastics
This phase of orthodontic treatment requires cooperation and consistency on your part. If your orthodontist has prescribed elastics, make sure they are worn at all times, except when eating meals or brushing teeth. It’s important that you wear the correct size elastics and have extras in case they are misplaced. By failing to wear your elastics for even one day, you run the risk your teeth moving back toward their original position.

Addressing Damage to Your Braces
In case your appliances are damaged, we ask that you call our team at West U Orthodontics immediately to set up an appointment.

Eat Friendly Foods
When undergoing treatment, there are certain foods you must avoid. Foods that are hard, sticky, chewy or sour can add months to your treatment time. These includes gum, caramels, taco shells, nuts, ice, chips or hard candies.

We hope that helps! If you have any questions, please give us a call at our Houston, TX office or ask us during your next adjustment appointment!

Common Issues with Braces: How to avoid bad breath

August 8th, 2017

A bright, beautiful smile is often achieved with braces. The time you spend wearing braces is an investment in the good health and appearance of your smile. However, Dr. Anna Salas and our staff know that having braces on your teeth can pose challenges. Many of these challenges are commonly faced by all who wear braces, such as flossing, getting food stuck in your braces, and bad breath.

Today, let’s address bad breath and what to do about it. There’s no reason you have to shy away from conversation for fear that you’ve got bad breath.

Fresh Breath Tips for Braces Wearers

  • Eat a Healthy Diet. Unhealthy foods that are laden with sugar can contribute to bad breath. Stick with healthy produce, protein, grains, and dairy found on the list of foods your orthodontist says are safe to eat with braces.
  • Drink Non-Sugary Beverages. Likewise, steer clear of sugary sodas and juices for the same reason. They contribute to bad breath.
  • Stay Hydrated. A mouth that’s continually dry can lead to bad breath by inhibiting your production of saliva. Regular production of saliva removes bacteria and excess food from your mouth, both of which cause bad breath.
  • Brush Often. Brush your teeth and tongue first thing in the morning, after each meal and snack, and before you go to bed, to remove food particles and bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • Don’t Forget to Floss. Flossing with braces might seem tricky, but it is a necessity. Ask Dr. Anna Salas to show you the best way to floss effectively with braces.
  • Mouthwash Use. Use the mouthwash recommended by Dr. Anna Salas. For the best results, swish the mouthwash around in your mouth for 30 seconds.
  • Get Regular Cleanings. Regular dental exams and cleanings are more important when you have braces. Cavities can delay your treatment progress, so be sure to visit your dentist every six months.

Practice Good Hygiene Daily

Good oral hygiene practices are important every day, whether you wear braces or not. But they become even more important during the months you wear braces. In addition to your regular orthodontic checkups, see your general dentist for cleanings and exams.

Together, you and our Houston, TX team will keep your mouth healthy and fresh during and after your orthodontic treatment.

Orthodontic Emergency Care

August 1st, 2017

Although major orthodontic emergencies are relatively rare, when they do happen it is important to seek immediate attention. By comparison, a minor orthodontic issue is something you can usually take care of yourself, or wait until your next scheduled appointment for care. Here are some guidelines to help you understand the difference between an orthodontic emergency and a minor issue.

Orthodontic Emergencies

Acute, Direct Injury to the Mouth, Jaw, or Teeth

Whether undergoing orthodontic care or not, if you injure your mouth, jaw, or teeth, you should see a doctor or dentist immediately. You may need an X-ray to determine the extent of your injury. If the injury affects the orthodontic appliances, they will need adjustment or possibly replacement, depending upon the extent of the injury.

Infected Teeth

It is possible for teeth to become infected following orthodontic treatment. This may or may not be related to your orthodontic appliances. If you experience pain or swelling around a tooth that gets progressively worse, seek professional care as soon as possible.

Minor Orthodontic Issues

While true orthodontic emergencies are rare, minor issues are much more common. Here are some examples of minor orthodontic issues that can be remedied on your own and/or fixed at your next office visit:

  • Poking wire
  • Loose bracket
  • Loose elastic band
  • Loose wire
  • Loose appliance
  • Headgear does not fit
  • Lost or broken elastic band
  • General soreness

Any of the above issues can happen as a result of normal usage, shifting, and wear of your braces. Eating unusually hard or sticky foods can cause or exacerbate these problems. Vigorous brushing of the teeth can also be a factor. None of these issues are emergencies unless they are accompanied by acute or prolonged pain or discomfort.

As for on-the-spot remedies, covering a loose bracket or wire with wax can be a quick fix to alleviate discomfort until your next orthodontist visit. Poking or protruding wires can be moved with a cotton swab or tweezers, or clipped down with nail clippers. Be sure to sterilize the tweezers or clippers in alcohol first. Cover any clipped wire ends with a small ball of wax.

Some soreness or small abrasions in the mouth are normal, especially with recent orthodontic work. Rinse your mouth with a saltwater solution comprised of eight ounces or warm water and one teaspoon of salt.

When in doubt, be sure to contact our Houston, TX office with any questions, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Anna Salas at West U Orthodontics.

Best Ways to Prevent Bad Breath

July 25th, 2017

Nobody likes bad breath, and although it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have it, it is always better to practice good oral health than risk having a smelly mouth. There are many ways to reduce or eliminate bad breath, some are definitely more effective and longer lasting than others. Check out ways to do so below.

Floss Regularly

As difficult as it can be to remember to floss regularly, when it comes to bad breath, flossing is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to freshen your mouth. See, flossing reduces the plaque and bacteria found in areas of your mouth that a toothbrush simply can't reach, and in turn, it rids your mouth of the smell associated with that bacteria. While flossing may not eliminate bad breath on its own, if you do it along with other health oral hygiene habits like brushing, then you may just develop a fresher smelling mouth.

Use Mouthwash

Using some sort of mouthwash can really freshen up your breath, especially if you find it still smells after brushing and flossing. There is a wide variety of mouthwash products on the market, however, you can also create your own by simply using baking soda mixed with water.

Always Brush after You Sleep

Whether after taking a nap, or having a full night of sleep, you will want to brush your teeth in order to reduce bad breath. The truth is, bacteria accumulates in your mouth while you are sleeping (even during a short nap) and that is ultimately the source of bad breath. So next time you wake from a good slumber, give your mouth some brushing and you will find it makes a big difference in the freshness of your breath.

There are many ways to freshen your breath beyond just using gum or mints, the above mentioned are just a few for you to try. Test them out and you will likely find your bad breath problem is solved, or at least considerably reduced. Of course, you can always ask Dr. Anna Salas at your next visit to our Houston, TX office.

How to Floss with Braces

July 18th, 2017

The West U Orthodontics team knows that oral hygiene is important, whether you have braces on your teeth or not. But if you are a person who wears braces, caring for your teeth and gums can become somewhat challenging. Without daily oral hygiene practices, you may become prone to cavities and tooth decay during your time in braces.

Naturally, you know that brushing your teeth each morning and night, as well as after you eat, will help keep your mouth healthy and clean during the months you wear braces. But flossing is also an important part of your hygiene routine. Flossing with braces can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Dr. Anna Salas, your general dentist, or your dental hygienist can help you become more comfortable and adept at flossing your teeth during the months you wear braces.

Flossing Tips for Those with Braces

  • Use Tools Provided by Our Office. A floss threader is a small, plastic needle that will help you floss between the wires and your teeth. Thread a 12-to-18-inch piece of floss onto the needle, and use the needle to get the floss easily behind the wires.
  • Flossing Under the Wires. Once the floss is behind the wires, use your hands to manipulate the floss. Move it up and down along the wires to remove food particles.
  • Flossing Between Your Teeth. Floss between your teeth as you normally would without braces. Move the floss up and down between your teeth, using a clean section of floss for each tooth.
  • After You Finish Flossing. Your orthodontist may have suggested that you use a water pik or proxy brush after you finish brushing. Either of these tools will help remove any loosened food particles to ensure that your teeth and braces are clean.

Continue Good Oral Hygiene Habits

Good oral hygiene habits you use while wearing braces will help you achieve the beautiful smile you and the West U Orthodontics team have been working toward. Once your braces are off, it may be tempting to slack off on the brushing and flossing. Don’t let yourself fall into any habits that will have a negative impact on your oral health or the attractive smile you waited for throughout the months you wore braces. See your general dentist for regular cleanings, and continue to brush and floss your teeth each day.

Why choose an orthodontic specialist over a general dentist?

July 11th, 2017

Patients have so many choices for straightening their teeth nowadays — clear aligners, ceramic braces, lingual braces, self-ligating braces — but who is best suited to guide them through orthodontic treatment? Well, an orthodontist like Dr. Anna Salas in Houston, TX of course!

This may seem obvious, but there’s misinformation circulating with regard to the roles dentists and orthodontists play in treating patients’ oral health.

Dentists are trained to clean teeth, fill cavities, perform certain dental surgeries, and examine overall oral health. Many dentists now offer braces to their patients, but according to the American Association of Orthodontists, it’s better to consult an orthodontist if you need to straighten teeth or fix a bite.

Why an orthodontist? Because they are...

  • Specialists in straightening teeth and aligning jaws, even advanced cases
  • Required to study an additional two to three years after dental school
  • Trained to choose the correct treatment option because they have worked with all the available options
  • Trained to recognize the potential pitfalls with certain treatments and cases, which means there’s less chance of problems after treatment has started or been completed
  • Familiar with emerging treatments and technologies so they can make the best choice for a patient’s case

Some dentists claim to have taken enough continuing education or additional training to offer braces to their patients. But this can't compare to the advanced training an orthodontist receives during his or her education.

Ideally, dentists and orthodontists work hand in hand to make sure oral health and the alignment of teeth and jaws are the best they can be. Think of a dentist as the one who is there for a lifetime, to make sure teeth and gums are healthy.

In contrast, an orthodontist is the highly skilled teammate who helps the dentist by straightening teeth and aligning the jaws over the course of a few years. Instead of one replacing the other, they work together for the health and benefit of their patients.

Happy Fourth of July

July 4th, 2017

Every year, Americans all over the world celebrate the birth of the country and its independence on the Fourth of July. There are countless ways that people celebrate and they range from community parades and large scale gatherings to concerts, fireworks displays, and smaller scale celebrations among family and friends. For some people, July 4th is synonymous with baseball, while for others it is all about the beach of barbecues. However you celebrate, you can be sure that red, white, and blue is visible everywhere throughout the area.

The Beginnings of Fourth of July Celebrations

Although it wasn't officially designated as a federal holiday until 1941, the actual tradition of celebrating Independence Day goes back to the time of the American Revolution (1775 – 1783). At the time of the American Revolution, representatives from the 13 colonies penned the resolution that ultimately declared their independence from Great Britain. The continental congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd of 1776. Two days later, Thomas Jefferson's famous document that is now known as the Declaration of Independence, was adopted by delegates representing the 13 colonies.

First States to Recognize the Fourth of July

In 1781, Massachusetts became the first state (or commonwealth) whose legislature resolved to designate July 4th as the date on which to celebrate the country's independence. Two years later, Boston became the first city to make an official designation to honor the country's birth with a holiday on July 4th. In that same year, North Carolina's governor, Alexander Martin, became the first governor to issue an official state order stipulating that July 4th was the day on which North Carolinians would celebrate the country's independence.

Fun Facts About the Fourth of July

  • The reason the stars on the original flag were arranged in a circle is because it was believed that would indicate that all of the colonies were equal.
  • Americans eat over 150 million hot dogs on July 4th.
  • Imports of fireworks each year totals over $211 million.
  • The first “official” Fourth of July party took place at the White House in 1801.
  • Benjamin Franklin didn't want the national bird to be the bald eagle. He believed that the turkey was better suited to the coveted distinction. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson disagreed with him, and he was outvoted, so the bald eagle became the official bird of the United States.

For many, the tradition is something entirely different. Along the coastal areas of the United States, people may haul out huge pots to have lobster or other types of seafood boils. Others may spend the day in the bleachers at a baseball game, or at a park, cooking a great traditional meal over an open fire. No matter how or where you celebrate, one thing is certain: all Americans celebrate July 4th as the birth and independence of our country.

Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July!

How to Avoid Delays During Your Orthodontic Treatment

June 27th, 2017

Our patients at West U Orthodontics hate the thought of delaying their treatments and often ask us what they can do in between their adjustment visits to help. Today, Dr. Anna Salas and our team thought we would provide some tips on how you can stay on track in regards to your treatment plan time.

The first thing we want you to do is keep your adjustment appointments. Each visit with Dr. Anna Salas is carefully planned to move your teeth a specific way in a certain time frame. It’s important to note that missing an appointment can add weeks or months to your treatment time.

Next, we want you to let Dr. Anna Salas and our team know right away if your experience any problems with your braces or appliances. A missing wire, rubber band, or broken bracket can delay treatment time, so we ask that you please give us a call right away to report any issues rather than waiting until your next visit.

Make sure you wear your rubber bands as prescribed by Dr. Anna Salas. Most, if not all, of our patients will need to wear elastics or rubber bands at some point during their treatment. Not wearing the bands or elastics, or not wearing them enough, can slow down your treatment time. Rubber bands are critical in aligning your bite and are important for the bite-fixing phase of your treatment.

Finally, we want you to maintain good oral hygiene, just as you did before your treatment began. In addition to flossing regularly, we encourage you to brush your teeth several times a day. Not brushing will allow sugar to wear away the cement on the braces, making them less effective in moving your teeth, as well as elevate your risk of developing cavities or tooth decay, which will inevitably delay treatment time.

If you have any questions about any of these tips, or if you have any general questions about your treatment, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office, or ask Dr. Anna Salas during your next adjustment visit!

When should my child be seen for an orthodontic evaluation?

June 20th, 2017

Thanks for asking! It really depends on the dental age of the patient rather than their chronological age. Usually a good time to have your child evaluated by an orthodontist is after the front permanent teeth have erupted into the mouth or if there appears to be extreme crowding of the teeth.

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children between the ages of seven and nine should be evaluated by an orthodontist. There are times when an early developmental treatment is indicated to correct situations before they become major problems. In these circumstances the patient will most likely benefit from a second phase of orthodontics when all of their permanent teeth have erupted.

Most full orthodontic treatment begins between ages nine and 14, and lasts from one to three years, with two years being the average. It’s important, however, that children be screened at an early age for Dr. Anna Salas and our staff to assess if your child can benefit from orthodontic treatment and when treatment should begin.

We hope this helps, and invite you to give us a call if you have any questions about your child’s treatment at West U Orthodontics.

Are braces ruining your photos?

June 13th, 2017

While it’s normal to feel self-conscious, there is no reason to avoid photos just because you wear braces. Many people wear braces and you do not need to be embarrassed about them. There are also ways you can enjoy your photos without hiding your smile.

Make it Fun

Dr. Anna Salas and our staff offer rubber bands for braces in a wide range of colors. Choose your favorite color and wear it with pride. You can mix and match your colors too. For Valentine’s Day, try alternating red and pink bands. For the Fourth of July, use red, white, and blue!

Bands are also available in neon colors and glow-in-the-dark designs. Your imagination is the only thing holding you back. You might want to avoid using dark green bands, though. It makes it look as though you have broccoli stuck in your teeth. Gross!

Make them Disappear

If your braces still really bother you in photos, technology can quickly solve the problem. A photo-editing program, or even a simple paint program, can easily erase your braces. Zoom in on your teeth, pick your natural tooth color with the dropper, and paint your braces away.

If you have a significant amount of metal in your braces, try to avoid close-ups with flash. The flash can reflect off the metal. The important thing to remember is how good your teeth will look and feel once your orthodontic work is complete. Dr. Anna Salas and our staff can also show you options for braces that are not as visible as the traditional style.

Don't forget your retainer this summer!

June 6th, 2017

As we start our summer, our team at West U Orthodontics wants to remind our patients who have completed treatment that it is very important to wear your retainer as prescribed even while away for vacations and summer camps.

If you are away from home and only wearing your retainer at night, here is a helpful tip: after removing and brushing your retainer in the morning, place it back in the case and then put it with your PJ’s or on your pillow. That way you have a reminder to put your retainer back in at night.

Remember, retainers should be worn every night, not just some nights.

We wish you safe travels and adventures this summer!

How can I protect my child's teeth during sports?

May 30th, 2017

Sports are great for children for a variety of reasons. Children can develop their motor skills, learn how to solve conflicts and work together, and develop their work ethics. As a parent, you may recognize the benefits of sports, but also naturally worry about your child’s health and safety. Your job goes beyond providing a water bottle and making sure your child follows the rules of the game.

Although you may not think of your child’s teeth first when you think about sports, accidents can happen that affect your children’s teeth. A stray hockey stick, an errant basketball, or a misguided dive after a volleyball are examples of ways a child could lose a tooth. In fact, studies show that young athletes lose more than three million teeth each year.

Becoming a Better Athlete to Protect Teeth

Becoming a better athlete involves refining skills, learning the rules of the game, and being a good sport. These components are not just about winning. They are also about safety. Young athletes who are better ball-handlers and who are careful to avoid fouls and penalties are less likely to have harmful contact with the ball, teammates, or opponents. Children who are better roller-bladers are less likely to take a face plant into the blacktop, and more likely to save their teeth. Being a good sport and avoiding unnecessary contact is one way to protect teeth.

Proper Protective Equipment for Teeth

If your child is in a sport that poses a high threat to teeth, it is essential for your child to wear a mouthguard. Mouthguards fit your child’s mouth and consist of soft plastic. Dr. Anna Salas can custom fit a mouthguard if generic ones are uncomfortable. While children may resist wearing a mouthguard initially, your persistence in insisting that they wear it should be enough to convince them. A helmet or face mask provides additional protection.

While prevention is best, rapid treatment can improve the situation if your child does happen to lose a tooth during sports. Rapid implantation can work in about ten percent of cases. To learn about ways to save a lost tooth, contact our Houston, TX office.

Memorial Day and Getting Ready for Summer

May 23rd, 2017

Memorial Day didn't become an official holiday until 1971, but Americans started gathering annually in the spring to remember those who lost their lives in war during the 1860s, right after the Civil War. Celebrated on the last Monday in May, people still decorate the grave sites of war veterans and hold memorial services, but Memorial Day has also evolved into a day that signifies the beginning of summer.

During the summer months, many people take road trips to visit family members. Some head off to the airport to enjoy a long-awaited vacation far away, while others look forward to spending time with friends and family at home. However you spend Memorial Day and the subsequent summer months, there are a few things you can take care of to ensure your summertime is enjoyable.

Checklist for an Enjoyable Summer

  • Have the AC Checked. During the hottest days of summer, many families find themselves sweating it out due to a broken air conditioning system. Be proactive so you can avoid waiting for hours or days because the HVAC repair person is booked solid. Have your air conditioning system checked before or around Memorial Day each year.
  • Ensure Security While You're Away. When you leave for vacation, the last thing you should have to worry about is the security of your home. Install a home security system, if possible, and put a timer on your lights so they go on and off at normal hours. You can also alert your local police department that you'll be gone, and ask them to drive by your house once in a while to make sure everything is okay.
  • Visit Dr. Anna Salas Before Vacation. Many people put off exams until after summer vacation. Avoid the crowds and make sure your physical and oral health are in top shape prior to vacation time so there are no unpleasant surprises.

Our team at West U Orthodontics wants you to look forward to Memorial Day and the days of summer by preparing to spend the time safely and comfortably. As you plan ahead, take care of your health and secure your home, you can place your focus on creating memories with family members and friends while enjoying your favorite Memorial Day traditions.

Caring for Your Smile after Invisalign® Treatment

May 16th, 2017

You have done a lot of work to get the perfect smile. You wore your Invisalign aligner trays and cared for your teeth, and now your treatment is done. You still need to take care of your teeth to keep your beautiful smile. Keeps these things in mind when you think about your oral care routine.

Retainers

Many patients do require a retainer after Invisalign treatment. This will be based on your unique situation. If a retainer is recommended by Dr. Anna Salas, use it as directed. Retainers prevent your teeth from shifting back into their original position. You should also avoid hard, crunchy foods for the first couple of weeks as your teeth adjust. For younger patients, retainers are normally used until the wisdom teeth come in or are extracted.

Brushing and Flossing

Brushing and flossing must be part of your daily oral care. Flossing helps remove the plaque, which becomes tartar or calculus. This build up can lead to gingivitis and gum disease. Your gums may be more sensitive for a week or two after your orthodontic work is completed. A warm salt water rinse may relieve discomfort.

Your teeth may be slightly sensitive for a short time. They have been protected by your Invisalign aligner trays and now are fully exposed. You might want to try a sensitive toothpaste to get through the transition. Just ask; we will be glad to recommend the best type for your needs. If your teeth are stained, a professional whitening treatment can be considered.

Regular Dental Checkups

You still need to have regular dental exams. Professional cleanings and X-rays make sure that both your teeth and gums stay healthy so you can keep your teeth for life. If cavities or other problems are found, they can be taken care of quickly.

If you have any questions about how to care for your teeth after your Invisalign program, please ask our Houston, TX team. We want you to keep your healthy smile and enjoy the results of your Invisalign treatment.

Too old for braces? You Might be Surprised

May 9th, 2017

Although adolescence is a common time to get braces, there’s no reason for adults of any age to have to deal with crooked teeth, overbite, underbite, or other dental issues. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists notes that demand for orthodontic treatment in adults continues to grow, with adults representing 20% of new patients.

You’re never too old for braces or other orthodontic appliances, but it’s important to consider the following:

  1. Braces don’t have to be as noticeable as the metal brackets of the past. Many adults opt for ceramic or plastic braces, which are bone-colored or clear, respectively. Another option is a lingual appliance, which attaches to the back side of your teeth. These so-called “invisible” braces are much less noticeable than traditional options.
  2. By adulthood, bone growth has stopped. This means that certain structural changes can only be achieved by surgery. Although this typically affects people with significant crowding, bite, or jaw problems, Dr. Anna Salas can provide an individualized treatment plan that addresses your unique issues.
  3. Treatment may take a bit longer. The length of orthodontic treatment tends to be slightly longer for adults than adolescents. Exact estimates vary by individual, but the average length of time for adult braces wearers is two years, according to the Harvard Medical School.
  4. Outcomes are just as good for adults! Many adults worry that it’s too late to treat their orthodontic problems. However, treatment satisfaction tends to be very high, which is a testament to how effective braces can be in middle-aged and older adults.

May is National Teen Self-Esteem Month!

May 2nd, 2017

The month of May has the unique distinction of being National Teen Self-Esteem Month. What does that mean?

National Teen Self-Esteem Month was created to raise public awareness about how low self-esteem can negatively affect teens. Especially during May, parents and guardians of teens are asked to be positive role models. If teens can receive positive re-enforcement and their negative images of themselves are improved, then their self-esteem has a better chance of developing in a positive direction.

Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics know there are a lot of young adults living in America are struggling with depressed self-images. These can affect all aspects of their everyday lives. Some evidence shows learning abilities and increased risk of eating disorders can originate in a teen’s low self-esteem. It can also lead to abuse of drugs and thoughts of suicide. Dating violence among high school teens is now more common than previously thought.

What can be done to help?

So what can adults do specifically to help their teens? The National Teen Self-Esteem Facebook page offers a variety of suggestions and positive messages for teens and parents alike. Of all the pages your teen “likes” on social media, perhaps he or she should include this page. Some of the tips offered include:

  1. When you stumble, get right back up.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
  3. Do things that make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Open yourself up to compliments.

Another great way to build self-esteem is to have a beautiful, health smile, and that’s where our team at West U Orthodontics come in! Whether your teen is due for a simple cleaning, could benefit from cosmetic treatments, or needs orthodontic care, we can help bestow a confident smile he or she will be proud to show off.

Overall, a more positive approach to life will help us all. It is a very important trait to instill in our teens. As parents, a big part of our responsibility is to show our children there is always another day and bumps in the road are just that. We need to help guide their self-esteem and reinforce their positive traits. We can help them recognize the value of who they are.

We should make our children’s self esteem a priority — not just in May, but throughout the year. Let National Teen Self-Esteem Month serve as the impetus for new levels of self-esteem.

For more information on this topic, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office!

Braces-Friendly Snack Ideas

April 25th, 2017

Wearing braces limits some of the snacks you can eat. However, you still have plenty of choices for fun and healthy foods that will not harm your braces. You can even enjoy a few crunchy treats as long as you choose them carefully.

Sweet Treats

Puddings provide a sweet and safe snack while you are wearing braces. You can even select flavored puddings such as caramel to satisfy the urge for items you should not eat. They can be purchased already made or whipped up at home. You can even select low-sugar varieties that still taste good. Ice cream and yogurt are also choices; just avoid products with nuts.

Healthy Snacks

Fruits are excellent for a healthy snack. You just need to avoid biting into hard fruits such as whole apples. You can avoid the problem with fruit cocktails packed in water. Cocktails still have the nutritional benefits and flavor, but contain softer pieces. Avoid fruits packed in heavy syrup, though; these tend to have too much sugar.

Crunchy or Salty Snacks

Not all crunchy foods are bad; you just need to limit the crunch. Walnuts are a softer nut that can normally be eaten safely. Small cheese crackers satisfy the need for crunchy and salty. You can also allow pieces to dissolve slightly in your mouth before chewing, to reduce any risk.

Soft granola bars are also an option. Check the granola ingredients to ensure there are no large nut pieces, and brush your teeth afterwards. Otherwise pieces can become stuck in your dental work.

If you have any questions about safe snacks, do not hesitate to ask Dr. Anna Salas and our staff.

Every Day is Earth Day

April 18th, 2017

During the early days of the environmental awareness movement, those who demonstrated against pollution, toxic chemicals, and the general public health were known as hippies. The early 1970s were a time of change, and assertions that we needed to pay more attention to the Earth's atmosphere were generally dismissed. But within a couple decades, it had become clear that the previous generation was right; the citizens of the world needed to become more environmentally conscious.

Many people feel that they can't make a difference if they don't do something big. But caring for the environment doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing concept. In fact, the little things you do can add up to make a great impact, especially in our community. Here are a few ways you can help the environment on Earth Day, April 22nd and all year around.

Four Small Ways to be Environmentally Friendly

  • Recycle Your Textiles. Nearly 21 million tons of textiles are added to American landfills each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Donating your unwanted clothing to a secondhand store or an organization that repurposes fabric helps cut down on solid waste and conserves natural resources.
  • Reduce Usage of Disposables. Plastic bottles and bags, disposable diapers and other things we can use and toss out are convenient, but they're not necessary. Simply choosing to replace one of type of disposable with a reusable product can help you cut down on waste that has a large negative impact on our environment.
  • Conserve Water. If everyone in the United States turned off the water while brushing their teeth, more than 1.5 million gallons of water could be conserved. Turn the water on long enough to wet your toothbrush for brushing and rinsing, and then immediately turn the water off again.
  • Turn Off the Lights. Flip the light switch to "Off" if you're going to leave a particular room for 15 minutes or more. This will conserve energy on incandescent light bulbs and cut down on cooling costs.

It's not necessary to be an activist or install solar panels all over your home to help the environment. Although you can do these things, the little everyday measures make a big difference in helping to conserve energy and the environment, while reducing your carbon footprint. Our team at West U Orthodontics wants to remind you to celebrate Earth Day and help the environment, knowing that it will benefit your and your children's generation.

What is early intervention?

April 11th, 2017

Many developing orthodontic problems can be intercepted and corrected if diagnosed and treated at an early age. Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics recommend children have their first orthodontic evaluation no later than age seven, or younger if the front four permanent teeth have replaced the baby teeth. Early treatment, also known as interceptive treatment or Phase I treatment, provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Early intervention guides growth and development, preventing serious problems later.

If your child is showing these signs, it may be time to think about early orthodontic treatment:

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five or six, and will have all their permanent teeth in around age 12 to 13)
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Sucking his or her thumb
  • Speech impediment
  • Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
  • Crowded front teeth
  • Teeth that don't come together in a normal manner or even at all

Early intervention will greatly reduce the severity of your child’s case, and therefore reduce the length of treatment time and cost for a second phase of treatment when all of his or her permanent teeth have erupted. An evaluation at our Houston, TX office will determine if your child’s dental and skeletal growth is proceeding properly or if interceptive treatment is needed. Many times, a more severe problem can be corrected using sophisticated removable appliances instead of traditional orthodontic treatment.

To schedule a consultation for your child to visit with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call! We will provide your child with an initial exam, and discuss with you the best steps to take toward caring for your child's smile.

Play it Safe this Spring

April 4th, 2017

It's springtime and it's again time to remind our patients at West U Orthodontics to protect their faces and pearly whites while out on the field playing sports. According to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, children, high-school athletes and adults have more than 5,000,000 teeth knocked out in sporting events annually.

If you are planning on participating in spring sports, it’s imperative to have a proper-fitting mouthguard. Mouthguards can prevent chipped or broken teeth, lip and cheek injuries, jaw fractures, mouth lacerations and even concussions.

Having a mouthguard can make the difference between losing your teeth or not, and because many of our patients who play high school sports have jaws that are still growing, last year’s mouthguard may no longer fit as it should. Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics can fit you for a new guard.

To learn more about mouthguards or for general questions about your treatment at our Houston, TX office, please give us a call!

When You Need Immediate Care, We are Here for You

March 28th, 2017

At West U Orthodontics, we know orthodontic emergencies are neither convenient nor timely. If you are a patient of record, Dr. Anna Salas and our team are more than willing to see you after hours or over the weekend. As a general rule, you should call our Houston, TX office when you experience severe pain or when you have a painful appliance problem that you can’t take care of yourself. We’ll be able to schedule an appointment to resolve the problem. If you have an orthodontic emergency after regular office hours, please give us a call and follow the emergency prompts to contact one of our doctors.

My Mummy had Braces! Weird Facts about the History of Braces

March 21st, 2017

Sometimes real life is stranger and more interesting that any made-up story. These weird and interesting facts about braces will amuse you … and make you glad you didn’t have to get braces “way back when.”

Mummies with braces: Archaeologists have discovered mummies with crude bands of metal wrapped around their teeth. The metal was wrapped around each individual tooth, and it is believed that ancient dentists used catgut to guide the teeth and close the gaps.

First “official” braces: The first official braces were constructed in 1728 by Pierre Fauchard. They consisted of flat strips of metal. String was used to connect the metal to the teeth.

Early rubber bands: In 1850, Tucker began making rubber bands out of rubber tubing.

Brackets are better: Brackets were invented by Edward Angle in 1915. They were not bonded to the teeth directly, but instead were attached to bands that went around the teeth.

Wiring by NASA: As braces have become more modern, the technology has improved by leaps and bounds. You may know that some braces wire contains nickel titanium. What you may not know is that this metal was developed by NASA and has special shape memory that is activated by pressure or body heat.

Over 60 with braces: Actress Faye Dunaway got braces at the age of 61, which shows you are never too old to look more fabulous!

Oh, and one more thing that didn’t quite make our list, but is interesting all the same. Did you know that almost 25 percent of patients who get braces have to get them again because they wouldn’t wear their retainers? So suck it up, buttercup, and use that retainer!

Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day

March 14th, 2017

Millions of people, around Houston, TX and beyond, wear green on St. Patrick’s Day so they can show their spirit for the holiday and avoid getting pinched. While it may be easy for you to throw on a green shirt, sport a St. Patrick’s Day button, or wear a pair of emerald-hued shoes, if you’re an avid St. Patty’s Day enthusiast you may want to try something different this year. Dr. Anna Salas thought of a few ideas that will help you take your holiday spirit to the next level:

Visit Chicago’s Green River

If you happen to be near the Windy City during St. Patrick’s Day or you’re thinking of planning a trip, don’t miss out on going downtown to watch the large-scale celebration that kicks off when the city dyes the river bright green. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago has been celebrating the holiday with this tradition for more than 50 years, with tens of thousands of people gathering annually to witness the mysterious dying process and the stunning result.

Don Green Face Paint

Just like an avid sports fan on game day, you can use green face paints to showcase your enthusiasm for this holiday. Avoid breakouts or allergic reactions by only using paints that are specifically meant to be applied to the skin. A little bit of face paint can cover a large area, so feel free to get creative and decorate the whole family on St. Patrick’s Day.

Eat Green All Day

Not a fan of green eggs and ham? With the increasing popularity of green smoothies, there’s no better time to get in on this health craze. To create a green smoothie without the aid of food coloring, you can simply blend a generous amount of a leafy green vegetable, such as spinach or kale, with the ingredients that you would typically use to make a smoothie, like fruit, ice, milk, or juice. Keep the trend going throughout the day by using those same vegetables to create a green soup, egg salad, or a batch of bright green pastries. As an added bonus, you’ll get a healthy dose of vitamins without changing the taste of most of these foods.

If your old holiday routine has gotten stale, leave your green T-shirt in the drawer and try one or all of these tips. Don’t be surprised if you have so much fun that you decide to start a new, annual St. Patrick’s Day tradition! Have a happy St. Paddy’s day from West U Orthodontics!

Helpful Hygiene Tips for Patients Who Wear Braces

March 7th, 2017

Today, Dr. Anna Salas and our team thought we would offer a few tips for our patients currently undergoing orthodontic treatment. For those of you wearing braces, it’s important to be even more dedicated to good oral hygiene than those not currently in treatment.

After getting your braces, it is important to know how to take care of your teeth in order to ensure that your braces stay intact and do their job so that your teeth are in top-notch condition after you complete your orthodontic treatment.

Braces are known to trap food, which contributes to plaque formation. If it is not carefully removed from the teeth and gums, plaque will develop into decay or gum disease, leading to costly delays during your treatment. It is important to practice good oral hygiene by following instructions from Dr. Anna Salas during your treatment.

We are proud to offer supplies to help fight plaque, such as a proxabrush, dental floss, and floss threaders. The use of an electric toothbrush and or a water pick can also be helpful in combating cavities and decay. And, of course, our team at West U Orthodontics suggests brushing at least twice a day.

We hope that helps! If you have any questions, please give us a call at our Houston, TX office or ask us during your next adjustment appointment!

Tips to Avoid Common Problems Associated with Braces

February 28th, 2017

While braces play an important part in helping to create a healthy mouth and teeth, you might experience a few side effects while wearing them that are common and can be easily treated.

Even with the best of care, braces can cause soreness to your mouth. As your teeth begin to move, it is natural for your teeth to feel aches and your jaw to develop soreness.

If there are broken wires or loose bands on your braces, a sore tongue, mouth, or canker sore will occur. Canker sores are a common occurrence when braces rub inside the mouth. There are ointments available to reduce the pain and irritation associated with mouth sores. We urge those who experience a sore mouth or any of the following problems to call our office to schedule an appointment.

  • Loose brackets: Apply a small amount of orthodontic wax to the bracket temporarily. You might also apply a little between the braces and the soft tissue of your mouth.
  • Loose bands: These must be secured in place by your orthodontist. Try to save the band for repair.
  • Protruding or broken wires: The eraser end of a pencil can be used to move the wire carefully to a less painful spot. If you are unable to move it, apply orthodontic wax to the tip. If a mouth sore develops, rinse with warm salt water or antiseptic rinse.
  • Loose spacers: These will need to be repositioned and sometimes replaced.

Foods to Avoid

Some foods can also help or hurt you while you’re wearing braces. Remember to cut your food into small pieces that can be easily chewed. You will want to avoid hard and chewy foods that can break your hardware. Foods such as corn on the cob, nuts, carrots, apples, ice, and bubble gum should be avoided.

Braces, rubber bands, springs, and other mouth appliances associated with braces will normally attract food particles and plaque. Without the proper care, this could cause staining of your teeth.

Our staff at West U Orthodontics recommends brushing after every meal or snack and carefully removing any food that might be lodged in the braces. A fluoride mouthwash might be helpful as well as flossing. At your next appointment, Dr. Anna Salas can advise you how to floss with a brush specially designed for braces!

How do I know if I need braces?

February 21st, 2017

Perhaps you feel your teeth are not perfectly straight, or you think your bite could be adjusted. It’s quite possible that braces and other orthodontic treatments might be the right choice for you. As orthodontic professionals, our team at West U Orthodontics works with your general dentist in order to determine the best options for your oral health and cosmetic appearance.

You might need braces if ...

  • You lost your baby teeth relatively early in life. If your baby teeth fell out too early and your adult teeth did not come in for a while, this could have affected the way your adult teeth grew and developed.
  • Your teeth look crowded or crooked. If you are embarrassed to smile because your teeth are not straight, it might be time to consider the cosmetic options available to you.
  • Your jaw shifts or makes sounds. This can signify a developmental issue with your teeth and your jaw line, and orthodontic treatment may be able to help. Set up an appointment with Dr. Anna Salas if your jaw is recessed or protruding as well.
  • You are constantly biting the sides of your cheek or hitting the roof of your mouth. This could indicate that your teeth are not properly aligned. Braces can address an underbite or an overbite.
  • You have a difficult time chewing your food. This is not only an inconvenience, but it can also be detrimental for your health. Braces can help fix the alignment of your teeth.
  • You have to breathe through your mouth on a regular basis. You may not attribute this to an issue with the development of your teeth or jaw, but orthodontic treatment might be able to help.

The ideal age for a child to be seen by an orthodontist is age seven. However, there are many orthodontic treatment options available to adults. It is becoming increasingly common for adults to wear braces and other orthodontic devices. We recommend that people who are interested in braces and other orthodontic treatment options set up a consultation appointment with Dr. Anna Salas today.

Valentine's Day History

February 14th, 2017

Valentine’s Day is best known as a celebration of love in all its forms. Pink hearts, red roses, and cute greeting cards adorn every surface you see. What many people don’t realize is that the modern Valentine’s Day celebration arose from a religious holiday.

St. Valentine’s Day was originally celebrated as a religious feast day in honor of early Christian martyrs. Three martyrs named Valentine were honored: a priest in Rome, the persecuted bishop of Interamna (a town in central Italy), and a saint martyred in Africa. This saint’s day was celebrated throughout Christendom, although it was removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969.

The origin of Valentine’s Day as a holiday for lovers began with Geoffrey Chaucer in his 1382 poem “Parlement of Foules.” Chaucer wrote, “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate,” and the modern romantic holiday was born. William Shakespeare and other writers mentioned Valentine’s Day as a day of love.

Valentine’s Day as we know it came about in the early 19th century. In Victorian England, printers began manufacturing small numbers of cards with romantic verses, lace, ribbons, and other frills. Anonymous Valentine’s Day card were a popular way for young lovers to exchange romantic sentiments in an otherwise prudish time. As the 19th century progressed, printers began mass manufacturing Valentine’s Day cards. People in the United States give an estimated 190 million valentines every year, and up to one billion if you count children exchanging cards at school! With the rise of the Internet, Valentine’s Day e-cards have become a popular mode of communication, with millions of e-cards sent each year.

The other items associated with Valentine’s Day include chocolate and flowers. The tradition of giving chocolates has been around for decades, and Richard Cadbury created the first box of Valentine’s Day chocolates nearly 150 years ago. Today, purchases of chocolate total over $1 billion in the United States alone, with 35 million heart-shaped boxes sold each year. Loved ones also exchange flowers, with red roses being associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. On Valentine’s Day itself, florists sell nearly 200 million stems of roses.

Although many people dismiss Valentine’s Day as a commercialized “Hallmark holiday,” it is beloved to couples and romantics across the United States and other countries. The team at West U Orthodontics wants to remind all patients that no matter what your celebratory plans, February 14th can be a wonderful day to celebrate the loved ones in your life. Happy Valentine’s Day!

What are the benefits of early orthodontic treatment?

February 7th, 2017

Parents usually have numerous questions about orthodontic treatment for their children. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, orthodontic treatment for children should start at around seven years of age. This allows Dr. Anna Salas to evaluate the child’s existing and incoming teeth to determine whether or not early treatment might be necessary.

What is early orthodontic treatment?

Early orthodontic treatment, known as Phase One, usually begins when the child is eight or nine years old. The goal is to correct bite problems such as an underbite as well as guide the jaw’s growth pattern. It also helps to make room in the mouth for the permanent teeth to be properly placed as they come in. This will greatly reduce the risk of the child needing extractions later in life due to his or her teeth getting crowded.

Does your child need early orthodontic treatment?

There are several ways that you can determine whether your child needs early treatment. If you observe any of these characteristics or behaviors, you should talk to Dr. Anna Salas.

  • Early loss of baby teeth (before age five)
  • Late loss of baby teeth (after age five or six)
  • The child’s teeth do not meet properly or at all
  • The child is a mouth breather
  • Front teeth are crowded (you won’t see this until the child is about seven or eight)
  • Protruding teeth, typically in the front
  • Biting or chewing difficulties
  • A speech impediment
  • The child’s jaw shifts when he or she opens or closes the mouth
  • The child is older than five years and still sucks a thumb

What are the benefits of seeking orthodontic treatment early?

Early orthodontic treatment is begun while the child’s jaw bones are still soft. They do not harden until the children reach their late teens. Because the bones are still pliable, corrective procedures such as braces work faster than they do for adults.

In short, early treatment at our Houston, TX office often allows your child to avoid lengthy procedures, extraction, and surgery in adulthood. Early treatment is an effective preventive measure that lays the foundation for a healthy, stable mouth in adulthood.

Five Fun Ways to Count Down Your Braces Time

January 31st, 2017

Braces can straighten your teeth to give you a more attractive smile for life. The process can take 18 months to two years or more, and this amount of time can seem unending when you first get your braces. Counting down your brace time can help the time pass more quickly and build the excitement for when you finally get your braces removed.

Make a Wall Calendar

Crossing out each day on a calendar is a standard way of counting down time. You can make this more personal by designing your own calendar to help you count down. Use an online customization service to upload photos or designs for each month. Each month’s picture can also display the number of months remaining until you expect your braces to come off.

Schedule Rewards

When you receive regular rewards for continuing to wear your braces, they can seem less burdensome. Plan to buy yourself a reward every month that you wear your braces for the duration of the treatment. The time will pass much faster when you feel you are earning rewards for your patience.

Lengthen a Paper Chain

Use strips of paper to make the links of your chain, and add a new link each week to lengthen the chain. Before sealing each new strip of paper into a circle, write on it a reason why you are getting your teeth straightened, or an event in the future when you will appreciate your straight teeth as you smile.

Use a Wall Hanging

Purchase a large pad of blank white paper. Write a “0” on the bottom sheet and a “1” on the next, and continue until you reach the number of days remaining in your treatment. Rip off the top sheet each day to see how many days are left and remind yourself of the progress you are making.

Find a Buddy

If any of your friends get braces around the same time as you, share the experience. Make a pact to celebrate each trip to West U Orthodontics when one of you receives news about your progress.

Eating with Braces: Braces-friendly snack recipe

January 24th, 2017

At West U Orthodontics, Dr. Anna Salas and our staff know that eating with braces can be tricky. You want to avoid damaging the bands, brackets, and wires, since any damage can delay the progress of your treatment. After adjustments, your mouth may also feel sore, which will make eating more of a chore than a pleasure.

The good news is you do not have to avoid all of your favorite foods; there are ways you can still enjoy them. Try some of these ideas and recipes for great snacks that are friendly to your braces.

Fruits and Vegetables

You still need to eat fruits and vegetable for the healthy nutrients. The trick is to cut harder items into small pieces that you can chew easily with your back teeth. Canned fruits are also a great choice, but select fruits packed in water to avoid the heavy, sugary syrups. It’s a good idea to avoid excess sugar with braces, since sugar build-up around your braces can lead to plaque formation.

Single-serving packages are available to make your snack portable and convenient. Enjoy vegetables with a small amount of a healthy dip. Hummus or yogurt can be used for flavor without adding unnecessary fat or calories.

Banana and Honey Smoothie

Smoothies are a healthy treat, and you can create these drinks with your favorite ingredients. You can use a variety of yogurt types for your smoothie: regular, low or non-fat, and Greek are all great choices.  Here’s one of our favorite smoothie recipes:

  • 6 ounces of your choice of yogurt
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons of honey
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 6 ounces milk

Chop the banana into smaller pieces and put all your ingredients into a blender. Blend on low until everything is mixed and then blend on high for about 20 seconds to make your smoothie fluffy.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can substitute just about any small or cut-up fruit for the banana. Try blackberries, raspberries, or peaches for variety. Try to avoid fruits with small seeds; strawberries can leave bits stuck in your braces. You can even make a smoothie with peanut butter and jelly!

Please ask our team if you have any concerns regarding the foods you can safely eat while wearing braces.

What is hyperdontia?

January 17th, 2017

When a child is born, he or she will have 20 primary teeth and 32 permanent teeth. But sometimes kids are born with additional teeth, and our team at West U Orthodontics calls this oral condition "hyperdontia." Primary teeth are the first set of teeth that erupt in your child's mouth, typically by the time they are 36 months old, and are shed by the time your child reaches the age of 12. Permanent teeth then take the place of the primary teeth and are usually fully-erupted by the time your son or daughter reaches 21 years of age. Anyone who develops more than 20 primary teeth or more than 32 permanent teeth has hyperdontia, and the additional teeth are referred to as supernumerary teeth.

While the cause of hyperdontia is not entirely clear, it is believed that there may be a genetic factor. Oral professionals have found that patients with extra teeth often have syndromes like cleidocranial dysplasia, Ehler-Danlos syndrome, Gardner syndrome, or cleft lip and palate. The prevalence of hyperdontia affects between one and four percent of the population in the United States, and the majority of cases are limited to a single tooth.

So, what is the best way to deal with hyperdontia? It really depends on the case. The treatment plan your doctor suggests varies according to the potential problem posed by the supernumerary teeth, as well as their type. Orthodontic treatment may certainly may help, but extraction can also be a good option. We recommend that children receive an oral evaluation or checkup no later than the age of seven. In addition to hygiene evaluation, this helps ensure your child does not experience hyperdontia problems.

If you suspect you or your child may be suffering from hyperdontia, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our convenient Houston, TX office to be evaluated.

Hey, Metal Mouth, Hey, Train Tracks! Six Funny Comebacks for People Who Wear Braces

January 10th, 2017

Brace-ism: believe it or not, it’s a concept. The Urban Dictionary defines brace-ism as “acting mean to people who have braces on their teeth.” Phrases like metal mouth, brace face, and train tracks are common jokes uttered by gap-toothed fools who like to make fun of people with braces.

While ignoring these comments and taking the high road is the best thing to do, there’s nothing wrong with having a few clever retorts and quick-witted comebacks up your sleeve.

  1. The next time someone calls you train tracks, break into an obnoxious train imitation, with lots of toot-toot and chuga-chuga-chuga. Finish off your crazy locomotive impersonation with some sort of deafening train horn. That’ll keep the bullies at bay.
  2. “It’s better to be a brace face than a space case.”
  3. Counter with a ridiculously childish joke that makes the schoolyard tormentor feel even smaller than he already is. “Oh. Yeah. Why did the deer need braces? Because he had buck teeth. Hahaha.” Top it off with an exaggerated eye roll.
  4. “Yeah, my brother tells that joke. He’s six. You guys should hang out.” That’ll stop the haters dead in their tracks. Or would that be train tracks?
  5. Here’s one from the sarcasm grab bag. “Well, I’m just glad there’s a way to fix what’s wrong with my face.”
  6. “I can’t wait to discuss this formative moment at our ten-year class reunion, when my teeth are razor-straight and you’re wearing adult braces.”

 

What's the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

January 3rd, 2017

Orthodontists and dentists both help patients improve their oral health, but in different ways. Dentistry is a broad medical specialty that deals with the teeth, gum, nerves, and jaw, while orthodontics is a specialty within dentistry that focuses on correcting bites, occlusion, and the straightness of teeth. One important difference is that all orthodontists like Dr. Anna Salas are dentists, but not all dentists are licensed orthodontists.

How are they similar?

The main similarity between a dentist and orthodontist is that they both focus on oral care. An orthodontist can work in a dental office and provide the same care as a dentist. So in this respect, they are quite similar. They are both considered doctors, and deal with the teeth and gums.

How are they different?

There are more differences than similarities. An orthodontist requires additional schooling as a dental specialty; the situation is similar to a doctor who obtains additional schooling to become a surgeon. Another difference is that orthodontists specialize in helping patients with the alignment of their teeth, improving their bite, or fitting them for corrective braces and devices. If a patient has an overbite, a dentist will refer him or her to an orthodontist.

Dentists typically encourage good oral hygiene and provide services related to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Root canals
  • Gum disease
  • Crowns
  • Bridges
  • Veneers
  • Teeth whitening

Orthodontists are dentists that specialize in the alignment of teeth, and provide services related to:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite

What an orthodontist can help with

Orthodontists help with crooked teeth, but they assist patients with other issues as well. These include overbites and underbites, crossbites, spaces between teeth, overcrowding of teeth, and the treatment of temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Additional problems with the jaw also need to be treated by an orthodontist.

While a dentist may be trained to provide orthodontic care in addition to extractions, TMJ treatments, and fillings, trusting your smile to an orthodontist can better balance the different procedures you require.

To learn more about the difference between dentists and orthodontists, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Anna Salas, please give our team at West U Orthodontics a call at our convenient Houston, TX office.

It's a Wrap: Ending the year with a smile!

December 27th, 2016

People have been ushering in the New Year for centuries but it became an official holiday in 1582 when Pope George XIII declared January 1st to be the day on which everyone would celebrate the New Year. At midnight people would yell, holler, and blow horns to scare away the evil spirits of the previous year so the New Year would be joyous and filled with opportunity. Nearly 500 years later, we still greet the New Year by whooping and hollering, but in a celebratory manner instead. Whether you intend to ring in the New Year quietly at home in the Houston, TX area or have plans to join the countdown at a gala extravaganza, these tips can help you ring out the old and usher in the new with a smile.

Tips for a Happy New Year's Eve Celebration from West U Orthodontics

  • Be Safe. There's no way to predict the behavior of others on New Year's Eve, but you can be responsible for your own behavior to keep yourself safe. If adult beverages will be part of your celebration, plan on spending the night wherever you are or line up a designated driver to bring you home after the party is over.
  • Enjoy Family and Friends. Spending time with the important people in your life is what makes the holidays enjoyable. Coordinate your schedules and choose New Year's Eve activities that everyone in the group will enjoy. You don't have to go to a party to ring in the New Year; some people like to go bowling, see a movie, or have a great meal at home.
  • Accessorize with a Smile. Whether you dress up or have a quiet dinner with family and friends, one of the best accessories you can add to your attire is a beautiful smile.

New Year's Eve is a time to gather with friends and family, reflect on the year that's coming to an end, and look forward to the new one with anticipation. Enjoy this transitional holiday in a way that's safe, healthy, and fun. After all, counting down until the clock strikes 12 marks the beginning of a full year of opportunity ahead of you. From Dr. Anna Salas, have a great new year!.

Looking Back at the Old Days of Braces

December 20th, 2016

Braces can be painful, but if you are a teen who loves being social, the worst part about them can be their look. They show up in your photos, and you will not be able to take braces-free photos for several months, or even years. The time will pass, though, and your teeth will be the better for it. In the meantime, consider the other people who have survived braces.

Plenty of People Get Braces

There are many reasons for getting braces:

  • Correct an overbite or underbite
  • Straighten teeth
  • Fix poorly-spaced teeth

With so many possible ways to get braces, it’s no surprise that they are so common.

Find Out Who Had Braces

The long lists of celebrities who had braces as teenagers or even adults can give you the comfort of knowing you are in good company. Even better, these lists provide visible proof that there is life on the other side of braces. Actors and actresses on the Cosby Show, Scrubs, and Ugly Betty, as well as tennis star Martina Hingis and Miss America 1975, Shirley Cothran, had braces. Ask your parents. If they didn’t have braces, there is a good chance that some of their siblings did.

Benefits of Braces

Wearing braces can make your life a lot better in the future. Your teeth will be more attractive, and your smile will shine through in photos of you. Straight teeth are not just about looks, though. They can prevent a variety of health problems, such as caries, gum disease, speech impairments, and trouble chewing. Be patient, and the benefits of braces will come.

Does my child need two-phase treatment?

December 13th, 2016

Two-phase orthodontic treatment involves two separate and distinct periods that your child receives orthodontic treatment. It allows your son or daughter to begin early treatment of bite and jaw problems, in order to reduce the dental issues he or she experiences later on.

Two-phase orthodontic treatment with Dr. Anna Salas can improve how well the second phase of the treatment works and helps to make room for permanent teeth. Overall, two-phase treatment helps to position the teeth and the jaw for an attractive profile. Our team at West U Orthodontics recommends that you bring your child to our Houston, TX office at the age of seven or eight, so that Dr. Anna Salas can determine if early (Phase-One) treatment is necessary.

Phase-One

Phase-One orthodontic treatment is known as early treatment. It begins shortly after your child’s first orthodontic examination, usually around age eight or nine. The main goal of Phase-One orthodontic treatment is to help make room for permanent teeth, which reduces crooked teeth as a result of overcrowding. It treats the jaw and bite growth, and issues like crossbite or underbite. This can reduce the need for your child to undergo extractions.

Phase-Two

Phase-Two orthodontic treatment is when braces are placed on the upper and/or lower teeth. The purpose is not just to correct spaces or misaligned teeth, but also to correct overbite or underbite concerns. Phase-Two usually begins around age 11 or 12, and the braces are worn for an average of two to three years, depending on your child’s unique needs. Some children have fewer issues and wear braces for little more than a year, while others need them for up to four years.

Signs your child needs two-phase orthodontic treatment

If your child exhibits the following signs, he or she may be a good candidate for two-phase orthodontic treatment:

  • Losing baby teeth early, before five years of age
  • Problems with biting or chewing
  • Sucking the thumb after age five
  • Evidence of a crossbite, where the teeth don’t come together when opening or closing of the mouth
  • Teeth are crowded at age seven or eight
  • Protruding teeth on the top or bottom

Not all children need to have early treatment, but if your child shows any of these signs, you should bring him or her to us for an evaluation at West U Orthodontics.

Should I use a water pick during my treatment?

November 29th, 2016

Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics know that for some of our patients wearing braces, it can be difficult to weave through those wires and brackets as you brush and floss during your treatment.

Some of our patients use a water pick to flush out food and other particles and bacteria stuck between their teeth as the water can reach behind the metal wires and hit spots where your floss simply cannot reach. People suffering from gum disease also find water picks quite effective because of their ability to flush out bacteria from inside the deep pockets.

Water picks are friendly to braces and are also gentle on the gums. They are less likely to cause bleeding for people with sensitive teeth or gums. But as many benefits as they may have, Dr. Anna Salas and our team want you to know that water picks should never be used as a substitute for flossing. Though they are great tools for helping improve oral health while you are in treatment, they are just not a good enough tool on their own to keep your mouth and gums gingivitis- and decay-free. Water picks are also incapable of removing plaque from teeth as effectively as floss can. While water picks rinse the sticky bacteria off your teeth, flossing is actually more effective as it actually scrapes the bacteria off of your pearly whites.

If you have any questions about water picks or any general questions or concerns about your orthodontic treatment, we encourage you to please ask us below or give us a call!

Thanksgiving Trivia

November 22nd, 2016

At West U Orthodontics we love learning trivia and interesting facts about Thanksgiving! This year, Dr. Anna Salas wanted to share some trivia that might help you feel a bit smarter at the holiday dinner table and help create some great conversation with friends and family.

The Turkey

There is no historical evidence that turkey was eaten at the first Thanksgiving dinner. It was a three-day party shared by the Wamponoag Indians and the pilgrims in 1621. Historians say they likely ate venison and seafood.

According to National Geographic, the dinner at the Plymouth colony was in October and included about 50 English colonists and 90 American Indian men. The first Thanksgiving dinner could have included corn, geese, and pumpkin.

Today, turkey is the meat of choice. According to the National Turkey Association, about 690 million pounds of turkey are consumed during Thanksgiving, or about 46 million turkeys.

The Side Dishes

The green bean casserole became popular about 50 years ago. Created by the Campbell Soup Company, it remains a popular side dish. According to Campbell’s, it was developed when the company was creating an annual holiday cookbook. The company now sells about $20 million worth of cream of mushroom soup each year, which is a major part of the recipe.

While there were likely plenty of cranberries for the pilgrims and Indians to enjoy, sugar was a luxury. What we know today as cranberry sauce was not around in those early Thanksgiving days. About 750 million pounds of cranberries are produced each year in the US, with about 30 percent consumed on Thanksgiving.

The Parade

Since Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday until Lincoln declared it in 1863, the annual parades were not yearly events until much later. The biggest parade that continues to draw crowds is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Beginning in 1924 with about 400 employees, they marched from Convent Avenue to 145th Street in New York City. Famous for the huge hot-air balloons today, it was actually live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo that were the stars of the show then.

However you choose to spend your Thanksgiving holiday, we wish you a safe, happy and healthy holiday with those you love.

Besides straight teeth, what are the benefits of braces?

November 15th, 2016

Everyone wants a naturally aligned and beautiful smile, and it is no secret that orthodontic braces from West U Orthodontics can help deliver one. However, there are greater benefits to wearing braces than just having straight teeth. You’ll gain many oral health benefits in addition to the cosmetic ones.

Tooth Decay and Gum Disease

Crooked or crowded teeth may overlap each other and create tight spaces in between. These can make it very difficult to brush and floss effectively, allowing bacteria and plaque to build up, and eventually leading to tooth decay and gum disease. With orthodontic treatment, your teeth will become properly aligned and spaced, which allows for more effective brushing.

Difficulties with Speech

Your teeth play an essential role in speech. When they are out of line or lean too far forward or backward, this can affect your speaking patterns, and possibly cause embarrassment and frustration. Braces can readjust the positioning of the teeth to allow for clearer, more professional speech.

Bone Erosion

Bone and gum tissues begin to erode when there are no teeth to support. This is also true for poorly aligned teeth that leave gaps and spaces or place too much pressure on the jawbone due to a bad bite. With braces, the bones and tissues are less likely to erode and can continue to support the teeth in their new alignment.

Digestion

Your teeth play an important role in digestion. Before food ever enters your stomach, it has been partially digested by the teeth. If teeth are severely out of line, however, they may not play their role in breaking down food as effectively as they should. With braces, your teeth will be straightened into optimal alignment for eating and chewing.

Dr. Anna Salas and staff will be happy to answer any of your questions about your orthodontic treatment. Visit us in Houston, TX today!

Braces-Friendly Recipe: Dinner

November 8th, 2016

Wearing braces during your treatment at West U Orthodontics presents some unique challenges in the types of food you can safely eat. The wrong items can be difficult to remove from between your teeth and the appliance. Other foods may even break or loosen your braces.

Dinner recipe ideas

Lasagna is a great dinner choice because it provides you with several food groups in one easy dish.

  • 1 ½ pounds ground hamburger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1 pound diced tomatoes — canned is fine
  • 12 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 package of dry spaghetti sauce mix for seasoning
  • 10 oz. box dry lasagna
  • 3 cups ricotta or cottage cheese or 1 ½ cups each mixed
  • ½-cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pound sliced or shredded Mozzarella cheese

Brown and drain your hamburger meat. Dice the garlic and simmer the hamburger, garlic, basil, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and powdered sauce mix for ½ hour.

Cook the lasagna noodles as directed on the package and drain.

Beat the eggs and combine them with your ricotta or cottage cheese.

Layer ½ of the noodles in a 13 x 9 pan. Spread ½ of your cottage cheese mix on top of the noodles, then layer ½ of the mozzarella on top. Finish this layer with ½ of your hamburger mix. Repeat the layering with the other half of your ingredients. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

Meats

You can enjoy ribs and chicken wings as long as you cut the meat from the bone before you eat. The same rule applies to turkey legs; do not gnaw on bones, because this can damage your braces.

Vegetables and fruits

You still need to include fruits and vegetables in your daily meals. Skip corn on the bob, whole apples, and raw carrots. Broccoli is soft but particles can become stuck in your braces, so be sure to brush and floss after your meal.

Desserts

Avoid caramel, taffy, and hard candies for dessert. Pudding and ice cream are fine, but low-sugar versions are best.

Remember that your mouth will be sore after adjustments with Dr. Anna Salas. Stick to softer foods until the sensitivity is reduced. Please do not hesitate to ask our team for recipe and meal ideas. We will be happy to take the time to explain which foods items are the best choices and why.

If you have any questions about these recipes, or if you have any questions about eating with braces, please give us a call at our Houston, TX office!

Ugh, Not Braces!

November 1st, 2016

Getting your child excited about braces is a lot like: A) convincing a grumpy toddler that it’s time to take a nap? B) convincing a teenager to stop texting during dinner? C) convincing your husband to eat his peas? The answer, obviously, is all of the above.

And that’s why you may need a few thoughtful ways to get your child on board with braces.

  1. Throw a pre-braces party. It can’t be just any party, however, but a Willy Wonka celebration of candy, chips, gum, and all the sticky and sweet foods your child won’t be able to indulge in during the time he or she is wearing braces. Promise a post-braces celebration, too, and watch as your child’s eyes widen at the thought of an all-you-can-eat junk food buffet.
  2. Encouraging phrases like “braces aren’t eternal, but your straight smile will be” can go a long way.
  3. If your daughter is worried about getting picked on because of braces, then name-drop some A-list celebrities who have worn them. The list includes Cameron Diaz, Kelly Clarkson, Dakota Fanning, and Gwen Stefani.
  4. Emphasize that braces today aren’t the same as they were in the Stone Age. From clear ceramic braces to different-colored braces, more options are available. Braces can be cool accessories to express a personal style.
  5. To get your child to embrace braces, you need to sing the praises of beautiful teeth, even if that means pointing out how crooked your teeth are because you never got braces.

Halloween: Candy, costumes, and more!

October 25th, 2016

All Hallows' Eve, more commonly known as Halloween, is a yearly event celebrated on October 31, and one that is anticipated by the young and young at heart all over the world. Some scholars claim that Halloween originated from Celtic festivals that honored the dead or that celebrated the harvest, while others doubt that there's any connection at all to Samhain (a Gaelic harvest festival.) Regardless of its origin, our team at the orthodontic office of Dr. Anna Salas hopes that Halloween is fun and enjoyed by all of our awesome patients!

Trick or treat?

In North America, Halloween is predominantly celebrated by children who dress up in costumes, which range from scary to cute, who then go around the neighborhood knocking on doors asking "trick or treat", and they are given candy in return. Trick-or-treating is a time honored tradition, and though many parents groan at the pounds and pounds of candy collected by youngsters and fear for the health of their teeth, there are a few things you can do to help their teeth stay in great shape until the candy is gone:

  • Limit the amount of candy they can consume each day
  • Have them brush their teeth after eating candy
  • Avoid hard, chewy candies as they can stick in hard to brush places
  • Keep candy out of sight to reduce temptation
  • Don't buy candy too far in advance to limit pre-Halloween consumption
  • Help or encourage your children to floss

Halloween Fun

Halloween isn't just about gorging on candy; there are other events associated with this festive day including carving jack-o'-lanterns, painting pumpkins, decorating sugar cookies, bobbing for apples, going to haunted houses, or just curling up on the couch with a bowl full of popcorn and watching some classic, scary movies.

Halloween Around the World

Some countries, like Australia, frown upon Halloween, claiming it is an American event and not based in Australian culture, while others like Italy have embraced the fun and celebrate much as Canadians and Americans do. Mexicans have been celebrating this fun day since around 1960, and it marks the beginning of the Day of the Dead festival. Some countries in Europe have come late to the party, but since the 1990s, countries like Sweden, Norway, and Germany have started celebrating Halloween as well, and finding children in costumes or having ghosts hanging in windows has become commonplace.

Halloween is about fun; stepping outside our normal lives and donning a costume or gathering with friends to knock on doors and ask for candy is as much a part of our culture as hot dogs and barbecue on Labor Day. Have a safe and happy Halloween from the team at West U Orthodontics!

Top Things to do BEFORE You Get Braces

October 18th, 2016

So you’re about to get braces. Congratulations! You are taking a very smart step to improve the health of your teeth as well as get that killer smile in shape. But, as with anything that is good for you, there are a few things you will have to avoid while you “do your time.”

Some foods don’t do so great with braces. The foods listed below should be avoided while you are wearing your braces because they can pop the brackets and bend the wires. In other words, these foods can really ruin your day, and send you back to West U Orthodontics to get your braces repaired.

So before you hit the chair, hit the grocery and candy store – one last time – for:

  • Beef jerky
  • Raw carrots
  • Taffy
  • Pizza crust
  • Bagels and other crusty bread
  • Popcorn
  • Hard candy
  • Nuts and seeds

Dr. Anna Salas and our staff will give you more information about eating with braces. Some foods, such as apples, are okay as long as you cut them in pieces first. Others, like pudding and pasta, are fine just as they are. But then there is “the list”: the foods that are a big no-no and should be avoided. It won’t be forever, so hang in there.

Your braces time will pass before you know it and you can resume more normal eating. But before the braces go on, enjoy these tasty treats. Go ahead and indulge!

What is a water pick and do I need one?

October 11th, 2016

Water picks, sometimes called “oral irrigators,” make an excellent addition to your regular home care regimen of brushing and flossing. Especially helpful to those who suffer from periodontal disease and those patients of ours undergoing orthodontic treatment with full-bracketed braces, water picks use powerful tiny bursts of water to dislodge food scraps, bacteria, and other debris nestled in the crevices of your mouth. Children undergoing orthodontic treatment may find using a water pick is beneficial if their toothbrush bristles tend to get caught on their wires or brackets.

When you use a water pick, you’re not only dislodging any particles or debris and bacteria you might have missed when brushing, you are also gently massaging the gums, which helps promote blood flow in the gums and keeps them healthy. While water picks are an excellent addition to your daily fight against gingivitis and other periodontal diseases, they are incapable of fully removing plaque, which is why Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics want to remind you to keep brushing and flossing every day.

If you have sensitive teeth or gums and find it uncomfortable to floss daily, water picks are a good alternative to reduce discomfort while effectively cleaning between teeth. Diabetics sometimes prefer water picks to flossing because they don't cause bleeding of the gums, which can be a problem with floss. If you have a permanent bridge, crowns, or other dental restoration, you may find that a water pick helps you keep the area around the restorations clean.

So how do you choose the right water pick?

Water picks are available for home or portable use. The home versions tend to be larger and use standard electrical outlets, while portable models use batteries. Aside from the size difference, they work in the same manner, both using pulsating water streams. A more crucial difference between water picks is the ability to adjust the pressure. Most home models will let you choose from several pressure settings, depending on how sensitive your teeth and gums are. Most portable models have only one pressure setting. If you want to use mouthwash or a dental rinse in your water pick, check the label first; some models suggest using water only.

Please give us a call at our Houston, TX office if you have any questions about water picks, or ask Dr. Anna Salas during your next visit!

What's on your fall reading list?

October 4th, 2016

How better to spend the fall months than inside by the fireplace with a warm cup of cider and a book in hand? Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics encourage you to warm up your mind this fall season with a few great books. Sure it may be easy to put off reading when balancing a hectic schedule, but reading is vital to brain development. Besides, reading is always a blast!

This week, we thought we’d ask what you or your child are reading this fall. Do you have any suggestions for must-read books this year? Out of ideas for great fall reads? Ask us for suggestions, and we would be happy to provide a few. You may also ask a local librarian here in Houston, TX for some ideas.

Happy reading! Be sure to share with us your fall picks or your all-time favorites below or on our Facebook page!

Feeling Confident at Your Orthodontic Consultation

September 27th, 2016

How You Can Start Preparing Now

When you first start thinking about going to the orthodontist, it is normal to feel apprehensive. What will your orthodontic experience bring? Whether you have been advised by a dentist or chosen to seek out orthodontic care from Dr. Anna Salas on your own, there are a few things you can do to prepare for your initial consultation at West U Orthodontics.

One of the best ways to prepare for an orthodontic consultation is to understand your options. With so many choices available today, orthodontic care is a lot more versatile than in the past. You can start preparing now by seeking out and understanding those options. With a few specific things in mind, you can be totally confident and prepared for your consultation.

Questions to Ask During the Consultation

As you consider orthodontic care, it is likely that a few questions may naturally arise. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions you might have. Our orthodontic team is here to help. Here are just a few examples of questions you may want to ask at your consultation.

  • Is there an estimated length of time that I will likely require braces?
  • How much should I expect to pay for my treatment? What are the payment options?
  • Does getting braces hurt? Is there anything I can do to prevent or minimize pain?
  • Is it likely that I will be wearing extra appliances in addition to braces to correct my overbite or other problems?
  • Are there specific foods I will need to avoid when I get braces?
  • Will braces prevent me from playing my favorite sport or musical instrument?
  • How can I keep my teeth clean with braces?
  • How often will I be expected to come in for checkups and other appointments?

Once your consultation is over, you don’t have to feel like your options are exhausted. If questions arise after the consultation, don’t be afraid to ask. Our orthodontic team will be here to help throughout the entire process.

Confidence throughout the Process

With answers to your questions, and an orthodontic team on your side, you can be confident about any necessary orthodontic treatments. From the initial consultation to the day your braces come off, your orthodontic treatment at West U Orthodontics can be a smooth and simple process. The moment you see that beautiful smile, you’ll know it was all worth it.

We love bringing nothing but the most amazing smiles to our patients!

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

September 20th, 2016

The dental procedures that focus on the correction of alignment and bite are known as orthodontic care. With the aid of braces, aligners, retainers, brackets, and similar appliances, orthodontic treatment can correct oral disorders such as protruding teeth, crowding, difficulty biting or chewing, and speech issues. Seeking orthodontic treatment at West U Orthodontics can drastically improve your oral appearance, comfort, and health, while also encouraging proper oral hygiene and enhanced self-esteem. Both growing children and adults with oral alignment issues can benefit greatly from completing customized orthodontic treatment with Dr. Anna Salas.

Due to the uniqueness of each mouth and the severity of each malocclusion disorder, there is no one set timeframe for orthodontic treatment. The length of your treatment is determined by many factors, including the severity of your alignment issue, your age, the health of your teeth, and the specific orthodontic procedure you need to undergo. Nevertheless, typical treatment usually takes between 12 and 36 months.

Avoiding alignment issues

While some alignment issues are brought on by unavoidable matters such as accidents, genetics, and physical disorders, some issues arise out of certain actions you should not be doing. Finger sucking and improper oral hygiene are the two most common self-inflicted reasons for alignment issues. Constant finger sucking can alter the pattern in which your teeth grow, which in turn may cause bite issues. Improper oral hygiene such as infrequent dental visits and improper brushing and flossing can lead to decay and loss of teeth, which will interfere with the bite in your mouth.

To avoid advanced alignment issues, it is important to establish a relationship with a quality dentist when you’re young and seek orthodontic treatment at the first sign of alignment problems to encourage healthy and straight teeth for a lifetime.

For more information about orthodontic treatment, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office!

Fluoride and Your Orthodontic Treatment

September 13th, 2016

Our team at West U Orthodontics knows that there are many ways you can protect your pearly whites throughout your orthodontic treatment. If you follow the rules and brush your teeth twice a day, floss often, and protect your appliances from damage, you should have a successful treatment.

But did you know there’s another way to keep your teeth sparkling and healthy during your time wearing braces?

Fluoride, the mineral that helps you prevent cavities and tooth decay, can also help keep your teeth strong. Fluoride comes in two varieties: topical and systemic. Depending on your oral health or the recommendation of Dr. Anna Salas, you may be required to have a fluoride treatment every three, six, or 12 months. We may also prescribe a fluoride product such as a mouthwash, gel, or antibacterial rinse for at-home treatment to keep your teeth happy in between visits.

If you have any other questions about fluoride or your treatment, please don’t hesitate to give us a call!

What was your favorite part of summer?

September 6th, 2016

It's the end of summer, and fall is just around the corner. Soon the temperatures will cool down, the leaves will start to change, and Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics are sure that you’ll soon be thinking about Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving plans in no time. But wait! First, we want to know about your favorite parts of the summer! Did you go on a wonderful family trip? Did you pick up a new hobby? Did you try to spend as much time outside and in the sun as possible?

Share your favorite memories, stories, or photos with us by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook page.

Labor Day: Our favorite holiday to rest!

August 30th, 2016

Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday each September here in the United States, is a holiday devoted to the American working community. The purpose of the holiday is honoring the country's workers and their contributions to the strength of our country as a whole.

How Labor Day Started

There is actually some debate as to the origins of Labor Day. It is uncertain whether Peter McGuire, a cofounder for the American Federation of Labor, or Matthew Maguire, who was the secretary of Central Labor Union of New York, had the great idea. However, the Central Labor Union's plans were what launched the first Labor Day in America.

The First Labor Day

The very first Labor Day was celebrated on September 5th, 1882. The Central Labor Union then held annual celebrations on September 5th for what they called a working man's holiday. By the year 1885, the Labor Day celebration had spread to many different industrial areas, and after that it began spreading to all industries in the United States.

Labor Day Today

Labor Day today is a huge United States holiday during which we honor the country's workers with a day of rest and relaxation or a day of picnics and parades. This holiday is truly one to honor the many people who work hard to contribute to the economic well-being of our great country!

Our team at West U Orthodontics hopes all of our patients celebrate Labor Day, and every holiday, safely and happily. Whether you stay in the Houston, TX area, or travel out of town, have fun, and don't forget to brush!

My mouth is dry. What can I do?

August 23rd, 2016

Nobody likes a dry mouth. It is an uncomfortable and sometimes oddly unexplainable sensation that most people like to avoid. It is not a condition that automatically sends you into a panic about your health, however, a dry mouth can be a bother and something you certainly want to change if possible. So, if you find yourself in the unpleasant position of having a dry mouth, here is what you can do.

Chew Sugar-free Gum: Chewing sugar-free gum will stimulate saliva in your mouth. The chewing motion of your jaw and teeth should take care of at least some of your dry mouth problem.

Suck on Sugar-free Candy: Similarly to chewing sugar free gum, if you suck on sugar free candy it should create more saliva in your mouth and moisturize it in the process.

Cut out the Caffeine:Caffeine can contribute to a dry mouth so by limiting, or eliminating your intake all together, you may find that your dry mouth is no more.

Stop Using Tobacco Products: Tobacco is another cause of dry mouth. Whether it is smokeless tobacco products or cigarettes, if you stop using them your dry mouth will likely improve. And not to forget, these products are exceedingly bad for your oral health to begin with, so you will be doing your mouth a favor even more so.

Drink Lots of Water: It may seem obvious, but drinking lots of water will likely improve your dry mouth. This is because dry mouth is usually a sign of dehydration, so plenty of fluids will surely help.

Dry mouth can be unpleasant, but it is often easily solved by either drinking more water, or trying one of the previously mentioned techniques. If the problem still persists you can always visit our Houston, TX office to see Dr. Anna Salas. More often than not, doing one of the above will leave your mouth more moisturized than it was previously, and hopefully it will be long-lasting as well.

Your Five-Step Guide to Preventing Tooth Decay While Wearing Braces

August 16th, 2016

If you’re wearing braces, then you know they are working hard to straighten your teeth. However, those hard-working braces are also preventing you from easily cleaning your teeth. It is essential that you put some extra attention into preventing tooth decay while wearing your braces. When your braces are finally removed by Dr. Anna Salas, you want a beautiful, white smile, not decayed or stained teeth. Here, we’ve listed the five best ways to ensure you have the smile you’ve always dreamed of once your braces are gone.

Use a Special Toothbrush

A regular toothbrush just doesn’t cut it when you are wearing braces. You also need to use an interdental toothbrush so that you can effectively clean behind the braces. This type of brush has bristles that are shaped like a Christmas tree that can remove food residue in the braces and on the teeth. We also recommend using a WaterPik, with its highly pressurized pulsating water, to help get all of those hard-to-reach places.

Brush after Every Meal

Since braces block food from naturally escaping your teeth after eating, it’s important that you take the time to brush and floss after every meal. The less time food has to sit on your teeth, the less likely it is to cause decay. This may seem like an inconvenience, but trust us, when you get your braces off, you will be very glad you brushed after every meal.

Don't Forget the Mouth Rinse

Even after properly brushing and flossing, there are probably some food particles in your braces. A fluoride mouth rinse is the best way to ensure that every bit of food is removed after meals. If you do not have a mouth rinse available, we suggest using water — it’s better than nothing.

Avoid Sweets

Prevention is definitely the best medicine when it comes to avoiding tooth decay. If you can nix decay-causing sugary foods from the outset, we promise you’ll spend less time trying to treat problems in the future.

Get Regular Checkups

Visit your dentist regularly while you are wearing braces. Our office recommends a thorough cleaning every three to six months. Let our Houston, TX office know if you have questions about your oral health while in braces - our entire team at West U Orthodontics is here to make sure your teeth are as beautifully straight as they are healthy!

A Helpful Site on Orthodontics

August 9th, 2016

As you are undergoing orthodontic treatment, our team at West U Orthodontics would like to point you to a helpful website. Our friends at the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) have lots of important information about everything relating to braces, including myths and facts of orthodontics, tips for a better orthodontic experience, and cool webisodes about orthodontics.

Check out AAO today and feel free to contact us at our Houston, TX office if you have any questions.

Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics hope this information helps you!

Misconceptions About Orthodontics

August 2nd, 2016

While everyone understands that a dentist takes care of teeth, not everyone is aware of what an orthodontist does. This confusion sometimes leads to misunderstandings about what West U Orthodontics does for our patients and how exactly Dr. Anna Salas can help them. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of the myths and misconceptions about orthodontists.

Perhaps the biggest misconception about the orthodontist is that they’re just like your family dentist. The truth is, they’re actually very different. While it’s true that both orthodontists and dentists care about helping you enjoy a lifetime of good dental and oral health, orthodontists go about achieving this goal in different ways. For instance, if you need to have a cavity filled, you probably won’t make an appointment to see an orthodontist. Dentists are the health professionals to see if you’re concerned about a cavity or need a filling. A dentist can also treat gum disease, tooth decay, toothaches, and other common oral health problems.

People see an orthodontist for very particular services. Most of the patients we see on a daily basis are here because they have braces, or they need to be fitted with braces or another form of tooth-straightening device. In other words, they consult an orthodontist when they are concerned about the alignment of their teeth. As a child grows up, his or her teeth may come in crooked. This can happen for a number of reasons, so it’s important for an orthodontist to take a look at a child’s teeth at about seven years of age. At that age, it’s possible to detect any problems that have not become too advanced to treat easily. Your family dentist may also refer your child to an orthodontist once the adult teeth have fully grown in.

Another common misconception about orthodontists is that they only treat children. It’s true that when you visit an orthodontic clinic you’re apt to see a lot of young kids, but you’ll also see teenagers, college students, and adults. Because crooked teeth can be caused by a number of different factors, it’s entirely possible for someone to require orthodontic treatment at any age.

If you want to know more about the practice of orthodontics or what your orthodontist can do for you, then simply ask Dr. Anna Salas. It’s best to get answers to your specific questions directly from the person who will be treating you. While you’re sure to find Internet resources helpful, there really is no substitute for the personal attention you’ll get during your appointment at our Houston, TX office.

Invisalign® Q&A

July 26th, 2016

It’s estimated that up to four million people at any one time are wearing braces in the United States and Canada. But Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics know that braces have come a long way from the early days of orthodontics, so much so that these days, options are available that are not visible to onlookers. The most popular of these “invisible” braces is Invisalign. Here’s a list of FAQs regarding Invisalign:

Are they really invisible?

Yes, the clear liners are virtually invisible, so they enable patients to feel good about themselves and their appearance, while getting the orthodontic treatment they need.

Are there wires, rubber bands, and brackets with Invisalign?

Nope. Invisalign is truly an alternative to conventional braces. The treatment consists of clear liners that can easily be removed and cleaned throughout the day. There are no wires, so there’s less poking and mouth irritation compared to braces. There’s also no wire tightening at adjustment appointments, so patients don’t have to worry about a sore mouth in the days that follow in-office visits.

I’ve heard that if I get braces, I won’t be able to eat certain foods like popcorn and hard candy. Is this true with Invisalign too?

No. With Invisalign, there are no food restrictions. You simply remove your aligners when you’re eating, and replace them after you’ve finished and brushed any leftover food particles away.

Does Invisalign cost more than braces?

While overall cost varies on a patient-by-patient basis and is based largely on the level of treatment, Invisalign costs about the same as traditional braces, which makes this treatment option a truly affordable alternative.

How does brushing compare with conventional braces?

Brushing your teeth while wearing conventional braces takes some getting used to. Patients have to brush around the metal brackets and floss with a specialty tool to get into the hard-to-reach areas of the mouth. By contrast, Invisalign can be removed at any time to permit regular brushing and flossing.

Every patient is different and Invisalign might not be the best course of orthodontic treatment for everyone, but it's an option that's gaining more and more popularity, and it's an orthodontic alternative that doesn't sacrifice comfort and convenience for results. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office!

Eating and Invisalign®

July 19th, 2016

One of the greatest advantages to using Invisalign is that it provides maximum results with minimal impact on your everyday life. Invisalign is comfortable, easy to insert, and simple to remove. Because you can remove Invisalign aligners, you can enjoy all your favorite foods and beverages without worries about getting food stuck in the wires and brackets of traditional braces.

Eating and Invisalign

While the aligner is durable and strong, you should remove it before you eat or drink beverages, as the chewing action inside your mouth can break, crack, or distort the aligner. Even minute damage to the Invisalign tray will prevent it from aligning your teeth properly. Furthermore, eating with Invisalign in your mouth can be quite messy.

Beverages and Invisalign

Repeated exposure to hot liquids may also cause the Invisalign aligner to distort. This distortion changes the shape of your aligner in a way that will affect how it straightens your teeth. Contact our Houston, TX office if your Invisalign aligner has distorted after consuming a hot beverage.

Fluids can settle inside the aligner to “bathe” the teeth. Bathing teeth in acidic fluids can be especially problematic, as the acids can wear away tooth enamel. Exposure to acidic fluids is not normally a problem, as saliva neutralizes and buffers the acid then washes it away. Wearing an aligner, however, prevents the saliva from doing those jobs, increasing your risk for tooth decay.

Colored drinks may also change the color of your teeth. Most discoloration is temporary but stubborn stains may occur.

To prevent discoloration and tooth decay, brush your teeth after every meal or beverage before putting in your Invisalign aligners. If you do not have access to clean water, chew sugar-free gum to remove bacteria, acid, and food particles from your teeth. As a last resort, you may leave your aligners out for an hour or two until you can brush and floss properly. Before inserting Invisalign, rinse the aligner in lukewarm water or use the Invisalign cleaning kit.

Contact our Houston, TX office for more information about eating and Invisalign.

Myths of Orthodontics

July 12th, 2016

The stereotypical braces wearer – in middle school, with a mouth full of metal brackets – has led to numerous myths about orthodontics that discourage many people from getting the dental care they need. Dr. Anna Salas and our staff would like to put some of these myths to rest.

Myth 1: Orthodontic treatment is for kids. Although teenagers often visit the orthodontist to get braces, adults represent a growing proportion of orthodontic patients. Whether you’re eight or 80, a consultation with an orthodontist can identify problems with your teeth, jaws, or bite that can be corrected by orthodontic interventions.

Myth 2: Traditional, metal braces are my only option. Advances in orthodontic technology have rendered improved braces and other orthodontic appliances that are much less noticeable than the braces of yesteryear. Ask Dr. Anna Salas about Invisalign® braces and other options that make sense for your situation.

Myth 3: Orthodontic treatment is only helpful for crooked teeth. Sure, a crooked smile is a common reason that patients seek orthodontic care. However, orthodontic interventions help with a range of dental health problems. From missing teeth to overbite to jaw misalignment, your orthodontist can help with many problems associated with the teeth, gums, and jaws.

Myth 4: Orthodontic treatment is too expensive. As with any medical procedure, orthodontics can be pricey. However, our Houston, TX team works with patients to find payment plans, insurance coverage, or other payment options that reduce the financial burden.

What's in my mouth? A Rundown of Orthodontic Appliances

June 28th, 2016

Dr. Anna Salas and our team correct the alignment of your teeth and jaws so that you can speak clearly, chew food effectively, and look attractive when you smile. We do this by putting sophisticated gadgets in your mouth. While many of these dental devices look similar, we use a wide variety of orthodontic appliances to straighten your teeth and repair jaw problems.

Orthodontic appliances are devices that move your teeth, change the position of your jaw, or hold your teeth in their finished positions after your braces are removed. These devices may be attached to your teeth or removable.

Braces straighten your teeth. Brackets, bands, and wires characterize traditional braces. Braces are attached to the teeth, so they are not easily removable.

Spacers are small plastic rings fitted between your back teeth before your braces are placed by Dr. Anna Salas. These spacers create space between your teeth to optimize the alignment your braces provide.

Retainers hold teeth in their finished position after your braces come off. A Hawley retainer is the most common type of retainer; it features an acrylic plate that rests against the roof of your mouth and a wire crossing in front of your teeth. Essex retainers are quite popular, as they are durable and nearly invisible.

Bite plates correct a deep bite, where the upper front teeth come down too far over the lower front teeth to cause bite problems.

Holding arches prevent the back teeth from moving forward to crowd the front teeth. A lower lingual holding arch prevents your permanent molars from migrating forward. The Nance holding arch maintains space between teeth after you lose baby teeth and before the permanent teeth come in.

A palatal expander widens your upper jaw by separating the bones of your palate. This appliance helps your top and bottom teeth fit together better. The Quad Helix widens your jaws to create more room for crowded teeth.

Contact our Houston, TX office today to learn more about the ways we can improve the appeal and function of your smile.

What is orthognathic surgery?

June 21st, 2016

Orthognathic surgery is surgery to correct a wide variety of abnormalities of our patients' jaw and teeth. The surgery is often done in conjunction with orthodontic treatment. While the patient’s appearance may be significantly improved as a result, the primary purpose of the surgery is to correct functional problems including but not limited to:

  • Unbalanced facial appearance
  • Protruding jaw
  • Open bite (upper and lower teeth don’t overlap properly
  • Excessive wearing down of the teeth
  • Difficulty with chewing or biting
  • Chronic mouth breathing
  • Sleeping problems such as sleep apnea
  • TMJ pain (jaw joint pain)
  • Restoring facial injuries

Knowing when to start the orthodontic treatment in preparation for orthognathic surgery can also be tricky if our team at West U Orthodontics is treating a teenager. It is important to know when to get started. If orthodontic treatment is initiated too soon and the teenager is still growing, the patient will either need to hold in braces until his or her growth is complete and they are ready for surgery or the braces will have to be removed and then placed again when growth is complete. Neither of these options is attractive since it requires longer time in treatment, which is something all our patients want to avoid. Our team at West U Orthodontics strives to get all patients finished with treatment as quickly as possible because it is healthier for the teeth and gums and gives them a beautiful smile to enjoy for a lifetime.

If you are considering orthognathic surgery or you have been told that you need jaw surgery, give us a call to schedule your initial consultation today. Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics will explain our treatment plan in a way you will understand and we will keep you informed every step of the way.

Love your new smile? Tell us about it!

June 14th, 2016

At West U Orthodontics, we proudly treat adults, teens, and children; no matter what your age, we believe you deserve a great smile. Our warm and welcoming team is known for their for their exceptional orthodontic skills. Dr. Anna Salas and our talented team have been creating beautiful smiles for years, and today would like to ask: what do you love about your new smile? How has your smile improved your life?

Whether you’ve just come in for an initial orthodontic consultation with Dr. Anna Salas or your family has been visiting office for years, we would love to hear your thoughts about your treatment. In fact, we encourage you to leave a few words for us below or on our Facebook page!

We look forward to reading your feedback!

What if I miss an appointment over the summer?

June 7th, 2016

If you are planning on taking a vacation this summer, we ask that you let us know ahead of time so that we may schedule your summer appointments more efficiently. We also encourage patients and their parents to be proactive in determining when they make their summer appointments.

If you will be gone for an extended period (more than six weeks), we recommend you visit West U Orthodontics prior to leaving and schedule another visit shortly after your return. Lastly, please remember not to indulge in hard, sticky, and chewy treats while enjoying your vacation. We look forward to seeing you soon and hearing about your adventures!

The Evolution of Braces

May 31st, 2016

Did you know that even in ancient times, people wanted to improve the look and function of their smiles? West U Orthodontics thinks of modern orthodontic appliances as sleek, efficient technology, but this was not always so! Take a look at the highlights in the evolution of braces.

Ancient Times: From Greece to Rome

  • According to The Angle Orthodontist, Aristotle and Hippocrates first thought about methods for straightening teeth between 400 and 300 BC.
  • The Etruscans, in what we now know as Italy, buried their dead with appliances that maintained spaces and prevented collapse of their teeth and jaws during life. Archaeologists have discovered mummified remains in various locations that have metal bands wrapped around the teeth.
  • A Roman tomb has also been discovered in which the teeth were bound with gold wire, including documentation on the wire’s use as a dental device.

18th Century: A French Development

  • The French dentist Pierre Fauchard is acknowledged as the father of modern dentistry. In 1728 he published a book that described various methods for straightening teeth. Fauchard also used a device known as a “blandeau” to widen the upper palate.
  • Louis Bourdet was another French dentist who published a book in 1754 that discussed tooth alignment. Bourdet further refined the blandeau and was the first dentist to extract bicuspids, or the premolar teeth between canines and molars, for the purpose of reducing tooth crowding.

19th Century: Orthodontics Defined

  • Orthodontics started to become a separate dental specialty during the early 19th century. The first wire crib was used in 1819, marking the beginning of modern orthodontics.
  • During this period, gold, platinum, silver, steel, gum rubber, vulcanite, and occasionally wood, ivory, zinc, and copper were used — as was brass in the form of loops, hooks, spurs, and ligatures.
  • Edward Maynard first used gum elastics in 1843 and E. J. Tucker began making rubber bands for braces in 1850.
  • Norman W. Kingsley published the first paper on modern orthodontics in 1858 and J. N. Farrar was the first dentist to recommend the use of force over timed intervals to straighten teeth.

20th Century: New Materials Abound

  • Edward Angle developed the first classification systems for malocclusions (misaligned teeth) during the early 20th century in the United States, and it is still in use today. Angle founded the American Society of Orthodontia in 1901, which was renamed the American Association of Orthodontists in the 1930s.
  • By the 1960s, gold was universally abandoned in favor of stainless steel.
  • Lingual braces were the “invisible” braces of choice until the early 1980s, when tooth-colored aesthetic brackets made from single-crystal sapphire and ceramics became popular

Today

As we arrive in the present, you need only look at your own braces to see how far we’ve come. Your treatment plan was probably created with a 3D digital model, and we’ve likely used a computerized process to customize your archwires. Perhaps you have clear aligners, self-ligating brackets, or highly resilient ceramic brackets with heat-activated wires.

Orthodontics has come a long way from the days of Aristotle, and even the bulky wrap-around braces of just 60 years ago. Regardless of your specific treatment plan, the development of high-tech materials and methods has made it possible for your orthodontic experience to be as effective, efficient, and comfortable as possible. Call our office in Houston, TX to schedule your first orthodontic consultation!

Memorial Day

May 24th, 2016

Memorial Day is not only a federal holiday in the United States, but it is a day of observance and remembrance of those who died in service. Originally known as Decoration Day, this solemn day has been marked on calendars since the end of the American Civil War as a day to commemorate both the Confederate and Union soldiers who fought and died in the war.

Marking the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers, wreaths, or other tokens has been practiced throughout history, but it wasn't until the mark of the end of the Civil War that a special day was decided upon as the one to spend in remembrance. By 1890, every state in the country was observing Decoration Day. It wasn't until 1967 when the name formally changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day, in order to encompass all fallen American soldiers in all wars and conflicts. In June of 1968, Congress moved the official date of Memorial Day to the last Monday in May in order to create a three day weekend.

Today, while there is certainly an air of remembrance on Memorial Day, it has become more a day of spending time with family, friends, and other loved ones. This day is also heralded as the start of summer, with many schools finishing for the year around this time. Our team at West U Orthodontics remembers it as a day to take solace and remembered those lost.

Traditional observances of Memorial Day are still held, and they often involve raising the American Flag then lowering it to a half-staff position until noon, and then raising it once again to its full height afterwards. The flag is lowered to remember those who've lost their lives while in service to their country, and then it is raised to signify our willingness to not let their sacrifice be in vain.

From community parades in the Houston, TX area, backyard cook-outs, and fireworks to formal ceremonies, Memorial Day is commemorated in many different ways. No matter how you choose to spend this day, take a moment to remember those who've lost their lives in an effort to preserve our freedom.

Thanks to Invisalign®, you can have a perfect smile without metal wires or brackets!

May 17th, 2016

When it comes to straightening your smile, our team at West U Orthodontics knows that having a mouth full of metal braces may not be your idea of fun. Luckily for you, Dr. Anna Salas can offer a cosmetic alternative: Invisalign!

Using a series of clear, comfortable, and completely customized aligners, you can get the smile you’ve always wanted without traditional braces.

Since Invisalign aligners are discreet, they’re hardly noticeable when you speak and smile, and because they’re removable, you can eat and drink whatever you want. Just remember to brush and floss before putting your aligners back in! Treatment with Invisalign is just as effective as with metal braces, and the results are just as amazing!

If you want to know more about Invisalign, contact our Houston, TX office to schedule an appointment.

What is malocclusion?

May 10th, 2016

The term malocclusion refers to misalignment of teeth. You may have been born with malocclusion, so your teeth simply grew in crooked, or the misalignment and crowding of your teeth occurred over a period of time. Either way, not only can malocclusion pose cosmetic issues, but it can have a negative effect on your speaking and eating abilities as well.

Types of Malocclusion

Malocclusion encompasses multiple types and classifications of misalignment issues, including twisting or rotation of the teeth and molars that do not meet when you bite down. In some cases, the top front teeth are pushed outward in an upper protrusion.

In other cases, a misplaced midline results when the front top teeth don’t meet with the front bottom teeth. Transposition occurs when teeth protrude through the gums in a position where another tooth is supposed to be.

Practically any type of crowding or spacing issues, rotation or twisting of the teeth, or bite problem – including overbite, underbite, open bite, or crossbite – is included under the umbrella of malocclusion.

Malocclusion Classifications

There are three classifications of bite or misalignment problem.

  • Class 1 malocclusion: While the bite may be normal, the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth slightly. This is the most common type.
  • Class 2 malocclusion: Known as overbite or retrognathism, class 2 involves a severe overlap of the upper teeth and jaw over the bottom teeth and jaw.
  • Class 3 malocclusion: Known as underbite or prognathism, class 3 occurs when the lower teeth and jaw overlap the upper teeth and jaw. Thus, the lower jaw juts forward.

Causes of Malocclusion

The most common cause of malocclusion is genetics. However, there may be other causes, including the development of abnormally-shaped teeth, lost teeth, or impacted teeth; thumb sucking or overuse of a pacifier as a small child; having fillings or crowns that do not fit correctly; a serious injury that causes misalignment of the jaw; or developing a tumor of the mouth or jaw.

Treating Malocclusion

Orthodontic care at West U Orthodontics with Dr. Anna Salas is the main treatment available for malocclusion, which includes getting braces, Invisalign, or other corrective treatments. Treatment is ideal not just to have your smile improved, but because it makes the teeth easier to clean and maintain, lowers the risk of gum disease and tooth decay, and can even take pressure off the jaw and teeth.

Think about orthodontic treatment if you (or your child) display any signs of malocclusion. Early treatment of malocclusion during childhood can lessen expensive treatment later on.

Wishing all our moms a happy Mother’s Day!

May 3rd, 2016

"Motherhood: All love begins and ends there." - Robert Browning

We would like to take this moment to thank all the great moms out there for being so great during their child’s visits to West U Orthodontics. Whether it’s driving their kids to regularly scheduled appointments or for “being there” while their child is treatment, the moms who come to our office are all stellar individuals, so Dr. Anna Salas and our entire staff would like you to know that we appreciate you all!

Happy Mother’s Day and enjoy your special day!

The Invisalign® Treatment Process

April 26th, 2016

Invisalign is gaining traction as a sought-after solution for orthodontic problems. Unlike traditional braces, which require the placement of brackets on teeth and the connection of unsightly wires, Invisalign works nearly invisibly (as its name suggests). Particularly for those who do not wish to draw attention to their orthodontic work, Invisalign provides an attractive solution.

Consultation with a Treatment Provider

Our practice has received specialized training to work with Invisalign. During your consultation appointment, Dr. Anna Salas will assess your smile needs. In some cases, the type of problem may not lend itself to correction through Invisalign, and we may offer an alternative solution.

Creation of a Custom Treatment Plan

Invisalign works using a series of customized clear trays that fit almost perfectly over the teeth. To create these trays, Dr. Anna Salas will take X-rays and impressions of your teeth. These are submitted to a specialized laboratory that makes a 3D image of your smile. This is used to create a specialized treatment plan that provides an estimate of how long treatment will take.

Arrival of Custom Trays

Once your customized trays have arrived, the treatment begins. For Invisalign to work properly, you must wear the aligners 20 to 22 hours per day, removing them only to eat, drink, and brush your teeth. The trays gently draw your teeth into proper alignment, correcting your orthodontic problems as you go about your everyday life.

In general, you will replace your aligners with a new set every two weeks. This is to encourage your teeth to continue moving throughout the treatment process. You’ll need to check in with our Houston, TX office every six weeks or so to ensure treatment progresses smoothly.

Beautiful Smile: Complete!

Once you complete your individualized treatment plan, you’ll have the smile you’ve always dreamed of. Like with traditional braces, Dr. Anna Salas may recommend that you wear a retainer to ensure that your teeth remain in their new positions.

Earth Day

April 19th, 2016

The idea for Earth Day was the brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin. He envisioned an Earth Day that would be a kind of environmental teach-in. The first Earth Day celebration took place on April 22, 1970, and a surprising 20 million people participated on that day. Ultimately, it became the largest organized celebration in US history.

Earth Day Over the Years

Over the years, the recognition of the day, and the number of people celebrating it all over the world, turned Earth Day into an international celebration. Because it is celebrated throughout the world, it is not only the largest international environmental observation, but it is also more widely celebrated than any other environmental event in the world. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in 175 countries where over 500 million people participate in celebrations.

The Earth Day Movement

The Earth Day movement is credited with developing the idea that people should “think green”. It encouraged congress to enact laws, including one that resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. It also inspired the passage of the Endangered Species Act.

The Five R's and Their Importance

  • Reduce – Reduce by avoiding unnecessary purchases. Reduce your use of materials that wind up in landfills. Reduce the use of chemicals around your house. Reduce your use of disposable bags, plates, cups, eating utensils, and batteries.
  • Reuse – Instead of using plastic bags for your groceries or purchases, bring your own reusable bags. When you go to buy coffee at Starbucks, take a travel mug so you don't have to get your coffee in a disposable paper cup. Instead of storing food in disposable refrigerator containers, buy containers that can be washed and reused. Don't use regular batteries. Whenever possible, opt for rechargeable batteries that you can reuse.
  • Recycle – Most cities offer a recycling program to collect used bottles, cans, and newspapers. Recycling includes collecting recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers and manufacturing raw materials into new products.
  • Re-buy – Make an effort to purchase things that are made through recycling. When purchasing furniture, look for items that are made from reclaimed wood. When buying paper for kids school work, computer printer paper, holiday cards, or anything else, make a point of purchasing recycled paper products. Instead of buying clothing at full retail price, shop for second hand clothing. You will save a lot of money by doing so!
  • Rethink – Rethink the way you do things so that you do them in an eco-conscious way at all times. Instead of driving to work alone, consider taking the bus or going in a carpool. Walk or ride your bike when you're only going a short distance. Plan your shopping trips and errand runs so that you can do everything on one day, and do it in a way where you can save time and gas.

Other ways to "think green" include growing your own food, composting yard waste and food scraps, or by participating in local recycling programs. Join a group like Freecycle so you can share your unneeded and unwanted possessions with people who can use them. Likewise, you'll be able to get things you need or want for free.

Earth Day teaches people that the planet belongs to everyone, so everyone is equally responsible for protecting it. Although Earth Day is an environmental celebration, our team at West U Orthodontics wants to remind you that you don't have to wait until then to make changes that will allow you and your family to live a greener life.

Happy Earth Day from the team at West U Orthodontics.

How to Care for Your Invisalign® Aligners

April 12th, 2016

Is it possible to straighten the teeth without braces? Yes, it is. Welcome to the world of Invisalign aligners. Invisalign aligners are made from a clear, thermoplastic material that is custom made to fit your teeth. Unlike conventional braces, Invisalign aligners are removable. More importantly, the clear thermoplastic material makes the aligners invisible, which is ideal if the thought of metal braces and elastics make you self-conscious. For the best results, proper handling and care of your Invisalign aligners is important. Follow these steps to take care of your aligners:

1. Do not eat or drink hot beverages while wearing aligners. It's a good idea to get in the practice of removing the aligners before eating and drinking. Because the aligners are made of plastic resin, heat can distort and damage them. Also, eating while wearing the aligners will cause sugar and other food particles to stay on your teeth, which contributes to plaque and tooth decay.

2. Clean the aligner trays regularly. Invisalign aligners are exposed to the same bacteria and plaque that your mouth is, so you need to clean them as regularly as you clean your teeth. However, avoid cleaning the aligners with harsh chemicals. We recommend using a cleaning kit or some other type of specific solution. When it comes to cleaning Invisalign aligners, carefully follow the instructions given by Dr. Anna Salas.

3. Store aligners in a cool, dry, safe place. When you’re not wearing the aligners, store them in the case provided by our office. If you don’t use the case, they can easily be lost. Keeping them out of reach of small children and pets is also a good idea. The last thing you want is for Fido to think your Invisalign aligners are chew toys.

4. Don’t chew gum while wearing aligners. There’s one thing that conventional braces and Invisalign aligners have in common: chewing gum damages both of them.

5. Don’t soak aligners in mouthwash. Many popular mouthwashes contain a color pigment. It’s possible that soaking Invisalign aligners in mouthwash will tint or stain them.

For more tips and tricks for a successful Invisalign experience, contact our Houston, TX office!

April is National Facial Protection Month

April 5th, 2016

The Importance of Facial Protection

Americans from all walks of life should mark April as National Facial Protection Month on their calendars. The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, Academy for Sports Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons have combined forces to sponsor this annual campaign, which aims to educate and remind us of the importance of protecting our face and teeth against impacts and injuries.

Wearing a helmet can save your life and prevent devastating physical damage in a variety of situations, from playing football to riding a bicycle. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, helmets reduce the risk of various head injuries by as much as 85 percent. Whether helmet laws apply in your area or not, Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics want you to make sure you and your loved ones wear helmets with the appropriate safety ratings for specific activities. (A sticker on or inside the helmet will usually indicate this rating.) Helmets can also help save your teeth if they come with an attached faceguard, an essential addition for football players and others involved in contact sports.

Preventing Dental Injuries

A mouthguard can protect you against a variety of dental injuries, such as cracked, broken, or knocked-out teeth. The American Dental Association states that mouthguards play an essential role in preventing up to 200,000 dental injuries each year, and many states mandate their use for sports activities such as football and hockey. The Academy for Sports Dentistry warns, however, that these mouthguards must be custom-fitted as precisely as possible to prove effective. Have a professional-quality mouthguard molded and fitted by our team at West U Orthodontics for better protection than a generic store-bought or “boil-and-bite” variety can offer. These cheaper versions tend to wear out quickly, interfere with proper breathing, and provide uneven degrees of cushion against impacts. Always have a fresh mouthguard fitted for each new sports season.

Choose the right combination of helmet, faceguard, and mouthguard to protect your teeth and face this April, and tell your friends to do the same! To learn more about mouthguards, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office!

Invisalign Teen® Benefits

March 29th, 2016

You can probably see how teeth straightening can make your smile more attractive, but you might be wary of how Invisalign Teen treatment works. If you’re like most teens at our Houston, TX office, you love hanging out with your friends, and you don’t want to be different, watch what you eat, or worry about how you look. Invisalign Teen has several benefits over traditional metal braces that can make your treatment easier.

People won’t know you’re wearing them.

Invisalign Teen consists of clear trays that are virtual impossible for others to see. Chances are, the only people who know that you are getting your teeth straightened will be your family and any of your friends whom you choose to tell. You won’t need to answer to “Tinsel Teeth” and “Metal Mouth” as some of your classmates with metal braces do.

You can eat what your friends eat.

You take your Invisalign Teen aligners out of your mouth for meals and snacks, so you can eat just like you normally would. You don’t need to worry about food getting stuck in your braces or leading to a bracket popping off. Unlike with braces, you can enjoy the following foods with your friends during Invisalign Teen straightening treatment:

  • Popcorn at the movies
  • Trail mix with dried fruit when you’re hanging out together
  • Ribs and chicken wings at a party
  • Eating a peanut butter sandwich, apple, and carrot sticks for lunch

You can take care of your teeth more easily.

It would be a shame if you took the trouble to straighten your teeth and then found out that you had developed tooth decay while wearing braces. This is less of a problem with Invisalign Teen aligners because they are removable. You can brush and floss your teeth as normal just by taking the trays out of your mouth.

Getting straighter teeth can be a serious confidence-booster in the long run, and with Invisalign Teen, the treatment isn’t that bad. You can wear these clear aligners without letting people know that you’re straightening your teeth, and they won’t interfere with your diet or dental hygiene.

What makes teeth crooked?

March 22nd, 2016

Dr. Anna Salas and our team hear this question a lot. Some of the common reasons for crooked teeth include:

  • Thumb sucking
  • Tongue thrusting or improper use of the tongue during speaking and swallowing
  • Premature loss of baby teeth, which causes teeth to drift and shift
  • Poor breathing airway caused by enlarged adenoids or tonsils

There are also hereditary factors we get from our parents, like:

  • Extra teeth
  • Large teeth
  • Missing teeth
  • Wide spaces between teeth
  • Small jaws

Dr. Anna Salas and our team know that having crooked teeth isn’t just a cosmetic issue; it can lead to serious health problems as well. Crooked teeth can:

  • Interfere with proper chewing
  • Make keeping teeth clean more of a challenge, increasing the risk of tooth decay, cavities, and gingivitis
  • Strain the teeth, jaws, and muscles, increasing the risk of breaking a tooth

There are several treatment options we offer at West U Orthodontics that can help correct crooked teeth. Please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office to learn more or to schedule an initial consultation.

St. Patrick's Day: Celtic pride, green shamrocks, and lucky charms!

March 15th, 2016

“St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time -- a day to begin transforming winter's dreams into summer's magic.” Adrienne Cook

Lucky green shamrocks, leprechauns, and pots of gold – it must be St. Patrick’s Day! If you’re not Irish, how do you go about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? It’s easy: You just put on one of those tall leprechauns hats, dress in green from head to toe, and wear one of those carefree pins that say “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”. On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish, and that is the universal beauty of the holiday. Celtic pride does not discriminate.

Wondering what our team at West U Orthodontics is doing to celebrate March 17th? Well, we’ve thought about doing everything from handing out lucky gold coins (you know, the fake ones that are made of chocolate) to shamrock stickers. Maybe we’ll even give away green toothbrushes and floss! You’ll never know unless you come in to see Dr. Anna Salas !

All kidding aside, St. Patrick’s Day is an important cultural and religious holiday. There are lavish parades and church services across Ireland on March 17th. Over time, however, the holiday has developed into a day to observe Irish culture in general. In places like England and the United States, where there is a large Irish Diaspora, the holiday has greater significance than other countries. From the streets of Boston to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, it is a day of celebration, and many Americans of Irish descent will cook up a traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage.

So, to all of you with Irish ancestry, and to all of you who have decided to be Irish for the day, our office wishes you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Good luck looking for a pot of leprechaun gold, which is said to exist at the end of the rainbow. However, keep away from those sugary Lucky Charms; sweet cereals might taste good, but your kids’ teeth might not be feeling too lucky if they eat it for breakfast every day. Have a great St. Paddy’s Day!

I have halitosis. What can I do?

March 8th, 2016

Halitosis is the fancy, scientific word for “bad breath.” Dr. Anna Salas and our team know there are several reasons why you may have halitosis; let’s look at a few:

  • Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) – There are five main types of gum disease, and each one can range from mild to severe. For example the most common one is gingivitis; it is caused by bacteria in the plaque that has been allowed to build up, usually as a result of poor oral hygiene. A more serious and uncommon type of gum disease is called necrotizing periodontal disease. It is most common in people who have a suppressed immune system.
  • Smoking
  • Dry Mouth – This can be caused by something as simple as a medication you take.
  • Food – Of course, if you eat something that is potent like garlic, it is going to give you bad breath.
  • Diseases of the Body – Some diseases such as sinus infections and diabetes, among a few other types of infections, can also cause you to have halitosis.

How to Get Rid of Halitosis

The most obvious answer to how to get rid of halitosis is to practice good oral hygiene, although, depending on the cause of halitosis it may not be that simple. If you have an infection that is causing the halitosis then you may need an antibiotic to clear up the infection and then the bad breath will go away. Here are more tips:

  • Brush your teeth after every meal and before bed.
  • Floss your teeth. The more plaque you get out of your teeth, the better chance you have of not getting cavities or bad breath.
  • Address any medical conditions that are not related to your teeth that can be causing the halitosis.
  • Ask Dr. Anna Salas for a prescription mouthwash that kills bacteria.

Halitosis (bad breath) can be an embarrassing condition to live with, but there are plenty of ways to get rid of it permanently. Start by talking to a member of our team at our Houston, TX office.

Smile with Invisalign Teen®!

March 8th, 2016

Invisalign Teen is designed with today’s youth in mind. These clear, removable orthodontic aligners can straighten your teeth without the need for metal wires and brackets. Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign Teen aligners are comfortable, nearly invisible, and removable, which allows you to remove them as you eat your favorite foods and brush and floss your teeth. Invisalign Teen motivates teenagers to enjoy life without restrictions while promoting better overall dental care.

Key features of Invisalign Teen

Teenagers are constantly on the move and require special options when it comes to their braces. Invisalign Teen utilizes the same technology as Invisalign for adults; they consist of a series of clear plastic aligners that gradually move the teeth. Extra features designed especially for teens include:

  • Blue wear-indicators on the aligners that gradually fade from blue to clear to help you, and our team, gauge wear time
  • Aligners designed to compensate for the growth of molars and new teeth
  • Customization to fit your mouth correctly and comfortably
  • Removable and nearly transparent to ensure you can eat with freedom and smile with confidence
  • Six free individual replacement aligners in the event that your aligners become misplaced or lost

Conditions improved by Invisalign Teen

Between 70 and 80 percent of adolescents in the United States require braces, according to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Invisalign Teen uses advanced technology to treat a broad range of orthodontic conditions. These include overbite, underbite, crossbite, widely-spaced teeth, and overly crowded teeth. Injuries and tooth and jaw problems may also require the use of braces to correct jaw and teeth alignment problems.

How does Invisalign Teen work?

Like any orthodontic treatment, Invisalign Teen requires a customized treatment plan created by Dr. Anna Salas. Generally, each set of aligners is worn for approximately two weeks and removed when you brush, floss, eat, and drink. Your teeth will gradually move with the series of aligners, which typically ranges from 18 to 30 aligners in total. You’ll visit our Houston, TX office every eight to ten weeks to check your progress and make any needed adjustments.

Invisalign Teen introduces a whole new way to make your smile straight without the unappealing look and hassle of traditional metal braces. This revolutionary method of correcting smiles is being used by teens everywhere, including right here at West U Orthodontics, to straighten their teeth with confidence.

What are the benefits of Invisalign®?

February 23rd, 2016

A popular option for straightening teeth at West U Orthodontics, Invisalign can be a great method for improving your smile, and can help patients with crowded teeth, crossbites, overbites, underbites, and more.

Invisalign, which is different from traditional braces, works by applying a series of clear, retainer-like aligners in order to eventually move your teeth into their ideal positions. Patients typically swap aligners approximately every couple of weeks.

At West U Orthodontics, we have lots of experience using this technology to give our patients the beautiful and healthy smile they’ve always wanted. During your initial visit at our Houston, TX office, the first thing we do is take an impression of your teeth as they are now and digitize it. Using special software, we look at the current positioning of your teeth and compare it to the way your teeth should look.

Not only are the aligners invisible, they are also removable, so you can eat and drink what you want, and brushing and flossing are easier. Invisalign’s aligners are also comfortable, with no metal to cause mouth abrasions during your treatment. And, no metal and wires usually means you spend less time at our office getting adjustments. With Invisalign, you can view your own virtual treatment plan when you start, so you can see how your straight teeth will look when your treatment is complete!

Depending on the severity of the problem, Invisalign treatment may take anywhere from three to 18 months to complete. You should be aware that Invisalign is not as effective as traditional braces in treating bite problems, teeth that are lower or higher than others, or severely overcrowded teeth. Both teens and adults are now great candidates for Invisalign, so we invite you to contact our Houston, TX office to set up an initial consultation and learn more on how Invisalign can give you the smile you’ve always wanted!

The Clear Benefits of Invisalign®

February 16th, 2016

Straighter teeth is something many people desire. A nice smile is one of the most attractive things about a person. However, wearing a mouth full of braces for two, three, or more years can be a major pain, both literally and figuratively.

Luckily, there is another option. Invisalign is an alternative to traditional braces. Learn more about the benefits Invisalign offers and why you should consider this exciting method of straightening teeth.

  • When you have straight teeth, your mouth is healthier in general and there is less chance of tooth decay and gum disease. Invisalign makes it possible for more people to straighten their teeth.
  • Invisalign is essentially invisible. You can straighten your teeth without unsightly metal in your mouth.
  • The average cost is similar to that of traditional braces, which makes it affordable for many families.
  • With Invisalign, the aligner trays are smooth and comfortable to wear. Traditional metal braces can be uncomfortable and cause irritation to the mouth.
  • Invisalign is removable, so you do not have to wear the system during special occasions, or when you’re eating. With normal metal braces, you are stuck with them for the entire straightening process.
  • Brushing and flossing are simple. Since the system is removable, you can brush and floss just like normal.

As you can see, Invisalign is an exciting option we provide at West U Orthodontics for those who want straighter teeth. If this is something that sounds interesting to you, talk to Dr. Anna Salas and find out if it would work for your particular situation. Get started today, and before you know it you will be enjoying your straighter teeth.

For more information about Invisalign, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office today!

The Transformation of Valentine's Day

February 9th, 2016

Did you know the actions leading to the beginnings of Valentine's Day were actually centered on the avoidance of war? A Catholic priest named Valentine defied the orders of the Emperor Claudius II and secretly married young men and their brides after the emperor had declared it illegal because only single, young men could be sent to war. Rather than lose potential soldiers to fight his war, Claudius attempted to hoard them by proclaiming marriage illegal.

Valentine continued to marry young couples anyway and, eventually, was put to death for it in 270 AD. Before his death, he sent a letter to a secret love and signed it “From your Valentine”. Nearly 1,800 years later, people are still signing letters and cards in this manner. This year, carry on the tradition started long ago, while adding your own twist. Here are a few suggestions.

Simple and Creative Valentine's Day Ideas

  • Memorialize it with a Photo. Couples often have photos taken around Christmas, but Valentine's Day photos allow you to capitalize on romance. Famous couple Julia Child and her husband, Paul, had their picture taken together every Valentine's Day and included their sense of humor with silly props.
  • Return to Your First Date Location. Even if your first date together was at a local hotdog stand, its sentimental value can make it a fun part of your Valentine's Day agenda. Be creative and make a treasure hunt with clues that lead your partner to the original date location, where you can express your love with flowers or a gift.
  • “From Your Valentine” Messages. Deliver your message in a creative way to make this Valentine's Day stand out from the others. Bake your partner's favorite treat and write a message on it with a tube of icing, or draw a note on the steamed up mirror so it shows up when your partner takes a shower.

Although Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate love, it doesn't have to be a special day only for couples. If you're single, use this special day to shower yourself with love, because you're worth it! After all, the priest Valentine believed so strongly in the sanctity of love that he was willing to risk his life for it. Whether you're in a relationship or single, young or old, romantic or not, Valentine's Day is for you. Happy Valentine’s Day from the orthodontic office of Dr. Anna Salas.

Orthodontics and Whole Body Health

February 2nd, 2016

In recent years, many links have been established between orthodontic treatments and whole body health. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, researchers have observed that people with gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease or experience difficulty controlling blood sugar than people without gum disease. While researchers continue to find associations between oral health and the overall health of the body, as of yet it hasn’t been determined whether gum disease is the sole cause of these health conditions. What can be determined, however, is that good oral health isn't just about maintaining a healthy smile; it has an impact on the health of your entire body.

The associations between gum disease and whole body health

The links between the health of your mouth and the health of your body are too many to ignore. Is it a coincidence that gum disease and other health problems occur together? Researchers don’t think so, despite the lack of definitive proof.

Here are four possible connections between the health of your mouth and the health of your body.

  • Excessive oral inflammation has been linked to a greater incidence of clogged arteries.
  • The American Society of Microbiology has revealed that certain types of oral bacteria can infect the arterial cells and weaken the wall of the heart.
  • Loose teeth are often believed to be a warning sign for osteoporosis, a disease that causes the bones to become less dense.
  • Some studies suggest women with gum disease are more likely than those without gum disease to deliver preterm, low-weight babies.

Orthodontics and gum disease

So what does undergoing orthodontic treatment at West U Orthodontics have to do with gum disease? Braces do so much more than give you a nice-looking smile. Quite simply, straight teeth are easier to keep clean than crooked teeth. Your toothbrush is able to remove more plaque-causing bacteria, and your floss is more effective at ridding tiny particles between your teeth.

Despite the lack of hard facts in these findings, the message is clear: If you improve your oral health, you will also have a greater chance of maintaining the health of your entire body. And that’s a chance Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics believe is worth taking. For more information about this topic, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office or ask Dr. Anna Salas during your next visit!

Invisalign Teen®: Why Invisalign® is the best choice for teens

January 26th, 2016

Those challenging teenage years are some of the most self-conscious ones of your life, and concern for your appearance definitely plays a large part. Invisalign is becoming a very popular choice for adolescent patients today, but is it the best choice?

The results from teenage Invisalign users indicate that Invisalign is both effective for teeth straightening and for satisfying that urge to avoid the dreaded “metal mouth.” Dr. Anna Salas can help you determine if Invisalign is right for you, but this article will explain why so many people are calling Invisalign the best choice for teens today.

Metal-Free Braces

Invisalign is a clear plastic device that fits directly over the teeth. There are no metal parts to mar the look of your smile, and your Invisalign aligners can straighten while allowing your pearly whites to shine through. Any teen will be the first to tell you that appearance is a top concern, so this is an excellent choice. People don’t even need to know you’re straightening your teeth with Invisalign.

Eat, Brush, and Floss Easily

Another particularly attractive aspect of Invisalign for most teenagers is the freedom it allows. While traditional metal braces can make eating, brushing, and flossing difficult, this is not the case with Invisalign. The aligners are easily removable for these activities, which gives teens the freedom they desire to live life as usual.

More Free Time

Invisalign Teen aligners need to be checked and adjusted at West U Orthodontics less frequently than traditional braces. This allows for fewer appointments, something that is really important to teens. Having your teeth straightened is no reason to forgo activities or make room in your schedule for constant office visits when you choose Invisalign.

Learn more about Invisalign Teen at our Houston, TX office!

What’s the advantage to Invisalign®?

January 19th, 2016

Invisalign, which we happily provide at West U Orthodontics, is a great alternative to traditional orthodontic treatment if you've been apprehensive about the thought of metal braces. During your initial visit, the first thing we do is take an impression of your teeth as they are now and digitize it. Using special software, we look at the current positioning of your teeth and compare it to the way your teeth should look.

Invisalign treatment, which consists of a series of aligners that you switch out approximately every couple of weeks, can help patients with crowded teeth, crossbites, overbites, underbites and more. Invisalign gradually shifts your teeth into place, creating the dazzling smile you’ve always wanted. During treatment with Dr. Anna Salas, patients wear the aligners all day and night, except for during meals and when they’re brushing and flossing; cleaning your teeth and eating are a snap since you can easily remove your aligners! And because they’re clear, no one will know that your teeth are steadily straightening!

To find out if you are the right candidate for Invisalign treatment, we invite you to give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office and schedule a consultation.

Who benefits from Invisalign®?

January 12th, 2016

One problem with trying to answer the question as to who benefits from Invisalign is that the simple answer is “almost everyone.” The see-through, almost invisible aligners for straightening teeth are specifically molded to fit each individual’s mouth. Unlike conventional braces, they can be removed when eating and when cleaning the teeth. Because they use less force in straightening teeth than metal braces, the risk of harm to teeth is lessened.

Benefits to adults

Traditional braces are associated with children and teenagers. Many adults want to have their teeth straightened but cannot decide which is worse: having crooked teeth or wearing metal braces. They also worry about having to change their diet by not being able to eat the foods they normally enjoy.

If you are an adult considering braces, our team at West U Orthodontics will tell you Invisalign aligners will give you the best of all worlds. Your teeth will be straightened with virtually invisible braces. You can remove your aligners when you eat so you can enjoy any food you normally would consume. You do not have to worry about embarrassing yourself by getting food stuck in your braces. You simply clean your teeth normally after eating and replace your aligners. If there is a special occasion during which you do not want to have any braces at all, you can remove the aligners for a few hours without causing any damage.

Benefits to teenagers

Dr. Anna Salas and our team know that teenagers are often involved in contact sports or gymnastics. Others find that having metal in their mouth interferes with their ability to play a musical instrument. Traditional metal braces contain wires and brackets that can cause damage to the mouth and gums; this is not a risk with Invisalign aligners.

For sports that require players to wear mouthguards, the expense of specially constructed mouthguards to fit over braces is avoided. The aligners can be removed during sports activity, and a normal mouthguard is worn. Teenagers who play musical instruments simply remove the aligners when practicing or playing in the band or orchestra.

Teenagers often feel they are too busy to spend time and trouble flossing teeth between the wires and brackets of traditional braces. Since the Invisalign aligners are removable, brushing and flossing are simpler and more likely to be performed.

For more information about Invisalign or Invisalign Teen, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office!

What’s the advantage of Invisalign®?

January 5th, 2016

Dr. Anna Salas and our team know it is natural for you to feel some concern when you need to wear any type of dental device to correct a problem with your teeth. Both braces and Invisalign can produce good results in giving you the smile you’ve always wanted. Both methods can straighten your teeth and alleviate such issues as crowding, spacing, cross bite, overbite, and underbite. Both methods of treatment have a similar cost.

You can take a cross-country road trip in a ten-year-old economy car or you can make the trip in a brand-new luxury sedan. Both will get you to your destination, but you will be far more comfortable traveling in the luxury sedan. Similarly, your journey to a great smile is much more comfortable and convenient with Invisalign as opposed to braces.

Comfort

Some of the discomfort you may experience with braces is greatly reduced with Invisalign. Because Invisalign is custom-fit to your mouth and made of plastic, you will feel less pain, irritation, and soreness. Unlike braces, there are no food restrictions; you can eat anything that is on your diet.

Brushing and flossing

Of course you will want to brush and floss your teeth to prevent plaque buildup, tooth discoloration, and dental decay. If you wear braces, these simple tasks can become quite a challenge. Invisalign aligners are very easy to remove and replace, so you can brush or floss like normal without having to work your way around any metallic framework covering your teeth.

Appearance

You do not have to be embarrassed to show your teeth when you are using the Invisalign system. Since the aligners are practically invisible, no one will even notice you are wearing them! Whether you are a teenager or an older adult, you can live your life normally.

If you want to learn more about Invisalign, or are wondering what your treatment options are at West U Orthodontics, feel free to give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office!

New Year's Eve

December 29th, 2015

Watching the clock tick down the final seconds until midnight, many of us- West U Orthodontics included- feel nostalgic about the passing year and hopeful about the new one to come. New Year’s Eve is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world, with over-the-top celebrations taking place in dozens of countries. The Gregorian calendar, which is widely used in Western nations and around the world, was implemented in 1582. Since that time, December 31st has marked the final day of the year, with midnight heralding the beginning of a brand new year. In the United States, New Year’s Day is a public holiday; government offices, schools, public organizations, and many businesses are closed for the day. Ponder the following fun facts as you think about your plans for the holiday:

  • Approximately one billion people watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, New York City. This televised event is one of the most iconic New Year’s celebrations in the world. For many years, watching the ball drop meant tuning in to Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, an iconic television special dear to the hearts of many viewers.
  • The idea for the New Year’s Eve ball came about because of a citywide ban on fireworks. Before 1907, when fireworks became illegal in New York City, celebrations included an elaborate fireworks show. The large, glittering, illuminated ball was developed as an alternative. Although the first ball was heavy at 700 pounds, the modern New Year’s Eve ball is made of Waterford crystal and tips the scale at six tons!
  • The top five New Year’s resolutions are: to lose weight, quit smoking, get a new job, return to school, or increase personal savings. However, approximately 88% of New Year’s resolutions fail. But don’t let that discourage you! Resolutions are most likely to succeed when they are clear, achievable goals. Setting out a concrete plan to achieve your resolution also boosts your chances of success.
  • Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is said to bring good fortune in the new year. Collard greens, cabbage, and ham hocks are also considered lucky foods to enjoy. Just steer clear of the chicken or turkey dinners; eating poultry is a bad omen for the year to come.

Whether you plan to stay in Houston, TX, or head out into the crowds to watch the ball drop in Times Square, New Year’s Eve is a time to enjoy friends and family. Send your loved ones well wishes for the New Year, and look for that special someone to share a midnight kiss with for good luck!

Invisalign® vs. Traditional Braces

December 22nd, 2015

A great smile can go a long way. Scientific research suggests that people who smile are perceived as more attractive and confident than those who don’t flash their pearly whites. When it comes time to invest in orthodontics to improve your beautiful smile, choosing the best option can be daunting. Comparing Invisalign to traditional braces is a great way to determine what orthodontics make most sense for your unique smile.

How is Invisalign different?

Unlike traditional braces, in which brackets are affixed onto each tooth and connected by wires Invisalign corrects orthodontic problems using a set of clear trays. These trays are specially formed to fit your teeth, allowing you to wear them 24/7.

Aesthetics

One of the primary advantages of Invisalign is that the clear trays are nearly invisible. Particularly for adults self-conscious about appearing professional with traditional braces, Invisalign can correct orthodontic issues without capturing the notice of others. Their nearly invisible appearance is one of the topmost reasons that orthodontic patients choose Invisalign.

Complexity of the Orthodontic Problem

Invisalign works well for people who have relatively minor problems, such as crooked teeth or small gaps between teeth. For more complex problems, particularly issues with bite or vertical problems (i.e., one tooth being significantly higher than another), traditional braces may be better at pulling teeth into alignment.

Eating and Drinking

Invisalign trays are removable, meaning that you cannot eat or drink while wearing them. Unlike traditional braces, however, you are not limited in the foods you may eat. Chewy, sticky, or hard foods may be eaten, provided that you brush your teeth before reinserting the Invisalign trays.

In the end, only you can weigh the pros and cons of Invisalign versus traditional braces. Consult with Dr. Anna Salas to understand how these orthodontic interventions may work for your unique situation.

We proudly offer Invisalign Teen®!

December 15th, 2015

Dr. Anna Salas and our team are excited to offer Invisalign Teen, a clear alternative to braces that’s just for teens! With Invisalign Teen, we are able to straighten your teen’s teeth without the hassle, discomfort, and embarrassment of traditional braces.

Invisalign Teen’s clear aligners are virtually invisible. What's more, they are removable, which means your child is free to eat anything they choose, as well as brush and floss with ease! And best of all, Invisalign Teen uses no wires or metal to straighten your teen's teeth.

Invisalign Teen aligners are made from a lightweight plastic material and fit precisely on the teeth. Invisalign Teen has become a popular treatment here at West U Orthodontics because it helps our younger patients achieve a straight, beautiful smile without their friends noticing.

Our team at West U Orthodontics is aware that most teens today have a busy lifestyle, and sometimes, they tend to lose things, including their retainers or aligners. But with Invisalign Teen, if your child happens to lose an aligner, let Dr. Anna Salas and our team know as soon as possible and we will have the aligner replaced.

For more information on Invisalign Teen, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office today!

When is the best age to begin orthodontic treatment?

December 8th, 2015

Most parents know that routine dental care should begin during their child’s toddler years. And many assume they must wait until their child has all of his or her permanent teeth to visit Dr. Anna Salas for an initial orthodontic consultation.

The ideal age for an orthodontic evaluation is age seven. At that age, your child will have a mixture of adult and baby teeth for Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics to make a determination about whether any problems are present. Typically the first molars have come in by the time your child turns seven, giving us an opportunity to check for malocclusion, also known as “bad bite.” Also, by the time your child reaches the age of seven, the incisors have begun to come in, and problems such as crowding, deep bites, and open bites can be detected.

When Dr. Anna Salas and our team perform an evaluation on your child at an early age, you get one of two positive outcomes. Although treatment usually will not begin until one to five years after the initial evaluation, it’s still helpful in determining whether your child has any problems with the jaw and teeth early when they are still easy to treat. Earlier treatment can also cost less to correct a potential problem than delayed treatment.

Early evaluation, of course, may signal a need for early treatment. For some children, early treatment can prevent physical and emotional trauma. Aside from spurring years of harmful teasing, misaligned teeth are also prone to injury and are detrimental to good oral hygiene.

If your child is approaching age seven, or has already surpassed his or her seventh birthday, it is time to schedule an appointment for an initial examination at West U Orthodontics.

The Advantage of Invisalign Teen®

December 1st, 2015

Many teens want to improve their smile without the pain and embarrassment of having to wear metal braces. Just like metal braces, Invisalign works by gently moving teeth into position. Metal braces are worn continuously, however, and need to be adjusted by Dr. Anna Salas regularly in order to move the teeth into proper position.

Invisalign uses a series of clear trays to move teeth into position. When you are done with one tray, simply pop in the next! Invisalign Teen straightens teeth just as well as traditional metal braces, but has several advantages.

Invisible

You’ve probably figured out the most obvious advantage already: the aligners are nearly invisible. Invisalign works by using a series of clear aligners that should be worn 20 to 22 hours a day. Invisalign trays are almost undetectable when you wear them, so you can smile with confidence — even while you are straightening your teeth.

Removable

One of the best things about Invisalign Teen is that the trays are removable. This means you can remove your tray to eat, brush, and floss your teeth, or even to play sports. While Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics require you to wear the trays for most of the day, having the ability to remove your straightening trays means you have practically none of the dietary restrictions that metal brace wearers have to observe.

Teens that play contact sports often experience difficulties with metal braces. Invisalign Teen allows the flexibility to wear a mouthguard, and no metal wires or brackets means less risk of cuts or other injuries while playing a game. Musicians also benefit from being able to remove their trays during rehearsals and performances. You can even remove your tray for your school photo or to snap a quick selfie!

Finally, because you can remove your aligners, you can easily keep your teeth clean through normal brushing and flossing. You can also clean your trays by brushing and rinsing them in warm water. Brushing and flossing with metal braces can be frustrating and time-consuming. Invisalign Teen treatment at West U Orthodontics helps you keep your smile white and shiny with very little change to your normal routine.

To learn more about Invisalign Teen, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office!

Thanksgiving in North America

November 24th, 2015

Thanksgiving marks the start to the holidays; a season filled with feasting, indulging, and spending time with family and friends are always special. Thanksgiving is a holiday meant for giving thanks, and while this may seem like such a natural celebration, the United States is only one of a handful of countries to officially celebrate with a holiday.

Unlike many holidays, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, and it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States. In Canada, it is celebrated on the second Monday of October, which is, oddly enough, much closer to a time when harvests were likely gathered. In addition to the different dates, the origins of the celebration also share different roots.

Thanksgiving in the United States

Giving thanks for a bountiful harvest are not new, but the modern day holiday in the US can be traced to a celebration at Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1621. This feast of thanksgiving was inspired by a good harvest, and the tradition was simply continued on. At first, the colony at Plymouth didn't have enough food to feed everyone present, but the Native Americans helped by providing seeds and teaching them how to fish, and they soon began to be able to hold a feast worthy of the name. The tradition spread, and by the 1660s, most of New England was hosting a Thanksgiving feast in honor of the harvest.

Canadian Thanksgiving

An explorer of early Canada named Martin Frobisher is accredited for the first Canadian Thanksgiving. He survived the arduous journey from England through harsh weather conditions and rough terrain, and after his last voyage from Europe to present-day Nunavut, he held a formal ceremony to give thanks for his survival and good fortune. As time passed and more settlers arrived, a feast was added to what quickly became a yearly tradition. Another explorer, Samuel de Champlain, is linked to the first actual Thanksgiving celebration in honor of a successful harvest; settlers who arrived with him in New France celebrated the harvest with a bountiful feast.

A Modern Thanksgiving

Today, Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated with the best of Americana. From feasts and football games to getting ready for the start of the Christmas shopping season, Thanksgiving means roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole. No matter how you celebrate this momentous day, pause for a moment to give thanks for your friends, family, and all the bounties you’ve received. Happy Thanksgiving from West U Orthodontics!

Invisalign Teen®: What Parents Should Know

November 17th, 2015

Invisalign Teen is one the newer styles of braces, and perfect for those who do not like the standard metal braces. They are available in a clear material that is practically invisible called aligners that are replaced every two weeks. The aligners are custom made for each patient and gradually straighten teeth without all of the metal and rubber bands that come with traditional braces.

Is Invisalign as effective?

If your child will wear them as directed to, then the answer is yes, they are as effective as traditional metal braces. However, to make sure the child is actually wearing them correctly you will notice a small blue spot on the back of each aligner. This is called an indicator and if worn correctly will fade over a period of two weeks. Dr. Anna Salas will be able to tell if the patient is not wearing them correctly.

Can Invisalign be removed?

Parents should be aware that the Invisalign aligners can be removed for up to four hours per day to eat, brush teeth, play sports, or play musical instruments. With the option of removing them it actually makes brushing and flossing easier and helps oral hygiene. The recommended time to wear them is at least 20 hours per day.

How long does treatment take and what is the cost?

Your teen will wear Invisalign as long as traditional braces. However, each patient is different so you should speak with Dr. Anna Salas to determine how many months your child can expect to wear them.

The cost is also very similar to other traditional braces; however there is no set fee. The cost will depend on your child’s unique orthodontic need.

Overall Success

Invisalign Teen has had remarkable success because patients are happy to have the option of having clear aligners for treatment. With the child more confident they are actually more prone to keep up with their treatment and many do complete their treatment sooner. You should speak with Dr. Anna Salas as soon as possible to learn about the benefits of Invisalign Teen.

Is adult orthodontic treatment for you?

November 10th, 2015

Adult patients who seek orthodontic treatment usually fall into one of two camps: those who did not undergo orthodontic treatment as a child or those who had braces at one point but stopped wearing retainers for one reason or another.

At West U Orthodontics, we are happy to offer a variety of treatment options to straighten our patients’ teeth. Dr. Anna Salas and our team believe you’re never too old to straighten your teeth. And we have many adult patients who are currently undergoing treatment. In fact, did you know that roughly 30 percent of all orthodontic patients these days are adults?

Invisalign® is a great treatment option for adults. The Invisalign aligners are easy to wear and are not visible to most people. Plus, Invisalign's clear aligners are removable, so there are no restrictions on what you can eat during treatment. When considering Invisalign, we tell adults to determine if they can be diligent about wearing the aligners at all times and make them part of their lifestyle for the duration of treatment.

If you have been thinking about obtaining a beautiful smile, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office for an initial consultation. Dr. Anna Salas and our team welcome children, teens, and adults alike. Call us today for an appointment!

Proper Diet while Undergoing Orthodontics

November 3rd, 2015

Many people undergo orthodontic treatment during childhood, adolescence, and even into adulthood. Wearing orthodontic appliances like braces is sure to produce a beautiful smile. Though orthodontic treatments at West U Orthodontics are designed to accommodate your lifestyle, chances are you will need to make some dietary modifications to prevent damage to your braces and prolong orthodontic treatment.

The First Few Days with Braces

The first few days wearing braces may be the most restrictive. During this time, the adhesive is still curing, which means you will need to consume only soft foods. This probably will not be a problem, however, as your teeth may be tender or sensitive while adjusting to the appliances.

Orthodontic Dietary Restrictions

You can eat most foods normally the way you did without braces. However, some foods can damage orthodontic appliances or cause them to come loose. Examples of foods you will need to avoid include:

  • Chewy foods like taffy, chewing gum, beef jerky, and bagels
  • Hard foods like peanuts, ice chips, and hard candy
  • Crunchy foods like chips, apples, and carrots

How to Continue to Eat the Foods You Love Most

Keep in mind that you may still be able to enjoy some of the foods you love by making certain modifications to the way you eat them. For example, steaming or roasting carrots makes them softer and easier to consume with braces. Similarly, you can remove corn from the cob, or cut up produce like apples and pears to avoid biting into them. Other tips include grinding nuts into your yogurt or dipping hard cookies into milk to soften them. If you must eat hard candies, simply suck on them instead of biting into them.

If you have any question whether a food is safe to eat during your treatment with West U Orthodontics, we encourage you to err on the side of caution. Of course, you can always contact our Houston, TX office with any questions you have about your diet and the foods that should be avoided during treatment. By following our dietary instructions and protecting your orthodontic appliances from damage, you will be back to chewing gum in no time.

Halloween Fun with Braces

October 27th, 2015

Halloween is a favorite holiday among children due to the festive games, imaginative costumes, and candy. Modern celebrations stem from a combination of traditions from Pagan and Christian traditions throughout the centuries. The original holiday was called Samhain and derived from the ancient Druids of Ireland. In their belief system, November 1st marked the beginning of winter, and Pagans began their Samhain celebrations at sunset on October 31st.

Modern Celebrations of Halloween

Children and adults love dressing up for Halloween, and this tradition comes from the ancient belief in spirits. From sunset on October 31st until sunrise on November 1st, the souls of the dead entered the physical world. Some spirits were benevolent and wanted only to cross over to the afterlife while others harbored malicious intents of revenge and trickery. Pagans wore masks and disguised themselves so that the malevolent souls would mistake them as fellow spirits.

Families left food and ale outside of their doors to appease the spirits. With the rise of Christianity in Europe, the church encouraged its members to offer food and money to beggars. In exchange, the beggars would agree to pray for the family's deceased loved ones. Eventually these traditions led to the development of today's customs where children dressed up and received candy from their neighbors while circling the community.

Teeth-Friendly Treats

With all of the excitement and free candy on Halloween, it is easy to get carried away on a sugar high. Parents warn their children not to eat too many pieces in one night to avoid tummy aches and cavities. Our team at West U Orthodontics especially wants to remind children with braces to be extra cautious about the treats they eat because some varieties can get stuck in between the brackets and damage the devices. Sticky candy, such as caramels, fruit chews, and gum should be avoided when wearing braces. Children can trade with their friends and siblings to get only safe candies. The following list offers some alternative treats that children with braces can safely enjoy.

  • Solid chocolate, including milk, white, or dark
  • Nougat-filled candy bars, such as Three Musketeers
  • Candy-coated chocolates like M&Ms
  • Powdery candy, such as Sweet Tarts or Pixie Stix
  • Mint-flavored candy
  • Malted milk balls
  • Cookies
  • Peanut butter crackers or cookies

When in doubt, children should ask their parents or Dr. Anna Salas if a specific candy is safe. Halloween is a fun holiday for children, and having braces does not have to take away any of the excitement from tasty treats.

Tips for Using Invisalign®

October 20th, 2015

More than one patient has come into our office and asked, “What can I do to help my teeth when wearing Invisalign?”

While everyone’s teeth and dental needs are different, there are certain things everyone can do to make wearing their Invisalign aligners a more rewarding experience. Always follow the list of instructions and tips from Dr. Anna Salas, and add the following advice to your daily routine.

Always ask us about teeth whitening. Our team at West U Orthodontics knows how important it is for you to keep your teeth white and stain-free from the foods and drinks you consume daily. If you have attachments to your teeth, they will not whiten properly. Ask our office about teeth whitening when wearing your aligners; it might be best to wait until your treatment is complete.

Continue flossing every day. You should be flossing in any case. But it can be easy to assume that Invisalign will protect your teeth from bacteria. This is not true. Bacteria can get behind the aligners and affect the health of your teeth and gums, so keep up with your flossing schedule.

Follow the 48-hour rule when wearing your aligners. When you insert every new set of aligners, you should leave them in as much as possible during the first 48 hours. Your teeth will move more during this timeframe, and the aligners do the most good during this time.

You may experience slight discomfort while wearing your Invisalign aligners. You can take a pain reliever to help with the discomfort, but if you experience too much pain, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office to schedule an appointment!

Dreaming of a stunning smile without using braces?

October 13th, 2015

Most of us aren’t born with a red carpet smile. And if you’ve thought about straightening your teeth but are apprehensive about doing so with traditional orthodontic treatment, Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics want you to know there is another option – Invisalign®!

Invisalign is an ideal solution for most adults looking for a less noticeable way to achieve a better smile. In fact, Invisalign has increasingly become a very popular choice for adults looking for a more comfortable, convenient and cosmetically-appealing treatment for straightening their teeth.

Our team at West U Orthodontics is proud to offer Invisalign, which uses a series of invisible, removable and comfortable aligners that no one can tell you’re wearing, which allows you to smile more during treatment, as well as after. Not only are the aligners invisible, they are also removable, so you can eat and drink what you want; brushing and flossing is easier with Invisalign than with traditional braces.

Invisalign’s aligners are also comfortable, with no metal to cause mouth abrasions during your treatment. And no metal and wires usually means you spend less time at our office getting adjustments. Invisalign also allows you to view your own virtual treatment plan when you start, so you can see how your straight teeth will look when your treatment is complete!

A consultation with Dr. Anna Salas can determine if Invisalign is right for you. We encourage you to give us a call at our friendly Houston, TX office if you’re interested in learning more about Invisalign or if you are ready to visit us for an initial consultation! We look forward to seeing you!

Year-End Insurance Reminder

October 6th, 2015

Now that October is upon us, Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics wanted to send you a friendly reminder to schedule your orthodontic appointment prior to the end of the year to take full advantage of any flex spend, health savings, or insurance benefits that you may have.

The end of the year is always a busy time so make your appointment now so you don’t lose your available benefits! Give us a call today!

Adults and Braces: Not just for kids anymore

September 29th, 2015

Just hearing the word “braces” can take many of us back to junior high — that painful era when we wore unattractive glasses, endured unflattering haircuts, and carried a mouthful of braces to complete the awkward adolescent look. Despite the common assumption that braces are for kids, more and more adults are choosing to pursue orthodontics to correct their smiles.

Braces for Adults

Perhaps you never had braces as a kid and you are embarrassed by your crooked teeth. Or you went through a round of braces a decade ago and stopped wearing your retainer, which allowed your teeth to shift. Whatever your personal history, wearing braces in adulthood is an excellent way to create the straight, beautiful smile you deserve.

What are my options?

With recent advances in orthodontic medicine, there are numerous options for adults who need braces. The basic option is traditional metal braces. These are best for individuals who have severely crooked teeth or a significant bite problem, or require other major orthodontic changes. Metal braces are typically the least expensive option. The greatest drawback to wearing metal braces as an adult is aesthetics. Many people find them unattractive and distracting.

If you are a professional who is worried about your personal appearance, clear ceramic braces may be a better choice. Clear braces are capable of handling very crooked teeth or bite issues, but they cost more than metal braces. You also have to be careful about smoking or drinking red wine, soda, and other dark beverages while wearing clear braces. These items may stain the adhesive that binds the brackets to your teeth.

Another popular option for adults who need braces is a clear aligner treatment, such as Invisalign®. This system works in a different way from traditional braces by applying a series of clear, retainer-like aligners. The series is custom made for your teeth, which makes this option more expensive than either metal or ceramic braces. In general, the Invisalign process takes anywhere from three to 18 months to complete. You should be aware that Invisalign is not as effective as traditional braces in treating bite problems, teeth that are lower or higher than others, or severely overcrowded teeth.

Although you may be nervous about the prospect of getting braces as an adult, you should not let your fears stop you from talking with Dr. Anna Salas. A consultation at our Houston, TX office will address your concerns and provide information about the best course of treatment for you. No matter what your personal situation, adult braces can be a great way to boost your confidence and create the smile you’ve always dreamed of.

Caring for Your Smile While Wearing Invisalign®

September 22nd, 2015

Getting your braces off is exciting. You’ve been working on your new smile for months or years, and it’s time for the trips to our Houston, TX office to pay off. Can you imagine how bad it would be to discover that your teeth are straight, but that there’s decay?

Caring for your smile while wearing Invisalign goes beyond just waiting for your teeth to get straighter. It involves cleaning your teeth regularly and thoroughly to prevent tooth decay. That way, your smile will be more beautiful than ever when you’re done with your Invisalign treatment.

Take Your Trays Out

The first difference you may notice between Invisalign and traditional metal braces is that Invisalign aligners are invisible, but there’s another important distinction as well. Invisalign braces are removable. You can take the trays out, and you should. Remove the trays while you’re eating so you don’t get food stuck in them. Also, remove them while you’re cleaning your teeth so that you can have full access to all the nooks and crannies in your mouth.

Brush Normally

The guidelines for brushing your teeth with Invisalign don’t change compared to braces. Brush your teeth at least twice a day using a soft toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste, being sure to get all surfaces of your teeth. If possible, brush after each meal.

If you can’t, be sure to drink some water and swish it around in your mouth when you’re done eating to get rid of the extra food on your teeth. Leaving carbohydrates, such as sugar and starch, on your teeth opens the door to tooth decay.

Floss and Wash

Flossing your teeth gets out the bits and pieces stuck between them. It’s a time-consuming task when you need to navigate the wires of traditional metal braces, but thanks to Invisalign’s removable design, flossing is no problem. Rinsing your mouth with a fluoride antibacterial mouthwash also helps clean your teeth because it gets into all of the spaces. Floss and rinse one or two times daily.

Cleaning Your Trays

Cleaning your Invisalign trays keeps them from getting riddled with bacteria, and it helps keep your teeth free from excess food. You can use the Invisalign cleaning system, which involves placing the trays in a tub with cleaning crystals. The plastic trays are clean after 15 minutes. You can also ask Dr. Anna Salas for other ways to clean your trays.

Is Invisalign Teen® right for my child?

September 15th, 2015

Straightening your teeth with traditional braces used to be something of a public affair. While traditional teeth-straightening methods yielded high-quality results, it was also essentially impossible to wear them undetected as you went about your day. The visibility of braces could be especially troubling to teens in the high-stress environment of high school and even during the early years of college.

With Invisalign Teen, Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics will tell you that many of those concerns are no longer as relevant as they once were. Because Invisalign Teen aligners are constructed out of a plastic that is both smooth and clear, in all likelihood friends and family members won’t even realize the teen is wearing them. The smooth and clear plastic also makes the aligners much more comfortable than traditional braces, which means the teenaged user won’t have to deal with something large and obstructive in his or her mouth.

Additionally, the Invisalign Teen aligners are specifically made to be removable when the need arises. Your son or daughter won’t have to worry about getting food stuck in the alignment trays because they can be pulled out before a meal and popped back in afterwards. Invisalign Teen wearers can remove the aligners before brushing, which allows them to make sure their teeth are free and clear of all obstructions.

Invisalign Teen aligners also allow wearers to keep doing all the activities they have previously enjoyed. If your teen plays sports, for example, he or she won't have to worry about a mouth filled with metal brackets getting injured during play. If your teen plays an instrument, he or she won’t have to worry about traditional braces affecting normal playing techniques. The aligners will remain both comfortable and convenient during all of those activities and more.

If your teen is concerned about physical appearance and worried that braces will adversely affect his or her life for a year or more, Invisalign Teen treatment with Dr. Anna Salas is definitely the right choice. Teens don’t have to be shy about their smile, won’t have to change any of the activities they normally do, and will still get all the benefits of straight teeth when the process is completed.

For more information about Invisalign Teen, or to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Anna Salas, please give us a call at our convenient Houston, TX office today!

How do teeth move with braces?

September 8th, 2015

Although teeth seem to be solidly fixed in their sockets (at least they don’t wobble when we chew!), all teeth can easily be moved if Dr. Anna Salas and our staff attach brackets and wires to them called braces. In the past, all braces were made of stainless steel, but today’s advanced dental technology gives people the option of wearing transparent, acrylic mouth trays called Invisalign®, or relying on traditional metal braces for correcting malocclusions.

Brackets, Slots, and Arch Wires – Oh My!

When light pressure is consistently exerted on teeth, they will gradually move in the direction of the force. For example, affixing brackets to front teeth and threading a flexible, metal wire through tiny slots on the front of the brackets allows the orthodontist to tighten this arch wire enough to initiate desired movement of teeth. Generally, orthodontic patients visit West U Orthodontics once a month to have this wire tightened to keep teeth moving in the desired direction.

Tissues surrounding the teeth that experience pressure from arch wires will slowly (and, for the most part, painlessly) stretch, and allow the socket to enlarge so the tooth and its root become looser temporarily. This allows the root to move without causing bleeding or pain. Once Dr. Anna Salas and our staff are satisfied with the repositioning of teeth, we will remove the braces and let bone material fill in the socket so that teeth are solidified into their new (and straighter) positions.

Clear Braces vs. Traditional Braces

Both types of orthodontic corrective devices move teeth in the same manner: by applying a continual force against teeth. Clear aligners, like Invisalign, are mouth trays made of hard acrylic material that people wear for at least 23 hours a day. Unlike metal braces, Invisalign can be removed for eating and brushing purposes and the aligners are nearly invisible because of their transparency.

Invisalign aligners are usually reserved for people with gaps between their teeth or whose teeth are only slightly crooked. Traditional metal braces are often necessary when severe malocclusion exists and requires more pressure than Invisalign offers.

Happy Labor Day!

September 1st, 2015

Labor Day is upon us, and that means the non-official end to summer. Before the kids head back to school and temperatures start to cool down, this is your last chance to barbeque in the beautiful Houston, TX community, head to the lake, and wear your favorite pair of white pants.

About Labor Day

Each year, Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September. It is the one day of year Americans celebrate their achievements in work, which the US Department of Labor says has contributed to prosperity and well-being of America as a whole. Americans have been celebrating Labor Day since the 1880s, and today it is an official federal holiday.

Interesting Facts About Labor Day

  • Every year, more than 30 million Americans travel over Labor Day weekend.
  • Canada was the first to celebrate Labor Day, and the US soon followed.
  • President Cleveland made Labor Day and official US holiday in 1894.
  • Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and NCAA sports seasons for fans.
  • Labor Day marks the end of hot dog season, when Americans consume seven billion hot dogs.

Thanks for being a valued patient of our orthodontic office. Our staff would like to wish you a safe and happy Labor Day weekend. Enjoy your time off!

Top Ways to Ensure You and Your Braces Have a Good Relationship

August 25th, 2015

You and your braces will become good friends over the coming months or years, so it’s important to get your relationship off to a good start. Consider the following recommendations to prevent rocky times ahead:

  1. Floss, floss, floss. Yes, it’s a pain to floss around your braces, but it's the best way to prevent gum disease and other oral health problems. Ask Dr. Anna Salas and our staff for floss threaders to make the chore easier. Just a few minutes per day will ensure that you don’t face significant dental health issues when the braces come off.
  2. Avoid sticky or hard foods. It’s tough to forgo toffee, caramel, gum, and other favorite sticky treats, but your braces will thank you. Sticky or hard foods can break a bracket or wire, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.
  3. Chew with your back teeth. If you’re used to taking large bites with your front teeth, it might be time to switch your eating habits. Taking a large bite of food with your front teeth can leave your braces vulnerable to damage. Instead, cut large foods into pieces and use your back teeth to chew. This is especially important with corn on the cob, which should always be cut from the cob.
  4. Wear rubber bands and headgear. Rubber bands, headgear, and other orthodontic appliances may seem annoying, but failing to comply with wearing them can increase the length of your treatment by months. Wear them now to avoid problems in the future.

How to Protect Your Braces During Sports Activities

August 18th, 2015

Proper mouth protection is recommended by West U Orthodontics when you participate in any sports activities. If you wear braces, this protection becomes essential. Injuries to your mouth can not only damage your teeth, but your braces could break and cut open your lip.

Full Facial Guards

Full facial guards are often used in football and offer protection to your mouth from most injuries. Even with full facial protection, you may benefit from additional mouth protection. While your face is protected from outside impact, you could still suffer from cuts or damage to your braces from internal impact.

Mouthguards

Mouthguards referred to as boil-and-bites can be purchased at many retail stores. As the name implies, these guards are boiled in water to heat and soften the material. While the guard is still warm, you place it in your mouth and bite down gently. This causes the guard to form to the shape of your mouth. Unfortunately, these guards do not necessarily offer the best protection or fit.

Dr. Anna Salas can make custom mouthguards specifically for you. The custom fitting ensures you of better protection and a comfortable fit. Custom guards are also built in layers for durability. The American Dental Association recommends custom guards for orthodontic patients. Your mouthguard will be designed to provide proper protection for both your teeth and your braces.

No matter what type of sport you participate in, a mouthguard can protect your braces. Even an activity as seemingly harmless as table tennis can result in a contact injury. The Academy for Sports Dentistry states that a properly fitted mouthguard should not interfere with any athletic activity.

West U Orthodontics will provide you with properly-fitting mouth protection to ensure the safety of your braces and your teeth. We will be glad to answer any questions you have so you can continue the activities you enjoy with little concern. If you do suffer any injuries to your mouth or braces during sporting activities, please contact us immediately. The sooner we can care for your mouth, the better the results will be.

Helpful Hints for Dealing with Braces Pain

August 11th, 2015

Your first few days with braces will feel rather odd, awkward, and even painful. The day you get your braces you will probably just feel weird, like you have something in your mouth – because you do. You are most likely to feel pain and soreness during the second and third days. After that, you should be fine. If you experience any pain with your braces, there are a few things you can do to get some relief.

Home Remedies

Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water will soothe it and promote healing. Rinse several times a day or when your mouth, particularly mouth sores, are hurting. You can also take some Tylenol every four hours. Dr. Anna Salas and our team advise against products that contain ibuprofen because it slows down the movement of your teeth.

You can also eat cold foods like ice cream or yogurt. The cold of the food will help dull the pain. Ice packs applied to your mouth help as well. You can also swish ice water around your mouth, but DO NOT eat ice!

Cool Products

Products for canker sores can be applied to the mouth sores you develop from your braces. There are also various rinses you can use that act as a shield or barrier in your mouth, and protect your mouth sores from further irritation.

Dr. Anna Salas and our team may have given you some dental wax to put on the abrasive areas of your braces to protect your mouth. Putting dental wax on the brackets creates a barrier that keeps your mouth from getting scraped and sore.

Bite wafers are another great pain relief too. When you bite down on the wafer, it increases circulation in your gums, which can ease the pain a bit. Just a little pressure will work; you don’t want to bite too hard. And they usually come in cool colors, too!

The pain won’t last forever. One day you will wake up and you won’t have any pain. In fact, you probably won’t even notice the braces in your mouth at all!

It's time to go back to school!

August 4th, 2015

Now that many of the schools in Houston, TX are back in session, Dr. Anna Salas would like to remind all of our patients about the importance of scheduling appointments in advance. With school, clubs, sports, and family duties to consider, we know that it can be challenging to find time to visit West U Orthodontics this fall. In order to accommodate all of our patients’ busy schedules, it is important that you plan ahead for your appointments so that we are able to provide you with a convenient appointment time.

As always, please remember to give us advanced notice if you’re unable to make your regularly scheduled appointment with Dr. Anna Salas and our team. Feel free to give us a call if you have any questions, or if you would like to schedule your fall appointment.

We’ll see you soon and hope summer is winding down nicely for you and your family!

Is orthodontic treatment just for straightening teeth?

July 28th, 2015

A lot of patients ask us why Dr. Anna Salas and our team at West U Orthodontics work tirelessly to give our patients straight teeth. Of course it’s nice to have a smile full of evenly-aligned teeth, but did you know that straightening your teeth can keep them healthier as well? Straight teeth lead to better oral hygiene, increasing your chances of keeping your own natural teeth for a lifetime!

Straight teeth are also less prone to decay, because they collect less plaque, that sticky colorless substance that forms on our teeth. When you visit West U Orthodontics for your initial consultation, Dr. Anna Salas will examine all aspects of your teeth, face, smile, and jaw.

If you’re wondering whether your teeth might cause problems because they are out of alignment, please give us a call to set up an initial orthodontic consultation at our convenient Houston, TX office. Dr. Anna Salas can help you decide whether or not you will benefit from orthodontic treatment.

Questions? Give us a call, ask us below or on our Facebook page!

What causes crooked teeth?

July 21st, 2015

Teeth erupt crookedly for a number of reasons that range from genetics to mouth deformities and serious oral diseases. When extra teeth or abnormally large teeth create a malocclusion (crookedness or misplacement of teeth), the culprit is usually genetic in nature. Other inherited traits involve jaws that are too small to accommodate a full set of teeth and misaligned jaws that did not form properly in the womb.

Can crooked teeth be prevented?

In most cases, underbites, overbites, and crooked teeth are genetically derived and can’t be avoided. Orthodontic treatment with braces will be necessary to correct the condition once the child is old enough to wear them. However, certain early childhood behaviors may also contribute to the development of crooked teeth that can be avoided. These include:

  • Thumb sucking and tongue thrusting
  • Losing baby teeth to decay before permanent teeth have naturally pushed them out of their sockets
  • Allowing pacifier use to continue after front teeth have erupted

Permanent teeth underneath baby teeth are directly affected by the health of baby teeth. If baby teeth are prematurely lost due to decay or trauma, permanent teeth will shift when they start moving upward. Baby teeth are like anchors for permanent teeth that help guide them as they erupt through the gums.

In addition, excellent care of baby teeth is vital to having healthy permanent teeth free of discoloration or decay. Harmful oral bacteria can spread into the gums and reach permanent teeth still buried in the gums. Once attached to a tooth’s enamel, bacteria will begin eroding the tooth even before it has a chance to take its first bite!

When to Start Orthodontic Treatment for Crooked Teeth

Dr. Anna Salas and our staff suggest that parents bring your child to West U Orthodontics around age seven to rule out potential issues with permanent teeth eruption. If problems are discovered, it is not unusual to begin orthodontic treatment at that age. In fact, specific conditions such as crowding and gaps between teeth are easier to correct at an early age.

Early treatment also benefits from the growth process of the jaw, which helps move teeth to normal positions.

What Your Braces Rubber Band Color Says About You

July 14th, 2015

However you may feel about having to wear braces, choosing the color of your rubber bands is sure to bring a smile to your face. Whether you want to express your creativity, coordinate your braces with your outfits, or show some serious school spirit, decorating your mouth with colorful bands takes some of the stress and self-consciousness out of wearing braces. So what do your rubber band colors say about you? Look no further than our rubber band horoscope.

Red. You’re intense and forward thinking, and that you won’t back down no matter how big the challenge. Red is also the color of the heart, so red rubber bands indicate that you’re a caring, loving person.

Blue. Blue means you’re chill – as cool as a cucumber. You’re one cool customer, as the saying goes. You’re relaxed and calm, even when your mom says you can’t chew any gum or eat popcorn because of your braces.

Green. Look at a traffic light and green means go, right? So you’re the type of person who’s always on the move. Go, go, go! It also means you’re generous and kind. Green is the color of nature and spring, so it says you love Mother Earth. Perhaps you even recycle. Green is the color of good luck.

Orange. You’re daring and wild, flamboyant and fun. Orange may indicate you’re an artist or a drama student. It says you have a big personality and that you don’t care what other people think about you. However, orange is also the color of balance and energy. And being flamboyant and fun takes a lot of energy!

Purple. You’re the creative type, for sure. You beat to a different drummer and think outside the box. It says you're mysterious. Purple is the color of royalty, and when you wear your purple rubber bands you are royally cool.

Color Combinations

What if you can’t choose just one color? Well, you can decorate your teeth with alternating colors. You can choose the colors of your favorite sports team or holiday colors like red and green. If you’re still stumped as to what colors to choose, ask Dr. Anna Salas or a member of our team. We can let you in on all the trends our other patents are sporting at our Houston, TX office!

Tell us about your summer!

July 7th, 2015

The dog days of summer are upon us, and what better time for Dr. Anna Salas and our team to ask our patients about their summer!

Whether you visited our nation’s capital, went on a camping trip, or just stayed in Houston, TX and relaxed, we want to know how you’re all spending your summer! Please feel free to share your summer plans and experiences with us below or on our Facebook page as summer rolls on!

Fun Facts for the Fourth

June 30th, 2015

The Fourth of July is a great time to get together with friends and family members for BBQ, games, fireworks, and other celebrations in honor of our country’s independence. While your fellow revelers eat hot dogs and wave flags, you can impress them by sharing these fascinating facts and historical tidbits about some of our country’s traditions and symbols from the team at West U Orthodontics.

The Statue of Liberty

With a torch in one hand and a tablet in the other, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic and recognizable symbols of our country. However, as recognizable as certain parts of the statue are, not many people know that broken shackles, which represent oppression and tyranny, are lying at Lady Liberty’s feet. According to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the copper-plated lady weighs in at a whopping 450,000 tons and has been holding her torch up for more than 125 years, which must make for some impressive arm muscles.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

Since 1916, people have been flocking to Coney Island on the Fourth of July to witness what some people call the “superbowl of competitive eating.” Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest challenges competitors to devour as many hot dogs as they can in just ten minutes, with the current record holder swallowing a whopping 68 hot dogs! If you’d like to witness this bizarre and frenzied eating competition but you won’t be anywhere near Coney Island on the fourth, don’t worry. ESPN has been broadcasting this popular event for several years, so you can watch from the comfort of your couch while you eat a reasonably portioned meal.

The History Behind Fireworks

Viewing the nighttime fireworks display is exciting way to finish off the fourth. Many people know that these brilliant displays probably originated with the Chinese. However, many historians also believe that fireworks were stumbled upon when the Chinese roasted bamboo sticks over fires and watched them explode. After many years of roasting the sticks, a group of alchemists created an early form of gunpowder, which they stuffed into the bamboo sticks to create an even more powerful explosion, paving the way for the today’s modern fireworks.

Whether you’re planning on visiting the Statue of Liberty, watching fireworks in Houston, TX, or even participating in a hot dog eating contest, Dr. Anna Salas and our team hope you have a safe and fun-filled holiday. Happy Fourth of July!

Welcome to Our Blog

June 25th, 2015

Thank you for taking the time to visit our blog. Please check back often for weekly updates on fun and exciting events happening at our office, important and interesting information about our orthodontics and the dental industry, and the latest news about our practice.

Feel free to leave a comment or question for our Dr. Anna Salas and staff - we hope this will be a valuable resource for our patients, their families, and friends