October is National Orthodontic Health Month! Let’s celebrate by brushing up on these nearly 300-year-old contraptions and the most common aspects we tend to forget - children and adults alike.
#1 - Waiting to Schedule Your First Orthodontic Visit
While it may seem a bit premature, it is recommended that a child’s first orthodontic visit takes place between 7 and 9 years old. There’s a lot an orthodontist can do to prevent larger issues - overbites, underbites, crossbites, and even tooth loss - if they are addressed at a younger age. Phase One treatment can be implemented to guide the jaw into the optimal position for future dental intervention and allow incoming teeth the space they need. The younger the mouth, the easier it is to change its course of formation before things get more permanent. Ultimately, that means less time spent in braces later on!
#2 - Forgetting to Brush and Floss
You knew this one was coming! We may sound like a broken record, but the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene practices after braces are on is crucial. We won't go into too much detail here because you already know the basics: brush twice a day minimum, two minutes each time, at 45 degree angle, not too much pressure, and don’t forget to brush your tongue!
#3 - Not Using Elastics
If your orthodontist tells you to keep your rubber bands in your mouth, then that’s where they should be at all times (except when you are eating or brushing your teeth). Braces do a lot of the heavy lifting, but elastics work in conjunction with them to keep slight pressure on your bite and encourage correct placement of the jaw. The idea is to keep that pressure constant, and those little rubber bands cause virtually no pain at all, so it’s easy to keep them in instead of taking the risk of taking them out and forgetting about them.
#4 - Neglecting to Communicate with Your Orthodontist
Having concerns about your braces? Think something’s not feeling quite right? Don’t be afraid to speak up! Your dentist and orthodontist should have a pretty open stream of communication, but it’s always good to keep all parties informed about what’s going on in your mouth. And don’t think the dialogue stops after the brackets come off - keeping your teeth nice and straight is a lifetime commitment! We’ll speak more to that end in Mistake #6.
#5 - Consuming the Wrong Foods and Beverages
Here are some of the worst foods you can eat during your time with braces: sticky foods like candy or gum, popcorn, pretzels, corn chips/hard taco shells, and hard candy or cookies. We get it, these can be hard to avoid for the typical 12 -20 months spent in braces, but it will be worth it to get them off sooner as a result of following your orthodontist’s dietary guidelines. And while you’re at it, try limiting these other cavity-causing culprits as well: sugary or acidic beverages, dried fruit, potato chips/fries, and chewy/sticky carbs in general.
#6 -Tossing Your Retainer Aside or Failing to Replace It
One of the most unfortunate mistakes patients make is leaving their retainers in the dust and thinking that once they’ve gone through the entire process of braces, they’ve done their time. But here’s a secret - the process doesn’t really end at all! Orthodontic work gets the jaw lined up in a relatively short amount of time, and if it doesn’t have something there to keep it in line, it won't hesitate to revert the teeth back to their original positions. So, while it may be difficult to bring yourself to wear yet another appliance, that first year after braces is instrumental in retaining your smile. Beyond that, the retainer should still be worn at night and replaced periodically depending on its condition. When you think about it, that’s a small trade-off for the lifelong smile you’ll get to show off!
#7 - Hiding Your Smile
If you ever catch yourself holding back from smiling due to the metal in your mouth, just remember, it’s a work in progress! Your teeth are well on their way to being at their best. Plus, around 4 million Americans are wearing braces at this very moment (25% of which are adults), so you’re not alone. Just think about how great your smile will be in a few short months and embrace where they’re at now by caring for them in the best possible way. Your future self will thank you!
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