It’s been more than two years since we started this orthodontics blog. Writing it has been a lot of fun, and we hope you enjoy reading! In recognition of this milestone, we thought we’d revisit some of our favourite posts of 2016. Enjoy.
Kids & sport
There are lots of reasons why children should play sport. It keeps them physically fit and also teaches teamwork and social skills. These days, there are too many children becoming obese and socially inept due to excessive online activity. So, you don’t want your child side-lined because they’ve had dental braces fitted. The solution is a mouth guard. If your child wears one, there is no reason why they shouldn’t play sports while also wearing braces. With this in mind, in January we published My child wears dental braces. Can they still play sport?
There’s more to nice teeth than you think
“You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover,” as the saying goes. And no, you shouldn’t, but society does anyway. It’s a hard fact of life. And, unfortunately, the way others perceive us also affects how we feel about ourselves. So, there is more to a nice smile than looking good — psychological factors also come into play. That’s what our May post, How your smile can affect your physical & mental health, is about.
Does Richie really do that?
Top sportspeople have a big influence on many Kiwi kids. In June, we were shocked to learn of a five-year-old All Blacks fan who had to have rotten teeth removed. The cause of the decay was his taste for sports drink Powerade. In fact, he was sipping on the stuff when he arrived at the dental clinic to get his teeth pulled out. What were his parents thinking? Anyway, when asked why he drank Powerade, he said because Richie McCaw drinks it. Read our June post, Drink sports drinks: Is that really what Richie does?
It’s never too late
These days, it’s not unusual for adults to get dental braces. In fact, our oldest patient was about 65 years of age. It seems braces are no longer a ‘fashion accessory’ exclusively for teenagers. So, why are older people getting braces? Well, teeth move over time. Also, many people who couldn’t afford braces when they were younger can as adults. So, why not do something about those crooked teeth? We discussed the trend of older people getting braces in our July post, Am I too old for dental braces?
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Water fluoridation is a controversial subject. And, at Turner Lim, we have no intentions what so ever of entering the debate. Instead, in this post, we explain why orthodontists recommend fluoride to their patients.
A bit about fluoride
It was at the beginning of the 20th century that American dentist Frederick McKay accidentally discovered that fluoride could prevent tooth decay.
Fluoride is not a substance cooked-up in a science lab. Actually, it is a natural mineral found in water sources such as rivers, lakes and oceans.
When applied to your teeth, fluoride absorbs into the enamel — a process called ‘remineralisation.’ As a result, by replenishing lost calcium and phosphorus, the fluoride can put a stop to tooth decay.
The bugs in your mouth HATE fluoride, which is a good thing. And fluoride also protects your teeth from acid-filled fizzy drinks.
Toothpaste and fluoride
Many kinds of toothpaste contain fluoride. And for patients with low saliva counts or high decay rates, we often prescribe toothpaste with extra-high levels.
Note: The saliva in your mouth is responsible for washing away the acid. Due to factors such as age or medications, some people have low saliva counts (dry mouths). For them, fluoride is beneficial for acid protection.
Fluoride tooth mousse
A good way to apply fluoride is with the topical treatment tooth mousse. Incidentally, at Turner Lim Orthodontists, we recommend Tooth Mousse Plus.
Because you can apply it with a cotton bud, tooth mousse is absorbed deeper into the tooth’s surface than fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash.
When is tooth mousse used?
In general dentistry
Dentists often use tooth mousse to remineralise teeth showing the very early stages of cavities. Doing this eliminates the need to take the more drastic measure of putting in a filling. Tooth mousse is also effective for treating sensitive teeth.
It is common for patients to find white marks on their teeth when their braces come off. A build-up of plaque is the cause, and in most cases, marks are very mild. However, with about 10% of patients who don’t do a particularly good job of cleaning their teeth, the marks can be quite nasty. To remove these marks, orthodontists use tooth mousse to add minerals to the affected teeth.
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Have you flossed today? I hope so — as an orthodontist, I recommend flossing be part of your daily routine, particularly if you wear dental braces. In this post, I explain why.
Isn’t brushing enough?
Brushing is essential. However, that toothbrush of yours won’t reach all those ‘nasties’ that set up camp in the spaces between your teeth and gums.
It needs a helping hand.
Floss is known as an interdental cleaner. It’s designed to get into places your toothbrush can’t reach — between your teeth as well as the gaps between the base of your teeth and top of your gums.
If you are unsure about how to floss, watch this short video.
What happens if I don’t floss?
Failing to floss is NOT a good idea. It can lead to several problems including
- Gingivitis — a mild gum disease, which can cause painful swelling of gums and sores in your mouth. Bleeding gums can be a warning that gingivitis is settling in.
- Bad breath — unchecked food particles in your teeth and gums breed bacteria, which can cause halitosis, otherwise known as bad breath.
- Receding gums — gum tissue can wear away and expose the roots of your teeth. Experiencing pain when drinking a hot or ice-cold drink can be a warning sign.
- Teeth may fall out — Yikes! This can happen due to gum disease being left untreated for too long resulting in infections.
Should I floss before or after brushing?
It doesn’t really matter whether you floss before or after brushing. Just make sure you do! Even young children should floss as soon as they have two teeth next to each other.
Choose a time that enables you to dedicate a couple of extra minutes so that you can do a thorough job.
Which floss would an orthodontist recommend?
Any floss is better than no floss. However, as an orthodontist, I find that Oral B Superfloss is particularly good for cleaning around braces. It has three components that enable you to achieve a complete clean:
- A stiff-end dental floss threader that enables you to floss under your dental braces or bridge.
- Spongy floss that cleans around your appliance and wide spaces.
- Regular floss that removes plaque from below the gum line.
Airflosser is also excellent, and if you prefer floss threaders, we can supply them at the clinic.
I hope that, if you didn’t already, you now understand the importance of flossing. If you enjoyed this post, please share.
You’re going on holiday. Great. For a week or two — maybe longer — you can let down your hair down and forget about the everyday stresses of daily life. If you wear dental braces, though, be prepared. After all, we’d hate for a twisted wire or broken bracket to spoil your fun.
If you’re planning a significant time away, get a braces ‘warrant of fitness.’ It won’t take long, and your orthodontist will be able to check that everything is in place, so you can have peace of mind.
What to pack
To ensure your braces are well maintained, put together a holiday hygiene kit. Here’s a list of what to include:
- a travel toothbrush
- dental floss (we recommend Superfloss, as it makes flossing easy and is available at most pharmacies)
- orthodontic wax (this prevents any protruding wire from causing discomfort)
- elastic bands
- a bottle of mouth rinse
- a mirror to enable you to inspect your braces.
To eat or not to eat?
While on holiday we often try foods we might not normally eat. However, please avoid foods that are hard, chewy or sticky. We suggest that patients with braces brush two to three times a day. However, the chances are that your teeth will be exposed to more enamel-eating sugar than usual, so try to brush more often.
Anyway, on the subject of food, here are some definite no-no’s:
- corn on the cob
- boiled sweets
- nuts such as peanuts, almonds and cashews
- hard bread rolls
- hard biscuits (or dunk them in your coffee or Milo first)
Some foods you can eat
Of course, there is a myriad of foods you can eat. Here are some:
- Fruit— cut whole fruits, like apples and pears, into wedges before you eat them. Fruit like bananas, oranges, grapes and berries are generally safe to eat.
- Dairy products — cheese and yogurt are nice, safe options.
- Sandwiches — try with avocado sprinkled with salt and pepper.
- Walnuts — although most nuts will do your braces no favours, walnuts are softer and are usually okay to eat.
- Desserts — custard, ice cream and chocolate.
Read more about braces-friendly snacks.
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Sports and energy drinks. If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know I hold serious reservations about them — they’re bad for your teeth, and unless you’re an elite athlete, they do little to enhance sporting prowess.
A few months ago, I published a post about the dangers of sports drinks. Soon after, I saw this disturbing story in the media:
In Nelson, a five-year-old boy needed to have multiple rotting teeth removed. He arrived at the clinic holding a large bottle of Powerade. When the dentist asked him why he was drinking Powerade, he said, “because Richie does.”
Of course, the little boy was referring to ex-All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. As an orthodontist, I find this shocking. There is no way a five-year-old child should be drinking Powerade.
Funnily enough, a smart little boy at my clinic who had heard the story said to me, “I don’t think Richie does drink it.”
It’s sad because I suspect he’s right — Richie McCaw probably doesn’t drink Powerade. Yet, he’s sponsored by them, and young people who put him on a pedestal think they need it to be like him.
The dentist who treated the boy, Dr. Rob Beaglehole, rightly pointed out to Stuff that sugary drinks contribute to many health issues in New Zealand, which include tooth decay, obesity and type-2 diabetes.
What are sports drinks?
Sports drinks are designed to replenish your body with carbohydrates and electrolytes faster than water can. You need this kind of replenishment if you lose more than a litre of body fluid an hour. The thing is, though everyday sportspeople (especially children) will never lose that much fluid during exercise. And, in fact, many of those who favour these drinks don’t even play sport — they just like the taste!
Terrible for children
More health professionals are beginning to recognise the dangers of too much sugar. Sports and energy drinks actually contain more sugar than Coca Cola. So, if you give your child a sports drink, you are effectively bathing their teeth in a tooth-decaying, sugary solution between meals. For children, and adults for that matter, water is a far better option.
Time for a change
As more cases like the Nelson boy emerge, I wonder whether top sports people will begin to distance themselves from sports drinks. I hope so.
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You can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true, but it doesn’t stop people unfairly judging us on our looks. Your smile influences how others perceive you. For example, if you have lower protruding teeth you may be viewed as aggressive. If you have a gap in your upper teeth, people may think you’re not too bright (picture Lloyd Christmas from Dumb & Dumber). That’s just the way it is.
The mechanics of a smile
Do you know it takes 12 muscles to smile and 113 muscles to frown? Melancholy is exhausting! When you smile you feel good about yourself; others get a good vibe, too. By smiling at someone, you send a message that they’re attractive, pleasant and likeable. You put them at ease.
Unfortunately people’s perceptions can affect your success in life. A study in America looked at recruitment companies. Recruiters were shown manipulated images that gave some people sticky-out teeth and some crooked teeth. The study showed candidates with bite problems were less likely to get a position.
Of course, people’s perceptions also affect how you feel about yourself. There have been many psychological tests that show people feel better about themselves if their teeth aren’t crooked.
So, we’ve addressed the, perhaps, superficial side of bite problems. However, whether you care about your looks or not, consider your physical health.
Your mouth is the gateway to your body — gum disease, missing teeth and cavities can have a negative effect on your health.
Some conditions cause by bad teeth
- Heart disease — about 91% of people with heart disease have inflammation in the mouth (periodontitis).
- Diabetes — people with periodontitis tend to have less ability to control blood sugar levels.
- Bad breath — as if a bite problem wasn’t enough! Gum disease can also lead to bad breath.
Turn that frown upside down
Okay, smiling is good. That we all agree on. However, what if you have crooked or missing teeth? It can seriously knock your confidence — you’re more likely to hide your teeth than flash a “gappy” smile. And, of course, the health issues are a concern.
The obvious course of action is to see your orthodontist or dentist. The sooner you address a dental issue the better, and there are many options available. For example, braces are not reserved just for teenagers; it is never too late to get orthodontic treatment. Braces are also far more comfortable and less obtrusive than they used to be (check out 4 types of braces).
Everyone deserves to enjoy good physical and mental health. It’s a shame when poor teeth get in the way.
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