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Not-So-Sweet Sweets

August 15th, 2018

Birthdays. Valentine’s Day. Halloween. A trip to the movies. There are just some occasions where a sweet treat is on the menu. Now that you are getting braces, does that mean you have to give up desserts completely? Not at all! The trick to finding the right treat is to know which foods are safe for your braces and which should wait until your treatment is complete.

There are some foods which should always be avoided. They fall into three main categories:

  • Hard and Crunchy

Hard candies, peanut brittle, popcorn balls, nutty candy bars—anything that is hard to bite into is hard on your braces, and can damage brackets or even break them.

  • Chewy

Caramels, taffy, chewy squares and rolls, licorice and other super-chewy candies can break brackets and bend wires. Not to mention, they are really difficult to clean from the surface of teeth and braces.

  • Sticky

Soft foods are generally fine, but soft and sticky candies are another thing entirely. Gumdrops, jelly beans, most gum and other sticky treats stick to your braces, making it hard to clean all that sugar from around your brackets. And even soft sticky candies can bend wires or damage your brackets.

As you have probably noticed, almost all candy falls into one of these categories. Of course, while sugary treats shouldn’t be a major part of anyone’s diet, and careful brushing and flossing are always on the menu if you do indulge, wearing braces does not mean giving up on treats entirely. A better alternative when you are craving something sweet is to choose something that avoids crunchy, chewy and sticky hazards, such as soft puddings, cupcakes or cookies. There are even some candy brands that are safe for your braces.

Talk to Dr. Peter G. Duncan the next time you visit our Victoria, BC office about the dos and don’ts of desserts—we have tasty suggestions that will make those special occasions both sweet for you and safe for your orthodontic work!

Brushing: Before or after breakfast?

August 8th, 2018

In a perfect world, we would all jump out of bed ready to greet the day with a big smile and a toothbrush close at hand to clean our teeth immediately. But if you can’t even find your toothbrush before you’ve had your first cup of coffee, does it really make a difference if you brush and floss after breakfast? Perhaps! Let’s talk biology.

Normal saliva production during the day benefits our teeth and mouths in surprising ways. Saliva washes away food particles to keep our teeth cleaner. It contains cells which combat bacteria and infection. It even provides proteins and minerals to help protect our teeth from decay. But saliva production slows dramatically as we sleep, and the amount of bacteria in our mouths increases. While one of the nasty—and obvious—side effects of bacterial growth is morning breath, there is an invisible effect, which is more harmful. Bacteria in plaque convert sugar and carbohydrates into acids which attack our gums and enamel and can lead to both gingivitis and cavities.

  • If You Brush Before Breakfast

Brushing and flossing first thing in the morning removes the plaque that has built up during the night and takes care of many of the bacteria who are ready to enjoy the sugar and carbs in that breakfast with you. If you brush before eating breakfast, rinse your mouth with water after your meal, floss if needed, and you are good to go.

  • If You Choose to Brush After Breakfast

But if you decide that doughnut simply can’t wait, you should ideally postpone brushing for 20-30 minutes after your meal. Of course, these are minutes in which bacteria can make use of those new sugars and carbohydrates. So why shouldn’t you brush immediately after eating? Many foods and beverages, especially acidic ones such as grapefruit and orange juice, can weaken the surface of your teeth. If you rinse with water after eating and wait at least 20-30 minutes before brushing, your enamel will be “remineralized” (another benefit of saliva) and ready for cleaning.

No matter if you take a “seize the day” approach and brush first thing in the morning, or a “seize the doughnut” approach and brush soon after eating, the important word here is “brushing.” Dr. Peter G. Duncan and our Victoria, BC team are happy to make suggestions as to the best morning routine for you. One thing is certain: if you give your teeth and gums two minutes of careful brushing and flossing in the morning, you can’t help but start your day off right!

Does my child need two-phase treatment?

August 1st, 2018

You might be surprised to see one of your second grader’s friends with a dental appliance. Isn’t orthodontic work just for teenagers? And, if not, should your seven-year-old be sporting braces right now? The answer to both of those questions is “Not necessarily.” Two-phase treatment is a process designed to correct issues that arise during different times in your child’s life.

First Phase Treatment

We recommend that every child have an orthodontic evaluation around the age of seven to determine if there is a problem that would benefit from early treatment. First phase orthodontics is not the same as orthodontics for older patients. The focus here is on the developing bone and muscle structures which form your child’s bite and provide space for the permanent teeth when they arrive.

There are some clear-cut orthodontic goals that are much easier to attain when children’s bones are still growing.

  • Reducing Crowding

If your child’s mouth is small, the permanent teeth will have little room to fit in when they arrive. We may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander. This device will provide room for the adult teeth, and could potentially shorten second phase treatment time. Sometimes the extractions necessary to create more room for permanent teeth in later years can be avoided, as well as the possibility of an impacted tooth—one which doesn’t erupt because it is blocked by other teeth.

  • Dealing with Jaw and Bite Concerns

Bones and muscles do not always develop properly, leading to problems with jaw and facial structure. Your younger child still has growing bones, so this is a great time to gently re-form the jaw into a healthy shape. Problems caused by crossbites, underbites, open bites, and other malocclusions can be reduced with early treatment.  

  • Protecting Teeth

If your child has protruding front teeth, these teeth are more likely to be damaged in falls, at play, or while participating in sports. We can gently reposition them.

Second Phase Treatment

Second phase treatment is designed for your older child. After a resting period, when the permanent teeth finish erupting, we should see your child to evaluate any further orthodontic needs. This is the time to finish the process of straightening the teeth and making sure that each tooth fits together properly for a comfortable and healthy bite. This phase usually makes use of braces or aligners, and can take approximately 12-24 months.

Two-phase treatment is not necessary for every child. But there are some unique reasons that early orthodontics might be recommended for your child, even if it’s clear that more orthodontic work will be needed later. Make an appointment with Dr. Peter G. Duncan at our Victoria, BC office, and let’s evaluate your child’s orthodontic needs, whether now or in the future, for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

What is a palatal expander?

July 25th, 2018

Orthodontists like Dr. Peter G. Duncan recommend a first orthodontic visit and evaluation for your child around the age of seven. We will evaluate your child’s jaw and facial development and make sure that there is enough room in the mouth for the permanent teeth when they arrive. One of the recommendations we might make for early treatment is the use of a palatal expander. If you are unfamiliar with this device, let’s take a closer look at why it’s necessary and what exactly it does.

Why do we recommend the palatal expander?

There are two dental arches, composed of the upper and the lower teeth, in your child’s mouth. This arch-shaped design is meant to accommodate all the permanent teeth. Further, when the upper and lower teeth meet, they should result in a healthy occlusion, or bite.

Sometimes, the upper dental arch is simply too small to accommodate all of your child’s permanent teeth, leading to crowding, extractions, and impacted teeth. Also, a too-narrow arch can result in a crossbite, where some of the upper teeth bite inside the lower ones. An improper bite can lead to problems such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder, improper wear and stress on teeth, certain speech difficulties, and other potential complications. The palatal expander was designed to prevent these problems from occurring.

What is a palatal expander and how does it work?

The expander itself is a device that increases the size of the upper dental arch. Before your child’s bones are finished growing, the space between the two bones of the upper palate is filled with cartilage. This tissue is flexible when children are young, but gradually fuses solidly into place by the time they are finished growing (usually in the early to mid-teens). If the arch can be widened to accommodate the emerging permanent teeth, or to reduce malocclusions, this improvement can also affect the need for, and length of, future dental work.

There are several types of expanders available at our Victoria, BC office. These are custom-made appliances, commonly attached between the upper teeth on each side of the jaw. The two halves of the device are connected with a screw-type mechanism that can be adjusted to widen the upper palate and dental arch with gentle pressure. This is a gradual process, with small adjustments usually made once or twice a day to slowly move the bones further apart. As weeks go by, you will notice a successful change in the spacing of the teeth. Your child might even develop a gap in the front teeth, which is normal and will generally close on its own.

If you would like more detailed information, talk to Dr. Peter G. Duncan about the palate expander. We can tell you what to expect from this treatment if we think it is best for your child’s unique needs, and how to make it as easy as possible for your child. Our goal is to provide your child with the healthiest teeth and bite possible, always making use of treatments that are both gentle and effective.