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Heading Back to School? Save Some Room in Your Backpack!

August 3rd, 2022

If you’re heading back to classes in the next few weeks, you’re probably getting your gear together now. So let’s talk about some of the items you can pack to make orthodontic care easier during school hours.

  • Dental-Healthy Food

Watching what foods you eat is especially important now. If you’re carrying your lunch or snacks in your pack, you want to be sure that they’re approved for braces and aligners.

If you wear braces, avoid foods which are sticky, chewy, or crunchy. They can stick to your teeth (making it easier for cavities to develop) or cause damage to your brackets and wires (making repairs necessary). Your orthodontist will give you a list of braces-friendly foods.

If you have clear aligners, even though you’ll remove them to eat, that sticky rule still applies. You don’t want food trapped in your aligners if you can’t brush right after eating, because that food is also food for the oral bacteria which cause cavities.

Bringing a water bottle with you is a great idea if it’s hard to brush after eating. Rinsing with water is a good way to get rid of loose food particles, and staying hydrated helps maintain normal saliva production—which also helps wash away food debris.

  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Floss

It’s best to clean your teeth after every snack and meal if at all possible. A travel-sized brush, toothpaste, and dental floss or picks designed for braces will help you get rid of any unwanted dental leftovers. And a small mirror can help you discover any lingering food particles.

It’s especially important now to practice careful hygiene, so be sure to wash your hands before and after cleaning your teeth or appliances.

  • Your Aligner or Retainer Case

Whenever you take off your retainer or aligners to eat, you should always have your case handy. Cases make sure your appliances stay off germy desk and table surfaces—or worse, floors—and protect them from breakage. A case is also a good way to make sure your retainer doesn’t accidentally end up in a trash bin after lunch.

Again, before and after you handle your braces, aligners, or retainer, be sure to wash your hands carefully.

  • Dental Wax & Extra Bands

Sometimes a wire comes loose or a bracket irritates the inside of your cheeks or mouth. In this case, dental wax is a great way to protect yourself from irritation and injury. And if a band is lost or breaks, it’s always good to have a spare (or two) handy. As always, handwashing rules apply!

  • Your Mouth Guard

If your afterschool activities involve contact sports, a mouthguard is always a good idea, and especially when you wear braces. Dr. Chow can create a custom guard which will protect your teeth, your delicate mouth tissue, and your braces from many impact injuries.

  • Your Orthodontist’s Phone Number

One important item that takes up almost no space in your backpack, locker, or phone is the phone number for our Surrey, BC office. If your braces are damaged, or if your aligner or retainer is lost or broken, we will let you know what to do until you can safely visit the office in person.

Talk to our team about how to care for your braces or aligners while you’re at school, and talk to your school about how you can manage your dental care safely during school hours.

Are you too sensitive?

July 27th, 2022

We’re not talking about tearing up at the end of a sad movie, or that uncomfortable scratchy feeling you get from a coarse wool sweater—no shame in that kind of sensitivity! But it is a shame if you’re feeling unpleasant tooth sensitivity, especially while you’re wearing braces. No fear—we have some helpful ideas to make you more comfortable as you create your healthy, confident smile.

What do we mean by tooth sensitivity? You know it if you’ve felt it. Pain when you have a cold drink. Or a hot one. Or a sweet treat. Wincing when a light breeze hits your smile. Discomfort after an adjustment.

Fortunately, these annoying twinges can be avoided or eased with some proactive practices.

Keep Up with Your Brushing and Flossing

The oral bacteria in plaque break down enamel when they’re left on the teeth for too long. The result is a cavity, which leaves your sensitive dentin, the layer of the tooth between the enamel and the inner pulp chamber, exposed to elements which can trigger pain. These all-too-common elements include heat, cold, air, or sweet foods. If you suspect you have a cavity, a visit to the dentist will make sure your tooth is cleaned and filled to prevent further damage.

Better yet, prevent cavities before they cause tooth sensitivity. It can be harder to keep your teeth their cleanest while you’re in braces, but it’s more important than ever. You don’t want to have brackets and wires removed, even temporarily, to treat a cavity! You can keep decay at bay by:

  • Brushing after every meal and snack.
  • Flossing whenever necessary, making sure to clean around your brackets and wires.
  • Using cleaning tools made for braces for the easiest and most effective dental hygiene.

Avoid Aggressive Brushing

If you’re using anything other than a soft toothbrush, time for a shopping trip! Using a stiff bristled brush is almost always too abrasive for even the strongest enamel. And vigorous brushing is more harmful than helpful. Poor tools and poor technique can wear away enamel, and, when enamel is worn away, the more sensitive dentin is exposed. Your gums can also be injured, exposing the tops of your roots—which are more sensitive than the enameled crowns.

If your teeth are sensitive because of abrasive brushing, talk to Dr. Chow about possible solutions for keeping your teeth both clean and strong.

  • Use a softer-bristled brush.
  • Try toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth.
  • Practice proper brushing technique. Gently rub, don’t scrub!

Care for Yourself after Adjustments

Your teeth might be sensitive after an adjustment. This discomfort is normal, and should pass in a few days. In the meantime, treat yourself kindly.

  • Brush as usual, taking special care to brush gently.
  • Fill your menu with soft and soothing foods. Cool treats like classic ice cream and pudding, or healthier choices like frozen yogurt and fruit smoothies. Comfort foods like cream soups and mashed potatoes. Or all-day breakfasts of oatmeal, pillowy pancakes, or scrambled eggs.
  • Take over the counter medication as recommended and as necessary.

Be sensitive to your needs while you’re in braces. If you’re feeling any kind of tooth sensitivity, talk to Dr. Chow at our Surrey, BC office. We have solutions which will make sure you’re both comfortable and twinge-free on your journey to a healthy, attractive smile!

Retaining That New Smile

July 20th, 2022

For months and months, you’ve been dedicated to following your orthodontic treatment plan. Wearing your bands or putting in the hours with your aligners. Eating orthodontic-friendly foods. Seeing your orthodontist on a regular basis.

But that’s all in the past. Today, your braces are coming off! You’ve finished with your last set of clear aligners! Now it’s time to enjoy your accomplishment and celebrate this moment.

And after you’ve celebrated the moment, what’s next? Why, it’s time to look to the future! Because one thing we can predict for the years ahead is that you’ll want to keep your smile looking as wonderful as it does today. Let’s look at some of the simple steps you can take to retain that new smile.

Keep Up With Your Brushing and Flossing

Wearing braces or aligners meant learning a whole new way to take care of your teeth and gums. You used special tools to clean around your brackets and wires. You learned how to keep your aligners clean and stain-free. You brushed and flossed after every meal and snack break.

So returning to regular hygiene habits should be a cinch—two minutes of thorough brushing at least twice a day, with careful flossing at least once each day. And you’ll probably notice something else which makes your life easier—properly aligned teeth are easier to brush and floss effectively.

But just because it’s easier, doesn’t mean it’s not as important. Keeping your teeth clean and cavity-free and your gums healthy will keep your smile looking its best, so be sure to brush and floss just as consistently as you did when you were in treatment.

See Your Dentist Regularly

Even though you won’t be making regular visits to our Surrey, BC office anymore, that doesn’t mean your dental calendar is clear! Cavities aren’t a good look for your new smile. Neither are tartar stains or red and swollen gums.

Checkups once or twice a year mean that you have a healthy smile as well as a beautifully aligned one. And a professional cleaning from your dentist’s office will make sure it’s a gum-healthy, bright, and stain-free smile as well.

Wear Your Retainer

Your teeth may have moved to their perfect positions, but they haven’t moved there permanently yet.

During orthodontic treatment, gentle pressure from your appliance causes steady, careful tooth movement. As teeth move in the jaw, old bone cells around the roots break down where they’re no longer needed, and new bone cells build up around the roots in their new position. It’s a gradual process which makes sure your teeth are held firmly in the jawbone.

Bu this isn’t the end of the process. When you stop wearing braces or aligners, teeth and ligaments may begin shifting back to their original location. The new bone tissue that holds your teeth in their ideal spots isn’t strong enough yet to stop this shifting, especially with the normal forces of biting, chewing, clenching, and all the other activities that put pressure on teeth.

Your retainer holds your teeth in just the right position while jawbone tissue has time to reshape, rebuild, and stabilize. This can take months or more to accomplish, especially when you’ve had a more serious misalignment or bite correction.

Which also means . . .

Wear Your Retainer as Long as Necessary

Dr. Chow will recommend the best retainer for you. Three popular options include:

  • Hawley Retainers—the traditional removable retainer. This appliance uses wires embedded in a molded acrylic plate to keep your teeth properly aligned and to hold your retainer in place.
  • Clear Plastic Retainers—a removable custom retainer made of vacuum-formed plastic. This piece looks and fits over the teeth like a clear aligner.
  • Fixed Retainers—a small single wire bonded to the back of specific teeth to hold them in place and prevent any movement.

For the first few months, you might need to wear your removeable retainer both night and day, and then switch to nighttime wear. Dr. Chow might recommend long-term nightly retainer use, or perhaps taper to a few nights a week. A fixed retainer can last for many years. We can’t tell you how long you’ll need to wear your retainer because that answer depends on your specific orthodontic needs.

If you do stop wearing your retainer and find that your teeth are shifting, see Dr. Chow as soon as possible. Fixing a slight shift can be fairly uncomplicated, but waiting until your teeth and bite are more seriously out of alignment could require another session in braces or aligners.

The hard work you’ve put in to create your smile is past, and today you’re enjoying all the benefits of aligned teeth and a comfortable bite. Taking simple steps to maintain these benefits will help guarantee a future filled with healthy, confident smiles.

How Long Will My Retainer Last?

July 13th, 2022

You’ve worked hard for your attractive, healthy smile, and now you’re making sure it stays attractive and healthy by wearing your retainer. Since wearing a retainer is usually a matter of years, not months, it’s natural to wonder just how long you can count on that retainer to help you maintain your smile.

That answer depends on the type of retainer you get at our Surrey, BC office. A Hawley retainer, a clear retainer, and a fixed wire retainer have different lifespans. Because they each have their own advantages, Dr. Chow will recommend the retainer that’s right for protecting your individual smile.

So let’s look at the average lifespan for different retainers, and, equally important, some of the common mishaps that can shorten that working life.

The Hawley Retainer

This is the retainer most people picture when they think “retainer.” Made of wire securely attached to an acrylic base, the Hawley retainer keeps the teeth in place, and can even be adjusted, if needed, to improve alignment. They generally last anywhere from three to ten years.

How can you make sure your Hawley retainer keeps working for you as long as possible?

  • Keep it in its case. While some damages to these retainers can be repaired, why take a chance? And it’s much harder to lose a retainer if it’s in its case as opposed to, say, a cafeteria napkin.
  • Keep it away from your pet. Dogs, especially, are tempted by the taste and smell of saliva, but there are safer, less expensive chew toys out there.
  • Keep wearing it. Without your retainer, your teeth can shift. Over time, not only will your retainer fail to fit anymore, but you might need to return for further orthodontic treatment. If you notice your retainer is starting to feel uncomfortable, give your orthodontist a call.

The Clear Retainer

Clear retainers look like clear aligners, and, like clear aligners, are almost invisible. Made of vacuum-formed plastic, they’re designed for a close, comfortable fit, often around the entire arch of your teeth. Also like clear aligners, these retainers aren’t made to last forever. If they become loose, warped, or cracked, they should be replaced. With care, they can last from six months to several years. How to protect them?

  • Protect your retainer from damage. Keep it in its case when you’re not wearing it. You’ll avoid losing it, and you’ll avoid damaging it.
  • Protect it from teeth. And we don’t just mean pets, although they find clear retainers yummy, too. If you grind your teeth, your retainer can suffer. Clear retainers are not the same thing as night guards, so talk to your orthodontist for recommendations.
  • Protect it from heat. Hot surfaces like ovens or heaters, hot dashboards, washers and dryers, even very hot drinks can be a problem. (You should only be drinking water while you wear your clear retainer, so that particular issue shouldn’t arise!)

The Fixed Retainer

A fixed retainer is a small piece of wire that is custom-fit and bonded to the back of specific teeth to prevent any movement from occurring. Because it’s bonded to the inside of the teeth, a fixed retainer is completely invisible when you speak or smile. It can last five years, ten years, and in some cases, even longer. Even though you won’t be exposing this retainer to external dangers like hungry pups or the wash-and-rinse cycle, there are still some situations to watch for:

  • Watch your diet. The same sticky, crunchy, or hard foods that can damage brackets and wires can also loosen a fixed retainer.
  • Watch your dental hygiene. While cleaning around a bonded retainer can be a bit challenging, not cleaning around it can result in plaque and tartar buildup—and your retainer might have to be removed to clean your teeth.
  • Watch for changes. If your teeth start to shift, it could mean your retainer has detached from one or more teeth. Ask your dentist to check the retainer’s bond whenever you have a checkup.

So, how long will that retainer last? Depending on the kind of retainer you have, if you don’t keep it in its case, or if you don’t watch your diet, or if you expose it to heat, the answer is—not nearly long enough. Dr. Chow will give you the very best tips to keep your retainer clean, safe, and working for as long as possible. Now, it’s up to you!

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