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Why Retainers are Important

An orthodontic retainer is a device that holds your teeth in position after they have been moved by some method, typically braces. The use of retainers is important because it allows the gums to adjust to changes in the structure of the surrounding bone. Retainers must be custom-made to fit each person and are usually composed of plastic or metal wires. The most common types of retainers include Hawley retainers, vacuum-formed retainers, pressure-formed retainers and fixed retainers.

Hawley Retainer

A Hawley retainer is the most well-known retainer. It consists of a wire that wraps around the six upper front teeth, which have the greatest act on a person’s smile. This wire is anchored to a plastic arch that lies against the wearer’s upper palate. The primary advantage of a Hawley retainer is that the wire can be adjusted periodically to induce small movements of the teeth, thus fine tuning the treatment provided by braces.

Vacuum-formed Retainer

A vacuum-formed retainer is composed of a clear, plastic material such as polyvinylchloride or polypropylene, and typically has a thickness of less than 0.03 inches. It may fit over all the teeth or only the front teeth. A VFR prevents the upper and lower teeth from touching, which some orthodontists consider necessary for proper positioning of the teeth. The primary advantages of VFRs are that they are less expensive, easier to wear and harder to detect than Hawley retainers. The primary disadvantage of these retainers is that they break more easily.

Pressure-formed Retainer

A pressure-formed retainer is made with a pressure-molding machine that shapes the retainer according to the orthodontist’s specifications. This process typically involves pressures of up to 90 psi, whereas the manufacture or VFRs only use pressures of about 15 psi. A PFR must therefore be composed of a stronger plastic such as polyurethane, which provides a better definition of the gum line. PFRs are significantly more expensive than VFRs.

Fixed Retainers

A fixed retainer is composed of a wire that is bonded to the inside of the patient’s lower teeth. The primary difference between this retainer and other types of retainers is that fixed retainers can’t be removed by the patient. Fixed retainers are typically used when the previous treatment has caused large changes in the patient’s teeth. They usually remain on the teeth for at least a year and may stay in place permanently. Fixed retainers require additional care to prevent the accumulation of tartar on the tooth surfaces that are covered by the retainer.

Why Choose an Orthodontist Over a Dentist?

Can my family dentist straighten my teeth? Yes – but you may not want him to do so. A dentist who is not an orthodontist can offer braces, just so long as the dentist is able to straighten and align teeth as well as the average orthodontist. However, orthodontics is a complex and continually evolving field. Orthodontists receive several years of specialized training and attend continuing education classes to stay on top of the latest technological advancements. Straightening and aligning teeth is both a science and an art – in order for a general dentist to measure up, he or she would need to dedicate significant time to developing a high level of orthodontics skill.

So, what exactly is the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist? Consider this: if you need a physical, you would make an appointment with your doctor. If you needed knee surgery, however, you would make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon. The same thing goes for orthodontists. Dentists provide annual cleanings and some advanced care like teeth whitening or periodontics. If you need braces, then you definitely will want to receive treatment from an orthodontist who has significant experience in this field.

A dentist has general knowledge about oral care. An orthodontist is a dentist with specialty training in orthodontics procedures. To become an orthodontist, an individual must first complete dental school. After dental school, an additional two to three years of accredited study are necessary. While some dentists may advertise a specialty in orthodontics, this is not the same as being a trained orthodontist. These dentists may have attended weekend orthodontics course, but they are not required to pass comprehensive exams or complete residential training programs.

Some dentists who offer orthodontics treatments may advertise that these treatments will cost less than care from an orthodontist. That’s simply not true. The cost of care is based directly on the complexity of treatment, regardless of whether the provider is an orthodontist or dentist. Keep in mind, however, that orthodontists are experts in their rapidly developing field. Consequently, they may be able to provide less invasive and more effective procedures thanks to technology advancements.

While some dentists may be able to perform highly skilled orthodontics work, remember that dentists have not received the same advanced training as orthodontists. If your family dentist offers to help straighten your teeth, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion from a trusted orthodontist. This way you can compare treatment approaches and determine which one is right for you.

What to Expect During an Initial Consultation for Getting Braces

Orthodontic braces are devices used to move your teeth into a desired position. They are used to correct a variety of dental problems such as overbites, underbites, crooked teeth and malocclusions. Braces often must be worn for two years or more, so it is important to know what to expect before you receive them. The initial consultation for getting braces generally includes imaging scans, additional dental records and a treatment plan. This consultation typically requires up to two hours.

Cephalometric X-rays

The orthodontist will need to take imaging scans during the initial consultation to determine the orthodontic treatment needed for your teeth. Most types of braces require a cephalometric x-ray and a panoramic x-ray. The general purpose of a cephalometric x-ray is to take measurements of your head. Its specific purpose in orthodontics is to measure the spatial relationships between your skull, jaws and teeth. This will allow your orthodontist to identify the changes that must occur during your treatment with braces.

Panoramic X-rays

A panoramic x-ray is also known as an orthopantogram or “panorex”. It is a two-dimensional, half-circle image that extends from ear to ear. A panorex uses tomography, meaning that it relies on a series of individual x-rays to construct a single panoramic image. It shows all of the teeth in your mouth, including those that haven’t erupted yet. The orthodontist primarily uses a panorex to evaluate crowding and spacing problems with your teeth. This image also allows the orthodontist to evaluate the structure of the roots in your teeth.

Additional Records

An orthodontist will also need additional dental records before installing your braces. These include plaster models of your teeth and photographs of your teeth and face. These records can often be made on the day of your initial consultation.

Treatment Plan

The treatment plan will include an overview of the changes the orthodontist plans to make with the alignment of your teeth. The orthodontist will provide an estimate of the time you will need to wear your braces, which can be up to 2.5 years. Fee estimates and payment plans will also be presented at this time. You will usually receive your braces about two weeks after your initial consultation.

What to Ask During an Initial Consultation for Braces

Dental braces are devices that orthodontists use to move teeth into a desired position. They can correct a variety of dental problems such as crooked teeth, overbites, underbites and malocclusions. The first step in getting braces is an initial consultation with an orthodontist, which should provide you with the answers to many questions about braces.

Am I too old for braces?

Braces have no specific age limit, although you must have good periodontal health. However, you need to inform your orthodontist if you have received treatment for bone conditions like osteoporosis or bone cancer. These conditions are often treated with drugs that contain bisphosphonates such as Boniva or Fosamax. Bisphosphonates strengthen bones but they also carry a significant risk of dental complications. Your orthodontist will need to evaluate your suitability for braces further if you have used bisphosphonate medication.

Do braces hurt?

The process of getting braces placed on your teeth does not hurt and does not require anesthetic. You will initially feel pressure against your teeth and the metal brackets on your teeth will feel strange at first, especially those under your lips. The braces do not typically hurt until the second day and the pain usually peaks on the third day. The pain then begins to recede and should be barely noticeable after the first week.

What changes should I make to my eating habits?

Braces will generally require you to brush your teeth at least twice each day, typically after breakfast and dinner. You should avoid chewy candy such as gum drops and jelly beans, which will stick to your braces and promote tooth decay. Hard food such as nuts can be difficult to remove and may damage your braces. You may need to eat soft foods only until you become used to the braces.

What are the risks of getting braces?

The pressure that braces place on your teeth poses specific risks for the patient. Braces can cause the tooth’s root to break down, causing the remaining root tissue to be absorbed. They can also cause the gums to recede, which can expose the roots of the teeth in severe cases. The materials used to make braces can cause allergic reactions, especially nickel and latex.

What is SureSmile?

SureSmile is a new type of brace that makes use of recent technological developments. These include three-dimensional imaging techniques in the design of the braces and software that plans the course of treatment. In addition, the wires in SureSmile braces are manufactured to the orthodontist’s custom specifications by a robot. SureSmile braces also received a significant update in 2012.


The design of SureSmile braces begins a computed tomography scan that uses white light or a cone beam. This CT scan provides a three-dimensional model that allows the orthodontist to view the teeth from any desired angle. This is a dramatic improvement over a two-dimensional image that only provides a view from one angle.

The orthodontist designs the desired bite and smile for the patient from the CT scan. The SureSmile software then calculates the most efficient treatment plan for achieving this placement of the patient’s teeth. This software plans the placement of each tooth to an accuracy of 0.1 millimeter. The software also sends the treatment plan to a manufacturing facility, allowing a robot to make braces in the proper shape. The manufacturing facility then sends the braces to the orthodontist.


The primary advantage of SureSmile braces over traditional braces is that SureSmile braces move the teeth more efficiently. Teeth typically move at the rate of about 1 millimeter per month with either method, but the greater efficiency of SureSmile braces means they requires less time, usually about 40 percent of the treatment time for traditional braces.

SureSmile braces typically require only one or two wire changes. This is much less than traditional braces, which require the orthodontist to bend the wires into place with pliers. The wires in SureSmile braces are made from a nickel-titanium alloy known as memory metal. This alloy bends in response to the patient’s body heat, which positions the teeth more precisely than ordinary metal wire.

SureSmile 6.0

The latest version of the SureSmile software is 6.0, which was released in March 2012. This version has the most significant changes since it received FDA approval in 2000. Previous versions required orthodontists to estimate the effect of the treatment on the positions of the tooth roots. SureSmile 6.0 now allows orthodontists to see the positions of the tooth roots within their sockets. This version also provides orthodontists with interactive data models, giving them a greater ability to work with oral surgeons on restorative procedures.

Ways You Can Avoid Getting Plaque

Plaque is a film on the teeth that is composed primarily of microorganisms. It is typically light yellow in color, although it becomes darker as the thickness of the plaque increases. Plaque is a natural occurrence but it can be harmful if allowed to accumulate. Untreated plaque allows the bacteria to attach to the teeth, leading to dental problems such as periodontitis and gingivitis. The methods of removing plaque can generally be divided into home and professional categories.

Professional Methods

A dentist can also remove a typical build-up of plaque as part of the routine cleaning of your teeth, which is usually performed every six months. However, a deep teeth cleaning may be necessary for a more advanced accumulation of plaque. This procedure includes techniques such as scaling and root planing. Scaling scrapes plaque from the teeth and is effective above and below the gum line. Planing is the process of smoothing rough areas on the teeth that are produced by scaling. It also cleans infected areas of the gums, so the gums can reattach themselves to the roots of the teeth.

Severe cases of plaque build-up may require a more advanced procedure known as a full-mouth debridement. Regular teeth cleanings are by far the most cost effective method for preventing the accumulation of plaque. A deep cleaning costs much more than a regular cleaning, and a debridement is even more expensive.

Home Methods

The home methods of preventing the build up of plaque center on a regular routine of oral hygiene. This generally consists of brushing at least twice each day with a soft toothbrush. The best times to brush are immediately after the first and last meals of each day. It is often impractical to brush after lunch since most people are at work or school during this time.

A mixture of salt and baking soda is especially effective for removing plaque. This mixture is easy to prepare at home and many commercial tooth care products also contain salt and baking soda as active ingredients. You should also floss regularly to prevent the accumulation of plaque between your teeth. You may need to use a home scaler to remove stubborn plaque. A diet low in sugar will also help avoid plaque build up.

Tips on keeping braces clean

When you have braces, it is extremely important that you keep them clean. Food has more places to hide in your mouth, so you have to be diligent if you want to avoid cavities, swollen gums, bad breath and discolored teeth. If you practice removing plaque from your teeth regularly, during your treatment, you will have beautiful straight healthy teeth when your braces are removed.

Here are 10 Tips for Keeping Your Braces Clean

1. Remove any moving parts before you floss or brush.
2. Always use toothpaste that has fluoride and rinse with a fluoride mouthwash as well. Fluoride helps to prevent cavities.
3. Brush each individual tooth. Pay extra attention to the places where your braces and teeth touch.
4. Even though the front of your teeth seem the logical part to clean, it is just as important to clean the backside of your teeth, as well as your chewing surfaces. Remember to brush where your gums meet your teeth, this is an ideal spot for plaque to buildup.
5. Angles are very important when brushing teeth with braces. Brush the top of your teeth, above the braces, with your toothbrush angled downward. Now, just angle your toothbrush upward from the bottom of your teeth.
6. Find floss that you are comfortable with. Regular floss is great for some, while others find working with a floss threader easier. The threader will help you get the floss into tighter spaces. There is also an all-in-one product available; that has a stiff end for threading, a spongy mid-section for cleaning wider spaces and regular size floss for the more narrow areas in your mouth.
7. The cone-shaped brushes available are very helpful. They can reach spots, in your mouth, that a standard toothbrush cannot.
8. Always carry floss, toothpaste and a toothbrush with you. Brush after each meal. Otherwise, the bits of food and bacteria in your mouth will interact, causing tooth decay.
9. If you are unable to brush your teeth for any reason following a meal, rinse your mouth out thoroughly with water.
10. Visit your dentist regularly to get your teeth cleaned. Even though you floss and brush faithfully, your dentist can give you the deep, thorough cleaning that you need to keep your teeth healthy.

Playing Sports with Braces

Even with braces, playing sports is possible. All you have to do is take the precautions necessary to protect your mouth. If you wear a custom-made mouthguard, you can minimize or even prevent trauma and injury to your mouth.

When you are playing sports, accidents can happen to anyone, whether you are wearing braces or not. Because a blunt force can damage a player’s teeth, all athletes should invest in custom-made mouthguards to protect their mouths. This will lessen the harm the teeth could suffer, if an accident occurs, during a sporting event. This is especially true for games that do not involve wearing any kind of facial protection.

Unfortunately, dental trauma does have the potential to lead to more serious injuries like jaw fractures or loss of teeth. Local health laws require that mouthguards be utilized in many sports, to lower the possibility of harm coming to athletes.

It is mandatory that people, who participate in the following sports, wear custom-made mouthguards to protect their teeth.

• Baseball.
• Boxing.
• Football.
• Rugby.
• Basketball.
• Lacrosse.
• Hockey.
• Skiing.
• Martial arts.
• Figure-skating.
• Water polo.
• Wrestling.

If you wear your mouthguard, the risk of your jaw being injured will decrease substantially.

Many studies show that the low compliance to these laws is the main cause of dental related sports injuries.

Therefore, while you wear your braces, you can still play all the sports you like. Just be sure to protect your smile by wearing a custom-made mouthguard. Once your braces have been removed, it is just as important that you continue wearing a custom-made mouthgard to protect your new smile.

Life with Braces

Eating with braces doesn’t mean you’re stuck eating pureed or soft food. In fact, there are less restrictions than you might think. Learning what you should and shouldn’t eat with your braces will assure you receive optimum results from your orthodontic treatment. Preventing damage to the brackets, arch wires, and bands from refraining from eating the wrong food is your job, while the braces do the work improving your smile.

To remove the guesswork, here are some of the foods you should avoid and others that you have the green light to eat.

Foods to Avoid with Braces

As an overall precaution, hard foods, sticky foods, and foods high in sugar are best to avoid eating with braces — all of which can damage your braces by loosing the bands, bending the wires or breaking the brackets. For example, hard fruits like apples or unripe pears may prove challenging to bite into. The same goes for hard, raw vegetables, such as carrots and cauliflower. Hard or crusty breads, like bagels may be problematic to chew. Nuts and seeds are both hard and tiny, making them an enemy to braces. Stringy or tough meats should also be avoided.

Candy — especially gummy, sticky, or hard candy — should be eliminated from your diet, which not only can be detrimental to your braces, but the excessive sugar can harm your tooth enamel. Hard pizza crust, corn-on-the-cob, peanut brittle, bubble gum, caramel, and taffy are a few other examples of foods to steer clear of. Lastly, ice cubes should never be eaten while wearing braces because they can damage your orthodontic appliances.

Foods to Choose with Braces

When eating fruits, try choosing softer fruits, like bananas, blueberries, and raspberries. Hard fruits are okay if you cut them into very small pieces. Vegetables can be enjoyed with braces, but hard vegetables shouldn’t be eaten raw. Instead, steam, boil, bake, or even grill hard vegetables to soften them up. Instead of eating nuts like peanuts and almonds, eat peanut butter or almond butter as an alternative. Nuts can also be enjoyed when grounded course ground on yogurt. In terms of meats, choose lean cuts of meat, such as chicken, fish, or lean pork, rather than chewy and fibrous, less tender cuts of meat. Tofu is a great protein option for braces wearers.

Tips for Brushing Your Teeth with Braces

Proper brushing and flossing while wearing braces will help to remove any food that may have become stuck in your braces. You should brush your teeth after every meal or snack by using a nice and gentle motion using a soft toothbrush. On each tooth with braces, brush both down from the top and up from the bottom. A proxabrush, also called a “Christmas tree” brush is helpful in cleaning between your braces. Use a proxabrush between to brush by inserting the brush down from the top and then up from the bottom. Lastly, since flossing can be more challenging with braces, use a floss threader and waxed or mylar floss to make this important job easier.

Invisalign Braces

Invisalign braces are clear, removable orthodontic braces, as opposed to traditional metal braces that must remain in place until the end of treatment. These proprietary braces are manufactured by Align Technology and more than 48,000 orthodontists have been trained in their use as of 2008. Invisalign braces have significant pros and cons compared to traditional braces, which you must consider carefully before selecting this orthodontic treatment.


The appearance of Invisalign braces is their most obvious advantage. All components of these braces are transparent, making them much harder to see than metal braces. This property makes Invisalign braces especially popular with adults, who typically don’t want their braces to be apparent to other people.

Invisalign braces are removable, which provides additional advantages over other braces. The wearer typically removes them before eating and cleaning, which prevents the accumulation of food on the braces. This also means that Invisalign braces don’t place restrictions on the types of food that the wearer may eat.

The Invisalign protocol includes computerized planning, which provides the orthodontist with much greater control over the course of treatment. The length of treatment, treatment progress and the end result are all more predictable when using Invisalign braces.


Invisalign braces require more discipline on the part of the wearer than other types of braces since they can be removed. These braces must be worn for at least 20 hours each day for maximum effectiveness. The wearer’s teeth must also be cleaned before Invisalign braces can be re-inserted, which can become time consuming.

The Invisalign system is generally more expensive than traditional braces. The ability to remove these braces means they can become lost or misplaced, so the wearer should have a spare set to prepare for this eventuality. The Invisalign treatment provides wearers with two containers for their braces.

Invisalign braces work by applying direct pressure against the teeth. This makes them unsuitable for moving the teeth in certain ways, especially vertical movement. Teeth such as premolars have rounded edges, which may be difficult for the aligners of Invisalign braces to grab.


A dentist takes various images of the patient’s teeth, including impressions, photographs and x-rays. These images are sent to Align Technology, which uses them to create a three-dimensional model of the patient’s teeth. A variety of specialists use this model to develop a treatment plan that will move the teeth into their desired position as instructed by the dentist. The orthodontist reviews the treatment plan online and modifies it as needed. The components of the Invisalign braces are manufactured and sent to the dentist once the orthodontist approves the final design.

The patient may receive up to 14 attachments that are bonded to the teeth. These attachments, also known as buttons, are the same color as the teeth to make them difficult to see. A series of rubber bands attach to the buttons and create the desired movement of the teeth. Treatment with Invisalign braces typically requires approximately one year, depending on the amount of movement the teeth must make.