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Top Ways to Ensure You and Your Braces Have a Good Relationship

January 12th, 2022

You and your braces will become good friends over the coming months or years, so it’s important to get your relationship off to a good start. Consider the following recommendations to prevent rocky times ahead:

  1. Floss, floss, floss. Yes, it’s a pain to floss around your braces, but it's the best way to prevent gum disease and other oral health problems. Ask Dr. Wesslen and our staff for floss threaders to make the chore easier. Just a few minutes per day will ensure that you don’t face significant dental health issues when the braces come off.
  2. Avoid sticky or hard foods. It’s tough to forgo toffee, caramel, gum, and other favorite sticky treats, but your braces will thank you. Sticky or hard foods can break a bracket or wire, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.
  3. Chew with your back teeth. If you’re used to taking large bites with your front teeth, it might be time to switch your eating habits. Taking a large bite of food with your front teeth can leave your braces vulnerable to damage. Instead, cut large foods into pieces and use your back teeth to chew. This is especially important with corn on the cob, which should always be cut from the cob.
  4. Wear rubber bands and headgear. Rubber bands, headgear, and other orthodontic appliances may seem annoying, but failing to comply with wearing them can increase the length of your treatment by months. Wear them now to avoid problems in the future.

Make this the Year You Stop Smoking

January 5th, 2022

It’s a new year, and it couldn’t come fast enough for many of us! Let’s do our part to make this a better year in every way—and you can start by making this the year you quit smoking once and for all.

You know that smoking is very damaging to your body. Smokers are more likely to suffer from lung disease, heart attacks, and strokes. You’re at greater risk for cancer, high blood pressure, blood clots, and blood vessel disorders. With far-reaching consequences like this, it’s no surprise that your oral health suffers when you smoke as well.

How does smoking affect your teeth and mouth?

  • Appearance

While this is possibly the least harmful side effect of smoking, it’s a very visible one. Tar and nicotine start staining teeth right away. After months and years of smoking, your teeth can take on an unappealing dark yellow, orange, or brown color. Tobacco staining might require professional whitening treatments because it penetrates the enamel over time.

  • Plaque and Tartar

Bacterial plaque and tartar cause cavities and gum disease, and smokers suffer from plaque and tartar buildup more than non-smokers. Tartar, hardened plaque which can only be removed by a dental professional, is especially hard on delicate gum tissue.

  • Bad Breath

The chemicals in cigarettes linger on the surfaces of your mouth causing an unpleasant odor, but that’s not the only source of smoker’s breath. Smoking also dries out the mouth, and, without the normal flow of saliva to wash away food particles and bacteria, bad breath results. Another common cause of bad breath? Gum disease—which is also found more frequently among smokers.

  • Gum Disease

Smoking has been linked to greater numbers of harmful oral bacteria in the mouth and a greater risk of gingivitis (early gum disease). Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is much more common among smokers, and can lead to bone and tooth loss. Unsurprisingly, tooth loss is also more common among smokers.  

  • Implant Failure

Tooth implants look and function like our original teeth, and are one of the best solutions for tooth loss. While implant failure isn’t common, it does occur significantly more often among smokers. Studies suggest that there are multiple factors at work, which may include a smoker’s bone quality and density, gum tissue affected by constricted blood vessels, and compromised healing.

  • Healing Ability

Smoking has been linked to weakened immune systems, so it’s harder to fight off an infection and to heal after injury. Because smoking affects the immune system’s response to inflammation and infection, smokers suffering from gum disease don’t respond as well to treatment. Smokers experience a higher rate of root infections, and smoking also slows the healing process after oral surgeries or trauma.

  • Dry Socket

Smoking following a tooth extraction can cause a painful condition called “dry socket.” After extraction, a clot forms to protect the tooth socket. Just as this clot can be dislodged by sucking through a straw or spitting, it can also be dislodged by the force of inhaling and exhaling while smoking.

  • Oral Cancer

Research has shown again and again that smoking is the single most serious risk factor for oral cancer. Studies have also shown that you reduce your risk of oral cancer significantly when you quit smoking.

  • Consequences for Orthodontic Treatment

Finally, if this is the year that you’re investing the time and effort needed to create an attractive, healthy smile with orthodontic treatment, don’t sabotage yourself by smoking!

Cosmetically, smoking doesn’t just discolor your tooth enamel—tar and nicotine discolor your aligners and braces as well. If one of the reasons you chose clear aligners or ceramic brackets is for their invisible appearance, the last thing you want is yellow aligners and brackets.

More important, smoking, it’s been suggested, can interfere with your orthodontic progress. When blood vessels are constricted, your gums, periodontal ligaments, and bones can’t function at their healthy best, moving your teeth where they need to be steadily and efficiently. This means that your treatment could take longer. And if your smoking has caused gum disease, you might have to put any orthodontic treatment on hold completely until it’s under control.

Quitting smoking is a major accomplishment that will improve your life on every level. It’s always a good idea to talk to Dr. Wesslen for strategies to help you achieve your wellness goals for the new year. Make this the year you stop smoking, and the year your health improves in countless ways because you did.

New Year's (Orthodontic) Resolutions

December 29th, 2021

Why are New Year’s resolutions so often negative? A depressing reminder of things-you-should-be-doing-but aren’t. A new set of rules-that-must-be-obeyed. A nagging list of changes you should make right this very . . .  

No! That’s no way to start the year! Let’s make your resolutions for the New Year a positive, proactive guide to help you achieve your goals for the next 12 months. And high on that list? Creating a beautiful, healthy smile.

If you are working with Dr. Wesslen to improve the alignment of your teeth and bite, here are some easy, affirmative resolutions to make sure your treatment stays on track.

  • Be Healthy

Brushing is always important. That’s why we recommend brushing at least twice a day, at least two minutes each time. But when you wear braces or aligners, brushing regularly is even more important.

After every meal and every snack, food particles collect around brackets and wires. If you wear aligners, food particles on and between the teeth can end up trapped there.

No one wants more opportunities for cavities to develop, so follow our advice on brushing and flossing around your braces whenever you eat a meal or snack, and be sure to clean your teeth before replacing your aligners.

  • Be Thorough

Brushing carefully is important not just for preventing cavities, but for a brighter smile. And while you want a whiter smile, what you don’t want is white spots on your teeth. These discolored spots are caused by decalcification. What’s decalcification, you ask?

Bacteria and plaque stick to our teeth, and, when not brushed or flossed away, produce acids which eat away at minerals in our enamel. In places where minerals such as calcium and phosphorus leach out of the enamel, a white spot on the tooth appears. Left untreated, these weakened areas can develop into cavities.

Avoid having to deal with this discoloration when your braces or aligners are removed by careful brushing and regular professional cleaning.

  • Be Safe

If you play sports or live an active life, you might already be using a mouthguard. Good for you! Mouthguards have prevented countless injuries. Now that you have braces, talk to Dr. Wesslen about whether a custom mouthguard is a good idea.

  • Be Responsible

If you have braces, brackets and wires can come loose. You can reduce the chances of that happening by following our instructions on what and what not to eat, and by brushing thoroughly-but-gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

If you have aligners, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for caring for them. Exposing them to heat, or eating with your aligners in, or not keeping them in their case when you’re not wearing them, can cause warping or breakage.

If you have a retainer, always make sure it’s in its case when it’s not in your mouth.

  • Be Adaptable

When you visit our Visalia, or Tulare office, ask us about better brushing tools and techniques, so once your braces or aligners come off, you’ll have a bright, beautiful, healthy smile as the reward for all your hard work.

  • Be Finished!

Dr. Wesslen will give you precise instructions on when and how long to wear your bands or your aligners. Failing to put in the hours now means that you will have to spend more time in treatment later. And, of course, make sure you keep all your orthodontic appointments.

Resolving to follow our advice can bring you a healthier, happier smile before you know it. Positive goals lead to positive results, so let this be the year that your proactive resolutions lead to a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Braces-Friendly Recipe: Lunch

December 22nd, 2021

Getting braces comes with a lot of rules. No sticky candies, watch out for popcorn, and steer clear of chips. These rules leave many braces-wearers wondering what they can still eat without hurting their teeth or their expensive orthodontic appliances. Fortunately, constructing a braces-friendly lunch is straightforward once you know which foods to avoid.

Foods to Avoid When Wearing Braces

There are a few food categories to avoid when you have braces. Sticky foods also stick to the metal in your braces, and can potentially break wires or individual braces. For example: bubblegum, candy bars, caramel, licorice, fruit roll-ups, and Starbursts should be avoided. Many of these foods also contain high levels of sugar, which can cause plaque build-up if not brushed away properly.

Also, be wary of hard foods that can harm your orthodontic appliances. Avoid eating hard taco shells, chips, Rice Crispy treats, hard candy, beef jerky, and popcorn. Some healthy foods, such as carrots, apples, corn on the cob, and nuts, are hard on braces. To eat these foods safely, cut them into smaller pieces before eating.

Remember that certain habits may be harmful to your braces. For example, crunching on ice cubes may be a reflexive response when you’re enjoying a cold beverage, but this can significantly harm your braces and extend treatment time. To stay on the safe side, Dr. Wesslen and our team at Wesslen Orthodontics recommend you drink beverages without ice or add crushed ice whenever possible.

Lunch Recipe

Even with braces, it’s easy to enjoy a healthy, nutritious lunch. For example, make a panini on whole wheat bread with slices of turkey deli meat, a piece of Swiss cheese, and tomato slices. Spread 1 tbsp. of mustard or mayonnaise on the bread before toasting the sandwich in a panini grill. Serve the panini with ½ c. low-fat cottage cheese and a sliced pear or apple for a balanced meal. Then grab a pudding cup or some JELLO for dessert. Wash it all down with water containing a lemon wedge or all-natural fruit juice. Make sure to brush your teeth or rinse with mouthwash after lunch to wash away sugars and food residue that can get trapped in braces and cause decay.

If you have any questions about what you can and can’t eat with braces during your treatment at Wesslen Orthodontics, be sure to ask our team during your next appointment at our Visalia, or Tulare office!

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