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Regular Toothbrush vs. Electric Toothbrush

Here at Lincoln Orthodontics, we know it can be challenging to clean your teeth and gums thoroughly and effectively when you’re wearing braces. The brackets, wires, and bands can trap food particles, and they also create a series of nooks and crannies that can be hard to reach with a regular toothbrush. Yet brushing your teeth the right way is a critical component of oral care, and one every braces patient should take seriously. 

If you’re a current orthodontic patient, you’re already aware of how important it is to maintain an effective oral hygiene routine. Brushing and flossing regularly keeps your teeth clean, your smile healthy, and also greatly reduces your chances of developing cavities and gum disease. Good dental hygiene helps remove any bacteria, residue, and food debris that can lead to a buildup of plaque acids and hardened tartar, thus increasing your risk of decay developing. Although it is easier to brush during aligner treatment, it is still critical to spend adequate time brushing and flossing to ensuring healthy teeth.

To keep these oral issues at bay, we encourage our patients to brush at least twice daily for two minutes (or more!), and floss every night before bed. While these are fairly simple habits to cultivate, choosing the best products to care for your braces can sometimes be a little more complicated!

What type of toothbrush should you choose as an orthodontic patient?

The oral care aisle of any store can be overwhelming given the sheer amount of choices on display. It seems like there’s a product for everything, from toothpaste for sensitive teeth to whitening gels, mouthwashes to flavored flosses, items designed specifically for orthodontic patients, manual and electric toothbrushes, and much more. 

Most of these competing products are equally effective when it comes to caring for your teeth and gums, but it turns out that electric toothbrushes may actually have a slight edge over manual versions. This is especially true for orthodontic patients. In fact, one study by the American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics found that an electric brush could remove a significantly greater amount of plaque than a manual one, which is good news for those wearing braces.

Of course, many of our patients can and do clean their teeth perfectly well with a manual toothbrush. However, some find electric brushes to be very beneficial. If you’re a current braces patient using a regular toothbrush in your dental hygiene routine, an electric toothbrush may be a better choice for your braces, teeth, and gums. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why:

The advantages of an electric toothbrush

Multiple studies have shown that electric toothbrushes can be more effective than manual brushes at removing plaque. Some of the best models have even indicated an ability to remove up to 2x more total plaque, which is nothing to sneeze at! There are a number of factors that give these brushes an advantage over their manual counterparts, including:

Deep cleaning

Electric toothbrushes drive fluids in between the teeth, which means they’re able to get down deep and clean more effectively in and around the brackets and wires. Most models also produce hundreds or even thousands of movements per minute, something you can’t replicate with a manual toothbrush no matter how hard you try!

Custom cleaning modes

Many electric toothbrush models possess cleaning modes that have been customized with a specific purpose or issue in mind, such as sensitive teeth, whitening, stain removal, and much more.

Easy to use

Cleaning your teeth may seem like an easy task, but you’d be surprised to learn how many people get it wrong! Whether it’s rushing through the process or not understanding how to brush and floss properly, we’ve seen a number of patients over the years who just weren’t getting their gums and teeth clean. However, cavities and gum damage can often be avoided by doing nothing more than cleaning your mouth thoroughly and regularly. Electric toothbrushes can help you achieve this by removing the risk of “user error” by including timers, sensors, and multiple modes that most of the guesswork out of brushing.

electric and manual toothbrushes isolated on white background.

Electric toothbrush features 

Electric toothbrushes come with not only multiple modes,  but in many different styles and with several different features as well. These can include:

Battery-powered options

Some electric brushes run on a simple AA or AAA battery. These are similar to manual toothbrushes, but have a head that spins or pulsates the bristles to add a little extra oomph to your brushing technique. Battery-powered toothbrushes will generally be the least expensive electric option, and can be very convenient. You should always be careful to replace the batteries as soon as they run out, though, in order to avoid acid leaks that can ruin the brush itself.

Rechargeable toothbrushes

These brushes will recharge using a base that plugs into a wall outlet, so there are no batteries to replace. These are the electric options that tend to offer the higher-tech options like timers, pressure sensors, and replacement reminders. They may also include a variety of brushing options, like oscillation or vibration.

Timers

Brushing for at least two minutes every time you brush is the standard, but it can be easy to miss this mark. One of the most common problems we see in patients is not brushing long enough, so the timers that some electric brushes include can be really helpful if you have trouble keeping your brushing on track. Some timers are even sophisticated enough to keep track of how long you’re meant to brush each quadrant of your mouth.

Pressure sensors

Some rechargeable brush models include a sensor that tracks the pressure you’re putting on your teeth that will alert you if you’re brushing too hard. This can be an especially helpful feature if you ever suffer from sensitive teeth or weak enamel.

Multiple brush heads

This feature allows you to switch detachable brush heads when the bristles wear out but keep the electric base of your toothbrush. While some bases will only fit one type of brush head, others are compatible with multiple types. 

Multiple brush settings

There are some electric brushes that offer multiple settings for a more thorough cleaning experience, including:

  • rotary, where the head rotates in only one direction
  • counter-rotational, where the head rotates in various directions
  • rotating-oscillating, which allows different lengths of bristles to rotate in opposite directions
  • oscillating-pulsating, which adds a pulsating motion to the oscillatory motion

Lincoln Orthodontics: helping you brush your way to a beautiful smile

Whatever type of product you’re looking for to help take care of your braces and smile, we suggest sticking to ones that have the American Dental Association seal of approval. Products marked with the ADA seal have been studied thoroughly and tested for safety and effectiveness. They’re also guaranteed to perform as promised!

Our doctors recommend replacing your toothbrush or brush heads more often when you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment. Braces can be particularly hard on the bristles and they tend to wear out more quickly.

girl deciding between toothbrushes

At Lincoln Orthodontics, our mission is to help you achieve not only a straighter smile, improved oral health across the board. Part of that is keeping your teeth and gums in good shape while you’re wearing braces. If you’d like to try incorporating an electric toothbrush into your oral hygiene routine, but aren’t sure where to start, Dr. Willett and Dr. Harre are happy to recommend one for you based on your specific case. Our dedicated team is always here to discuss any questions or concerns you have about your treatment plan! We want to give you the best experience possible on your orthodontic journey, and work hard to provide you with all the support you need throughout the process.

girl with mouth ache

Wisdom Teeth And Braces

It’s not uncommon to begin orthodontic treatment with a long list of questions. Orthodontics is a new experience, and you will naturally want to know more about all that it entails. As time goes on, you’ll come to know more about the orthodontic process, and grow more familiar with your teeth and all the amazing things they’re capable of. By the time you’re done with braces or aligners, you’ll have acquired quite a bit of knowledge that goes beyond the basics!

However, there is one related subject you might be missing solid information on: wisdom teeth. This may not seem like a topic that is particularly relevant to orthodontics, but wisdom teeth can have a surprising impact on your oral health. At Lincoln Orthodontics, it’s not unusual for patients (or their parents) to wonder if these molars could have a negative effect on smiles that have been straightened through orthodontics. To learn more about why this worry is unfounded, and what the eruption of your wisdom teeth can mean for braces treatment, keep reading below!

Why do we have wisdom teeth?

Once upon a time, our ancestors had a diet that revolved mainly around coarse foods like meat, roots, and nuts, which required large and powerful jaws to chew and digest. As their diet began to evolve, so too did our jaws, shrinking in size to eventually hold three molars in each quadrant instead of four. For many people today, even three is too many, and their mouths just don’t have the space to allow wisdom teeth to erupt fully without issues. To be sure, this isn’t the case for everyone. For plenty of people, the wisdom teeth will come through in proper alignment with little more than some slight tenderness, requiring no further action. But our wisdom teeth grow in stages instead of all at once, offering up many chances of extended discomfort and pain until they fully erupt. To avoid any unnecessary suffering, removal of the wisdom teeth may sometimes be suggested.

x-ray image

Are wisdom teeth capable of shifting other teeth?

The short answer is no, but let’s explore why.

Your wisdom teeth are the last teeth to make an appearance in your mouth, usually showing in your late teens or early twenties. Around this same time, some patients will also see a slight shifting of their teeth begin, also known as relapse. Given the timing, many patients jump to the conclusion that wisdom teeth must be responsible for any drifting that occurs in this timespan. To learn more about this, The University of Iowa actually studied the possible relationship between wisdom teeth and relapse. They conducted research that involved placing sensors between the teeth of their subjects, then compared the pressure on them both with and without wisdom teeth. They concluded that was no difference between the two at all, proving once and for all that the wisdom teeth alone aren’t able to exert enough pressure on the teeth in front of them to cause them to shift.

So if wisdom teeth coming in aren’t a key factor in a smile shifting, what is? The answer is surprisingly simple: we get older. As we age, our teeth begin showing signs of wear and tear, and there’s also a natural drifting that begins to occur. This drifting can cause our teeth to begin overlapping, moving them slightly forward. This overlapping can also cause the upper teeth to press the lower teeth in towards the tongue. At this time, jaws are also still finishing up their growth, which can further force the teeth into less than desirable positions. The solution to all this shifting and drifting? Regular retainer use! As an orthodontic patient, you have no doubt heard on numerous occasions how important it is to wear your retainer once your treatment is complete. Relapse is the biggest reason we stress this point so much. Wearing your retainer exactly as directed by Dr. Willett or Dr. Harre is the single best defense you have against your teeth shifting. It’s a simple yet incredibly effective way to help keep your teeth stay as straight as possible once your orthodontic treatment has finished.

Can your wisdom teeth affect your orthodontic treatment?

If your mouth doesn’t have enough room for your wisdom teeth to erupt fully, it can put pressure on the surrounding teeth. Furthermore, if the wisdom teeth begin coming in sideways, they can catch behind the last tooth in your mouth. This painful set of circumstances is referred to as impaction, and it can lead to sensitive, swollen gums. Partially erupted teeth can also be a challenge to clean effectively, increasing your risk for recurrent infections and damage to the adjacent healthy molars.

If your wisdom teeth happen to start erupting during the course of your orthodontic treatment with us, you should be able to continue easily and without interruption. Wisdom teeth can be removed while wearing braces if necessary, but if yours come through with no apparent problems, it’s unlikely that removal would be recommended. That said, your general dentist or an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Willett or Dr. Harre will be able to tell how your wisdom teeth are coming through by taking a detailed x-ray of your mouth. The results of that x-ray will be considered along with the impact wisdom teeth are having on the rest of your mouth. At that point, wisdom tooth removal may be recommended. 

Girl smiling with braces

Lincoln Orthodontics has the wisdom to give you peace of mind

For over twenty years, Lincoln Orthodontics has been offering families in Lincoln and the surrounding communities an orthodontic experience that is comfortable, positive, energetic, and rewarding. Our team is committed to providing you with a practice that makes you feel welcome and at home the moment you walk through our door. From your first appointment to your last, we want you to feel valued, heard, and respected. If you’re worried about how your wisdom teeth may impact your orthodontic treatment or overall oral health, get in touch! We go the extra mile to make sure your questions are answered and your concerns are addressed to the best of our ability. Your smile is important to us, and so are you!

girl smiling heading back to school

Back To School Braces Guide

It seems like summer always takes so long to finally arrive, and then disappears in the blink of an eye! While we still have a few more weeks to enjoy the warmth before the first official day of fall, there’s no denying it’s back-to-school season. Before we break our winter coats and snow boots out of the closet, this is the perfect time to discuss proper dental care during the school day with our patients who are in braces. This overview is particularly helpful for children and teens who are returning to school for the first time since beginning orthodontic treatment.

Wearing braces at school doesn’t have to be difficult, but like any new adventure, it comes with its own set of learning curves. Lincoln Orthodontics is here to provide the information and encouragement your child needs to get through the school day with their smile (and braces) intact. Let’s take a look at some of our best tips for getting back into the swing of school with new braces!

Be prepared

For students undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces, we recommend keeping a basic care kit close to hand, especially if they haven’t been wearing them for very long. Some popular items to include are:

  • a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • fluoride toothpaste
  • dental floss
  • orthodontic wax
  • lip balm
  • an unsharpened pencil (eraser end only!)

These can be useful in many ways. Brackets and wires are notorious for trapping stray food particles, so we encourage brushing after lunch, with a quick floss added if needed (and if your child has time.)  Orthodontic wax can help reduce any mild irritation to the lips, gums, or cheeks. This irritation is not uncommon, and is generally temporary. For relief, your student should pinch off and place a pea-sized amount of wax over the offending area. The eraser end of a pencil can be utilized to nudge wires back into place should they stray, and lip balm is soothing on lips that have become dry and chapped due to braces-wearing.

calendar with daily pins

Be smart

Whether your child is at home, at school, or somewhere in between, the same rules apply when it comes to caring for their braces. This is especially true when it comes to food restrictions, which is sometimes viewed as one of the biggest challenges patients face while undergoing orthodontic treatment. School can make it even harder, since students will need to stick to lunches and snacks that are braces-friendly. It’s easy enough to avoid anything too crunchy or chewy at home, since you control the menu, but it can be a bit more difficult if your child normally buys school lunches or has access to a vending machine for snacks.

To keep their treatment progressing on track, check the school’s lunch menu every week and look for braces-friendly options. This includes things like lean meat, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, mac and cheese, and cooked vegetables. If you find that the choices tend to be limited, packing a lunch can sometimes simplify things. Invest in a sturdy Thermos and pack pasta, soups, and other soft options that are gentle on braces. If you make a sandwich, cut it into smaller bites the night before to make eating and chewing easier, and to cut down on unsightly food debris. Healthy snacks like yogurt and applesauce can also be great additions, and will help keep your child feeling full and satisfied throughout the school day.

What your child chooses to drink at school can also affect their braces. Staying hydrated should always be a priority, but drinking water is also an easy way to keep any rogue food particles from sticking to the teeth and braces. Fill a water bottle and send it to school with your child in the morning. Drinking it throughout the day will keep their thirst quenched and teeth clean. Encourage your child to stick to plain water instead of soda, fruit juices, or other sugary drinks, as these can stain teeth and increase the risk of cavities. For the occasional sweet drink, have your child use a straw to keep the sugar as far away from their teeth as possible. 

Be careful

Is your child a student-athlete, or still regularly participating in gym or P.E.? If so, it may be worth investing in an orthodontic mouthguard for them. Sports and other physical activity increase the risk of braces being damaged, and the cheeks, gums, or mouth being injured. Orthodontic mouthguards are designed specifically to wear with braces, and are the single easiest way to prevent breakage and injury, and ensure your child’s overall oral health. These mouthguards, along with the more common non-orthodontic models, are generally available at most major sporting goods stores, and Lincoln Orthodontics is able to order one for your child as well, if you prefer.

If you are playing an instrument, just understand that it will take time to learn to use your mouthpiece and play your instrument with your braces. Don’t get frustrated if you need to take some extra time to practice. You can use orthodontic wax to cushion your cheeks and lips as you are adjusting.   

Teen cheerleader with braces

Start the school year off with a smile thanks to Lincoln Orthodontics

If this is the first time your child will be attending school with braces on, it’s understandable that they may be feeling a little nervous and anxious about such a new experience. Even patients who have been in braces for a while might be slightly more stressed than usual about going back to school. These feelings are not uncommon among orthodontic patients, and a completely normal reaction to the unknown. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for life with braces to become just another part of your child’s daily routine. Being prepared for any dilemma that could pop up during the school day, as well as being careful about keeping their braces and mouth safe, will help the transition from summer to school go smoothly. 

At Lincoln Orthodontics, we’ve been creating beautiful smiles for families in and around Lincoln for over twenty years. Our doctors are experienced in providing optimal orthodontic care for children, teen, and adult patients, and our entire team works hard to create an environment that is relaxing and stress-free from the moment you walk in the door. We are dedicated to making every patient’s orthodontic process as rewarding as possible! If you or your child have any questions about navigating the new school year while undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces, please get in touch with us. We’ll talk through all your concerns and set your minds at ease. Lincoln Orthodontics is here to help your student step into school this year confident in their smile and their braces!

boy with colorful braces

Why Do I Need Rubber Bands With Braces?

Orthodontic treatment can come with its fair share of challenges, from food restrictions to a more complicated oral hygiene routine, those appliances like brackets or aligner attachments taking some getting used to. If you are a current patient with Lincoln Orthodontics, you likely understand the role that the braces and aligners play in your overall treatment plan, but have you considered the purpose of the rubber bands or “elastics”? Most orthodontic patients will need to wear them at some point in their treatment process and just like everything else associated with orthodontic treatment with braces or aligners, they are an important part of the journey towards a beautifully straightened smile!

Rubber bands are often recommended in order to correct bite alignment, reduce an overbite or underbite, and in some cases, open or close spaces. This will help move your teeth into new and improved positions, giving you a more functional and attractive smile, as well as improving your overall oral health. Although any frustrating aspect of braces treatment is absolutely worth the end result, we want all of our patients to feel informed about and empowered by their orthodontic journey. We know that can be hard, especially if you don’t understand why you’re being asked to do something like wear rubber bands with your treatment. To learn more about why we use rubber bands in orthodontics with braces and how they work to benefit your smile, keep reading below.

The role of rubber bands in orthodontic treatment

Traditional braces are one of the most effective ways we have of aligning teeth and creating straighter smiles, but the same principles apply to clear aligner treatments. After brackets have been glued to the surface of the teeth or aligners are being worn, they begin to move the teeth using force that is produced by the set of wires or the aligner plastic that spans from tooth to tooth. Although this can successfully align the upper and lower sets of teeth separately, something must be connected between the upper and lower teeth to actually correct the bite. There are several options available for accomplishing this, such as headgear, springs, and other orthodontic appliances, but the most common method tends to be rubber bands, also known as elastics.

Rubber bands are a preferred method for a number of reasons. Less noticeable than other options like headgear, the tooth-colored elastics in particular blend in easily with your natural smile. For patients who prefer showing off more of their personality, we also offer elastics in a range of bright colors to choose from. Elastics are easy to remove and replace, which is important since this needs to be done by the patient frequently – usually every 2-3 hours if elastics have been prescribed full time. Because rubber bands are stretchy and flexible, they allow you to maintain a full range of motion when engaging in everyday activities like talking, yawning, eating, and brushing your teeth. Rubber bands are also cost-effective and extremely versatile. They can be used to correct most types of bite problems, including overbites, underbites, open bites, and crossbites.

The different types of orthodontic elastics

There are two types of orthodontic elastics, ligatures and rubber bands. Ligatures are the smaller elastics that fit around your brackets in order to help the archwire retain its position there. Ligatures are part of the process by holding the wire into the bracket that pulls or pushes your teeth in the direction required by the customized treatment plan Dr. Willett or Dr. Harre create for you.

Rubber bands are larger versions of elastics that can be placed in several different configurations to match the tensile force requirements and the vectors of bite correction needed for your mouth. They apply pressure on the jaw, assisting it in achieving the proper alignment for your bite. The most common configurations are the top-to-bottom and inter-arch configurations. Both ligatures and rubber bands are available in a wide variety of colors.

Assorted orthodontics elastomeric rings

How orthodontic rubber bands work to straighten teeth

As ligatures, archwires, brackets, and aligners move the teeth along the gumline, rubber bands help to pull the jaw backward or forwards so that your bottom and top rows of teeth line up correctly. To begin this process, a bracket with a hook is placed along the left and right sides of your bottom and top teeth or a cutout hook is placed in the aligner. Rubber bands are then attached to these hooks on each side of the mouth. The amount of tensile force required to correct your orthodontic issues will determine the angle at which these bands are placed. Over time, this will improve your smile by fitting your teeth together more comfortably. Rubber bands also play an essential role in speeding up the overall orthodontic process, but this will rely entirely on you wearing your rubber bands exactly the way Dr. Willett and Dr. Harre direct you to. Their instructions for elastics are the prescription or the medicine they have directed for your individual needs. Patient compliance is incredibly important when rubber bands are being used in your treatment.

How to use your rubber bands correctly

In order to ensure your orthodontic treatment proceeds on schedule, it is crucial that you follow instructions carefully when wearing rubber bands. Not only will this provide you with optimal results, it will also help you avoid prolonging the treatment process.

To get the most out of your rubber bands, you’ll likely be advised to wear them 24 hours a day. This includes while you are sleeping. You will generally take them out only to brush, floss, put new bands in, and sometimes to eat, although this will depend on each individual case. Even if you think doubling up on bands will speed your treatment up, it is a bad idea and one we warn against. It can actually slow things down and potentially damage your roots.

It’s normal to experience some soreness in your mouth, teeth, and jaws the first few days you’re wearing rubber bands, but this should only be temporary if you are wearing the elastics as directed. Be sure to stay the course and keep them in as prescribed, as wearing your elastics incorrectly will make your teeth more resistant to moving successfully and slow down your progress. It can also keep your teeth constantly sore since they never have the chance to get used to the rubber bands.

Every time you take a band out, discard it for a new one. Depending on your specific case, your daily activities, and the strength of the elastic, you may find yourself replacing bands multiple times each day. To keep treatment on track, have a pack of bands with you at all times.

Girl embarrassed and closes the face with her hands.

Keep your treatment on track with Lincoln Orthodontics

Rubber bands play an essential role in moving your jaw and teeth into the correct alignment necessary to achieve a healthy, aligned smile. Our team is here to help you throughout your orthodontic journey, from your initial consultation to the day your braces come off, and beyond! If the time has come for you to wear rubber bands with your braces, Dr. Willett, Dr. Harre, and the rest of our skilled staff are available to answer any questions you may have, address any concerns, or to simply offer extra encouragement when you need it. This part of your orthodontic journey is only temporary, and before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful smile that will last a lifetime.