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Retainer Hacks

September 28th, 2022

Even with the best of care, accidents can happen, and your retainer, unfortunately, is not immune. Of course, you need to visit our Carlsbad, CA office ASAP if your retainer is damaged, but, in the meantime, there are some strategies you can use to help your teeth—and your retainer—stay as healthy as possible while you wait.

For Removable Retainers

  • When you notice any damage to your removable retainer—remove it.

Don’t wear a damaged retainer, especially overnight. You don’t want to damage it further, and you do want to avoid the possibility of choking if a retainer breaks while you’re sleeping. Dr. Michael Willes and our orthodontic team are experts when it comes to deciding if your retainer is wearable, so always consult an expert before putting a suspect retainer back in your mouth.

  • Damaged Hawley retainer?

If you have a Hawley retainer—the traditional wire retainer—here’s some good news: a Hawley retainer can often be repaired if it’s not damaged too badly. Don’t try to fix your retainer yourself, and bring it into our office as soon as possible to see if it’s fixable.

  • Damaged clear retainer?

If you have a clear retainer, let’s start with the bad news: A clear retainer is not a repairable retainer. Cracks, breaks, warping—these injuries mean that a new retainer is in your future.

The good news is that materials for plastic retainers are available that are more durable than ever. This might be a good option for you to check out, especially if you suffer from bruxism, or tooth grinding, which can be very hard on clear retainers.

  • When you’ve just finished treatment with clear aligners . . .

It’s worth asking if your last tray can sub for your retainer until you have it repaired or replaced.

  • Ask us about over-the-counter mouthguards.

While you wait for a retainer repair/replacement, your teeth are at risk of shifting out of alignment. A customizable OTC mouthguard might reduce the chance of shifting, although it’s definitely not a long-term solution! We can let you know if this temporary fix is worth it.

For Fixed Retainers

If the wire retainer bonded to your teeth becomes loose, or if you notice your teeth shifting, you might need a repair or a replacement. This is a job for us. In the meantime,

  • When you have a broken wire . . .

If a broken wire is causing discomfort, check to see if you should flatten it or cover the wire tip with dental wax to protect soft tissues. Warm water rinses can ease irritation.

  • When your wire is broken or loose . . .

Stay away from chewy, sticky, and crunchy foods. You should be doing this anyway with a fixed retainer to keep it from becoming detached—and if it’s already loose, no need to make it more so!

  • Ask us about over-the-counter mouthguards.

Check to see if an OTC, customizable mouthguard is a good idea to keep your teeth from shifting if you can’t visit Willes Orthodontics right away.

We started off by saying that accidents can happen even with the best of care. So you can imagine what can happen without the best of care. Keep your retainer in its case, keep it away from heat, don’t eat foods that can harm your retainer—all the precautions that make accidents unlikely to happen.

But if something awful befalls your retainer, call our Carlsbad, CA office right away. Why aren’t we suggesting ways to fix your broken retainer with the supplies you have in your home toolbox? Because the best life hack of all for someone with a damaged retainer is to leave the fixing to a dental professional.

Orthodontics and Oral Piercings

September 21st, 2022

Traditional braces and oral piercings—does the inevitable meeting of metals pose any risks? Let’s look at some of the potential problems with oral piercings, and you and Dr. Michael Willes can decide if you should take a break from jewelry while you’re in treatment.

  • Tooth Damage

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies, but when up against constant contact with metal? It’s not a fair fight.

Tongue piercings, especially, cause problems for your teeth. Whenever you speak or eat—even while you’re sleeping!—your tongue is making contact with your teeth. This continual tapping of metal on enamel can chip and crack teeth and damage fillings. A serious fracture could mean a root canal.

You’re getting braces to create a more attractive, healthy smile, so keeping your teeth intact is a priority.

  • Gum Problems

Your gums are affected by orthodontic treatment. As the teeth move, the gums, ligaments, and bone around them adapt and even reshape over time. You might notice when you first get your braces, or when you go in for an adjustment, that you have a few days of swollen, sensitive gums afterward. You might also find that you are at greater risk of gingivitis, because it can be harder to keep plaque away from your gumline until you perfect your brushing and flossing skills.

Oral piercings bring their own gingival dangers. Jewelry in the tongue or lip can rub against gum tissue, especially around your lower front teeth. As the gum tissue continues to be irritated and inflamed, it pulls away from the teeth. This process is called gum recession.

Receding gums expose the tops of your roots to cavity-causing bacteria. They make you more sensitive to hot or cold foods. Pockets between gums and teeth can harbor infections that threaten the tooth itself.

Caring for your gums during braces is important for your dental health. Since people with oral piercings have a much higher rate of gum recession that those without, why add one more risk factor to your oral health?

  • Metal vs Metal

Lip and tongue piercings can make contact with traditional brackets and wires, especially if you have a habit of playing with them. And let’s not forget lingual braces! Lingual braces are almost invisible because their brackets and wires are custom fitted to the back of your teeth. Whenever you speak or eat, you’ll be taking the chance that a tongue piercing will damage these custom-made appliances.

Dr. Michael Willes can tell you if your piercings are in any danger of interfering with your braces, but even if you’re planning on aligners, there are additional reasons to consider retiring your oral jewelry. Dental associations and medical associations discourage oral piercings because they can damage teeth and gums. And there’s more. Oral piercings can lead to swelling, bleeding, allergic reactions, infection, and nerve damage.

The reason you’re considering braces is because you want a healthy, attractive smile. Don’t let a tiny piece of jewelry make your life and your treatment more difficult! Do some research and talk to our Carlsbad, CA team about your oral piercings, and come up with a solution that’s best for your health and best for your smile.

Why Am I Getting Cavities?

September 14th, 2022

Now that you’re in orthodontic treatment, you’re probably spending more time taking care of your teeth than ever before. So, why did your dentist find a cavity at your last checkup? Let’s look at some of the potential culprits.

  • Brushing More Doesn’t Always Mean Brushing Well

Even for adults with decades of experience, proper brushing technique is often overlooked. Brushing’s not as effective without covering all the tooth surfaces (inside, outside, and molar tops), holding the brush at a 45-degree angle, gently brushing the teeth with small strokes, brushing for at least two minutes, and flossing between the teeth at least once a day.

If you wear braces, you must also take care to reach all the spots between and around your wires and brackets. Which leads us to . . .

  • Are You Using the Right Tools?

Even with perfect brushing form, your braces will be a challenge for a regular toothbrush and floss. The right tools make any job easier, and that includes cleaning your teeth while you’re wearing braces.

Specially designed brushes with bristles designed to work with your brackets, floss made to fit behind wires, tiny cone-shaped interproximal brushes that fit between your teeth and around your brackets—all these tools are made specifically to remove plaque and food particles from your teeth and your braces.

  • Crunchy, Hard, and Sugary Aren’t the Only Problem Foods

You know sugary foods should be limited because sugars are the favorite food of cavity-causing bacteria. And hard and crunchy foods are off limits altogether because they can damage your braces. But what about treats which look soft and harmless? Well, looks can be deceiving!

Starches in soft, carb-rich foods like potato chips and white bread quickly break down into sugars. What’s more, they tend to stick around brackets and in between the teeth, giving those cavity-creating bacteria plenty of nourishment.

This isn’t to say that you must eliminate all sugars and carbs from your diet. But when you wear braces, be especially mindful about brushing or at least rinsing thoroughly whenever you have a snack.

  • Biology

Some people are biologically more prone to cavities, even with attentive brushing and flossing, so you shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t have a perfect checkup every time. Instead, be proactive. Ask Dr. Michael Willes for brushing and cleaning advice the next time you visit our Carlsbad, CA office—and then follow it!

It’s not just spending more time taking care of your teeth—it’s using your valuable time the best way possible. It’s always time well-spent brushing properly, eating mindfully, and working with your orthodontist and your dentist to create a beautiful, healthy, cavity-free smile.

What was your favorite part of summer?

September 7th, 2022

It's the end of summer, and fall is just around the corner. Soon the temperatures will cool down, the leaves will start to change, and Dr. Michael Willes and our team at Willes Orthodontics are sure that you’ll soon be thinking about Halloween costumes and Thanksgiving plans in no time. But wait! First, we want to know about your favorite parts of the summer! Did you go on a wonderful family trip? Did you pick up a new hobby? Did you try to spend as much time outside and in the sun as possible?

Share your favorite memories, stories, or photos with us by leaving a comment below or on our Facebook page.

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“As a dental hygienist in Carlsbad for thirteen years, my expectations are higher than most. The results I have seen on patients over the years as well as on my own children are five stars all the way around.
Thank you, Dr. Willes!”
Debbie, Carlsbad
“We have had four children benefit from the care and expertise of Dr. Willes and his staff. The people in the office really care about not just making beautiful smiles, but engaging and understanding their patients.” Jennifer, Oceanside
“Couldn’t ask for a better team. Always prompt and courteous, with great skills and service.” Richard, San Marcos
“Dr. Willes and his staff clearly love what they do. They are knowledgeable, genuine, and professional, and take pride in creating healthy, beautiful smiles.” Colleen, Carlsbad
“I love Dr. Willes and all the staff! I look forward to my regular visits because it’s like seeing family. My teeth are getting so straight, and I can hardly wait to see my forever smile!” Brandon, Vista
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