Is an Electric Toothbrush on Your Christmas List? If Not, It Should Be!

What’s on your Christmas list this year for Santa? I can tell you something that should be on there – an electric toothbrush. If you’ve never used one, you’re missing out! Here’s why I recommend electric toothbrushes, and what you should look for when buying one.

Electric Toothbrushes are Better at Removing Plaque

Studies show that electric toothbrushes make a measurable difference when it comes to removing more plaque compared to manual toothbrushes. This evidence showed that after just one to three months of use, there was an 11% reduction in plaque, and after three months of use, there was a 21% reduction. And it doesn’t stop at removing plaque from teeth – electric toothbrushes were also shown to reduce gingivitis, with a 6% reduction after one to three months of use and 11% after three months.

Electric Toothbrushes are Gentler on Gums and Enamel

Now this isn’t true of all electric toothbrushes, but some of the more high-tech models that include pressure sensors help you regulate pressure so you don’t overdo it and wear away enamel or put too much pressure on the gums, which can cause irritation.

Electric Toothbrushes Make Brushing Easier

Electric toothbrushes are simply easier to use! For many people, this is the main draw. It requires less work and therefore you’re more likely to brush twice a day and for the full two minutes. Some models even include a 2-minute timer so you don’t stop brushing too soon. Plus, they’re ideal for people with arthritis, carpal tunnel, or other conditions that affect mobility in the fingers and hands.

What to Look for in an Electric Toothbrush

There’s a wide variety of electric toothbrushes on the market in a wide range of prices, from $5 store brands to name brand varieties that cost a few hundred dollars. It can be hard to know where to start when you’re looking for your first one. Here are some things to consider.

Brush head cleaning action. Oscillation-rotation brush heads rotate, vibration heads vibrate back and forth, and sonic toothbrushes vibrate, too, but at a much higher frequency than regular vibrating models. Some studies[3] have shown that oscillating-rotating brush heads are more effective at removing plaque and helping gingivitis, so consider buying a model with this type of action.

Power source. Some brushes run on batteries while others charge in a docking station plugged into the outlet. Neither one is superior to the other in terms of cleaning ability; just consider your lifestyle (e.g., frequent travelling) when deciding.

Extra features. As mentioned above, some models come with a 2-minute timer and pressure sensors built in. Some of the newest models even have Bluetooth connectivity, so your toothbrush can communicate with your phone to keep track of your brushing habits and effectiveness. If you think these will help you brush better or more often, or they simply look like fun, go for it.

Merry Brushing!

If Santa doesn’t end up putting an electric toothbrush in your stocking, then go ahead and buy one for yourself. Once you start using one, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!


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Six Reasons to be Thankful for Good Oral Health

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? This year, put good oral health on your list if you’re lucky enough to have it. Good oral health is something that’s easily overlooked, but it affects your quality of life in a big way and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Here are six reasons to be thankful for good oral health this holiday season.

1) Essential for Good Function

Good oral health is the foundation of good function. Missing, decayed, and abscessed teeth can make chewing and speech production difficult, while a bad bite can affect swallowing. If you chew, swallow, and speak easily without giving it a second thought, then you have good function, which is definitely something to be grateful for.

2) Saves You Money

The cost of regular, preventative dental care is nothing in comparison to the cost of interventions to fix teeth and gums that haven’t been cared for. Fillings, crowns, gum grafts, and other dental and periodontal interventions can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Taking care of your oral health day by day can save you big time in the long run.

3) Helps You Keep Your Teeth for Life

Approximately 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, and around 40 million Americans are missing all their teeth, according to the American College of Prosthodontics[1]. Physical trauma and underlying disease can lead to tooth loss, but by far the main reason is poor oral hygiene. Taking care of your teeth and gums through brushing, flossing, and regular cleanings and check-ups help up your chances you’ll keep your choppers into old age.

4) A Pain-Free Mouth

Tooth decay, abscesses, fractures, and cracked fillings are just some of the causes of toothache. Good oral health equals strong, healthy teeth which equals teeth that don’t hurt. Plus, when your teeth and gums are in great shape, you avoid the necessity of procedures that can be painful, like extractions, root canals, and gum grafts.

5) Connection to General Health

By keeping your teeth and gums in good shape, you may be reducing your risk of developing diseases that are associated with bad oral health, including heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. Another great reason to reach for that toothbrush twice a day!

6) Self-Confidence

A smile is one of the first things people notice, and being able to smile freely is a big booster of self-esteem. Someone who is embarrassed about the way their teeth look may not smile as much and their self-confidence will take a hit. If you like your smile when you look in the mirror, you can thank your good oral health.

Don’t Take Good Oral Health for Granted

Good oral health isn’t something that happens by accident – it happens when you take care of your teeth and gums regularly, day in, day out. For such a small investment of time and effort, the benefits are enormous. So this Thanksgiving, when you’re stuffed with turkey and finished the last bite of pumpkin pie, pause for a moment to give thanks to your health, teeth, and gums for making it possible, and for all the other ways good oral health makes life better.

Do’s and Don’ts of Halloween Candy with Braces

What’s the scariest thing about Halloween? Haunted houses? Ghost stories? Frightening costumes?

For dentists and orthodontists like me, it’s the candy.

Keeping braces clean at the best of times is a challenge. With mountains of candy that can potentially damage braces, Halloween doesn’t make it any easier. If your child (or you) is navigating Halloween this year with braces, here are some do’s and don’ts to get you through the holiday.

Do: Keep the “Good” Stuff

Let’s start with the positive: there are actually a lot of treats your child can safely eat with braces. So start by sorting through your child’s Halloween haul and look for the following:

  • Plain chocolate
  • Peanut butter cups
  • Brownies
  • Soft cookies
  • Snack cakes (like Twinkies, Ding Dongs, etc.)
  • Pixi stix

Contrary to popular belief, orthodontists don’t condemn all candy. Of course, you may want to limit how many treats your child has and ensure that they always practice proper dental hygiene after consuming sweets, but these candies don’t present any direct danger to braces.

Don’t: Eat the “Bad” Stuff

That Halloween bag is likely to come back with a lot of sweets that are decidedly not braces-friendly. Separate out the following:

  • Candy corn
  • Chocolate with nuts, nougat, caramel, etc.
  • Nuts
  • Nougat
  • Caramel (and caramel apples)
  • Toffee
  • Taffy
  • Fruit chews
  • Sour and gummy candies
  • Tootsie rolls
  • Licorice
  • Popcorn
  • Jawbreakers

You’re looking for anything that’s crunchy, chewy, or sticky, as these can cause brackets to pop off or damage the wire. If you don’t want it around the house, consider donating unwanted Halloween candy instead.

Pro tip: Talk about expectations with your child before they bring the candy home. That way they’ll be prepared for you to sort through their candy and remove some items before they dig in.

Do: Make Sure Teeth Get Brushed

Beyond the danger of damage to braces, candy also contains a lot of sugar that can cause tooth decay if not cleaned away. If your child is young enough to trick or treat, then they are probably still young enough for you to supervise them brushing their teeth for a night or two (or as long as the candy lasts!). Make sure they brush for the full two minutes and then follow it up with flossing.

This is also a good opportunity to stress the importance of good oral health habits. Give them positive feedback for taking great care of their teeth and braces. Remind them how important regular brushing and flossing are and that if they keep it up, they’ll have a beautiful smile at the end of treatment.

Don’t: Avoid Halloween Because of Braces

Think back to when you were little. Halloween was probably one of your favorite days of the year. It’s so much fun to get dressed up, and it’s even more fun to get a bunch of candy. So while it’s smart to be concerned about your child’s braces and oral health, it’s totally fine for them to take part. There’s no need to ban trick-or-treating or to confiscate all the candy they collect. Just follow the tips above and have a happy Halloween!

Back to School! Is It Time to Take Your Child for Their First Orthodontic Consultation?

Back to school means getting into the routine of new classes, new teachers, and nightly homework. Could it also mean a first trip to the orthodontist for your child?

If your child has just entered the second grade, it could be time for them to go to the orthodontist. I know this sounds very young, but the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children have their first orthodontic appointment by the age of seven, which is usually the second grade.

Will Your Child Need Orthodontic Intervention?

First, rest assured that the majority of young children are not candidates for orthodontic treatment. Only about 20% of kids this age have an issue that could benefit from early intervention.

Treatment at this age is not primarily concerned with straightening teeth. That’s for Phase 2, which typically happens in early adolescence. Phase 1 is concerned with correcting and preventing problems such as overcrowding, jaw misalignment, or a bad bite. Early intervention doesn’t always require braces; depending on the issue, treatment may involve an expander, headgear, a functional appliance, or extraction instead.

It’s important to note that you can’t always tell if your child is a candidate for early intervention simply by looking yourself. While a severe overbite, underbite, or crossbite is easy to see, there’s a lot more going on with your child’s teeth, bite, and jaw than meets the eye. That’s why it’s always best to see the orthodontist.

What if You Don’t Take Your Child to the Orthodontist Until Adolescence?

Some parents may want to skip the early visit altogether, thinking that any existing problems can wait for correction until later on down the line. This is akin to waiting to fix that small leak in your roof until it’s a huge leak. The truth is, if there are issues from an early age, they will only get worse as your child grows.

Just as fixing a few shingles on your roof is easier than replacing the whole thing later, addressing orthodontic problems early on (if advised) is easier. The palate and the jaws are still growing around age seven which makes treatment easier. The lower jaw stops growing around the end of puberty, typically between 16-18 for boys and 13-15 for girls, and the upper jaw stops growing even earlier. If treatment commences once the palate and jaws are set in place, it won’t be as easy to get the desired results.

So what happens if you wait? For some families, it won’t matter – there are some children who wouldn’t have benefited from early intervention anyway. But for the children who could benefit, skipping an early appointment and delaying treatment could potentially result in longer, more invasive, and less effective treatment in the teen years

A New Back-to-School Activity

Since many orthodontic offices offer a free consultation (including ours!), you have nothing to lose by making an appointment at the orthodontist for your child. The odds are that they won’t need any treatment at all. And if they do, it’s best to address it early. Just consider it one more back-to-school activity.

Tips for An Athlete with Braces

Getting braces is a big deal and a big investment.  It changes what we can eat and how we take care of our teeth for a significant amount of time.  However, it doesn’t change everything! In fact, you’ll find you do everything you did before – just with an added level of care. Many of our patients are youth who are active and engaged in numerous extracurricular activities, including sports.

I understand how important these activities are; I grew up a sports-obsessed kid who desperately dreamed he was the Irish equivalent of local basketball hero Isiah Thomas. My daily wardrobe consisted of anything I had with Detroit Pistons on it. Sadly, my crossover dribble was not NBA caliber, and my basketball career ended with my high-school career. I went to college planning to become an athletic trainer and majored in exercise physiology. I wanted to be as close to sports as possible in my work. A friend talked me into trying out for the University of Michigan men’s volleyball team, and we were both shocked when I made the final spot on the roster without having had any organized volleyball experience. As it turns out, some basketball skills do cross over into volleyball! Over the next several seasons, I went on to become team captain and to garner all–Big Ten and all-region honors. Following college, my volleyball obsession headed me to the sand and the pro beach two-on-two sand volleyball circuit.

I personally know the importance of our passions, and I promise you there’s no reason to discontinue those activities while undergoing your orthodontic treatment!

Depending on the activity, different mouthguard options and levels of awareness may be required to protect your mouth and the appliances being used for your treatment.  Make sure you speak with us or your orthodontist about the sports you are engaged in so we can provide the kind of protection you need. Not consulting your orthodontist can result in the following:

  • Cuts to your tongue, lips and cheeks
  • Chipped or broken teeth – which can be a concern with or without braces!
  • Broken appliance pieces
  • Significant damage to teeth or the jaw
  • Concussions: mouthguards provide a shock absorber for blows to the face which prevents concussions.

While these injuries are uncommon, they are possible and completely preventable.  Work with your orthodontist to see about different mouthguard options that are available for you and the kind of sport you are engaged in.  Also, it’s important to understand that there is a difference between regular mouthguards and customized orthodontic mouthguards that are created to protect braces and other orthodontic appliances.  Together you can create a solution that is both comfortable and protects the investment being made for your future smile. Contact us today with any questions you may have!

How To Care For Your Braces On Summer Vacation

It’s summertime, which means a lot of the stresses and pressures of the school year are off! Sleeping in, going on trips, more treats…anything goes on summer vacation! While your schedule might be more relaxed, keeping up with essentials like your braces is crucial to your health and the success of your treatment. Remember what the end goal is of having your braces: a beautiful, straight, new smile. When you do what’s necessary to take care of them, regardless of whether you are on vacation or on a summer staycation, you’ll be rewarded with the smile you are waiting for. Here are some tips to help you care for your braces on summer vacation:

  • Don’t forget your toothbrush and floss – It’s easy to get out of certain routines throughout summer break and especially on trips, but it’s important that flossing and brushing stay consistent.  When you get out of these habits, it can be easy to continue putting them off; the result won’t be pretty. Avoid discoloration, plaque buildup, and other issues by being diligent about brushing and flossing.  Also, the more consistent you are, the easier it will be to clean and the less time it will take!
  • Keep your braces essentials with you – When you’re preparing to head out of town, don’t forget any extra essentials parts – like elastic bands, orthodontic wax, etc. – required for your particular appliance/care plan.  Consider getting a container that keeps all your care items and parts together so that it’s easy to grab and pack. Many drug store chains sell ‘braces survival kits’ which can be quite handy for pokey wires or out-of-town orthodontic breakage situations.
  • Think ahead about your meal options – Chances are you’ll have a lot of the same options that are available to you in your day-to-day diet and life.  However, it’s a good idea to consider where you are going and what foods are going to be easy to access – especially if you’re going to a new place with exotic foods you haven’t tried yet.  Use the same litmus test you use on your typically go-to’s: avoid sticky, hard, starchy foods and you’ll be just fine!
  • Check in with your orthodontist – You never know what kind of wisdom your orthodontist may have before you head out of town.  From tips and tricks to extra tools or resources that would be helpful for your trip away, consulting with your orthodontist about your plans is a great way to feel confident about caring about your braces while you’re gone.

Don’t let the care or presence of your braces get in the way of enjoying a great vacation; be prepared to take care of them just as you would while at home on a structured schedule. You’ll find it’s much easier than you think!

Tech That Can Improve Your Kids’ Teeth Brushing

Parents are always looking for ways to make toothbrush time more fun for the little ones. Fortunately, the digital age has brought along with it a number of fun gadgets, games, and apps to do just that. Here’s some tech that parents can check out if they’re looking to boost their tots’ motivation when it comes to oral hygiene. 


Fun, High-Tech Toothbrushes  

Brushes have come a long way. Here’s how some companies are finding ways to get little ones to brush for the recommended full 2 minutes, twice a day.  

The GUM Crayola Timer Light Toothbrushes (here) not only look like a giant crayon (fun!) but also flash for the whole 2 minutes’ brushing time. 

Is your child in love with all things Frozen? If so, the Oral-B Pro-Health electric toothbrush line featuring Elsa, Anna, Olaf, and Sven (here) should do the trick. There are also brushes featuring other popular characters from Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars. 

These brushes in the Oral-B Pro-Health Stages or JR. line are even more effective when used along with the Disney Magic Timer App (here), which keeps kids brushing for the full two minutes by slowly “brushing away” on screen to reveal images of their favorite characters and allowing kids to collect virtual stickers. 

“The world’s first interactive smart toothbrush” is how Grush (here) describes itself. This toothbrush knows which teeth your child is brushing and encourages them to brush all four quadrants. It helps them build good habits with their “magic toothbrush” while playing games through the connected app. (Other toothbrushes with a similar idea are being developed but haven’t hit the market yet. Keep an eye out for Playbrush and Kolibree.)  


There’s an App for That 

Plenty of apps for phones and tablets work independently of the toothbrush. Here are just a few. 

The free Toothsavers Brushing Game (here) app brings kids along the journey with Toothy and the Toothsavers to break a wicked spell cast by an evil sorceress that has left everyone in the kingdom with a mouth full of cavities. A parents’ section allows parents to keep track of their child’s progress.  

For older kids (and adults, too), Brush DJ (here) is a free, ultra simple app that plays 2 minutes of a song from your phone to keep you brushing. It also lets you set reminders on your phone to brush your teeth and get dental check-ups. 

Animal-loving kids will also love Chomper Chums Mobile App (here), which features animal pals who help kids brush and floss. Kids earn points to buy healthy food for their character. 


Alexa and Google Home 

Your virtual assistants can help your kids brush, too. Of course, the simplest thing to do is set a timer for two minutes, but where’s the fun in that? Here are tailor-made apps for tooth brushing tots to consider instead.

Enable the Chompers app (here) for Alexa and when it’s time to brush, just say “Alexa, start Chompers.” Songs, stories, and jokes keep kids brushing for the full two minutes.  

Another one for Alexa, Bye Bye Cavities (here) guides children to brush their entire mouths and at the end of each session, they get a new prize. 

For Google Home, try Tayo (here). Tayo the Little Bus helps kids get into good habits and uses music to stop little ones getting bored. 


Parents, Keep Looking for Solutions 

There are so many new specialty toothbrushes, apps, and games out there (many of them free, too), with the same purpose: make it easier to get kids to brush their teeth twice a day, every day, for two minutes. If you’ve tried several and still haven’t found one that “clicks” with your child yet, don’t give up! Keep looking for one that does. The goal is to help your children develop a lifelong brushing habit, and that can take a while. Just keep looking. 

Photo credit: Tom’s Guide

Flossing with Braces: Four Tools That Make Life Easier

In a previous blog post we looked at why flossing is so important for your oral and overall health. It’s always important to floss, but it’s especially for people with braces to floss to make sure they’re keeping their mouth free from food particles and plaque build-up.

Flossing with traditional braces is… challenging. Challenging, but not impossible! Although the wires mean you can’t use dental floss the way you did pre-braces, there are still ways to clean in between your teeth and at the gum line. To help you with this, here are four great tools that can help you in your dental hygiene routine.

Floss Threaders

Wires in traditional braces make normal flossing impossible, but floss threaders help. These little pieces of looped plastic allow you to insert floss in between each pair of teeth, one by one, so you can make contact with the inside edges of the teeth and get all the way up to the gum line. This is crucial for keeping gums healthy and for ridding bacteria from in between teeth. (They’re also useful later for the same reason if you’re fitted with a permanent retainer on the back of your upper or lower teeth after getting your braces off.)

Water Flossers

Water flossers do what regular floss does, just with water instead of fiber. They are electric, either battery operated or rechargeable, and use high water pressure and pulsation to dislodge food particles, plaque, and bacteria from in between teeth. Just like dental floss, water flossers are intended for daily use.

Air Flossers

Water flossers use water to clean between your teeth; guess what air flossers use. That’s right, air. One complaint about water flossers is how much water they use. Instead, these just use a very small amount of water to shoot high-pressure pulses of air in between teeth, removing plaque and debris in the process. Like water flossers, they are battery operated or come with a recharging station and should be used daily.

Interdental Brushes

Also called interproximal brushes or soft picks, these devices come in different sizes and typically feature a very small 360º brush at the end of a slim plastic handle. The very small brushes can get in between teeth to clean above and below the braces wire. They’re also great for cleaning the spaces between the wire and the tooth surface, as well as the brackets themselves. Some people use them daily in place of floss while others use them to clean as needed.

It’s About the Habit

Remember that it’s important to keep up good hygiene habits during orthodontic treatment. You don’t want to get your braces off only to find you have decay and gum inflammation that needs attention – that’s not part of the beautiful smile you’ve been dreaming about.

Flossing daily must be a habit, and it’s less important whether you use dental floss you got free from your last check-up or the latest, most expensive gadget. The only must is to do it daily, or you won’t get optimal results. In the end, it’s not about the tools you use, but the habit you have.

Flossing: Simple Task, Major Impact

Did you know that a little piece of string is powerful enough to save your teeth, and maybe even your life?

Sounds crazy, but it’s true. I’m talking, of course, about dental floss. Though we all know by now that we’re supposed to floss daily, many of us still skip this basic step in oral care, believing that brushing is enough.

If you’ve been lax in your flossing habits, read on. You’ll better understand how powerful this simple piece of white string can be to your oral health and your overall health.

Flossing Saves Your Teeth

Quick recap on how decay happens: Sugars from the things we eat and drink attach to the surfaces of the teeth. Bacteria present in the mouth feed on these sugars and produce an acid that erodes the surface of the tooth, which can lead to decay. If the decay becomes bad enough, this can lead to fillings, crowns, root canals, or even tooth extractions.

To prevent decay, we need to get rid of the bacteria’s meals – i.e., the leftover sugars and food particles. Brushing does a great job of removing them from the surfaces of the teeth, but only flossing gets in between the teeth, removing the plaque and food we can’t even see but are doing harm.

Flossing Keeps Your Gums Pink and Healthy

Bacteria building up between the teeth can start attacking the gums, too, causing inflammation. If you’ve ever stopped flossing for a while and noticed puffy gums, red gums or light bleeding when you started flossing again, then you’ve experienced this yourself. Fortunately, the bleeding usually stops on its own after a few days of flossing, and the gums return to their healthy, pink selves.

When gums are ignored, it can lead to gum inflammation (gingivitis) and gum disease (periodontitis). Left long enough, gum disease can leave the gums in a state that can only be fixed with invasive procedures like gum grafts or bone surgery.

Flossing Can Help Your Whole Body Health (And May Extend Your Life)

The benefits of flossing go beyond healthy gums and teeth. As an important part of the defense system in the mouth, healthy gums keep foreign invaders out of the rest of our system. When diseased, gums can allow in harmful pathogens that can wreak havoc on our insides. These may cause acute infections or contribute to systemic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, bacterial pneumonia, and diabetes, all of which gum disease is associated with.

Other research has found a link between gum disease and death, showing that people with periodontal disease have higher rates of mortality, particularly when combined with other oral health hygiene problems.

Flossing is Especially Important for Pregnant Women

Periodontitis in pregnant women is associated with pre-term birth and low birth weight, both of which come with their own set of complications for the baby’s short-term and long-term health. Since fluctuating hormones during pregnancy can cause more gum problems in the first place, it’s vital for pregnant women to keep up (or start) a good flossing habit.

Floss Every Day

As you can see, flossing is about more than keeping your teeth looking good. It’s one of the simplest, cheapest, and quickest things you can do that has a disproportionately large impact on your overall health. If you’ve been skipping the floss recently, get back into the habit. Your health will thank you.