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Awesome Archwires

July 3rd, 2019

When we think braces, we can’t help but think of the brackets on each tooth and the colorful ligature bands that surround them. But actually, the whole point of those brackets and bands is to hold the archwire in place as it gradually moves your teeth to create a better bite and a straighter smile. Let’s learn more about this talented part of your braces!

  • Wire We Wearing These, Anyway?

Archwires use gentle, continuous pressure to move your teeth into alignment. That sounds simple, but there is actually a lot going on. Teeth often need more than realigning. Some teeth need to be turned a bit, some tilted. Your teeth need to be better aligned with those next to them, of course, but also need to fit properly with the teeth above or below them. You might have a malocclusion, or bad bite.

How can one wire handle all that? Well, it can’t. That’s why there are different types of wire. We often use thinner, flexible wires at the beginning of treatment, to put gentle pressure on the teeth as they start their movement. Other wires are firmer, and can be helpful in later phases, when each tooth is carefully moved to its specific, ideal spot. Archwires can be round or rectangular, thicker or thinner, springy or stiff, remember their shape or be bendable—all depending on what they need to do.

Whew! This sounds confusing, but Dr. Daniel Ma and our team are archwire experts! At every adjustment appointment, we check on the progress of your alignment and choose the exact wire you need to take you to the next stage of your orthodontic journey.

  • Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Wire

Now that you have braces, it’s more challenging to make sure that your teeth are clean after eating. We’ll give you advice on how to get rid of the pesky food particles that sometimes get stuck in your braces. First, that’s absolutely not the look you’re going for. But, more than that, bacteria can use these “leftovers” as fuel to create the acids that damage your enamel and cause cavities.

There’s a whole new world of dental products out there waiting to help get your braces clean. Special toothbrush heads work in the spaces between your teeth and the archwire. There are floss threaders that can get dental floss into tight places, and flosses with one stiff end you can guide under the wire so you can direct the floss to where it’s needed. There are even tiny cone-shaped brushes called “interproximal brushes” that can fit under your wires to clean around your brackets and teeth.

Take a care kit to school or work with you so you can keep the tooth surface under your wires and around your brackets free of plaque. After all the hard work you’ve put in with your braces, the last thing you want is cavities once you’ve achieved your beautiful smile!

  • Down to the Wire

We said archwires were awesome, but we didn’t say they were perfect! We couldn’t leave without suggestions for handling any wire-related problems that might come up.

One of the most common problems is the irritation caused by the end of a wire that has somehow come loose. You might be able to use a cotton swab to gently push the wire flat against the tooth. If that doesn’t work, orthodontic wax can be used to cover the end of the problem wire and smoothed into place. We’ll provide you with instructions on how to handle these and other minor wire problems at home. 

Other problems should be run past us first. If you feel your wire is coming loose, or if a loose end is causing a lot of pain and irritation, call our Vancouver, BC office. We’ll give you instructions on how to help, and make an appointment if necessary for a professional fix.

In fact, call us anytime you have questions about your braces. We’re here to help you understand each phase of the orthodontic process as you move step by step on the path to a healthy bite and a beautiful smile. And what’s more awesome than that?

The Truth about TMJ

June 26th, 2019

TMJ is the quick way of referring to your Temporomandibular Joint. Pardon the pun, but that’s quite a mouthful! What is this joint, what does it do, and, if your Dr. Daniel Ma and our team have told you that you have a TMJ disorder, what can we do to help?

The Temporomandibular Joint

Your two temporomandibular joints are amazing works of anatomical design. These are the joints where the temporal bone in the skull meets the mandible bone of the jaw, and allow our mouths to open and close, move back and forth, and slide from side to side. Muscle, bone, and cartilage work together to provide easy movement and to cushion the joint. But sometimes, the joint doesn’t work as smoothly as it should, and this can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.

When Should You Suspect You Have TMD?

You might have TMD if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Painful chewing
  • Pain around your TMJ, or in your face or neck
  • Earaches
  • Changes in your bite
  • Jaws that are limited in movement or lock open or shut
  • Clicking, popping or grating noises when you open and shut your jaw

There are many conditions linked to TMD. If you grind your teeth at night, have arthritis in the jaw, have suffered an injury or infection in the area, or have problems with your bite, for example, you might be more likely to have TMJ problems. If you suspect you have TMD, or suffer from any of the symptoms listed above for an extended period, give us a call.

Treating TMD

During your visit to our Vancouver, BC office, we will check your medical history, and examine your head and neck. We can take an X-ray or scan if needed for further examination of the joint. Because there is no real scientific agreement yet about the best way to treat TMJ disorders, a conservative treatment plan is often best. If you do show signs of TMD, we might first suggest relaxation techniques, over-the-counter pain relievers, or the use of ice packs or moist heat compresses. A change to a softer diet can help, and you should stop chewing gum and making any exaggerated jaw movements.

If these self-care practices aren’t effective, we might suggest a nightguard. This appliance is a comfortable and flexible mouthguard custom fitted for you, and will bring relief from teeth grinding when worn at night. If this treatment is not effective, talk to us about other options.

Luckily, most cases of TMD are temporary and don’t become worse over time. But any persistent discomfort is a good reason to visit us. Whether you have TMD, or any other problem causing you pain in the head or jaw, we want to help.

Helpful Retainer Habits

June 19th, 2019

We’ve probably all seen that unhappy kid or frazzled parent sifting through trash for a lost retainer. If we’re really unlucky, we might have been that unhappy kid or frazzled parent sifting through the unpleasant remains of third period lunch hour. But getting tossed isn’t the only risk these appliances face. Read on for ways to keep your retainer (and your parent!) happy.

  • Keep Your Retainer With You

Always carry a retainer case. If you automatically put your retainer in its case when you’re eating, you are much more likely to remember it then if it has been wrapped up in a napkin on your lunch tray. And, if the worst happens, much more likely to recover it in one piece.

Choose the brightest colored case you can live with, so you will have an easier time locating it if need be, and discuss how to label the case to get it back safely to you--just in case.

  • Keep Your Retainer Intact

You might think if you put your retainer in your backpack, or purse, or saxophone case, or athletic bag, it will be safe. It will not. Retainers are designed to be tough enough for everyday wear, but being tossed on the floor while inside a backpack is not everyday wear. Always put your retainer back in its (brightly colored) case before packing it away.

Retainers can warp if they are exposed to heat, so keep them away from potential heat sources like stoves, microwaves, and washers and dryers. Even your car dashboard can become hot enough to warp your retainer. And never use boiling water to clean them.

Finally, your dog might find your retainer to be the #bestchewtoyever, so be sure to put it in a spot pets can’t reach when you’re not wearing it.

  • Keep Your Retainer Clean

Just like plaque can build up on your teeth, minerals and calcium can build up on your retainer. Different types of retainers require different cleaning methods, so talk to Dr. Daniel Ma about how to keep your retainer clean and bacteria-free. We will be happy to give you instructions on the best way to take care of your particular appliance. And don’t forget to clean your case regularly!

Accidents will happen, of course. If your retainer is lost or damaged, call our Vancouver, BC office as soon as possible. We might be able to fix minor damage, and, if needed, we can replace a lost retainer quickly.

Your time in braces is over, but your teeth are still stabilizing in their new, healthy positions. Wearing your retainer regularly is the final step in producing the beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard for. Keep your retainer clean, keep it safe, and keep it with you, and you can enjoy that smile now and for years to come!

Fantastic Elastics

June 12th, 2019

If you already wear traditional braces, you know all about these helpful little rubber rings. But if you are new to the world of braces, you might like to know just what kind of elastics are available and what they can do for you.

  • Ligatures: Alignment Assistance

When you get your braces, the brackets you’ve chosen will be bonded to your teeth. Once they are attached securely, an arch wire will be threaded through the brackets to provide consistent gentle pressure, moving your teeth into their best positions. But what holds that wire in place? This is where those tiny, colorful bands, called ligatures, come in. Fit snugly around the wire and the bracket, they keep the wire where it needs to be to move your teeth to a better alignment.

There are also ligatures call “c-chain ligatures,” or “power chains.” These tiny ligature bands are connected to each other, and fit across the brackets in one long strip. This design lets them not only hold your wires in place, but help move your teeth closer together at the same time. They come in a variety of sizes depending on the spacing of your teeth, and might be worn weeks or months as needed.

One thing to remember is that while ligatures are essential, they are not permanent! Every time you have your wires tightened or replaced, you can make this an opportunity to express your personality through your choice of bands. There is a wide variety of color choices available, so take advantage of it!

Show your school spirit by displaying your high school’s colors. Go orange and black for Halloween. Match your ligature tones to your go-to clothing colors. Or, go monochromatic. Match grey or silver bands to your brackets, or choose white or clear bands if you have ceramic brackets. (One word of caution—light colored ligatures can pick up stains from dark foods and drinks. On the other hand, they won’t be around that long!)

  • Rubber Bands: Building Better Bites

While ligatures are the colorful attention-getters in the elastics world, there are other bands that do very important work. When you have a malocclusion, or bad bite, your upper and lower jaws don’t fit together perfectly. We use rubber bands to align your bite correctly and carefully move it into the proper position. This is accomplished by attaching bands to tiny hooks on specially chosen brackets on the upper and lower teeth. The bands usually connect an upper bracket to a lower one, and are specifically placed to correct your unique bite problem.

If you need this type of elastic, you will play a very important part in making your orthodontic treatment work. You will probably need to wear your bands 24 hours a day, removing them only for brushing and flossing. (Talk to us about how to work with your bands when you are eating, playing an instrument, or wearing a mouthguard.) And they need to be replaced several times a day, which is where you come in.

Even if the bands look perfect, after hours of work, they lose the tightness needed to keep moving your teeth to their best position. Bands that are too loose won’t be as effective. On the other hand, doubling the bands is a bad idea because that might apply too much force. Bands come in a variety of sizes and strengths, and yours have been chosen for this specific phase of your treatment. Keep calm, keep to a schedule, and keep a supply of bands on hand in case one breaks, and everything will work out.

If this sounds like a lot of confusing information, don’t worry! Dr. Daniel Ma will supply you with the right bands for your treatment, clear instructions on where and how to place them, and practice time for putting them in. You’ll probably need a mirror at first, but you’ll become an expert in no time.

If you ever have questions we can help you with, contact our Vancouver, BC office immediately. We are here to guide you through the process and help you with any problems you might have. Wearing your bands consistently and correctly will help you achieve your beautiful smile in the shortest time possible. And that’s an accomplishment that is truly fantastic!

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