Our Blog

Prevent Tooth Decay With Braces

July 11th, 2018

When you start wearing braces, it can become a challenge to clean certain areas of your mouth. If these areas are neglected for long periods of time, though, decay and stains can form on your teeth.

Your mouth will require extra attention while you have your braces on. This can include using a special toothbrush to reach those spots, flossing every day, getting fluoride treatments, avoiding certain foods, and making sure to visit your dentist. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to prevent decay during treatment.

When you get your braces on, Dr. Kathryn Swan will give you an interdental toothbrush that can be used to get to those hard-to-reach spots in your mouth. The brush has bristles that can easily remove food residue stuck between the wires in your mouth. We may also suggest using a WaterPik, which pulses a pressurized stream of water to remove excess food particles.

Brushing and flossing every day should always be a part of your oral health regimen, but this becomes especially crucial when you have braces. If food gets stuck between braces and sits on your teeth, decay and staining will start to occur. Dr. Kathryn Swan and our team recommend flossing at least once a day, and brushing and using mouthwash after every meal as long as you have braces.

If you don’t have the time, make sure at least to swish your mouth really well with water after you eat. It’s especially important to follow these steps after consuming sugary foods or beverages. It’s best to avoid sweets altogether when you have braces.

Making sure to visit your dentist at least twice a year for a routine cleaning can also help to prevent any decay from damaging your teeth while your teeth are encased in braces. Your dentist will remove any plaque or tartar that’s built up since your last cleaning.

Prevention is key when it comes to keeping your mouth healthy during orthodontic care with braces. Follow these tips and you’ll keep your teeth beautiful and healthy for the day your new smile is finally revealed!

Getting to the Bottom of Chewing Gum Myths

July 4th, 2018

It's a moment many of our patients have experienced. One second you're chewing on a piece of gum, then suddenly you forget to keep chewing and swallow the entire rubbery gob whole! It's at this point you remember your mother warning you as a child that if you swallow gum it will stake a claim and take up residency in your belly for seven years. Dr. Kathryn Swan and our team at Swan Orthodontics hate to take all the fun out of the mystery, but the truth is that chewing gum, when swallowed, will enter your stomach and move through your digestive system just like any other piece of food. So, if you ever accidentally swallow a piece of gum, there is no need to worry!

That being said, it's important to know that gum does not have any dietary benefits, so while it’s not exactly harmful to swallow, you still want to avoid swallowing it. If you are an avid gum-chewer, we encourage you to chew sugarless gum, especially if you are wearing braces, because gum with sugar can lead to cavities. Sugarless gum still has the same amount of flavor, but has fewer cavity-causing ingredients. In fact, many brands contain an additive called xylitol, a natural sweetener known to fight cavity-causing bacteria. Xylitol is also known to increase salivary flow as it rinses away plaque and acid.

The fact is, when the bacterium in your mouth breaks down sugar, what’s left behind is acid. This acid eats away at the enamel coating of your teeth, causing holes that we call cavities. Cavities can lead to other long-term mouth problems if they are not treated in time, so it is best to try and avoid overexposing your teeth to too many harmful substances!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, please contact our office. Happy (sugar-free) gum chewing!

Treatment Options for TMD

June 27th, 2018

Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) refers to a diverse range of disorders that relate to muscular function in the jaw and face — the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). That could mean difficulty opening your mouth, pain in the jaw or face, or any sort of problem with the jaw joint.

TMD can be difficult to diagnose because of the varied causes. Whatever the case, an accurate diagnosis from Dr. Kathryn Swan helps make treatment as successful as possible.

Most often, jaw problems will resolve themselves within several weeks or months. Surgeries like arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery should be a last resort. More conservative and reversible treatments should come first and are in fact the most critical step in the treatment of TMD.

Less invasive treatments like acupuncture and splints can be helpful, but that will depend on your particular case. It’s worth your while to speak with Dr. Kathryn Swan at our Grand Rapids, MI office to learn about solutions that could work for you.

A combination of treatments will most often produce the greatest relief for TMJ patients. It’s a good idea to avoid activities that overuse the jaws, such as chewing gum or clenching your jaws.

You can be proactive in finding relief for TMD by trying the following remedies at home:

  • Eat soft food: When you eat soft and/or blended food, your jaw gets an opportunity to rest. Avoid chewy and crunchy food, and food that requires you to open your mouth wide, like apples or corn on the cob.
  • Apply moist heat: A hot water bottle wrapped in a moist towel can help reduce symptoms.
  • Apply ice: Applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or towel for no longer than 15 minutes may also reduce pain and promote healing.
  • Do jaw exercises: A physical therapist can help identify the exercises that will work for you. Jaw exercises have been shown to be an effective treatment method that can be performed at home.
  • Relaxation: Actively try to relax the muscles of the face and lips, and let your teeth come apart. Many find meditation, yoga, and slow, deep breathing to be helpful for reducing stress and tension.
  • Avoid wide yawns: Keep your fist under your jaw when you feel a yawn coming on, to keep your jaw from opening too widely.

When should I floss during the day?

June 20th, 2018

A vital step in your oral health routine is flossing. We hope our patients at Swan Orthodontics maintain good oral hygiene, including daily flossing between each visit to our Grand Rapids, MI office. A toothbrush is not always enough to get to the hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. When food remains between your teeth, bacteria starts to grow and will break down your enamel. This is where flossing comes in!

Should you floss before or after brushing?

Whatever your personal preference, you may floss before or after you brush your teeth. When you floss first, you can brush away any leftover dislodged food debris from your teeth. On the other hand, when you brush first, you will loosen the plaque between your teeth, which makes flossing more effective.

The essential aspect is that you floss thoroughly by using a fresh strand of floss and make sure to get between every tooth. Even if your teeth look and feel clean, don’t skip flossing or plaque will begin to build up on your teeth.

When is the best time to floss?

Although you should brush your teeth at least twice a day, Dr. Kathryn Swan and our team recommend flossing your teeth thoroughly once a day. Many people prefer to floss before bed, so that plaque doesn’t sit between their teeth all night.

What kind of floss should I use?

You may choose between interdental cleaning picks or flexible floss strands to perform your daily flossing routine. If you have permanent oral appliances or restorations, be sure to follow the flossing instructions provided to you.

Do you need help flossing?

If you’re having trouble flossing or have questions about which floss is best for your teeth, contact our Grand Rapids, MI office and we can provide you with support. Be sure to keep up with your daily flossing routine, and we will see you at your next appointment!

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