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How NOT to Forget Your Retainer

January 12th, 2022

The alarm sounds in the morning, you wake up and realize "I forgot to wear my retainer!"

If this only happened once, don't panic. Missing one night with a retainer is unlikely to cause significant teeth movement. However, if it has happened often, give our Chicago, IL office a call to make sure your teeth haven’t shifted position.

Here are some tips from Drs. Adrienne Barnes, David N. Maclin & Naana Mensah to help you remember your retainer:

1. Write down the instructions we give you for wearing the retainer, whether you should wear it all day or at night, or just a few times a week. Writing things out like this helps set the schedule in your memory.

2. Clean the retainer when you take it out each time. If you don’t you may not have time when you’re rushing to get to work or school to clean it properly and may be tempted not to wear it.

3. Put a note on your mirror or in your purse or wallet reminding you to wear your retainer.

4. Set an alarm on your mobile phone to remind you when it’s time to put the retainer in. If you have email with a calendar you can set up daily reminders, too.

5. Always put the retainer in its case when you take it out to eat or sleep. You’ll reduce your risk for losing it or accidentally throwing it away.

6. If you don’t have to wear the retainer every day, you can use some recurring events to help you remember. With this system for example, watching your favorite weekly TV show, laundry day, or family pizza night can all serve as reminders that you should put in your retainer.

7. Don’t be shy about asking for help if you’re forgetful. Assure your spouse, parents, siblings, or roommates that you won’t consider if nagging if they remind you to wear your retainer.

8. Surf online for examples of how teeth can shift when retainers are not properly used. Those stories can serve as timely warning not to let the same thing happen to you!

Remember, you can always call our Chicago, IL office if you feel your retainer is uncomfortable or painful. We'll work with you to protect your smile!

New Year’s Resolutions—Counting Down to a Beautiful Smile

January 5th, 2022

Traditionally, January is a great time to choose some bad habits you’d like to lose, and some good habits you’d like to develop. If one of your goals this year is to help make your orthodontic treatment as efficient and successful as possible, we have the perfect resolutions for your New Year.

  • Brush after every meal

If you’ve grown up brushing for two minutes twice each day and flossing regularly, you have been doing everything right! But now that you have braces or aligners, you should plan on brushing after every meal and each snack.

Food particles can stick to wires and brackets, which is nothing to smile about. Worse, plaque can be easy to miss around your braces, which can lead to enamel erosion and possible cavities. Brushing after eating is the best way to eliminate food particles and plaque from braces and enamel, but if you can’t brush, be sure to rinse well with water.

Patients with aligners benefit from brushing, too, to keep food particles and sugary or acidic beverages from remaining trapped around the teeth after the aligners are replaced. If you absolutely can’t brush, remember to rinse carefully with water after eating and drinking and before replacing your aligners.

  • Watch your diet

Changes to our diets are probably one of the most common resolutions, so it’s no surprise we have recommendations for your dental diet. Drs. Adrienne Barnes, David N. Maclin & Naana Mensah and our team are happy to provide you with a comprehensive list of the foods that can harm your wires and brackets, or which are especially difficult to keep from sticking to your appliance and enamel. No tempting caramels or buttery ears of corn are worth damage to your braces! Follow the guidelines for braces-friendly foods, and you’ll help keep your treatment problem-free and on track.

  • Do your part

Wearing braces or aligners can require some interactive work on your part. If you are supposed to wear your aligners for 22 hours a day, be sure to follow those instructions to keep your treatment plan on schedule. If you have bands that you need to wear with your traditional braces to help correct your bite, wear them as directed. And never try to make up for lost time by doubling your bands—this can actually be harmful to your teeth.

If we can help demonstrate or explain anything you need to do at home, don’t be afraid to ask!

  • Keep your retainer case handy

When you finish orthodontic treatment, you will probably have a retainer to help your teeth maintain their new, healthy alignment. Keep your retainer healthy by making sure to use your case whenever you’re not wearing it. Bent, broken, or lost retainers should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible to avoid changes in that smile you’ve worked so hard for.

  • Keep your appointments

The more you stay on schedule, the faster you will achieve your ideal smile. And if you have a problem between appointments, call our Chicago, IL office! Broken braces and aligners aren’t effective and can delay your progress, so let us know if you think you might need to see us earlier than scheduled. Finally, don’t forget your regular exams and cleanings at your dentist’s office.

Traditionally, the beginning of the year is a great time to choose some bad habits you’d like to lose, and some good habits you’d like to develop. But you needn’t wait for that New Year’s Eve countdown clock.  Adopting these orthodontic resolutions at any time of year will keep you on track for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.

New Year's (Orthodontic) Resolutions

December 29th, 2021

Why are New Year’s resolutions so often negative? A depressing reminder of things-you-should-be-doing-but aren’t. A new set of rules-that-must-be-obeyed. A nagging list of changes you should make right this very . . .  

No! That’s no way to start the year! Let’s make your resolutions for the New Year a positive, proactive guide to help you achieve your goals for the next 12 months. And high on that list? Creating a beautiful, healthy smile.

If you are working with Drs. Adrienne Barnes, David N. Maclin & Naana Mensah to improve the alignment of your teeth and bite, here are some easy, affirmative resolutions to make sure your treatment stays on track.

  • Be Healthy

Brushing is always important. That’s why we recommend brushing at least twice a day, at least two minutes each time. But when you wear braces or aligners, brushing regularly is even more important.

After every meal and every snack, food particles collect around brackets and wires. If you wear aligners, food particles on and between the teeth can end up trapped there.

No one wants more opportunities for cavities to develop, so follow our advice on brushing and flossing around your braces whenever you eat a meal or snack, and be sure to clean your teeth before replacing your aligners.

  • Be Thorough

Brushing carefully is important not just for preventing cavities, but for a brighter smile. And while you want a whiter smile, what you don’t want is white spots on your teeth. These discolored spots are caused by decalcification. What’s decalcification, you ask?

Bacteria and plaque stick to our teeth, and, when not brushed or flossed away, produce acids which eat away at minerals in our enamel. In places where minerals such as calcium and phosphorus leach out of the enamel, a white spot on the tooth appears. Left untreated, these weakened areas can develop into cavities.

Avoid having to deal with this discoloration when your braces or aligners are removed by careful brushing and regular professional cleaning.

  • Be Safe

If you play sports or live an active life, you might already be using a mouthguard. Good for you! Mouthguards have prevented countless injuries. Now that you have braces, talk to Drs. Adrienne Barnes, David N. Maclin & Naana Mensah about whether a custom mouthguard is a good idea.

  • Be Responsible

If you have braces, brackets and wires can come loose. You can reduce the chances of that happening by following our instructions on what and what not to eat, and by brushing thoroughly-but-gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush.

If you have aligners, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for caring for them. Exposing them to heat, or eating with your aligners in, or not keeping them in their case when you’re not wearing them, can cause warping or breakage.

If you have a retainer, always make sure it’s in its case when it’s not in your mouth.

  • Be Adaptable

When you visit our Chicago, IL office, ask us about better brushing tools and techniques, so once your braces or aligners come off, you’ll have a bright, beautiful, healthy smile as the reward for all your hard work.

  • Be Finished!

Drs. Adrienne Barnes, David N. Maclin & Naana Mensah will give you precise instructions on when and how long to wear your bands or your aligners. Failing to put in the hours now means that you will have to spend more time in treatment later. And, of course, make sure you keep all your orthodontic appointments.

Resolving to follow our advice can bring you a healthier, happier smile before you know it. Positive goals lead to positive results, so let this be the year that your proactive resolutions lead to a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Braces-Friendly Snack Ideas

December 22nd, 2021

Wearing braces limits some of the snacks you can eat. However, you still have plenty of choices for fun and healthy foods that will not harm your braces. You can even enjoy a few crunchy treats as long as you choose them carefully.

Sweet Treats

Puddings provide a sweet and safe snack while you are wearing braces. You can even select flavored puddings such as caramel to satisfy the urge for items you should not eat. They can be purchased already made or whipped up at home. You can even select low-sugar varieties that still taste good. Ice cream and yogurt are also choices; just avoid products with nuts.

Healthy Snacks

Fruits are excellent for a healthy snack. You just need to avoid biting into hard fruits such as whole apples. You can avoid the problem with fruit cocktails packed in water. Cocktails still have the nutritional benefits and flavor, but contain softer pieces. Avoid fruits packed in heavy syrup, though; these tend to have too much sugar.

Crunchy or Salty Snacks

Not all crunchy foods are bad; you just need to limit the crunch. Walnuts are a softer nut that can normally be eaten safely. Small cheese crackers satisfy the need for crunchy and salty. You can also allow pieces to dissolve slightly in your mouth before chewing, to reduce any risk.

Soft granola bars are also an option. Check the granola ingredients to ensure there are no large nut pieces, and brush your teeth afterwards. Otherwise pieces can become stuck in your dental work.

If you have any questions about safe snacks, do not hesitate to ask Drs. Adrienne Barnes, David N. Maclin & Naana Mensah and our staff.

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