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Five Clues That It’s Time to Replace Your Toothbrush

May 6th, 2020

Your dashboard lights up when your car needs an oil change. Your family smoke detector beeps when you need to switch out the batteries. But when it’s time to replace your toothbrush, you’re on your own. Luckily, there are several not-too-subtle clues that you should be shopping for a new model.

  • Fraying

Is your toothbrush looking a bit scruffy? Do those once orderly bristles look like they have the toothbrush equivalent of bed head? Have some bristles vanished altogether? Time to retire that toothbrush. Once the bristles are frayed, you just can’t reach plaque as effectively, especially where it likes to hide between the teeth.

Are you prematurely fraying? You could be brushing too hard. Overbrushing can injure delicate gum tissue, cause wear and tear to tooth enamel, and even damage your braces. If you find your brush fraying after only a few weeks of use, you might be using too much force. Remember, plaque is a sticky film, but it’s a soft sticky film. Ask us for advice on just how hard you need—or don’t need—to brush.

  • Odor

This one really goes without saying—no one wants an aromatic toothbrush! How to make sure your toothbrush is fresh and clean?

Always rinse carefully after you brush. This will get rid of any toothpaste, bits of food, or other particles left on your brush.

Let your toothbrush air dry. It might seem more hygienic to keep your brush covered in a bathroom setting, but a closed, moist container is a perfect breeding ground for germs. Don’t let them make a home in your bristles!

  • Illness

A cold or a bacterial infection (like strep throat) is no fun. But now that you’re feeling better, it might be time to throw out your toothbrush. The chances of re-infection are very low, unless your immune system is compromised, but this is a perfect opportunity to replace your brush with a fresh, germ-free model.

And if you share your toothbrush, or if you store it right next to a family member’s (which you really shouldn’t do, for this very reason), germs get shared, too. Quarantine your brush while you’re ill, and replace it once you’re out and about.

  • Discomfort

Bigger isn’t necessarily better. A brush with a head that’s too big won’t allow you to get into those small spaces in your mouth where plaque likes to collect. And when you are trying to clean around brackets and wires, a regular brush might be a problem. Ask Dr. Ryan Hinckley for suggestions for the best tools for clean and comfortable brushing.

Also, harder doesn’t mean more effective. A brush with hard bristles can cause damage to your gums and enamel. We almost always recommend soft-bristled brushes for this every reason.

There are so many styles of brush out there, you’re bound to find the perfect fit with a little trial and error. Or ask us for suggestions the next time you’re at our Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Center, Crockett, TX office for an adjustment!

  • You’ve Passed the “Best By” Date

Because of its durable construction, your toothbrush can last a long, long time. But no matter how comfortable and effective your toothbrush is right now, it was never meant to go through life with you. Bristles break down over a period of a few months, and just don’t clean as effectively. Your brush should be changed every three months, and this includes changing the head on your electric toothbrush. And because you wear braces, you’re brushing more often, so that three month lifespan might be stretching it.

Unfortunately, you don’t have a flashing light or annoying beep to remind you when it’s time to change brushes, so you’ll have to devise your own reminders. Reminder apps, calendar notes, the first day of a new season—use whatever works best for you. 

Don’t ignore the clues your toothbrush is leaving you. Replacing your brush whenever it’s necessary helps guarantee that the time you spend cleaning your teeth and gums will lead to confident, healthy smiles. Case closed!

Tips to Keep Braces Clean

April 29th, 2020

Orthodontic technology changes and improves all the time. Today’s braces are lighter, smaller, and more efficient than those of past years. Wires are thinner and more flexible. Even brackets come in different styles and colors. These developments are all great news for braces wearers. Unfortunately, there is one advancement we haven’t been able to offer: self-cleaning braces.

Brackets and wires can both trap food particles and make brushing them away more difficult. This can lead to increased plaque, cavities, and staining around the area of your braces. But with the proper supplies and habits, keeping your braces clean will become routine in no time.

Braces-healthy Supplies

  • Toothbrush

Your old toothbrush might work well enough with some brushing adjustments. We can show you how to angle your brush so it works most effectively, and how to make sure the bristles clean around your braces. Or, if you like, there are actually manual toothbrushes designed just for braces. These have V-shaped bristles to make cleaning around the brackets easier. Some people find an electric toothbrush works best. Whichever type of brush you use, be sure you use it often!

  • Floss

Again, if regular floss works for you, stay with your normal products. If you are finding it difficult to get into the narrow spaces around your braces, there are floss threaders to get the floss into tight spaces, and flosses specially designed to work with braces.

  • Interproximal brush

A big name for a tiny brush! These little cone-shaped brushes can clean around your brackets and under your wires—a great way to reach parts of your teeth your regular brush can’t.

Braces-healthy Habits

  • Brush after every meal and sugary drink

Because food particles tend to stick to your braces, and the bacteria in plaque feed on these particles, your enamel is under attack without thorough cleaning after meals. Take a toothbrush and supplies with you to school or work so that you can always brush after eating. If there is absolutely no way to brush, be sure to rinse immediately with water.

  • Brush carefully

Pay attention to each tooth, the area around your braces, and your gum line. And don’t forget the tops and inside of your teeth! A common suggestion for braces wearers is to devote at least ten seconds to each tooth. We might also recommend a special mouthwash to reduce bacteria and help keep your mouth and breath fresh.

  • Brush on the go

Put together a cleaning kit for when you are out of the house. A brush, some floss, and toothpaste in a handy container will let you brush whenever you need to, wherever you may be. Leave it in your backpack or bag, and you’re ready for anything!

  • Watch your diet

Foods that stick to teeth will stick to braces, so avoid caramels, licorice, chewy candies, and any other sticky treats. Why make your life more difficult?

While braces can make brushing and flossing more complicated, you can still keep your teeth clean, bright, and cavity-free. And remember, regular dental exams and professional cleanings are more important than ever during this time. At your next visit to our Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Center, Crockett, TX office, talk to Dr. Ryan Hinckley about the best products and practices for the cleanest possible teeth and braces. We have plenty of ideas to help make sure you’ll have the healthy, beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard for when those braces come off!

Planning Your Vegetarian Diet with Your Oral Health in Mind

April 22nd, 2020

If you’ve been following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you know that there’s much more to living a healthy life than simply avoiding meat products. Making sure your diet includes enough protein, as well as any nutrients that are primarily available in animal products, takes planning, and there’s no one-menu-fits-all solution.

Why? Because there’s no one menu that will suit all vegetarians. Specific vegetarian diets can allow for many different options:

  • Vegan—a plant-based diet which excludes meat, fish, dairy, and egg products
  • Ovo-vegetarian—includes eggs as a dietary option, but no dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian— includes dairy as a dietary option, but no eggs
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian—a meat-free diet which allows both dairy products and eggs

If you are a pescatarian, who eats fish on occasion, or a flexitarian, who sometimes includes meat in a meal, your menu options are even broader.

So let’s look at the big picture—a healthy vegetarian diet is really more concerned with the foods you do eat for nutrition rather than the foods you don’t. You can create a meal plan rich in all your essential nutrients with a little research, no matter which type of vegetarian diet is your go-to choice.

And while you’re constructing your ideal menu guidelines, don’t forget about your dental nutrition!

In terms of keeping your teeth and gums their healthiest, what important vitamins and minerals are often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets? Let’s look at three of them.

  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and tooth enamel. Without enough calcium, a weakened jawbone leads to loose, and even lost, teeth. The acids in our food and the acids created by oral bacteria also weaken the minerals in enamel, including calcium. These weak spots can eventually become cavities. A diet rich in calcium not only supports the bones holding our teeth, but can even help repair, or remineralize, enamel which has been weakened by acidic erosion.

For vegetarians who include dairy in their diets, dairy products are a great way to include calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are traditional and rich sources of this mineral.

For vegans, it’s a bit more challenging, but still doable! Non-dairy foods providing calcium include dark green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), certain types of tofu, and fortified cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks.

  • Vitamin D

Now you’re ready to put that calcium to work by making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D not only helps keep our bones healthy, it also enables our bodies to absorb calcium. Bonus—it’s been linked to better gum health in several studies.

So how to get more vitamin D? If you eat dairy, most dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D. If eggs are a part of your diet, egg yolks are a great source. Pescatarians can enjoy the benefits of vitamin D from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.

Because we get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure or foods derived from animals, plant-based foods are not a practical way to obtain the vitamin D you need. But, just as non-vegetarians can get plentiful vitamin D from fortified dairy products, vegans also have options. Try adding cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks fortified with this essential nutrient to your diet, or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red blood cells, nerve cell development, brain function, and DNA production. (This is why it’s especially important for pregnant and nursing women.) Vitamin B12 can also impact your oral health. A B12 deficiency can cause a swollen, sore, or inflamed tongue, loss of taste, and gum, tongue, and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and nutritional yeasts. If you would prefer an egg-free and dairy-free diet, look to B12 supplements or B12-fortified cereals, plant-based milks, energy bars, and other vegan options. This is a good subject to discuss with your physician, because even supplements and fortified foods might not provide enough B12.

In fact, Dr. Ryan Hinckley can be vital resources when you’re planning your healthiest vegetarian diet. The next time you visit our Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Center, Crockett, TX office, ask for recommendations for supplements if you’re concerned that diet alone can’t provide for all of your nutrition essentials. Finally, care should be taken to ensure that, even with supplements, you get the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.

As a vegetarian, you are used to the concept of care. Whether it was concern for nutrition, the planet, the animal world, or another reason that drew you to a vegetarian diet, be sure to care for your body as well as your dietary choices. Careful planning can ensure a diet which supports not only your general health, but your oral health, for a lifetime of nourishing—and well-nourished—smiles.

Five “Don’ts” When You Wear Aligners

April 15th, 2020

Choosing clear aligners was a great decision on your part! Straight teeth and a healthy bite? Subtle, almost invisible aligners? 3D technology custom-designed just for you? All the positives we’ve come to expect from your choice of orthodontic treatment.

So, don’t sabotage your good work! Here are five negative habits that will prevent you from getting the most out of your aligners:

  1. Don’t forget to keep them clean

One of the reasons you chose clear aligners is because they are nearly invisible. But careless cleaning habits can leave them discolored, scratched, or cloudy. Soaking in colored mouthwash can stain aligners. Using abrasive cleaning products or brushing with a heavy hand can cause scratches. And failing to keep aligners clean can lead to a buildup of cloudy plaque. Talk to us! We know all the best products and practices to keep your aligners their most sanitary—and most invisible.

  1. Don’t eat with your aligners in place

Aligners are simply not meant to be used while you eat. Chewing puts too much stress and pressure on them, and can lead to aligner damage and even breakage. Because you will be wearing your aligners for most of the day, planning ahead for your meals is key. One bonus: it’s a great way to eliminate unconscious snacking.

  1. Don’t let foods or drinks stain your aligners

It’s great that you take your aligners out to eat, but do you remember to brush before you replace them? Foods like spaghetti sauce and blueberries that stick to your enamel can stain your aligners. And it’s always best to remove your aligners before drinking a beverage. If a drink can stain your teeth, it can stain your aligners. Red wines, dark juices, colas, and, of course, coffee and tea can cause discoloration. Another thing to consider? Food particles in the trays can not only stain your aligners (and your enamel), but keep your teeth in contact with the acids and sugars that lead to cavities.

  1. Don’t run hot

Aligners are formed using heat, so it makes sense that heat can de-form them as well. Drinking hot beverages with your aligners in place can change their shape—and even subtle changes will affect your progress. Since warped aligners might have to be replaced, save the piping hot beverages for those times you’re not wearing aligners. It’s best not to clean them with very hot water as well.

  1. Don’t forget to wear them

Aligners need to be worn approximately 20-22 hours each day. If you’re not putting in the required time, you’re delaying your progress. If you’re having trouble with scheduling meals or activities, talk to Dr. Ryan Hinckley when you visit our Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Center, Crockett, TX office. We have suggestions.

But let’s not just dwell on the negatives. We like to focus on the positive, too, so here’s the one item on your “Do List” that will absolutely make your aligner experience the best it can be:

Do follow our recommendations!

Clean your aligners with the proper tools and products—and clean your teeth and aligners after every meal and snack. Remember that water is the only guaranteed problem-free beverage. Don’t expose aligners to heat or eat with them in place, because they can be warped or damaged. And be sure to wear them as long as you need to each day—this will keep your treatment on track and on schedule.

Enjoying a future filled with beautiful, healthy smiles? That’s not just a positive—it’s a happily-ever-after!

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