new-years-day-1926337_640We’re almost one month into the New Year, and hopefully you haven’t given up on your New Year’s resolutions yet.

If making improvements to your smile was among your goals, this year, read on. It’s time to learn how to help make that happen.

First, let’s address those who have considered braces in the past, but never gone through with it for whatever reason. Here’s some advice on how to get the ball rolling.

4 Ways to Prepare for Orthodontic Treatment

1. Do your homework.

Understand the difference between a dentist and an orthodontist. Lots of general dentists offer orthodontic treatment with Invisalign. You can learn about the differences between dentists and orthodontists here, but in a nutshell, orthodontists are specialists in correcting bite and alignment issues. They continued their education beyond dental school to complete an additional two to three years of specialized training. Orthodontists also have in-depth knowledge of the most advanced treatments and technologies.

When choosing an orthodontist, ask for recommendations from your family dentist, your friends and coworkers. Consider finding a Board Certified Orthodontist, which means that specialist has voluntarily completed hundreds of additional hours of preparation to demonstrate their judgment, skills and knowledge required for providing premium patient care.

Check review websites to see what current and past patients say about the orthodontist.

2. Schedule a consultation.

Orthodontic treatment can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years to complete, so you want to build a rapport with your orthodontist and his or her staff. A consultation is your opportunity to meet the team responsible for your treatment, ask questions, and learn about the suggested treatment approach that will best address your needs. The American Board of Orthodontics suggests asking these questions during your consultation.

Be sure to find out the costs involved and talk to your dental benefits provider to determine how much of your treatment will be covered

3. Schedule a checkup with your family dentist.

Your teeth need to be free of decay, and your gums must be healthy prior to beginning orthodontic treatment. Cavities detected when you have braces on your teeth can set you back on your treatment schedule, particularly if orthodontic appliances must be removed in order to fill a cavity.

Getting your teeth cleaned and having a checkup helps ensure that you have a clean slate as your enter treatment.

4. Stock up on soft foods.

Once the orthodontic appliances are on, patients sometimes experience minor discomfort or tenderness for a few days as the teeth adjust to braces and begin to shift into their ideal positions. Soft foods including rice, mashed potatoes, soups, yogurt, pudding and ice cream will be particularly tasty at this stage, since they don’t require a great deal of chewing.

Let’s say you’re already in orthodontic treatment, and you’re due to wrap it up in 2017. Here’s some advice on how to ensure that you complete your treatment on time.

5 Ways to Finish Treatment on Time

on-time1. Keep your routine orthodontic recheck appointments.

Adjustments are made at prescribed times throughout your treatment and if you don’t keep these appointments, you’re unlikely to finish your treatment on time.

It’s also important that you arrive early or on time to your appointments. An orthodontist’s schedule is busy and if you arrive too late, it may not be possible to do all that was scheduled at that time.

2. Call immediately to schedule an appointment if your orthodontic appliances break or become loose.

Orthodontic treatment relies on forces applied to the teeth to close gaps, create space, shift teeth and perform other tasks to ultimately bring your teeth into proper alignment. Broken or loose appliances don’t apply the proper forces, which means your treatment may slow or come to a standstill. In some cases, we may lose ground that we gained. Don’t wait until your regularly scheduled appointment to get the problem fixed.

3. Practice good oral hygiene.

It may sound surprising, but clean teeth and healthy gums promote faster orthodontic treatment. Gum inflammation makes it more difficult to move the teeth. Become friends with your floss threader and floss your teeth every day. Brush your teeth after meals. If you can’t brush after a meal, rinse your mouth with water to help dislodge food debris that may be trapped between brackets and arch wires.

Keeping your teeth cavity-free also helps prevent treatment delays. Refer to No. 3 above in the “4 Ways to Prepare for Orthodontic Treatment.”

4. Wear your appliances as prescribed.

Orthodontic treatment doesn’t work if you don’t wear your Invisalign aligners for the prescribed length of time, or you don’t wear your elastics, headgear or other appliances. These prescribed appliances are designed to help correct bite discrepancies, spacing and alignment issues. You may not enjoy wearing them, but remember: it’s just for a season. Wear them as prescribed, and you’ll be done before you know it.

5. Wear a mouth guard when playing sports.

As I’ve mentioned previously, damaged appliances don’t get you to the treatment finish line. Prevent damage to your appliances and your mouth by wearing a mouth guard if you play sports that may subject you to a blow to the face. There are over-the-counter guards that can be molded to fit, and custom mouth guards also are available. You can learn more about the importance of mouth guards in this article I wrote last year during National Facial Protection Month.

After Treatment

It’s worth mentioning that your treatment journey doesn’t end the day you get your braces off. You must wear your retainers to maintain all the work you’ve put into achieving your smile goals. It will take some time for your teeth to become accustomed to their new positions, and your retainer helps keep them in place. Teeth often have a mind of their own, and they may try to revert to their old positions once the appliances are removed.

Your orthodontist will explain how frequently to wear your retainer. Over time, you’ll be able to taper off a bit.

Learn More

I hope this information has been useful to you. Please call today to schedule a consultation if you’re ready to get your smile in gear for the new year!

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