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Speech! Speech!

July 28th, 2021

If you are a student of Speech or Drama, you know how important it is to be clear and articulate. You’ve worked on pronunciation and projection, and the audience in the back row can understand every word.

And now you’ve gotten braces, and, suddenly, you don’t sound quite like yourself. Why? And, more important, what can you do?

  • Don’t Panic!

Many patients see no change at all in their speech after getting braces. With some orthodontic conditions or appliances, you might have problems pronouncing certain sounds, but these changes in articulation are usually quite temporary. 

  • Why Are You Sounding Off?

Every consonant is formed in a precise way as tongue, lips, and teeth work together. If you have brackets and wires in the way, or just got a new retainer, or have a set of aligners, you might find that your articulation is a little off, especially for sibilant sounds such as S’s and Z’s. Luckily, we humans are a flexible bunch, and it usually takes a very short time for our tongues and mouths to adapt to orthodontic appliances and return to normal pronunciation.

If your speech is affected at first because your lips and cheeks are sore or sensitive after getting braces, take time to take care of yourself! Use wax as often as needed to cover irritating brackets and wires, eat foods that are low in salt, spice, and acids, and follow your orthodontist’s instructions for taking care of your mouth. You should start feeling better within a few days, and should be fine after a week or two. If pain or discomfort persists, call your orthodontist.

  • Practice Makes Perfect

If you want to speed along the process of getting back to your normal pronunciation habits, practice! Read aloud, sing along to your favorite songs, recite lists of words with the specific sounds you want to work on. Oddly enough, to get back to your normal speech more quickly, slow down. Thinking before you speak is never a bad idea, and, in this case, thinking while you speak can help you position your tongue and mouth to verbalize tricky sounds more easily.

You don’t have to be a national debate champion or the world’s most blood-curdling Lady Macbeth to be concerned about clear speech. Talk to Dr. Scott Smith during your next appointment at our Springfield, MA office if you find you are having problems with pronunciation. Whether your appliance needs an adjustment, or you need a few suggestions for speech exercises, or it’s simply a matter of time, soon you’ll be back on the road to perfect pronunciation—and on the way to your perfect smile.

Spacing Out

July 21st, 2021

One of the most common reasons for getting braces is because there’s just not enough room for all your teeth to fit next to each other evenly. The result is overlapping and crooked teeth. What’s the first step in creating the space you need? Well, that depends on just how much room you need to align your teeth and bite properly.

When there is going to be a serious need for space, there are orthodontic solutions that can help, including palatal expanders, surgical options, and extractions. But if you only need a tiny bit of room so that regular braces will fit properly, we have a tiny solution—orthodontic spacers!

Why do you need to make space before you get braces? Because Dr. Scott Smith might need to make some room around crowded molars so your braces can be installed properly.

For example, you might need orthodontic bands to anchor your braces. An orthodontic band is a slim, custom-fitted ring of metal which fits snugly around a molar. It is durable, provides a place to attach bands and springs to help correct malocclusions (bite problems), and can securely surround a tooth that might be weak because of a large filling. Spacers can separate crowded teeth just enough to allow a band to be fitted around a molar.

Even if you don’t need bands, sometimes separators are necessary to provide enough space between the teeth for your braces to work effectively. The back teeth tend to move even closer together with braces, and, without adequate space, bite problems, risk of decay, and other difficulties can arise.

And while you might think that some serious equipment is in order to make room between those sturdy molars, the typical spacer, or separator, is actually extremely simple--usually a tiny, round elastic band, often made of rubber. Spacers can be placed between tight teeth in a matter of minutes. Each ring is stretched and positioned between your teeth with a special tool. As it returns to its original shape, the spacer’s width provides just enough pressure on the teeth it touches to make a bit of space between them. And a bit of space is usually all you’ll need.

What do spacers feel like? For some people, they can be uncomfortable. You might feel soreness, some pressure, or as though a piece of food is stuck between your teeth. Ask us for suggestions on making you more comfortable, whether it’s dining on ice cream and cold drinks, eating soft foods, or taking over-the-counter pain relief. Separators are only designed to be in place for a very short period (usually under two weeks), but if they are causing you pain, give us a call.

What do you need to do to help the process along? Actually, it’s more what you need not to do. Don’t use dental picks or floss on your separators, avoid chewing gum, and take chewy and sticky foods off the menu. And don’t be tempted to touch or play with your spacers!

Spacers can create space between the teeth so quickly and efficiently that they often fall out on their own after a few days. If your separators fall out, give our Springfield, MA office a call. It could mean that you are ready for your braces, and on the way to a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles. And it’s a journey that begins with a tiny, springy step.

Start Your Day Off with a (Healthy) Smile!

July 14th, 2021

If there’s one meal that can claim the title of “Sweetest Meal of the Day,” it’s almost certainly breakfast. Sugary cereals, syrup-covered waffles, oatmeal with honey, cinnamon toast (which is literally sugar poured on toast)—it’s hard to imagine another menu even coming close. But you’re trying to keep your diet as healthy as possible. What to do?

First, no need to deprive yourself of the occasional pastry or stack of pancakes. The real problem with breakfast isn’t so much sugar as it is added sugar.

  • Just a Spoonful of Sugar? What’s So Bad About That?

Nothing! Many healthy foods have natural sugars. Milk contains lactose sugar, and it also contains calcium and is enriched with vitamin D—both of which are essential for strong bones and teeth. Fruits get their sweetness from a sugar called fructose, and deliciously provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber to our diets.

Even processed sugar is surprisingly low in calories. In fact, a teaspoon of white sugar has only about 15 calories. But this teaspoon is also rich in nutrients for cavity-causing bacteria. The oral bacteria in plaque use sugars and carbohydrates from food particles as a fuel source to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and lead to cavities.

Choosing breakfast foods without additional sugars, then, is an easy way to reduce the number of empty calories in your diet while safeguarding the health of your teeth. We have a few suggestions.

  • Be Selective with Cereals

If the word “sugar” or “honey” or appears on the box, that’s a hint that your favorite cereal is heavy on the sugar. But there’s a more scientific way to tell just how much sugar is in that spoonful.

While the colorful packaging and playful mascots are eye-catching, check the black-and-white panel with nutritional facts found on every box. If one serving equals 27 grams, and the sugar in that serving equals 15 grams, you know you have a problem. And cereals marketed to children are especially “rich” in added sugar.

But luckily, you don’t need to give up your morning bowl. Many cold cereals are available that offer whole grains, protein, and fiber without a lot of added sugar. Spend some time in the cereal aisle comparing, or, to make life easier, there are many online sites which recommend the best (and worst) cereals in terms of sugar content.

  • Use Your Judgment with Juices

Fruits are packed with important nutrients. Not only do they provide essential vitamins and minerals, they’re a great source of water and fiber. If you drink 100% fruit juice, you are getting the benefit of most of the vitamins and minerals found in fruit. (You’re also getting less of the fruit’s natural fiber, and more of the fruit’s natural sugar, so consider fresh fruit as an option occasionally.)

But when fruit juice comes with “cocktail,” or “punch,” or “ade” attached to the end of it, there’s often something else attached—added sugar. For natural fruit flavor and the least amount of sugar, stay with 100% unsweetened fruit juice.

  • Search Out “Surprise” Sugars

Remember the childhood excitement of searching through your cereal box for the prize inside? Fun! What’s not so much fun? The surprises you might find when you search through the labels on your favorite breakfast items—because added sugars make their stealthy way into many of our morning favorites.

When you compare plain, Greek, and low-fat yogurts, for example, the low-fat options are often higher in added sugar. A container of low-fat yogurt can provide 19 grams of sugar—that’s a tablespoon and a half!

And while you’re at it, be sure to compare the sugar content in granola bars. Some are full of nuts and grains, and some are full of added sugar.

Going out for a breakfast smoothie? Those can contain 70 grams of sugar and more. Making your own at home might be a little more time-consuming, but if you use fresh fruit as your sweetener, you can make sure that what you’re not consuming is added sugar. If you’re on the go, check out all-fruit options at your favorite smoothie shop.

Dr. Scott Smith and our team aren’t asking you to eliminate sugar from your breakfast diet altogether. (Everyone loves a doughnut now and again.) But substituting some alternatives for your regular menu choices can reduce the amount of added sugars by tablespoons every meal. That’s another great reason to greet the morning with a smile!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

July 7th, 2021

You’re going to the game! And no matter which sport you follow, there’s so much to enjoy—the best athletes, exciting play, hometown pride—and those delicious concession stands! But if you’re wearing braces, your team spirit might be flagging. Here are a few ideas to help keep your food choices out of foul territory.

You know that you should avoid the foods that can damage braces or stick around your wires and brackets. This means any snacks that are sticky, chewy, hard, or crunchy are benched. So most of the traditional game foods—peanuts, popcorn, nachos, licorice—are just not safe for traditional metal or ceramic braces. Let’s save those for next season.

So what is on the program? You still have many great choices.

  • Ice Cream. A favorite that’s easy on your braces (no nuts or caramel, please). If you want a healthier option, try frozen yogurt or a smoothie.
  • Hearty Snacks. Pretzels and pizza can be too thick and chewy. Go for the mac and cheese, chili, or deli meats on soft bread. And remember, small bites! Check with us to see if hamburgers and hot dogs are safe for your braces.
  • Soft Candies and Cookies. Licorice, caramels, and crunchy cookies are out, but soft chocolate bars and moist, tender cookies are still on the menu.
  • Sodas and sports drinks can create a sugary and/or acidic environment which can damage enamel over time. If you do indulge, try to rinse with water ASAP.

Stadium and arena menus contain a lot of starches and sugars, which stick to braces and fuel cavity-causing bacteria. So it’s best to go easy on the snacks. But you don’t have to give up a half-time treat entirely—just enjoy in moderation and be sure to brush thoroughly when you get home.

If you wear clear aligners, your choices are simpler. You can remove your aligners, eat normally, and clean your teeth thoroughly before replacing them. But one flag on this play—remember that you’re supposed to wear your aligners for a set number of hours each day. You don’t want to be putting your treatment behind schedule if the game goes into triple overtime. Keep your eye on the clock, and you should be fine.

Dr. Scott Smith and our Springfield, MA team are always happy to recommend the best food options for your individual orthodontic treatment, and we can help you select a roster of safe and healthy choices. You might miss out on a few of your favorite sports snacks right now, but let’s remember the true fan’s motto: There’s always next year! Taking care of your braces and teeth means faster treatment and healthier teeth. Your All-Star smile will be worth it!

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