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Speech! Speech!

August 9th, 2022

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. Steven Speaker during your next appointment at our Beaumont, TX 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.

Heading Back to School? Save Some Room in Your Backpack!

August 2nd, 2022

If you’re heading back to classes in the next few weeks, you’re probably getting your gear together now. So let’s talk about some of the items you can pack to make orthodontic care easier during school hours.

  • Dental-Healthy Food

Watching what foods you eat is especially important now. If you’re carrying your lunch or snacks in your pack, you want to be sure that they’re approved for braces and aligners.

If you wear braces, avoid foods which are sticky, chewy, or crunchy. They can stick to your teeth (making it easier for cavities to develop) or cause damage to your brackets and wires (making repairs necessary). Your orthodontist will give you a list of braces-friendly foods.

If you have clear aligners, even though you’ll remove them to eat, that sticky rule still applies. You don’t want food trapped in your aligners if you can’t brush right after eating, because that food is also food for the oral bacteria which cause cavities.

Bringing a water bottle with you is a great idea if it’s hard to brush after eating. Rinsing with water is a good way to get rid of loose food particles, and staying hydrated helps maintain normal saliva production—which also helps wash away food debris.

  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Floss

It’s best to clean your teeth after every snack and meal if at all possible. A travel-sized brush, toothpaste, and dental floss or picks designed for braces will help you get rid of any unwanted dental leftovers. And a small mirror can help you discover any lingering food particles.

It’s especially important now to practice careful hygiene, so be sure to wash your hands before and after cleaning your teeth or appliances.

  • Your Aligner or Retainer Case

Whenever you take off your retainer or aligners to eat, you should always have your case handy. Cases make sure your appliances stay off germy desk and table surfaces—or worse, floors—and protect them from breakage. A case is also a good way to make sure your retainer doesn’t accidentally end up in a trash bin after lunch.

Again, before and after you handle your braces, aligners, or retainer, be sure to wash your hands carefully.

  • Dental Wax & Extra Bands

Sometimes a wire comes loose or a bracket irritates the inside of your cheeks or mouth. In this case, dental wax is a great way to protect yourself from irritation and injury. And if a band is lost or breaks, it’s always good to have a spare (or two) handy. As always, handwashing rules apply!

  • Your Mouth Guard

If your afterschool activities involve contact sports, a mouthguard is always a good idea, and especially when you wear braces. Dr. Steven Speaker can create a custom guard which will protect your teeth, your delicate mouth tissue, and your braces from many impact injuries.

  • Your Orthodontist’s Phone Number

One important item that takes up almost no space in your backpack, locker, or phone is the phone number for our Beaumont, TX office. If your braces are damaged, or if your aligner or retainer is lost or broken, we will let you know what to do until you can safely visit the office in person.

Talk to our team about how to care for your braces or aligners while you’re at school, and talk to your school about how you can manage your dental care safely during school hours.

Flossing Fact or Flossing Fiction?

July 26th, 2022

Somewhere in a bathroom drawer or medicine cabinet, we all have one—that little plastic dental floss dispenser. And whether you use your floss every day (yay!), or have completely forgotten it was in there (not so good), just how much do you know about that sturdy string? Let’s find out!

  • Flossing has been around for hundreds of years.

FACT: It’s been just over two hundred years since Dr. Levi Spear Parmly, a dentist in New Orleans, suggested his patients use waxed silk thread to clean between their teeth. This is considered the first “official” invention of dental floss, although using some form of tool to get rid of food particles between the teeth has been around since prehistoric times.

  • Brushing well is the same as flossing.

FICTION: It’s really not. While brushing does a great job of cleaning food particles, plaque, and bacteria from your enamel, there are some places those bristles can’t… quite… reach. Floss was designed to clean plaque and food from between the teeth and close to the gum line where your brush doesn’t fit.

  • There’s more than one way to clean between your teeth.

FACT: Indeed there is! Not only are there many varieties of dental floss (waxed, flavored, round, flat, thick, thin, in a dispenser, attached to miniature floss wands), but you have alternatives if using any kind of floss is difficult for you. Water-flossers direct a pulsing stream of water between and around the teeth and gum line to remove food particles and plaque. Another useful alternative is the interproximal brush, a tiny little cone-shaped brush designed to remove food and plaque from those hard-to-reach spots.

  • It’s impossible to floss with braces.

FICTION: Untrue—but it can be more challenging! That’s why there are any number of flossing products designed to work with and around your braces. Stiff strands of floss which work like dental picks, floss threaders, water flossers, and interproximal/interdental brushes can both clean between your teeth and remove food particles and plaque where they collect around your braces. Dr. Steven Speaker can suggest some great options to work with your individual orthodontic treatment.

  • Flossing helps prevent gum disease.

FACT: Scientific studies haven’t provided definitive answers. But dental and periodontal associations strongly recommend daily flossing as one of the most important things you can do to prevent gum disease. Gingivitis, or mild gum disease, is caused by irritated, inflamed gum tissue. Gum tissue becomes irritated and inflamed as a response to the bacteria, plaque, and tartar that stick to your teeth. Anything you can do to help remove these irritants will reduce your risk of gum disease.

  • Flossing helps prevent cavities.

FACT: Dentists strongly recommend daily flossing to remove the food particles and plaque that lead to cavities. Brushing removes cavity-causing plaque from the outer surfaces of your teeth. But there’s a lot of enamel between your teeth as well. Flossing removes plaque from these hidden spots, helping to prevent interproximal (“between the teeth”) cavities from forming.

  • Bleeding when you floss is normal.

FICTION: Bleeding isn’t a typical reaction to flossing. Bleeding gums could be an early sign of gum disease caused by plaque and tartar buildup. On the other hand, if you floss too hard, or go too deeply below the gum line, you can make delicate gum tissue bleed. Ask Dr. Steven Speaker for tips on perfect flossing technique.

  • You need to floss after every meal.

FICTION: Dental professionals generally recommend brushing twice a day and flossing at least once each day. But this suggestion comes with some exceptions. Since you have braces, Dr. Steven Speaker might recommend flossing whenever you have a meal or snack.

  • Your dentist will never know that you haven’t been flossing.

FICTION: Nope. Sure, you can miss flossing a few times and catch up before your appointment at our Beaumont, TX office. But built-up plaque between the teeth, red, swollen, or bleeding gums, and gingivitis and interproximal cavities let both you and your dentist know that you’ve been neglecting good dental habits.

  • It’s never too late to start flossing!

FACT: Flossing is a simple, quick, and inexpensive way to maintain tooth and gum health. If you haven’t had much luck flossing in the past, ask Dr. Steven Speaker for flossing tools and techniques that will work for your specific needs. Start now, and see what a difference it will make at your next checkup!

If you had all these flossing facts at your fingertips, congratulations! But if you didn’t, no need to worry, because the real test of your knowledge is in its application. Flossing properly at least once each day will give you something far more rewarding than blog-quiz kudos—you’ll see that regular flossing rewarded with healthier teeth and gums!

How NOT to Forget Your Retainer

July 19th, 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 Beaumont, TX office a call to make sure your teeth haven’t shifted position.

Here are some tips from Dr. Steven Speaker 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 Beaumont, TX office if you feel your retainer is uncomfortable or painful. We'll work with you to protect your smile!

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