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Our Blog

Power Chains

January 14th, 2021

By now, you’re very familiar with the basic building blocks of your braces. Brackets, wires, and ligatures are no mystery to you. But suddenly, you’re hearing a brand new term—“power chains.” What exactly are these power chains, and why does your orthodontist think you need them? Let’s see how power chains are *linked* to your orthodontic treatment.

  • First, why power chains?

They’re not really chains in the necklace or bike chain sense—in fact, they’re only very rarely made with metal. These chains are most often a string of O ring loops just like your elastic ligatures, attached in a row to resemble a chain.

Chain lengths are tailored to your specific needs. Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow will attach each individual loop in the chain around a single bracket, linking selected teeth together. Chains might stretch across a few teeth, several teeth, or your entire upper or lower arch.

  • Second, why power chains?

Because these chains are usually made of the same elastics that your ligatures, or bands, are made from, they want to hold their original shape. They will try to return to that original shape even as they are stretched between your brackets. As they contract, they help move your teeth together. 

Over time, just like an over-stretched rubber band, they lose their elasticity, and won’t work as effectively. That’s why you’ll probably get a new power chain whenever you come in to our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA office for an adjustment.

  • Third, why power chains?

This is the most important question. How can a power chain improve your smile?

Usually, power chains become part of your treatment after the first phase of alignment. They can be used to help align your teeth or correct your bite, but are most often used to close gaps between the teeth.

You might have a gap after a tooth has been extracted. Or, as your teeth move into their new positions, you might suddenly see noticeable spaces between them. Power chains move the teeth closer together to eliminate these gaps, and do it more quickly than brackets and wires alone can do.

  • How long will you need them?

This is something Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow will discuss with you. Whether it’s a matter of weeks or months, your treatment plan is designed to move your teeth into their best positions, and to do it carefully for a lasting, healthy alignment.

  • Power chain options

Depending on the size and spacing of your teeth and your treatment plan, these chains usually take one of three forms: closed/continuous, short, and long. The only difference is the distance between the rings.

We will choose the type of chain that’s best for your treatment. Your contribution is to personalize your power chain. Power chains come in a rainbow of colors, allowing you to mix and match. You can even coordinate with your ligatures if you have ties as well as chains. If your goal is to have your braces blend in, various shades of white, silver, or clear colors are available. Want to mix things up? Choose a different color with every adjustment.

  • Anything else?

You might experience some discomfort for the first few days with a new power chain, just as you might with any adjustment. Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow will have suggestions for making those first days as comfortable as possible.

Also, like brackets and ligatures, power chains can trap food particles, so be sure to follow our instructions for keeping your teeth and your braces their cleanest.

Now that you’re all caught up on what power chains are and what they can do for you, let’s mention one more benefit. This is a process where you can actually see the gaps between your teeth closing over the weeks you wear your power chains. Keep a selfie record of your progress as you create your beautiful, healthy smile. That’s an em*power*ing experience!

I Only Have One Crooked Tooth. Should I See an Orthodontist?

December 24th, 2020

Your smile is just about perfect. There’s just that one tooth that’s out of place. So, do you really need to see an orthodontist?

Absolutely! Why? There are several good reasons.

First, let’s check to make sure there is no physical problem causing that turned tooth. A crooked tooth might result from an early oral trauma while the tooth is developing, or a baby tooth lost too early, or the loss of a nearby adult tooth. But a sudden change in a tooth’s orientation might also be caused by a cyst or a tumor. If you notice any changes in your tooth’s position, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow.

Second, we want to make sure your bite is aligned properly. If your tooth is crooked due to crowding by your other teeth, or if it has rotated a bit because there is too much space between your teeth, your bite might be affected as well. Malocclusions, or bad bites, can lead to a number of unpleasant consequences, including headaches, jaw pain, and increased pressure and stress on the teeth.

Third, a crooked tooth can lead to more difficulty brushing and flossing between and around the teeth, which increases the chance of tooth decay.

Fourth, we provide the professional medical care you need. Some people with a turned tooth attempt self-help with rubber bands, dental floss, or other home remedies. Not only is this unlikely to work, it can actually lead to infection, root problems, and even tooth loss.

Maybe there are no health concerns causing, or caused by, your crooked tooth. Your bite is strong, and you like your unique smile just the way it is. In that case, smile on!

But if you are interested in aligning that one crooked tooth with the rest, give our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA office a call, and we’ll get to the root (literally!) of the problem. Depending on the reason your tooth is twisted, we’ll suggest the braces or clear aligners that will provide your most effective orthodontic treatment, and give you safe and lasting options for achieving the smile you’ve always wanted. Perfect!

Your First Winter in Braces? Tips for a Warm and Wonderful Holiday

December 3rd, 2020

If this is your first winter with braces, you might be wondering how to make the best of the holiday season. Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow and our team have some suggestions for happy and healthy holiday smiles.

Treat Yourself

Winter means tasty holiday treats, and just because you wear braces doesn’t mean you need to step away from the holiday table! You can enjoy your favorites if you remember to check your list for the usual problem foods. Hard, crunchy, chewy, and sticky items? Naughty list.

  • Crunchy vegetables on the appetizer plate
  • Nuts
  • Hard rolls
  • Candy canes and other hard sugar treats
  • Caramels, Toffee and other sticky candies
  • Pecan pie
  • Fruit cake

Luckily, there are plenty of nice alternatives.

  • Turkey and ham—remember, small pieces are best
  • Dressing and stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soft breads and rolls
  • Pumpkin pie—but skip a tough crust!
  • Cheesecake
  • Soft cookies and cakes
  • Soft chocolates

We’re happy to provide recommendations for braces-friendly holiday foods. And we don’t expect you to turn down every sweet treat this season.  Just be sure that if you enjoy something sugary, brush carefully after indulging.

Express Yourself

While you’re decking the halls, or pinning up the New Year’s balloons and streamers, or even choosing a great holiday outfit, don't forget that your ligatures can be decorative as well as functional.

  • Celebrating Christmas? Red and green bands around your brackets are jolly and traditional.
  • How about Hanukkah? Try blue and white!
  • Love the season? Icy silvers and pale blues are a frosty statement—and can have the benefit of making your teeth look whiter, as well. Snowy white? The arctic idea is great, but white bands can sometimes make teeth look more yellow, or become stained themselves.
  • Glam New Year? Gold adds sparkle to your smile, but can bring out any yellow tones in your teeth. Silver might be the perfect choice, because it is generally neutral with enamel shades.

Check out our ligature colors for the best possible choices for your teeth and coloring. Take advantage of these options to create a fresh, confident look for the season. Give others the gift of your smile!

Look After Yourself

Winter comes with some special reminders about your dental health.

  • Winter sports are a great way to celebrate the snow and ice, but be sure to protect your teeth and braces. If you enjoy skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, hockey, or any other winter activities, talk to us about why a mouth guard is so important.
  • While you enjoy your winter break, don’t forget to keep up with your dental routine. And because ‘tis the season for holiday treats, be especially careful to clean your teeth and braces after sweet desserts and snacks. Don’t forget to floss!
  • What do cold breezes and hot chocolate have in common? They can both trigger tooth sensitivity! While some sensitivity is normal after an adjustment, if you find you are experiencing tooth sensitivity more often or more strongly than you usually do, give us a call. It might be something as simple as brushing habits, or you might need to see your dentist.

If you have any questions about your braces, in this season or any other, just ask when you visit our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA office. Your beautiful, healthy, and confident smile can make this the most wonderful time of the year!

When It Come to Chewing Gum, Be Choosy!

November 26th, 2020

Why do you chew gum? Perhaps because it’s a habit that comes with some healthy benefits. Chewing a stick or two reduces the urge to snack between meals. It’s a substitute for behaviors like nail biting that you’d like to change. It might even give you fresher breath after those tuna sandwiches in the cafeteria.

And, as it happens, chewing sugarless gum actually offers a few dental benefits as well! The act of chewing increases saliva production. Saliva washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth that can damage enamel, and even bathes the teeth in essential minerals that help strengthen weakened enamel. We’re talking about sugar-free gum here, of course, because regular gum will just bathe your teeth in sugar—no one’s idea of a dental benefit!

So why not open that pack and enjoy? Because, despite the many positive reasons you can think of for chewing gum, sometimes gum can have a negative impact on your braces.

  • A Sticky Situation

Keeping your braces clean can be a bit of a challenge. That’s why you have special toothbrushes, flosses, and interproximal brushes to get rid of food particles that stick around after you eat. And, while any food can get caught in your braces, sugared gum, because it is so sticky, can stick to appliances much more easily and much more thoroughly than even sugar-free gum. You might be able to remove gum residue with regular brushing and flossing, but, worst case scenario, you might be looking at gum firmly stuck in the brackets or between the brackets and wires.

  • Gumming Up the Works

Chewing gum can also affect your treatment time if the action of chewing causes your arch wire to bend. When your wire isn’t providing the proper shape or the right amount of tension, your teeth won’t get to where they need to be as quickly and efficiently. No piece of gum is worth discovering at your next appointment that you haven’t made any progress for weeks due to a damaged wire. And since chewing gum can also lead to loose brackets and bands, you might wonder if this sticky habit is ever worth the trouble it can cause.

  • Something to Chew Over

Before you decide, talk to Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow! Chewing sugarless gum increases saliva production, which can help wash away food particles from your mouth and your braces. As an added benefit, the action of chewing for a few minutes after an appointment has been shown to reduce the discomfort of an adjustment. Because today’s braces are stronger and more durable, and sugarless gum much less likely to stick to them, we can let you know if chewing gum might be acceptable or even desirable depending on your specific treatment plan and your appliance.

Talk to us at your next appointment at our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA office about gum chewing, and we’ll give you the very best recommendations for keeping your teeth healthy, your braces clean, your appliance intact, and your treatment plan on track. Even if gum needs to be off the menu for a while, what you’ll get in return—the best and fastest path to your beautiful smile—will be well worth it!

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