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How Long Will My Retainer Last?

November 30th, 2022

You’ve worked hard for your attractive, healthy smile, and now you’re making sure it stays attractive and healthy by wearing your retainer. Since wearing a retainer is usually a matter of years, not months, it’s natural to wonder just how long you can count on that retainer to help you maintain your smile.

That answer depends on the type of retainer you get at our Clear Lake or League City office. A Hawley retainer, a clear retainer, and a fixed wire retainer have different lifespans. Because they each have their own advantages, Dr. Jeffrey Ball will recommend the retainer that’s right for protecting your individual smile.

So let’s look at the average lifespan for different retainers, and, equally important, some of the common mishaps that can shorten that working life.

The Hawley Retainer

This is the retainer most people picture when they think “retainer.” Made of wire securely attached to an acrylic base, the Hawley retainer keeps the teeth in place, and can even be adjusted, if needed, to improve alignment. They generally last anywhere from three to ten years.

How can you make sure your Hawley retainer keeps working for you as long as possible?

  • Keep it in its case. While some damages to these retainers can be repaired, why take a chance? And it’s much harder to lose a retainer if it’s in its case as opposed to, say, a cafeteria napkin.
  • Keep it away from your pet. Dogs, especially, are tempted by the taste and smell of saliva, but there are safer, less expensive chew toys out there.
  • Keep wearing it. Without your retainer, your teeth can shift. Over time, not only will your retainer fail to fit anymore, but you might need to return for further orthodontic treatment. If you notice your retainer is starting to feel uncomfortable, give your orthodontist a call.

The Clear Retainer

Clear retainers look like clear aligners, and, like clear aligners, are almost invisible. Made of vacuum-formed plastic, they’re designed for a close, comfortable fit, often around the entire arch of your teeth. Also like clear aligners, these retainers aren’t made to last forever. If they become loose, warped, or cracked, they should be replaced. With care, they can last from six months to several years. How to protect them?

  • Protect your retainer from damage. Keep it in its case when you’re not wearing it. You’ll avoid losing it, and you’ll avoid damaging it.
  • Protect it from teeth. And we don’t just mean pets, although they find clear retainers yummy, too. If you grind your teeth, your retainer can suffer. Clear retainers are not the same thing as night guards, so talk to your orthodontist for recommendations.
  • Protect it from heat. Hot surfaces like ovens or heaters, hot dashboards, washers and dryers, even very hot drinks can be a problem. (You should only be drinking water while you wear your clear retainer, so that particular issue shouldn’t arise!)

The Fixed Retainer

A fixed retainer is a small piece of wire that is custom-fit and bonded to the back of specific teeth to prevent any movement from occurring. Because it’s bonded to the inside of the teeth, a fixed retainer is completely invisible when you speak or smile. It can last five years, ten years, and in some cases, even longer. Even though you won’t be exposing this retainer to external dangers like hungry pups or the wash-and-rinse cycle, there are still some situations to watch for:

  • Watch your diet. The same sticky, crunchy, or hard foods that can damage brackets and wires can also loosen a fixed retainer.
  • Watch your dental hygiene. While cleaning around a bonded retainer can be a bit challenging, not cleaning around it can result in plaque and tartar buildup—and your retainer might have to be removed to clean your teeth.
  • Watch for changes. If your teeth start to shift, it could mean your retainer has detached from one or more teeth. Ask your dentist to check the retainer’s bond whenever you have a checkup.

So, how long will that retainer last? Depending on the kind of retainer you have, if you don’t keep it in its case, or if you don’t watch your diet, or if you expose it to heat, the answer is—not nearly long enough. Dr. Jeffrey Ball will give you the very best tips to keep your retainer clean, safe, and working for as long as possible. Now, it’s up to you!

How NOT to Forget Your Retainer

November 23rd, 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 Clear Lake or League City office a call to make sure your teeth haven’t shifted position.

Here are some tips from Dr. Jeffrey Ball 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 Clear Lake or League City office if you feel your retainer is uncomfortable or painful. We'll work with you to protect your smile!

Not-So-Sweet Sweets: The five worst candies to eat during orthodontic treatment

November 16th, 2022

Sticky, hard, and gooey: these candies fill your dopamine receptors with spasms of sugar-filled joy, but if you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment at Jeffrey W. Ball DDS to straighten your teeth, then these sweets are not so sweet. While you may have a Willy-Wonka-sized sweet tooth, there are some candies you’re going to have to avoid while wearing braces.

Here are five bracket- and wire-destroying culprits that Dr. Jeffrey Ball and our team recommend leaving on the candy aisle and not put in your mouth, no matter how tempting they may be.

  1. Gum is sticky and stringy. It can get tangled like fishing net in your braces. You don’t want to be that boy or girl trying to pull knots of Wrigley’s out of your braces without being seen.
  2. All chewy, gooey candies need to be avoided. When you’re wearing braces, don’t even think about putting a caramel candy in your mouth. Caramel will not only stick to your braces, making it look as if you haven’t brushed your teeth in a week, but the gooey texture can pull apart the wires, and trigger an emergency visit to Jeffrey W. Ball DDS.
  3. Hard candy may seem like a safe choice, but it’s not. What’s the problem? Nobody ever just sucks on hard candy; sooner or later, we bite down on it. Biting a hard candy may cause part of your braces to snap. Furthermore, once the candy is broken into a bunch of little pieces, it’s not uncommon for one of those sugary shards to get wedged between your braces and teeth … and that’s a cavity waiting to happen.
  4. The taffy you enjoy getting at a seaside boardwalk is going to have to go on the back burner. Like caramel, taffy can pull apart and damage your braces. You don’t want to have your expensive orthodontic gear replaced.
  5. Please, just one lollipop? Nope. A lollipop is nothing more than hard candy on a stick. If you can’t have hard candy during orthodontic treatment, then you shouldn't have hard candy on a stick either.

Have any more questions about what you can and can’t eat when you have braces? Please give us a call at our convenient Clear Lake or League City office to learn more, or ask Dr. Jeffrey Ball during your next adjustment visit!

Why Am I Getting Cavities?

November 9th, 2022

Now that you’re in orthodontic treatment, you’re probably spending more time taking care of your teeth than ever before. So, why did your dentist find a cavity at your last checkup? Let’s look at some of the potential culprits.

  • Brushing More Doesn’t Always Mean Brushing Well

Even for adults with decades of experience, proper brushing technique is often overlooked. Brushing’s not as effective without covering all the tooth surfaces (inside, outside, and molar tops), holding the brush at a 45-degree angle, gently brushing the teeth with small strokes, brushing for at least two minutes, and flossing between the teeth at least once a day.

If you wear braces, you must also take care to reach all the spots between and around your wires and brackets. Which leads us to . . .

  • Are You Using the Right Tools?

Even with perfect brushing form, your braces will be a challenge for a regular toothbrush and floss. The right tools make any job easier, and that includes cleaning your teeth while you’re wearing braces.

Specially designed brushes with bristles designed to work with your brackets, floss made to fit behind wires, tiny cone-shaped interproximal brushes that fit between your teeth and around your brackets—all these tools are made specifically to remove plaque and food particles from your teeth and your braces.

  • Crunchy, Hard, and Sugary Aren’t the Only Problem Foods

You know sugary foods should be limited because sugars are the favorite food of cavity-causing bacteria. And hard and crunchy foods are off limits altogether because they can damage your braces. But what about treats which look soft and harmless? Well, looks can be deceiving!

Starches in soft, carb-rich foods like potato chips and white bread quickly break down into sugars. What’s more, they tend to stick around brackets and in between the teeth, giving those cavity-creating bacteria plenty of nourishment.

This isn’t to say that you must eliminate all sugars and carbs from your diet. But when you wear braces, be especially mindful about brushing or at least rinsing thoroughly whenever you have a snack.

  • Biology

Some people are biologically more prone to cavities, even with attentive brushing and flossing, so you shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t have a perfect checkup every time. Instead, be proactive. Ask Dr. Jeffrey Ball for brushing and cleaning advice the next time you visit our Clear Lake or League City office—and then follow it!

It’s not just spending more time taking care of your teeth—it’s using your valuable time the best way possible. It’s always time well-spent brushing properly, eating mindfully, and working with your orthodontist and your dentist to create a beautiful, healthy, cavity-free smile.

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