How to Make Braces Safe for Athletes

Because of technological advances, braces today work faster and are more comfortable and inconspicuous than ever before. That doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t have to alter your behavior somewhat while in treatment. Certain foods like hard nuts or sticky caramel are best avoided while wearing braces. Likewise, when playing sports, you should be a little more careful than you might normally be. You have to protect your teeth from impacts and shocks. Otherwise, brackets can pop off or cut the insides of your mouth, and severed wires can cause even more damage.

Contact sports, in particular, require caution. Luckily, many of these sports already require helmets with full-facial guards as part of their standard equipment. A full-facial guard is the hard plastic piece that juts out in front of the mouth and protects the face from a direct impact of a ball or the body of another player, and if you play football, ice hockey, or lacrosse, you already wear one. For many sports that don’t require full-facial guards, shutterstock_104711387you are still highly encouraged to wear one if you have braces (and it’s a good idea to wear one in general). For example, sporting goods stores sell face guards designed especially for softball players. If you’ve ever been smacked in the face by a softball, you’ll know that they really aren’t all that soft. And similarly in baseball, face masks aren’t just for catchers. Other players can wear face guards too.

While a full-facial guard will provide broad protection from external forces, hard impacts and tackles can still cause injuries on the insides of your mouth. Mouth guards are the next line of defense against damage to your braces. They are particularly important in sports where full-facial guards would be out of place but where your braces are vulnerable to damage. This can be anything from basketball to soccer to gymnastics and tennis. Mouth guards are worn on inside your mouth to fit directly over your upper teeth, while dual-arch models also protect lower teeth.

Mouth guards are widely available at sporting goods stores, but they aren’t all the same. The “boil-and-bite” types are not recommended, because they can stick to brackets and pull them off when the guard is taken out of your mouth. Also be careful of guards that are designed to conform to your bite. After all, your bite will not stay the same while you’re in orthodontic treatment. A company called Shock Doctors makes a good line of mouth guards specifically made for athletes who wear braces. PacificWest Dental can make customized orthodontic mouth guards too.

Another way to protect your mouth from lacerations when playing sports is by using dental wax. OrthoSil Silicone Dental Wax is a good brand (which is really made of silicone). You can also try products made from actual wax or experiment with different brands to find one you like.

If you’re an athlete, wearing braces doesn’t mean you have to be stuck on the bench. Feel free to talk to Dr. Wang about the sports you play and what specific recommendations he has for you.

The Emotional Benefits of Braces

In our field, orthodontists focus on the tangible aspects of our patients’ smiles. Our specialty concerns straightening misaligned teeth and correcting malocclusions (incorrect bites). We look at the physical aspects of these problems and the physical solutions to them. We are not psychologists.

At the same time, we are aware of the psychological impact of what we do for our patients. Even though orthodontics improves oral health, it also improves mental health and well-being in a number of ways:

We’ve begun working with patients with crooked teeth who are clearly shy about how they look. They tell us they try not to show their teeth when they smile for photos, and sometimes they cover their mouths with their hands when they talk. It’s so wonderful when they’re done with treatment to see how their attitude has improved. But these benefits are not just anecdotal. According to studies, young people after orthodontic treatment have shown higher emotional and social well-being than their peers who never had treatment.

Like it or not, we live in an image-conscious society (and you can argue that every society in human history has been image conscious in its own way). Orthodontics make people’s smiles more attractive, and it’s human nature to respond positively to attractiveness. So braces can lead to increase social capital. Beyond that, braces can help in other ways. For example, crooked teeth can trap food in hard-to-reach places and result in bad breath, so straight teeth can eliminate other social negatives as well.

If you have or once had a misaligned bite, you know that malocclusions can make the everyday functioning of your mouth annoying. When your teeth don’t meet up as they should, it can be hard to bite into food, and you might have to compensate by biting with other parts of your mouth. Or your misaligned teeth may cause a speech impediment. It’s also harder and more time consuming to clean crooked teeth as opposed to straight ones.

The benefit of improved concentration is primarily for those patients whose dental problems are not just annoying but are in fact painful. Jutting teeth can sometimes stick into the insides of cheeks or scrape against the tongue, and the pain can be even worse when the problems result in ongoing blisters or bleeding. Chronic pain can be very distracting. Orthodontic treatment takes care of it.

When you’re a baby or toddler, you live in the now and have little awareness of the benefits of delayed gratification. This awareness of course improves as people get older, but teenagers’ decisions still tend to be short sighted, according to child development experts. The process of getting orthodontic treatment and the very tangible rewards at the end help exhibit firsthand the benefits of delayed gratification.

So while orthodontists may not have expertise in psychology or counseling, they still can have quite a bit of influence on their patients’ emotional happiness.

Retaining a Beautiful Smile

All orthodontic patients look forward to the day their braces come off, but even once that day arrives, the work is not quite complete. The final phase then begins: the wearing of the retainer.

Retainers may seem like an afterthought after the heavy lifting of brackets and wires has been done, but using retainers is actually an important step that should be diligently carried out. Neglecting to wear a retainer properly can undo a lot of the work done by braces.

Retainers are removable trays custom-made to fit each patient and meant to be worn for a set period of time after braces are removed. They are normally made of plastic and single wire that goes around the teeth to keep them from shifting. There are also permanent retainers that are affixed to the back of the teeth and can only be installed and removed by a professional.

The purpose of the retainer is to allow the teeth to settle into their new positions. Wearing the retainer holds the teeth in place until the new bone has grown in and the gums have adjusted.

Orthodontists typically recommend a retainer be worn for at least 12 months. In the beginning of this period, it is recommended to wear a retainer at least 12 hours a day, sometimes almost continuously (except when eating) depending on the severity of the problem prior to treatment. The initial phase of using a retainer normally lasts three to six months, after which most patients can cut back to wearing one at nighttime only.

After a year of wearing the retainer, people often stop using them, but in reality, it can be a good idea to wear one three to five times a week for the rest of one’s life. That may be surprising to hear, but remember teeth shift as people age. The occasional use of a retainer can help prevent shifting and maintain your smile.

To clean your retainer, baking soda works well. Make a paste of baking soda and water (distilled or filtered is best), and brush your retainer with your toothbrush. Any time your retainer is not in your mouth, it should be soaking in distilled water. Never allow your retainer to get dried out.

Always keep your retainer in its case when it’s not in your mouth. Do not wrap the retainer in a napkin when you are eating. At our orthodontic office, we’re always molding new retainers that were accidently thrown in the trash because they were wrapped in a napkin, and they’re not cheap to replace.

And remember, it’s also expensive to redo orthodontic treatment that failed to settle properly because patients didn’t wear retainers as instructed. Keep in mind that retainers are not an afterthought. They’re essential.

Summertime Recipes That Won’t Bother Your Braces

strawberry smoothie shutterstock_213409228Braces can make your teeth feel sore, especially when you first get them or when they’re tightened. That’s one reason you’ll need to adjust your diet when in treatment. Anything crunchy can make sore teeth feel worse. Really hard foods or foods that strain your teeth (like when biting into an apple) can make brackets pop off. You’ll also need to avoid sticky foods because they get stuck in your braces and cause tooth decay.

For summer, that might seem like a bummer. Favorite summertime foods like ice cream cones, amusement-park taffy, and corn on the cob are out for the time being. But still, there are lots of summer foods that you can still enjoy. We put together a few recipes.


  • Smoothies are a great summertime treat. They’re cool, fruity, and taste like a milkshake, only healthier. Strawberries are in season during summer, so try this Strawberry Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie.
  • Blueberries are also in season during summer. Add them to pancakes, or try this recipe for blueberry muffins which we like because it has a low amount of sugar.
  • Scrambled eggs are soft just like a braces friendly dish should be, but they can get boring after a while. Up your egg game by adding some zucchini to your dish in this Summer Vegetable Frittata. It’s great for brunch, and there’s no reason you can’t make it for dinner either.


  • If you have the grill fired up in the backyard for hot dogs and burgers, also throw on some vegetables for this Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho. Gazpacho is a soup meant to be eaten cold, so you can put everything you grilled in the fridge to prepare the next day.


  • Even though you can’t have corn on the cob, that doesn’t mean you can’t have corn off the cob. Prepare the corn according to this guide to corn on the cob, and scrape off the kernels into a bowl. Then put them on your plate to eat with a fork.
  • Potato salad is another traditional side to go with BBQ. Try this Easy Potato Salad and just cook the potatoes a little longer than normal to make sure they’re nice and soft.


  • Basil flourishes in the heat of summer, so make your own Basic Basil Pesto sauce to add to spaghetti, ravioli, or any other noodles. Replace the jarred pesto in this recipe for Creamy Pesto Chicken Broccoli with the fresh stuff you just made.
  • If you catch any fish over the summer, instead of frying it in a crunchy coating, just bake it with a little butter or olive oil. This recipe for Easy Baked Tilapia is fairly adaptable to whatever type of fish might bite your hook.

Three Types of Bad Bites Needing Correction

shutterstock_214580728  Scientists estimate around 70% of people have at least a mild malocclusion, meaning some sort of crooked  teeth or misaligned bite. In other words, a perfect bite and smile is the exception rather than the norm. So  if you have a “bad” bite, don’t feel bad yourself. You’re in good company after all, and luckily, you live in an  age where orthodontic treatment can fix just about any bite problems.

What does an ideal bite look like? The upper teeth should overlap the lower teeth just slightly all around  the U-shape of the mouth. If you don’t have that healthy bite, your bite is classified as an overbite,  underbite, or crossbite:


As mentioned, a healthy smile has a slight overbite in that the upper teeth will overlap the lower teeth a little. But a bite in which the upper jaw noticeably protrudes beyond the lower jaw is an overbite, or called an overjet when the protrusion passes a certain threshold. Sometimes the overbite is caused by the way the teeth are aligned, and sometimes it’s because of an issue with the overall jaw structure. Overbites, which are a rather common type of malocclusion, can cause speech problems like lisps, difficulty eating, jaw pain, and damage to teeth which leads to tooth decay

Overbites are often corrected by using braces in conjunction with rubber bands or springs that pull the jaw into place over a period of many months. Overbite patients can also be candidates for Invisalign.


Underbites are when the lower teeth protrude beyond the upper teeth. Like with overbites, underbites can lead to jaw pain and the uneven wearing of teeth, eventually causing issues with tooth decay. Likewise, underbites cause the teeth to erode more quickly than normal. About 10% of Americans have underbites, making them not as widespread as overbites but still fairly common.

Underbites are easiest to treat when caught early. Orthodontists often use a palatal expander as a child is growing into a teenager to widen the upper jaw and help it to fit better into the lower jaw. Another device sometimes used is a type of headgear called a reverse pull face mask. In more severe cases, an oral surgeon will break the lower jaw and reset it farther back with medical hardware.


Crossbites, a more complex situation than either overbites or underbites, happen when the upper teeth on one side end up on the inside of the lower teeth when the jaw is closed. Crossbites can cause significant wear on the teeth, leading to gum disease or bone loss. Crossbites may be inherited, but they can also be caused or worsened by poor oral habits like thumbsucking.

As far as orthodontic problems go, crossbites are fairly serious and should be treated young. Often treatments can begin as young as age 7, and early treatment makes the problem easier and less expensive to correct. Various retainers and appliances are used to treat this condition.

Five Ways to Ease Your Worries About Adult Braces


Despite the increased number of adults getting braces, orthodontic treatment is considered to belong to realm of teenagers. If you’re an adult who’s considering getting braces (or maybe your treatment has already begun), you may be feeling a little self-conscious or anxious about it. But now that you’ve come to the realization that a straight smile is something you want for your life and you’ve decided that getting orthodontic treatment is in the cards, allow us to offer you some reassurances:  shutterstock_104071613_woman

  1. Know that you’re not alone

According to WebMD, adult patients today make up nearly half of all orthodontic patients. You may know a friend, colleague, or family member who has had braces while an adult, and going about your daily business, you are likely to encounter adults from all walks of life with braces. As people live longer, even an increasing number of senior citizens are getting braces.

  1. Be grateful for modern technology

The days of “metal mouth” are long gone, and conspicuous orthodontic equipment like headgear are rarely needed anymore (except sometimes at night). Today’s orthodontics are more lightweight, subtle, effective, and comfortable than ever before. Options like Invisalign or lingual braces are so discreet that people may never know you’re in orthodontic treatment.

  1. Look forward to the health benefits

People with crooked or crowded teeth or malocclusions (misaligned bites) have an increased chance of plaque buildup and getting food trapped in their teeth. These can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Perhaps you want braces because of speaking or eating problems. Once your treatment is complete, your oral health will be much stronger.

  1. Look forward to the social and psychological benefits

Once your braces are removed, think about how wonderful it will feel to be proud of your smile. You may currently feel embarrassed when meeting new people, when at a professional event, or simply when someone is taking a photo of you. If this is how you feel, look forward to the day when smiling will be a source of joy.

  1. Be confident in who you are now

Sure, you are probably looking forward to the day when you can flash your new beautiful smile to everyone you see, but don’t forget to feel confident in yourself today. We live in a world of increased diversity and acceptance. Our towns and cities are filled with people from all sorts of backgrounds, languages, and ethnicities. People carve out their own looks and identities. So you have braces? You’re just adding to the mix that makes our world wonderful.

Remember that by getting braces you’re making a decision to take charge of your life, improve your health, and invest in your well-being. That’s something to be proud of!


Seven years old? Time to book an orthodontist visit.

Your child was probably standing or walking by age 1, speaking in sentences by age 3, and starting to read by age 5 or 6. If your child has reached the age of 7, now is the time to take him or her to the orthodontist for the first time. This month is an especially apt time to set up an appointment, because April is National Oral Health month in Canada.

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children should first see an orthodontist at the age of 7. Why age 7? Because it’s the age when adult molars start “erupting,” or poking through the gums. Incisors, or canine teeth also start erupting at this age. These changes can give the orthodontist a picture of how your child’s bite will develop and can predict if there will be issues like crowding, open bites or jaw misalignments. shutterstock_91921913

Your child may have also developed oral habits such as chewing on things or sucking on fingers – habits which can have an adverse affect on the development of his or her bite. The orthodontist can help your child correct these habits before they give rise to serious dental problems.

If you think taking your 7 year-old to the orthodontist is rushing things, it’s not. It’s just smart preventative medicine. The orthodontist will most likely not be recommending braces for the immediate future. But by giving an orthodontist the chance to foresee problems, he or she will have a good chance of preventing or shortening treatments that could otherwise get expensive and involved.

Keep in mind that the benefits of an attractive smile are both social and medical. On the one hand, people with nice teeth typically have more self-confidence, and they may have more options open to them in their personal and professional lives. In addition, the failure to correct an abnormal bite can result in many oral health problems, including tooth decay, tooth loss, gum disease, difficultly speaking and chewing, and damage to tooth enamel.

If you already take your child to the dentist for regularly check-ups, that’s a great first step for caring for their oral health. General dentists can do an excellent job of caring for someone’s overall oral health. Orthodontists, on the other hand, are specialists. They have spent an extra 2 or 3 years studying their specialty after completing dental school. In addition to more education, they also have more experience making sure teeth grow in properly and know how to straighten them when they don’t. That’s all an orthodontist does every day.

If it turns out your child does need braces one day, also remember that braces keep improving. They are more lightweight than when you were an adolescent with plenty of different treatment options. It will almost make you wish you could be 7 years old again.



Mom and Dad (and Grandma and Grandpa) Are Getting Braces Too

Although orthodontists will say that no one is ever too old to wear braces, for most of us, it is surprising to learn that actor Danny Glover started wearing braces at age 59. Actress Faye Dunaway was age 61 when she began 18 months of treatment. Dunaway said that she was inspired by Tom Cruise, who at age 40 showed off his ceramic braces in 2002.

Today, more than one million adults in America wear braces. Statistics from the American Association of Orthodontists show this reflects a 58 percent increase in the number of adults (defined here as people over the age of 18) in orthodontic treatment, while the number of children and teenagers increased only 15 percent during that same period (1994-2010).

Advances in orthodontics are one of the primary reasons that so many adult patients seek treatment. Options today include clear removable aligners (Invisalign), tooth-colored ceramic braces, lingual braces that fit on the tongue side of the teeth, and veneers, which are wafer-thin shells of porcelain bonded to the front side of teeth. Even when metal braces are recommended, they are much smaller than those used 15 years ago.

Some adults choose to get braces at the same time their children do to correct similar problems: crowded or crooked teeth, overbites and underbites, and misaligned jaws. Such problems can create oral health issues, and it’s not only movie stars who want to have pretty smiles. One lawyer who chose to get his teeth straightened said he wanted juries to pay attention to the words coming out of this mouth and not to his crooked teeth.

If you are an adult considering orthodontic treatment, PacificWest Dental Group offers a complimentary consultation, where we will assess your needs and explain your treatment options.

The Benefits of Using BC Head Pain for TMJ Treatment

Smiling Woman

The BC Head Pain Institute’s system for TMJ treatment can make a real difference for people suffering from Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMJ. This disorder, which affects many people, causes chronic pain including headaches and jaw problems.

TMJ strikes when the temporomandibular joint is not functioning properly. BC Head Pain Institute addresses this by taking clear, accurate measurements of your specific anatomy, uncovering the physical problems that are causing you pain. Treatment at BC Head Pain Institute also includes a detailed history of headaches and migraines, a muscle exam, a head health questionnaire and a bite force analysis, giving your dentist better insight into your particular condition. This means that therapy for TMJ treatment is truly custom built for you.

The revolutionary system uses treatments like therapeutic ultrasound and manual manipulation of the muscles to release tension. Your dentist may use electro-current or low-level laser technology to treat your specific pain, all of which is safe and effective. Treatments are short and painless. You will spend less than an hour undergoing each treatment, which is non-invasive and does not require any medication.

Because treatment is so minimally invasive, this treatment does not carry the risky side effects you may find in more complex treatments, like surgery. TMJ can often be treated without surgery, if the problem is accurately diagnosed and the causes are explored. You will experience a reduction in pain without having to worry about costly, agonizing treatments that cut into the quality of your life.

BC Head Pain Institute’s treatment is a holistic approach, taking a look at the wider picture of your whole-body health. If you are committed to dealing with your TMJ symptoms but do not want to subject yourself to unnecessary treatment interventions, consider the this revolutionary system – none of the pain, but all of the benefits.

Top Reasons to See An Orthodontist for TMJ

jaw painSo what is TMJ and what are the causes of TMJ?

TMJ and its related muscle disorders are a set of conditions causing dysfunction and pain in the jaw, specifically the temporomandibular joint. TMJ can present as malfunctions in bite and jaw alignment that cause an array of conditions including:

  • Jaw pain and discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Loss of sleep
  • Ear aches and ringing sounds
  • Limited jaw movements
  • Worn out teeth
  • Locking of the jaw

If you have TMJ, you’re not alone. Jaw trauma has been pointed out as the most common cause of TMJ, but it’s also quite possible that stress, anxiety, and poor dental health contribute to TMJ. Clenching the jaw or grinding your teeth will also exacerbate the problem. Even if you only experience occasional bouts of TMJ pain or discomfort, the symptoms warrant a visit to an orthodontist.

A Problem That Grows Worse

At first, you may only experience TMJ symptoms occasionally, with discomfort occurring in cycles in the form of headaches, ear aches, or some tenderness in the jaw area. Others, however, develop long term symptoms that if left untreated, could lead to more serious health issues.

TMJ can leave permanent nerve damage in the jaw area, which could lead to limited jaw mobility thus affecting chewing motion. For those experiencing substantial TMJ pain, sleeping difficulties and discomfort can have long term health effects. And if you suffer from TMJ, it’s likely that the symptoms themselves will contribute to increased tension and pain.

If you’re experiencing some or all of these symptoms and still unsure about your condition, consult an orthodontist for a proper diagnosis. There are several options for TMJ treatment through orthodontics. Ask your orthodontist and get relief.