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The Effects of Biting Your Nails

May 25th, 2022

Also known as onchophagia, the habit of nail biting is one of the so-called “nervous habits” that can be triggered by stress, excitement, or boredom. Approximately half of all kids between the ages of ten and 18 have been nail biters at one time or another. Experts say that about 30 percent of children and 15 percent of adults are nail biters, however most people stop chewing their nails by the time they turn 30.

Here are four dental and general reasons to stop biting your nails:

1. It’s unsanitary: Your nails harbor bacteria and germs, and are almost twice as dirty as fingers. What’s more, swallowing dirty nails can lead to stomach problems.

2. It wears down your teeth: Gnawing your nails can put added stress on your pearly whites, which can lead to crooked teeth.

3. It can delay your orthodontic treatment: For those of our patients wearing braces, nail biting puts additional pressure on teeth and weakens roots.

4. It can cost you, literally: It has been estimated that up to $4,000 in extra dental bills can build up over a lifetime.

Dr. Neil Oliveira and Dr. Derek Wolkowicz and our team recommend the following to kick your nail biting habit:

  • Keep your nails trimmed short; you’ll have less of a nail to bite.
  • Coat your nails with a bitter-tasting nail polish.
  • Ask us about obtaining a mouthguard, which can help prevent nail biting.
  • Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you get the urge to gnaw on your nails.
  • Think about when and why you chew your nails. Whether you are nervous or just bored, understanding the triggers can help you find a solution and stop the habit.
  • If you can’t stop, behavioral therapy may be an effective option to stop nail biting. Ask Dr. Neil Oliveira and Dr. Derek Wolkowicz and our team for a recommendation.

Retainer Hacks

May 18th, 2022

Even with the best of care, accidents can happen, and your retainer, unfortunately, is not immune. Of course, you need to visit our New Bedford or Mattapoisett, MA office ASAP if your retainer is damaged, but, in the meantime, there are some strategies you can use to help your teeth—and your retainer—stay as healthy as possible while you wait.

For Removable Retainers

  • When you notice any damage to your removable retainer—remove it.

Don’t wear a damaged retainer, especially overnight. You don’t want to damage it further, and you do want to avoid the possibility of choking if a retainer breaks while you’re sleeping. Dr. Neil Oliveira and Dr. Derek Wolkowicz and our orthodontic team are experts when it comes to deciding if your retainer is wearable, so always consult an expert before putting a suspect retainer back in your mouth.

  • Damaged Hawley retainer?

If you have a Hawley retainer—the traditional wire retainer—here’s some good news: a Hawley retainer can often be repaired if it’s not damaged too badly. Don’t try to fix your retainer yourself, and bring it into our office as soon as possible to see if it’s fixable.

  • Damaged clear retainer?

If you have a clear retainer, let’s start with the bad news: A clear retainer is not a repairable retainer. Cracks, breaks, warping—these injuries mean that a new retainer is in your future.

The good news is that materials for plastic retainers are available that are more durable than ever. This might be a good option for you to check out, especially if you suffer from bruxism, or tooth grinding, which can be very hard on clear retainers.

  • When you’ve just finished treatment with clear aligners . . .

It’s worth asking if your last tray can sub for your retainer until you have it repaired or replaced.

  • Ask us about over-the-counter mouthguards.

While you wait for a retainer repair/replacement, your teeth are at risk of shifting out of alignment. A customizable OTC mouthguard might reduce the chance of shifting, although it’s definitely not a long-term solution! We can let you know if this temporary fix is worth it.

For Fixed Retainers

If the wire retainer bonded to your teeth becomes loose, or if you notice your teeth shifting, you might need a repair or a replacement. This is a job for us. In the meantime,

  • When you have a broken wire . . .

If a broken wire is causing discomfort, check to see if you should flatten it or cover the wire tip with dental wax to protect soft tissues. Warm water rinses can ease irritation.

  • When your wire is broken or loose . . .

Stay away from chewy, sticky, and crunchy foods. You should be doing this anyway with a fixed retainer to keep it from becoming detached—and if it’s already loose, no need to make it more so!

  • Ask us about over-the-counter mouthguards.

Check to see if an OTC, customizable mouthguard is a good idea to keep your teeth from shifting if you can’t visit Orthodontic Specialists of Southeastern Massachusetts right away.

We started off by saying that accidents can happen even with the best of care. So you can imagine what can happen without the best of care. Keep your retainer in its case, keep it away from heat, don’t eat foods that can harm your retainer—all the precautions that make accidents unlikely to happen.

But if something awful befalls your retainer, call our New Bedford or Mattapoisett, MA office right away. Why aren’t we suggesting ways to fix your broken retainer with the supplies you have in your home toolbox? Because the best life hack of all for someone with a damaged retainer is to leave the fixing to a dental professional.

When should I floss during the day?

May 11th, 2022

A vital step in your oral health routine is flossing. We hope our patients at Orthodontic Specialists of Southeastern Massachusetts maintain good oral hygiene, including daily flossing between each visit to our New Bedford or Mattapoisett, MA office. A toothbrush is not always enough to get to the hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. When food remains between your teeth, bacteria starts to grow and will break down your enamel. This is where flossing comes in!

Should you floss before or after brushing?

Whatever your personal preference, you may floss before or after you brush your teeth. When you floss first, you can brush away any leftover dislodged food debris from your teeth. On the other hand, when you brush first, you will loosen the plaque between your teeth, which makes flossing more effective.

The essential aspect is that you floss thoroughly by using a fresh strand of floss and make sure to get between every tooth. Even if your teeth look and feel clean, don’t skip flossing or plaque will begin to build up on your teeth.

When is the best time to floss?

Although you should brush your teeth at least twice a day, Dr. Neil Oliveira and Dr. Derek Wolkowicz and our team recommend flossing your teeth thoroughly once a day. Many people prefer to floss before bed, so that plaque doesn’t sit between their teeth all night.

What kind of floss should I use?

You may choose between interdental cleaning picks or flexible floss strands to perform your daily flossing routine. If you have permanent oral appliances or restorations, be sure to follow the flossing instructions provided to you.

Do you need help flossing?

If you’re having trouble flossing or have questions about which floss is best for your teeth, contact our New Bedford or Mattapoisett, MA office and we can provide you with support. Be sure to keep up with your daily flossing routine, and we will see you at your next appointment!

When Your Permanent Retainer—Isn’t

May 4th, 2022

Even though it’s called a “permanent retainer,” your fixed retainer isn’t necessarily meant to last a lifetime. But with care, it should last just as long as you need it, keeping your teeth perfectly aligned after your orthodontic treatment is complete. Why is this retainer the one to choose for challenging alignments?

A fixed retainer is often used for teeth which were very crowded or had large gaps before treatment, especially along the bottom teeth, which tend to shift more. With a permanent retainer, a custom fitted wire is attached with a bonding adhesive to the back of each of the selected teeth. This design makes sure that the teeth can’t shift out of place while your bones and ligaments strengthen around them.

Occasionally, though, your permanent retainer isn’t quite as permanent as it should be. If you think your fixed retainer is becoming “unfixed,” what clues should you look for?

  • Broken wire

A clearly broken wire can be obvious, or you might discover it when you notice pain or irritation caused by the end of a wire poking around your tongue or mouth.

  • Loose bond

The orthodontic adhesive used to bond the wire to each tooth can come loose as the result of an accident, an unfortunately chewy treat, or simply with the passage of time.

  • Shifting teeth

You might not notice anything wrong with your retainer, but what you do notice is that your once-straight teeth have started shifting back to their old positions. If you see any movement in your teeth, your retainer might need repair.

What should you do?

  • Give our New Bedford or Mattapoisett, MA orthodontic office a call! It’s important to act promptly to prevent further retainer damage, oral discomfort, and tooth misalignment.
  • Rinse with warm water if your mouth is irritated.
  • If a wire is poking you, call us for advice on gently pushing it back into place.
  • Orthodontic wax can protect your teeth and tissue from detached wires.
  • If you have a clear retainer, wear it until you can come in. If you don’t have one, and you can’t see us immediately, ask if an over the counter moldable retainer is a good idea to help keep your teeth aligned in the meantime.

One benefit of a fixed retainer is that it’s almost invisible because it’s behind your teeth. But this hidden location can also make it difficult to notice potential problems. Fortunately, there are some proactive steps you can take to help your permanent retainer—and your bite—stay healthy:

  • Avoid foods which are sticky, hard, or chewy. If a food can damage traditional braces, it can damage your retainer.
  • Wear protective gear like mouthguards and helmets when you’re active—they protect more than just your retainer!
  • Ask your dentist to examine your retainer adhesive’s staying power whenever you have a checkup.

If you notice a detached wire or loose adhesive or see your teeth shifting, give Dr. Neil Oliveira and Dr. Derek Wolkowicz a call. It’s important to act promptly to fix a fixed retainer, because your teeth and bite alignment are in jeopardy when you delay. And always bring your retainer (or retainer pieces) with you in case we can repair it.

Permanent retainers don’t necessarily last forever. But whether your fixed retainer is going to be with you long-term, or whether you’re going to transition to a removable retainer in the future, let’s make sure your permanent retainer is just as “permanent” as it needs to be!