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Braces off, retainers on: The importance of wearing and caring

Having braces removed is a vital step forward in orthodontic treatment, but it’s not the last chapter.

So many patients make the mistake of doing a victory lap after no longer needing to wear their orthodontic appliances.

Certainly, there is reason to celebrate this milestone. However, patients need to remember that the next phase of wearing and caring for their retainers matters too.

Your future self-image and overall dental health you envisioned at the start and after the treatment plan depend on it.

The truth is, to maintain a healthy and vibrant smile, patients must accept that their orthodontic journey is a long-term commitment.

Teeth are dynamic and continuously and gradually shifting through their interaction with mouth muscles.

A retainer holds teeth in place where they work and look their best.

Because of this incredible functionality, it may be necessary to wear a retainer for a long time or perhaps forever, depending on what is recommended by an orthodontist.

So now that you know why retainers are so crucial to your dental health and orthodontic treatment, here are some practical ways to care for them properly:

How to clean

For cleaning purposes, retainers should be treated as an extension of your teeth, which require regular brushing and flossing.

A toothbrush and toothpaste will get the job done. Some patients like to use mouthwash, dish detergent, floss, floss threader, or other specialized cleaners such as Polident, depending on the retainer type. Your orthodontist can provide some guidance on what to use.

Daily cleaning will prevent buildup that can cause gingivitis, maintain proper function and fit.

How not to lose them

Retainers are expensive. Replacing will cost both a lot of money and time.

That is why it’s important to always carry the retainer and retainer holder with you.

When it’s time to eat or brush, you always know you have a place to store them safely.

Avoid using a napkin or another temporary holder for your retainer. It's a formula for losing them and is not conducive to building good habits.

Follow instructions

If you’re new to wearing a retainer, you may be asked to wear it all day long.

In due time, you may be asked to wear it during nights only.

Failing to do so will allow tissues in your mouth to push teeth back into unwanted positions, which could lead to additional treatment.

The goal is to make the most out of the hard work you’ve already put in so you can keep your smile. This is accomplished by simply wearing and caring for your retainers.

Have new braces? Five foods that are ortho-friendly

If you’re new to braces, your mouth and teeth probably feel like they’re from another planet.

New patients will feel discomfort and some awkwardness, making it challenging to eat certain foods and make cleaning the braces a giant chore after a meal.

Luckily, some foods are easy on the braces and taste really good. If you're new to braces, here are five good food options you won't regret eating:

Chicken noodle soup

How can you go wrong with a delicious bowl or cup of chicken noodle soup?

Protein, vitamins and minerals in this soup are not only good for when you’re feeling under the weather but can help promote healing in your mouth.

And of course, minimal chewing, and cleaning, will be required after you dive into a bowl.

Scoop of ice cream

Who said you can’t have ice cream as a meal?

By enjoying a bowl of your favorite ice cream, you can numb some of the discomfort in your mouth and decrease inflammation. Those are big deals, especially early on in the treatment.

And it’s all thanks to the cold given off by your favorite frozen treat.


For breakfast, a nice stack of flapjacks can work wonders if you’re new to braces.

The softness will make it easy and painless to eat, and they’re a great treat.

Cleaning after a pancake breakfast, lunch or dinner won’t be a big hassle, either.


Yogurt is the perfect food and gives you the flexibility to pick from various flavors and types.

Whether you enjoy Greek yogurt with honey or a fruit blend, this food is a good substitute for other breakfast food that has bored you.

Eating yogurt requires no chewing and is easy to eat and will require very little cleaning too.

Mashed potatoes

Whether you like traditional buttery mashed potatoes or prefer a plain cooked sweet potato, mashed potatoes are suitable foods that act as a full meal.

This soft food is also easy to make in a variety of ways: in the oven, boiled or the Instant Pot.

Simple add-ons, such as cheese or sour cream, will complete this pain-free meal and bring a smile to your face.

Quickly adjusting to new braces will require a little work and being selective about what you eat. Before you know it, however, you’ll be back to eating all your favorite foods — most of them at least — without worrying about any additional discomfort or pain from the braces.

What is a palatal expander, and what does it do?

Just as the name suggests, a palatal expander helps widen the upper jaw.

By applying a moderate amount of pressure on the upper molars, the application gradually expands the upper jaw each time it’s adjusted.

Patients will wear the appliance for several months or until they see the desired expansion.

From correcting crossbites, reducing teeth crowding, and even improving breathing, palatal expander orthodontic treatment increases space or the palate's width to correct a discrepancy between the upper and lower jaw or to address other issues.

It can also help remedy different types of crossbites, underbites, narrow smiles, and even sleep-disordered breathing.

Typically, jaw expansion treatment is most suitable for children, but it can help adult patients in certain circumstances.

Children can take full advantage of this treatment because it works well alongside their natural growth process. Sutures in younger children are stretchable and moveable as they continue to grow.

Children may need about a week to adjust to the new expander. It is not uncommon for patients to feel pressure on the roof of the mouth and the molar teeth.

During the palatal expander process, a few things occur. The upper jaw pushes bones apart on the roof of the mouth. Once that adjustment happens, it holds the new expansion in place while solid bone takes root, eventually creating stabilization.

Adjusting the appliance is easy. In just a few steps, the orthodontic team can calibrate the palatal expander using a simple tool to rotate the device's mechanism.

Tips for ortho patients on brushing and flossing

Good habits of brushing and flossing shouldn’t change much when you begin your orthodontic treatment.

The key to maintaining a healthy smile during your treatment is brushing and flossing after every meal. There are a few minor adjustments that aren’t hard to follow, but there are a few things you should know.

Having braces is a significant change, but you'll soon get accustomed and enjoy straightening and aligning your teeth. That process includes a new way to approach dental hygiene. Patients with braces must brush their teeth at least two minutes after every meal.

If you're learning this new routine, the timing is ideal. With more time spent at home, you'll always be sure to have access to a sink, toothbrush, and toothpaste. A soft-bristled and small-headed toothbrush will be your go-to.

An electronic toothbrush and its compact rotating brush is another smart choice that boosts efficiency. Regardless of which toothbrush you select, it’s important to use a toothpaste with fluoride.

Brush the outside and inside surfaces of your teeth. Small, gentle, and circular motions are best. It's where an electric toothbrush can come in handy.

The head of the toothbrush should be at a 45-degree angle to the gum line.

Also, brush the chewing surfaces and the inside surface of the front teeth. For these areas, it's best to use short, gentle and back-and-forth motions.

After a meal, food will undoubtedly find its way between teeth, brackets, and other appliances you may be wearing. That's why it's essential to pay extra close attention to these areas near the brackets to remove debris, which will go a long way in maintaining dental health through the duration of your orthodontic treatment.

Flossing with braces can be tricky.

Just like brushing, flossing after every meal is critical. This smart dental hygiene practice also helps keep treatment time on track.

An orthodontic floss, or floss threader, can help you get behind the wires to get everything cleaned.

Now that you have access to the area behind the archwire, it’s time to use the right technique. Wrap the ends of the floss around pointer fingers and leave a few inches of taut between. Then, slide the floss between each set of teeth as you usually do. And remember not to forget to reach and clean the gumline area to remove plaque and food debris.

This should accomplish a squeaky-clean mouth. But if you feel around with your tongue and are unsatisfied, a water flosser can help clean around your braces, too.

Surgical Orthodontics Provides Path to Healthy Smile

For some patients, orthodontic measures such as braces or Invisalign may not be enough on their own to address severe orthodontic challenges.

Bad bites, asymmetry, jaw growth abnormalities, TMJ issues, and sleep apnea are just a few of many issues that require comprehensive corrective action that may be addressed only through surgical orthodontics.

This treatment, often called orthognathic surgery, is a powerful tool to achieving a healthy bite, balanced facial esthetic and ideal treatment result.

Surgical orthodontics basics

In most cases, surgical orthodontics is commenced once growth is completed. The orthodontist and oral surgeon are experts in determining the ideal treatment timing based upon several growth markers.

Jaw surgery is typically completed in combination with active orthodontic treatment and it is imperative that your orthodontist and oral surgeon work together cohesively. These are much more challenging orthodontic cases and it is crucial that your orthodontist is very comfortable with this type of treatment. Luckily, Dr Sandretti and Dr Rollofson are both very confident and capable in this treatment modality—you are in great hands at Elk Grove Orthodontics!

How surgical orthodontics works

There is typically a work-up and approval process which will be facilitated by the orthodontic records obtained at the office. This will typically be coordinated in conjunction with your medical insurance carrier. Our doctors and front office team are very knowledgeable in the approval process and will help you with the logistics.

One approved, the initial alignment of the teeth is completed by the orthodontist and the jaws are set up properly for a successful surgery.

Jaw surgery is usually completed during the middle of the orthodontic treatment plan.

Following surgery, patients undergo a rest period. A short time away from the office or classroom is likely required, typically a couple of weeks.

Once the patient’s jaw heals, their orthodontist will make minor adjustments to the bite to finish the bite in as ideal a position as possible.

Upon completion, surgical orthodontic patients, as with all patients, will wear a retainer to support the new and improved bite and smile.

Risks of surgical orthodontics

Like any surgical procedure, there are inherent risks.

Surgical orthodontics, however, has been practiced and refined over many years. The latest imaging and surgical techniques have greatly increased the predictability and decreased the risks over time.

During a consultation, patients learn about the details and processes that pertain to their particular situation.

Rewards of surgical orthodontics

Achieving a healthy and beautiful smile is the most apparent benefit of surgical orthodontics.

Restoring a bad bite, jaw abnormalities, or other malocclusions will restore the patient's confidence and function. Most patients observe significant functional and esthetic improvements in their bite and facial harmony.

Other health benefits, such as TMJ issues, sleep apnea and digestive considerations, also go along with this type of treatment.

Digital Impressions Reveal Dental Detail Without Mess, Improve Patient Care

Traditionally, impressions are captured with a tray and dental putty, with the patient remaining still while it hardens.

A technology-forward alternative is iTero scanning, which captures highly accurate tooth and jaw impressions without some of the downsides of dental impression materials.

A precise and accurate impression is guaranteed from the start thanks to the technology’s capability to capture data and turn it into a dynamic 3D visual model of the inside of a patient’s mouth.

There's a tremendous benefit to the extra detail of these digital impressions. It allows for great fitting appliances and accurate dental records.

The iTero system digitally scans the structure, teeth, and gums with optical technology that's radiation-free.

An orthodontist or assistant uses a hand-held wand to carefully scan inside the mouth to produce a 3D model in as little as three minutes.

The technology captures every detail, including soft tissue structures.

Beyond the immediate benefits of decreasing gag reflexes, digital impressions allow for the easy transfer of data, reducing the time needed for dental treatment analysis and consultation.

The improved quality of these impressions can ensure better fitted restorative solutions because details matter.

What does PPE mean in orthodontics?

PPE, or Personal Protective Equipment, has become synonymous with the current health care emergency and COVID-19.

For frontline medical personnel, PPE is essential equipment that protects both healthcare workers and patients from the spread of disease. It has become an important topic due to supply limits and the increased demands during the pandemic.

While social distancing and some forms of personal protective gear provide sufficient safeguards in certain settings, extra measures will be taken during your next visit to our office to ensure both your safety and that of our team.

In our office, you can expect the normal happy faces you are used to—just with a little more stuff in the way. Our office has chosen to take a proactive approach, establishing standards at or above the current practice guidelines set out by the CDC and CDPH. This begins with a screening, temperature check and hand hygiene process upon arrival and continues into the treatment area.

Current guidelines require use of a high quality surgical mask, face-shield and gloves. During certain more involved procedures such as braces removal, you may also see use of gowns, caps and respirators (N95 masks). An increased emphasis will be placed on controlling aerosol release by utilizing high-volume suction, upgraded HVAC and hospital-grade HEPA filters which filter below the size of viral particles.

While we have always practiced universal precautions with regard to maintaining safe and clean work environments, there will be increased precautions placed in non-clinical areas such as restrooms, door handles, waiting room, etc.

These are just a few of the ways we are keeping you safe and healthy during your next visit, as that is our top priority. If you have any further questions about what to expect at your appointment, please contact us.  

5 Advantages to Clear Braces

Thanks to the advancement of orthodontic technology, clear ceramic braces are more comfortable, discreet and easier to wear than ever before.

Take a look at five ways this great orthodontic option makes life easier.


Clear Braces have a low profile for a comfortable fit. The brackets are small and smooth, with rounded corners to reduce rubbing and irritation.


Clear braces are firmly affixed to the teeth and do not need to be removed for eating and drinking. Unlike aligners, ceramic braces do not require continuous care to remove and replace—just normal brushing and flossing to keep clean. This option can be much more attractive to the busy child or adult that is always on the go.


Despite common belief, ceramic braces are a robust and durable treatment option.

The design of ceramic braces has been continuously improved and refined for maximum durability. Even though traditional braces are made with strong metal materials, ceramic braces are very durable and can hold up to the same conditions and forces as traditional metal braces.

Wide Range of Treatment

While at our office we have embraced and utilize the increasingly popular treatment approach of Invisalign, not all types of orthodontic problems are best addressed with aligner therapy. Clear braces allow for full treatment of all cases, from the most simple to the very complex.


If you’re going for the understated look, allow the translucent braces to blend in nicely with your teeth. If you’d like to make a statement, put on some bright bands for a pop of color on the clear braces. You can always mix it up based upon your mood and schedule.

If you are interested in learning more about ceramic braces contact us today!

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