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Looking—and Feeling—Your Best in Braces

January 13th, 2021

It’s normal to be a little self-conscious when you first get your braces. Even though you really want to straighten any crooked teeth, or correct a bad bite, you might still be a bit hesitant about sharing your new orthodontic work with the world. What are some ways to get over those under-confident feelings?

  • Keep It Clean

Make sure you brush after every meal to reduce the chance of food particles and plaque sticking to your enamel and brackets. Brushing and flossing is particularly important now, not only to prevent cavities, but because nobody wants to see food stuck in your braces—especially you! If you absolutely can’t brush, rinse with water right after eating.

And carry a small bag filled with all the essentials for gleaming braces: a travel toothbrush, floss, a small tube of toothpaste, an interproximal brush, and a handy mirror to make sure you’re good to go. When you know your teeth and braces are their cleanest, you can’t help but feel more confident.

  • Express Yourself

Braces are no longer the one-style-fits-all appliances of the past. Traditional metal braces at our Simsbury, Granby, Torrington, Winsted, West Hartford, or Windsor Locks, CT office are more compact, and now come in different colors and shapes. Metal brackets are typical, but ceramic brackets are an option for an almost unnoticeable look. And don’t forget to accessorize!

You can choose from a rainbow of band colors to make a fashion statement that’s uniquely you. Show your spirit with school colors, celebrate the holidays with festive tones, or choose shades that do wonders for your coloring. Whether you go for bold contrast, mono-chromatic subtlety, or “just because I’m in the mood” quirky combinations, let your braces showcase your style. And remember—you can change that style with every adjustment!

  • Smile with Confidence

Nothing looks better on you than a confident smile. If you’re a little unsure, practice! Some mirror or selfie time will get you used to seeing yourself in braces. Break them in with friends and family before you go public. Remember that any difficulties with talking or eating should only last a little while.

Above all, you’re still your unique and valued self. You can wear braces and be a good friend, a student, an athlete, a lovestruck Juliet on the theater balcony, a star at your after-school job. Don’t let wearing braces hold you back from the activities you love.  Act like your old self, and you’ll soon feel like your old self!

It’s normal to feel a little self-conscious when you first get your braces. But when you care for yourself and your braces, good things happen! If you’re having difficulty adjusting, talk to Drs. McKenna and Lashgari. We want to help make sure your journey to a beautiful, healthy smile is as rewarding and as positive as it can be.

Start Your Day Off with a (Healthy) Smile!

December 23rd, 2020

If there’s one meal that can claim the title of “Sweetest Meal of the Day,” it’s almost certainly breakfast. Sugary cereals, syrup-covered waffles, oatmeal with honey, cinnamon toast (which is literally sugar poured on toast)—it’s hard to imagine another menu even coming close. But you’re trying to keep your diet as healthy as possible. What to do?

First, no need to deprive yourself of the occasional pastry or stack of pancakes. The real problem with breakfast isn’t so much sugar as it is added sugar.

  • Just a Spoonful of Sugar? What’s So Bad About That?

Nothing! Many healthy foods have natural sugars. Milk contains lactose sugar, and it also contains calcium and is enriched with vitamin D—both of which are essential for strong bones and teeth. Fruits get their sweetness from a sugar called fructose, and deliciously provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber to our diets.

Even processed sugar is surprisingly low in calories. In fact, a teaspoon of white sugar has only about 15 calories. But this teaspoon is also rich in nutrients for cavity-causing bacteria. The oral bacteria in plaque use sugars and carbohydrates from food particles as a fuel source to produce acids. These acids erode enamel and lead to cavities.

Choosing breakfast foods without additional sugars, then, is an easy way to reduce the number of empty calories in your diet while safeguarding the health of your teeth. We have a few suggestions.

  • Be Selective with Cereals

If the word “sugar” or “honey” or appears on the box, that’s a hint that your favorite cereal is heavy on the sugar. But there’s a more scientific way to tell just how much sugar is in that spoonful.

While the colorful packaging and playful mascots are eye-catching, check the black-and-white panel with nutritional facts found on every box. If one serving equals 27 grams, and the sugar in that serving equals 15 grams, you know you have a problem. And cereals marketed to children are especially “rich” in added sugar.

But luckily, you don’t need to give up your morning bowl. Many cold cereals are available that offer whole grains, protein, and fiber without a lot of added sugar. Spend some time in the cereal aisle comparing, or, to make life easier, there are many online sites which recommend the best (and worst) cereals in terms of sugar content.

  • Use Your Judgment with Juices

Fruits are packed with important nutrients. Not only do they provide essential vitamins and minerals, they’re a great source of water and fiber. If you drink 100% fruit juice, you are getting the benefit of most of the vitamins and minerals found in fruit. (You’re also getting less of the fruit’s natural fiber, and more of the fruit’s natural sugar, so consider fresh fruit as an option occasionally.)

But when fruit juice comes with “cocktail,” or “punch,” or “ade” attached to the end of it, there’s often something else attached—added sugar. For natural fruit flavor and the least amount of sugar, stay with 100% unsweetened fruit juice.

  • Search Out “Surprise” Sugars

Remember the childhood excitement of searching through your cereal box for the prize inside? Fun! What’s not so much fun? The surprises you might find when you search through the labels on your favorite breakfast items—because added sugars make their stealthy way into many of our morning favorites.

When you compare plain, Greek, and low-fat yogurts, for example, the low-fat options are often higher in added sugar. A container of low-fat yogurt can provide 19 grams of sugar—that’s a tablespoon and a half!

And while you’re at it, be sure to compare the sugar content in granola bars. Some are full of nuts and grains, and some are full of added sugar.

Going out for a breakfast smoothie? Those can contain 70 grams of sugar and more. Making your own at home might be a little more time-consuming, but if you use fresh fruit as your sweetener, you can make sure that what you’re not consuming is added sugar. If you’re on the go, check out all-fruit options at your favorite smoothie shop.

Drs. McKenna and Lashgari and our team aren’t asking you to eliminate sugar from your breakfast diet altogether. (Everyone loves a doughnut now and again.) But substituting some alternatives for your regular menu choices can reduce the amount of added sugars by tablespoons every meal. That’s another great reason to greet the morning with a smile!

Planning Your Vegetarian Diet with Your Oral Health in Mind

December 16th, 2020

If you’ve been following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you know that there’s much more to living a healthy life than simply avoiding meat products. Making sure your diet includes enough protein, as well as any nutrients that are primarily available in animal products, takes planning, and there’s no one-menu-fits-all solution.

Why? Because there’s no one menu that will suit all vegetarians. Specific vegetarian diets can allow for many different options:

  • Vegan—a plant-based diet which excludes meat, fish, dairy, and egg products
  • Ovo-vegetarian—includes eggs as a dietary option, but no dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian— includes dairy as a dietary option, but no eggs
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian—a meat-free diet which allows both dairy products and eggs

If you are a pescatarian, who eats fish on occasion, or a flexitarian, who sometimes includes meat in a meal, your menu options are even broader.

So let’s look at the big picture—a healthy vegetarian diet is really more concerned with the foods you do eat for nutrition rather than the foods you don’t. You can create a meal plan rich in all your essential nutrients with a little research, no matter which type of vegetarian diet is your go-to choice.

And while you’re constructing your ideal menu guidelines, don’t forget about your dental nutrition!

In terms of keeping your teeth and gums their healthiest, what important vitamins and minerals are often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets? Let’s look at three of them.

  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and tooth enamel. Without enough calcium, a weakened jawbone leads to loose, and even lost, teeth. The acids in our food and the acids created by oral bacteria also weaken the minerals in enamel, including calcium. These weak spots can eventually become cavities. A diet rich in calcium not only supports the bones holding our teeth, but can even help repair, or remineralize, enamel which has been weakened by acidic erosion.

For vegetarians who include dairy in their diets, dairy products are a great way to include calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are traditional and rich sources of this mineral.

For vegans, it’s a bit more challenging, but still doable! Non-dairy foods providing calcium include dark green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), certain types of tofu, and fortified cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks.

  • Vitamin D

Now you’re ready to put that calcium to work by making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D not only helps keep our bones healthy, it also enables our bodies to absorb calcium. Bonus—it’s been linked to better gum health in several studies.

So how to get more vitamin D? If you eat dairy, most dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D. If eggs are a part of your diet, egg yolks are a great source. Pescatarians can enjoy the benefits of vitamin D from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.

Because we get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure or foods derived from animals, plant-based foods are not a practical way to obtain the vitamin D you need. But, just as non-vegetarians can get plentiful vitamin D from fortified dairy products, vegans also have options. Try adding cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks fortified with this essential nutrient to your diet, or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red blood cells, nerve cell development, brain function, and DNA production. (This is why it’s especially important for pregnant and nursing women.) Vitamin B12 can also impact your oral health. A B12 deficiency can cause a swollen, sore, or inflamed tongue, loss of taste, and gum, tongue, and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and nutritional yeasts. If you would prefer an egg-free and dairy-free diet, look to B12 supplements or B12-fortified cereals, plant-based milks, energy bars, and other vegan options. This is a good subject to discuss with your physician, because even supplements and fortified foods might not provide enough B12.

In fact, Drs. McKenna and Lashgari can be vital resources when you’re planning your healthiest vegetarian diet. The next time you visit our Simsbury, Granby, Torrington, Winsted, West Hartford, or Windsor Locks, CT office, ask for recommendations for supplements if you’re concerned that diet alone can’t provide for all of your nutrition essentials. Finally, care should be taken to ensure that, even with supplements, you get the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.

As a vegetarian, you are used to the concept of care. Whether it was concern for nutrition, the planet, the animal world, or another reason that drew you to a vegetarian diet, be sure to care for your body as well as your dietary choices. Careful planning can ensure a diet which supports not only your general health, but your oral health, for a lifetime of nourishing—and well-nourished—smiles.

Water Flossers and Braces

November 25th, 2020

You devote a lot of energy to your orthodontic treatment. Appointments, rubber bands, adjustments, cleaning (so much cleaning)—and why? Because you know that your attractive, healthy smile will be well worth the effort.

But if you find that keeping your teeth and braces clean requires more time and energy than it should, and you’re still not getting the results you’d like, a water flosser might be just the tool you need to help make your cleaning routine easier and more effective.

Plaque and tartar can be a real problem when you wear braces. Cleaning around braces and wires can be a challenge, and it can be difficult to get floss between your teeth and close to your gums, even with special threaders or floss designed to slip behind your wires.

But ignoring bacteria and plaque build-up can lead to cavities, weakened or discolored enamel, and gum problems. Fortunately, a water flosser can help wash away food particles, bacteria, and plaque even in tight, hard-to-reach spaces, while providing gentle cleaning along sensitive gums.

Water flossers use a pulsing stream of water to remove food particles and plaque between and around teeth. You can adjust the water pressure to apply just the right amount of cleaning power, and then direct the flow to your gum line, between your teeth, around your brackets, or anywhere else you need. Some models even offer tapered heads with brushes designed specifically for cleaning braces.

You might consider investing in a water flosser if you have:

  • Mobility issues. If you have joint or mobility issues, a water flosser will let you clean those hard-to-reach areas more easily.
  • Lingual braces. Because lingual braces are on the inside of the teeth, they can be more difficult to clean effectively with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Problems removing plaque. If you find that you are brushing and flossing regularly, but still have plaque build-up around your braces, give water flossing a try.

A beautiful smile is well worth all the time and effort you are devoting to it. If you think a water flosser might save you a bit of that time and effort, and provide better cleaning power, talk to Drs. McKenna and Lashgari  about your options during your next visit to our Simsbury, Granby, Torrington, Winsted, West Hartford, or Windsor Locks, CT office. We’ll let you know if traditional flossing, a water flosser, or a combination of the two will give you your cleanest, healthiest smile.