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Power Chains

June 9th, 2021

By now, you’re very familiar with the basic building blocks of your braces. Brackets, wires, and ligatures are no mystery to you. But suddenly, you’re hearing a brand new term—“power chains.” What exactly are these power chains, and why does your orthodontist think you need them? Let’s see how power chains are *linked* to your orthodontic treatment.

  • First, why power chains?

They’re not really chains in the necklace or bike chain sense—in fact, they’re only very rarely made with metal. These chains are most often a string of O ring loops just like your elastic ligatures, attached in a row to resemble a chain.

Chain lengths are tailored to your specific needs. Dr. Harmon will attach each individual loop in the chain around a single bracket, linking selected teeth together. Chains might stretch across a few teeth, several teeth, or your entire upper or lower arch.

  • Second, why power chains?

Because these chains are usually made of the same elastics that your ligatures, or bands, are made from, they want to hold their original shape. They will try to return to that original shape even as they are stretched between your brackets. As they contract, they help move your teeth together. 

Over time, just like an over-stretched rubber band, they lose their elasticity, and won’t work as effectively. That’s why you’ll probably get a new power chain whenever you come in to our Sugar Land, Texas office for an adjustment.

  • Third, why power chains?

This is the most important question. How can a power chain improve your smile?

Usually, power chains become part of your treatment after the first phase of alignment. They can be used to help align your teeth or correct your bite, but are most often used to close gaps between the teeth.

You might have a gap after a tooth has been extracted. Or, as your teeth move into their new positions, you might suddenly see noticeable spaces between them. Power chains move the teeth closer together to eliminate these gaps, and do it more quickly than brackets and wires alone can do.

  • How long will you need them?

This is something Dr. Harmon will discuss with you. Whether it’s a matter of weeks or months, your treatment plan is designed to move your teeth into their best positions, and to do it carefully for a lasting, healthy alignment.

  • Power chain options

Depending on the size and spacing of your teeth and your treatment plan, these chains usually take one of three forms: closed/continuous, short, and long. The only difference is the distance between the rings.

We will choose the type of chain that’s best for your treatment. Your contribution is to personalize your power chain. Power chains come in a rainbow of colors, allowing you to mix and match. You can even coordinate with your ligatures if you have ties as well as chains. If your goal is to have your braces blend in, various shades of white, silver, or clear colors are available. Want to mix things up? Choose a different color with every adjustment.

  • Anything else?

You might experience some discomfort for the first few days with a new power chain, just as you might with any adjustment. Dr. Harmon will have suggestions for making those first days as comfortable as possible.

Also, like brackets and ligatures, power chains can trap food particles, so be sure to follow our instructions for keeping your teeth and your braces their cleanest.

Now that you’re all caught up on what power chains are and what they can do for you, let’s mention one more benefit. This is a process where you can actually see the gaps between your teeth closing over the weeks you wear your power chains. Keep a selfie record of your progress as you create your beautiful, healthy smile. That’s an em*power*ing experience!

What Did You Do on Your Summer Vacation?

June 2nd, 2021

The best part of summer vacation is time. Time to hang with friends, time to travel, time to get a summer job, time to catch your breath after a busy school year. And if Dr. Harmon and our team have recommended braces, summer is also a great time to start orthodontic treatment!

  • Time for Office Visits

It can be easier to get an appointment in the summer because many patients and their families are on vacation. And, because your earliest visits are generally the longest, you won’t have to disrupt your school schedule as much or work around after-school activities.

  • Time to Get Used to Your Appliance

There can be some discomfort in the first few days after you get your braces, so you might find it’s more convenient and comfortable to be at home. You’ll have time to get used to choosing and eating braces-friendly foods, to practice speaking clearly with new braces or aligners, to appreciate your new look. And your friends will have time to get used to your braces, too!

  • Time to Establish New Dental Routines

Over the years, you’ve gotten used to brushing at least twice a day for two minutes and flossing at least one a day. Now it’s time to add some new moves. Brackets and wires can trap food particles and lead to a greater risk of cavities, so you’ll need some new tools to keep your braces their cleanest.

There are toothbrushes that have heads designed especially for cleaning around brackets. Floss threaders get floss in between wire and brackets, or use a floss specifically designed for braces. Little cone-shaped brushes called interproximal brushes fit around your braces and under your wires to remove hard-to-reach food particles and plaque.

Getting your cleaning routine down during the summer will help you take care of any clinging food particles quickly during your lunch hour or before after-school activities. And, you’ll know exactly what dental supplies you’ll need in your locker.

  • Time to Make Adjustments to Your Extra-Curricular Activities

Braces or aligners will provide you with a future filled with beautiful smiles, but they might require some present-day adjustments in your normal activities.

If you play a sport, especially where contact is possible, a custom mouthguard is the best way to protect your teeth, your jaw, and your braces in case of collision or a fall. Let us know what sports you play as soon as you get your braces.

If you play a reed or wind instrument, you might have to adjust the way you use your lips and teeth to produce your sound. Learning to use dental wax to cover brackets and protect your lips and mouth is well worth it. If you take lessons, talk to your instructor about the best way to adapt to your braces if you think your tone has been affected.

If you are in speech or drama, it could take a while to be comfortable with your articulation. Talk to us if you find you are having problems with your regular pronunciation for some great suggestions on getting back to normal as quickly as possible.

Summer certainly offers some advantages in giving you the time you need to get comfortable with your braces or aligners. But, there’s really no bad time to begin your orthodontic treatment. Spring, summer, fall, or winter, we’re here to help make sure your treatment experience at our Sugar Land, Texas office is a positive one. After all, working toward a lifetime of beautiful smiles is always in season.

Time to Brush Up on Brushing and Flossing

May 26th, 2021

If your child has just gotten braces, chances are it’s a good time to brush up on dental hygiene! Why now? What’s different? And how can you help? Let’s take a few minutes and explore these timely questions.

Brushing and Flossing Are Especially Important with Braces

There’s no getting around it, it’s harder to clean teeth with brackets and wires. But it’s essential to pay attention to dental hygiene. When bacteria and plaque start building up, your child is at risk for gum disease, cavities, and tooth discoloration.

  • Gingivitis

This early stage of gum disease is the result of gum irritation caused by plaque. The gums become red, swollen, sore, and can bleed or start to recede. With proper brushing and flossing, gingivitis can be eliminated, along with the risk of developing more serious gum disease.

  • Tooth Decay

One of the major reasons for cavities is the erosion of enamel caused by oral bacteria. These bacteria feed on sugars from our diet and produce acids that attack the tooth’s surface. Plaque, formed by a mass of these bacteria, sticks around brackets and the gum line, putting your child at risk for cavities near his orthodontic work—which might require removing wires and brackets to treat.

  • Demineralization

When acids attack teeth, they remove the minerals from our enamel. This demineralization eventually leads to cavities, but in its early stages can cause white spots to appear where the mineral structure has been weakened. Braces wearers are at special risk for demineralization, especially around brackets and near the gums, where plaque can be missed while brushing.

Time for New Brushing and Flossing Techniques

Even if your child has always done a wonderful job of brushing and flossing, braces provide a new challenge for getting teeth their cleanest. Unfortunately, plaque buildup around the brackets and the gum line is all too common in orthodontic patients. Dr. Harmon can recommend some tools that make the cleaning process easier and more effective.

  • Toothbrushes

Manual brushes are available with small, soft-bristled heads designed especially for braces wearers. If your child still has problems getting rid of plaque and food debris, an electric toothbrush might be helpful. And remember, encourage your child to be thorough but gentle for the sake of both braces and gums.

  • Flossing with Braces

Flossing can be challenging for children at any time, but especially with braces. We’ll show you how floss threaders work, and how special flosses designed just for braces can fit under wires. This might also be a good time to invest in a water flosser. Your help demonstrating how to floss even with brackets and wires blocking the way will be appreciated by your child and your dentist!

  • Products Just for Braces

Interproximal brushes are tiny cone-shaped brushes designed to fit around brackets and wires and between teeth. We can also suggest special toothpastes and rinses to help fight plaque and prevent cavities from developing. Ask us about what to shop for to make both of your lives easier.

You Can Help!

  • Teamwork—Works!

When your child first gets braces, practice brushing and flossing together. Our Sugar Land, Texas team will be happy to show you both the very best techniques for keeping teeth their cleanest and healthiest. Especially for young children, your help will make sure those techniques are learned and used.

  • Make Time for Cleaning

Your child’s before-braces routine might have meant brushing two minutes each morning and two minutes at night. But thorough cleaning around brackets and wires might take a bit longer. (And, with braces, it’s best to brush after every meal rather than the common twice-a-day routine). Be available, at least at first, for a quick check to make sure braces and teeth are their cleanest. And you may have to help with removing and replacing bands until your child gets the hang of it.

  • Be Prepared!

Whether it’s a day at school or an overnighter with friends, be sure your child has a kit filled with cleaning supplies ready to take along. A toothbrush, floss, an interproximal brush, toothpaste, a mirror—with these necessities, your child can keep on top of any cleaning emergencies.

For younger children especially, learning how to keep teeth and braces their cleanest can take some time. Be patient, be prepared, and be willing to help, and you and your child will have a new routine mastered—in no time at all!

Toothbrush Science

May 19th, 2021

Let’s talk science! From the vastness of the cosmos to sub-atomic particles, science helps us understand the world around us and how it works. So, let’s take some familiar scientific fields of study and apply them to your toothbrush.

My toothbrush?

Yes, indeed! When it comes to your oral health, your toothbrush is the first line of defense, so understanding how and why it works so well might help us use this handy tool even more effectively.

Biology—the study of living organisms

Unfortunately for your toothbrush, the living organisms we’re talking about here are the bacteria which cause tooth decay and those which can lead to illness. How do these problems arise, and how do we prevent them?

Fight Plaque

Plaque is the sticky film that builds up on teeth, and millions of oral bacteria help make up this biofilm. These bacteria convert sugars and other carbohydrates in the foods we eat into acids. And these acids erode our tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. (More on this when we get to Chemistry.) The best ways to get rid of plaque?

  • Brush often. The recommended minimum is two minutes of brushing twice a day, but when you’re having orthodontic work done, it’s even more important to banish the plaque that can stick to your braces or inside aligners. Ask us what brushing schedule is best for you.
  • Try an electric toothbrush. For some people with braces, cleaning the teeth is easier and more thorough with an electric brush.
  • Replace your brush regularly. Brushes become worn and frayed after three or four months, and you won’t be brushing as effectively.

Stop Germs from Spreading

  • Don’t share. Sharing toothbrushes can lead to an increased risk of colds and infections.
  • Rinse thoroughly after brushing, making sure you remove any toothpaste or debris left after you brush.
  • Store the brush upright and let it air-dry. Covering the brush or keeping it in a closed container can promote the growth of bacteria more easily.
  • Keep different brushes separate when they’re drying to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Replace your brush regularly!

Chemistry—the study of what makes up substances, their properties, and how they interact

When it comes to improving your brushing chemistry, the best thing you can do for your toothbrush is to put a dab of fluoride toothpaste on it! Why fluoride? Let’s look at the chemistry of tooth enamel.

Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—even stronger than bone. But it is not indestructible, and acidic substances can dissolve the mineral bonds which give our enamel its strength, whether they come from the bacteria in plaque or are found in our favorite foods and drinks (sodas, coffee, tomatoes, and citrus are among the tasty, but acidic, culprits).

The enamel in our teeth contains calcium and phosphate ions, minerals which help make it the strongest substance in our bodies. But when the level of acidity in our mouths becomes too high, these minerals begin to dissolve. Eventually, teeth become pitted, bacteria can penetrate more deeply, and decay is the result.

So what can we do? While our saliva helps neutralize acidity naturally, and we can cut back on acidic foods in our diets, using fluoride toothpaste actually helps restore the strength of our enamel in a process known as “remineralization.”

Fluoride works on the surface of enamel to both attract and anchor calcium ions, reducing mineral loss and strengthening the weakened enamel. Fluoride also interacts with the calcium and phosphate compound to create a new compound that is even stronger and more acid-resistant.

When you brush with fluoride toothpaste, you help replace and restore the mineral composition of your enamel—and there’s evidence that fluoride might even interfere with oral bacteria’s ability to produce acid. Now that’s good chemistry!

Physics—the study of matter and energy and their interactions

The matter here is your tooth enamel, and the energy is the force you use when brushing. And this is one time the force should not be with you.

  • Over-vigorous brushing can not only damage your brackets, but can also irritate delicate gum tissue and wear down enamel. A “sawing” back-and-forth motion is both hard on your enamel and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. We’ll be happy to show you the safest and most effective way to brush with braces. Just remember, “Massage, don’t scrub.”
  • A soft toothbrush is almost always your best option when you use a manual brush, but if you’re still a heavy-handed brusher, or have sensitive teeth and gums, consider an electric model. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any heavy pressure from the brusher. Some models will even let you know when you are brushing too hard.

Brushing harder is not brushing better, and your teeth, gums, and braces will be heathier with careful brushing habits. If you need tips on brushing with braces, contact our Sugar Land, Texas office and ask!

There’s a lot of science in the simple act of brushing, but we don’t need to spend hours studying to get a passing grade in dental health. The things you do normally—brushing at least two minutes twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste, and applying proper brushing technique—will help create a smile which will earn you top marks from Dr. Harmon for a lifetime!

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