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What if I don’t wear a retainer after my braces come off?

In the past, once your dental braces were removed, that was it. Your treatment was over. We now know, however, that you still need to wear a retainer after treatment.

What is a retainer?

Retainers are designed to hold teeth in place after braces are removed. They are usually made of wire, plastic or a combination of both (click here for more information).

Why do I need a retainer?

If you had orthodontic treatment 15 – 20 years ago, you may find your teeth have become crooked over time. Back then, your orthodontist probably didn’t tell you to wear a retainer.

Orthodontists have tried to figure out why teeth move and whether retainers can be avoided. Studies have looked at whether other things cause teeth to move, such as wisdom teeth and the removal of certain teeth. However, the cause is none of these things. The culprit, it seems, is age. Like our hair and skin, our teeth change over time. They wrinkle in their own way — they get crooked.

How do retainers work?

Braces straighten teeth by applying pressure. Like a tree bending in the breeze, they usually want to return to their original position once the pressure is gone — especially with young patients who are still growing. Retainers increase muscle memory and keep teeth in place.

How long should I wear a retainer?

The length of time you must wear a retainer depends on your situation. We usually recommend that patients wear retainers every day and night for 6 – 12 months. Afterwards, they can usually wear them at night only for 6 – 12 months. Ideally, a retainer should be worn for a lifetime, usually just one – two nights a week, though.

What if I don’t wear a retainer for a short time?

Research shows there is always a risk of your teeth moving after treatment. If you stop wearing your retainer for a short time soon after your braces are removed (when everything is soft and not settled in) you could experience movement. Also, if your treatment was for a serious condition (like severe crowding or severely crooked teeth) your teeth could also be susceptible to movement.

In summary, once your braces are removed, please wear a retainer — prevention is far better than a cure.

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Be kind to your teeth: Why you don’t need sports drinks

Sports drinks help you “go the distance”, according to the marketing. And by drinking them, you’ll be able to push your body that little bit further. Well, unless you are an elite athlete, like Dan Carter, we at Turner Lim Orthodontists do NOT recommend them.

What sports drinks do

During vigorous exercise, if you lose more fluid than your body can replace through sweating, you can become dehydrated. Dehydration will affect your performance because your blood comprises mainly water. This causes your blood volume to decrease and means your heart must work harder to circulate blood throughout your body.

So, the purpose of sports drinks it to hydrate you by replenishing your body with carbohydrates and electrolytes.

Sports drinks are supposed to hydrate you faster than water can. In reality, you’re only likely to need them if you lose more than a litre of body fluid in an hour. And here lies the problem: Everyday sportspeople, particularly children, are highly unlikely to ever lose that much body fluid during exercise. To make matters worse, many people drink sports drinks just because they like the taste — they don’t even play sport!

A recipe for tooth decay

By drinking sports drinks, all you are doing is bathing your teeth in a sugary, acidic solution between meals — a solution that will stay in your mouth for about three hours. This can result in nasty stains on your teeth or, in serious cases, tooth decay. Recently, we had a young patient who loved playing soccer and drinking energy drinks. Unfortunately, his love for brushing his teeth wasn’t as powerful, and they began to rot away.


Sports drinks taste good but play havock with your teeth.

Worse than Coke

It’s common knowledge that Coca-Cola, due to its high sugar content, is bad for our teeth and plays a part society’s obesity problem. However, health professionals believe many sports drinks are worse.

Water is best

In most cases, there is nothing better than water for staying hydrated. And sports coaches now tend to recommend their athletes drink it instead of energy drinks.

Here’s a tip for staying hydrated when exercising:

  • Drink about half a litre of water two hours before you begin your exercise.
  • Then, about 15 minutes before you start, drink half a cup of water.
  • During exercise, take a squirt of water every 15 minutes.

If you still feel that you need something more, you can get a dose of electrolytes in tablet form — without the sugar and artificial ingredients.

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How to stop your child sucking their thumb

Does your child suck their thumb? Don’t panic; it’s natural—ultrasound shows that babies suck their thumbs even before they are born! And around 50% of children indulge in thumb or finger sucking at some stage.

The damage thumb sucking causes

If your child does suck their thumb, it is important they don’t do it for too long. You see, the pressure caused by sucking can push a child’s teeth out and away from each other causing them to stick out. It can also damage the structure of the roof of a child’s mouth.

In reality, thumb sucking causes very little — if any — damage during a child’s early years. However, if they continue the habit when their adult teeth begin to erupt (at around six or seven years of age), they can experience the problems described later on.

To get an idea of the extent of your child’s habit, inspect their fingers or thumbs — you may see calluses or blisters.

Why do children suck their thumbs?

Babies are hard-wired to suck — it’s how they eat. Most babies, though, stop sucking their thumbs at around six months of age. Children who continue sucking their thumbs for longer usually do so when tired, bored or need comfort. It’s not having something in their mouth that they like, rather the pleasure they receive from sucking.

How to stop the habit

There are several things you can do to nip the habit in the bud. For example, you can try “mind games”, and tell your child that Santa’s security cameras are watching, so they had better stop if they want to stay off Santa’s naughty list. Not exactly honest, but it can work..

Here are some other solutions:

  • Varnish — apply a varnish, which tastes really bad, to your child’s fingers or thumbs. Unfortunately, it’s not too hard to lick off, though.
  • Old sock — put a smelly old sock on your child’s hand. Most little girls particularly are horrified by the thought of going anywhere near a smelly old sock.
  • Pretty ring — give your daughter a ring to wear on the offending finger or thumb. Her desire to look after the ring can discourage her from thumb or finger sucking.
  • Thumb guard — this is an oversized silicon tube that fits over the thumb. It is attached to a clip on a child’s wrist, which prevents them from taking it off. Of course, your child can still put the tube in their mouth, but they won’t enjoy the sucking sensation.
  • Thumb crib — your orthodontist can attach a thumb crib to your child’s top molars. It is like a little gate that acts as a reminder that no thumbs are allowed.

So, there are several ways to prevent a child sucking their fingers or thumb. Some may seem a little drastic, a bit sneaky, but if they prevent problems later on, they’re well worth it.

What do you think? Can you suggest any other ways to prevent thumb sucking? We welcome your comments.
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