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All Posts in Category: Oral health

Don’t let a dental braces malfunction spoil your holiday

You’re going on holiday. Great. For a week or two — maybe longer — you can let down your hair down and forget about the everyday stresses of daily life. If you wear dental braces, though, be prepared. After all, we’d hate for a twisted wire or broken bracket to spoil your fun.

If you’re planning a significant time away, get a braces ‘warrant of fitness.’ It won’t take long, and your orthodontist will be able to check that everything is in place, so you can have peace of mind.

What to pack

To ensure your braces are well maintained, put together a holiday hygiene kit. Here’s a list of what to include:

  • a travel toothbrush
  • toothpicks
  • dental floss (we recommend Superfloss, as it makes flossing easy and is available at most pharmacies)
  • orthodontic wax (this prevents any protruding wire from causing discomfort)
  • elastic bands
  • a bottle of mouth rinse
  • a mirror to enable you to inspect your braces.

To eat or not to eat?

While on holiday we often try foods we might not normally eat. However, please avoid foods that are hard, chewy or sticky. We suggest that patients with braces brush two to three times a day. However, the chances are that your teeth will be exposed to more enamel-eating sugar than usual, so try to brush more often.

Anyway, on the subject of food, here are some definite no-no’s:

  • corn on the cob
  • boiled sweets
  • nuts such as peanuts, almonds and cashews
  • hard bread rolls
  • hard biscuits (or dunk them in your coffee or Milo first)
  • ice.

Some foods you can eat

Of course, there is a myriad of foods you can eat. Here are some:

  • Fruit— cut whole fruits, like apples and pears, into wedges before you eat them. Fruit like bananas, oranges, grapes and berries are generally safe to eat.
  • Dairy products — cheese and yogurt are nice, safe options.
  • Sandwiches — try with avocado sprinkled with salt and pepper.
  • Walnuts — although most nuts will do your braces no favours, walnuts are softer and are usually okay to eat.
  • Desserts — custard, ice cream and chocolate.

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Drink sports drinks: Is that really what Richie does?

Sports and energy drinks. If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know I hold serious reservations about them — they’re bad for your teeth, and unless you’re an elite athlete, do little to enhance sporting prowess.

A few months ago, I published this post about the dangers of sports drinks. Soon after, I saw this disturbing story in the media:

In Nelson, a five-year-old boy needed to have multiple rotting teeth removed. He arrived at the clinic holding a large bottle of Powerade. When the dentist asked him why he was drinking Powerade, he said, “because Richie does.”

Of course, the little boy was referring to ex-All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.

As an orthodontist, I find this shocking. There is no way a five-year-old child should be drinking Powerade.

Funnily enough, a smart little boy at my clinic who had heard the story said to me, “I don’t think Richie does drink it.”

It’s sad because I suspect he’s right — Richie McCaw probably doesn’t drink Powerade. Yet, he’s sponsored by them, and young people who put him on a pedestal think they need it to be like him.

The dentist who treated the boy, Dr. Rob Beaglehole, rightly pointed out to Stuff that sugary drinks contribute to many health issues in New Zealand, which include tooth decay, obesity and type-2 diabetes.

What are sports drinks?

Sports drinks are designed to replenish your body with carbohydrates and electrolytes faster than water can. You need this kind of replenishment if you lose more than a litre of body fluid an hour. The thing is, though everyday sportspeople (especially children) will never lose that much fluid during exercise. And, in fact, many of those who favour these drinks don’t even play sport — they just like the taste!

Terrible for children

More health professionals are beginning to recognise the dangers of too much sugar. Sports and energy drinks actually contain more sugar than Coca Cola. So, if you give your child a sports drink, you are effectively bathing their teeth in a tooth-decaying, sugary solution between meals. For children, and adults for that matter, water is a far better option.

Time for a change

As more cases like the Nelson boy emerge, I wonder whether top sports people will begin to distance themselves from sports drinks. I hope so.

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How your smile can affect your physical & mental health

You can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true, but it doesn’t stop people unfairly judging us on our looks.

Your smile influences how others perceive you. For example, if you have lower protruding teeth you may be viewed as aggressive. If you have a gap in your upper teeth, people may think you’re not too bright (picture Lloyd Christmas from Dumb & Dumber). That’s just the way it is.

The mechanics of a smile

Do you know it takes 12 muscles to smile and 113 muscles to frown? Melancholy is exhausting! When you smile you feel good about yourself; others get a good vibe, too. By smiling at someone, you send a message that they’re attractive, pleasant and likeable. You put them at ease.

Career prospects

Unfortunately people’s perceptions can affect your success in life. A study in America looked at recruitment companies. Recruiters were shown manipulated images that gave some people sticky-out teeth and some crooked teeth. The study showed candidates with bite problems were less likely to get a position.

Of course, people’s perceptions also affect how you feel about yourself. There have been many psychological tests that show people feel better about themselves if their teeth aren’t crooked.

Your health

So, we’ve addressed the, perhaps, superficial side of bite problems. However, whether you care about your looks or not, consider your physical health.

Your mouth is the gateway to your body — gum disease, missing teeth and cavities can have a negative effect on your health.

Some conditions cause by bad teeth
  • Heart disease — about 91% of people with heart disease have inflammation in the mouth (periodontitis).
  • Diabetes — people with periodontitis tend to have less ability to control blood sugar levels.
  • Bad breath — as if a bite problem wasn’t enough! Gum disease can also lead to bad breath.

Turn that frown upside down

Okay, smiling is good. That we all agree on. However, what if you have crooked or missing teeth? It can seriously knock your confidence — you’re more likely to hide your teeth than flash a “gappy” smile. And, of course, the health issues are a concern.

The obvious course of action is to see your orthodontist or dentist. The sooner you address a dental issue the better, and there are many options available. For example, braces are not reserved just for teenagers; it is never too late to get orthodontic treatment. Braces are also far more comfortable and less obtrusive than they used to be (check out 4 types of braces).

Everyone deserves to enjoy good physical and mental health. It’s a shame when poor teeth get in the way.

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