What is the process for getting adult braces?

Close-up of man with big smile holding orthodontic braces tray in dental officeAdults wearing braces may be more common today (estimates say 1.5 million adults in the US and Canada), but it’s still normal for your pulse to pick up a little when you hear that you may need braces. That’s why we’ve put together a step by step list so you know what to expect from the process for getting your adult braces put on (and taken off!).

Choose your orthodontist.

The first step is to choose the professional you trust with your braces process. There are two options: an orthodontist who exclusively deals with orthodontics or a certified dentist. The bonus of the latter is that you only have to trust one individual with your mouth, and only have to make appointments at one office.

Schedule an appointment.

Every mouth is different, and every patient has different orthodontic needs. An initial exam, along with some diagnostic tests, gives your dentist or orthodontist the information they need to recommend the specific orthodontic treatment that can correct your problem.

Evaluate your options.

Get those pictures of obnoxious headgear out your mind. Today’s brace wearers have more options that can correct the issue—and many adult brace options are completely invisible to other people.

Invisible Braces (Invisalign)

This brace option is not technically braces; instead Invisalign corrects orthodontic problems with a series of removable clear trays. Invisible braces can still fix many orthodontic problems, though they are completely invisible and require less orthodontist visits. Invisible brace wearers do not have any food restrictions and can eat anything with invisible braces. This brace option does require some discipline because the tray must be in approximately 20 hours a day. Invisible braces work best for minor orthodontic corrections; the best way to determine if invisible braces work is to schedule a consultation.

Traditional Braces

Traditional braces are the stainless steel brackets and rubber bands that have been used for decades. These braces correct issues by applying pressure; this method makes these braces an efficient option that can correct the issues faster than invisible braces. Traditional braces have come a long way in terms of appearance; today’s traditional braces are thinner than older versions. Unfortunately, people with traditional braces do have to abstain from certain foods, such as popcorn and taffy.

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces use the same method to correct orthodontic issues, but with a different material than the traditional stainless steel. These braces are made to blend in with your teeth and use white and clear bands. The cons of ceramic braces is that they may require more maintenance because they are not as durable and may discolor.

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces are installed on the back of teeth and are not a very common brace option. Lingual braces take longer to install and can be difficult to clean. People with lingual braces may need to practice speaking because of the hardware position in the mouth.

Get your new braces.

Once you and your certified dentist or orthodontist have decided on the braces option that’s right for you, it’s time to schedule an appointment to get braces on your teeth. Ask your dentist if you should expect any discomfort from the appointment, and their recommendations for ways to lessen the discomfort.

Schedule maintenance (and removal!).

No matter what kind of braces you choose, the braces are going to require some maintenance done in a periodic exam. Ask your dentist or orthodontist how often you need to come in, and what kind of care you need to give your braces at home.

Do’s & Don’ts of Packing a Healthy School Lunch

student with healthy school lunchA healthy and delicious lunch can be synonymous (don’t tell your kids!). It’s also incredibly important; it is, after all, their school day fuel and approximately 20% of their total meals. Use these do’s and don’ts to make those meals healthy from their toe to their mouth (especially your teeth!)—and everything above the gum line (to keep that mouth healthy, teach your kids to brush well and schedule regular dental cleanings and appointments).

Do pack calcium- and vitamin-rich foods.

Foods rich in calcium, protein, Vitamin A and D keep kid’s bodies healthy as they develop and grow, especially the mouth and teeth. Think cheese sticks, tuna, yogurt, turkey, peanut butter, and chicken that are delicious and nutritious.

Don’t pack sugary drinks.

Sugar drinks come in all different kinds and types: flavored water and milk, soda, sports drinks, fruit juice. The truth is that all of these kinds of sugary drinks have more sugar than nutritious value. The truth is that water and white milk are still the best drinks that keep kids hydrated and healthy.

Do choose whole-wheat over white.

White bread breaks down into sugar; when left on your teeth, that sugar can join forces with the bacteria in your mouth to cause cavities and tooth decay. Other starchy carbs can do the same, so avoid packing snacks like pretzels, chips, and crackers.

Don’t avoid vegetables.

Not every kid is crazy about vegetables, but don’t automatically assume that your kids are one of them. Presentation can go a long way with kids, so try to create a fun rainbow effect that makes your kids want to eat their carrot sticks, peppers, or pea pods.

Do look for crunchy foods.

Crunchy foods (i.e. apples, pears, carrots, etc.) not only make funny sounds that bring out the giggles, but they also are a major factor in fending off tooth decay. Crunching and chewing can stir up saliva which can destroy harmful bacteria in the mouth.

Don’t pack sugary foods that can get stuck in teeth.

Fruit leathers and fruit snacks may make your kids salivate at the thought, but they also can get stuck in kids’ teeth and cause tooth decay. Avoid anything gummy, or use it only as a special treat.

Do choose from foods on this list.

Want some concrete healthy foods that meet all these do’s and don’ts? Use this list (and excellent brushing and a regularly scheduled dentist appointment) to keep your kids’ bodies—especially their mouths—happy and healthy all school year.

  • Carrots
  • Cheese sticks
  • Boiled eggs
  • Celery
  • Tuna
  • Celery
  • Pears
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat wrap
  • Yogurt
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Water
  • Milk
  • Peanut butter

Baby Teeth: Everything You Want to Know (Plus!)

cute little boy losing his first baby toothBaby teeth are a big deal; from the moment they poke through baby’s gums until the first (and last!) tooth fairy visit, baby teeth are something to celebrate—and keep healthy! Here’s why you should care for those baby teeth—and all your other questions about these key parts of your child’s health answered.

When do baby teeth come in?

Baby teeth can start to appear as early as 4 months, but every child is different (some kids don’t get teeth until after their first birthday!). It can take time for the first of 20 baby teeth to appear. Don’t worry if there is a gap between the teeth (after all, they lose 20 baby teeth and gain 32 permanent teeth); this is natural so there is room in the mouth for permanent teeth.

How do you care for baby teeth?

Schedule a dentist appointment for your child at about a year. For the first two years, use a fluoride toothpaste and soft toothbrush, cloth, or a store-bought silicone or rubber pad to clean their teeth. Use a tiny, tiny amount of toothpaste.

Once your child gets older, it’s time to start teaching them to brush their own teeth. Remember, it is possible for kids to get cavities in their baby teeth. In fact, the CDC estimates that 42% of all children between 2-11 years have a cavity in their teeth (here’s what to do if your child is one of them). Make sure you brush their teeth until they get the hang of it. Here are tips to instill proper teeth brushing habits at an early age:

  • Make brushing fun! Get toothbrushes (and toothpaste) your kids like. Let them pick out fun toothbrushes that make them want to brush their teeth.  To make sure they brush long enough, use these fun videos or download one of these cool apps to make brushing for two minutes fun.
  • Brush twice a day as often as possible. Life gets busy, but try to teach your kids a healthy morning and evening routine that includes brushing and flossing (even during summer!).
  • Don’t be the only one to stress good teeth brushing. Back up your efforts by asking babysitters, nannies, and relatives who care for your child to stress the importance of brushing and help your kids brush when you are away.
  • Brush your teeth. If you brush regularly, and take care to brush, your kids are more likely to follow your lead. Brush with your kids to show them that you do it—and how to do it correctly.
  • Talk to your kids about teeth brushing and the dentist. Make a point to talk to your kids about proper oral care and the importance of going to the dentist. Once you schedule a dentist appointment, read books and “practice” going to the dentist at home so your kids know what to expect. If you are afraid of the dentist, use these tips to overcome your fear for both you and your kids’ sake.

Why are baby teeth important?

Many parents think that baby teeth aren’t important; after all, why care for baby teeth if they fall out anyway? However, baby teeth are extremely important to your kids’ long-term oral health. If your child gets a cavity in a baby tooth, the decay can spread to the permanent tooth that is coming in. In addition, if a tooth falls out because of decay, other teeth can get out of alignment as they move and fill in the space left by the baby tooth.

When do kids lose their baby teeth?

Every child is different, but baby teeth usually come out between the ages of 6 and 13. If you want to know how many baby teeth your child has lost (or has to lose), schedule a dentist appointment and ask your dentist.

How can you tell the difference between baby and permanent teeth?

We’re not going to lie to you: it’s not easy to tell the difference between a baby and an adult tooth. In general, baby teeth are more white than permanent teeth. Baby teeth also have shorter roots and the layer of enamel and dentin are thinner. New permanent teeth can look more jagged, but the best way to tell the difference is to ask your dentist. They can tell you whether the tooth is a baby or adult tooth, and answer any other questions you might have about baby teeth.

Grinding Your Teeth: What, Why & How to Stop

patient talking to dentist about teeth grindingWe’ve all set clenched our teeth or set our jaw a time or two. When teeth grinding happens on a more regular basis, it’s time to get some questions answered before your teeth are seriously damaged.

What is teeth grinding?

Teeth grinding, called bruxism by medical pros, occurs when a person clenches their jaw and grinds their teeth. Often, a person with bruxism may not even know it, such as when it happens at night. Common symptoms are a dull headache or soreness in the jaw. If the teeth grinding occurs when sleeping, another person in the room may hear the grinding.

How can I find out if I am grinding my teeth?

Schedule an appointment with your dentist. Your dentist can examine your teeth and jaw and look for signs that your teeth are grinding and jaw are clenching.

Why do I grind my teeth?

There are many reasons that people grind their teeth, such as anxiety, stress, an over- or underbite, missing or crooked teeth, or sleep apnea.

Does teeth grinding do damage?

Yes. Regular teeth grinding can wear down teeth, weakening the teeth and causing a host of other oral problems. Patients that do not seek treatment for bruxism may need expensive treatments for fractured, cracked, and missing teeth.

What helps teeth grinding?

Schedule an appointment with your dentist. If your dentist finds any existing damage from teeth grinding, he or she can recommend treatment for any tooth damage. A mouth guard can prevent future damage. If stress may be the cause, alleviating the stress can help prevent more damage. Cutting down or avoiding alcohol and caffeine can also help with teeth grinding. A person with teeth grinding can also get some relief from learning to relax their jaw.

How long can I wait to get my cavity treated?

woman getting a dentist exam and teeth cleaningLife gets busy. And expensive. Which is why it can be tempting to let a cavity go without filling it. Or getting any treatment. But it’s a bad idea. Here’s why.

Cause of a cavity

A cavity is really the product of a perfect storm involving bacteria, food, saliva and the resulting acid. Bacteria in your mouth combine with food that sits on your teeth and creates plaque which includes acid. The acid in the plaque eats holes in your tooth (tooth decay) called cavities.  Patients can usually tell they have a cavity because of pain, sensitive teeth, or can feel a hole in their teeth.

How a cavity is treated

A cavity can be treated several different ways; the extent of the damage and location of the damage dictates what treatment is used. Two of the most common cavity treatments are:

  • Filling. For cavities that haven’t affected the tooth root or pulp, a filling is usually the best option. During a filling, the dentist clears out the damage and decay and fills in the area.
  • Root canal. Root canals, another common cavity treatment, are commonly needed when the decay has spread to the pulp or tooth root. When a root canal is done, the infected tissue is cleaned out, the area disinfected, and the void is filled in. A temporary filling is applied temporarily until the permanent crown is ready. The last phase is placing the permanent crown on the tooth (for this reason, schedule two appointments for a root canal).

Why you need to treat a cavity ASAP

You don’t always feel a cavity, and often that can make it very tempting to wait to take care of it. Unfortunately, putting off taking care of a cavity can cause more problems in the long run.

  • Your one-tooth cavity can turn into bigger (and more expensive) problem. A cavity is decay, and decay continues until it is removed. Delaying treatment can lead to more cavities and more decay. If the decay spreads to the pulp or tooth root, a more extensive treatment may be required (think root canal versus filling), costing you more time and money for the procedure.  
  • A painless cavity can turn into an inconvenient dental emergency. There’s another compelling reason for preventative care: a cavity that doesn’t hurt now can cause significant pain later—and possibly at the worse time. To keep the pain away and avoid the inevitable emergency holiday or after hours dental appointment, schedule regular dental cleanings and exams.

6 Summer Treats that Damage Your Teeth

Family having a picnic at the beach with summer treats that can damage teethSummer comes with a list of fun: swimming, yard games, hiking…and enjoying a host of summer treats. While those treats may make your (and our!) mouths water, they can damage your teeth if you’re not careful. That’s why we’ve given you a list of summer treats that you should enjoy (with caution!) and tips that keep your teeth healthy until fall.


Summer and soda go together like peanut butter and jelly. You can find soda at every grill out, company picnic, brat fry, and get together. Unfortunately, those delicious sodas (and sugary drinks) come with a cost: cavities. The sugar in the soda combines with the bacteria in your mouth to create the perfect storm that can wear down enamel and cause cavities.

Iced coffee

Iced coffee may be a great (and cool!) way to start a hot summer day, but it comes with a double dose of caution. Iced coffee can stain your teeth and the added flavors are loaded with sugar. Sipping at an iced coffee throughout the morning continuously stains and delivers sugar to your mouth, damaging your teeth and putting your hopes of no bad news at your next dentist appointment at risk.

Ice cream

Ice cream is delicious, wonderfully cold on a hot day, full of calcium, and damaging to your teeth. Many ice creams are produced with a lot of sugar, putting your teeth at risk for cavities and gum disease. Ice cream is also one of the chief offenders for people with sensitive teeth, which is caused by an erosion of tooth enamel.


Pickles are a delicious burger topping and simple side dish at every grill out; however, the vinegary acid that makes pickles so mouth-watering can also erode your enamel and cause sensitive teeth.


This delicious drink may be a summer staple, but it’s also an acidic drink. The acid in lemonade can wear down enamel over time. Flavored lemonade can have a secondary hazard: sugar. When you do enjoy a delicious glass, drink it down—don’t sip!

Potato Chips

Salty potato chips are mouth-watering; unfortunately they are also a mouth hazard. Potato chips have a pesky way of breaking into little pieces that can hide in your mouth and get stuck in between teeth. With a high starch content, potato chips can put your mouth at risk for cavities and a host of other dental problems.

Tips for keeping your mouth healthy this summer

What should I do if I lose a permanent tooth?

man grimacing in pain from a broken toothIt doesn’t matter if you lose a tooth or your child gets a tooth knocked out. There’s always a moment of panic and a million questions. What should I do with the tooth? Is there going to be permanent damage? How much is it going to cost to repair the damage? How soon should I see the dentist? What do I do now?

That’s why we’ve put together a list of tips and steps to use when you’re faced with a knocked out or broken tooth.

The “don’ts” of a knocked out or broken tooth

  • Don’t touch the root of the tooth, where the tooth touches the gum.
  • Don’t put the lost tooth in anything except cow’s milk or saltwater.
  • Don’t try to scrub or scrape the tooth (especially the root).
  • Don’t forget to plug the sink before you rinse the tooth (you don’t want to lose it down the drain!).

What to do

11 Summer Safety Tips that’ll Keep your Summer Fun

healthy young family swimming in poolSummer should be synonymous with fun—not with emergency room visits or nights of pain and sickness. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of tips to use this summer to keep you and your family safe and out of the emergency room (hopefully!).

Be prepared.

To keep minor injuries from turning into larger problems, prepare before you head out for a summer of fun. Check your first aid kits to make sure they are fully stocked, and restock as needed. Put your stocked kits in your cars, camper, home, cabin, and any other area you frequent during the summer.

Make sure you and your family are also trained in basic first aid (don’t forget to educate yourself in how to handle dental emergencies too!) so you can provide care if, and when, needed.

Apply sunscreen.

Sun burns and sunstroke can put a real damper on your summer fun. Apply sunscreen before you head to the lake or pool, when hiking, or for any fun in the sun. Make sure you get those vulnerable (and often forgotten) areas, such as the tips of your ears and nose. Reapply sunscreen frequently, and make sure your lips are protected from the sun as well. For young children and infants, use swim shirts and big hats to protect them from the sun.

Avoid too many sweet indulgences.

Summer picnics and outings come with a lot of summer treats: s’mores, cotton candy, ice cream, soda…the list could go on and on. As tempting as they might be, indulge with caution: those sweet treats can lead to cavities and dental problems. Avoid those cavities by brushing afterwards, not sipping soda or sweet drinks, and swishing or drinking water when done (more information about soda and cavities here).

Be careful with fireworks.

Fireworks can be lots of fun, but are also the cause of many emergency room visits every year. Use extreme caution when setting off fireworks, and monitor children very closely with sparklers (or not let them hold them at all).

Don’t abandon your good hygiene habits and routines.

It’s normal to fall out of routine and forget to brush when you get home late, or for kids to forget to brush because they are not getting ready for school. Make sure everyone brushes and flosses during summer to prevent unpleasant cavities and dental emergencies that come when you miss brushing.

Keep the bugs away.

Ticks and mosquitoes can be a major pain during summer, and also the source of illnesses that could derail your summer plans. Use bug spray, oils, and other deterrents to keep those bugs away—and keep your family healthy through the summer.

Stay hydrated.

With all the fun of summer, dehydration can quickly become a problem when you’re so busy. Keep a water bottle close at hand, and take frequent water breaks to stay hydrated throughout the day. If you drink sports drinks for hydration, make sure you follow up with water and brush soon after to stay hydrated without cavities.

Keep your important appointments.

Let’s just state the obvious: summers get busy. When your calendar starts filling up with sports games, get togethers, and all the other fun of summer, it can be really tempting to cancel the important appointments (i.e. dentist, doctor, etc.) that keep you healthy. Book your summer appointments well in advance to find a convenient time, and make sure you keep them to stay healthy.

Take two wheel safety to heart.

Bikes and summer go together, so take full advantage of the warm temperatures and enjoy some two wheel fun. When you do head out on the road or trail, make sure everyone wears their helmet and obeys the rules of the road.

Avoid pesty plants.

Poison oak, poison ivy, and poison sumac are everywhere—along hiking trails, in our yards, along the roads. Know what each of these pesty plants look like, and avoid them as much as possible.

Be safe in the water.

During summer, our lakes and pools get very crowded with swimmers, boaters, and recreationists of all kinds. When you’re out on the water or in the water, be safe. Use life jackets when boating or tubing, and when swimming if you’re not the strongest swimmer. Don’t get into the water after a friend or relative if they are struggling; instead throw or extend a flotation device to them to assist them without getting in trouble.

Never let your kids go into a lake or pool without keeping a close eye on them. Close gates around pools to keep little kids safe. Have fun this summer, and be safe!

Unhealthy Habits to Avoid this Summer

Summer writing on sandSummer is a time for fun; it shouldn’t be a time for sickness or nights of pain. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens when we slip into unhealthy habits that tend to come with summer. Here’s what to avoid this summer so you don’t remember this summer for all the wrong reasons (like mouth pain and emergency doctor visits!).

Drinking a lot of soda

During summer, sodas seem to be everywhere you go—at every cookout, every company picnic, every concession stand. It’s really easy to grab a soda at every meal (and in between meals). It’s also really easy for the sugar from the soda to combine with bacteria in your mouth to form acid. The resulting acid can decay your tooth enamel, causing cavities.Scientific studies have shown a strong connection between soda consumption and tooth decay.

 What to do: Try to avoid drinking soda this summer, or limit the amount of sodas you drink. If you do drink a soda, use a straw and drink water after you are done with your soda. Brush and floss afterward (and regularly!). Try to avoid sodas right before you head to bed, and sipping the soda for a long time. Schedule a dentist appointment and cleaning to keep your teeth healthy and avoid a painful mouth.

Lack of sleep

All the late night grill outs, camping trips, and no school leads to an unhealthy side effect: not getting enough good quality sleep. The amount of sleep each person needs is different for everyone, and so are the side effects. Eventually, a lack of sleep can lead to illness, injuries, and decreased productivity.

What to do: If tracking your activities helps keep you accountable, use an app or tracking device to monitor the amount of sleep you’re getting. Some tracking devices can also tell you how much deep sleep you are getting each night to make sure your sleep time is quality. Try to maintain a schedule throughout summer with a regular bed time (for you and your kids).


Smoking affects every part of your body, including your oral health. It’s also really easy to keep smoking—or smoke periodically—during social gatherings or while you are spending a lot of time outside in the beautiful weather. In addition to bad breath, smoking causes discoloration of your teeth, an increased chance of gum disease and oral cancers, longer healing times after dental procedures, bone loss in your jaw, and a host of other oral problems.

What to do: The best way to avoid the side effects of tobacco is to quit—which, as a lot of past smokers will tell you is easier said than done. Quitting smoking takes a commitment every day, and a lack of temptations. Throw out your cigarettes, and avoid routines where smoking was part of the activity. Focus on the positive effects of smoking: a healthier body, saving money, more time to hang out with your kids. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or research aids that can assist you during this difficult process.

No flossing

Summer is a busy time, and it’s easy to cut corners to try to keep up, especially when you’re in a rush in the morning or at bed time. It’s really easy to forget to floss in the morning or at night. Unfortunately, that can lead to negative consequences later: bad breath, cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease (plus a few other downfalls).

What to do: Use these tips to teach your kids to brush and floss, and use some of those tips for yourself. Establish a healthy routine and stick to it. Remember, it doesn’t matter if you floss before or after you brush, as long as you do it.

All Your Questions About Invisible Braces Answered

Close-up of man with big smile holding orthodontic braces tray in dental officeAfter the news that a patient needs braces wears off, the barrage of questions usually starts coming.  “How long do I have to wear braces?” “What are my options for braces?” (That answer is here.) If the patient chooses invisible braces, another list of questions usually follows.  We’ve done our best to answer some of the most common questions about invisible braces; our answers are specifically about Invisalign, which is the brand that we carry and recommend for anyone who wants to use invisible braces to correct their orthodontic issues.

How do invisible braces work?

Invisible braces are custom made for each user.  Invisible braces correct orthodontic problems with a series of removable clear trays that need to be worn for 20-22 hours a day.  Invisible braces can be removed for normal brushing and flossing, which helps keep teeth clean and your breath fresh.

How do I care for my invisible braces? 

There is a specific cleaning system that can be ordered for invisible braces or the user can brush and rinse the aligners in water.

Do I have to be careful about what I eat while I have invisible braces?

There are no food restrictions if you choose invisible braces. The aligners can be removed so you can eat and drink what you want.

Will it correct my alignment issue? Who can use invisible braces?

Invisible braces can correct a number of alignment issues; your dentist or orthodontist can tell you if invisible braces are the right option for you.  These braces are only available for teens and adults, and require less orthodontist visits than traditional braces.  To find out if invisible braces are right for you, schedule an appointment.

How much do invisible braces cost?

The cost for traditional braces and Invisalign are the same at Watertown Area Dental Clinic.  To find out the exact price of braces, schedule a free consultation.

Does insurance cover invisible braces?

It depends on the type of insurance you have.  Some dental plans completely cover the cost of invisible braces, while others only cover only partial or none at all.  The best way to find out is to contact your insurance provider to find out whether and, if so, how much of the cost is covered under your insurance plan.