Proper Braces Hygiene

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Can you believe it? 2014 is almost over already! We hope all of you in Ottawa had wonderful holiday celebrations with your friends and families, and wish nothing but the best for 2015. With the new year right around the corner, people all over the capital city are learning from their experiences this year and looking forward to more success in the upcoming year by creating New Year’s resolutions. You’ve may have heard a friend resolving to be more frugal or take up a new hobby. Maybe your sister has vowed to go to the gym everyday, or perhaps you’ve even thought of a resolution for yourself, to further your career or live a more healthy lifestyle. Although it takes a lot of determination to change your routine for the whole year, a resolution to live healthier is actually a great way to start the year off on the right foot.

girl with braces cleaning teeth

For those Ottawans with braces, if your New Year’s resolution involves healthier living, why not try an easy change to your routine, like an upgrade to your teeth-cleaning regimen? Don’t worry, we’re not here to give you a lecture, but if you’re planning to get your braces off next year, it is important to understand that if proper brushing techniques are not executed, you can be left with undesired discoloring, cavities on your teeth, or even swollen and infected gum tissue. You don’t have to panic, though, because we are here to help!

Following these steps while brushing your teeth will help you achieve proper braces hygiene and that perfect smile at the end of your orthodontic treatment:

  1. Rinse your mouth with water to remove any loose food particles.

  2. Using a regular bristle toothbrush and your favourite toothpaste, brush back and forth at about a 45 degree angle from your teeth on top of and below the wires.

  3. Make sure to brush not only the brackets, wires and front of your teeth, but also the chewing surface, sides and back of the teeth, as well as the roof of your mouth, the insides of your cheeks, your tongue and  your gums!

  4. Some tooth brushes are labeled “orthodontic” but really any tooth brush work just fine.  The orthodontic ones makes it a little easier to brush since they are smaller, double-ended brush with a cone shape on one end, and a tuft on the other designed to clean hard-to-reach areas. Each of these ends can also be found as individual brushes.  They can de used to clean between brackets and behind the wires with the cone brush, upwards from the bottom of the tooth, and from the gum line downward. Use the smaller end for tight, over-crowded areas.

  5. Rinse your mouth once again, this time swish mouthwash around and try to be as thorough as possible, swishing around each tooth.

For a demonstration of brushing and cleaning techniques with braces, check out this video, or ask us at your next appointment – we would be happy to show you. All it takes to achieve your goal of well-being is just a little more commitment to your own oral hygiene, not only for a New Year’s resolution, but for your overall health.

Teen girl with braces and doctor with patient in background.

We wish you luck with your new routine and your 2015 New Year’s resolution! Happy New Year, Ottawa!

Health Benefits of Smiling

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When you’re feeling down, people will sometimes say “just smile”, and “laugh it off”, but does that have any merit? Can smiling really make you feel better? Smiling does a lot more than simply tell the world that you’re happy, it really can boost your health! Here are the main benefits to flashing those pearly whites:

1. Smiling Through the Pain

Smiling and laughter have both been shown to lessen pain by releasing endorphins – which actually lift our moods! Not only that, these endorphins counteract and diminish stress hormones and many of them act as natural painkillers too. The more genuine the smile, the better for releasing these endorphins.

Smiling may also help to reduce symptoms associated with anxiety. When that smile signals to your brain that you’re feeling happy (even though you’re not really feeling happy…yet), your body will usually slow down your breathing and heart rate. Reducing stress is so important for health, too, as it can lower blood pressure, improve digestion and regulate blood sugar.

2. For the Love of Your Heart

In addition to providing evidence that genuine smiles are more effective for reducing stress than fake smiles, a study from the University of Kansas also suggests that “smiling during a taxing task—not just after—can help the body and mind recover more quickly.” After the heart rates of subjects spiked during the stressful tasks, the hearts of the smilers quickly dropped back down to more relaxed rates than those of the non-smilers. The genuine smilers showed the lowest heart rates of all.

What’s more, another study of nearly 2,000 people published in the European Heart Journal revealed that those with a more positive outlook were less likely to develop heart disease than their more pessimistic peers.

3. The Power of Positivity

According to a Cambridge University study, having a positive attitude can go a long way. Researchers asked subjects to estimate the weight of boxes before they lifted them. Subjects who felt “powerless” were more likely to estimate the boxes as being much heavier than they really were. Those who had a more positive attitude estimated that the boxes weighed less. Not only does this help in your workout, but it can also help you take on everyday tasks – just smile and feel empowered!

Research also shows that smiling is contagious. Ever been around someone who just  emanates positivity? Studies show that something as simple as seeing a friend smile can activate the muscles in your face to make that same expression, without you even being aware that you are doing it.

4. Landing the Job, or the Date

In a study published in the December 2009 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, people looked at full-body photographs of people they had never met. The people in the photos had one of two expressions: neutral or a smile. When observers saw the photos of smiling people, they were more likely to think that the person in the photo was likeable, confident, conscientious and stable – all qualities that employers want to see in their future employees!

A more pragmatic benefit is that restaurant workers who serve customers with a smile are observed to receive larger tips and repeat business. Even if you work in an office, smiling can affect the way one person is received by another over the phone!

2011 findings by researchers at the Face Research Laboratory at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland showed that smiling actually makes you more attractive to others. Subjects were asked to rate smiling and attractiveness. They found that both men and women were more attracted to images of people who made eye contact and smiled than those who did not.

5. Smiling Leads to Laughing

A myriad of studies have been done on the health benefits of laughing, including how it acts like a mini workout that burns calories and works the abs. Laughter also helps blood flow, lowers blood sugar levels, reduces stress and improves sleep. It may also raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body, which helps boost your immune system.

With so many benefits, it’s hard to think of reasons not to smile! So go ahead and grin Ottawa, it’s good for your health!

Toothbrush Buying Guide

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When taking care of your oral hygiene, the most essential daily activity you can do is brush your teeth. When brushing your teeth it is important to purchase one that will effectively and properly get the job done. Look for the Canadian Dental Association’s seal of approval to ensure that an independent body of scientific experts has evaluated the product. Additional considerations come down to making sure the design of the brush is effective by making your experience comfortable, efficient and personalized.

Manual vs. Powered

An alternative to manual brushes is a rechargeable electric toothbrush that can help you maintain the health of your teeth and gums. The brushing action of these “power” brushes is very different from the manual variety. The electric brush provides the movement and you only need to guide it. It might take a while to get used to, but the trick is simply moving it properly over the surface area of your teeth.

Electric brushes aren’t necessarily better for your teeth but they can make it more convenient for your brushing routine. Additionally, young children might find brushing with an electric brush more fun than with a manual one. If you have difficulty brushing with a manual toothbrush it might be worthwhile to give it a try and see if you find it more comfortable or easier. Essentially this distinction is simply a matter of choice and preference so try both and see which one you prefer.


An important decision when considering a purchase is the size of the toothbrush head. For best results and comfort, it is essential that this portion of the brush be properly sized for maneuverability and be capable of reaching every corner of your mouth. Make sure that you can properly reach to the sides and backs of your molars as well as having it fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. For ease of use, small-headed brushes are preferable over larger ones. When it comes to handle size, type and shape this is simply a matter of personal preference and you should pick the one that suits you best. Ask your dentist if you need a little more guidance on what size of toothbrush is best for you.

Bristle Variety

When visiting the drugstore you are presented with quite a few options when selecting bristles for your brush: soft, medium or hard nylon bristles. For most people the safest and preferred choice is soft bristles. When brushing too vigorously with medium or hard bristles you can compromise the strength of your teeth, damaging the gums as well as the root surface.

The shape of bristles can customize your tooth brushing routine even further. Available options include a cup shaped design to better accommodate the shape of your teeth, diagonal patterns to better clean the sides of your teeth or there might be slightly longer bristles intermixed that serve to get in between teeth while brushing. Look for brushes that features bristles with rounded tips for additional protection.

Toothbrush Care

Seeing as the primary use of a toothbrush is to eliminate bacteria from your mouth, you should take care that it is sanitary and bacteria-free. When going on a vacation or a trip you should cover it or keep it in a container to avoid the accumulation of dirt and harmful bacteria. When you are at home you should do the exact opposite and only store your toothbrush in vertically and in open air. This is to ensure that the moisture in the bristles can evaporate, which is important in the constantly humid environment of a bathroom.

You can explore using “toothbrush sanitizers” but there is no solid evidence that they work any better than rinsing with water and letting dry in open air. Do not attempt to sanitize your toothbrush with your oven or microwave; excessive heat will damage the brush. There is also no need to panic about a minimal amount of bacteria, which can be present on your toothbrush. The human body is constantly exposed to unfriendly microorganisms; the body is normally capable of defending itself through a variety of mechanisms inherent to how our body functions. With proper care by simply rinsing and air-drying, there is no adverse effect due to the bacteria on toothbrushes.

Each individual in your household shoÍuld have a personal toothbrush that shouldn’t be used with others. Sharing will cause an exchange of bodily fluids and microorganisms that might be harmful to everyone using the brush. With use, the bristles will become more worn and frayed which can lead to it being less effective in removing bacteria. To ensure good oral hygiene, replace toothbrushes every 3-4 months.

Brushing with Braces

Your routine when brushing remains the same while you have your braces. You continue to use the same brushes. You maintain a routine of brushing the fronts, sides, backs, chewing surfaces of your teeth. Continue to brush the tongue and roof of your mouth for a full two minutes. You can ask your dentist to prescribe you fluoride toothpaste to prevent tooth decay even further. When your braces are nice and shiny with the brackets clear and clean, you’ve done a great job! If you need help, feel free to ask your Ottawa orthodontist for any recommendations.

Don’t Forget To Floss!

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Every January, many of us make resolutions to be healthier or set out to achieve exciting new goals. Unfortunately, by halfway through the month we have may already abandoned these promises to ourselves. The problem is not always that we don’t have the desire or willpower to stick to our resolutions, but that we simply get caught up in our regular routine and forget to incorporate positive new habits.

A very important resolution that we recommend everyone make is to floss every day. For those who already floss regularly, way to go! Keep it up! Flossing is easy to do and only takes a few minutes each day, but it can make a really positive impact on your oral health. The most challenging part of flossing is often just remembering to do it. Here are some of our suggestions for fun and easy ways to remember to floss:

Visual Cues

Tying a string around your finger to act as a reminder used to be a common practice. For an update on this tradition, try adding a bright ribbon to the handle of your toothbrush that will signal it’s time to floss when you feel it against your hand or see it in the mirror. You could also buy or create a decorative “Remember to Floss” sign for your bathroom and place it somewhere you will see it every day such as above the sink. If you prefer to keep it simple, a sticky note on your mirror would also do the trick!

Digital Reminders

For the technology lovers out there, we suggest using your smartphone as a tool for reminding you to floss everyday. The simplest way to enforce a flossing habit using your phone is to set an alarm with a label such as “Floss Your Teeth!” We recommend selecting a time you know you will be at home or able to access dental floss so there are no excuses. Try setting an alarm for shortly after you wake up in the morning or around the time you normally get ready for bed. There are also several apps you can try that are designed to digitally help people form habits, including one called Floss.

Buddy System

Finally, as with many other goals, it is easier to stick to a flossing habit if you have someone to hold you accountable. Find a friend or family member around Ottawa who is also trying to floss more regularly and agree that you will check in with each other once per day. You are more likely to floss if you know someone will be asking you and you will also want to make sure you’ve flossed before asking your accountability partner.

Making flossing a part of your daily routine is an important step in improving overall oral health. We hope one of our tricks for remembering to floss works for you! What are your best tips for creating a habit or keeping a resolution?