Back-to-school Survival Guide for Braces

With the first official day of fall only a few weeks away, most kids are heading back to school soon. For children and teens undergoing orthodontic treatment, there’s no better time to review proper braces care during the school day! This is especially important for patients returning to school for the first time since having their braces put on.

Embarking on a new orthodontic journey comes with ups and downs, but Surf City Smiles is here to help make the transition from late nights to early mornings go smoothly. If you’re a new or established patient feeling a little anxious about the upcoming school year, keep reading below for a few of our favorite tips on caring for your braces in and out of the classroom!

Be smart

At school, home, on the sports field, or anywhere in between –  when it comes to caring for your braces, the same rules apply no matter where you are. Paying attention to food restrictions is particularly important, since these are in place to protect both your braces and your teeth while you’re in treatment. While this is relatively easy to manage at home, it might be a bit harder to avoid crunchy and chewy stuff if you buy school lunches or regularly use a vending machine for snacks.

To help you get back into the swing of things at school, start checking the lunch menu for braces-friendly options in the upcoming weeks. This includes foods like lean meat, mashed potatoes, spaghetti, mac and cheese, and cooked vegetables. If there’s nothing that appeals to you, try packing a lunch instead. Pasta, soups, and other soft options are good choices for a Thermos, or you can cut sandwiches into smaller bites the night before. This will also make eating and chewing much easier for you, especially after adjustment appointments.

Since patients in braces need to steer clear of lots of snack foods like pretzels, chips, and some raw fruits and veggies, you might be at a loss when it comes to choosing something satisfying. However, there are lots of healthy options still on the menu, such as applesauce, yogurt, and bananas. These are gentle on your braces and keep you feeling full and satisfied throughout the day.  

What you choose to drink at school can affect your braces, too. Drinking from a water bottle throughout the day is a great way to stay hydrated, and it will also keep food particles from sticking to your teeth and in your braces. Try to stick to plain water instead of soda, fruit juices, or other sugary drinks, since these can stain your teeth and increase the risk for cavities. If you do indulge in a sweet drink or two, use a straw to keep the sugar away from your teeth, and be sure to brush as soon as you can.  

Be prepared

If you don’t already keep a braces care kit with you, this is the perfect time to make one! These are especially handy if you haven’t been wearing braces for very long. Pop a few commonly used items in a bag, then throw it in your purse, backpack, or locker. This will help keep you prepared for any braces-related issues that may pop up during the school day. Some useful things to include in the kit are:

A soft-bristled toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, and dental floss

Brackets and wires create lots of nooks and crannies that can trap food particles and other debris. We encourage all of our school-aged patients to brush after lunch with fluoride toothpaste, followed by a quick floss if there’s time.

Orthodontic wax

You may experience some mild irritation to your lips, cheeks, or gums during the treatment process. A pea-sized amount of orthodontic wax placed over the area causing problems is an easy way to get some fast relief.

An unsharpened pencil

Your wires might stray from time to time, poking into the cheek and irritating the mouth in general. If this occurs, you can use the eraser end of a pencil to nudge them back into place.

Lip balm

Braces can cause dryness and irritation to the lips. Lip balm is a must-have accessory for braces patient!

Be safe

If you’re a student athlete or still have regular P.E. classes, we strongly recommend using an orthodontic mouthguard. Although many people tend to think sports like football and hockey are the most dangerous to teeth, almost half of all sports-related mouth injuries occur in low-impact activities like basketball and baseball!

Orthodontic mouth guards are designed to be worn with braces, and when they are properly fitted, they’ll protect your mouth if you are tackled, elbowed, or get knocked down. These mouth guards can be found at most major sporting goods stores, along with non-orthodontic models. Dr. Carlson is also happy to recommend or order one for you if you’d rather go through our office instead.

Back-to-school Survival Guide for Braces Teen girl with braces

Get your best back to school smile with Surf City Smiles

If you’re going back to school with new braces, it’s not unusual to feel a little bit nervous about what to expect in the months ahead. Even patients who have been in braces for a while can struggle with some anxiety when it’s time to start setting those early alarms! The good news is, it only takes a short amount of time for the ins and outs of braces to become just another part of your regular routine.

Here at Surf City Smiles, we’re committed to making your orthodontic journey as positive and stress-free as possible. For more information on navigating the new school year while wearing braces, get in touch with our expert team. You deserve a straight-A smile, and we’re here to help you achieve that!

girl smiling

Many people tend to associate orthodontics with teenagers in bulky braces, so it can come as a bit of a surprise to learn that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends all kids have their first orthodontic evaluation by around the age of 7! Even though children this age have mouths that are still developing and a number of baby teeth left, we view early orthodontic visits as a vital part of the preventative approach we take here at Surf City Smiles Orthodontics.

When you bring your young child in for an examination with Dr. Carlson, you give our expert team the opportunity to catch any existing or potential orthodontic issues sooner rather than later. This reduces the risk of those problems becoming a much bigger deal later on in life, which in turn can help prevent those same problems from having a negative impact on your child’s future permanent teeth and bite.

Because we have a number of younger patients, we’ve been able to observe firsthand how starting treatment at the most opportune time can make a positive difference to a child’s overall oral health. If your child is ready for their first orthodontic appointment, we’d love to schedule a consultation for you both so we can take a look at how their mouth is developing! Keep reading below to learn more about some of the things our team will be checking for during this initial evaluation.

Tooth loss and eruption

It’s tempting to think that baby teeth don’t really matter since they eventually fall out anyway. But these primary teeth are actually placeholders for our permanent teeth, so where they’re located and when they are lost really does matter. They also tend to fall out in a fairly specific order, so any significant deviation from that pattern may signify a developmental issue that could need further attention.

At this stage in their dental development, most children will have at least four permanent molars and up to four permanent incisors. Any more or less than this could indicate a problem with missing, crowding, or extra teeth. In some of these cases, we may choose to remove a primary tooth early. In others, simply maintaining a space where a tooth has been lost prematurely may be sufficient to keep the neighboring teeth from crowding it.

Crowding and spacing

We will often see spacing issues when a tooth is lost prematurely, where one has never developed, or with teeth that are too small or spaced too far apart. If crowding is the problem, it can often be corrected by expanding the arches or removing certain teeth. An experienced orthodontist like Dr. Carlson will generally be able to tell fairly early on in a child’s life if they’re experiencing problems with excessive crowding or spacing of their teeth, or if these seem like problems they are likely to develop later on.


When the teeth are crooked, it can make it difficult to clean them effectively. They’re also more susceptible to uneven damage and wear. If left untreated, this kind of misalignment can compromise the surrounding gum tissue, affecting the shape and position of it. Although we’re able to align teeth at almost any age, getting a head start on this can help prevent some of that damage in children, giving them a great shot at developing and maintaining a healthy smile!

Boy smiling Why Your Child Should See An Orthodontist By Age 7

Overbite (protrusive front teeth)

Front teeth that protrude are often cited as a cosmetic concern, but they may also cause pain in the jaw, and can even affect normal speech patterns. We sometimes need to wait until your child’s mouth has finished growing before permanently correcting an overbite, there are still a number of things we can do in the meantime to help reduce the risk of pain and traumatic injury (while also increasing a child’s self-confidence!)


Most underbites we see are caused by problems with either the teeth or the jaws. The most difficult scenario involves the lower jaw growing too far forward. In a difficult case like this, we will typically need to wait until the patient has finished growing to begin their treatment, usually somewhere in their mid- to late-teens. However, early treatment still has an important role to play by helping patients avoid any bite-shifting or damage to the front teeth. Additionally, underbite patients who receive early treatment between the ages of about 7-10 are also less likely to need jaw surgery when they get older.

Posterior Crossbite

A posterior crossbite can lead to crowding, and may also cause the jaw to shift from one side to the other. Expanding the upper jaw in earlier childhood may allow us to reduce crowding and create space for the front teeth to come through uninterrupted. Expansion can also eliminate any shifting that may be present due to a constricted upper jaw.

Anterior Open Bites and Deep Bites

In children with deep bites, the top teeth can completely cover the bottom ones when biting, possibly indicating a small lower jaw. In an open bite, the overall bite doesn’t overlap enough. This can often be caused by poor oral habits, including extended finger or thumb sucking. If this is a problem with your child, we’re happy to work with you to eliminate any destructive habits early on, allowing development to continue normally. 

young girl smiling with braces Why Your Child Should See An Orthodontist By Age 7

Improve your child’s oral health with an early evaluation from Surf City Smiles

When you understand more about the potential issues younger patients can face, it’s easy to see why early orthodontic evaluations are an important part of your child’s overall oral health! Timing really is the key factor, since a child’s jaw bones continue to harden as they get older, and will eventually stop growing. Orthodontic procedures needed after that point will often take more time and be more invasive, like tooth extractions or oral surgery.

Having your young child examined by an experienced orthodontist like Dr. Carlson often helps to prevent the need for orthodontics as an adult, and can even make comprehensive orthodontic treatment faster and more efficient. If you’re ready to schedule your child’s first orthodontic appointment, get in touch with us today to take the first step towards their very best smile!

kids smiling

Today’s dental technology is far different from what it used to be just a couple of decades ago. As orthodontists or other dental professionals, many of us have seen the evolution of dental equipment and techniques firsthand. Today, these advancements allow us to provide state-of-the-art treatment and better patient experience for everyone who walks into our offices.

Technology used in orthodontic treatment continues to progress at an incredible pace. If we want to continue providing fast, efficient, and effective treatment to our patients, we need to make sure that we stay up-to-date with changes in the field.

Here are five trends that orthodontists and dentists should keep an eye on:

1. 3-D Imaging With CBCT Scanning

Because they provide hazy two-dimensional images, conventional dental X-rays are limited in their ability to view a patient’s dental structure. With cone beam CT scanners (CBCT), however, an orthodontist can view three-dimensional images of a patient’s entire skull, jaw, and oral bone structure.

CBCT scanning provides clear and detailed images that can be manipulated and viewed from any angle. This makes it easier to pinpoint symptoms of dental problems, reach an accurate diagnosis, and customize orthodontic treatment for each patient.

2. Temporary Anchorage Devices (TADs)

Temporary anchorage devices (TADs) are surgical-grade titanium miniscrews generally used for oral surgery. Now, orthodontists are also using them to control movement of teeth in the mouth. These devices provide a secure anchor in the jaw bone for molars and other teeth, reducing unwanted movement.

The procedure of placing TADs in a patient’s mouth is easy and painless, because it only requires a small amount of topical anesthetic applied to the gingiva. They can be removed after orthodontic treatment is complete.

3. Self-Ligating, Clear, and Invisible Braces

The conventional twin brackets and elastic ligatures used in traditional braces rely on heavy force to move a patient’s teeth into place, causing pain and discomfort in addition to being an aesthetic nightmare. Modern orthodontic solutions are far more effective, efficient, and discreet.

With self-ligating systems, teeth can be straightened without elastic bands, while clear ceramic braces and aligners such as Invisalign are barely noticeable. Even traditional metal braces have become more sleek and comfortable than they used to be.

4. Customized Smile Design Systems

Today, an orthodontist or dentist can use 3-D planning software to create a custom smile for each patient, using their facial and dental features as a guide. This technology also makes it possible for individuals to see the final results of what their smile will look like after orthodontic treatment.

Using 3-D planning software and impressions of each individual’s teeth, we can create three-dimensional models of their dental structure. Wires and brackets can also be customized based on each patient’s specific needs.

5. Faster Orthodontic Treatment with PROPEL

While many of the changes in orthodontics have helped make procedures more comfortable and efficient, they don’t always help with shortening treatment time. No one wants to wear braces or aligners for months, and PROPEL can help us make sure they don’t need to.

This non-invasive orthodontic technology is designed to speed up treatment, without affecting patient safety or comfort. It works by stimulating the bone structure around teeth, helping them shift into their ideal position more quickly and easily.

There are numerous areas where technology has helped us move forward, but its effect on the world of medicine is the most important. In orthodontics, modern procedures and equipment are critical for patient comfort, safety, and satisfaction, so make sure you’ve invested in nothing but the best!

Schedule a consultation with Chuck today