Survival Guide: Invisalign

Invisalign is an innovative treatment option that offers patients freedom and flexibility that traditional braces don’t. The system is simple and incredibly effective, but even so, orthodontic treatment of any kind is a big commitment. While it’s exciting to begin the journey towards a healthier smile, it’s also completely normal to feel a little unsure about the process. If you don’t know much about Invisalign, you may not be sure what to expect. That’s where we come in!

Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, it’s important to us that you feel confident in the trust you’ve placed in our practice. Orthodontics works best when you are a full partner in your treatment plan, so our expert team has put together this survival guide to Invisalign to help you better understand the process. Let’s take a closer look at what the Invisalign system is, how it works, and how you can get the most out of your clear aligners.

(Are you a good candidate for Invisalign? Click here to schedule a free consultation with us and find out!)

What is Invisalign?

Rather than the brackets, wires, and bands of traditional braces, the Invisalign system uses a series of clear, removable aligners to move your teeth into alignment. The aligners are made of a special thermoplastic resin, and because each one is custom-designed for your mouth, they fit snugly and comfortably over your own teeth. The aligners are removable and almost invisible, making them an excellent alternative to traditional braces for many patients.

How does the Invisalign system work?

Once Dr. Szymanowski has determined that Invisalign will be a good option for your smile, the process of custom designing your aligners will begin. We’ll use a highly-detailed 3D scan of your teeth and gums to map out a precise treatment plan that’s been personalized just for you. This plan will include the exact movements we want your teeth to make, and will also be used to give us an indication of how long we expect treatment to take. We may even show you an example of what you can expect your smile to look like once treatment is complete!

Invisalign aligners are created from a special SmartTrack® material, which is strong but still comfortable. Although the total number of aligners worn during treatment varies from patient to patient, the average amount used in the process is anywhere from 18-30. The average treatment time also depends on the individual case, but in general, it tends to last between 9 and 15 months. This could be longer or shorter depending on your specific case.

With Invisalign, the patient plays a big part in the success of the treatment process. Because Invisalign aligners are removable, and not a fixed appliance like braces, it’s up to you to wear them exactly as directed by Dr. Szymanowski. That means keeping your aligners in for 20-22 hours each day, throughout the course of treatment, in order to get the best results.

Aligners will also need to be switched out regularly, based on your personalized treatment plan. This will usually be every one to two weeks, in order to keep up with the movement of your teeth. Because regular check-ups are an essential part of the treatment process, just like with braces, you’ll be scheduled for follow-up appointments at our office every 8-12 weeks or so.

Maintaining an oral hygiene routine with Invisalign

Keeping your teeth and gums clean and healthy is important for everyone, whether you’re an orthodontic patient or not. However, being in braces or aligners makes it even more essential. Invisalign makes that easy to do! Simply remove the aligner before brushing and flossing the way you normally would. We recommend brushing for at least twice a day for two minutes each time, plus flossing every night before bed.

You can clean your aligners by rinsing them every time you remove them. Dried saliva and plaque can breed bacteria, so this is an important step. You can also soak them in denture cleaner or special Invisalign cleaning crystals to keep your trays clear and sanitized. Brushing your aligners is another option, but be sure to do so gently and carefully as brushing too hard can scratch your aligners and leave visible etchings. Don’t use any toothpaste, however. Many brands have abrasive agents that can dull your aligners and can also create small openings for bacteria.

Survival Guide: Invisalign

The best candidates for Invisalign

Invisalign is a fantastic option for many of the most common orthodontic issues in teens and adults. For severe or complex cases, we may recommend more traditional treatment methods. When you schedule a free consultation with us, we’ll be able to determine if Invisalign is a good fit for you and your smile!

Once your Invisalign treatment is complete

Even after the active phase of your orthodontic treatment is complete, your teeth will still retain memories of their previous place in your mouth. Over time, they’ll begin drifting back towards those original positions. That’s why retainers are such an important part of the treatment process! Dr. Szymanowski will provide you with a retainer, and you should always wear it as directed to help prevent this kind of drifting and keep your newly straightened smile in place.

Invisalign is the clear choice at Szymanowski Orthodontics

Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, we work hard to provide you with an orthodontic experience that is as rewarding and stress-free as possible. Although Invisalign aligners can take a little getting used to, they’ll be just one more part of your daily routine in no time, and of course our expert team is always here to help if you have any questions or concerns about your treatment plan.

If you’re in Sacramento or any of the surrounding communities, we’d love to meet you and tell you all about how Invisalign can change your smile – and your life! To take the first step towards a beautiful smile using Invisalign aligners, give us a call today to schedule a FREE exam!

ABC’s Of Braces: Everything You Need To Know Before Starting Treatment

Even with all the advances orthodontics has seen in recent years, traditional braces are still one of the best tools we have for creating beautifully aligned smiles for patients of all ages. Braces have been a favorite method of treatment for orthodontists for a long time, and have a pretty impressive track record when it comes to straightening and aligning teeth, as well as improving oral health overall.

When you decide to begin braces treatment with Szymanowski Orthodontics, it can be exciting. After all, you’re about to set out on a journey that will lead to a straighter, healthier smile! However, many patients have questions and concerns they want to discuss before the braces are actually placed. Because we always want you to feel confident in the trust you’ve placed in us, we’ve put together this outline that includes everything you need to know before beginning orthodontic treatment. Keep reading below for the ABC’s of braces treatment!


What are  braces made of?


Typically made from a mix of stainless steel, nickel, ceramic, or other high-quality materials, brackets are the part of braces that we attach directly to your teeth. They have tiny hooks or doors over which the wire is threaded, and are long-lasting and durable. Brackets are secured by closing the door or by applying an elastic over the top of the wire.


Tooth glue is technically a form of the same composite bonding material we use for tooth-colored fillings or sealants. This adhesive is used to attach the brackets to the teeth. In some cases, we may choose to use metal bands on the back teeth in conjunction with the glue to give braces more leverage and stability.


This thin piece of metal runs from one bracket to another. During the treatment process, we change the shape and curvature of the wire, and this is what actively moves the teeth in the desired directions. For some patients, we will use the wire to attach all the bottom or upper teeth together. For others, we may choose to just cut the wire strategically if connecting only a few teeth makes more sense for the treatment plan.


Almost everyone will need elastics at some point in their treatment plan, but they’re especially important for patients who need bite correction. Elastics are most often strung between an upper bracket hook and a lower bracket hook, pulling the upper teeth backwards to correct an overbite, or the lower teeth backwards to correct an underbite. We use rubber bands for many different situations, but they can be really useful when we want to bring the upper and lower teeth together successfully.

There are many other terms that you may hear in connection with braces, including:

Orthodontic bands

These stainless steel rings are cemented to the teeth using dental bonding agents.  They provide an anchor for braces and other orthodontic appliances, but they aren’t used with all patients.


Spacers are small elastic “donuts” or rings that can be used to create tiny spaces in between the teeth when needed. We typically use spacers before bands are placed. You may sometimes hear them referred to as separators.


How does the treatment process work?

During your first visit to our Sacramento practice, we’ll introduce you to some of our team and show you around. We’ll take diagnostic photos and x-rays, and Dr. Szymanowski will perform a thorough oral examination. This will allow him to correctly diagnose any oral issues and suggest the best treatment options for them. Once you’ve decided on a customized treatment plan together, we’ll schedule you for an appointment to begin the orthodontic process. This will usually be the day we put your braces on.

Your treatment plan includes information on how each tooth needs to be moved in order to get it in the best possible position. Dr. Szymanowski will decide how to place the brackets on your teeth based on this information. Once the brackets have been attached, the wire will be inserted. As we mentioned above, a bend in the wire is how we encourage specific and precise movements, because these bends provide different types of pressure on different teeth. For example, helping a tooth that is twisted to turn and face the right way, or aligning one tooth that is too far forward with one that is too far back.

This process of tooth movement is called remodeling, and involves minor changes in the bone that surrounds the roots of teeth. When pressure is put on the tooth, cells called osteoblasts and osteoclasts form around the tooth’s root. The pressure of the wire works with the osteoblasts and osteoclasts to create a negative pressure on one side of the tooth. At this site, bone is removed. On the other side of the tooth, bone is reformed. This pressure and remodeling slowly moves the tooth into the desired position.

It’s important to understand that the remodeling process can only occur if constant pressure is put on the tooth. Once the pressure stops, the tooth will begin to settle into its new position. However, most teeth start to drift back to their old positions over time. This is why you’ll be given a retainer once your braces come off. As long as you wear them as directed, a retainer will help keep your teeth in their new, improved positions and prevent any natural drifting.


Caring for your braces

Caring for your braces can come with a bit of a learning curve, but with a little patience and a lot of practice, you’ll get the hang of it in no time! Dental hygiene is a good example of this. Braces create numerous nooks and crannies that can trap food particles and other debris, so it’s essential that you clean your teeth and gums daily.  

We recommend our braces patients brush their teeth thoroughly at least two times each day with fluoride toothpaste, especially after meals and before bed. Pay close attention to the areas between the brackets and gums, carefully cleaning between the wires and teeth, and scrub firmly to get rid of plaque. Interdental brushes can also be used to fit in between the wires and the teeth, and make it easier to remove hard-to-reach plaque and food debris.

Flossing is also an essential part of maintaining oral health, and it should be done at least once per day. If you find regular floss difficult to manage, try a floss threader! Oral irrigators like a Waterpik are also an excellent option. These instruments shoot small, high-pressure streams of water onto the teeth, targeting food debris and plaque that can form between the teeth and braces. They shouldn’t take the place of brushing and flossing, though.


Food restrictions

Food restrictions can be a challenge, but they are necessary to protect both your braces and your teeth. During treatment, you’ll need to avoid anything too crunchy or too chewy, like chips, ice, gum, some raw fruits and veggies, popcorn, and many kinds of candy. While this can be frustrating, remember that food restrictions are only temporary! Your hard work and dedication will be more than worth when we take your braces off and reveal your beautiful new smile.


Estimated treatment times

Generally, patients want to know how long they’ll be in braces more than any other aspect of treatment. There’s no “one size fits all” answer to this question, since each smile is unique and each patient responds to treatment in their own way. On average, the active stage of orthodontic treatment can last anywhere from 6-24 months, but this can be longer or shorter, depending on the particular case.

Teen girls smiling and laughing with braces

Get a straighter, healthier smile with Szymanowski Orthodontics

The first step in any orthodontic journey is a consultation with an experienced orthodontist, and at Szymanowski Orthodontics, this initial visit is free! If you’re in Sacramento or the surrounding communities and would like more information on how braces can give you a healthier smile, get in touch with us today. The smile you’ve always wanted is waiting here for you!

First Orthodontic Visit

When you get down to it, our lives are made up of a whole series of milestones, from our first words, to the first time we ride a bike on our own, to the first time we visit an orthodontist. As exciting as these “firsts” can be, it’s not uncommon to also feel a little nervous them. The unknown can be scary sometimes, and embarking on a new adventure like orthodontic treatment is a big decision!

Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, we want you to feel confident in your decision to work towards a straighter, healthier smile. Your initial appointment with us is the first step in that journey, and one of the most important you’ll have. This is our opportunity to “wow” you, and we take that seriously! Let’s discuss what you can expect from your free consultation with our practice.

The first step towards the smile you deserve

From the moment you walk in our door, you’ll be welcomed warmly by our team. We’ll give you a brief tour of our office and introduce you to some of our staff, and will also ask you to complete a medical health history form for us. For your convenience, you can actually fill this out at home and bring it to us. Click here to do so!

At this point, we’ll move on to taking a series of digital photographs and x-rays to help Dr. Szymanowski analyze your particular orthodontic needs. A comprehensive oral examination of your mouth will follow, as well as a brief question and answer session with our treatment coordinator. Based on a review of your records, the photos and x-rays taken, and the results of your exam, some or all of the following may be discussed.

  • Any oral issues you have that orthodontics can address
  • If treatment is needed now, or if it should be delayed until the appropriate growth, tooth eruption, or other factors have occurred
  • What treatment options are available to correct the problem, including Invisalign, Damon braces, Damon Clear braces, Incognito, or any other necessary special appliances
  • Whether or not any permanent teeth will need to be removed first
  • How long we estimate treatment will take
  • How much of an investment the treatment process will be
  • The payment options we have available or a review of your insurance benefits

Once you’ve decided to pursue treatment with Dr. Szymanowski, we’ll create a customized treatment plan for your case.

Creating a personalized treatment plan that works for you

It’s important to us to analyze each patient’s specific needs in order to produce the best results possible. During your first visit with us, we’ll take the time to walk you through what you can expect at different stages of the treatment process. This is because we want you to fully understand each step in order to have complete confidence in the journey!

Once we’ve decided on a treatment plan that fits your specific case, lifestyle, and goals, we’ll guide you through the total investment needed for your new smile. Because every patient comes with their own unique needs, the costs of treatment will vary on a case-by-case basis. No need to worry, though – this will all be laid out in detail before your treatment ever begins.

We’re dedicated to providing patients with exceptional treatment that fits every budget, and never want finances to stand in the way of healthy smile! That’s why we offer:

  • Interest-free financial payment plans throughout the treatment process
  • No-down payment, third party financing from CareCredit
  • Automatic credit card or bank draft payments through OrthoBanc
  • Convenient online credit card payments

Many dental insurance policies will cover a portion of orthodontic treatment. During your initial consultation, we can review your orthodontic coverage and explain your benefits to you. Once treatment begins, we’ll be happy to submit and file your insurance claim for you in order to ensure your benefits are maximized. To make the process go faster, provide your insurance information for our office prior to your initial exam.

Smiling girl with braces

Why you should choose Szymanowski Orthodontics

Our team wants to provide you with the best orthodontic care possible, and we’ll always work hard to exceed your expectations! You’ll be fully informed about every step of your treatment plan and progress, and our Sacramento office is a warm and welcoming space. We’ve also invested in state-of-the-art equipment that allows us to create beautifully aligned smiles and improved oral health for patients of all ages in our community. By combining individualized care with cutting-edge technology, we’re able to give you comfortable and efficient treatment in the shortest amount of time possible!

You can count on our skilled staff to make each appointment a positive one, from start to finish. You’ll always be greeted with a smile, and we love to hear all about your day and what’s been happening with you in between visits. Your smile is the first thing most people notice about you, and the thing they’re most likely to remember, which is why we’re all about designing a smile for you that will stand out!

If you’re in Sacramento or any of the surrounding communities, we’d love to meet you. We offer a FREE consultation so you can learn more about how orthodontics could benefit you without committing to anything first. If you want to learn more about what we have to offer your smile, get in touch with us today to schedule your first orthodontic visit! This is the perfect time to take the leap towards the the beautiful smile you’ve always wanted – and the healthy smile you deserve!

Braces And Gingivitis

Traditional braces are one of the best and most effective tools orthodontists have for straightening smiles and improving oral health, but being a braces patient can come with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest learning curves can be finding and maintaining an effective dental hygiene routine. Everybody knows that brushing and flossing are essential for good oral health, and especially important when you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment. But when you’re wearing braces, you may have difficulty navigating around the brackets, wires, and bands to get your teeth and gums really clean. This can become an issue if you aren’t successfully removing the plaque from your teeth daily, because it can build up into a sticky, invisible film that produces a breeding ground for bacteria. In turn, this bacteria may lead to gingivitis.

Gingivitis is a minor gum disease that is actually surprisingly common. Anyone can develop it, not just those who wear braces, but it can sometimes accompany orthodontic treatment. The good news is, it’s a reversible disease, so there’s no need to wait until you’re finished with treatment to get rid of it! Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, it’s our goal to give you a smooth and stress-free orthodontic experience. Part of that is supporting your dental health as well as correcting any orthodontic issues. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly gingivitis is, why you’re more prone to it when you’re in braces, and what we can do to help you avoid it!

The main culprit: plaque

Any time you eat something, your braces can push stray food particles into the brackets. While most of this food debris rinses out easily, it can sometimes get caught in the tiny spaces between your gums, teeth, and brackets. When this happens, it can be very difficult to remove the food trapped in these nooks and crannies effectively. Because bacteria live and breed in plaque, any time you get pockets of it like this near the gums, it can cause gingivitis. The resulting inflammation and swelling is essentially your immune system doing its best to keep that harmful bacteria at bay.

If the thought of inflammation worries you, don’t let it! Orthodontics themselves are a form of what we refer to as controlled inflammation. This process helps the gums to become more relaxed, resulting in braces that are better able to guide the teeth into new and improved positions. However, with your gums already inflamed and under stress when you’re in braces, it doesn’t take much for small amounts of bacteria to irritate them even further. This can lead to the immune reaction described above, along with some or all of the following symptoms:

  • red, irritated, or swollen gums
  • minor bleeding after brushing and flossing
  • tenderness in the gums
  • noticeably bad breath
  • loose teeth

If gingivitis isn’t diagnosed and treated in its earlier stages, a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis can develop. Without treatment, the body will continue in its attempts to fight off the byproducts of bacteria naturally by breaking down the bone and connective tissues that hold the teeth in place. This may cause receding gums to form pockets in between the teeth, leading to possible bleeding, pain, and serious damage over time.

Girl brushing her teeth

Keeping clear of gingivitis while in braces

If you aren’t vigilant about your oral hygiene routine while undergoing orthodontic treatment, it’s easy for inflammation to get out of hand. While daily brushing and flossing daily is usually enough to keep gingivitis at bay, braces can make brushing more difficult, and flossing can be time-consuming and tricky, especially in the early days of treatment. Fortunately, there are a number of products available that are designed to help braces patients keep their teeth and gums healthy!

Interdental brushes

These are thin, round, or cone-shaped brushes with a small head of bristles that are held on by wire. Some may have short or specially-shaped handles that make them easier to grip, while others have long handles similar to regular toothbrushes. Studies have shown that using an interdental brush is one of the best things braces patients can do to remove plaque. That’s because they’re designed to be inserted between the teeth, so they’re able to reach right into the tight spaces where plaque is likely to accumulate. Since they come in several different sizes and styles, you’re guaranteed to find one that fits comfortably and gently in between your teeth.


Certain mouthwashes can be an effective form of preventative dental care when added to a regular regimen of brushing and flossing. Some mouthwashes that mask or eliminate unpleasant breath odors use antibacterial ingredients, so they can also be helpful in preventing gingivitis. Pay attention to the ingredients, however. An increasing number of new mouthwashes that focus on freshening breath have chlorine dioxide as their primary ingredient. While this can be effective at neutralizing bacteria that cause bad breath, it can’t do much about the bacteria that cause plaque and gingivitis. You’ll want to look for products that contain the kind of antibacterial ingredients known for killing plaque-causing bacteria, such as thymol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate, and menthol. When you combine these ingredients with proper brushing and flossing, it can be a big boost in preventing gum disease.

girl with tooth pain

Szymanowski Orthodontics help keep your whole mouth healthy

At Szymanowski Orthodontics, we know what it takes to give you the best orthodontic results. By following our advice and remaining diligent about your oral hygiene, you should be able to spot any potential signs of gingivitis and see us or your general dentist before it gets out of hand. Early action is the best course of action next to be preventative care, so don’t hesitate to contact our team if you have any questions or concerns about your oral health or your treatment process. We’re dedicated to providing you with the best orthodontic experience possible, and are committed to giving you the best chance at a healthy mouth and beautiful smile!

Invisalign For Teens

When you take a look at any social media platform, it’s clear that today’s teens are more visible than any generation before them. Many have multiple accounts and post frequent selfies, but however normal this is in our current culture, so much sharing can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. This is especially true if a teen feels that their smile is anything less than perfect!  Fortunately, orthodontic techniques and technology have seen huge improvements in recent years, but some teens still worry about the impact traditional braces could have on their appearance and lifestyle.

Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, we see the unique inner and outer beauty of every patient we treat, but we also know how good it feels when you have a smile you’re proud of! Invisalign Teen is one way we can help our teen patients achieve a beautifully aligned smile that is fully functional, and it’s a nearly invisible way to get there.

Did you know that orthodontic treatment has benefits that go beyond improving the cosmetic appearance? Patients who have a badly aligned bite or misaligned jaw can also suffer from other issues that may appear unrelated. This can include headaches and pain in the jaw and neck, plus an `increased risk for teeth-grinding, gum disease, and general inflammation in the mouth. Treatment with Invisalign aligners does more than give teens a straighter smile – it optimizes their bite pattern as well, making teeth easier to clean, functioning better, and more attractive overall.

Interested in hearing more about what makes the Invisalign Teen system such a great choice for our teen patients? Keep reading to learn what it’s all about, and the multiple benefits it has to offer your teen!

What is Invisalign Teen? How does it differ from Invisalign?

The Invisalign system as a whole uses a series of clear, custom-made aligners to straighten teeth gradually. Instead of using wires, brackets, and bands to move the teeth, the removable aligners cover the patient’s teeth comfortably teeth and are switched out for a new series every 1-2 weeks. The teeth will gradually shift into the desired positions, leaving teens with a straight smile they’re ready to show off to the world!

Although Invisalign and Invisalign Teen work the same way when it comes to their underlying technology, Invisalign Teen was developed with the unique needs of teen patients in mind. There are a few special features that are specific to the Invisalign Teen system.

Compliance indicators

The single biggest factor in successful treatment with either Invisalign system is patient compliance. In order for the aligners to be effective, patients must wear them 20-22 hours per day as directed. To help teens keep up, Invisalign Teen has a compliance indicator incorporated into each aligner that fades from blue to clear as it is used, providing a visual approximation of wear. This lets parents (and orthodontists!) keep track of patient use. If a teen is skipping out on hours, it will be noticeable in enough time to correct compliance, thus keeping the overall process on track.

Eruption tabs

This feature accommodates the growth of the second molars in young adults, helping to keep space open for unerupted teeth and making it possible to treat a wider range of conditions with Invisalign.

Replacement aligners

Things just happen sometimes, and there’s not one of us who hasn’t lost or damaged something important to us before. We encourage all of our Invisalign patients to treat their aligners with care, but you don’t need to worry if your teen misplaces or damages one. Invisalign Teen anticipates that, and provides up to six replacement aligners at no charge!   

Invisalign Teen can be as effective as traditional braces

Invisalign is most effective at treating mild to moderate cases of many of the most common orthodontic issues, including underbite, overbite, overcrowding, and gapped teeth. As long as patients wear their aligners the recommended 20-22 hours a day, Invisalign Teen results can be just as successful as traditional braces. Although not every teen is a candidate for Invisalign, most will be. Our Sacramento office offers a complimentary initial consultation that can determine a patient’s eligibility for this treatment option.


Invisalign Teen is a flexible orthodontic option

Even though traditional braces have improved in leaps and bounds, they still take some getting used to. Food restrictions are often one of the steepest learning curves to come with braces. To protect the brackets and wires, braces patients must steer clear of anything sticky or chewy, which means avoiding many popular treats like popcorn, nuts, chips, and even some raw fruits and veggies. Invisalign Teen aligners are designed to be removed at mealtimes, so teens can still enjoy all their favorite foods! Even with removable aligners, however, it’s important for your teen to brush and floss regularly and carefully. This keeps food and bacteria from accumulating against and in between the teeth. 

Food isn’t the only area where the flexibility of Invisalign comes in handy. Contact sports can sometimes be rough if an athlete is in braces. Brackets and wires can break or come loose, causing irritation or pain, but with Invisalign, teens can remove the aligners and wear a regular mouthguard during practice or the big game. As an added bonus, aligners can also be removed for special events like homecoming, prom, senior pictures, or any occasion when a teen wants nothing but their natural smile to shine!

Invisalign Teen takes less time out of your schedule

These days, families tend to be busier than ever before, so it helps that Invisalign patients will require less frequent maintenance visits and emergency visits, since there are no adjustments to make and no wires or brackets to break. After your teen’s initial appointment, follow-up appointments at our Sacramento office are usually scheduled for every 6-10 weeks or so.

Invisalign Teen costs about the same as braces

Many parents worry that an alternative to traditional treatment will be more expensive. However, Invisalign Teen costs just about the same as braces. Szymanowski Orthodontics knows that orthodontic treatment is a sizable investment, and we’re committed to providing our patients with exceptional treatment that fits every budget. To this end, we offer:

  • interest-free financial payment plans throughout treatment
  • no-down payment, third party financing from CareCredit
  • automatic credit card or bank draft payments through OrthoBanc
  • convenient online credit card payments

During your initial consultation, we will also review any orthodontic insurance coverage you have and explain your benefits to you. Once treatment begins, we can submit and file your insurance claim on your behalf to make sure your benefits are maximized.

Young blonde lady with Invisalign

Invisalign Teen is a clear winner with Szymanowski Orthodontics

The Invisalign Teen system is designed for patients who have lost all their baby teeth, and whose second molars are at least partially erupted. If your family is in the Sacramento area and you have a teen that could benefit from this innovative orthodontic treatment, get in touch today! We’ll be happy to schedule a complimentary consultation and provide more information on what  Invisalign Teen has to offer your teen.

Do I Need Rubber Bands With My Braces?

Undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces can come with its fair share of challenges. From food restrictions and adjustment appointments to broken brackets and bent wires, braces take some getting used to! Rubber bands can be viewed as another small hurdle to overcome, but like everything else associated with braces treatment, they’re an important (and temporary) part of the process.

Most patients will need to wear rubber bands at some point in the treatment process. These bands help to correct the alignment of the bite, reduce overbites or underbites, and in some cases, will open or close spaces. When you wear them as directed by Dr. Szymanowski, they will help move your teeth into more desirable positions. This will give you an attractive, fully functioning smile, and will also improve your overall oral health.

Even though these little annoyances can add up, they’re totally worth the end result! It’s important to us that our patients feel confident in their treatment plan, so if you’re being asked to wear rubber bands with your braces, understanding why can make the process less frustrating. Whether you’re set to wear elastics full-time or part-time, we want you to be informed about why we use rubber bands with braces, how they work, and how they’ll benefit your smile. Take a look below to learn more!

The role of rubber bands in orthodontics

When it comes to aligning the teeth and jaw, traditional braces are one of the most effective tools we have. After we attach the brackets to your teeth, they’ll work in conjunction with a set of wires that span from tooth to tooth to facilitate movement. Although this can successfully align the upper and lower sets of teeth separately, there must be something connecting the arches to actually correct the bite. There are several ways for us to accomplish this, including more intense methods like headgear and springs, but the most common method is rubber bands.

Rubber bands, sometimes called elastics, are the preferred method for a number of reasons. They’re obviously far more subtle than something like headgear, and tooth-colored elastics, in particular, can blend in very nicely with your natural smile. They can also be personalized by choosing combinations from a wide range of colors. This is a great way to showcase your personality, school spirit, etc.!

Because bands will have to be changed out frequently throughout the day, they are designed to be easy to remove and replace. They are stretchy and flexible, allowing you to maintain a full range of motion when engaging in everyday activities like talking, yawning, eating, and brushing your teeth. Elastics are also versatile, cost-effective, and can be used to correct almost all types of bite problems, including overbites, underbites, open bites, and crossbites.

Assorted orthodontics elastomeric rings for locking archwire to brackets in orthodontics treatment

Ligatures and rubber bands

Ligatures are the smaller of the two types of elastics, and these fit around the brackets to help the archwire retain its position there. Ligatures are what will help push or pull your teeth in the direction Dr. Szymanowski has laid out in your customized treatment plan.

The larger elastics are simply referred to as rubber bands. These can be placed in several different configurations to match the tensile force requirements of your mouth. The most common is the top-to-bottom and inter-arch configurations. Rubber bands are also used to apply pressure to your jaw, helping it achieve the proper alignment for your bite. Szymanowski Orthodontics have both types of elastics available in various colors.

How orthodontic rubber bands work

While the brackets, archwires, and ligatures are busy moving your teeth along the gumline, rubber bands will help pull the jaw backward or forwards so that the bottom and top rows of teeth can line up correctly.

This process begins when a bracket with a hook is placed along the right and left sides of your bottom and top teeth. We then attach rubber bands to these hooks on each side of the mouth. The amount of tensile force required to correct your specific orthodontic issues is what will determine the angle at which these bands are placed. This will ultimately improve your smile by allowing your teeth to fit together much more comfortably.

Rubber bands can also play an important role in speeding up the orthodontic process. However, this depends on you wearing them exactly as directed by Dr. Szymanowski.

Using rubber bands correctly

It’s important that you follow our instructions carefully when wearing rubber bands. Doing so will ensure your treatment proceeds according to schedule, and will provide you with the best results. It will also help you avoid extending your orthodontic journey!

For maximum effectiveness, you will likely be advised to wear your rubber bands 24/7. This means you will only take them out to brush, floss, put new bands in, and sometimes to eat. As with everything else in orthodontics, this will depend on your individual case. We generally don’t recommend taking the bands off while you are sleeping, and you should not double up on bands, either. Many patients mistakenly believe it will speed treatment up, but it actually slows things down, and can even cause damage to the roots.

You may notice some slight soreness in your mouth, teeth, and jaws the first few days of wearing rubber bands. This is completely normal and is only temporary. Don’t let this discourage you from keeping them in as directed! Wearing your elastics incorrectly can make your teeth more resistant to successful movement, and can also slow down your treatment progress.

Every time you take a band out, you should discard it and put on a new one. Depending on your specific case, your daily activities, and the strength of the elastics you use, you may find yourself replacing bands multiple times each day, so be sure you always have an extra pack of bands handy.

Woman smiling showing teeth with braces

Szymanowski Orthodontics keeps your treatment on track

As you can see, wearing rubber bands with your braces is an essential part of your orthodontic treatment. They play a crucial role in moving your jaw and teeth into the correct alignment, which is what will give you that beautiful, straight smile you’re working towards! Dr. Szymanowski and the rest of our talented team are committed to making the orthodontic process as easy as possible for you. If the time has come for you to wear rubber bands with your braces, we’re happy to help you through it by addressing any questions or concerns you might have, or just offering a little extra encouragement. Remember that this part of your orthodontic journey is only temporary. Before you know it, you’ll have a smile you can’t wait to share with the world!

Fixed vs. Removable Retainers

Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, we know much hard work, time, and dedication you put into successfully achieving a straighter, healthier smile. As you get closer to the day your braces come off or you use your last clear aligner, it can be tempting to think you’re through with orthodontic appliances forever, but don’t get too carried away! Although you absolutely deserve to celebrate finishing the most difficult part of the process, remember that this is only the first phase of orthodontic treatment. The second phase begins soon after your teeth have been straightened, and when it comes to maintaining your newly straightened smile, it’s every bit as important as the first.

This second phase of orthodontic treatment is referred to as retention, and it revolves around regular retainer use. Retention rounds out the treatment process and is an essential part of keeping your teeth in their new and improved positions. If you’ve been a patient with our practice for any time at all, chances are good you’ve already heard us talk about how important retainers are, but you may not know much beyond that. To learn a little more about the different types of retainers, and why wearing one is so crucial once treatment is complete, keep reading below!

The importance of retainers

In your late teens and early twenties, you may find a slight shifting occurring with your teeth. This phenomenon is known as “relapse,” and refers to the natural tendency of teeth to drift back towards their original positions after orthodontic treatment has been completed. Retainers are the key to preventing this relapse, by holding your teeth in their new positions and keeping this kind of natural drifting at bay.

Your teeth aren’t the only things we want to stay put in their new, preferred position once treatment is complete! Teeth are not just fixtures in the jaw – each one is held in its socket by elastic ligaments that attach the roots to the bone. These ligaments are living tissues that are affected by the movement of the teeth, and it is this attachment that allows for the small movements of the teeth during the orthodontic process.

Braces place tension in and around the teeth, facilitating the formation of new ligaments, and sometimes even bone. The first phase of treatment is the remodeling phase, and once it is complete, the new tissues, ligaments, and bone will need time to stabilize. Without a retainer holding the new positions in place during stabilization, the teeth will almost always migrate back to their old positions. If you don’t wear your retainer as directed after your braces come off, you may find your teeth eventually start shifting back to their old positions, undoing all the hard work you’ve put into your orthodontic treatment.

It’s easy to avoid this relapse, however!  Keeping your teeth in place is as simple as wearing your retainer as directed! The type of retainer you’re given will be determined by the specifics of your case, your preferences, your lifestyle, and your expected compliance.

Comparing a retainer to an Invisalign aligner

The different types of retainers

In much the same way that orthodontic appliances have both fixed (braces) and removable (clear aligners) options available, we offer fixed and removable retainers as well. At Szymanowski Orthodontics, you will often be given two retainers upon completion of the first stage of treatment. The upper retainer is usually removable and the lower retainer is usually “fixed” to the inside of your front teeth. Dr. Szymanowski may prescribe a different retainer depending on the specifics of your particular situation. 

Fixed retainers

Fixed retainers will generally consist of a thin wire bonded behind the bottom or top teeth, or sometimes both. The wire stretches across several teeth, and dental care is similar to that of a  braces patient, especially when it comes to effective flossing. These can be a particularly helpful option for patients who have, or have had, a large space between the two upper front teeth. Once orthodontic treatment is finished and the space is completely closed, a fixed retainer can be used to keep the space closed. Thanks to the bonded wire’s ability to holds newly straightened teeth in the ideal alignment over a long period of time, fixed retainers tend to have an excellent overall outcome. Plus, you never have to remember to wear them!

Removable retainers

When it comes to removable retainers, there are a couple of different options available. The Hawley and Essix models are both custom-designed to fit your mouth following treatment. Our team will take an impression of your newly straightened teeth, then use it to create a retainer with either a clear plastic material (for an Essix retainer) or from wire and an acrylic material (for a Hawley retainer.)

Hawley retainers

The Hawley appliance is one of the oldest retainers, and tends to be the most commonly used as well. It’s also the retainer you’d be most likely to recognize! These retainers are made of stainless steel and kept in place by wrapping a wire around your teeth that has been combined with an acrylic arch that rests against the roof of your mouth. The metal wires can be adjusted to continue minor movement of the front teeth if needed. Although many orthodontists are moving away from this more traditional retainer, it can still be very useful in some cases.

Essix retainers

Essix retainers are made entirely of transparent plastic, and look very similar to the clear aligners used with the Invisalign system. They are much less noticeable than traditional wire retainers, and should last as long as you need it, as long as you care for it properly. These retainers may cover the entire arch of the teeth or go from canine to canine. Each one is molded to the unique shape of your mouth.

Cleaning your teeth is easier with either of these removable retainers, but you will have to remember to wear them daily. They’re also a lot easier to misplace or damage, so it’s important to be mindful of where they are at all times, and to be careful when handling them.

girl holding Invisalign

Szymanowski Orthodontics give you a lifetime of straight smiles

It can sometimes take only a few days for teeth to begin shifting back to their original positions, especially in the first year after the first phase of treatment. Modern orthodontic wisdom tells us that the most successful smiles will need to wear some type of retainer indefinitely after the teeth have been straightened, but with a little patience and practice, this will become just another part of your daily routine before you know it.

Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, our skilled staff are dedicated to finding exactly the right orthodontic treatment for you, includes the type of retainer that will serve you best. For more information about retention after orthodontic treatment, get in touch with our Sacramento office today. It’s our goal to give you a beautifully aligned smile that lasts a lifetime!

The Dangers Of DIY Orthodontics

It’s hard to resist a little DIY project every now and then, whether it’s building something, changing things up with a fresh coat of paint, or repurposing everyday things you have lying around the house. DIY is having a bit of a moment right now, with Facebook and Pinterest full of endless project videos, tutorials, and how-to guides, and while this is great for our creativity, it does have its limits. Like most everything else, this is a trend that can be taken several steps too far, and DIY orthodontics is a perfect example of that!

Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, our team enjoys being resourceful and crafty as much as the next person, but we also take oral health seriously. As an experienced orthodontist, Dr. Szymanowski proudly provides high-quality orthodontic care to families in Sacramento and the surrounding communities. We offer a wide variety of affordable orthodontic options to suit every budget, putting you in much safer hands than anyone attempting DIY braces! To learn more about why you should never embark on orthodontic methods that aren’t backed by science, experience, or skill, keep reading below.

There’s a DIY orthodontics trend? What does that even mean?

It might seem crazy, but enter “DIY braces” into any search engine, and you’ll see hundreds of pages of results. There are popular videos with thousands of views that promise you can get a straighter smile by using everyday items such as rubber bands, paper clips, bobby pins, and even aluminum foil to move your teeth into more desirable positions. Some of these videos had so many views and shares, and were covered so frequently in the media, that the American Association of Orthodontists felt compelled to issue a consumer alert. This was prompted in part by a survey of its members that showed almost 15% of them had seen patients with problems caused by DIY attempts, including actual tooth loss in the most extreme cases. Their statement reads, in part:

“The American Association of Orthodontists is urging consumers to beware of Internet videos and websites which encourage people to try and straighten their own teeth. Moving teeth is a medical procedure and needs personal supervision by an orthodontist. Please be wary of any suggestions to move teeth with rubber bands, dental floss, or other objects ordered on the Internet.”

It’s true that there is a significant amount of time, effort, and expense involved in the kind of successful orthodontic treatment that produces a lasting, beautifully aligned smile. Although we can understand why people would be attracted to the promise of a cheap and easy option to straighten their teeth, this is truly a case of “you get what you pay for!”

Dental X-Ray and mold

The dangers of experimenting with DIY braces

Using elastics in dentistry and orthodontics is actually not a new phenomenon, as it was once a common method for extracting teeth. Practitioners would place a rubber band around problem teeth, then wait for them to fall out once enough bone and soft tissue was destroyed. However, even this kind of primitive tooth removal was done under the appropriate supervision!

When it comes to DIY orthodontics, the most popular method seems to be “gap bands.” These are nothing more than cheap hair elastics that you might see in any shop for a dollar or two. Advocates of DIY braces believe that wrapping these elastics around misaligned teeth and wearing them daily or nightly for an extended amount of time will close any gaps and straighten the overall bite. Some even claim to have seen results from this method in as little as 45 days.

There is a potential for disastrous results with gap bands, along with any unsupervised methods of orthodontic treatment. Many people don’t realize how widely the shape of teeth can vary, even within the same mouth, and how easy that makes it for rubber bands to slide into the soft tissues surrounding them. Once bands become embedded in this tissue, they become difficult to retrieve without the help of a dentist or orthodontist, if not impossible. If left untreated, the band will continue to move over time, eventually hitting the roots and potentially causing nerve damage. As the roots are pulled together, the crowns will also begin to fan out, resulting in the teeth beginning to erupt and loosen. Sometimes things get bad enough that the affected teeth will actually fall out.

There is a long list of other issues that can result from attempting to straighten the teeth with DIY braces, including (but not limited to):

  • the teeth being moved into wrong angles, resulting in a crooked smile
  • gap bands sinking into the soft tissues of the gums, causing lacerations and pain
  • the teeth being moved too quickly, which can cause long-term issues like a loss of length along the root, gum problems, etc.
  • small bands and makeshift brackets like earring backs or tiny beads can be potential choking hazards
  • the metal in paper clips and other such materials may be toxic if used over an extended period of time
  • bands that are snapped directly on the teeth can crack enamel
  • infected gums may result in the need for serious treatment, up to and including tooth extraction
  • no/improper diagnosis or the wrong treatment can result in an improper bite

Experienced orthodontists like Dr. Szymanowski spent many years learning how to move teeth slowly and safely to ensure overall oral health is maintained, treatment methods are effective, and results are long-lasting. By attempting DIY braces, you’re setting yourself up to fail, and also risking the need for complex dental procedures to repair any associated damage. Some of these repairs can be quite extensive (and expensive!)

Shortcuts to a straighter smile simply don’t exist

In general, high-quality orthodontic work isn’t likely to be quick, easy, or inexpensive. That’s because it takes education, expertise, and the best in modern orthodontic technology to create the perfect customized smile. Orthodontics isn’t as simple as pushing the teeth closer together to close a gap or push teeth out to straighten a smile. Moving teeth is a complicated biological process that involves dissolving the bone and then rebuilding it as the teeth move into their new positions. Long-term orthodontic success can’t be achieved with DIY methods, and any orthodontic treatment should be supervised by a certified orthodontist like Dr. Szymanowski.

Girl at doctors office

Trust your teeth to the experts at Szymanowski Orthodontics

Viral videos are great for craft projects, but you don’t need to look to YouTube for orthodontic advice when we offer quality care that’s affordable for every budget! We know that orthodontic treatment can be a sizable investment, and we’ll work with you to provide the treatment you need. We never want finances to stand in the way of creating a healthy, stunning smile for you! Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, we offer:

  • Interest-free financial payment plans throughout treatment
  • No-down-payment, third-party financing from CareCredit
  • Automatic credit card or bank draft payments through OrthoBanc
  • Convenient online credit card payments

Many dental insurance policies will also cover a portion of your orthodontic treatment. During your initial consultation, we will review your orthodontic coverage and explain your benefits to you. Once treatment begins, we will gladly submit and file your insurance claim on your behalf to make sure your benefits are maximized! We ’re dedicated to making it as easy as possible for you to achieve a beautifully straight smile that lasts a lifetime, so if you’re in Sacramento or the surrounding area, give us a call today to schedule an initial consultation!

The History Of Braces

You might think straightening smiles and align the teeth and jaws are a thoroughly modern affair, but it turns out humans have been trying to correct crooked smiles for thousands of years! As far back as ancient Greece, philosophers were debating over the best way to move teeth into better positions, and archaeologists have discovered mummies with bands on their teeth, so we know primitive versions of orthodontics existed.

Modern braces have come a long way, and are far sleeker and more comfortable than ever before, but there was a time when attempting a straight smile meant catgut or crude metal. Traditional braces, in particular, have come along in leaps and bounds, and are now available in several different varieties, from metal to lingual and of course, Damon braces. But we have to say, even the older, bulkier models sound better than the Medieval idea of orthodonture, which was heavy on extractions and blood-letting. Shiny brackets and colorful bands don’t seem so bad when you’re comparing them to animal innards, dirty wire, and leeches!

Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, we love to utilize the latest techniques and cutting-edge technology to create beautiful smiles that last, but it can be fun to take a look back at where orthodontics began. Before the days of self-ligating systems and clear aligner therapy, there were a few centuries of trying to correct misaligned teeth and jaws in order to improve chewing, speaking, and the overall appearance of patients. Let’s explore what some of these designs entailed, and how modern orthodontics evolved.

Getting back to the ancient origins of orthodontics

We mentioned mummies that were found sporting ancient orthodontic gear, but the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans were also in on the earliest days of orthodontic action. Remember Hippocrates? Besides inspiring the Hippocratic oath, it turns out the ancient Greek physician also wrote the first known description of tooth irregularities. This was in about 400 B.C.! The classical Greek philosopher Socrates also wrote about early orthodontic efforts when he described Etruscan women using gold bands to preserve the position of the teeth after death. Roman writer Celsus went one further when he actually recommended using fingers to push newly emerging teeth into the proper position. Considering what was known about the importance of washing your hands back then, we’re not sure how effective this was on a number of levels!

teeth mold

Interest sparked in the 18th century

There was a bit of a lull in orthodontics then, with no real progress made for many years. However, something happened in the 18th century to spark a real interest in dental techniques, resulting in a flurry of development. Progress is built on the mistakes that came before it, and there were certainly a number of questionable advances along the way to modern orthodontics!

One of these was the bandeau, which intrepid French dentist Pierre Fauchard wrote about using in 1728. This device was a horseshoe-shaped piece of metal that was placed outside the teeth, with string or wire used to tie the teeth to the arch. The bandeau was similar to modern braces in that it relied on steady pressure over time, but it wasn’t adjustable at all, and it was very difficult to use for moving individual teeth in different directions. Fauchard didn’t stop there, though. He also operated on patients with a set of forceps he called a “pelican,” forcibly realigning the teeth, then tying them to the adjacent teeth to hold them in place while they healed. Makes regular adjustments look like a walk in the park, doesn’t it?

In spite of its flaws, the bandeau managed to stay relevant until about 1819, when Christophe-François Delabarre developed the wire crib. This was essentially the birth of contemporary orthodontics. The crib was made of wires, often metal, that had been bent and then soldered together to make a “cage” that fit tightly over and around the teeth. There were strings or metal springs that could then be attached and used to apply a constant force to teeth. This pressure would slowly moving them into new, improved positions, in much the same way our current braces and aligners work. In fact, the wire crib is the precursor to several of today’s appliances.

Around 1880, Edward Hartley Angle was able to identify the true properties of malocclusions, or misalignments, of the teeth and jaws. This earned him the title of  “Father of Modern Orthodontics,” and his influence can be found even today, in the way orthodontic appliances continue to become increasingly effective over the years.

Modern orthodontics make an appearance

It took until the 19th century, but the United States finally began to see significant orthodontic contributions in the early 1800’s. In 1822, J.S. Gunnell invented “occipital anchorage,” a form of headgear that fastened to the jaw from the outside of the mouth and exerted gentle pressure on the teeth. In 1840, Chapin A. Harris wrote the first classic book on dentistry. “The Dental Art” outlined practices that were innovative for the time, like soldering knobs on bands to assist with tooth rotation and applying gold caps to molars to open the dental bite. When Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber in 1839, orthodontists were quick to realize its potential. Just a few years, E.G. Tucker would become the first American dentist to use rubber in orthodontic appliances.

Dentists would continue making tremendous strides in understanding how the teeth and jaws work over the next century, yet braces themselves remained more or less unchanged. Most were made from materials like gold, platinum, silver, steel, gum rubber, or vulcanite, but early orthodontists would sometimes turn to ivory, zinc, copper, brass, or even wood instead. Until the 1970s, orthodontists relied on winding wires around each individual tooth to anchor the brackets. With the invention of dental adhesives, they were able to switch to sticking brackets to the surface of the teeth instead.

Meanwhile, stainless steel began to replace gold and silver as the most popular choice for wires thanks to its shapeability. This significantly reduced the cost of braces, making them more widely available. Around this same time, lingual braces were developed. These were the first orthodontic appliance to address aesthetics by running along the inside of the teeth’s surfaces instead of being affixed to the outer surface.

Woman with brace in coffee shop

From Socrates to Sacramento

As you can see, humans have been striving for thousands of years to create healthy, functional smiles. Well-aligned teeth and jaws are just as important today as they were when pelicans and catgut were in fashion! Szymanowski Orthodontics is proud to continue such an established tradition of improving smiles, oral health, and patient’s lives. Get in touch with our Sacramento office today and let us help you find your smile’s place in history!