What Braces Were Like

When Grandma Wore Braces

If you asked your grandparents about what braces were like in the good old days, they would tell you those days weren’t so good.

Although rudimentary orthodontics have been around for a long time, straightening teeth only became a professional endeavor in the twentieth century. If your grandmother had braces in the 1940s, they were probably made of gold, because its softness made it malleable. But that softness meant frequent visits to the orthodontist for painful readjustments. And gold was more expensive than it is today.

In the 1950s, wearing braces became really popular, even a status symbol. Check out pictures in high school yearbooks from those days, and you can count dozens of metal mouths. Typical braces were thick bands of stainless steel that wrapped completely around each tooth, covering most of the enamel. Just a thin, white sliver of teeth showed above the band, and brushing those bands and wires was a laborious task. Wires loosened easily, and patients had to go at least once a month to the orthodontist for painful tightening. What’s worse, treatment times were often 4 to 8 years, while today most patients wear braces for 1 to 3 years.

Why were treatment times so long? Orthodontists didn’t have good diagnostic tools. They were just beginning to use X-rays, but even with them, doctors had to do a lot of guesswork. They used rulers and protractors to make drawings and plan their work, cutting and pasting images that they thought would fit an individual’s face structure. Because they were operating on educated guesses, they frequently had to make adjustments to their plans. Now, orthodontists have in their diagnostic arsenal panoramic X-rays, moldings of bite impressions, 3-D modeling and other sophisticated tools. These allow them to create a predictable treatment plan.

Back then, orthodontists extracted new permanent teeth when there was no space for them to grow straight in the patient’s mouth. Braces couldn’t create space, so removal was the only solution. Today, if a child is first evaluated at a young age (7 to 9) when facial bones are more plastic, the orthodontist can use a variety of devices to widen or reshape the dental arch so that the patient can retain all of his or her permanent teeth.

In the old days, rubber bands were frequently used to attach braces on the upper teeth to those on the lower. Shaped like tiny miniature doughnuts, the user would struggle to get them on and they would often pop off in the process, flying across the room, or they would break when stretching them to fit onto the braces. Patients back then had to carry packages of rubber bands to be sure they had enough, and they had to be removed to eat and then new ones put on.

Today, there are no more rubber bands, no more night-time head gears which held retainer type devices in place. Bands no longer cover teeth. They are much smaller, lighter in weight and come in many colors. Other modern options include lingual braces that attach to the teeth on the inside of the mouth or Invisalign, clear removable aligner trays that are changed every two weeks.

Wires are no longer stainless steel. They are typically heat-activated nickel titanium that warm to body temperature as they move teeth in anticipated directions. They don’t need adjustment as frequently as steel wires.

When it comes to orthodontics, things have improved a lot since the time grandma and grandpa were young. Braces now are less noticeable, offer greater comfort, need fewer orthodontic adjustments, and work more quickly.

Preventing Tooth Decay While Wearing Braces

“I have had braces for about two years. I admit that about 70 percent of the days I’ve had them I haven’t brushed more than once a day,” a teenager says in an online forum. He goes on to wonder if he can hold off tooth decay if he were to brush more often. If he came to us, we’d tell him that the answer is “yes,” but there’s also more he could do.

Since food gets stuck in unseen places on teeth when braces surround them, cleaning teeth requires both frequency and special tools. Here are some suggestions:

  • Brush after every meal or big snack. The less time food sits on your teeth, the less likely it will cause decay.
  • Use a soft bristle brush at a 45 degree angle or an electric toothbrush, which we frequently recommend because it allows you to easily brush each tooth individually. Be sure to brush all sides of your teeth. Fluoride toothpaste is best.
  • Use a floss threader or a proxabrush to clean between braces and under wires.
  • Use a Water Pik. The pressurized pulsating water it emits removes food particles from hard-to-reach places.
  • End your cleanings with a fluoride mouth wash, which helps disinfect under your braces and other spots where a brush can’t reach.
  • Even if you can’t brush after every time you eat, carry mouthwash to use after eating. At a minimum, rinse your mouth with plain water. It’s better than nothing.
  • Have a dental professional cleaning at least twice a year.

The type of food you eat can also increase the likelihood of decay as well as damage your braces. Any food high in sugar or starch can cause decay. Especially, avoid eating the following:

  • Sticky foods such as gum or caramel, which can get stuck on your braces and be hard to remove.
  • Crunchy treats like chips and popcorn, which can bend or break your wires.

Eating hard foods like apples, corn on the cob, and carrots can break your braces. Still, they can be part of a healthy diet, so cut them into small pieces so you don’t have to bite down hard.

If you have additional questions about how to care for your teeth, feel free to ask us when you’re in for your next appointment.

Three Ways to Protect Your Braces When Playing Sports – Arkansas Braces

Three Ways to Protect Your Braces When Playing Sports – Arkansas Braces

Getting braces at Arkansas Braces in Fort Smith, AR doesn’t mean you have to give up your athletic activities, but it does mean you need to be a little more careful about them. A hard hit in a football game can lead to a popped-off bracket, a cut wire, and damage to your teeth or the inside of your mouth. And a really hard hit can dislodge a tooth or two. Even an impact in a less intense sport than football—say baseball, softball or even tennis—can harm your braces and your mouth.

If you play sports, you should look into these three ways to protect your braces from Arkansas Braces and your mouth:

Full-Facial Guard

A full-facial guard is the hard plastic piece that juts out in front of the mouth on football, hockey, and lacrosse helmets. If you wear braces, be sure to wear a helmet when you play rough contact sports (and even if you don’t wear braces, wearing a helmet provides general head safety). While a full-facial guard will protect your mouth from external impact, collisions and tackles can still cut the inside of your mouth or damage braces.

Mouth Guards

Mouth guards are made to absorb and disperse the shocks that come from collisions with other players, balls hitting your face, and falls to the ground. They are worn inside your mouth to fit directly over your upper teeth, and you can find some dual-arch models that are designed to fit over your lower teeth as well. There are many different types of mouth guards available at just about any sporting goods store. They should be used for sports like soccer, basketball, baseball, and volleyball. They are also a good idea for non-contact sports like gymnastics, biking, and skateboarding where a fall can still harm your mouth.

The Arkansas Braces team reminds you to make sure your mouth guard fits well, is comfortable and allows you to breathe. We don’t recommend the “boil-and-bite” type for our patients that wear braces, because these mouth guards can stick to brackets and pull them off when removed. Ask us during your next visit for specific advice about what mouth guard we recommend for your particular sport or to judge how well a recent purchase fits.

Dental Silicone or Wax

Dental silicone comes in long strips that you cut to size and press into your braces. A good brand is OrthoSil Silicone Dental “Wax” (which is not really made of wax). Dental silicone is a great way to supplement protection when you’re wearing a helmet with a full-facial guard. You can use the strips to protect the inside of your mouth during other athletic activities where an impact can cut your mouth or damage your braces. Depending on your preferences, you might favor actual dental wax or a product called Gishy Goo.

The team at Arkansas Braces in Fort Smith, AR hopes these tips help you have a safe and fun sports season!

Braces-friendly Recipes for Summer from Arkansas Braces

Braces-friendly Recipes for Summer from Arkansas Braces

Braces can make your teeth feel sore, especially when you first get them or when they’re tightened. That’s one reason you’ll need to adjust your diet when in treatment. Anything crunchy can make sore teeth feel worse. Really hard foods or foods that strain your teeth (like when biting into an apple) can make brackets pop off. You’ll also need to avoid sticky foods because they get stuck in your braces and cause tooth decay.

For summer, that might seem like a bummer. Favorite summertime foods like ice cream cones, amusement-park taffy, and corn on the cob are out for the time being. But still, there are lots of summer foods that you can still enjoy. Arkansas Braces put together a few recipes.


  • Smoothies are a great summertime treat. They’re cool, fruity, and taste like a milkshake, only healthier. Strawberries are in season during summer, so try this Strawberry Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie.
  • Blueberries are also in season during summer. Add them to pancakes, or try this recipe for blueberry muffins which we like because it has a low amount of sugar.
  • Scrambled eggs are soft just like a braces friendly dish should be, but they can get boring after a while. Up your egg game by adding some zucchini to your dish in this Summer Vegetable Frittata. It’s great for brunch, and there’s no reason you can’t make it for dinner either.


  • If you have the grill fired up in the backyard for hot dogs and burgers, also throw on some vegetables for this Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho. Gazpacho is a soup meant to be eaten cold, so you can put everything you grilled in the fridge to prepare the next day.


  • Even though you can’t have corn on the cob, that doesn’t mean you can’t have corn off the cob. Prepare the corn according to this guide to corn on the cob, and scrape off the kernels into a bowl. Then put them on your plate to eat with a fork.
  • Potato salad is another traditional side to go with BBQ. Try this Easy Potato Salad and just cook the potatoes a little longer than normal to make sure they’re nice and soft.


  • Basil flourishes in the heat of summer, so make your own Basic Basil Pesto sauce to add to spaghetti, ravioli, or any other noodles. Replace the jarred pesto in this recipe for Creamy Pesto Chicken Broccoli with the fresh stuff you just made.
  • If you catch any fish over the summer, instead of frying it in a crunchy coating, just bake it with a little butter or olive oil. This recipe for Easy Baked Tilapia is fairly adaptable to whatever type of fish might bite your hook.

The team at Arkansas Braces in Fort Smith, AR hopes you enjoy all of these delicious treats while wearing braces. We look forward to seeing you at your next braces appointment in Fort Smith, AR.

Do I Really Have to Wear My Rubber Bands provided by Arkansas Braces?

Do I Really Have to Wear My Rubber Bands provided by Arkansas Braces?

In a word, Yes. The orthodontists at Arkansas Braces would not have made rubber bands part of your orthodontic treatment if they didn’t determine them to be necessary.

The typical purpose of rubber bands is to correct an overbite or underbite. Once orthodontic treatment is over, your teeth will fit together nicely. Your smile will look lovely, and eating will be a lot easier. Rubber bands can also be used along the brackets of one jaw to help move teeth in a way that braces might not be able to do alone.

Tips for wearing rubber bands:

  • Wear them consistently – You will need to take out your rubber bands now and then, during brushing for example. But be sure to wear them consistently. If you take them out and don’t put them back in, even if just for a little while, your jaw or teeth can start moving back to original positions, which can significantly extend treatment time. In effect, you might be starting all over.
  • Use the right rubber bands – Rubber bands come in different diameters and elastic strengths. Make sure you use the ones given to you by us, or your jaw won’t move into place properly. If for some reason you want to order some rubber bands off the Internet, don’t do it. Instead, call us. We’ll give you the ones you need.
  • Don’t improvise – Patients have been known to double up on rubber bands thinking that it will make their teeth move faster. In reality, it doesn’t work that way. Patients might also wear a set of rubber bands longer than instructed instead of replacing them daily or as directed. But rubber bands can lose their elasticity quickly, and wearing one set too long will negatively affect treatment.

How you wear your rubber bands will depend on the instructions you received from your orthodontist at Arkansas Braces. Some patients who wear rubber bands need to wear them all the time. Others only need to wear them while sleeping. Some will need to wear them throughout their entire treatment time, but others will only need to wear them for a portion of it.

Fun Facts from Arkansas Braces

Fun Facts about Dentistry

Just for fun, the Arkansas Braces team in Fort Smith, AR has assembled a list of fun facts about dentistry and orthodontics which you probably never knew:

Straight teeth have always been important to people. Rudimentary braces made of catgut and metal have been found in Egyptian mummies.

  • The spinner dolphin has more teeth than any other animal, up to 252 teeth. Compare that to people who have only 32 teeth as adults.
  • Siwak sticks, also called miswak, are a precursor to the toothbrush. They have been used for thousands of years and are still used today in parts of the Middle East and Africa. Siwak sticks are twigs from the arak tree, which fray into bristles when you chew on them and which you can then use to brush your teeth.
  • Dental disease has been with humans since prehistoric times, but the incidence of cavities increased dramatically in Europe in the 1600’s when imported sugar became part of the diet.
  • Bears, who have a large appetite for honey, are the only non-domesticated animal that gets cavities.
  • Contrary to popular belief, George Washington never had wooden false teeth. He did have dental problems all his life, however, and for a time wore partial dentures made of ivory.
  • As of 2011, there are 193,000 professionally active dentists in the United States, according to the American Dental Association. People who live in the District of Columbia have a wealth of dentists from which to choose, because the city has the most dentists per capita in the United States. The state with the least dentists per capita is Arkansas.

The team at Arkansas Braces in Fort Smith, AR hopes you enjoyed learning a few fun facts about braces and orthodontic treatment. If you are ready to get affordable braces in Fort Smith, AR – give the Arkansas Braces team a call!