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When is the best time to floss?

August 26th, 2016

At Orthodontic Specialists, we prefer our patients to practice good oral hygiene between office visits. Part of that process includes flossing, which Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will tell you, is the process of cleaning between the teeth to remove food and debris from the areas that are hard to reach with a toothbrush. When food is allowed to remain between the teeth, it provides a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause periodontal disease.

Should you floss before or after brushing?

You can floss either before or after brushing, according to your own preference. By flossing first, you can brush away dislodged food debris afterward. On the other hand, brushing first allows you to loosen plaque between the teeth, making it easier to floss more effectively.

Whichever you choose, the most important goal is to floss thoroughly. That means using a fresh strand of dental floss each day, and carefully pulling it back and forth between all of the teeth. Do not skip flossing because your teeth look or feel clean.

When to Floss

Unlike brushing, you need only floss between your teeth once per day. Although you may choose to do it in the morning or afternoon, many prefer to floss at night to prevent food and debris from remaining in the crevices of the teeth overnight. This could prevent the build-up of plaque too, which is a cause of tooth decay.

Help with Flossing

If you have questions about your flossing technique or what type of floss is best for your teeth, contact our office. Our staff will be more than happy to assist you in perfecting your home hygiene regimen. In most cases, you can choose between interdental cleaning picks or flexible floss strands to perform your daily flossing routine. If you have permanent oral appliances or restorations, be sure to follow the flossing instructions provided to you, and contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office with any questions.

Your Five-Step Guide to Preventing Tooth Decay While Wearing Braces

August 19th, 2016

If you’re wearing braces, then you know they are working hard to straighten your teeth. However, those hard-working braces are also preventing you from easily cleaning your teeth. It is essential that you put some extra attention into preventing tooth decay while wearing your braces. When your braces are finally removed by Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, you want a beautiful, white smile, not decayed or stained teeth. Here, we’ve listed the five best ways to ensure you have the smile you’ve always dreamed of once your braces are gone.

Use a Special Toothbrush

A regular toothbrush just doesn’t cut it when you are wearing braces. You also need to use an interdental toothbrush so that you can effectively clean behind the braces. This type of brush has bristles that are shaped like a Christmas tree that can remove food residue in the braces and on the teeth. We also recommend using a WaterPik, with its highly pressurized pulsating water, to help get all of those hard-to-reach places.

Brush after Every Meal

Since braces block food from naturally escaping your teeth after eating, it’s important that you take the time to brush and floss after every meal. The less time food has to sit on your teeth, the less likely it is to cause decay. This may seem like an inconvenience, but trust us, when you get your braces off, you will be very glad you brushed after every meal.

Don't Forget the Mouth Rinse

Even after properly brushing and flossing, there are probably some food particles in your braces. A fluoride mouth rinse is the best way to ensure that every bit of food is removed after meals. If you do not have a mouth rinse available, we suggest using water — it’s better than nothing.

Avoid Sweets

Prevention is definitely the best medicine when it comes to avoiding tooth decay. If you can nix decay-causing sugary foods from the outset, we promise you’ll spend less time trying to treat problems in the future.

Get Regular Checkups

Visit your dentist regularly while you are wearing braces. Our office recommends a thorough cleaning every three to six months. Let our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office know if you have questions about your oral health while in braces - our entire team at Orthodontic Specialists is here to make sure your teeth are as beautifully straight as they are healthy!

Top Ways to Ensure You and Your Braces Have a Good Relationship

August 12th, 2016

You and your braces will become good friends over the coming months or years, so it’s important to get your relationship off to a good start. Consider the following recommendations to prevent rocky times ahead:

  1. Floss, floss, floss. Yes, it’s a pain to floss around your braces, but it's the best way to prevent gum disease and other oral health problems. Ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff for floss threaders to make the chore easier. Just a few minutes per day will ensure that you don’t face significant dental health issues when the braces come off.
  2. Avoid sticky or hard foods. It’s tough to forgo toffee, caramel, gum, and other favorite sticky treats, but your braces will thank you. Sticky or hard foods can break a bracket or wire, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.
  3. Chew with your back teeth. If you’re used to taking large bites with your front teeth, it might be time to switch your eating habits. Taking a large bite of food with your front teeth can leave your braces vulnerable to damage. Instead, cut large foods into pieces and use your back teeth to chew. This is especially important with corn on the cob, which should always be cut from the cob.
  4. Wear rubber bands and headgear. Rubber bands, headgear, and other orthodontic appliances may seem annoying, but failing to comply with wearing them can increase the length of your treatment by months. Wear them now to avoid problems in the future.

The Importance of Wearing Your Retainer after Orthodontic Treatment

August 5th, 2016

It's the big day and your braces are finally coming off! Does that mean you are completely done? Not so fast! After you complete your treatment here at Orthodontic Specialists, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team will recommend you wear a retainer, which must be worn routinely after treatment in order to hold your teeth in their proper, new position while your gums, ligaments and bones adapt. Most patients are required to wear their retainer every night at first, with many also being directed to wear them during the day. It's important to know there are different kinds of retainers, and today we thought we would explain the differences between them.

Hawley Retainers

The Hawley retainer is one of the most common types of retainers. It is a removable retainer made of a combination of a metal wire that typically surrounds the six anterior teeth and is designed to keep your teeth in place. This retainer is made from impressions of your teeth so that it fits snugly and comfortably in the roof of your mouth, while the wire and acrylic framing keeps your teeth in an ideal position. The acrylic can also be personalized with a large number of colors or patterns.

Essix (Clear) Retainers

The Essix retainer is a transparent removable retainer that fits over the entire arch of your teeth. This clear or transparent retainer fits over the entire arch of teeth and is produced from a mold. Similar to Invisalign’s clear aligner trays, Essix retainers have no metal or wires. They can also be used to produce minor tooth movements and can be helpful in prevention of tooth wear due to tooth grinding at night.

Bonded Retainers

Bonded lingual retainers are cemented directly to the inside surface of your lower canines. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists encourage our patients with bonded lingual retainers to be careful with their bite as the bonding material may break due to incorrect biting and cause your teeth to shift. As with removable retainers, it is important to keep your bonded retainers clean. When brushing, make sure to carefully clean the inside of your lower teeth, as well as the wire itself.

The retention phase of treatment begins when the patient’s braces are removed. Retainers are worn full time, typically for the first nine months, except while eating. Retainers should also be removed before brushing your teeth.

If you have any questions about the retainers we offer or to learn more about post-orthodontic treatment, please feel free to contact us at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office and we will be happy to answer any of your questions!

What is a water pick and do I need one?

July 29th, 2016

Water picks, sometimes called “oral irrigators,” make an excellent addition to your regular home care regimen of brushing and flossing. Especially helpful to those who suffer from periodontal disease and those patients of ours undergoing orthodontic treatment with full-bracketed braces, water picks use powerful tiny bursts of water to dislodge food scraps, bacteria, and other debris nestled in the crevices of your mouth. Children undergoing orthodontic treatment may find using a water pick is beneficial if their toothbrush bristles tend to get caught on their wires or brackets.

When you use a water pick, you’re not only dislodging any particles or debris and bacteria you might have missed when brushing, you are also gently massaging the gums, which helps promote blood flow in the gums and keeps them healthy. While water picks are an excellent addition to your daily fight against gingivitis and other periodontal diseases, they are incapable of fully removing plaque, which is why Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists want to remind you to keep brushing and flossing every day.

If you have sensitive teeth or gums and find it uncomfortable to floss daily, water picks are a good alternative to reduce discomfort while effectively cleaning between teeth. Diabetics sometimes prefer water picks to flossing because they don't cause bleeding of the gums, which can be a problem with floss. If you have a permanent bridge, crowns, or other dental restoration, you may find that a water pick helps you keep the area around the restorations clean.

So how do you choose the right water pick?

Water picks are available for home or portable use. The home versions tend to be larger and use standard electrical outlets, while portable models use batteries. Aside from the size difference, they work in the same manner, both using pulsating water streams. A more crucial difference between water picks is the ability to adjust the pressure. Most home models will let you choose from several pressure settings, depending on how sensitive your teeth and gums are. Most portable models have only one pressure setting. If you want to use mouthwash or a dental rinse in your water pick, check the label first; some models suggest using water only.

Please give us a call at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office if you have any questions about water picks, or ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright during your next visit!

No Wooden Teeth, Please! Why Oral Health is So Important

July 22nd, 2016

Your teeth are precious. Once your permanent teeth come in, they need to last you a lifetime. Extensive tooth decay can lead to dental caries and the need for fillings, crowns, bridges, and dentures.

While these fixes can go a long way toward maintaining your quality of life, they cannot compare to your natural teeth. Getting braces is no excuse to let up on your thorough oral health routine: You need to take good care of your teeth before, during, and after braces to benefit completely from the gains you get from newly straightened teeth.

Why You Should Maintain Good Oral Health for Life

Begin a complete oral health regimen as early as possible in life, and maintain this routine throughout your life. Keeping your (or your child’s baby) teeth clean establishes a routine. It preserves healthy baby teeth whose function is to save space for the permanent teeth when they are ready to come in. Care of your permanent teeth helps preserve the enamel and prevent decay.

Take Special Care with Braces

It is important to pay attention to oral health when you have braces. If you do not take special care of your teeth during the months or years that you have braces, you risk irreversible damage to your teeth. Care is more difficult with braces because food can easily get stuck. In addition to brushing twice daily and flossing each day, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff suggest avoiding sticky foods.

What is a palatal expander?

July 15th, 2016

If Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists have recommended a palatal expander, you might be wondering what it is and how it will help you. A palatal expander is a small appliance fitted in your mouth to create a wider space in the upper jaw. It is often used when there is a problem with overcrowding of the teeth or when the upper and lower molars don’t fit together correctly. While it is most commonly used in children, some teens and adults may also need a palatal expander.

Reasons to get a palatal expander

There are several reasons you might need to get a palatal expander:

  • Insufficient room for permanent teeth currently erupting
  • Insufficient space for permanent teeth still developing which might need extraction in the future
  • A back crossbite with a narrow upper arch
  • A front crossbite with a narrow upper arch

How long will you need the palatal expander?

On average, patients have the palatal expander for four to seven months, although this is based on the individual and the amount of correction needed. Several months are needed to allow the bone to form and move to the desired width. It is not removable and must remain in the mouth for the entire time.

Does it prevent the necessity for braces?

The palatal expander doesn’t necessarily remove the need for braces in the future, but it can in some cases. Some people only need braces because of a crossbite or overcrowding of the teeth, which a palatal expander can help correct during childhood, when teeth are just beginning to erupt. However, others may eventually need braces if, once all their permanent teeth come in, they have grown in crookedly or with additional spaces between.

If you think your child could benefit from a palatal expander, or want to learn about your own orthodontic treatment options, please feel free to contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

Besides straight teeth, what are the benefits of braces?

July 8th, 2016

Everyone wants a naturally aligned and beautiful smile, and it is no secret that orthodontic braces from Orthodontic Specialists can help deliver one. However, there are greater benefits to wearing braces than just having straight teeth. You’ll gain many oral health benefits in addition to the cosmetic ones.

Tooth Decay and Gum Disease

Crooked or crowded teeth may overlap each other and create tight spaces in between. These can make it very difficult to brush and floss effectively, allowing bacteria and plaque to build up, and eventually leading to tooth decay and gum disease. With orthodontic treatment, your teeth will become properly aligned and spaced, which allows for more effective brushing.

Difficulties with Speech

Your teeth play an essential role in speech. When they are out of line or lean too far forward or backward, this can affect your speaking patterns, and possibly cause embarrassment and frustration. Braces can readjust the positioning of the teeth to allow for clearer, more professional speech.

Bone Erosion

Bone and gum tissues begin to erode when there are no teeth to support. This is also true for poorly aligned teeth that leave gaps and spaces or place too much pressure on the jawbone due to a bad bite. With braces, the bones and tissues are less likely to erode and can continue to support the teeth in their new alignment.

Digestion

Your teeth play an important role in digestion. Before food ever enters your stomach, it has been partially digested by the teeth. If teeth are severely out of line, however, they may not play their role in breaking down food as effectively as they should. With braces, your teeth will be straightened into optimal alignment for eating and chewing.

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and staff will be happy to answer any of your questions about your orthodontic treatment. Visit us in Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN today!

Five Great Reasons to Visit Our Practice this Summer

July 1st, 2016

We’ve heard all the reasons why folks put off scheduling an orthodontic consultation: not quite ready to begin treatment, vacations, busy schedules, financial concerns, etc.

Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t delay another day to make an appointment for yourself or your child with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright.

1. Growth – there is a window of opportunity during growth when an orthopedic appliance can change the direction of jaw growth and dramatically improve your child’s case. Once this time has passed, the correction becomes harder and may involve extraction of teeth or even worse, a surgical procedure to properly align the jaws.

2. Scheduling – Summertime is the perfect time to begin orthodontic treatment, because your child doesn’t have to miss school, especially for those longer appointments needed at the start of treatment.

3. Early Diagnosis – Many times, early interceptive treatment at Orthodontic Specialists can dramatically improve the alignment of your child’s teeth and jaws. If baby teeth need to be extracted in order to allow the permanent teeth to erupt, timing is everything. The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children receive an orthodontic consultation as early as age seven.

4. Financial Concerns – We offer several flexible payment plans which can be extended over your or your child’s treatment time.

5. A Lifetime of Smiles – Why wait when you can enjoy the many benefits of a beautiful and functional smile now. The sooner you get started the sooner you will be showing everyone your world-class smile.

Give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to book your initial consulation with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright.

How can I protect my child's teeth during sports?

June 24th, 2016

Sports are great for children for a variety of reasons. Children can develop their motor skills, learn how to solve conflicts and work together, and develop their work ethics. As a parent, you may recognize the benefits of sports, but also naturally worry about your child’s health and safety. Your job goes beyond providing a water bottle and making sure your child follows the rules of the game.

Although you may not think of your child’s teeth first when you think about sports, accidents can happen that affect your children’s teeth. A stray hockey stick, an errant basketball, or a misguided dive after a volleyball are examples of ways a child could lose a tooth. In fact, studies show that young athletes lose more than three million teeth each year.

Becoming a Better Athlete to Protect Teeth

Becoming a better athlete involves refining skills, learning the rules of the game, and being a good sport. These components are not just about winning. They are also about safety. Young athletes who are better ball-handlers and who are careful to avoid fouls and penalties are less likely to have harmful contact with the ball, teammates, or opponents. Children who are better roller-bladers are less likely to take a face plant into the blacktop, and more likely to save their teeth. Being a good sport and avoiding unnecessary contact is one way to protect teeth.

Proper Protective Equipment for Teeth

If your child is in a sport that poses a high threat to teeth, it is essential for your child to wear a mouthguard. Mouthguards fit your child’s mouth and consist of soft plastic. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can custom fit a mouthguard if generic ones are uncomfortable. While children may resist wearing a mouthguard initially, your persistence in insisting that they wear it should be enough to convince them. A helmet or face mask provides additional protection.

While prevention is best, rapid treatment can improve the situation if your child does happen to lose a tooth during sports. Rapid implantation can work in about ten percent of cases. To learn about ways to save a lost tooth, contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office.

When You Need Immediate Care, We are Here for You

June 17th, 2016

At Orthodontic Specialists, we know orthodontic emergencies are neither convenient nor timely. If you are a patient of record, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team are more than willing to see you after hours or over the weekend. As a general rule, you should call our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office when you experience severe pain or when you have a painful appliance problem that you can’t take care of yourself. We’ll be able to schedule an appointment to resolve the problem. If you have an orthodontic emergency after regular office hours, please give us a call and follow the emergency prompts to contact one of our doctors.

My mouth is dry. What can I do?

June 10th, 2016

Nobody likes a dry mouth. It is an uncomfortable and sometimes oddly unexplainable sensation that most people like to avoid. It is not a condition that automatically sends you into a panic about your health, however, a dry mouth can be a bother and something you certainly want to change if possible. So, if you find yourself in the unpleasant position of having a dry mouth, here is what you can do.

Chew Sugar-free Gum: Chewing sugar-free gum will stimulate saliva in your mouth. The chewing motion of your jaw and teeth should take care of at least some of your dry mouth problem.

Suck on Sugar-free Candy: Similarly to chewing sugar free gum, if you suck on sugar free candy it should create more saliva in your mouth and moisturize it in the process.

Cut out the Caffeine:Caffeine can contribute to a dry mouth so by limiting, or eliminating your intake all together, you may find that your dry mouth is no more.

Stop Using Tobacco Products: Tobacco is another cause of dry mouth. Whether it is smokeless tobacco products or cigarettes, if you stop using them your dry mouth will likely improve. And not to forget, these products are exceedingly bad for your oral health to begin with, so you will be doing your mouth a favor even more so.

Drink Lots of Water: It may seem obvious, but drinking lots of water will likely improve your dry mouth. This is because dry mouth is usually a sign of dehydration, so plenty of fluids will surely help.

Dry mouth can be unpleasant, but it is often easily solved by either drinking more water, or trying one of the previously mentioned techniques. If the problem still persists you can always visit our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to see Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright. More often than not, doing one of the above will leave your mouth more moisturized than it was previously, and hopefully it will be long-lasting as well.

Tips to Help You Beat the Heat This Summer

June 3rd, 2016

The dog days of summer are upon us, and with the temperatures soaring, our team at Orthodontic Specialists wants you to be extra careful about sun safety when you’re out and about. Check out this incredibly helpful article on the Ten Summer Safety Tips for Kids, courtesy of Discovery.

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team also encourage you to always have a bottle of water handy when heading out into the sun.

We hope you’re having a great summer! Let us know what you're up to below or on our Facebook page!

Why is orthodontic treatment important?

May 27th, 2016

The goal of orthodontic treatment at Orthodontic Specialists, which may include the use of braces, retainers, and aligners, is to straighten your teeth. Treatment often starts in the pre-teen or teenage years, but adults may also need orthodontic treatment. The treatment can feel like a chore that lasts for several months or a couple of years, but it can fix important problems. These include:

  • Crowded teeth spaced too close together
  • Gaps between your teeth
  • Crooked teeth
  • Overbite or underbite
  • Upper and lower teeth that do not meet

Straight Teeth are More Attractive

You are more likely to be proud of your smile when your teeth are straight and evenly spaced. Pride in your appearance can give you more confidence and encourage you to try new things. This can be particularly important for adolescents. In addition, people often judge others based on first impressions. A smile that shows straight teeth is more attractive.

Better Oral Health is Easier

Brushing and flossing your teeth are two basic components of an oral health routine to protect your teeth from conditions such as tooth decay, gingivitis, and plaque build-up. As Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff know, caring for your mouth is easier when your teeth are straight. The American Dental Association says the following conditions are less likely to occur if you have the proper orthodontic treatment.

  • Dental caries
  • Gum disease or gingivitis
  • Tooth loss
  • Impaired speech
  • Worn tooth enamel

Orthodontic Treatment Improves Nutrition

Poorly aligned teeth can reduce your ability to chew properly or make certain foods more difficult to eat. Many of these more challenging foods are healthy, and avoiding them can cause you to limit your diet to softer, often less-nutritious foods, such as ice cream and canned soup. Straighter teeth and a better ability to chew let you eat crunchy foods, such as apples and carrots; stringy foods, such as asparagus and chicken; and chewy foods, such as raisins.

My toothbrush did what?

May 20th, 2016

If you were to put your toothbrush bristles under a high-powered microscope, what you would see might give you nightmares: millions of bacteria, busily crawling up and down your toothbrush bristles, consuming proteins that came from your mouth, and still clinging to the bristles even after you’ve rinsed them with water.

Rinsing your toothbrush after brushing removes some of those ferociously hungry bacteria, but not all. The American Dental Association says that bacterial infestations develop on toothbrushes within a month of daily use. The ADA also states that unless a toothbrush is sterilized before being packaged, it’s going to come with bacteria – free of charge!

Germs and Frayed Bristles: the Demise of a Toothbrush

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff recommend that you toss your old toothbrush in the trash and purchase a new one every three months. Children tend to bite on their toothbrushes, which makes the bristles degrade and fray faster. Chances are kids may need to have their toothbrushes changed more frequently.

Where do they hide?

Bacteria are tenacious little germs that head for those concealed areas between toothbrush bristles. They are highly adaptable and exist in every type of extreme environment. Some people actually go so far as to put their toothbrush in a microwave for a few seconds to kill germs, but this doesn't always work either. In fact, you may only end up with a toothbrush that’s as bendable as a Gumby doll – and still covered with germs.

Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever, and Get Rid of Your Toothbrush

When you have a head cold, your mouth is teeming with bacteria gleefully roaming around, and gobbling mucus and dead skin cells. If you brush your teeth while suffering a sinus condition, the brush will act like a magnet for ravenous bacteria. Use your old toothbrush while you are sick, but as soon as you feel better, throw it away and get a new one. Otherwise you could possibly re-infect yourself with the same cold germs!

My teeth don't line up any more. Why?

May 13th, 2016

If your teeth don't line up like they used to any more, you may be suffering from temporomandibular joint disorder, often called TMD. This is a term that can actually be applied to any condition that occurs because the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is inflamed.

The temporomandibular joint is essentially the hinge that holds your lower jaw to your skull, and when it is inflamed or damaged in any way, it can be extremely painful. You have two temporomandibular joint, one on each side of your jaw, and it is typical to experience TMD in both sides at the same time.

Shifting of the Teeth

The reason that your teeth may not line up as they once did is that the ball and socket joints are often out of alignment and, as mentioned above, often very inflamed as a result. In order to correct the problem, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright may prescribe dental orthotics such as a lower jaw splint.

Sometimes, the wisdom teeth can play a role in the shifting of the teeth as well. If shifting wisdom teeth is combined with TMD, it may be necessary to have your wisdom teeth removed. Dental splints may follow if your teeth don't shift back to their proper positions on their own.

TMD is certainly a difficult thing to deal with, so if you experience your teeth shifting, scheduling an appointment at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office is the smartest course. We want to help you get your smile back, so give us a call anytime.

Can I use mouthwash instead of flossing?

May 6th, 2016

While mouthwash goes a long way in improving your oral care, it is not a substitute for flossing. Mouthwashes and flossing provide different benefits that you should understand.

Mouthwash Benefits

Mouthwash comes in two categories. Some are considered cosmetic. This type of rinse provides temporary relief from bad breath and has a pleasant taste. These do not actually kill any bacteria.

Therapeutic mouthwashes provide the healthier benefits. These may contain different ingredients including fluoride or antimicrobial agents. This type is used to remove plaque buildup and reduce the potential for calculus formation. Therapeutic rinses can also help prevent cavities, bad breath, and gingivitis. In addition, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can prescribe special rinses to assist patients after periodontal surgery or other procedures.

Flossing Benefits

Flossing is what removes the plaque formation before it can harden and become calculus. While a rinse reduces buildup, only flossing will fully remove plaque, especially between teeth. The bristles on a toothbrush do not get between teeth completely. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar or calculus. When this builds below the gum line, gum disease can start.

Types of Floss

Floss is available in a thin string form or a tape. It can be waxed or unwaxed. If you find flossing difficult, you might want to try a different type of floss. You can buy bulk floss in containers or purchase the disposable type with a plastic handle attached. This style can be easier for many individuals to use. Interdental picks are available for bridgework or other situations where regular floss cannot be used.

If you have questions regarding the best mouthwash or floss, or need tips for easier flossing, please ask our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN team for advice. We will be glad to give you solutions to help keep your mouth clean and healthy.

Eating with Braces: Braces-friendly snack recipe

April 29th, 2016

At Orthodontic Specialists, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff know that eating with braces can be tricky. You want to avoid damaging the bands, brackets, and wires, since any damage can delay the progress of your treatment. After adjustments, your mouth may also feel sore, which will make eating more of a chore than a pleasure.

The good news is you do not have to avoid all of your favorite foods; there are ways you can still enjoy them. Try some of these ideas and recipes for great snacks that are friendly to your braces.

Fruits and Vegetables

You still need to eat fruits and vegetable for the healthy nutrients. The trick is to cut harder items into small pieces that you can chew easily with your back teeth. Canned fruits are also a great choice, but select fruits packed in water to avoid the heavy, sugary syrups. It’s a good idea to avoid excess sugar with braces, since sugar build-up around your braces can lead to plaque formation.

Single-serving packages are available to make your snack portable and convenient. Enjoy vegetables with a small amount of a healthy dip. Hummus or yogurt can be used for flavor without adding unnecessary fat or calories.

Banana and Honey Smoothie

Smoothies are a healthy treat, and you can create these drinks with your favorite ingredients. You can use a variety of yogurt types for your smoothie: regular, low or non-fat, and Greek are all great choices.  Here’s one of our favorite smoothie recipes:

  • 6 ounces of your choice of yogurt
  • 1 or 2 teaspoons of honey
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 6 ounces milk

Chop the banana into smaller pieces and put all your ingredients into a blender. Blend on low until everything is mixed and then blend on high for about 20 seconds to make your smoothie fluffy.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can substitute just about any small or cut-up fruit for the banana. Try blackberries, raspberries, or peaches for variety. Try to avoid fruits with small seeds; strawberries can leave bits stuck in your braces. You can even make a smoothie with peanut butter and jelly!

Please ask our team if you have any concerns regarding the foods you can safely eat while wearing braces.

Early Orthodontics

April 22nd, 2016

The average age of individuals who get braces is between nine and 14, although it is appropriate for younger children to visit Orthodontic Specialists for a consultation with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright. While parents may be concerned about the efficacy of early orthodontics, research suggests that early intervention can prevent greater dental health problems later in life.

What types of conditions require early intervention?

According to the American Association of Orthodontists, 3.7 million children under the age of 17 receive orthodontic treatment each year. Early intervention may be appropriate for younger children with crooked teeth, jaw misalignment, and other common issues. Early orthodontic treatment may be of use for several types of problems:

  • Class I malocclusion. This condition is very common. It features crooked teeth or those that protrude at abnormal angles. In general, early treatment for Class I malocclusion occurs in two phases, each two years long.
  • Class III malocclusion. Known as an underbite, in which the lower jaw is too big or the upper jaw too small, Class III malocclusion requires early intervention. Because treatment involves changing growth patterns, starting as early as age seven is a smart choice for this dental problem.
  • Crossbite. Crossbite occurs when the upper and lower jaws are not properly aligned. An orthodontic device called a palatal expander widens the upper jaw, allowing teeth to align properly. Research suggests that early treatment may be beneficial in crossbite cases, especially when the jaw must shift laterally to correct the problem.
  • Tooth extraction. That mouthful of crooked baby teeth can cause problems when your child’s permanent teeth erupt. For kids with especially full mouths, extracting baby teeth and even permanent premolars can help adult teeth grow in straight.

Considerations when thinking about early intervention

Early intervention isn’t helpful for all conditions. For example, research suggests that there is little benefit to early orthodontics for Class II malocclusion (commonly known as an overbite). Instead, your child should wait until adolescence to begin treatment. Scheduling a visit to our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office when your child is around age seven is a smart way to create an individualized treatment plan that addresses unique orthodontic needs.

Toothpaste Guide

April 15th, 2016

Between the huge number of toothpaste brands on the market today, the different flavors, and claims from most to do different things, it isn’t surprising that people feel so confused when it comes to something that should be as simple as buying a tube of toothpaste. This guide will help you identify the common ingredients in toothpaste, and help you understand the important factors to consider before buying toothpaste again.

Toothpaste comes in gel, paste, and powdered forms. When it comes to the type of toothpaste, the choice is more a matter of preference.

Basic Ingredients

  • Abrasive Agents – Abrasive agents are the scratchy substances added to toothpastes to help in the removal of food particles, bacteria, and minor stains. Calcium carbonate is one of many abrasive materials, and arguably the most common.
  • Flavor – When toothpastes are flavored, they almost always have artificial sweeteners to enhance the flavor of the toothpaste and increase the likelihood that you’ll use it. Flavors run the gamut from traditional mint to cinnamon that may appeal to adults, and bubble gum or lemon lime – flavors to target children.
  • Humectants – Humectants are moisturizing agents that keep paste and gel toothpastes from drying out. Glycerol is commonly used as a humectant.
  • Thickeners – Thickeners are used to give toothpaste its distinctive consistency, and to make it maintain a uniform consistency and come out of the tube easily.
  • Detergents – Sodium lauryl sulfate is the most common detergent used in products that foam up, like toothpaste does in your mouth.

What to Look For in Toothpaste

Fluoride is naturally occurring mineral. It is the most important ingredient to look for in a toothpaste. Although there are people who argue against using fluoride toothpaste, dental professionals like Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright emphasize that the fact that the incidence of tooth decay has decreased so significantly in the past 50 years is because of fluoridated toothpaste.

The suggestion that fluoridated water gives you enough fluoride to protect your teeth is wrong. Fluoride toothpaste is the best cavity protection there is. In addition to strengthening tooth enamel and protecting teeth from acid erosion (from acidic foods and drinks,) it remineralizes the surfaces of teeth that are suffering from early acid damage and may prevent developing tooth decay from worsening.

Tartar Control

Tartar is the result of hardened plaque buildup on the teeth. Good oral hygiene and in between twice yearly cleanings from a dental hygienist are the best defense against plaque buildup. Plaque turns to tartar when people neglect their oral hygiene. Over time, tartar can build up on teeth and under the gums, increasing the risk of gum disease.

Your best bet is to use a toothpaste that has a combination of anti-plaque agents. Products containing more than one plaque reducer may be more effective than products that only one. Common ingredients to look for are zinc citrate or pyrophosphates. Triclosan is an antibiotic that is believed to kill bacteria in the mouth, and it can be found in some anti-plaque toothpaste.

Look for toothpaste that bears the seal of the American Dental Association. That seal is an endorsement of the ADA – and it means that many dentists agree that that particular toothpaste does what toothpaste is designed to do. We can also recommend toothpaste to meet your specific oral health concerns at your next visit to our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office.

Does smoking affect oral health?

April 8th, 2016

By now, everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. But the truth is its broad-reaching health effects are not all known by everyone. This is especially true of oral health. Smoking can have serious repercussions in this regard. To give you a better idea of how smoking can affect your oral health, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team have listed some issues that can arise.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer can have steep ramifications for anyone that gets it. Surgery can be required to eliminate the cancer before it spreads to more vital parts of your body. Any type of cancer is about the worst health effect you can get, and this especially holds true to the affects that smoking has on your mouth. The type of mouth surgery required with oral cancer can leave your face deconstructed in certain areas, and it is all due to smoking or use of other tobacco products.

Tooth Discoloration and Bad Breath

At the very least, it is fair to say that as a smoker you will often have bad breath, and while you may try to cover it up with gum or mints, tooth discoloration is a whole other story. The chemicals and substances in cigarettes stick to your teeth staining them brown and yellow colors that are increasingly difficult to disguise.

Gum Disease and Loss of Bone

Another effect of smoking is the increased risk of gum disease. Your gums may start to recede, which can eventually lead to the loss of teeth. Smoking can also increase bone loss and density in your jaw which is vital to the health of your mouth. Gum disease and bone loss are two signs that smoking is definitely bad for your mouth.

When it comes to the health of your mouth, the question is not whether smoking affects your health, it's how does it affect your health and to what degree. If for no other reason than because smoking involves your mouth as its entry point, it is safe to say that it can have long-lasting and detrimental consequences on your oral health.

To learn more about smoking and your oral health, contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to schedule an appointment with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright.

What causes crooked teeth?

April 1st, 2016

Teeth erupt crookedly for a number of reasons that range from genetics to mouth deformities and serious oral diseases. When extra teeth or abnormally large teeth create a malocclusion (crookedness or misplacement of teeth), the culprit is usually genetic in nature. Other inherited traits involve jaws that are too small to accommodate a full set of teeth and misaligned jaws that did not form properly in the womb.

Can crooked teeth be prevented?

In most cases, underbites, overbites, and crooked teeth are genetically derived and can’t be avoided. Orthodontic treatment with braces will be necessary to correct the condition once the child is old enough to wear them. However, certain early childhood behaviors may also contribute to the development of crooked teeth that can be avoided. These include:

  • Thumb sucking and tongue thrusting
  • Losing baby teeth to decay before permanent teeth have naturally pushed them out of their sockets
  • Allowing pacifier use to continue after front teeth have erupted

Permanent teeth underneath baby teeth are directly affected by the health of baby teeth. If baby teeth are prematurely lost due to decay or trauma, permanent teeth will shift when they start moving upward. Baby teeth are like anchors for permanent teeth that help guide them as they erupt through the gums.

In addition, excellent care of baby teeth is vital to having healthy permanent teeth free of discoloration or decay. Harmful oral bacteria can spread into the gums and reach permanent teeth still buried in the gums. Once attached to a tooth’s enamel, bacteria will begin eroding the tooth even before it has a chance to take its first bite!

When to Start Orthodontic Treatment for Crooked Teeth

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff suggest that parents bring your child to Orthodontic Specialists around age seven to rule out potential issues with permanent teeth eruption. If problems are discovered, it is not unusual to begin orthodontic treatment at that age. In fact, specific conditions such as crowding and gaps between teeth are easier to correct at an early age.

Early treatment also benefits from the growth process of the jaw, which helps move teeth to normal positions.

Top Things to do BEFORE You Get Braces

March 25th, 2016

So you’re about to get braces. Congratulations! You are taking a very smart step to improve the health of your teeth as well as get that killer smile in shape. But, as with anything that is good for you, there are a few things you will have to avoid while you “do your time.”

Some foods don’t do so great with braces. The foods listed below should be avoided while you are wearing your braces because they can pop the brackets and bend the wires. In other words, these foods can really ruin your day, and send you back to Orthodontic Specialists to get your braces repaired.

So before you hit the chair, hit the grocery and candy store – one last time – for:

  • Beef jerky
  • Raw carrots
  • Taffy
  • Pizza crust
  • Bagels and other crusty bread
  • Popcorn
  • Hard candy
  • Nuts and seeds

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff will give you more information about eating with braces. Some foods, such as apples, are okay as long as you cut them in pieces first. Others, like pudding and pasta, are fine just as they are. But then there is “the list”: the foods that are a big no-no and should be avoided. It won’t be forever, so hang in there.

Your braces time will pass before you know it and you can resume more normal eating. But before the braces go on, enjoy these tasty treats. Go ahead and indulge!

TMD Problems and How You Can Prevent Them

March 18th, 2016

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) describe a set of conditions that involve trouble with your jaw and face muscles. They result from a problem in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is a hinge that connects the temporal bones, in your skull in front of each ear, to your jaw. The joint enables you to talk, yawn, and chew by letting your mouth move.

TMD can be very painful and interfere with functions such as eating and speaking. This what to watch for and how to try to prevent TMD.

Risk Factors for TMD

You are at higher risk for TMD if you are a women than if you are male. The disorder is most common among adults between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Other risk factors for TMJ disorders include the following.

  • Arthritis in the area, making movement more difficult
  • Excessive tooth grinding, because it increases stress on the joint
  • General stress, which can lead you to clench your teeth and strain facial muscles

Symptoms of TMD

Symptoms of TMD can last for just a short while, or for several years. Seeing Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright is important if your symptoms make it impossible for you to eat regularly or if you have unbearable pain or discomfort. The following symptoms can occur on both or one side of your face.

  • Aching or very tired facial muscles
  • Jaws that are fixed open or shut without you being able to unlock them
  • Grating or popping sounds when you chew or close or open your mouth
  • Pain in the entire area, including the mouth, jaw, neck, or shoulders, that comes on when you chew or yawn

Preventing TMD

You can try to prevent TMD by focusing on reducing risk factors. If you grind your teeth at night, ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright about wearing a mouthguard. If you are overly stressed, look into ways to better manage your stress and relax your muscles. Another strategy for trying to prevent the development of TMD is to avoid chewing gum, since that puts stress on your jaw.

If you have questions about TMD, don’t hesitate to contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office.

St. Patrick's Day: Celtic pride, green shamrocks, and lucky charms!

March 11th, 2016

“St. Patrick's Day is an enchanted time -- a day to begin transforming winter's dreams into summer's magic.” Adrienne Cook

Lucky green shamrocks, leprechauns, and pots of gold – it must be St. Patrick’s Day! If you’re not Irish, how do you go about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? It’s easy: You just put on one of those tall leprechauns hats, dress in green from head to toe, and wear one of those carefree pins that say “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”. On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish, and that is the universal beauty of the holiday. Celtic pride does not discriminate.

Wondering what our team at Orthodontic Specialists is doing to celebrate March 17th? Well, we’ve thought about doing everything from handing out lucky gold coins (you know, the fake ones that are made of chocolate) to shamrock stickers. Maybe we’ll even give away green toothbrushes and floss! You’ll never know unless you come in to see Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright !

All kidding aside, St. Patrick’s Day is an important cultural and religious holiday. There are lavish parades and church services across Ireland on March 17th. Over time, however, the holiday has developed into a day to observe Irish culture in general. In places like England and the United States, where there is a large Irish Diaspora, the holiday has greater significance than other countries. From the streets of Boston to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, it is a day of celebration, and many Americans of Irish descent will cook up a traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage.

So, to all of you with Irish ancestry, and to all of you who have decided to be Irish for the day, our office wishes you a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Good luck looking for a pot of leprechaun gold, which is said to exist at the end of the rainbow. However, keep away from those sugary Lucky Charms; sweet cereals might taste good, but your kids’ teeth might not be feeling too lucky if they eat it for breakfast every day. Have a great St. Paddy’s Day!

What are the benefits of early orthodontic treatment?

March 8th, 2016

Parents usually have numerous questions about orthodontic treatment for their children. According to the American Association of Orthodontists, orthodontic treatment for children should start at around seven years of age. This allows Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright to evaluate the child’s existing and incoming teeth to determine whether or not early treatment might be necessary.

What is early orthodontic treatment?

Early orthodontic treatment, known as Phase One, usually begins when the child is eight or nine years old. The goal is to correct bite problems such as an underbite as well as guide the jaw’s growth pattern. It also helps to make room in the mouth for the permanent teeth to be properly placed as they come in. This will greatly reduce the risk of the child needing extractions later in life due to his or her teeth getting crowded.

Does your child need early orthodontic treatment?

There are several ways that you can determine whether your child needs early treatment. If you observe any of these characteristics or behaviors, you should talk to Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright.

  • Early loss of baby teeth (before age five)
  • Lat loss of baby teeth (after age five or six)
  • The child’s teeth do not meet properly or at all
  • The child is a mouth breather
  • Front teeth are crowded (you won’t see this until the child is about seven or eight)
  • Protruding teeth, typically in the front
  • Biting or chewing difficulties
  • A speech impediment
  • The child’s jaw shifts when he or she opens or closes the mouth
  • The child is older than five years and still sucks a thumb

What are the benefits of seeking orthodontic treatment early?

Early orthodontic treatment is begun while the child’s jaw bones are still soft. They do not harden until the children reach their late teens. Because the bones are still pliable, corrective procedures such as braces work faster than they do for adults.

In short, early treatment at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office often allows your child to avoid lengthy procedures, extraction, and surgery in adulthood. Early treatment is an effective preventive measure that lays the foundation for a healthy, stable mouth in adulthood.

Brushing with Braces: How to Keep a Clean Mouth

March 8th, 2016

A clean mouth is a happy mouth. And when Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff see you have a clean mouth, we are happy too. Of course, all of this should make you happy because you’re the one preventing sneaky little food bits from getting trapped under the wires of your braces.

Still, you need to be thorough with your brushing. When you have braces, you’re playing a game of hide-and-go-seek with everything you eat. Here are five tips to keep your mouth (and us) happy.

  1. How is brushing with braces like geometry? It’s all about the angles. Brush the tops of your teeth and braces with your brush angled down. Brush the bottom of your teeth with the brush angled up. Pointy brushes, aka interproximal brushes, are good for reaching the tiny spots around braces.
  2. Brush after every meal. If those sneaky little food bits hide in your mouth for very long, they’ll turn into plaque. And plaque is a sign of a very unhappy mouth.
  3. Brush one tooth at a time for at least ten seconds, and pay close attention to the spots where your braces touch your teeth.
  4. Fluoride is your new BFF. Make sure your toothpaste and mouthwash contain this cavity-fighting ingredient.
  5. Braces are no excuse not to floss. In fact, saying you can’t floss because you have braces is like saying the dog ate your homework. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff, like your geometry teacher, aren’t going to buy it. Be sure to floss after every meal.

Proper Diet while Undergoing Orthodontics

February 19th, 2016

Many people undergo orthodontic treatment during childhood, adolescence, and even into adulthood. Wearing orthodontic appliances like braces is sure to produce a beautiful smile. Though orthodontic treatments at Orthodontic Specialists are designed to accommodate your lifestyle, chances are you will need to make some dietary modifications to prevent damage to your braces and prolong orthodontic treatment.

The First Few Days with Braces

The first few days wearing braces may be the most restrictive. During this time, the adhesive is still curing, which means you will need to consume only soft foods. This probably will not be a problem, however, as your teeth may be tender or sensitive while adjusting to the appliances.

Orthodontic Dietary Restrictions

You can eat most foods normally the way you did without braces. However, some foods can damage orthodontic appliances or cause them to come loose. Examples of foods you will need to avoid include:

  • Chewy foods like taffy, chewing gum, beef jerky, and bagels
  • Hard foods like peanuts, ice chips, and hard candy
  • Crunchy foods like chips, apples, and carrots

How to Continue to Eat the Foods You Love Most

Keep in mind that you may still be able to enjoy some of the foods you love by making certain modifications to the way you eat them. For example, steaming or roasting carrots makes them softer and easier to consume with braces. Similarly, you can remove corn from the cob, or cut up produce like apples and pears to avoid biting into them. Other tips include grinding nuts into your yogurt or dipping hard cookies into milk to soften them. If you must eat hard candies, simply suck on them instead of biting into them.

If you have any question whether a food is safe to eat during your treatment with Orthodontic Specialists, we encourage you to err on the side of caution. Of course, you can always contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office with any questions you have about your diet and the foods that should be avoided during treatment. By following our dietary instructions and protecting your orthodontic appliances from damage, you will be back to chewing gum in no time.

What is malocclusion?

February 12th, 2016

The term malocclusion refers to misalignment of teeth. You may have been born with malocclusion, so your teeth simply grew in crooked, or the misalignment and crowding of your teeth occurred over a period of time. Either way, not only can malocclusion pose cosmetic issues, but it can have a negative effect on your speaking and eating abilities as well.

Types of Malocclusion

Malocclusion encompasses multiple types and classifications of misalignment issues, including twisting or rotation of the teeth and molars that do not meet when you bite down. In some cases, the top front teeth are pushed outward in an upper protrusion.

In other cases, a misplaced midline results when the front top teeth don’t meet with the front bottom teeth. Transposition occurs when teeth protrude through the gums in a position where another tooth is supposed to be.

Practically any type of crowding or spacing issues, rotation or twisting of the teeth, or bite problem – including overbite, underbite, open bite, or crossbite – is included under the umbrella of malocclusion.

Malocclusion Classifications

There are three classifications of bite or misalignment problem.

  • Class 1 malocclusion: While the bite may be normal, the upper teeth overlap the lower teeth slightly. This is the most common type.
  • Class 2 malocclusion: Known as overbite or retrognathism, class 2 involves a severe overlap of the upper teeth and jaw over the bottom teeth and jaw.
  • Class 3 malocclusion: Known as underbite or prognathism, class 3 occurs when the lower teeth and jaw overlap the upper teeth and jaw. Thus, the lower jaw juts forward.

Causes of Malocclusion

The most common cause of malocclusion is genetics. However, there may be other causes, including the development of abnormally-shaped teeth, lost teeth, or impacted teeth; thumb sucking or overuse of a pacifier as a small child; having fillings or crowns that do not fit correctly; a serious injury that causes misalignment of the jaw; or developing a tumor of the mouth or jaw.

Treating Malocclusion

Orthodontic care at Orthodontic Specialists with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright is the main treatment available for malocclusion, which includes getting braces, Invisalign, or other corrective treatments. Treatment is ideal not just to have your smile improved, but because it makes the teeth easier to clean and maintain, lowers the risk of gum disease and tooth decay, and can even take pressure off the jaw and teeth.

Think about orthodontic treatment if you (or your child) display any signs of malocclusion. Early treatment of malocclusion during childhood can lessen expensive treatment later on.

Helpful Hints for Dealing with Braces Pain

February 5th, 2016

Your first few days with braces will feel rather odd, awkward, and even painful. The day you get your braces you will probably just feel weird, like you have something in your mouth – because you do. You are most likely to feel pain and soreness during the second and third days. After that, you should be fine. If you experience any pain with your braces, there are a few things you can do to get some relief.

Home Remedies

Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water will soothe it and promote healing. Rinse several times a day or when your mouth, particularly mouth sores, are hurting. You can also take some Tylenol every four hours. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team advise against products that contain ibuprofen because it slows down the movement of your teeth.

You can also eat cold foods like ice cream or yogurt. The cold of the food will help dull the pain. Ice packs applied to your mouth help as well. You can also swish ice water around your mouth, but DO NOT eat ice!

Cool Products

Products for canker sores can be applied to the mouth sores you develop from your braces. There are also various rinses you can use that act as a shield or barrier in your mouth, and protect your mouth sores from further irritation.

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team may have given you some dental wax to put on the abrasive areas of your braces to protect your mouth. Putting dental wax on the brackets creates a barrier that keeps your mouth from getting scraped and sore.

Bite wafers are another great pain relief too. When you bite down on the wafer, it increases circulation in your gums, which can ease the pain a bit. Just a little pressure will work; you don’t want to bite too hard. And they usually come in cool colors, too!

The pain won’t last forever. One day you will wake up and you won’t have any pain. In fact, you probably won’t even notice the braces in your mouth at all!

Do we have your current contact info?

January 29th, 2016

As you probably know, you can always connect with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team by calling our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office, or going to our Facebook page. However, if you’ve recently moved or gotten a new phone number, we’ll need to update our records so we can easily connect with you!

If any of your contact information has changed, please let our team at Orthodontic Specialists know, just in case we need to reach you. While you’re at it, you can also schedule your next appointment! We look forward to hearing from you!

Helpful Hygiene Tips for Patients Who Wear Braces

January 22nd, 2016

Today, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team thought we would offer a few tips for our patients currently undergoing orthodontic treatment. For those of you wearing braces, it’s important to be even more dedicated to good oral hygiene than those not currently in treatment.

After getting your braces, it is important to know how to take care of your teeth in order to ensure that your braces stay intact and do their job so that your teeth are in top-notch condition after you complete your orthodontic treatment.

Braces are known to trap food, which contributes to plaque formation. If it is not carefully removed from the teeth and gums, plaque will develop into decay or gum disease, leading to costly delays during your treatment. It is important to practice good oral hygiene by following instructions from Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright during your treatment.

We are proud to offer supplies to help fight plaque, such as a proxabrush, dental floss, and floss threaders. The use of an electric toothbrush and or a water pick can also be helpful in combating cavities and decay. And, of course, our team at Orthodontic Specialists suggests brushing at least twice a day.

We hope that helps! If you have any questions, please give us a call at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office or ask us during your next adjustment appointment!

Common Issues with Braces: How to avoid bad breath

January 15th, 2016

A bright, beautiful smile is often achieved with braces. The time you spend wearing braces is an investment in the good health and appearance of your smile. However, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff know that having braces on your teeth can pose challenges. Many of these challenges are commonly faced by all who wear braces, such as flossing, getting food stuck in your braces, and bad breath.

Today, let’s address bad breath and what to do about it. There’s no reason you have to shy away from conversation for fear that you’ve got bad breath.

Fresh Breath Tips for Braces Wearers

  • Eat a Healthy Diet. Unhealthy foods that are laden with sugar can contribute to bad breath. Stick with healthy produce, protein, grains, and dairy found on the list of foods your orthodontist says are safe to eat with braces.
  • Drink Non-Sugary Beverages. Likewise, steer clear of sugary sodas and juices for the same reason. They contribute to bad breath.
  • Stay Hydrated. A mouth that’s continually dry can lead to bad breath by inhibiting your production of saliva. Regular production of saliva removes bacteria and excess food from your mouth, both of which cause bad breath.
  • Brush Often. Brush your teeth and tongue first thing in the morning, after each meal and snack, and before you go to bed, to remove food particles and bacteria that cause bad breath.
  • Don’t Forget to Floss. Flossing with braces might seem tricky, but it is a necessity. Ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright to show you the best way to floss effectively with braces.
  • Mouthwash Use. Use the mouthwash recommended by Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright. For the best results, swish the mouthwash around in your mouth for 30 seconds.
  • Get Regular Cleanings. Regular dental exams and cleanings are more important when you have braces. Cavities can delay your treatment progress, so be sure to visit your dentist every six months.

Practice Good Hygiene Daily

Good oral hygiene practices are important every day, whether you wear braces or not. But they become even more important during the months you wear braces. In addition to your regular orthodontic checkups, see your general dentist for cleanings and exams.

Together, you and our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN team will keep your mouth healthy and fresh during and after your orthodontic treatment.

Five Reasons for Your Bad Breath

January 8th, 2016

Bad breath, or halitosis, is probably not a matter of life or death. But it can make you feel self-conscious and have a negative impact on your life. The majority of people suffering from bad breath are dealing with oral bacterial. However, there are other causes of this embarrassing problem. Learning more can help you fight this solvable problem.

Five Causes of Embarrassingly Bad Breath

  1. Dry Mouth. A decrease in saliva flow can be caused by several things. Most often, medication or mouth breathing are the culprits. As saliva helps wash away food particles from your mouth, it prevents bad breath. Dry mouth can be dealt with by stimulating salivation.
  2. Gum Disease and Poor Oral Hygiene. Not brushing and flossing well enough or with enough frequency can lead to gum disease, which leads to bad breath. Halitosis can be a sign that plaque is present on your teeth.
  3. Food-Related Bad Breath. Food particles that aren't brushed or flossed away attract bacteria that leads to bad breath. It's especially important to brush after eating strong-smelling foods, such as garlic or onions.
  4. Smoking and Tobacco. Tobacco is bad for your health, and that includes your oral health. Smoking or chewing tobacco can contribute toward the development of gum disease, as well as oral cancer.
  5. Mouth Infections and Other Medical Problems. A mouth infection, sinus infection or even the common cold can cause you to temporarily have bad breath. Even conditions such as diabetes and reflux can cause halitosis. It's always wise to see Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright to help determine the cause.

We are Your Ally

Even if you maintain good oral hygiene, it's important to see Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to deal with or avoid problems with bad breath. We can help you uncover the cause of halitosis, while also providing solutions that allow you to enjoy fresh breath without relying on mints and breath fresheners. As is the case with all things related to oral health, we are your number-one ally when it comes to eliminating the problem of bad breath.

My Mummy had Braces! Weird Facts about the History of Braces

January 1st, 2016

Sometimes real life is stranger and more interesting that any made-up story. These weird and interesting facts about braces will amuse you … and make you glad you didn’t have to get braces “way back when.”

Mummies with braces: Archaeologists have discovered mummies with crude bands of metal wrapped around their teeth. The metal was wrapped around each individual tooth, and it is believed that ancient dentists used catgut to guide the teeth and close the gaps.

First “official” braces: The first official braces were constructed in 1728 by Pierre Fauchard. They consisted of flat strips of metal. String was used to connect the metal to the teeth.

Early rubber bands: In 1850, Tucker began making rubber bands out of rubber tubing.

Brackets are better: Brackets were invented by Edward Angle in 1915. They were not bonded to the teeth directly, but instead were attached to bands that went around the teeth.

Wiring by NASA: As braces have become more modern, the technology has improved by leaps and bounds. You may know that some braces wire contains nickel titanium. What you may not know is that this metal was developed by NASA and has special shape memory that is activated by pressure or body heat.

Over 60 with braces: Actress Faye Dunaway got braces at the age of 61, which shows you are never too old to look more fabulous!

Oh, and one more thing that didn’t quite make our list, but is interesting all the same. Did you know that almost 25 percent of patients who get braces have to get them again because they wouldn’t wear their retainers? So suck it up, buttercup, and use that retainer!

Best Ways to Prevent Bad Breath

December 25th, 2015

Nobody likes bad breath, and although it can sometimes be difficult to tell if you have it, it is always better to practice good oral health than risk having a smelly mouth. There are many ways to reduce or eliminate bad breath, some are definitely more effective and longer lasting than others. Check out ways to do so below.

Floss Regularly

As difficult as it can be to remember to floss regularly, when it comes to bad breath, flossing is one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to freshen your mouth. See, flossing reduces the plaque and bacteria found in areas of your mouth that a toothbrush simply can't reach, and in turn, it rids your mouth of the smell associated with that bacteria. While flossing may not eliminate bad breath on its own, if you do it along with other health oral hygiene habits like brushing, then you may just develop a fresher smelling mouth.

Use Mouthwash

Using some sort of mouthwash can really freshen up your breath, especially if you find it still smells after brushing and flossing. There is a wide variety of mouthwash products on the market, however, you can also create your own by simply using baking soda mixed with water.

Always Brush after You Sleep

Whether after taking a nap, or having a full night of sleep, you will want to brush your teeth in order to reduce bad breath. The truth is, bacteria accumulates in your mouth while you are sleeping (even during a short nap) and that is ultimately the source of bad breath. So next time you wake from a good slumber, give your mouth some brushing and you will find it makes a big difference in the freshness of your breath.

There are many ways to freshen your breath beyond just using gum or mints, the above mentioned are just a few for you to try. Test them out and you will likely find your bad breath problem is solved, or at least considerably reduced. Of course, you can always ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright at your next visit to our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office.

I have halitosis. What can I do?

December 18th, 2015

Halitosis is the fancy, scientific word for “bad breath.” Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team know there are several reasons why you may have halitosis; let’s look at a few:

  • Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) – There are five main types of gum disease, and each one can range from mild to severe. For example the most common one is gingivitis; it is caused by bacteria in the plaque that has been allowed to build up, usually as a result of poor oral hygiene. A more serious and uncommon type of gum disease is called necrotizing periodontal disease. It is most common in people who have a suppressed immune system.
  • Smoking
  • Dry Mouth – This can be caused by something as simple as a medication you take.
  • Food – Of course, if you eat something that is potent like garlic, it is going to give you bad breath.
  • Diseases of the Body – Some diseases such as sinus infections and diabetes, among a few other types of infections, can also cause you to have halitosis.

How to Get Rid of Halitosis

The most obvious answer to how to get rid of halitosis is to practice good oral hygiene, although, depending on the cause of halitosis it may not be that simple. If you have an infection that is causing the halitosis then you may need an antibiotic to clear up the infection and then the bad breath will go away. Here are more tips:

  • Brush your teeth after every meal and before bed.
  • Floss your teeth. The more plaque you get out of your teeth, the better chance you have of not getting cavities or bad breath.
  • Address any medical conditions that are not related to your teeth that can be causing the halitosis.
  • Ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright for a prescription mouthwash that kills bacteria.

Halitosis (bad breath) can be an embarrassing condition to live with, but there are plenty of ways to get rid of it permanently. Start by talking to a member of our team at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office.

Sugar and Your Orthodontic Treatment

December 11th, 2015

One word no one likes to hear is “cavity!”

For those patients of ours wearing braces, hearing that word is especially problematic, considering that delaying any dental work may result in delaying treatment time.

We often blame candy as the culprit behind tooth decay, but other foods and drinks that kids consume can be just as harmful to their teeth, and can lead to cavities and tooth decay. Keeping your teeth or your child’s teeth from decay during treatment starts with a proper diet, and today, our team at Orthodontic Specialists will explain the negative effects that candy and other treats, including peanut butter, raisins, fruit juice, and chewy fruit snacks, have on your child’s teeth as he or she undergoes orthodontic treatment. Keep in mind that half of your child’s sugar intake may be coming from beverages that he or she drinks. A major offender is soda, but be mindful of fruit juices as well.

While sugar is known to sit in your child’s teeth and in between and under brackets and wires after consumption, it is important to know sugar is not the only cavity-causing culprit. Carbohydrates, starches, acids, and any food that is chewy or sticks break down into sugars, and can promote tooth decay.

So, what are the alternatives?

Candy such as dark chocolate, sugar-free gum, or anything that contains xylitol, a sugar substitute, is not as harmful for your teeth as hard, chewy, or sticky sweets. Sugar-free gum or gum that contains xylitol are known to reduce levels of bacteria on teeth.

And if you’re still looking for something to snack on, we recommend cutting up easy-to-eat fruits and vegetables. You would also be surprised how much eating a banana or sipping on a glass of water helps you curb snack cravings.

If you’re one of those folks who just can’t stay away from sweets, we encourage you to brush your teeth immediately afterward and swish water in your mouth.

Whatever you eat, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team want you to remember to brush often, floss regularly, and visit your general dentist as your treatment progresses. If you have any questions about sugary foods or drinks, please give us a call or ask us during your next adjustment visit!

What's the best dental floss?

December 4th, 2015

Dental floss is similar to a lot of products that depend mainly on the consumer’s preference. Fact is, floss comes in a wide variety of flavors, coatings, and other variations, but all types of floss essentially do the same thing. After all, that is what is most important: that the dental floss you buy is functional—cleaning the areas in between your teeth. If you want to know what the best dental floss is, the answer is the kind that enables you to successfully and regularly clean those areas. So to help you find the right type of floss for you, here are some options.

Flavored Dental Floss

Many people that floss prefer a flavored dental floss because it freshens their breath even more than unscented floss. The latter can also take on the smells associated with bacteria in your mouth. And we all know how bad that can be. So, if flavored dental floss is what you prefer, and it allows you to floss your teeth regularly, then it is automatically best for your mouth.

Flossers

There are also products on the market called flossers, which usually consist of a plastic instrument with strung floss and a pick on the opposite end. This option can be both effective at cleaning the areas in between your teeth and scraping off plaque. These flossers also come flavored in mint and various other varieties.

Gentle Dental Floss

Some people find that typical dental floss is too harsh on their gums. For that reason some companies make floss with soft coatings that are less abrasive on the gums. For the most part these types of floss are just as effective as regular floss, and for those people that require a more sensitive approach to flossing, especially when just starting out, this is the best option.

Of the aforementioned options, it is difficult to name an absolute best type of floss. However, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team say that the type of floss that works best for you, giving you the greatest chance of succeeding at regular flossing, is the best. For more information on floss, contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office.

Feeling Confident at Your Orthodontic Consultation

November 27th, 2015

How You Can Start Preparing Now

When you first start thinking about going to the orthodontist, it is normal to feel apprehensive. What will your orthodontic experience bring? Whether you have been advised by a dentist or chosen to seek out orthodontic care from Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright on your own, there are a few things you can do to prepare for your initial consultation at Orthodontic Specialists.

One of the best ways to prepare for an orthodontic consultation is to understand your options. With so many choices available today, orthodontic care is a lot more versatile than in the past. You can start preparing now by seeking out and understanding those options. With a few specific things in mind, you can be totally confident and prepared for your consultation.

Questions to Ask During the Consultation

As you consider orthodontic care, it is likely that a few questions may naturally arise. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions you might have. Our orthodontic team is here to help. Here are just a few examples of questions you may want to ask at your consultation.

  • Is there an estimated length of time that I will likely require braces?
  • How much should I expect to pay for my treatment? What are the payment options?
  • Does getting braces hurt? Is there anything I can do to prevent or minimize pain?
  • Is it likely that I will be wearing extra appliances in addition to braces to correct my overbite or other problems?
  • Are there specific foods I will need to avoid when I get braces?
  • Will braces prevent me from playing my favorite sport or musical instrument?
  • How can I keep my teeth clean with braces?
  • How often will I be expected to come in for checkups and other appointments?

Once your consultation is over, you don’t have to feel like your options are exhausted. If questions arise after the consultation, don’t be afraid to ask. Our orthodontic team will be here to help throughout the entire process.

Confidence throughout the Process

With answers to your questions, and an orthodontic team on your side, you can be confident about any necessary orthodontic treatments. From the initial consultation to the day your braces come off, your orthodontic treatment at Orthodontic Specialists can be a smooth and simple process. The moment you see that beautiful smile, you’ll know it was all worth it.

We love bringing nothing but the most amazing smiles to our patients!

Thanksgiving in North America

November 20th, 2015

Thanksgiving marks the start to the holidays; a season filled with feasting, indulging, and spending time with family and friends are always special. Thanksgiving is a holiday meant for giving thanks, and while this may seem like such a natural celebration, the United States is only one of a handful of countries to officially celebrate with a holiday.

Unlike many holidays, Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, and it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November in the United States. In Canada, it is celebrated on the second Monday of October, which is, oddly enough, much closer to a time when harvests were likely gathered. In addition to the different dates, the origins of the celebration also share different roots.

Thanksgiving in the United States

Giving thanks for a bountiful harvest are not new, but the modern day holiday in the US can be traced to a celebration at Plymouth in Massachusetts in 1621. This feast of thanksgiving was inspired by a good harvest, and the tradition was simply continued on. At first, the colony at Plymouth didn't have enough food to feed everyone present, but the Native Americans helped by providing seeds and teaching them how to fish, and they soon began to be able to hold a feast worthy of the name. The tradition spread, and by the 1660s, most of New England was hosting a Thanksgiving feast in honor of the harvest.

Canadian Thanksgiving

An explorer of early Canada named Martin Frobisher is accredited for the first Canadian Thanksgiving. He survived the arduous journey from England through harsh weather conditions and rough terrain, and after his last voyage from Europe to present-day Nunavut, he held a formal ceremony to give thanks for his survival and good fortune. As time passed and more settlers arrived, a feast was added to what quickly became a yearly tradition. Another explorer, Samuel de Champlain, is linked to the first actual Thanksgiving celebration in honor of a successful harvest; settlers who arrived with him in New France celebrated the harvest with a bountiful feast.

A Modern Thanksgiving

Today, Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated with the best of Americana. From feasts and football games to getting ready for the start of the Christmas shopping season, Thanksgiving means roasted turkey, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole. No matter how you celebrate this momentous day, pause for a moment to give thanks for your friends, family, and all the bounties you’ve received. Happy Thanksgiving from Orthodontic Specialists!

Looking Back at the Old Days of Braces

November 13th, 2015

Braces can be painful, but if you are a teen who loves being social, the worst part about them can be their look. They show up in your photos, and you will not be able to take braces-free photos for several months, or even years. The time will pass, though, and your teeth will be the better for it. In the meantime, consider the other people who have survived braces.

Plenty of People Get Braces

There are many reasons for getting braces:

  • Correct an overbite or underbite
  • Straighten teeth
  • Fix poorly-spaced teeth

With so many possible ways to get braces, it’s no surprise that they are so common.

Find Out Who Had Braces

The long lists of celebrities who had braces as teenagers or even adults can give you the comfort of knowing you are in good company. Even better, these lists provide visible proof that there is life on the other side of braces. Actors and actresses on the Cosby Show, Scrubs, and Ugly Betty, as well as tennis star Martina Hingis and Miss America 1975, Shirley Cothran, had braces. Ask your parents. If they didn’t have braces, there is a good chance that some of their siblings did.

Benefits of Braces

Wearing braces can make your life a lot better in the future. Your teeth will be more attractive, and your smile will shine through in photos of you. Straight teeth are not just about looks, though. They can prevent a variety of health problems, such as caries, gum disease, speech impairments, and trouble chewing. Be patient, and the benefits of braces will come.

How to Floss with Braces

November 6th, 2015

The Orthodontic Specialists team knows that oral hygiene is important, whether you have braces on your teeth or not. But if you are a person who wears braces, caring for your teeth and gums can become somewhat challenging. Without daily oral hygiene practices, you may become prone to cavities and tooth decay during your time in braces.

Naturally, you know that brushing your teeth each morning and night, as well as after you eat, will help keep your mouth healthy and clean during the months you wear braces. But flossing is also an important part of your hygiene routine. Flossing with braces can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, your general dentist, or your dental hygienist can help you become more comfortable and adept at flossing your teeth during the months you wear braces.

Flossing Tips for Those with Braces

  • Use Tools Provided by Our Office. A floss threader is a small, plastic needle that will help you floss between the wires and your teeth. Thread a 12-to-18-inch piece of floss onto the needle, and use the needle to get the floss easily behind the wires.
  • Flossing Under the Wires. Once the floss is behind the wires, use your hands to manipulate the floss. Move it up and down along the wires to remove food particles.
  • Flossing Between Your Teeth. Floss between your teeth as you normally would without braces. Move the floss up and down between your teeth, using a clean section of floss for each tooth.
  • After You Finish Flossing. Your orthodontist may have suggested that you use a water pik or proxy brush after you finish brushing. Either of these tools will help remove any loosened food particles to ensure that your teeth and braces are clean.

Continue Good Oral Hygiene Habits

Good oral hygiene habits you use while wearing braces will help you achieve the beautiful smile you and the Orthodontic Specialists team have been working toward. Once your braces are off, it may be tempting to slack off on the brushing and flossing. Don’t let yourself fall into any habits that will have a negative impact on your oral health or the attractive smile you waited for throughout the months you wore braces. See your general dentist for regular cleanings, and continue to brush and floss your teeth each day.

Halloween: Candy, costumes, and more!

October 30th, 2015

All Hallows' Eve, more commonly known as Halloween, is a yearly event celebrated on October 31, and one that is anticipated by the young and young at heart all over the world. Some scholars claim that Halloween originated from Celtic festivals that honored the dead or that celebrated the harvest, while others doubt that there's any connection at all to Samhain (a Gaelic harvest festival.) Regardless of its origin, our team at the orthodontic office of Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright hopes that Halloween is fun and enjoyed by all of our awesome patients!

Trick or treat?

In North America, Halloween is predominantly celebrated by children who dress up in costumes, which range from scary to cute, who then go around the neighborhood knocking on doors asking "trick or treat", and they are given candy in return. Trick-or-treating is a time honored tradition, and though many parents groan at the pounds and pounds of candy collected by youngsters and fear for the health of their teeth, there are a few things you can do to help their teeth stay in great shape until the candy is gone:

  • Limit the amount of candy they can consume each day
  • Have them brush their teeth after eating candy
  • Avoid hard, chewy candies as they can stick in hard to brush places
  • Keep candy out of sight to reduce temptation
  • Don't buy candy too far in advance to limit pre-Halloween consumption
  • Help or encourage your children to floss

Halloween Fun

Halloween isn't just about gorging on candy; there are other events associated with this festive day including carving jack-o'-lanterns, painting pumpkins, decorating sugar cookies, bobbing for apples, going to haunted houses, or just curling up on the couch with a bowl full of popcorn and watching some classic, scary movies.

Halloween Around the World

Some countries, like Australia, frown upon Halloween, claiming it is an American event and not based in Australian culture, while others like Italy have embraced the fun and celebrate much as Canadians and Americans do. Mexicans have been celebrating this fun day since around 1960, and it marks the beginning of the Day of the Dead festival. Some countries in Europe have come late to the party, but since the 1990s, countries like Sweden, Norway, and Germany have started celebrating Halloween as well, and finding children in costumes or having ghosts hanging in windows has become commonplace.

Halloween is about fun; stepping outside our normal lives and donning a costume or gathering with friends to knock on doors and ask for candy is as much a part of our culture as hot dogs and barbecue on Labor Day. Have a safe and happy Halloween from the team at Orthodontic Specialists!

How Your Pearly Whites Can Help You in Life

October 23rd, 2015

At Orthodontic Specialists, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff have found that patients who like their smiles have better self-esteem. People who don’t like their smiles are often skittish about talking to other people. According to the National Women’s Health Resource Center, when women are asked about what they’d most like to change about themselves, many point to their smile. Despite wanting to change their smiles, quite a few of the people who are unhappy about that part of themselves won’t consider getting braces.

Most Americans Don’t Have Straight Teeth

The American Association of Orthodontics estimates that 4.5 million Americans wear braces or other orthodontic equipment to straighten their teeth and to get a healthier mouth. One in five of those braces wearers are women. The organization’s statistics also show that about 75 percent of the population doesn’t have straight teeth, and those people would benefit from getting braces.

While the main benefit of braces is straight teeth, and to improve the look of your smile, there are other benefits that make braces even more useful, including:

  • Straighter teeth help people chew better.
  • Straighter teeth give people a proper bite.
  • People speak better when they have straighter teeth.
  • When people have straight teeth, they have better overall gum and mouth health. A healthier mouth means flossing and brushing are easier, and that means your entire mouth stays healthy.
  • A healthy mouth is also linked to a healthy body.

When you feel proud of those pearly whites, you feel better about your smile, and that contributes to a better self-image and improved self-esteem. Ultimately, that can lead to greater career success and a more fulfilling social life.

Love your new smile? Tell us about it!

October 16th, 2015

At Orthodontic Specialists, we proudly treat adults, teens, and children; no matter what your age, we believe you deserve a great smile. Our warm and welcoming team is known for their for their exceptional orthodontic skills. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our talented team have been creating beautiful smiles for years, and today would like to ask: what do you love about your new smile? How has your smile improved your life?

Whether you’ve just come in for an initial orthodontic consultation with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright or your family has been visiting office for years, we would love to hear your thoughts about your treatment. In fact, we encourage you to leave a few words for us below or on our Facebook page!

We look forward to reading your feedback!

Too old for braces? You Might be Surprised

October 9th, 2015

Although adolescence is a common time to get braces, there’s no reason for adults of any age to have to deal with crooked teeth, overbite, underbite, or other dental issues. In fact, the American Association of Orthodontists notes that demand for orthodontic treatment in adults continues to grow, with adults representing 20% of new patients.

You’re never too old for braces or other orthodontic appliances, but it’s important to consider the following:

  1. Braces don’t have to be as noticeable as the metal brackets of the past. Many adults opt for ceramic or plastic braces, which are bone-colored or clear, respectively. Another option is a lingual appliance, which attaches to the back side of your teeth. These so-called “invisible” braces are much less noticeable than traditional options.
  2. By adulthood, bone growth has stopped. This means that certain structural changes can only be achieved by surgery. Although this typically affects people with significant crowding, bite, or jaw problems, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can provide an individualized treatment plan that addresses your unique issues.
  3. Treatment may take a bit longer. The length of orthodontic treatment tends to be slightly longer for adults than adolescents. Exact estimates vary by individual, but the average length of time for adult braces wearers is two years, according to the Harvard Medical School.
  4. Outcomes are just as good for adults! Many adults worry that it’s too late to treat their orthodontic problems. However, treatment satisfaction tends to be very high, which is a testament to how effective braces can be in middle-aged and older adults.

October is National Orthodontic Health Month

October 2nd, 2015

What does the month of October mean to you? For people in the northern hemisphere, October is when the weather starts to get a little chilly: heavy jackets might come out of storage and the summer clothing gets packed away. You might start making plans for the upcoming holidays or looking at the beautiful and changing autumn scenery. October means something a little different to our team at Orthodontic Specialists because this is National Orthodontic Health Month. During October, orthodontic clinics all over the country work together to promote their services and inform the community about the important work we do.

National Orthodontic Health Month is an awareness campaign created cooperatively by orthodontists and other dental health professionals. During this month, we make a special effort to promote dental health and orthodontic health in particular. This is a great time to get your questions answered by dental professionals in your community and to learn more about exactly what an orthodontist can do for you and your family. Events held in connection with National Orthodontic Health Month are also an opportunity for us orthodontists to come out and meet community members. If you have never been to an orthodontist before, you might not know what to expect. Meeting one of us in person before your checkup is a great way to find out what kind of person you’ll be seeing during your appointment.

Meeting Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright in a relaxed “meet and greet” atmosphere can be especially helpful for any young orthodontic patients in your family. Kids of all ages–and their parents!–can feel anxiety about going to the dentist. Getting to know the person you have an appointment with can make the experience a lot less stressful for everyone. We don't want anyone to avoid seeing a dental professional for regular checkups just because they don't know who we are. Just meeting and talking with the orthodontist you'll be seeing may be enough to make you feel more comfortable about your upcoming appointment.

Dental health is something that affects everyone; healthy teeth and gums contribute to a healthy smile and a lifetime of comfort and well-being. Orthodontists are just one of the various dental practitioners you could visit at some point in your life, so taking a little time to learn who we are and what we do is certain to be a helpful experience. We look forward to seeing you and your family this October at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN location!

How long does orthodontic treatment take?

September 25th, 2015

The dental procedures that focus on the correction of alignment and bite are known as orthodontic care. With the aid of braces, aligners, retainers, brackets, and similar appliances, orthodontic treatment can correct oral disorders such as protruding teeth, crowding, difficulty biting or chewing, and speech issues. Seeking orthodontic treatment at Orthodontic Specialists can drastically improve your oral appearance, comfort, and health, while also encouraging proper oral hygiene and enhanced self-esteem. Both growing children and adults with oral alignment issues can benefit greatly from completing customized orthodontic treatment with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright.

Due to the uniqueness of each mouth and the severity of each malocclusion disorder, there is no one set timeframe for orthodontic treatment. The length of your treatment is determined by many factors, including the severity of your alignment issue, your age, the health of your teeth, and the specific orthodontic procedure you need to undergo. Nevertheless, typical treatment usually takes between 12 and 36 months.

Avoiding alignment issues

While some alignment issues are brought on by unavoidable matters such as accidents, genetics, and physical disorders, some issues arise out of certain actions you should not be doing. Finger sucking and improper oral hygiene are the two most common self-inflicted reasons for alignment issues. Constant finger sucking can alter the pattern in which your teeth grow, which in turn may cause bite issues. Improper oral hygiene such as infrequent dental visits and improper brushing and flossing can lead to decay and loss of teeth, which will interfere with the bite in your mouth.

To avoid advanced alignment issues, it is important to establish a relationship with a quality dentist when you’re young and seek orthodontic treatment at the first sign of alignment problems to encourage healthy and straight teeth for a lifetime.

For more information about orthodontic treatment, or to schedule a consultation with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

Orthodontic Emergency Care

September 18th, 2015

Although major orthodontic emergencies are relatively rare, when they do happen it is important to seek immediate attention. By comparison, a minor orthodontic issue is something you can usually take care of yourself, or wait until your next scheduled appointment for care. Here are some guidelines to help you understand the difference between an orthodontic emergency and a minor issue.

Orthodontic Emergencies

Acute, Direct Injury to the Mouth, Jaw, or Teeth

Whether undergoing orthodontic care or not, if you injure your mouth, jaw, or teeth, you should see a doctor or dentist immediately. You may need an X-ray to determine the extent of your injury. If the injury affects the orthodontic appliances, they will need adjustment or possibly replacement, depending upon the extent of the injury.

Infected Teeth

It is possible for teeth to become infected following orthodontic treatment. This may or may not be related to your orthodontic appliances. If you experience pain or swelling around a tooth that gets progressively worse, seek professional care as soon as possible.

Minor Orthodontic Issues

While true orthodontic emergencies are rare, minor issues are much more common. Here are some examples of minor orthodontic issues that can be remedied on your own and/or fixed at your next office visit:

  • Poking wire
  • Loose bracket
  • Loose elastic band
  • Loose wire
  • Loose appliance
  • Headgear does not fit
  • Lost or broken elastic band
  • General soreness

Any of the above issues can happen as a result of normal usage, shifting, and wear of your braces. Eating unusually hard or sticky foods can cause or exacerbate these problems. Vigorous brushing of the teeth can also be a factor. None of these issues are emergencies unless they are accompanied by acute or prolonged pain or discomfort.

As for on-the-spot remedies, covering a loose bracket or wire with wax can be a quick fix to alleviate discomfort until your next orthodontist visit. Poking or protruding wires can be moved with a cotton swab or tweezers, or clipped down with nail clippers. Be sure to sterilize the tweezers or clippers in alcohol first. Cover any clipped wire ends with a small ball of wax.

Some soreness or small abrasions in the mouth are normal, especially with recent orthodontic work. Rinse your mouth with a saltwater solution comprised of eight ounces or warm water and one teaspoon of salt.

When in doubt, be sure to contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office with any questions, or to schedule an appointment with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright at Orthodontic Specialists.

How do teeth move with braces?

September 11th, 2015

Although teeth seem to be solidly fixed in their sockets (at least they don’t wobble when we chew!), all teeth can easily be moved if Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff attach brackets and wires to them called braces. In the past, all braces were made of stainless steel, but today’s advanced dental technology gives people the option of wearing transparent, acrylic mouth trays called Invisalign®, or relying on traditional metal braces for correcting malocclusions.

Brackets, Slots, and Arch Wires – Oh My!

When light pressure is consistently exerted on teeth, they will gradually move in the direction of the force. For example, affixing brackets to front teeth and threading a flexible, metal wire through tiny slots on the front of the brackets allows the orthodontist to tighten this arch wire enough to initiate desired movement of teeth. Generally, orthodontic patients visit Orthodontic Specialists once a month to have this wire tightened to keep teeth moving in the desired direction.

Tissues surrounding the teeth that experience pressure from arch wires will slowly (and, for the most part, painlessly) stretch, and allow the socket to enlarge so the tooth and its root become looser temporarily. This allows the root to move without causing bleeding or pain. Once Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff are satisfied with the repositioning of teeth, we will remove the braces and let bone material fill in the socket so that teeth are solidified into their new (and straighter) positions.

Clear Braces vs. Traditional Braces

Both types of orthodontic corrective devices move teeth in the same manner: by applying a continual force against teeth. Clear aligners, like Invisalign, are mouth trays made of hard acrylic material that people wear for at least 23 hours a day. Unlike metal braces, Invisalign can be removed for eating and brushing purposes and the aligners are nearly invisible because of their transparency.

Invisalign aligners are usually reserved for people with gaps between their teeth or whose teeth are only slightly crooked. Traditional metal braces are often necessary when severe malocclusion exists and requires more pressure than Invisalign offers.

Happy Labor Day!

September 4th, 2015

Labor Day is upon us, and that means the non-official end to summer. Before the kids head back to school and temperatures start to cool down, this is your last chance to barbeque in the beautiful Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN community, head to the lake, and wear your favorite pair of white pants.

About Labor Day

Each year, Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September. It is the one day of year Americans celebrate their achievements in work, which the US Department of Labor says has contributed to prosperity and well-being of America as a whole. Americans have been celebrating Labor Day since the 1880s, and today it is an official federal holiday.

Interesting Facts About Labor Day

  • Every year, more than 30 million Americans travel over Labor Day weekend.
  • Canada was the first to celebrate Labor Day, and the US soon followed.
  • President Cleveland made Labor Day and official US holiday in 1894.
  • Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and NCAA sports seasons for fans.
  • Labor Day marks the end of hot dog season, when Americans consume seven billion hot dogs.

Thanks for being a valued patient of our orthodontic office. Our staff would like to wish you a safe and happy Labor Day weekend. Enjoy your time off!

Going Beyond Braces

August 28th, 2015

At Orthodontic Specialists, we aren’t just concerned with straightening your teeth and giving you the beautiful smile you’ve always wanted. We are also committed improving the oral health and the well-being of all our patients. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team strive to serve our patients by educating them about their treatments, as well as making them feel as comfortable as possible during their initial consultations up until the day they complete their treatments.

Making our patients more comfortable with taking care of their braces in between visits increases the likelihood that they will complete their treatments successfully. We want you to know that if you should ever have any questions about your orthodontic treatment, whether it’s during your adjustment appointment or after hours, we are always here for you and your family.

Please do not hesitate to give us a call at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office or ask us any questions you may have on our Facebook page! We can’t wait to hear from you!

Five Braces-Friendly Dinner Recipes

August 21st, 2015

Did you know that more than four million children throughout the US and Canada have braces? At Orthodontic Specialists, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff know that kids can be picky and meticulous eaters. If cooking for children without braces is difficult, preparing meals for children with braces is especially daunting.

“Comfort food takes on a whole new meaning when cooking for children with braces,” says Pamela Waterman, author of The Braces Cookbook: Recipes You and Your Orthodontist Will Love. “Whether you have new brackets, elastics, headgear, or more, there are great foods you can eat; it just takes some thought.”

These five braces-friendly dinner recipes will be sure to keep your kids smiling!

  1. Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Pasta is soft, so it’s easy for children with braces to eat. The warm, gooey cheese melts in the mouth and doesn’t get stuck in the braces like hard or sticky foods. Chances are good that even the pickiest eater has a soft spot for this homespun classic.
  2. The key to braces-friendly cooking is to replace hard, crunchy foods with softer substitutes. In other words, burritos are a better option than tacos, and lasagna is a better choice than pizza. At the same time, if you have the culinary skills to whip up a pizza with a soft crust, you’re going to win the Best Mom (or Dad) of the Year award.
  3. Your child may not like fruits and vegetables. In fact, he or she may even try to convince you that with new braces, fruits and vegetables are off limits. Nice try, kids. While your child is wearing braces, prepare meals with cooked vegetables instead of raw vegetables. A vegetable stir-fry is a healthy and soft dinner choice for kids with braces.
  4. Whether it’s beef or chicken, meat is a good source of protein. However, meat, even when it’s carefully taken off the bone (kids with braces should never eat meat from a bone), can easily get caught in braces. Sloppy Joes are a good alternative. The beef is softened by the addition of the sauce and less likely to get strung in the wires and brackets of the braces. Serve the Sloppy Joes with a side of mashed potatoes.
  5. Ask any child and he or she will tell you that the best part of dinner is dessert. While hard candy, licorice, taffy, caramel, popcorn, and all other chewy candies should be avoided, ice cream and cake are braces-friendly treats that keep kids smiling.

Need more braces-friendly food ideas? Feel free to ask any member of our team.

When should my child be seen for an orthodontic evaluation?

August 14th, 2015

Thanks for asking! It really depends on the dental age of the patient rather than their chronological age. Usually a good time to have your child evaluated by an orthodontist is after the front permanent teeth have erupted into the mouth or if there appears to be extreme crowding of the teeth.

The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that children between the ages of seven and nine should be evaluated by an orthodontist. There are times when an early developmental treatment is indicated to correct situations before they become major problems. In these circumstances the patient will most likely benefit from a second phase of orthodontics when all of their permanent teeth have erupted.

Most full orthodontic treatment begins between ages nine and 14, and lasts from one to three years, with two years being the average. It’s important, however, that children be screened at an early age for Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff to assess if your child can benefit from orthodontic treatment and when treatment should begin.

We hope this helps, and invite you to give us a call if you have any questions about your child’s treatment at Orthodontic Specialists.

Invisalign Teen®: Why Invisalign® is the best choice for teens

August 7th, 2015

Those challenging teenage years are some of the most self-conscious ones of your life, and concern for your appearance definitely plays a large part. Invisalign is becoming a very popular choice for adolescent patients today, but is it the best choice?

The results from teenage Invisalign users indicate that Invisalign is both effective for teeth straightening and for satisfying that urge to avoid the dreaded “metal mouth.” Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can help you determine if Invisalign is right for you, but this article will explain why so many people are calling Invisalign the best choice for teens today.

Metal-Free Braces

Invisalign is a clear plastic device that fits directly over the teeth. There are no metal parts to mar the look of your smile, and your Invisalign aligners can straighten while allowing your pearly whites to shine through. Any teen will be the first to tell you that appearance is a top concern, so this is an excellent choice. People don’t even need to know you’re straightening your teeth with Invisalign.

Eat, Brush, and Floss Easily

Another particularly attractive aspect of Invisalign for most teenagers is the freedom it allows. While traditional metal braces can make eating, brushing, and flossing difficult, this is not the case with Invisalign. The aligners are easily removable for these activities, which gives teens the freedom they desire to live life as usual.

More Free Time

Invisalign Teen aligners need to be checked and adjusted at Orthodontic Specialists less frequently than traditional braces. This allows for fewer appointments, something that is really important to teens. Having your teeth straightened is no reason to forgo activities or make room in your schedule for constant office visits when you choose Invisalign.

Learn more about Invisalign Teen at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

Hey, Metal Mouth, Hey, Train Tracks! Six Funny Comebacks for People Who Wear Braces

July 31st, 2015

Brace-ism: believe it or not, it’s a concept. The Urban Dictionary defines brace-ism as “acting mean to people who have braces on their teeth.” Phrases like metal mouth, brace face, and train tracks are common jokes uttered by gap-toothed fools who like to make fun of people with braces.

While ignoring these comments and taking the high road is the best thing to do, there’s nothing wrong with having a few clever retorts and quick-witted comebacks up your sleeve.

  1. The next time someone calls you train tracks, break into an obnoxious train imitation, with lots of toot-toot and chuga-chuga-chuga. Finish off your crazy locomotive impersonation with some sort of deafening train horn. That’ll keep the bullies at bay.
  2. “It’s better to be a brace face than a space case.”
  3. Counter with a ridiculously childish joke that makes the schoolyard tormentor feel even smaller than he already is. “Oh. Yeah. Why did the deer need braces? Because he had buck teeth. Hahaha.” Top it off with an exaggerated eye roll.
  4. “Yeah, my brother tells that joke. He’s six. You guys should hang out.” That’ll stop the haters dead in their tracks. Or would that be train tracks?
  5. Here’s one from the sarcasm grab bag. “Well, I’m just glad there’s a way to fix what’s wrong with my face.”
  6. “I can’t wait to discuss this formative moment at our ten-year class reunion, when my teeth are razor-straight and you’re wearing adult braces.”

 

Eating and Invisalign®

July 24th, 2015

One of the greatest advantages to using Invisalign is that it provides maximum results with minimal impact on your everyday life. Invisalign is comfortable, easy to insert, and simple to remove. Because you can remove Invisalign aligners, you can enjoy all your favorite foods and beverages without worries about getting food stuck in the wires and brackets of traditional braces.

Eating and Invisalign

While the aligner is durable and strong, you should remove it before you eat or drink beverages, as the chewing action inside your mouth can break, crack, or distort the aligner. Even minute damage to the Invisalign tray will prevent it from aligning your teeth properly. Furthermore, eating with Invisalign in your mouth can be quite messy.

Beverages and Invisalign

Repeated exposure to hot liquids may also cause the Invisalign aligner to distort. This distortion changes the shape of your aligner in a way that will affect how it straightens your teeth. Contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office if your Invisalign aligner has distorted after consuming a hot beverage.

Fluids can settle inside the aligner to “bathe” the teeth. Bathing teeth in acidic fluids can be especially problematic, as the acids can wear away tooth enamel. Exposure to acidic fluids is not normally a problem, as saliva neutralizes and buffers the acid then washes it away. Wearing an aligner, however, prevents the saliva from doing those jobs, increasing your risk for tooth decay.

Colored drinks may also change the color of your teeth. Most discoloration is temporary but stubborn stains may occur.

To prevent discoloration and tooth decay, brush your teeth after every meal or beverage before putting in your Invisalign aligners. If you do not have access to clean water, chew sugar-free gum to remove bacteria, acid, and food particles from your teeth. As a last resort, you may leave your aligners out for an hour or two until you can brush and floss properly. Before inserting Invisalign, rinse the aligner in lukewarm water or use the Invisalign cleaning kit.

Contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office for more information about eating and Invisalign.

Things You Should Never Use Your Braces For

July 17th, 2015

When you get your braces, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff will also give you a list of foods you should not eat and things you should not do. Pay particular attention to these items to keep your teeth and braces safe.

Charms belong on bracelets. While you can decorate your braces with colored bands, hanging a charm off them is a bad idea. If you bite down on the charm, you could damage your braces or your teeth. You could also swallow your jewelry.

Never use your teeth as a bottle opener. This is just as important when you are wearing braces. While braces straighten your teeth, your teeth are moving in the process. That makes them weaker, and the metal in the braces does not make them invincible. Invest in a bottle opener; you can buy one for a few dollars, which is much less expensive than having to replace your braces.

Contrary to what you might think, your braces are not designed to work as a radio. There are tales of people who have picked up radio signals from dental fillings or braces. While this is remotely possible, attaching an antenna to your mouth is just not a good idea. You will get better quality music from a radio.

On the other hand, you can still kiss someone while wearing braces. In fact, even if both of you wear braces, the chances of your getting locked together are almost negligible. However, to avoid cutting your partner’s lips, kiss with caution.

If you have any questions about taking care of your braces, please ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff. We want you to get the best results from your treatment without needless delays.

Not-So-Sweet Sweets: The five worst candies to eat during orthodontic treatment

July 10th, 2015

Sticky, hard, and gooey: these candies fill your dopamine receptors with spasms of sugar-filled joy, but if you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment at Orthodontic Specialists to straighten your teeth, then these sweets are not so sweet. While you may have a Willy-Wonka-sized sweet tooth, there are some candies you’re going to have to avoid while wearing braces.

Here are five bracket- and wire-destroying culprits that Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team recommend leaving on the candy aisle and not put in your mouth, no matter how tempting they may be.

  1. Gum is sticky and stringy. It can get tangled like fishing net in your braces. You don’t want to be that boy or girl trying to pull knots of Wrigley’s out of your braces without being seen.
  2. All chewy, gooey candies need to be avoided. When you’re wearing braces, don’t even think about putting a caramel candy in your mouth. Caramel will not only stick to your braces, making it look as if you haven’t brushed your teeth in a week, but the gooey texture can pull apart the wires, and trigger an emergency visit to Orthodontic Specialists.
  3. Hard candy may seem like a safe choice, but it’s not. What’s the problem? Nobody ever just sucks on hard candy; sooner or later, we bite down on it. Biting a hard candy may cause part of your braces to snap. Furthermore, once the candy is broken into a bunch of little pieces, it’s not uncommon for one of those sugary shards to get wedged between your braces and teeth … and that’s a cavity waiting to happen.
  4. The taffy you enjoy getting at a seaside boardwalk is going to have to go on the back burner. Like caramel, taffy can pull apart and damage your braces. You don’t want to have your expensive orthodontic gear replaced.
  5. Please, just one lollipop? Nope. A lollipop is nothing more than hard candy on a stick. If you can’t have hard candy during orthodontic treatment, then you shouldn't have hard candy on a stick either.

Have any more questions about what you can and can’t eat when you have braces? Please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to learn more, or ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright during your next adjustment visit!

Fun Facts for the Fourth

July 3rd, 2015

The Fourth of July is a great time to get together with friends and family members for BBQ, games, fireworks, and other celebrations in honor of our country’s independence. While your fellow revelers eat hot dogs and wave flags, you can impress them by sharing these fascinating facts and historical tidbits about some of our country’s traditions and symbols from the team at Orthodontic Specialists.

The Statue of Liberty

With a torch in one hand and a tablet in the other, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic and recognizable symbols of our country. However, as recognizable as certain parts of the statue are, not many people know that broken shackles, which represent oppression and tyranny, are lying at Lady Liberty’s feet. According to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, the copper-plated lady weighs in at a whopping 450,000 tons and has been holding her torch up for more than 125 years, which must make for some impressive arm muscles.

Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest

Since 1916, people have been flocking to Coney Island on the Fourth of July to witness what some people call the “superbowl of competitive eating.” Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest challenges competitors to devour as many hot dogs as they can in just ten minutes, with the current record holder swallowing a whopping 68 hot dogs! If you’d like to witness this bizarre and frenzied eating competition but you won’t be anywhere near Coney Island on the fourth, don’t worry. ESPN has been broadcasting this popular event for several years, so you can watch from the comfort of your couch while you eat a reasonably portioned meal.

The History Behind Fireworks

Viewing the nighttime fireworks display is exciting way to finish off the fourth. Many people know that these brilliant displays probably originated with the Chinese. However, many historians also believe that fireworks were stumbled upon when the Chinese roasted bamboo sticks over fires and watched them explode. After many years of roasting the sticks, a group of alchemists created an early form of gunpowder, which they stuffed into the bamboo sticks to create an even more powerful explosion, paving the way for the today’s modern fireworks.

Whether you’re planning on visiting the Statue of Liberty, watching fireworks in Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN, or even participating in a hot dog eating contest, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team hope you have a safe and fun-filled holiday. Happy Fourth of July!

Braces-Friendly Recipe: Dinner

June 26th, 2015

Wearing braces during your treatment at Orthodontic Specialists presents some unique challenges in the types of food you can safely eat. The wrong items can be difficult to remove from between your teeth and the appliance. Other foods may even break or loosen your braces.

Dinner recipe ideas

Lasagna is a great dinner choice because it provides you with several food groups in one easy dish.

  • 1 ½ pounds ground hamburger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp. basil
  • 1 pound diced tomatoes — canned is fine
  • 12 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 package of dry spaghetti sauce mix for seasoning
  • 10 oz. box dry lasagna
  • 3 cups ricotta or cottage cheese or 1 ½ cups each mixed
  • ½-cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pound sliced or shredded Mozzarella cheese

Brown and drain your hamburger meat. Dice the garlic and simmer the hamburger, garlic, basil, diced tomatoes, tomato paste and powdered sauce mix for ½ hour.

Cook the lasagna noodles as directed on the package and drain.

Beat the eggs and combine them with your ricotta or cottage cheese.

Layer ½ of the noodles in a 13 x 9 pan. Spread ½ of your cottage cheese mix on top of the noodles, then layer ½ of the mozzarella on top. Finish this layer with ½ of your hamburger mix. Repeat the layering with the other half of your ingredients. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes.

Meats

You can enjoy ribs and chicken wings as long as you cut the meat from the bone before you eat. The same rule applies to turkey legs; do not gnaw on bones, because this can damage your braces.

Vegetables and fruits

You still need to include fruits and vegetables in your daily meals. Skip corn on the bob, whole apples, and raw carrots. Broccoli is soft but particles can become stuck in your braces, so be sure to brush and floss after your meal.

Desserts

Avoid caramel, taffy, and hard candies for dessert. Pudding and ice cream are fine, but low-sugar versions are best.

Remember that your mouth will be sore after adjustments with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright. Stick to softer foods until the sensitivity is reduced. Please do not hesitate to ask our team for recipe and meal ideas. We will be happy to take the time to explain which foods items are the best choices and why.

If you have any questions about these recipes, or if you have any questions about eating with braces, please give us a call at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

Should I use a water pick during my treatment?

June 19th, 2015

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists know that for some of our patients wearing braces, it can be difficult to weave through those wires and brackets as you brush and floss during your treatment.

Some of our patients use a water pick to flush out food and other particles and bacteria stuck between their teeth as the water can reach behind the metal wires and hit spots where your floss simply cannot reach. People suffering from gum disease also find water picks quite effective because of their ability to flush out bacteria from inside the deep pockets.

Water picks are friendly to braces and are also gentle on the gums. They are less likely to cause bleeding for people with sensitive teeth or gums. But as many benefits as they may have, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team want you to know that water picks should never be used as a substitute for flossing. Though they are great tools for helping improve oral health while you are in treatment, they are just not a good enough tool on their own to keep your mouth and gums gingivitis- and decay-free. Water picks are also incapable of removing plaque from teeth as effectively as floss can. While water picks rinse the sticky bacteria off your teeth, flossing is actually more effective as it actually scrapes the bacteria off of your pearly whites.

If you have any questions about water picks or any general questions or concerns about your orthodontic treatment, we encourage you to please ask us below or give us a call!

Ugh, Not Braces!

June 12th, 2015

Getting your child excited about braces is a lot like: A) convincing a grumpy toddler that it’s time to take a nap? B) convincing a teenager to stop texting during dinner? C) convincing your husband to eat his peas? The answer, obviously, is all of the above.

And that’s why you may need a few thoughtful ways to get your child on board with braces.

  1. Throw a pre-braces party. It can’t be just any party, however, but a Willy Wonka celebration of candy, chips, gum, and all the sticky and sweet foods your child won’t be able to indulge in during the time he or she is wearing braces. Promise a post-braces celebration, too, and watch as your child’s eyes widen at the thought of an all-you-can-eat junk food buffet.
  2. Encouraging phrases like “braces aren’t eternal, but your straight smile will be” can go a long way.
  3. If your daughter is worried about getting picked on because of braces, then name-drop some A-list celebrities who have worn them. The list includes Cameron Diaz, Kelly Clarkson, Dakota Fanning, and Gwen Stefani.
  4. Emphasize that braces today aren’t the same as they were in the Stone Age. From clear ceramic braces to different-colored braces, more options are available. Braces can be cool accessories to express a personal style.
  5. To get your child to embrace braces, you need to sing the praises of beautiful teeth, even if that means pointing out how crooked your teeth are because you never got braces.

Don't forget your retainer this summer!

June 5th, 2015

As we start our summer, our team at Orthodontic Specialists wants to remind our patients who have completed treatment that it is very important to wear your retainer as prescribed even while away for vacations and summer camps.

If you are away from home and only wearing your retainer at night, here is a helpful tip: after removing and brushing your retainer in the morning, place it back in the case and then put it with your PJ’s or on your pillow. That way you have a reminder to put your retainer back in at night.

Remember, retainers should be worn every night, not just some nights.

We wish you safe travels and adventures this summer!

Myths of Orthodontics

May 29th, 2015

The stereotypical braces wearer – in middle school, with a mouth full of metal brackets – has led to numerous myths about orthodontics that discourage many people from getting the dental care they need. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff would like to put some of these myths to rest.

Myth 1: Orthodontic treatment is for kids. Although teenagers often visit the orthodontist to get braces, adults represent a growing proportion of orthodontic patients. Whether you’re eight or 80, a consultation with an orthodontist can identify problems with your teeth, jaws, or bite that can be corrected by orthodontic interventions.

Myth 2: Traditional, metal braces are my only option. Advances in orthodontic technology have rendered improved braces and other orthodontic appliances that are much less noticeable than the braces of yesteryear. Ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright about Invisalign® braces and other options that make sense for your situation.

Myth 3: Orthodontic treatment is only helpful for crooked teeth. Sure, a crooked smile is a common reason that patients seek orthodontic care. However, orthodontic interventions help with a range of dental health problems. From missing teeth to overbite to jaw misalignment, your orthodontist can help with many problems associated with the teeth, gums, and jaws.

Myth 4: Orthodontic treatment is too expensive. As with any medical procedure, orthodontics can be pricey. However, our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN team works with patients to find payment plans, insurance coverage, or other payment options that reduce the financial burden.

Memorial Day: Parades, remembrance, and the unofficial start of summer!

May 22nd, 2015

“The purpose of all war is peace.” - Saint Augustine

Fire truck sirens, baton twirlers, marching bands covering patriotic tunes, colorful floats, costumes, and millions of red, white, and blue American flags being waved in the air on a beautiful day in late May, that is what Memorial Day is all about. It is a federal holiday celebrated with town parades, remembrance, and a sense of unity and community togetherness.

Our team at Orthodontic Specialists wants to take this time to wish you and your family a happy Memorial Day, as well as pause for a moment to reflect on what this holiday means and how it has changed over time. No, this is not a history lesson, but just a couple of thoughts and observances for you to take with you on your way to the next barbecue.

On the last Monday in May, America observes Memorial Day as a time to remember and celebrate the men and women who have lost their lives while serving our country in the Armed Forces. The holiday originated after the Civil War; at that time it was known as Decoration Day. While holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter remain the same from year to year, Memorial Day has changed over time, and in the 21st century we observe a far different holiday than what Americans did after the Civil War, or even the World Wars.

While many people place flags at cemeteries and visit national memorials in order to honor those who have passed away serving the country, Memorial Day is also a time for family barbecues, pool parties, trips to the beach, blockbuster movies, long weekend getaways, and fireworks. In America, Memorial Day has come to represent the unofficial start of the summer – a long, sunny, warm weekend devoted to family togetherness, outdoor events, and community.

It is time to load up the potato salad and the apple pie and head over to the neighbor’s house for their annual barbecue. And yes, contrary to popular belief, we do eat sweets, especially homemade apple pie! Everything in moderation, of course.

So whether you’re in the Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN area or beyond, Happy Memorial Day to you and yours from Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright!

Caring for Your Smile after Invisalign® Treatment

May 15th, 2015

You have done a lot of work to get the perfect smile. You wore your Invisalign aligner trays and cared for your teeth, and now your treatment is done. You still need to take care of your teeth to keep your beautiful smile. Keeps these things in mind when you think about your oral care routine.

Retainers

Many patients do require a retainer after Invisalign treatment. This will be based on your unique situation. If a retainer is recommended by Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, use it as directed. Retainers prevent your teeth from shifting back into their original position. You should also avoid hard, crunchy foods for the first couple of weeks as your teeth adjust. For younger patients, retainers are normally used until the wisdom teeth come in or are extracted.

Brushing and Flossing

Brushing and flossing must be part of your daily oral care. Flossing helps remove the plaque, which becomes tartar or calculus. This build up can lead to gingivitis and gum disease. Your gums may be more sensitive for a week or two after your orthodontic work is completed. A warm salt water rinse may relieve discomfort.

Your teeth may be slightly sensitive for a short time. They have been protected by your Invisalign aligner trays and now are fully exposed. You might want to try a sensitive toothpaste to get through the transition. Just ask; we will be glad to recommend the best type for your needs. If your teeth are stained, a professional whitening treatment can be considered.

Regular Dental Checkups

You still need to have regular dental exams. Professional cleanings and X-rays make sure that both your teeth and gums stay healthy so you can keep your teeth for life. If cavities or other problems are found, they can be taken care of quickly.

If you have any questions about how to care for your teeth after your Invisalign program, please ask our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN team. We want you to keep your healthy smile and enjoy the results of your Invisalign treatment.

Invisalign Teen®: What Parents Should Know

May 8th, 2015

Invisalign Teen is one the newer styles of braces, and perfect for those who do not like the standard metal braces. They are available in a clear material that is practically invisible called aligners that are replaced every two weeks. The aligners are custom made for each patient and gradually straighten teeth without all of the metal and rubber bands that come with traditional braces.

Is Invisalign as effective?

If your child will wear them as directed to, then the answer is yes, they are as effective as traditional metal braces. However, to make sure the child is actually wearing them correctly you will notice a small blue spot on the back of each aligner. This is called an indicator and if worn correctly will fade over a period of two weeks. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will be able to tell if the patient is not wearing them correctly.

Can Invisalign be removed?

Parents should be aware that the Invisalign aligners can be removed for up to four hours per day to eat, brush teeth, play sports, or play musical instruments. With the option of removing them it actually makes brushing and flossing easier and helps oral hygiene. The recommended time to wear them is at least 20 hours per day.

How long does treatment take and what is the cost?

Your teen will wear Invisalign as long as traditional braces. However, each patient is different so you should speak with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright to determine how many months your child can expect to wear them.

The cost is also very similar to other traditional braces; however there is no set fee. The cost will depend on your child’s unique orthodontic need.

Overall Success

Invisalign Teen has had remarkable success because patients are happy to have the option of having clear aligners for treatment. With the child more confident they are actually more prone to keep up with their treatment and many do complete their treatment sooner. You should speak with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright as soon as possible to learn about the benefits of Invisalign Teen.

May is National Teen Self-Esteem Month!

May 1st, 2015

The month of May has the unique distinction of being National Teen Self-Esteem Month. What does that mean?

National Teen Self-Esteem Month was created to raise public awareness about how low self-esteem can negatively affect teens. Especially during May, parents and guardians of teens are asked to be positive role models. If teens can receive positive re-enforcement and their negative images of themselves are improved, then their self-esteem has a better chance of developing in a positive direction.

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists know there are a lot of young adults living in America are struggling with depressed self-images. These can affect all aspects of their everyday lives. Some evidence shows learning abilities and increased risk of eating disorders can originate in a teen’s low self-esteem. It can also lead to abuse of drugs and thoughts of suicide. Dating violence among high school teens is now more common than previously thought.

What can be done to help?

So what can adults do specifically to help their teens? The National Teen Self-Esteem Facebook page offers a variety of suggestions and positive messages for teens and parents alike. Of all the pages your teen “likes” on social media, perhaps he or she should include this page. Some of the tips offered include:

  1. When you stumble, get right back up.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.
  3. Do things that make you feel good about yourself.
  4. Open yourself up to compliments.

Another great way to build self-esteem is to have a beautiful, health smile, and that’s where our team at Orthodontic Specialists come in! Whether your teen is due for a simple cleaning, could benefit from cosmetic treatments, or needs orthodontic care, we can help bestow a confident smile he or she will be proud to show off.

Overall, a more positive approach to life will help us all. It is a very important trait to instill in our teens. As parents, a big part of our responsibility is to show our children there is always another day and bumps in the road are just that. We need to help guide their self-esteem and reinforce their positive traits. We can help them recognize the value of who they are.

We should make our children’s self esteem a priority — not just in May, but throughout the year. Let National Teen Self-Esteem Month serve as the impetus for new levels of self-esteem.

For more information on this topic, or to schedule an appointment with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

What’s so great about an orthodontist?

April 24th, 2015

A lot of our patients are curious about the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist. In fact, one of the most common questions we hear at Orthodontic Specialists is, “Dentists and orthodontists are all the same, right?”

A general dentist is your primary dental care provider. Dentists diagnose, treat, and manage your overall oral healthcare needs, including gum care, root canals, fillings, crowns, veneers, and bridges.

Orthodontists, such as Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, are more concerned with diagnosis, prevention, interception, and treatment of malocclusion, or what we call “bad bite,” of the teeth. Orthodontists focus on tooth and jaw alignment and bite problems such as overbites and underbites, and are responsible for straightening teeth via bands, wires, braces, and other fixed or removable corrective treatment options, like braces and clear aligners. Orthodontists treat children as well as adults who wish to improve the function of their bite and appearance of their smile.

Before becoming an orthodontist, doctors such as Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright start out in dental school and earn a dental degree, just like your general dentist. After dental school, those doctors who decide they are interested in the orthodontic field, stay in school for a few more years and become experts in orthodontia, which is one of nine specialties within the dental field.

Isn’t it nice to know we have orthodontic experts here at Orthodontic Specialists to help you through any type of treatment your teeth and jaw might need? To schedule your initial appointment at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office, please give us a call today!

Invisalign Teen® Benefits

April 17th, 2015

You can probably see how teeth straightening can make your smile more attractive, but you might be wary of how Invisalign Teen treatment works. If you’re like most teens at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office, you love hanging out with your friends, and you don’t want to be different, watch what you eat, or worry about how you look. Invisalign Teen has several benefits over traditional metal braces that can make your treatment easier.

People won’t know you’re wearing them.

Invisalign Teen consists of clear trays that are virtual impossible for others to see. Chances are, the only people who know that you are getting your teeth straightened will be your family and any of your friends whom you choose to tell. You won’t need to answer to “Tinsel Teeth” and “Metal Mouth” as some of your classmates with metal braces do.

You can eat what your friends eat.

You take your Invisalign Teen aligners out of your mouth for meals and snacks, so you can eat just like you normally would. You don’t need to worry about food getting stuck in your braces or leading to a bracket popping off. Unlike with braces, you can enjoy the following foods with your friends during Invisalign Teen straightening treatment:

  • Popcorn at the movies
  • Trail mix with dried fruit when you’re hanging out together
  • Ribs and chicken wings at a party
  • Eating a peanut butter sandwich, apple, and carrot sticks for lunch

You can take care of your teeth more easily.

It would be a shame if you took the trouble to straighten your teeth and then found out that you had developed tooth decay while wearing braces. This is less of a problem with Invisalign Teen aligners because they are removable. You can brush and floss your teeth as normal just by taking the trays out of your mouth.

Getting straighter teeth can be a serious confidence-booster in the long run, and with Invisalign Teen, the treatment isn’t that bad. You can wear these clear aligners without letting people know that you’re straightening your teeth, and they won’t interfere with your diet or dental hygiene.

How to Care for Your Invisalign® Aligners

April 10th, 2015

Is it possible to straighten the teeth without braces? Yes, it is. Welcome to the world of Invisalign aligners. Invisalign aligners are made from a clear, thermoplastic material that is custom made to fit your teeth. Unlike conventional braces, Invisalign aligners are removable. More importantly, the clear thermoplastic material makes the aligners invisible, which is ideal if the thought of metal braces and elastics make you self-conscious. For the best results, proper handling and care of your Invisalign aligners is important. Follow these steps to take care of your aligners:

1. Do not eat or drink hot beverages while wearing aligners. It's a good idea to get in the practice of removing the aligners before eating and drinking. Because the aligners are made of plastic resin, heat can distort and damage them. Also, eating while wearing the aligners will cause sugar and other food particles to stay on your teeth, which contributes to plaque and tooth decay.

2. Clean the aligner trays regularly. Invisalign aligners are exposed to the same bacteria and plaque that your mouth is, so you need to clean them as regularly as you clean your teeth. However, avoid cleaning the aligners with harsh chemicals. We recommend using a cleaning kit or some other type of specific solution. When it comes to cleaning Invisalign aligners, carefully follow the instructions given by Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright.

3. Store aligners in a cool, dry, safe place. When you’re not wearing the aligners, store them in the case provided by our office. If you don’t use the case, they can easily be lost. Keeping them out of reach of small children and pets is also a good idea. The last thing you want is for Fido to think your Invisalign aligners are chew toys.

4. Don’t chew gum while wearing aligners. There’s one thing that conventional braces and Invisalign aligners have in common: chewing gum damages both of them.

5. Don’t soak aligners in mouthwash. Many popular mouthwashes contain a color pigment. It’s possible that soaking Invisalign aligners in mouthwash will tint or stain them.

For more tips and tricks for a successful Invisalign experience, contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

How NOT to Forget Your Retainer

April 3rd, 2015

The alarm sounds in the morning, you wake up and realize "I forgot to wear my retainer!"

If this only happened once, don't panic. Missing one night with a retainer is unlikely to cause significant teeth movement. However, if it has happened often, give our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office a call to make sure your teeth haven’t shifted position.

Here are some tips from Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright to help you remember your retainer:

1. Write down the instructions we give you for wearing the retainer, whether you should wear it all day or at night, or just a few times a week. Writing things out like this helps set the schedule in your memory.

2. Clean the retainer when you take it out each time. If you don’t you may not have time when you’re rushing to get to work or school to clean it properly and may be tempted not to wear it.

3. Put a note on your mirror or in your purse or wallet reminding you to wear your retainer.

4. Set an alarm on your mobile phone to remind you when it’s time to put the retainer in. If you have email with a calendar you can set up daily reminders, too.

5. Always put the retainer in its case when you take it out to eat or sleep. You’ll reduce your risk for losing it or accidentally throwing it away.

6. If you don’t have to wear the retainer every day, you can use some recurring events to help you remember. With this system for example, watching your favorite weekly TV show, laundry day, or family pizza night can all serve as reminders that you should put in your retainer.

7. Don’t be shy about asking for help if you’re forgetful. Assure your spouse, parents, siblings, or roommates that you won’t consider if nagging if they remind you to wear your retainer.

8. Surf online for examples of how teeth can shift when retainers are not properly used. Those stories can serve as timely warning not to let the same thing happen to you!

Remember, you can always call our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office if you feel your retainer is uncomfortable or painful. We'll work with you to protect your smile!

Are braces right for me?

March 27th, 2015

According to Preferred Consumer, it's estimated that 50 percent of people around the world have teeth that are crooked, not aligned properly, or irregular. Fortunately today, orthodontics has advanced to the point where corrective devices, such as braces and retainers, are less obvious, more comfortable, and can be worn for shorter periods of time.

So, with that being said, how do you know if braces are right for you? Typically your dentist will be able to point out any issues with your teeth at your regular six-month cleanings and recommend you to an orthodontist. But here are some other things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not braces could be in your future:

Crooked Teeth

As children grow, so do their teeth. And more often than not, certain teeth will grow in crooked. This isn't uncommon, as the majority of children will require some sort of teeth correction, whether that’s braces or retainers. Retainers are custom-made devices that either work to hold teeth in place or correct tooth alignment. They're often worn all day, aside from meals, at the start of the treatment period and then eventually are rolled back so they're just worn at night. Braces on the other hand are worn for at least a year and work to help straighten or position teeth.

Overbite or Underbite

The other main oral issue that orthodontics helps correct is uneven alignment, such as an underbite or an overbite. You might hear Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright refer to this as a "malocclusion," which means "bad bite." Braces can help rearrange your alignment so an overbite or underbite is less of a problem. Typically after the braces come off for this sort of treatment, patients need to wear a retainer from Orthodontic Specialists to finish the treatment.

While braces are typically associated with dental issues in children, more adults are wearing the devices as well. About one in every five braces wearers are adults; a sign that it's never too late to correct any oral issues. Part of this is due to the technological advancements in orthodontics. For instance, new braces feel much better and come in a variety of styles — including clear — so they're far less obvious. Plus, the wires on braces are now made from advanced metals, which are stronger and lighter, so they get the job done much more efficiently. With so many people wearing braces these days, nicknames like "metal mouth" and "brace face" are almost a thing of the past. What's more, is that insurance plans are increasingly covering orthodontic treatment, making braces a much more feasible option for families on a budget.

When weighing whether or not braces are in your future, it's important to study all of your options about the styles of braces and what treatment option is best for you. Also be sure to contact your insurance provider to see what is covered and what will have to be paid out of pocket. It might take a few years of treatment, but braces can give you that winning smile for the rest of your life. Call our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office with any questions you might have!

What is hyperdontia?

March 20th, 2015

When a child is born, he or she will have 20 primary teeth and 32 permanent teeth. But sometimes kids are born with additional teeth, and our team at Orthodontic Specialists calls this oral condition "hyperdontia." Primary teeth are the first set of teeth that erupt in your child's mouth, typically by the time they are 36 months old, and are shed by the time your child reaches the age of 12. Permanent teeth then take the place of the primary teeth and are usually fully-erupted by the time your son or daughter reaches 21 years of age. Anyone who develops more than 20 primary teeth or more than 32 permanent teeth has hyperdontia, and the additional teeth are referred to as supernumerary teeth.

While the cause of hyperdontia is not entirely clear, it is believed that there may be a genetic factor. Oral professionals have found that patients with extra teeth often have syndromes like cleidocranial dysplasia, Ehler-Danlos syndrome, Gardner syndrome, or cleft lip and palate. The prevalence of hyperdontia affects between one and four percent of the population in the United States, and the majority of cases are limited to a single tooth.

So, what is the best way to deal with hyperdontia? It really depends on the case. The treatment plan your doctor suggests varies according to the potential problem posed by the supernumerary teeth, as well as their type. Orthodontic treatment may certainly may help, but extraction can also be a good option. We recommend that children receive an oral evaluation or checkup no later than the age of seven. In addition to hygiene evaluation, this helps ensure your child does not experience hyperdontia problems.

If you suspect you or your child may be suffering from hyperdontia, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to be evaluated.

Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day

March 13th, 2015

Millions of people, around Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN and beyond, wear green on St. Patrick’s Day so they can show their spirit for the holiday and avoid getting pinched. While it may be easy for you to throw on a green shirt, sport a St. Patrick’s Day button, or wear a pair of emerald-hued shoes, if you’re an avid St. Patty’s Day enthusiast you may want to try something different this year. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright thought of a few ideas that will help you take your holiday spirit to the next level:

Visit Chicago’s Green River

If you happen to be near the Windy City during St. Patrick’s Day or you’re thinking of planning a trip, don’t miss out on going downtown to watch the large-scale celebration that kicks off when the city dyes the river bright green. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago has been celebrating the holiday with this tradition for more than 50 years, with tens of thousands of people gathering annually to witness the mysterious dying process and the stunning result.

Don Green Face Paint

Just like an avid sports fan on game day, you can use green face paints to showcase your enthusiasm for this holiday. Avoid breakouts or allergic reactions by only using paints that are specifically meant to be applied to the skin. A little bit of face paint can cover a large area, so feel free to get creative and decorate the whole family on St. Patrick’s Day.

Eat Green All Day

Not a fan of green eggs and ham? With the increasing popularity of green smoothies, there’s no better time to get in on this health craze. To create a green smoothie without the aid of food coloring, you can simply blend a generous amount of a leafy green vegetable, such as spinach or kale, with the ingredients that you would typically use to make a smoothie, like fruit, ice, milk, or juice. Keep the trend going throughout the day by using those same vegetables to create a green soup, egg salad, or a batch of bright green pastries. As an added bonus, you’ll get a healthy dose of vitamins without changing the taste of most of these foods.

If your old holiday routine has gotten stale, leave your green T-shirt in the drawer and try one or all of these tips. Don’t be surprised if you have so much fun that you decide to start a new, annual St. Patrick’s Day tradition! Have a happy St. Paddy’s day from Orthodontic Specialists!

The Importance of Orthodontic Treatment at a Young Age

March 6th, 2015

When you think of orthodontic treatment, you may automatically assume that it only relates to older children and teens with alignment and spacing issues. But this isn’t the case: Orthodontic treatment at Orthodontic Specialists offers many benefits when applied at a young age.

By considering orthodontic treatment at a younger age, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff are able to identify your child’s alignment issues early on, and are able to intervene in order to provide treatment as the teeth begin to develop. It is important to start dental care early, not only for proper dental health and the cosmetic benefits, but to improve a child’s overall health as well.

The Benefits of Straighter Teeth

Besides the cosmetic benefits, there are multiple advantages to starting orthodontic treatment at a young age:

  • It can reduce the extent of orthodontic treatment needed later.
  • With early treatment, the pediatric dentist helps guide the teeth into their right position to prevent the removal of teeth and improve an overbite, underbite, or crossbite.
  • Straighter teeth are easier to clean and better for preventing tooth decay.
  • As a benefit to you, the parent, your child’s orthodontic expenses will be much lower with early treatment.
  • Lastly, much early treatment is covered by dental insurance.

Stages of Orthodontic Treatment

Multiple stages are included in early orthodontic treatment, with three stages in all:

The first stage is early treatment that starts around age two or three, and continues until the child is around six years old. This stage deals with preventive measures, such as avoiding bad habits that lead to crooked teeth and creating a plan for the future based on how the teeth are growing in.

During stage two, when the child is six to 12 years old, the first permanent teeth erupt and the dentist looks at possible early treatment for misalignment or bite issues.

Finally, stage three occurs during adolescence to correct any further problems with permanent teeth.

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff are able to see how the teeth first erupt and know right away whether or not your child will need to have braces later on. Early treatment means fewer procedures, cleaner teeth, and less expense.

What Your Braces Rubber Band Color Says About You

February 27th, 2015

However you may feel about having to wear braces, choosing the color of your rubber bands is sure to bring a smile to your face. Whether you want to express your creativity, coordinate your braces with your outfits, or show some serious school spirit, decorating your mouth with colorful bands takes some of the stress and self-consciousness out of wearing braces. So what do your rubber band colors say about you? Look no further than our rubber band horoscope.

Red. You’re intense and forward thinking, and that you won’t back down no matter how big the challenge. Red is also the color of the heart, so red rubber bands indicate that you’re a caring, loving person.

Blue. Blue means you’re chill – as cool as a cucumber. You’re one cool customer, as the saying goes. You’re relaxed and calm, even when your mom says you can’t chew any gum or eat popcorn because of your braces.

Green. Look at a traffic light and green means go, right? So you’re the type of person who’s always on the move. Go, go, go! It also means you’re generous and kind. Green is the color of nature and spring, so it says you love Mother Earth. Perhaps you even recycle. Green is the color of good luck.

Orange. You’re daring and wild, flamboyant and fun. Orange may indicate you’re an artist or a drama student. It says you have a big personality and that you don’t care what other people think about you. However, orange is also the color of balance and energy. And being flamboyant and fun takes a lot of energy!

Purple. You’re the creative type, for sure. You beat to a different drummer and think outside the box. It says you're mysterious. Purple is the color of royalty, and when you wear your purple rubber bands you are royally cool.

Color Combinations

What if you can’t choose just one color? Well, you can decorate your teeth with alternating colors. You can choose the colors of your favorite sports team or holiday colors like red and green. If you’re still stumped as to what colors to choose, ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright or a member of our team. We can let you in on all the trends our other patents are sporting at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

Braces-Friendly Recipe: Breakfast

February 20th, 2015

Kids can be picky eaters. How many times have you seen your child try to hide the peas under a mound of mashed potatoes?

At Orthodontic Specialists, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team understand how hard it can be to get your child to eat the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables. The task of providing fun, nutritious meals becomes even more challenging if he or she wears braces. It's an age-old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. These five braces-friendly recipes are not only nutritious, but they will have little Jimmy flashing his “tin grin” when he sits down at the kitchen table in the morning.

  1. Scrambled eggs are soft and easy to eat if you have braces. If you drown them in ketchup (which many kids love to do), eggs become even mushier. Minimal chewing is required, and that’s the key to a braces-friendly recipe.
  2. A healthy breakfast provides energy and jump-starts metabolism. A smoothie is not only a good source of fruit, but it’s also gentle on braces. More importantly, smoothies are fun to create. You can toss anything in the blender (bananas, mangoes, strawberries, spinach) and create a drink that’s loaded with vitamins and antioxidants.
  3. If you wear braces, eating crunchy cereals or granola for breakfast is out of the question: Bite down the wrong way and you might snap the wires or dislodge the brackets. However, you can get your grains and oats by substituting oatmeal for cereal. This mushy breakfast treat has a host of health benefits.
  4. Pancakes are not the healthiest breakfast choice. Still, this Sunday morning favorite is braces-friendly. The idea is to make it healthier by hiding blueberries in the pancake batter just like your child hides peas in the mashed potatoes.
  5. Toast with jam is ok, but skip slathering peanut butter on the bread. If you have braces, the general rule of thumb is to steer clear of foods that are hard or chewy. These types of foods can break wires. Of course, most kids will agree that toast isn’t the most exciting breakfast recipe. Make it a Pop-Tart instead!

For more braces-friendly recipes, please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

The Transformation of Valentine's Day

February 13th, 2015

Did you know the actions leading to the beginnings of Valentine's Day were actually centered on the avoidance of war? A Catholic priest named Valentine defied the orders of the Emperor Claudius II and secretly married young men and their brides after the emperor had declared it illegal because only single, young men could be sent to war. Rather than lose potential soldiers to fight his war, Claudius attempted to hoard them by proclaiming marriage illegal.

Valentine continued to marry young couples anyway and, eventually, was put to death for it in 270 AD. Before his death, he sent a letter to a secret love and signed it “From your Valentine”. Nearly 1,800 years later, people are still signing letters and cards in this manner. This year, carry on the tradition started long ago, while adding your own twist. Here are a few suggestions.

Simple and Creative Valentine's Day Ideas

  • Memorialize it with a Photo. Couples often have photos taken around Christmas, but Valentine's Day photos allow you to capitalize on romance. Famous couple Julia Child and her husband, Paul, had their picture taken together every Valentine's Day and included their sense of humor with silly props.
  • Return to Your First Date Location. Even if your first date together was at a local hotdog stand, its sentimental value can make it a fun part of your Valentine's Day agenda. Be creative and make a treasure hunt with clues that lead your partner to the original date location, where you can express your love with flowers or a gift.
  • “From Your Valentine” Messages. Deliver your message in a creative way to make this Valentine's Day stand out from the others. Bake your partner's favorite treat and write a message on it with a tube of icing, or draw a note on the steamed up mirror so it shows up when your partner takes a shower.

Although Valentine's Day is a day to celebrate love, it doesn't have to be a special day only for couples. If you're single, use this special day to shower yourself with love, because you're worth it! After all, the priest Valentine believed so strongly in the sanctity of love that he was willing to risk his life for it. Whether you're in a relationship or single, young or old, romantic or not, Valentine's Day is for you. Happy Valentine’s Day from the orthodontic office of Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright.

Five Fun Ways to Count Down Your Braces Time

February 6th, 2015

Braces can straighten your teeth to give you a more attractive smile for life. The process can take 18 months to two years or more, and this amount of time can seem unending when you first get your braces. Counting down your brace time can help the time pass more quickly and build the excitement for when you finally get your braces removed.

Make a Wall Calendar

Crossing out each day on a calendar is a standard way of counting down time. You can make this more personal by designing your own calendar to help you count down. Use an online customization service to upload photos or designs for each month. Each month’s picture can also display the number of months remaining until you expect your braces to come off.

Schedule Rewards

When you receive regular rewards for continuing to wear your braces, they can seem less burdensome. Plan to buy yourself a reward every month that you wear your braces for the duration of the treatment. The time will pass much faster when you feel you are earning rewards for your patience.

Lengthen a Paper Chain

Use strips of paper to make the links of your chain, and add a new link each week to lengthen the chain. Before sealing each new strip of paper into a circle, write on it a reason why you are getting your teeth straightened, or an event in the future when you will appreciate your straight teeth as you smile.

Use a Wall Hanging

Purchase a large pad of blank white paper. Write a “0” on the bottom sheet and a “1” on the next, and continue until you reach the number of days remaining in your treatment. Rip off the top sheet each day to see how many days are left and remind yourself of the progress you are making.

Find a Buddy

If any of your friends get braces around the same time as you, share the experience. Make a pact to celebrate each trip to Orthodontic Specialists when one of you receives news about your progress.

How to Protect Your Braces During Sports Activities

January 30th, 2015

Proper mouth protection is recommended by Orthodontic Specialists when you participate in any sports activities. If you wear braces, this protection becomes essential. Injuries to your mouth can not only damage your teeth, but your braces could break and cut open your lip.

Full Facial Guards

Full facial guards are often used in football and offer protection to your mouth from most injuries. Even with full facial protection, you may benefit from additional mouth protection. While your face is protected from outside impact, you could still suffer from cuts or damage to your braces from internal impact.

Mouthguards

Mouthguards referred to as boil-and-bites can be purchased at many retail stores. As the name implies, these guards are boiled in water to heat and soften the material. While the guard is still warm, you place it in your mouth and bite down gently. This causes the guard to form to the shape of your mouth. Unfortunately, these guards do not necessarily offer the best protection or fit.

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can make custom mouthguards specifically for you. The custom fitting ensures you of better protection and a comfortable fit. Custom guards are also built in layers for durability. The American Dental Association recommends custom guards for orthodontic patients. Your mouthguard will be designed to provide proper protection for both your teeth and your braces.

No matter what type of sport you participate in, a mouthguard can protect your braces. Even an activity as seemingly harmless as table tennis can result in a contact injury. The Academy for Sports Dentistry states that a properly fitted mouthguard should not interfere with any athletic activity.

Orthodontic Specialists will provide you with properly-fitting mouth protection to ensure the safety of your braces and your teeth. We will be glad to answer any questions you have so you can continue the activities you enjoy with little concern. If you do suffer any injuries to your mouth or braces during sporting activities, please contact us immediately. The sooner we can care for your mouth, the better the results will be.

Tips for Handling and Avoiding Orthodontic Emergencies

January 23rd, 2015

The best way to avoid orthodontic emergencies is to know how to take care of your braces properly throughout your entire treatment. However, emergencies are … well, emergencies, and sometimes no matter how cautious you are or how well you take care of your braces, the wires loosen, the bands pop, or you experience orthodontic discomfort.

Common orthodontic emergencies include broken braces, poking wires, lost or broken retainers, mouth sores, and mouth injuries sustained playing sports, which often happens when you don’t wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth and appliance.

Food

It’s important to avoid foods that can damage your braces. Most people wear braces for about two years. All chewy, sticky, crunchy, and hard foods should be avoided during that time. While this may seem like a long time to go without popcorn or bubble gum, hard foods can break the brackets of your braces and sticky foods can bend the wires. If you have a loose wire, don’t try to fix it yourself. Call Orthodontic Specialists. In the meantime, if a wire is poking into your cheek or lip and causing irritation, put wax or a wet cotton ball over it to dull the sharp edge.

Pain and Discomfort

Some discomfort is a normal part of orthodontic treatment, especially in the hours after the braces are placed on your teeth or after a recent tightening or adjustment. However, if the pain doesn’t subside in three to five days, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment at Orthodontic Specialists. Until then, try dissolving a teaspoon of salt in an eight-ounce glass of water and gargling with the solution. Over-the-counter pain medication will relieve discomfort, too.

Playing Sports

Just because you wear braces doesn’t mean you can’t play sports. You just need to take some extra precautions. Sports-related injuries to the mouth and jaw are common. The best way to protect your mouth and your appliance is to wear a mouthguard. There are several different types of mouthguards available, so be sure to ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright what’s best for you.

Brushing and Flossing

In order to keep your braces in good condition and avoid orthodontic emergencies, it’s important to brush and floss thoroughly after every meal. It’s easy for small particles of food to get trapped in your braces, and if the food isn’t removed, it gets wedged between the teeth and gums and causes plaque.

Need more tips on how to avoid orthodontic emergencies? Just ask any member of our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN team.

Questions, questions…

January 16th, 2015

When beginning orthodontic treatment, most patients ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team a lot of questions about what to expect, while others choose to just "go with the flow" and leave it to us to build for them a beautiful smile. And for our team at Orthodontic Specialists, that's understandable.

But for those who do ask questions, two of the ones we frequently hear are "Will my braces hurt?" and "How long will these be on?"

We explain to our patients that despite what they've heard, braces do not hurt when they're initially put on. Yes, you will experience soreness after your braces are placed and when your teeth start to move. Too often, our patients hear horror stories about how much it hurts to get the braces on, so they tend to over-worry. The truth is, after their braces are on, almost all patients say "that's it?" because it's actually easy and painless!

At Orthodontic Specialists, we answer most of your other questions during your initial exam. When a patient visits our office for the first time, we give him or her a time estimate of how long it will take to achieve their ideal smile. All other questions are answered at the bonding appointment when the braces are placed. We cover all the topics, everything from eating to brushing with braces, but we also know that after your initial appointment, it's natural for you to have questions about your or your child's treatment. And we are always here for you; we are thorough and always try to answer any questions or concerns you may have. As a patient, that's one thing you never have to worry about. You will always know what's going on throughout your orthodontic experience.

Stars Who Had Braces

January 9th, 2015

Not everyone is born with a million-dollar smile, not even some celebrities. The following stars have all had their moments as a “brace face,” either as a child, teenager, or adult. You might be surprised to learn about stars who had braces (including Gwen Stefani, who got braces just because she could!).

Take a look at some famous faces who sported braces!

Emma Watson: Emma admits to going through a rather awkward stage that included “terrible skin,” fluctuating weight, and braces. But look at the swan that emerged!

Tom Cruise: Who would have thought that one of the world’s most famous smiles could use an overhaul? Well, Mr. Cruise pulled it off … and most people didn’t even know. He wore “invisible” braces that had ceramic brackets for a few months just after his 40th birthday. And the results were pretty WOW!

Dakota Fanning: This lovely young actress had some troublesome teeth when she was younger. However, braces and dental work gave her that stunning star-quality smile we see now. Props to her, though, for staying real. She sported her headgear during an appearance on The Tonight Show and didn’t bat an eye.

Gwyneth Paltrow: The stunning Ms. Paltrow, who, in 2013 was named the Most Beautiful Woman by People Magazine, wore braces in high school. And she probably carried it off with the poise and grace for which she is so famous today.

Niall Horan: This member of One Direction, the boy band that’s currently tearing it up (and breaking some hearts along the way) wore his braces for several months. He got them removed in April 2013.

Other notable celebs who have had braces include Faye Dunaway, who got hers at the age of 61! Ryan Seacrest, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and Drew Barrymore also belonged to the metal mouth club at one time or another.

What is comes down to is this: It isn’t whether you wear braces that are fully hidden, ceramic brackets, or have the traditional metal train tracks running across your teeth. Nope, it’s all about how you work it!

How do braces move my teeth?

January 2nd, 2015

Great question! Tooth movement is your body’s natural response to light pressure applied by braces over a period of time (usually two years). Braces work by using brackets that are glued onto your teeth; these brackets have small slots, and that is where Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team insert orthodontic wires. These wires are held in place by small elastic ties that fit around the brackets. As time passes during your treatment, these wires apply pressure on your teeth, which sets in motion the movement of your teeth into their desired positions. Each of your teeth has a different size and shape to them, as do the brackets. Each bracket is custom-made for the particular tooth on which it’s supposed to fit.

Not long ago, orthodontists had stainless steel wires and that was about it. Today, however, we have a number of different high-tech wires at our disposal to move your teeth faster and more comfortably.

When you first get your braces on, the first wire or two will typically be very flexible, but still strong enough to apply a constant force on your teeth. As your teeth straighten out over time, however, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will use progressively thicker and firmer wires to help move your teeth in place for an ideal bite.

Every time you visit our office for an adjustment, we will swap out the wires in order to keep putting pressure on your teeth, which is why it’s so important for you to keep your adjustment visits during your treatment. Most adjustment appointments are scheduled four to eight weeks apart to give your teeth time to move.

As for rubber bands and elastics, most of our patients will need to wear elastics or rubber bands at some point during their treatments. These elastics typically go from one or more of the upper braces to one or more of the lower braces, and pull on your teeth to move them in the direction they need to move in order to achieve an optimal bite.

If you have any questions about wires, brackets, or elastics, or have any general questions about your treatment, please give us a call at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office.

New Year's Eve

December 26th, 2014

Watching the clock tick down the final seconds until midnight, many of us- Orthodontic Specialists included- feel nostalgic about the passing year and hopeful about the new one to come. New Year’s Eve is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world, with over-the-top celebrations taking place in dozens of countries. The Gregorian calendar, which is widely used in Western nations and around the world, was implemented in 1582. Since that time, December 31st has marked the final day of the year, with midnight heralding the beginning of a brand new year. In the United States, New Year’s Day is a public holiday; government offices, schools, public organizations, and many businesses are closed for the day. Ponder the following fun facts as you think about your plans for the holiday:

  • Approximately one billion people watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square, New York City. This televised event is one of the most iconic New Year’s celebrations in the world. For many years, watching the ball drop meant tuning in to Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, an iconic television special dear to the hearts of many viewers.
  • The idea for the New Year’s Eve ball came about because of a citywide ban on fireworks. Before 1907, when fireworks became illegal in New York City, celebrations included an elaborate fireworks show. The large, glittering, illuminated ball was developed as an alternative. Although the first ball was heavy at 700 pounds, the modern New Year’s Eve ball is made of Waterford crystal and tips the scale at six tons!
  • The top five New Year’s resolutions are: to lose weight, quit smoking, get a new job, return to school, or increase personal savings. However, approximately 88% of New Year’s resolutions fail. But don’t let that discourage you! Resolutions are most likely to succeed when they are clear, achievable goals. Setting out a concrete plan to achieve your resolution also boosts your chances of success.
  • Eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day is said to bring good fortune in the new year. Collard greens, cabbage, and ham hocks are also considered lucky foods to enjoy. Just steer clear of the chicken or turkey dinners; eating poultry is a bad omen for the year to come.

Whether you plan to stay in Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN, or head out into the crowds to watch the ball drop in Times Square, New Year’s Eve is a time to enjoy friends and family. Send your loved ones well wishes for the New Year, and look for that special someone to share a midnight kiss with for good luck!

The Invisalign® Treatment Process

December 19th, 2014

Invisalign is gaining traction as a sought-after solution for orthodontic problems. Unlike traditional braces, which require the placement of brackets on teeth and the connection of unsightly wires, Invisalign works nearly invisibly (as its name suggests). Particularly for those who do not wish to draw attention to their orthodontic work, Invisalign provides an attractive solution.

Consultation with a Treatment Provider

Our practice has received specialized training to work with Invisalign. During your consultation appointment, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will assess your smile needs. In some cases, the type of problem may not lend itself to correction through Invisalign, and we may offer an alternative solution.

Creation of a Custom Treatment Plan

Invisalign works using a series of customized clear trays that fit almost perfectly over the teeth. To create these trays, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will take X-rays and impressions of your teeth. These are submitted to a specialized laboratory that makes a 3D image of your smile. This is used to create a specialized treatment plan that provides an estimate of how long treatment will take.

Arrival of Custom Trays

Once your customized trays have arrived, the treatment begins. For Invisalign to work properly, you must wear the aligners 20 to 22 hours per day, removing them only to eat, drink, and brush your teeth. The trays gently draw your teeth into proper alignment, correcting your orthodontic problems as you go about your everyday life.

In general, you will replace your aligners with a new set every two weeks. This is to encourage your teeth to continue moving throughout the treatment process. You’ll need to check in with our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office every six weeks or so to ensure treatment progresses smoothly.

Beautiful Smile: Complete!

Once you complete your individualized treatment plan, you’ll have the smile you’ve always dreamed of. Like with traditional braces, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright may recommend that you wear a retainer to ensure that your teeth remain in their new positions.

Are braces ruining your photos?

December 12th, 2014

While it’s normal to feel self-conscious, there is no reason to avoid photos just because you wear braces. Many people wear braces and you do not need to be embarrassed about them. There are also ways you can enjoy your photos without hiding your smile.

Make it Fun

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff offer rubber bands for braces in a wide range of colors. Choose your favorite color and wear it with pride. You can mix and match your colors too. For Valentine’s Day, try alternating red and pink bands. For the Fourth of July, use red, white, and blue!

Bands are also available in neon colors and glow-in-the-dark designs. Your imagination is the only thing holding you back. You might want to avoid using dark green bands, though. It makes it look as though you have broccoli stuck in your teeth. Gross!

Make them Disappear

If your braces still really bother you in photos, technology can quickly solve the problem. A photo-editing program, or even a simple paint program, can easily erase your braces. Zoom in on your teeth, pick your natural tooth color with the dropper, and paint your braces away.

If you have a significant amount of metal in your braces, try to avoid close-ups with flash. The flash can reflect off the metal. The important thing to remember is how good your teeth will look and feel once your orthodontic work is complete. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff can also show you options for braces that are not as visible as the traditional style.

I got my braces. Now what?

December 5th, 2014

You’ve taken the first step toward a healthier and more beautiful appearance by getting braces at Orthodontic Specialists, and you’re probably wondering what comes next. The first week is the period of biggest adjustment, and there’s a lot to learn in this short time. Don’t worry; in a few short days your braces will feel completely natural.

The first week

On the first day, your braces will probably feel very odd in your mouth; it will take time to get used to them. By the second day, you may feel some soreness or pain. If you are going to experience any pain, the second and third days are when it will happen. Most pain can be dealt with by taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as Tylenol.

What about sore spots?

Your cheeks and tongue are getting used to your new braces, just like your teeth are. You may develop sore spots where this soft tissue rubs against the harsh metal of your braces. The best way to avoid this and allow your mouth to heal is by covering the metal spot with orthodontic wax. Break off a small piece and roll it into a ball in your hands. Dry the metal of the braces with a cotton swab, then wrap the wax around the sharp spot to create a cushion.

What if they break?

Braces are held onto your teeth with special orthodontic glue. Once in a great while, part of your appliance may come loose from the surface of a tooth. This won’t harm anything; it will just be slightly inconvenient. Call our office right away and we will be able to glue the bracket back on.

Make sure you avoid hard items such as ice, brittle, and other hard candies, and don’t open packages with your teeth. These habits can contribute to braces popping off. Even fairly innocent-sounding items like popcorn or French bread can be a culprit, so avoid eating any hard foods, or cut them up into small pieces before consuming.

If you have questions about which foods to eat and avoid, or if your braces are more sore than expected, feel free to contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office and ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team. We’re more than happy to help!

Invisalign® vs. Traditional Braces

November 28th, 2014

A great smile can go a long way. Scientific research suggests that people who smile are perceived as more attractive and confident than those who don’t flash their pearly whites. When it comes time to invest in orthodontics to improve your beautiful smile, choosing the best option can be daunting. Comparing Invisalign to traditional braces is a great way to determine what orthodontics make most sense for your unique smile.

How is Invisalign different?

Unlike traditional braces, in which brackets are affixed onto each tooth and connected by wires Invisalign corrects orthodontic problems using a set of clear trays. These trays are specially formed to fit your teeth, allowing you to wear them 24/7.

Aesthetics

One of the primary advantages of Invisalign is that the clear trays are nearly invisible. Particularly for adults self-conscious about appearing professional with traditional braces, Invisalign can correct orthodontic issues without capturing the notice of others. Their nearly invisible appearance is one of the topmost reasons that orthodontic patients choose Invisalign.

Complexity of the Orthodontic Problem

Invisalign works well for people who have relatively minor problems, such as crooked teeth or small gaps between teeth. For more complex problems, particularly issues with bite or vertical problems (i.e., one tooth being significantly higher than another), traditional braces may be better at pulling teeth into alignment.

Eating and Drinking

Invisalign trays are removable, meaning that you cannot eat or drink while wearing them. Unlike traditional braces, however, you are not limited in the foods you may eat. Chewy, sticky, or hard foods may be eaten, provided that you brush your teeth before reinserting the Invisalign trays.

In the end, only you can weigh the pros and cons of Invisalign versus traditional braces. Consult with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright to understand how these orthodontic interventions may work for your unique situation.

Thanksgiving Trivia

November 21st, 2014

At Orthodontic Specialists we love learning trivia and interesting facts about Thanksgiving! This year, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright wanted to share some trivia that might help you feel a bit smarter at the holiday dinner table and help create some great conversation with friends and family.

The Turkey

There is no historical evidence that turkey was eaten at the first Thanksgiving dinner. It was a three-day party shared by the Wamponoag Indians and the pilgrims in 1621. Historians say they likely ate venison and seafood.

According to National Geographic, the dinner at the Plymouth colony was in October and included about 50 English colonists and 90 American Indian men. The first Thanksgiving dinner could have included corn, geese, and pumpkin.

Today, turkey is the meat of choice. According to the National Turkey Association, about 690 million pounds of turkey are consumed during Thanksgiving, or about 46 million turkeys.

The Side Dishes

The green bean casserole became popular about 50 years ago. Created by the Campbell Soup Company, it remains a popular side dish. According to Campbell’s, it was developed when the company was creating an annual holiday cookbook. The company now sells about $20 million worth of cream of mushroom soup each year, which is a major part of the recipe.

While there were likely plenty of cranberries for the pilgrims and Indians to enjoy, sugar was a luxury. What we know today as cranberry sauce was not around in those early Thanksgiving days. About 750 million pounds of cranberries are produced each year in the US, with about 30 percent consumed on Thanksgiving.

The Parade

Since Thanksgiving did not become a national holiday until Lincoln declared it in 1863, the annual parades were not yearly events until much later. The biggest parade that continues to draw crowds is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Beginning in 1924 with about 400 employees, they marched from Convent Avenue to 145th Street in New York City. Famous for the huge hot-air balloons today, it was actually live animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo that were the stars of the show then.

However you choose to spend your Thanksgiving holiday, we wish you a safe, happy and healthy holiday with those you love.

At what age should my child have an orthodontic evaluation?

November 14th, 2014

You may have noticed that kids seem to be getting braces and other orthodontic care a lot earlier these days. There was a time, only a decade or two ago, when braces were mainly seen on teenagers, but that is beginning to change. If you’re wondering when to bring your child to our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office for an orthodontic evaluation, the answer actually has several parts.

The Telltale Signs

If your child has a very crowded set of adult teeth coming in, or if the permanent front teeth came in very early, these are signs that your child should see Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, regardless of age.

The Dental Age

Barring signs of trouble or early adult teeth as mentioned above, the time that your child needs to be seen for initial orthodontic evaluation depends not so much upon your child’s actual age, but on what is known as a “dental age.”

The dental age of the patient might be entirely different from his or her actual chronological age; for example, an eight-year-old could have a dental age of 13. It is part of Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our staff’s job to determine the dental age and then make appropriate recommendations for the resolution of orthodontic issues if they are emerging.

The Official Recommended Age

The American Association of Orthodontists officially recommends that kids should see an orthodontist for the first time between the ages of seven and nine. Even if the child does not have all his or her permanent teeth, the teeth growth pattern can usually be predicted quite effectively by an orthodontist.

This allows for a proactive response to emerging problems, and this is the reason that some younger children are now getting orthodontic devices earlier in life. If a young child has serious orthodontic issues emerging, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can usually address the problems immediately and then follow up with another round of treatment when the child has all the adult teeth.

Caring for Your Smile While Wearing Invisalign®

November 7th, 2014

Getting your braces off is exciting. You’ve been working on your new smile for months or years, and it’s time for the trips to our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to pay off. Can you imagine how bad it would be to discover that your teeth are straight, but that there’s decay?

Caring for your smile while wearing Invisalign goes beyond just waiting for your teeth to get straighter. It involves cleaning your teeth regularly and thoroughly to prevent tooth decay. That way, your smile will be more beautiful than ever when you’re done with your Invisalign treatment.

Take Your Trays Out

The first difference you may notice between Invisalign and traditional metal braces is that Invisalign aligners are invisible, but there’s another important distinction as well. Invisalign braces are removable. You can take the trays out, and you should. Remove the trays while you’re eating so you don’t get food stuck in them. Also, remove them while you’re cleaning your teeth so that you can have full access to all the nooks and crannies in your mouth.

Brush Normally

The guidelines for brushing your teeth with Invisalign don’t change compared to braces. Brush your teeth at least twice a day using a soft toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste, being sure to get all surfaces of your teeth. If possible, brush after each meal.

If you can’t, be sure to drink some water and swish it around in your mouth when you’re done eating to get rid of the extra food on your teeth. Leaving carbohydrates, such as sugar and starch, on your teeth opens the door to tooth decay.

Floss and Wash

Flossing your teeth gets out the bits and pieces stuck between them. It’s a time-consuming task when you need to navigate the wires of traditional metal braces, but thanks to Invisalign’s removable design, flossing is no problem. Rinsing your mouth with a fluoride antibacterial mouthwash also helps clean your teeth because it gets into all of the spaces. Floss and rinse one or two times daily.

Cleaning Your Trays

Cleaning your Invisalign trays keeps them from getting riddled with bacteria, and it helps keep your teeth free from excess food. You can use the Invisalign cleaning system, which involves placing the trays in a tub with cleaning crystals. The plastic trays are clean after 15 minutes. You can also ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright for other ways to clean your trays.

Halloween Fun with Braces

October 31st, 2014

Halloween is a favorite holiday among children due to the festive games, imaginative costumes, and candy. Modern celebrations stem from a combination of traditions from Pagan and Christian traditions throughout the centuries. The original holiday was called Samhain and derived from the ancient Druids of Ireland. In their belief system, November 1st marked the beginning of winter, and Pagans began their Samhain celebrations at sunset on October 31st.

Modern Celebrations of Halloween

Children and adults love dressing up for Halloween, and this tradition comes from the ancient belief in spirits. From sunset on October 31st until sunrise on November 1st, the souls of the dead entered the physical world. Some spirits were benevolent and wanted only to cross over to the afterlife while others harbored malicious intents of revenge and trickery. Pagans wore masks and disguised themselves so that the malevolent souls would mistake them as fellow spirits.

Families left food and ale outside of their doors to appease the spirits. With the rise of Christianity in Europe, the church encouraged its members to offer food and money to beggars. In exchange, the beggars would agree to pray for the family's deceased loved ones. Eventually these traditions led to the development of today's customs where children dressed up and received candy from their neighbors while circling the community.

Teeth-Friendly Treats

With all of the excitement and free candy on Halloween, it is easy to get carried away on a sugar high. Parents warn their children not to eat too many pieces in one night to avoid tummy aches and cavities. Our team at Orthodontic Specialists especially wants to remind children with braces to be extra cautious about the treats they eat because some varieties can get stuck in between the brackets and damage the devices. Sticky candy, such as caramels, fruit chews, and gum should be avoided when wearing braces. Children can trade with their friends and siblings to get only safe candies. The following list offers some alternative treats that children with braces can safely enjoy.

  • Solid chocolate, including milk, white, or dark
  • Nougat-filled candy bars, such as Three Musketeers
  • Candy-coated chocolates like M&Ms
  • Powdery candy, such as Sweet Tarts or Pixie Stix
  • Mint-flavored candy
  • Malted milk balls
  • Cookies
  • Peanut butter crackers or cookies

When in doubt, children should ask their parents or Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright if a specific candy is safe. Halloween is a fun holiday for children, and having braces does not have to take away any of the excitement from tasty treats.

What makes teeth crooked?

October 24th, 2014

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team hear this question a lot. Some of the common reasons for crooked teeth include:

  • Thumb sucking
  • Tongue thrusting or improper use of the tongue during speaking and swallowing
  • Premature loss of baby teeth, which causes teeth to drift and shift
  • Poor breathing airway caused by enlarged adenoids or tonsils

There are also hereditary factors we get from our parents, like:

  • Extra teeth
  • Large teeth
  • Missing teeth
  • Wide spaces between teeth
  • Small jaws

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team know that having crooked teeth isn’t just a cosmetic issue; it can lead to serious health problems as well. Crooked teeth can:

  • Interfere with proper chewing
  • Make keeping teeth clean more of a challenge, increasing the risk of tooth decay, cavities, and gingivitis
  • Strain the teeth, jaws, and muscles, increasing the risk of breaking a tooth

There are several treatment options we offer at Orthodontic Specialists that can help correct crooked teeth. Please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to learn more or to schedule an initial consultation.

What is early intervention?

October 17th, 2014

Many developing orthodontic problems can be intercepted and corrected if diagnosed and treated at an early age. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists recommend children have their first orthodontic evaluation no later than age seven, or younger if the front four permanent teeth have replaced the baby teeth. Early treatment, also known as interceptive treatment or Phase I treatment, provides both timely detection of problems and greater opportunity for more effective treatment. Early intervention guides growth and development, preventing serious problems later.

If your child is showing these signs, it may be time to think about early orthodontic treatment:

  • Early or late loss of baby teeth (your child should typically start losing teeth around age five or six, and will have all their permanent teeth in around age 12 to 13)
  • Difficulty chewing and/or biting
  • Mouth breathing
  • Sucking his or her thumb
  • Speech impediment
  • Protruding teeth (the top teeth and the bottom teeth extend away from each other)
  • Crowded front teeth
  • Teeth that don't come together in a normal manner or even at all

Early intervention will greatly reduce the severity of your child’s case, and therefore reduce the length of treatment time and cost for a second phase of treatment when all of his or her permanent teeth have erupted. An evaluation at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office will determine if your child’s dental and skeletal growth is proceeding properly or if interceptive treatment is needed. Many times, a more severe problem can be corrected using sophisticated removable appliances instead of traditional orthodontic treatment.

To schedule a consultation for your child to visit with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, please give us a call! We will provide your child with an initial exam, and discuss with you the best steps to take toward caring for your child's smile.

When is the best age to begin orthodontic treatment?

October 10th, 2014

Most parents know that routine dental care should begin during their child’s toddler years. And many assume they must wait until their child has all of his or her permanent teeth to visit Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright for an initial orthodontic consultation.

The ideal age for an orthodontic evaluation is age seven. At that age, your child will have a mixture of adult and baby teeth for Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists to make a determination about whether any problems are present. Typically the first molars have come in by the time your child turns seven, giving us an opportunity to check for malocclusion, also known as “bad bite.” Also, by the time your child reaches the age of seven, the incisors have begun to come in, and problems such as crowding, deep bites, and open bites can be detected.

When Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team perform an evaluation on your child at an early age, you get one of two positive outcomes. Although treatment usually will not begin until one to five years after the initial evaluation, it’s still helpful in determining whether your child has any problems with the jaw and teeth early when they are still easy to treat. Earlier treatment can also cost less to correct a potential problem than delayed treatment.

Early evaluation, of course, may signal a need for early treatment. For some children, early treatment can prevent physical and emotional trauma. Aside from spurring years of harmful teasing, misaligned teeth are also prone to injury and are detrimental to good oral hygiene.

If your child is approaching age seven, or has already surpassed his or her seventh birthday, it is time to schedule an appointment for an initial examination at Orthodontic Specialists.

Halloween Guidelines from the American Association of Orthodontists

October 3rd, 2014

Fall can be a really enjoyable time of the year for you and your family. The kids are back in school, the leaves are changing, and Halloween approaches. This holiday is a lot of fun for kids, but Orthodontic Specialists wants to remind you it can also be risky, especially for your child’s braces. If you have kids with braces, take a look at the following tips from the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) on how to keep your kids and their teeth safe this Halloween season.

Important Safety Tips

Trick-or-treating is a favorite Halloween activity for kids everywhere. While it is a great holiday tradition for children, it comes with some potential risks. To keep your kids safe while trick-or-treating, try following these simple guidelines:

  • If you have young children, make sure they are accompanied by an adult at all times.
  • You or your kids should always carry flashlights.
  • For costumes, try to include a light-colored or reflective element that can be easily seen by oncoming traffic.
  • Avoid costumes that include a mask, especially for younger children. These can pose a safety hazard for both the wearers and the people around them.
  • Tell your kids not to eat any of their candy until they arrive home. Be sure to inspect all treats carefully before letting them dig in.

Following these guidelines can help you keep your kids safe on Halloween.

Halloween Treats to Avoid if Your Child Has Braces

If your kids have braces, you’ll want them to steer clear of certain treats on Halloween. Many candies can cause damage to braces, so it’s wise to avoid them while you’re celebrating this fun holiday. Here is a list of treats to stay away from:

  • Hard candies
  • Chewy candies
  • Nuts
  • Caramel
  • Licorice
  • Jelly beans
  • Taffy
  • Bubblegum
  • Hard pretzels
  • Popcorn

Some of these treats may seem harmless, but all of them have the potential to bend or break your child’s braces. So it’s best to avoid eating them altogether.

Braces-Friendly Halloween Treats

If your children have braces, they may feel like they can’t enjoy any treats on Halloween. However, there are plenty of braces-safe treat options for them to choose from, including the following:

 

  • Soft chocolate
  • Peanut butter cups
  • Gelatin treats
  • Ice cream
  • Smoothies
  • Root beer floats
  • Apple cider

These are just a few braces-friendly alternatives to traditional Halloween candy. Helping your kids have a fun and safe Halloween—while at the same time protecting their braces—can be easy if you follow these simple tips and guidelines. Help your kids enjoy the holiday without having to visit Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright for repair work on damaged braces!

The Advantage of Invisalign Teen®

September 26th, 2014

Many teens want to improve their smile without the pain and embarrassment of having to wear metal braces. Just like metal braces, Invisalign works by gently moving teeth into position. Metal braces are worn continuously, however, and need to be adjusted by Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright regularly in order to move the teeth into proper position.

Invisalign uses a series of clear trays to move teeth into position. When you are done with one tray, simply pop in the next! Invisalign Teen straightens teeth just as well as traditional metal braces, but has several advantages.

Invisible

You’ve probably figured out the most obvious advantage already: the aligners are nearly invisible. Invisalign works by using a series of clear aligners that should be worn 20 to 22 hours a day. Invisalign trays are almost undetectable when you wear them, so you can smile with confidence — even while you are straightening your teeth.

Removable

One of the best things about Invisalign Teen is that the trays are removable. This means you can remove your tray to eat, brush, and floss your teeth, or even to play sports. While Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists require you to wear the trays for most of the day, having the ability to remove your straightening trays means you have practically none of the dietary restrictions that metal brace wearers have to observe.

Teens that play contact sports often experience difficulties with metal braces. Invisalign Teen allows the flexibility to wear a mouthguard, and no metal wires or brackets means less risk of cuts or other injuries while playing a game. Musicians also benefit from being able to remove their trays during rehearsals and performances. You can even remove your tray for your school photo or to snap a quick selfie!

Finally, because you can remove your aligners, you can easily keep your teeth clean through normal brushing and flossing. You can also clean your trays by brushing and rinsing them in warm water. Brushing and flossing with metal braces can be frustrating and time-consuming. Invisalign Teen treatment at Orthodontic Specialists helps you keep your smile white and shiny with very little change to your normal routine.

To learn more about Invisalign Teen, or to schedule an appointment with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

Are you visiting the dentist during your orthodontic treatment?

September 19th, 2014

If you’re brushing your teeth twice a day during your orthodontic treatment, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team think that’s wonderful! But, don’t forget that it’s also important for you to visit your general dentist every six months, or as recommended, in addition to brushing your teeth and flossing. (And visiting Orthodontic Specialists for regular adjustments, of course.)

Dental checkups are crucial for maintaining good oral health. Your general dentist can check for problems that might not be seen or felt, detect cavities and early signs of tooth decay, as well as catch and treat oral health problems early. During an oral exam, your dentist can also check the health of your mouth, teeth, gums, cheeks, and tongue. Checkups will also include a thorough teeth cleaning and polishing.

If you have not been to the dentist in the last six months, let us know during your next adjustment visit and we will provide a few great references in the Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN area!

Is orthodontic treatment just for straightening teeth?

September 12th, 2014

A lot of patients ask us why Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists work tirelessly to give our patients straight teeth. Of course it’s nice to have a smile full of evenly-aligned teeth, but did you know that straightening your teeth can keep them healthier as well? Straight teeth lead to better oral hygiene, increasing your chances of keeping your own natural teeth for a lifetime!

Straight teeth are also less prone to decay, because they collect less plaque, that sticky colorless substance that forms on our teeth. When you visit Orthodontic Specialists for your initial consultation, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will examine all aspects of your teeth, face, smile, and jaw.

If you’re wondering whether your teeth might cause problems because they are out of alignment, please give us a call to set up an initial orthodontic consultation at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can help you decide whether or not you will benefit from orthodontic treatment.

Questions? Give us a call, ask us below or on our Facebook page!

September is Self-Improvement Month!

September 5th, 2014

These days, Americans everywhere are putting greater emphasis on health and self-improvement, and more people are seeking orthodontic treatment to improve their smile. September happens to be Self-Improvement Month, and our team at Orthodontic Specialists knows that orthodontic treatment is an investment in self-improvement that will provide benefits for a lifetime. Recent advances in orthodontia now make treatment more comfortable for many interested in obtaining that beautiful smile.

Not only does orthodontic treatment give you a beautiful smile, it can also benefit your dental and general health. If teeth are poorly aligned, removing plaque and tartar by brushing and flossing may be difficult. A bad bite may result in fractured or excessively worn tooth surfaces, and the extra stress caused by a bad bite may even result in problems with your jaw joints.

If you’ve been thinking about getting that perfect smile, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright would love to have you visit for an initial consultation. Please give us a call to schedule a visit! See you soon!

Celebrate Labor Day by Getting Away

August 29th, 2014

Labor Day honors the contributions that workers have made to this country, and for many Americans, the holiday is a great time to relax at home with family and friends. But there are quite a few people who celebrate the holiday by getting out of town, with an estimated 33 million people traveling more than 50 miles over Labor Day weekend each year. If you’re dreaming of a great Labor Day escape but you’re not quite sure where to go, here are a few ideas from our team at Orthodontic Specialists to give you some travel inspiration.

Explore a National Park

On a national holiday like Labor Day, it’s only fitting to experience the beauty of America’s landscapes by heading to the nearest national park. If you’re confined to an office most days of the year, national parks can provide a relaxing and scenic escape, whether you’re by yourself, traveling with a group of friends, or bringing the whole family along. Depending on how close you live to the nearest park, you can stay for an afternoon or for longer than a week. With 58 parks located in 27 states, there are plenty of beautiful areas to choose from.

Chow Down in a BBQ Haven

Barbecuing is a popular Labor Day activity, but instead of sweating over your own grill or oven, try visiting one of the country’s BBQ capitals. U.S. News and World Report names Memphis as the top BBQ destination, with more than 80 BBQ restaurants in the city, most notably Corky’s BBQ and Central BBQ. Kansas City is also known for the sweet taste of its sauces, while central Texas is said to have perfected the technique of smoking tender and flavorful brisket.

Relax on the Beach

Many people think of Labor Day as the unofficial start of fall, which brings cooler temperatures, more rain, and for many people, an end to lazy days at the beach. End your beach days with a bang by taking a trip to one of the coasts or to a lakeside beach. For an added dose of festivity, find a city or town that celebrates the occasion with a fireworks display over the water.

Whether you’re looking to turn your getaway into a full week affair or you simply want to experience a quick escape, make the most of your holiday by changing your surrounding scenery. Happy Labor Day from the orthodontic practice of Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright!

Thanks to Invisalign®, you can have a perfect smile without metal wires or brackets!

August 22nd, 2014

When it comes to straightening your smile, our team at Orthodontic Specialists knows that having a mouth full of metal braces may not be your idea of fun. Luckily for you, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can offer a cosmetic alternative: Invisalign!

Using a series of clear, comfortable, and completely customized aligners, you can get the smile you’ve always wanted without traditional braces.

Since Invisalign aligners are discreet, they’re hardly noticeable when you speak and smile, and because they’re removable, you can eat and drink whatever you want. Just remember to brush and floss before putting your aligners back in! Treatment with Invisalign is just as effective as with metal braces, and the results are just as amazing!

If you want to know more about Invisalign, contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to schedule an appointment.

A Helpful Site on Orthodontics

August 15th, 2014

As you are undergoing orthodontic treatment, our team at Orthodontic Specialists would like to point you to a helpful website. Our friends at the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) have lots of important information about everything relating to braces, including myths and facts of orthodontics, tips for a better orthodontic experience, and cool webisodes about orthodontics.

Check out AAO today and feel free to contact us at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office if you have any questions.

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists hope this information helps you!

Our Schererville office is moving!

August 13th, 2014

Dear Friends and Families of our practice,

Our Schererville office is moving!

Thank you for helping our practice grow into the need for a new facility to keep advancing into the future!

Our plan is to merge the existing small Schererville and St. John offices into a modern full-sized “high tech” office in the two-story Standard Bank building at the corner of 93rd and Wicker Avenue (Route 41) in St. John by the end of 2014.

We have sold our Schererville facility recently and need to vacate by August 1, 2014.  As construction begins on the new facility, we will keep you updated on the final move from our current St. John location into the new office facility.

Please feel free to call Donna or Julie at 219-322-4773 if you have any questions or to schedule your next appointment in one of our other two (2) offices conveniently located in Munster or St. John.

Feel free to visit our website, www.orthospcs.com, for further updates or contact us at info@orthospcs.com if you have any questions or suggestions.  Your feedback is very valuable to us!

Thank you for allowing us to improve our service to you, and we look forward to sharing this exciting opportunity with you…and because of you!

Respectfully,

The Doctors and Staff of Orthodontic Specialists

Tips for Using Invisalign®

August 8th, 2014

More than one patient has come into our office and asked, “What can I do to help my teeth when wearing Invisalign?”

While everyone’s teeth and dental needs are different, there are certain things everyone can do to make wearing their Invisalign aligners a more rewarding experience. Always follow the list of instructions and tips from Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, and add the following advice to your daily routine.

Always ask us about teeth whitening. Our team at Orthodontic Specialists knows how important it is for you to keep your teeth white and stain-free from the foods and drinks you consume daily. If you have attachments to your teeth, they will not whiten properly. Ask our office about teeth whitening when wearing your aligners; it might be best to wait until your treatment is complete.

Continue flossing every day. You should be flossing in any case. But it can be easy to assume that Invisalign will protect your teeth from bacteria. This is not true. Bacteria can get behind the aligners and affect the health of your teeth and gums, so keep up with your flossing schedule.

Follow the 48-hour rule when wearing your aligners. When you insert every new set of aligners, you should leave them in as much as possible during the first 48 hours. Your teeth will move more during this timeframe, and the aligners do the most good during this time.

You may experience slight discomfort while wearing your Invisalign aligners. You can take a pain reliever to help with the discomfort, but if you experience too much pain, please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to schedule an appointment!

What's the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist?

August 1st, 2014

Orthodontists and dentists both help patients improve their oral health, but in different ways. Dentistry is a broad medical specialty that deals with the teeth, gum, nerves, and jaw, while orthodontics is a specialty within dentistry that focuses on correcting bites, occlusion, and the straightness of teeth. One important difference is that all orthodontists like Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright are dentists, but not all dentists are licensed orthodontists.

How are they similar?

The main similarity between a dentist and orthodontist is that they both focus on oral care. An orthodontist can work in a dental office and provide the same care as a dentist. So in this respect, they are quite similar. They are both considered doctors, and deal with the teeth and gums.

How are they different?

There are more differences than similarities. An orthodontist requires additional schooling as a dental specialty; the situation is similar to a doctor who obtains additional schooling to become a surgeon. Another difference is that orthodontists specialize in helping patients with the alignment of their teeth, improving their bite, or fitting them for corrective braces and devices. If a patient has an overbite, a dentist will refer him or her to an orthodontist.

Dentists typically encourage good oral hygiene and provide services related to:

  • Tooth decay
  • Root canals
  • Gum disease
  • Crowns
  • Bridges
  • Veneers
  • Teeth whitening

Orthodontists are dentists that specialize in the alignment of teeth, and provide services related to:

  • Misaligned teeth
  • Crowded teeth
  • Overbite
  • Underbite

What an orthodontist can help with

Orthodontists help with crooked teeth, but they assist patients with other issues as well. These include overbites and underbites, crossbites, spaces between teeth, overcrowding of teeth, and the treatment of temporomandibular disorders (TMD). Additional problems with the jaw also need to be treated by an orthodontist.

While a dentist may be trained to provide orthodontic care in addition to extractions, TMJ treatments, and fillings, trusting your smile to an orthodontist can better balance the different procedures you require.

To learn more about the difference between dentists and orthodontists, or to schedule an initial consultation with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, please give our team at Orthodontic Specialists a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office.

Who benefits from Invisalign®?

July 25th, 2014

One problem with trying to answer the question as to who benefits from Invisalign is that the simple answer is “almost everyone.” The see-through, almost invisible aligners for straightening teeth are specifically molded to fit each individual’s mouth. Unlike conventional braces, they can be removed when eating and when cleaning the teeth. Because they use less force in straightening teeth than metal braces, the risk of harm to teeth is lessened.

Benefits to adults

Traditional braces are associated with children and teenagers. Many adults want to have their teeth straightened but cannot decide which is worse: having crooked teeth or wearing metal braces. They also worry about having to change their diet by not being able to eat the foods they normally enjoy.

If you are an adult considering braces, our team at Orthodontic Specialists will tell you Invisalign aligners will give you the best of all worlds. Your teeth will be straightened with virtually invisible braces. You can remove your aligners when you eat so you can enjoy any food you normally would consume. You do not have to worry about embarrassing yourself by getting food stuck in your braces. You simply clean your teeth normally after eating and replace your aligners. If there is a special occasion during which you do not want to have any braces at all, you can remove the aligners for a few hours without causing any damage.

Benefits to teenagers

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team know that teenagers are often involved in contact sports or gymnastics. Others find that having metal in their mouth interferes with their ability to play a musical instrument. Traditional metal braces contain wires and brackets that can cause damage to the mouth and gums; this is not a risk with Invisalign aligners.

For sports that require players to wear mouthguards, the expense of specially constructed mouthguards to fit over braces is avoided. The aligners can be removed during sports activity, and a normal mouthguard is worn. Teenagers who play musical instruments simply remove the aligners when practicing or playing in the band or orchestra.

Teenagers often feel they are too busy to spend time and trouble flossing teeth between the wires and brackets of traditional braces. Since the Invisalign aligners are removable, brushing and flossing are simpler and more likely to be performed.

For more information about Invisalign or Invisalign Teen, or to schedule an initial consultation with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

Kristin Cavallari and Palatal Expanders

July 18th, 2014

It’s no easy feat to have one of the best smiles in Hollywood. The reality TV starlet Kristin Cavallari attributes her gorgeous smile to routine oral hygiene, the removal of two impacted wisdom teeth, and having undergone orthodontic treatment. Kristin’s treatment began in sixth grade when she was fitted with a device Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team call a palatal expander, which is used to guide upper jaw growth in our younger patients.

What is a palatal expander?

A palatal expander “expands” (or widens) your upper jaw by applying gentle pressure on your upper molars, and is used to make the bottom and upper teeth fit together better. In addition, palatal expanders work to create more room for teeth, as well as promote a broader, more appealing smile.

Do palatal expanders hurt?

Palatal expanders are usually not painful, however you may experience difficulty speaking and swallowing for the first few days. Adjusting your palatal expander as instructed by Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will ensure there are no delays in regards to your treatment plan.

Typically, it takes a few weeks to achieve the desired amount of expansion, after which you will keep wearing your expander for about six months, giving time for the new bone to form and stabilize. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists will give you detailed instructions about how to adjust your appliance and can answer any questions you may have about your palatal expander.

If you have any questions about your palatal expander or your treatment plan with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, please give us a call at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

Foods that are Safe for Braces

July 11th, 2014

Orthodontic braces are used to straighten the teeth, which not only creates a more pleasing appearance, but also helps prevent tooth decay and other oral health problems. Braces are only effective when they are properly cared for, however. Certain foods, for example, are better suited for individuals who have braces, as opposed to hard and sticky foods that can cause damage. So, what types of foods should you or your kids eat to protect dental appliances?

The best foods to eat with braces are those that are not high in sugar and do not require excessive chewing. For breakfast, try eggs, yogurt, bacon, wheat toast, or oatmeal. Lunch may steer toward a banana rather than an apple, a salad without nuts, and a glass of water. If you are looking for some after-school snacks for your kids, consider baked tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole, or try string cheese with fruit.

A healthy dinner can include most types of vegetables, so long as they are cooked to an appropriate softness. Pair that with a lean protein, such as fish or chicken, and follow up with dessert. Just be sure to brush afterward!

Post-Tightening Foods

As braces begin to adjust the alignment of the teeth, our team at Orthodontic Specialists will periodically tighten them to continue the alignment process. After tightening occurs, the teeth may be sore and sensitive to certain foods. During this time, it is best to eat soft foods. Examples include:

  • Pudding
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soup
  • Ice cream
  • Cottage cheese
  • Peas
  • Pancakes
  • Pasta

Foods to Avoid

Anyone who wears braces – whether fixed or removable – should avoid excessive snacking and should aim to eat a healthy and balanced diet. It is also important to avoid foods that could cause damage to the braces, such as:

  • Hard candies
  • Gum
  • Nuts
  • Popcorn
  • Certain raw vegetables (for example, carrots)

Considerations

Regardless of what types of foods you eat with braces, it is important to keep the crevices between the teeth and around the braces very clean. That means brushing and flossing after meals to prevent the build-up of plaque and decay. Not only can failing to do so damage the teeth, but it can also cause discoloration.

Have more questions about orthodontic treatment? The Orthodontic Specialists staff is always ready to answer all of your questions and help you get the most out of the treatment plan prescribed for you by Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright!

Happy Fourth of July

July 4th, 2014

Every year, Americans all over the world celebrate the birth of the country and its independence on the Fourth of July. There are countless ways that people celebrate and they range from community parades and large scale gatherings to concerts, fireworks displays, and smaller scale celebrations among family and friends. For some people, July 4th is synonymous with baseball, while for others it is all about the beach of barbecues. However you celebrate, you can be sure that red, white, and blue is visible everywhere throughout the area.

The Beginnings of Fourth of July Celebrations

Although it wasn't officially designated as a federal holiday until 1941, the actual tradition of celebrating Independence Day goes back to the time of the American Revolution (1775 – 1783). At the time of the American Revolution, representatives from the 13 colonies penned the resolution that ultimately declared their independence from Great Britain. The continental congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd of 1776. Two days later, Thomas Jefferson's famous document that is now known as the Declaration of Independence, was adopted by delegates representing the 13 colonies.

First States to Recognize the Fourth of July

In 1781, Massachusetts became the first state (or commonwealth) whose legislature resolved to designate July 4th as the date on which to celebrate the country's independence. Two years later, Boston became the first city to make an official designation to honor the country's birth with a holiday on July 4th. In that same year, North Carolina's governor, Alexander Martin, became the first governor to issue an official state order stipulating that July 4th was the day on which North Carolinians would celebrate the country's independence.

Fun Facts About the Fourth of July

  • The reason the stars on the original flag were arranged in a circle is because it was believed that would indicate that all of the colonies were equal.
  • Americans eat over 150 million hot dogs on July 4th.
  • Imports of fireworks each year totals over $211 million.
  • The first “official” Fourth of July party took place at the White House in 1801.
  • Benjamin Franklin didn't want the national bird to be the bald eagle. He believed that the turkey was better suited to the coveted distinction. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson disagreed with him, and he was outvoted, so the bald eagle became the official bird of the United States.

For many, the tradition is something entirely different. Along the coastal areas of the United States, people may haul out huge pots to have lobster or other types of seafood boils. Others may spend the day in the bleachers at a baseball game, or at a park, cooking a great traditional meal over an open fire. No matter how or where you celebrate, one thing is certain: all Americans celebrate July 4th as the birth and independence of our country.

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Orthodontics and Whole Body Health

June 27th, 2014

In recent years, many links have been established between orthodontic treatments and whole body health. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, researchers have observed that people with gum disease are more likely to develop heart disease or experience difficulty controlling blood sugar than people without gum disease. While researchers continue to find associations between oral health and the overall health of the body, as of yet it hasn’t been determined whether gum disease is the sole cause of these health conditions. What can be determined, however, is that good oral health isn't just about maintaining a healthy smile; it has an impact on the health of your entire body.

The associations between gum disease and whole body health

The links between the health of your mouth and the health of your body are too many to ignore. Is it a coincidence that gum disease and other health problems occur together? Researchers don’t think so, despite the lack of definitive proof.

Here are four possible connections between the health of your mouth and the health of your body.

  • Excessive oral inflammation has been linked to a greater incidence of clogged arteries.
  • The American Society of Microbiology has revealed that certain types of oral bacteria can infect the arterial cells and weaken the wall of the heart.
  • Loose teeth are often believed to be a warning sign for osteoporosis, a disease that causes the bones to become less dense.
  • Some studies suggest women with gum disease are more likely than those without gum disease to deliver preterm, low-weight babies.

Orthodontics and gum disease

So what does undergoing orthodontic treatment at Orthodontic Specialists have to do with gum disease? Braces do so much more than give you a nice-looking smile. Quite simply, straight teeth are easier to keep clean than crooked teeth. Your toothbrush is able to remove more plaque-causing bacteria, and your floss is more effective at ridding tiny particles between your teeth.

Despite the lack of hard facts in these findings, the message is clear: If you improve your oral health, you will also have a greater chance of maintaining the health of your entire body. And that’s a chance Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists believe is worth taking. For more information about this topic, please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office or ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright during your next visit!

What is orthognathic surgery?

June 20th, 2014

Orthognathic surgery is surgery to correct a wide variety of abnormalities of our patients' jaw and teeth. The surgery is often done in conjunction with orthodontic treatment. While the patient’s appearance may be significantly improved as a result, the primary purpose of the surgery is to correct functional problems including but not limited to:

  • Unbalanced facial appearance
  • Protruding jaw
  • Open bite (upper and lower teeth don’t overlap properly
  • Excessive wearing down of the teeth
  • Difficulty with chewing or biting
  • Chronic mouth breathing
  • Sleeping problems such as sleep apnea
  • TMJ pain (jaw joint pain)
  • Restoring facial injuries

Knowing when to start the orthodontic treatment in preparation for orthognathic surgery can also be tricky if our team at Orthodontic Specialists is treating a teenager. It is important to know when to get started. If orthodontic treatment is initiated too soon and the teenager is still growing, the patient will either need to hold in braces until his or her growth is complete and they are ready for surgery or the braces will have to be removed and then placed again when growth is complete. Neither of these options is attractive since it requires longer time in treatment, which is something all our patients want to avoid. Our team at Orthodontic Specialists strives to get all patients finished with treatment as quickly as possible because it is healthier for the teeth and gums and gives them a beautiful smile to enjoy for a lifetime.

If you are considering orthognathic surgery or you have been told that you need jaw surgery, give us a call to schedule your initial consultation today. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists will explain our treatment plan in a way you will understand and we will keep you informed every step of the way.

What’s the advantage of Invisalign®?

June 13th, 2014

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team know it is natural for you to feel some concern when you need to wear any type of dental device to correct a problem with your teeth. Both braces and Invisalign can produce good results in giving you the smile you’ve always wanted. Both methods can straighten your teeth and alleviate such issues as crowding, spacing, cross bite, overbite, and underbite. Both methods of treatment have a similar cost.

You can take a cross-country road trip in a ten-year-old economy car or you can make the trip in a brand-new luxury sedan. Both will get you to your destination, but you will be far more comfortable traveling in the luxury sedan. Similarly, your journey to a great smile is much more comfortable and convenient with Invisalign as opposed to braces.

Comfort

Some of the discomfort you may experience with braces is greatly reduced with Invisalign. Because Invisalign is custom-fit to your mouth and made of plastic, you will feel less pain, irritation, and soreness. Unlike braces, there are no food restrictions; you can eat anything that is on your diet.

Brushing and flossing

Of course you will want to brush and floss your teeth to prevent plaque buildup, tooth discoloration, and dental decay. If you wear braces, these simple tasks can become quite a challenge. Invisalign aligners are very easy to remove and replace, so you can brush or floss like normal without having to work your way around any metallic framework covering your teeth.

Appearance

You do not have to be embarrassed to show your teeth when you are using the Invisalign system. Since the aligners are practically invisible, no one will even notice you are wearing them! Whether you are a teenager or an older adult, you can live your life normally.

If you want to learn more about Invisalign, or are wondering what your treatment options are at Orthodontic Specialists, feel free to give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

What if I miss an appointment over the summer?

June 6th, 2014

If you are planning on taking a vacation this summer, we ask that you let us know ahead of time so that we may schedule your summer appointments more efficiently. We also encourage patients and their parents to be proactive in determining when they make their summer appointments.

If you will be gone for an extended period (more than six weeks), we recommend you visit Orthodontic Specialists prior to leaving and schedule another visit shortly after your return. Lastly, please remember not to indulge in hard, sticky, and chewy treats while enjoying your vacation. We look forward to seeing you soon and hearing about your adventures!

Adults and Braces: Not just for kids anymore

May 30th, 2014

Just hearing the word “braces” can take many of us back to junior high — that painful era when we wore unattractive glasses, endured unflattering haircuts, and carried a mouthful of braces to complete the awkward adolescent look. Despite the common assumption that braces are for kids, more and more adults are choosing to pursue orthodontics to correct their smiles.

Braces for Adults

Perhaps you never had braces as a kid and you are embarrassed by your crooked teeth. Or you went through a round of braces a decade ago and stopped wearing your retainer, which allowed your teeth to shift. Whatever your personal history, wearing braces in adulthood is an excellent way to create the straight, beautiful smile you deserve.

What are my options?

With recent advances in orthodontic medicine, there are numerous options for adults who need braces. The basic option is traditional metal braces. These are best for individuals who have severely crooked teeth or a significant bite problem, or require other major orthodontic changes. Metal braces are typically the least expensive option. The greatest drawback to wearing metal braces as an adult is aesthetics. Many people find them unattractive and distracting.

If you are a professional who is worried about your personal appearance, clear ceramic braces may be a better choice. Clear braces are capable of handling very crooked teeth or bite issues, but they cost more than metal braces. You also have to be careful about smoking or drinking red wine, soda, and other dark beverages while wearing clear braces. These items may stain the adhesive that binds the brackets to your teeth.

Another popular option for adults who need braces is a clear aligner treatment, such as Invisalign®. This system works in a different way from traditional braces by applying a series of clear, retainer-like aligners. The series is custom made for your teeth, which makes this option more expensive than either metal or ceramic braces. In general, the Invisalign process takes anywhere from three to 18 months to complete. You should be aware that Invisalign is not as effective as traditional braces in treating bite problems, teeth that are lower or higher than others, or severely overcrowded teeth.

Although you may be nervous about the prospect of getting braces as an adult, you should not let your fears stop you from talking with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright. A consultation at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office will address your concerns and provide information about the best course of treatment for you. No matter what your personal situation, adult braces can be a great way to boost your confidence and create the smile you’ve always dreamed of.

Memorial Day

May 23rd, 2014

Memorial Day is not only a federal holiday in the United States, but it is a day of observance and remembrance of those who died in service. Originally known as Decoration Day, this solemn day has been marked on calendars since the end of the American Civil War as a day to commemorate both the Confederate and Union soldiers who fought and died in the war.

Marking the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers, wreaths, or other tokens has been practiced throughout history, but it wasn't until the mark of the end of the Civil War that a special day was decided upon as the one to spend in remembrance. By 1890, every state in the country was observing Decoration Day. It wasn't until 1967 when the name formally changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day, in order to encompass all fallen American soldiers in all wars and conflicts. In June of 1968, Congress moved the official date of Memorial Day to the last Monday in May in order to create a three day weekend.

Today, while there is certainly an air of remembrance on Memorial Day, it has become more a day of spending time with family, friends, and other loved ones. This day is also heralded as the start of summer, with many schools finishing for the year around this time. Our team at Orthodontic Specialists remembers it as a day to take solace and remembered those lost.

Traditional observances of Memorial Day are still held, and they often involve raising the American Flag then lowering it to a half-staff position until noon, and then raising it once again to its full height afterwards. The flag is lowered to remember those who've lost their lives while in service to their country, and then it is raised to signify our willingness to not let their sacrifice be in vain.

From community parades in the Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN area, backyard cook-outs, and fireworks to formal ceremonies, Memorial Day is commemorated in many different ways. No matter how you choose to spend this day, take a moment to remember those who've lost their lives in an effort to preserve our freedom.

Mother’s Day Mix It Up Recipes 2014

May 20th, 2014

Thank you to everyone who submitted recipes for our Mother's Day Mix It Up Promotion! We received a ton of fantastic recipes, and wanted to share them with you:

Appetizers

Brushetta by Jane W.

Ingredients:

  • 2 baked mini French loaves – bread
  • Natures sweet tomatoes
  • Garlic cloves
  • Basil
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese

Soups/Stews

Kidney Bean Stew by Ruth H.

Ingredients:

  • Polish sausage
  • 2 cans (12oz) stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can (12oz) kidney beans (leave juice and add to recipe)
  • 1 med. Onion, chopped
  • 2 lg. cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. oregano

Fry sausage and drain grease. Add all ingredients to Crock Pot. Cook on low 8 hours (or) high 4 hours. Serve with favorite bread.

French Onion Soup by Dana T.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups thin sliced yellow onion (2 large)
  • 1 Tbsp. All purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Place onions, flour, rosemary, pepper and salt in Ziploc bag. Shake to coat.

In large saucepan, melt 2 Tbsp. butter over med-low heat. Stir in onion mixture. Cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover, increase heat to med-high. Cook and stir 3 minutes more until onions are golden brown.

Stir in beef broth and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Simmer covered 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve soup in bowls. Sprinkle with cheese of choice.

Main Dishes

Crock Pot Mac & Cheese by Erin G.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups macaroni
  • ½ stick butter
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 can cheddar cheese soup (condensed)
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ tsp. dry mustard
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 2 ½ cups (10 oz) pk sharp cheddar cheese

Boil macaroni per box instructions. Add all ingredients to crock pot.

Cook until hot & backed around edges. (Stir occasionally)

Kids LOVE this recipe!! Great dish to bring to a party!

Chicken & Rice recipe by Jennifer G.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • 1 pk. Chili seasoning
  • 1 can sliced mushrooms
  • 2 cans kidney beans
  • 1 cup cooking wine
  • 2 cups rice

Brown chicken. Add all ingredients except rice. Cook rice separately and add at end. Simmer on low for 30 minutes.

BBQ Pepsi Chicken by Kathy S.

Ingredients:

  • 8-12 pieces of chicken (your favorite cuts – can be bone-in or boneless)
  • 1 bottle BBQ sauce
  • 1 Vidalia onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 1 bottle (2 liter) of Pepsi (**DO NOT USE DIET!!)

Place chicken in crock pot. Cover chicken with BBQ sauce. Place onion and green pepper over chicken. Pour Pepsi into crock pot until all pieces of chicken are covered by the Pepsi. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.

Crock Pot Chicken & Dumplings by Jo W.

Ingredients:

  • 4 breasts Boneless chicken
  • Chicken broth
  • Cream of celery soup
  • Cream of chicken soup
  • 2 cans of biscuits (not flakey)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Veggies optional

Mix both cans of soup. Place 4 chicken breasts in crock pot. Pour soup mixture over chicken. Pour enough chicken broth to cover chicken. Let cook on low 6-8 hours or high 4-6 hours.

Take biscuits out and cut each one into 4 pieces. Toss biscuits in flour about ½ hour before ready to eat. Put biscuits on top, dunking just enough to get wet. Cover and cook for 30-45 minutes.

Chicken Dorito Casserole by Sue S.

Preheat oven to 350°

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups shredded chicken
  • 2 cups Mexican cheese
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 can Ro-tel tomatoes, drained
  • ½ packet taco seasoning
  • 1 large bag of Doritos

In a large bowl, mix chicken, cheese, soup, milk, sour cream, Ro-tel tomatoes and taco seasoning. Mix well. Grease casserole pan and place a layer of crushed Doritos, then a layer of mixture and keeping layering. Top with remaining cheese & Doritos. Cover and place in oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and add lettuce and tomato.

Chicken Bake by Pennie H.

Preheat oven to 375°

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 4 tsp. taco seasoning mix
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. sour cream (optional)

Place chicken breasts in 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle taco seasoning on both sides of chicken breasts and pour salsa over all. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until chicken is tender and juicy and its juices run clear. Sprinkle chicken evenly with cheese and continue baking for an additional 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with sour cream, if desired, and serve.

Desserts

Blueberry Pie w/ crumb topping by Stacy L.

Preheat oven to 400°

Ingredients:

  • 1 pie shell
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 ½ tsp. lemon juice

Crumb Topping:

  • ¾ cup flour
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
  • ¾ stick butter

Combine blueberries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, and salt and pour into pie shell. Combine flour, brown sugar, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Cut butter into small pieces and mix into other ingredients. Pour over pie shell. Reduce heat to 350° and bake for 1 ½ hours.

Quick Banana Dessert by Para V.

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2-3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 200 ml Greek yogurt

Peel bananas. Melt butter in non-stick pan; add bananas, brown sugar and cinnamon and sauté for a few minutes until caramelized. Mix with yogurt and serve hot. ENJOY!

Chocolate Covered Bananas by Para V.

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 6 popsicle sticks or wooden skewers
  • 2 bananas, peeled, cut crosswise into thirds
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped salted peanuts

Put chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until melted.

Line baking sheet with waxed paper. Insert stick into one end of banana. Dip banana in chocolate, spooning on additional chocolate to cover.

Sprinkle each banana with peanuts. Set on baking sheet. Refrigerate until chocolate is firm- about 20 minutes. ENJOY!

Honey Bun Cake by Leah L.

Preheat oven to 300°

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Topping:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Mix first four ingredients for 2 minutes. Pour into greased 9x13 pan.

Combine brown sugar and cinnamon and swirl into batter.

Bake for 50-60 minutes.

Make glaze and pour over cooled coffee cake. ENJOY!

Scottish Shortbread by Jeanie S.

Preheat oven to 325°

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. butter (no substitutes)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4-4 ½ cups all purpose flour

Using mixer, cream butter and sugar in large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add 3 ¾ cups flour; mix well. Sprinkle a board with some flour. Knead for 5 minutes, adding enough flour to make a soft, non-sticky dough. Roll to ½ inch thickness. Cut into 3 in. x 1 in. strips. Place on baking sheet; prick each with a fork. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Makes 4 dozen.

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies by Brenda Y.

Preheat oven to 375°

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup raisins

Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, applesauce and vanilla in mixer. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Add oatmeal and raisins and mix on low until just incorporated. Drop by Tbsp. on greased sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes or until just set and beginning to brown on edges.

Meringue Cookies (Gluten free) by Staci R.

Preheat oven to 300°

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg whites
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. cream of tartar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla (clear)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 12 oz. package mini chocolate chips

Beat egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir in chips. Drop by teaspoonful onto parchment paper covered cookie sheets. Bake approx. 25 minutes.

Gummy’s White Sugar Cookies by Jenny F.

Preheat oven to 400°

Ingredients:

  • 3 ½ cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. sweet cream
  • 1 ½ cups sugar

Mix first 5 ingredients like pastry. Beat 3 eggs. Add 1 tsp. vanilla. Add 2 tsp. sweet cream. Add 1 ½ cups sugar. Add this to flour mixture and chill well. When dough is stiff, roll out and cut into circles. Keep dough cool. Sprinkle sugar on top of cookies and bake 8-10 minutes.

Peanut Butter M&M cookies by Sandra R.

Preheat oven to 350°

Ingredients:

  • Peanut Butter
  • ½ stick melted butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ½ bag mini chocolate chips
  • 3 tsp. brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • 1 bag M&M’s

Mix all ingredients in one big bowl until smooth except M&M’s.  After spooning on baking sheet bake approx. 20 minutes. Let cool and add the M&M’s on top. ENJOY!

Best Ever Ginger Snaps by Dawn O.

Preheat oven to 350°

Ingredients:

  • cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • ¼ tsp. clove & nutmeg
  • ½ cup brown sugar & confectioner’s sugar

Mix oil and granulated sugar on low for 30 seconds. Add egg and mix well. Stir in molasses. In separate bowl, sift next 7 ingredients. Add to mixture. Chill batter for 15 minutes. In small bowl, combine brown and confectioner’s sugars. Form batter into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar coating. Place 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheet and bake 10-15 minutes. Makes 4 dozen. ENJOY!

Oreo Cookie Ball by Michele P.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Oreo cookies
  • 1 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1- 24 oz. package white chocolate bark

Using a food processor or chopper, chop cookies into coffee ground consistency. Mix ground up Oreo’s and cream cheese together with mixer. Roll into 1 inch balls. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Melt white chocolate bark. Dip Oreo balls into melted bark and place on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Place in refrigerator to harden.

Turtle Brownies by Suzie B.

Preheat oven to 350°

Ingredients:

  • 14 oz. pkg. wrapped caramels
  • 12 oz. can evaporated milk
  • 18.25 oz. pkg. chocolate cake mix
  • 6 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ lb. whole pecans

Grease a 9x13 pan and set aside.

Place unwrapped caramels in a saucepan with 2 Tbsp. evaporated milk. Melt over med. – high heat. Stir consistently.

In a large bowl, combine remaining evaporated milk, dry cake mix, and melted butter. Stir until well blended. Stir ½ mixture in prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips and melted caramels over top. Drop remaining cake mixture by spoonful over. Bake 20 minutes. Garnish with pecans.

Apple Cake by Arlene R.

Preheat oven to 350°

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 4 cups chopped apples
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt

Icing:

  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • ½ stick butter or margarine
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Grease 13x9 pan.

Mix sugar, eggs and oil together and pour over apples. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt together, and then add to apple mixture. Bake 45 minutes.

Mix cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla together for icing. Spread on cake while it is still warm.

1 cup of chopped walnuts and/or 1 cup of raisins may be added to cake mixture.

Chocolate Cake Roll by Sue K.

Preheat oven to 300°

Ingredients:

  • 1- 18.25 oz. package chocolate cake mix
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • ½ cup oil
  • 6 eggs

Filling Ingredients:

  • 1- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Mix cake ingredients and pour a ¼ inch layer onto a jelly roll pan lined with wax paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes or just underdone. Remove and let cool slightly.

Invert cake onto a dish towel heavily dusted with powdered sugar. Remove wax paper. While cake is warm, roll short end of cake and towel together. Cool for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix filling ingredients until smooth. Unroll cake gently. Spread filling on top and gently roll back up without towel. Chill cake. Sprinkle cake with powdered sugar before serving.

Pumpkin Cheese Swirl Pie by Sue K.

Preheat oven to 350°

Ingredients:

  • 1- 30 oz. can pumpkin pie mix
  • cup evaporated milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup light corn syrup, divided
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 1- 9 inch frozen deep dish pie shell

In a bowl, combine the first three ingredients with ¼ cup of corn syrup. Mix until smooth.

In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese with vanilla and remaining corn syrup until light and fluffy. Set aside.

Pour pumpkin mix into pie shell. Drop spoonfuls of cream cheese mixture onto pumpkin filling. Swirl mixture with a knife. Drizzle chocolate on top of swirls.

Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cool completely.

Choco-Zucchini Cupcakes by Allison B.

Preheat oven o 325°

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (about 8 oz.)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¾ cup milk chocolate pieces (optional)
  • 1 recipe Peanut Butter Frosting

Line twenty-four 2 ½ in. muffin cups with double or single layer paper bake cups or lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together zucchini, eggs, granulated sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, baking powder and, if desired, chocolate pieces; stir until combined. Spoon batter into prepared pans, filling cups about half full. Bake about 25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into near the centers comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove from cups. Cool completely on racks. Frost with Peanut Butter Frosting. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Creamy Peanut Butter Frosting by Betty Crocker

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • cup peanut butter
  • 1 ½ tsp. vanilla, if desired
  • ¼ to cup milk

Mix powdered sugar and peanut butter in medium bowl with spoon or electric mixer on low speed. Stir in vanilla and ¼ cup milk. Beat until smooth and spreadable. If necessary, stir in additional milk, ½ tsp. at a time.

Fluoride and Your Orthodontic Treatment

May 16th, 2014

Our team at Orthodontic Specialists knows that there are many ways you can protect your pearly whites throughout your orthodontic treatment. If you follow the rules and brush your teeth twice a day, floss often, and protect your appliances from damage, you should have a successful treatment.

But did you know there’s another way to keep your teeth sparkling and healthy during your time wearing braces?

Fluoride, the mineral that helps you prevent cavities and tooth decay, can also help keep your teeth strong. Fluoride comes in two varieties: topical and systemic. Depending on your oral health or the recommendation of Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, you may be required to have a fluoride treatment every three, six, or 12 months. We may also prescribe a fluoride product such as a mouthwash, gel, or antibacterial rinse for at-home treatment to keep your teeth happy in between visits.

If you have any other questions about fluoride or your treatment, please don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Wishing all our moms a happy Mother’s Day!

May 9th, 2014

"Motherhood: All love begins and ends there." - Robert Browning

We would like to take this moment to thank all the great moms out there for being so great during their child’s visits to Orthodontic Specialists. Whether it’s driving their kids to regularly scheduled appointments or for “being there” while their child is treatment, the moms who come to our office are all stellar individuals, so Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our entire staff would like you to know that we appreciate you all!

Happy Mother’s Day and enjoy your special day!

Summer is Almost Here: Tips for a bright, white smile!

May 2nd, 2014

Summer is almost here, which means a season full of vacations, adventures and great memories is just around the corner for our patients at Orthodontic Specialists.

Everyone wants a glowing and radiant white smile when the sun comes around and we have a few reminders to keep your pearly whites healthy and beautiful over the summer! Try to stay away from drinks that will stain your teeth like coffee, soft drinks, or dark colored juices. Not only will drinks like this weaken your enamel but they will also darken that fabulous smile you're working on! Another tip is to try and focus on brushing your teeth; everyone knows that when busy schedules start picking up, getting a good brushing session in tends to take the backseat! A good tip for keeping your mouth safe from staining and other possible pitfalls is to rinse your mouth with water after any meal you can’t fully brush your teeth after. Your teeth, inside and out, will benefit!

And remember, whether you are headed to a barbecue, a camping trip, or just having fun in the backyard this summer, we want to hear all about it! Make sure to let us know what you’re up to below or on our Facebook page! We also encourage you to post any photos from your adventures!

Why is flossing so important when I have braces?

April 25th, 2014

You've made an investment on spending money on getting braces, so why not keep your teeth in good health while undergoing orthodontic treatment?  Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists will tell you it is just as important to develop a regular hygiene routine while you're wearing braces as you did before proceeding with treatment.

Flossing is essential to the health of your teeth and gums when you're wearing braces. Because braces may hold food, sugars and liquids upon eating, it is very important to keep on top of your brushing and flossing, as well as visiting our office for regular adjustments.

While we know it's tough enough to get kids to floss daily without braces, that battle becomes even tougher when braces are involved. Remember that by not flossing, you will become more prone to cavities and gum disease during your treatment.

When flossing, remember to gently massage your gums in between the teeth. You will find that flossing with braces takes extra time, as you will have to weave the floss through each bracket. When flossing, there should be no signs of blood. If you see blood, you are not flossing enough or properly.

Using an electric toothbrush is also a good idea to massage your gums before or after flossing as electric toothbrushes can help remove any harmful bacteria that are lingering in your mouth. And don't forget to add a mouthwash to your routine to break up any bacteria that has formed. A good mouthwash will help keep your teeth and gums in good shape during your treatment.

If you have any questions about flossing or your orthodontic treatment at Orthodontic Specialists please don't hesitate to give us a call or during your next adjustment appointment!

Every Day is Earth Day

April 18th, 2014

During the early days of the environmental awareness movement, those who demonstrated against pollution, toxic chemicals, and the general public health were known as hippies. The early 1970s were a time of change, and assertions that we needed to pay more attention to the Earth's atmosphere were generally dismissed. But within a couple decades, it had become clear that the previous generation was right; the citizens of the world needed to become more environmentally conscious.

Many people feel that they can't make a difference if they don't do something big. But caring for the environment doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing concept. In fact, the little things you do can add up to make a great impact, especially in our community. Here are a few ways you can help the environment on Earth Day, April 22nd and all year around.

Four Small Ways to be Environmentally Friendly

  • Recycle Your Textiles. Nearly 21 million tons of textiles are added to American landfills each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Donating your unwanted clothing to a secondhand store or an organization that repurposes fabric helps cut down on solid waste and conserves natural resources.
  • Reduce Usage of Disposables. Plastic bottles and bags, disposable diapers and other things we can use and toss out are convenient, but they're not necessary. Simply choosing to replace one of type of disposable with a reusable product can help you cut down on waste that has a large negative impact on our environment.
  • Conserve Water. If everyone in the United States turned off the water while brushing their teeth, more than 1.5 million gallons of water could be conserved. Turn the water on long enough to wet your toothbrush for brushing and rinsing, and then immediately turn the water off again.
  • Turn Off the Lights. Flip the light switch to "Off" if you're going to leave a particular room for 15 minutes or more. This will conserve energy on incandescent light bulbs and cut down on cooling costs.

It's not necessary to be an activist or install solar panels all over your home to help the environment. Although you can do these things, the little everyday measures make a big difference in helping to conserve energy and the environment, while reducing your carbon footprint. Our team at Orthodontic Specialists wants to remind you to celebrate Earth Day and help the environment, knowing that it will benefit your and your children's generation.

Smile with Invisalign Teen®!

April 11th, 2014

Invisalign Teen is designed with today’s youth in mind. These clear, removable orthodontic aligners can straighten your teeth without the need for metal wires and brackets. Unlike traditional braces, Invisalign Teen aligners are comfortable, nearly invisible, and removable, which allows you to remove them as you eat your favorite foods and brush and floss your teeth. Invisalign Teen motivates teenagers to enjoy life without restrictions while promoting better overall dental care.

Key features of Invisalign Teen

Teenagers are constantly on the move and require special options when it comes to their braces. Invisalign Teen utilizes the same technology as Invisalign for adults; they consist of a series of clear plastic aligners that gradually move the teeth. Extra features designed especially for teens include:

  • Blue wear-indicators on the aligners that gradually fade from blue to clear to help you, and our team, gauge wear time
  • Aligners designed to compensate for the growth of molars and new teeth
  • Customization to fit your mouth correctly and comfortably
  • Removable and nearly transparent to ensure you can eat with freedom and smile with confidence
  • Six free individual replacement aligners in the event that your aligners become misplaced or lost

Conditions improved by Invisalign Teen

Between 70 and 80 percent of adolescents in the United States require braces, according to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO). Invisalign Teen uses advanced technology to treat a broad range of orthodontic conditions. These include overbite, underbite, crossbite, widely-spaced teeth, and overly crowded teeth. Injuries and tooth and jaw problems may also require the use of braces to correct jaw and teeth alignment problems.

How does Invisalign Teen work?

Like any orthodontic treatment, Invisalign Teen requires a customized treatment plan created by Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright. Generally, each set of aligners is worn for approximately two weeks and removed when you brush, floss, eat, and drink. Your teeth will gradually move with the series of aligners, which typically ranges from 18 to 30 aligners in total. You’ll visit our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office every eight to ten weeks to check your progress and make any needed adjustments.

Invisalign Teen introduces a whole new way to make your smile straight without the unappealing look and hassle of traditional metal braces. This revolutionary method of correcting smiles is being used by teens everywhere, including right here at Orthodontic Specialists, to straighten their teeth with confidence.

Play it Safe this Spring

April 4th, 2014

It's springtime and it's again time to remind our patients at Orthodontic Specialists to protect their faces and pearly whites while out on the field playing sports. According to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, children, high-school athletes and adults have more than 5,000,000 teeth knocked out in sporting events annually.

If you are planning on participating in spring sports, it’s imperative to have a proper-fitting mouthguard. Mouthguards can prevent chipped or broken teeth, lip and cheek injuries, jaw fractures, mouth lacerations and even concussions.

Having a mouthguard can make the difference between losing your teeth or not, and because many of our patients who play high school sports have jaws that are still growing, last year’s mouthguard may no longer fit as it should. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists can fit you for a new guard.

To learn more about mouthguards or for general questions about your treatment at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office, please give us a call!

Braces-Friendly Recipe: Lunch

March 28th, 2014

Getting braces comes with a lot of rules. No sticky candies, watch out for popcorn, and steer clear of chips. These rules leave many braces-wearers wondering what they can still eat without hurting their teeth or their expensive orthodontic appliances. Fortunately, constructing a braces-friendly lunch is straightforward once you know which foods to avoid.

Foods to Avoid When Wearing Braces

There are a few food categories to avoid when you have braces. Sticky foods also stick to the metal in your braces, and can potentially break wires or individual braces. For example: bubblegum, candy bars, caramel, licorice, fruit roll-ups, and Starbursts should be avoided. Many of these foods also contain high levels of sugar, which can cause plaque build-up if not brushed away properly.

Also, be wary of hard foods that can harm your orthodontic appliances. Avoid eating hard taco shells, chips, Rice Crispy treats, hard candy, beef jerky, and popcorn. Some healthy foods, such as carrots, apples, corn on the cob, and nuts, are hard on braces. To eat these foods safely, cut them into smaller pieces before eating.

Remember that certain habits may be harmful to your braces. For example, crunching on ice cubes may be a reflexive response when you’re enjoying a cold beverage, but this can significantly harm your braces and extend treatment time. To stay on the safe side, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists recommend you drink beverages without ice or add crushed ice whenever possible.

Lunch Recipe

Even with braces, it’s easy to enjoy a healthy, nutritious lunch. For example, make a panini on whole wheat bread with slices of turkey deli meat, a piece of Swiss cheese, and tomato slices. Spread 1 tbsp. of mustard or mayonnaise on the bread before toasting the sandwich in a panini grill. Serve the panini with ½ c. low-fat cottage cheese and a sliced pear or apple for a balanced meal. Then grab a pudding cup or some JELLO for dessert. Wash it all down with water containing a lemon wedge or all-natural fruit juice. Make sure to brush your teeth or rinse with mouthwash after lunch to wash away sugars and food residue that can get trapped in braces and cause decay.

If you have any questions about what you can and can’t eat with braces during your treatment at Orthodontic Specialists, be sure to ask our team during your next appointment at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

Sports and Energy Drink Consumption Damages Tooth Enamel

March 21st, 2014

While they may sound refreshing, especially after participating in sports activities or after a jog, recent studies suggest that energy and sports drinks can damage tooth enamel, thus elevating your cavity risk. These drinks are especially popular among our younger patients.

In the study, researchers analyzed the fluoride content and pH levels of 13 sports and nine energy drinks by soaking tooth enamel samples in the aforementioned drinks. The samples were soaked for 15 minutes in each drink, and then were soaked for two hours in artificial saliva four times a day for five days.

As much as sports drinks are harmful to your teeth, researchers found that exposure to energy drinks such as Rockstar, Monster®, and Red Bull® resulted in twice as much enamel loss as exposure to sports drinks such as Powerade®, Gatorade®, and Propel® (3.1 percent to 1.5 percent).

Yes, there are health benefits to consuming orange juice, fruit juices, sports drinks, and flavored waters, which can contain valuable ingredients such as vitamin C and other antioxidants; these drinks can also replenish nutrients lost during a sporting event and lower the chance of heart disease and cancer. But, if not consumed carefully, these beverages can harm your teeth. They are full of sugar, which converts to acid and wears away at your teeth, causing cavities, sensitivity, and eventually tooth loss.

Even one drink a day is potentially harmful, but if you are absolutely unable to give up that sports or energy drink habit, we encourage you to minimize their use and rinse with water afterward or chew a sugar-free piece of gum. Do not brush immediately after drinking them; softened enamel due to acid is easier to damage, even when brushing. Remember, it takes your mouth approximately 30 minutes to bring its pH level back to normal. The best thing to do is to wait an hour, then brush to remove sugar that lingers on your teeth and gums.

There are many sports drinks, energy drinks, and flavored waters out there today. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team recommend you take the time to read the labels. Check for sugar content and citric acid in the ingredients. If you have any questions, or would like suggestions on the best sports drink options, please give us a call at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office or ask us during your next visit!

St. Patrick's Day

March 14th, 2014

On March 17, everyone has a little Irish in them. St. Patrick’s Day is a joyous celebration of Irish heritage. The holiday originated as a commemoration of Saint Patrick, who brought Christianity to Ireland. The saint arrived in Ireland in 432 and earned the reputation of a champion of Irish Christianity. March 17th, the day of St. Patrick’s death, has been commemorated by the Irish for over 1,000 years. St. Patrick’s Day is still observed as a religious feast day by several Christian denominations, but it is better known in the public imagination as a rich celebration of Irish culture.

St. Patrick’s Day has been an official public holiday in Ireland since 1903. Each year, the Irish celebrate with a several-day festival that includes theater performances, music, fireworks, and festive parades. The celebration is also a public holiday in Northern Ireland, Montserrat, and Newfoundland and Labrador. In other parts of the world with heavy Irish populations, it is an unofficial celebration of Irish heritage. Parts of Great Britain, Canada, Argentina, South Korea, Switzerland, New Zealand, the United States, and Australia commemorate the holiday each year. Typical celebrations in these countries include drinking green beer, wearing green, eating traditional Irish foods, parades, and shamrock decorations.

Many people, Irish and non-Irish alike, take part in the “wearing of the green” on St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, the color originally associated with Saint Patrick was blue. His use of shamrocks to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish made the green clover emblematic of the holiday, leading to the traditional green attire worn by thousands on St. Patrick’s Day. Other little-known facts about St. Patrick’s Day include the following:

  • Each year, the United States and Ireland face off in a rugby competition called the “St. Patrick’s Day Test.”
  • Montreal celebrates the holiday with an annual parade, which has been held each year since 1824. The Montreal city flag even features a shamrock in its corner, as a nod to its Irish heritage.
  • The Guinness World Records named St. Patrick’s Day the “Friendliest Day of the Year.”
  • Along with Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most widely celebrated saint’s day in the world.

No matter your cultural heritage, St. Patrick’s Day is a great time to let loose and celebrate your inner Irish-ness! Don your greenest attire and exclaim “Erin go Bragh!” (Ireland forever!) to everyone you meet. From Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright - have a great St. Paddy’s day!

What’s so great about self-ligating braces? Five things you need to know

March 7th, 2014

Parents of a certain age will no doubt remember the teen comedies of the 1980s. These movies typically included a character so wired up with orthodontic apparatus (elaborate metal braces, rubber bands, a mountain of headgear) that he or she looked like some sort of electrical machinery. In recent years, the technological advancements in braces have not only made this character a thing of the past, but if your child needs braces to fix crooked teeth, you no longer need to worry about him or her being called “brace face” with a “tin grin.”

Traditional braces use a system of archwires, brackets, and rubber bands to straighten and realign crooked teeth. Self-ligating braces that Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team at Orthodontic Specialists provide, by contrast, use specialized clips to hold the archwires in place instead of rubber bands. But what makes self-ligating braces so good?

  1. Self-ligating braces make it easier to keep your teeth clean because there are no rubber bands. Rubber bands collect food particles, and this can lead to an increase in plaque and decay. Have you ever tried to brush for two minutes with a mouth full of rubber bands? It’s tricky. Self-ligating braces improve oral health.
  2. Self-ligating braces are smaller and less noticeable than conventional braces. Most kids are self-conscious about how they look (flashback to those 1980s comedies), so braces that are subtle and less conspicuous are a huge draw.
  3. Self-ligating braces are more comfortable than traditional braces. Less pressure and friction are placed on the tooth. These types of braces also need fewer alterations and adjustments, so chances are you will save money by making fewer appointments with our office.
  4. Self-ligating braces move crooked teeth into place more quickly than conventional braces. In other words, you’re going to wear self-ligating braces for a shorter amount of time than traditional braces.
  5. Orthodontic work can be expensive. Self-ligating braces, however, cost about the same amount of money as traditional braces.

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team are proud to offer self-ligating braces as an alternative to traditional metal braces. Ask our team if they are right for you by giving us a call at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

Is adult orthodontic treatment for you?

February 28th, 2014

Adult patients who seek orthodontic treatment usually fall into one of two camps: those who did not undergo orthodontic treatment as a child or those who had braces at one point but stopped wearing retainers for one reason or another.

At Orthodontic Specialists, we are happy to offer a variety of treatment options to straighten our patients’ teeth. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team believe you’re never too old to straighten your teeth. And we have many adult patients who are currently undergoing treatment. In fact, did you know that roughly 30 percent of all orthodontic patients these days are adults?

Invisalign® is a great treatment option for adults. The Invisalign aligners are easy to wear and are not visible to most people. Plus, Invisalign's clear aligners are removable, so there are no restrictions on what you can eat during treatment. When considering Invisalign, we tell adults to determine if they can be diligent about wearing the aligners at all times and make them part of their lifestyle for the duration of treatment.

If you have been thinking about obtaining a beautiful smile, please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office for an initial consultation. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team welcome children, teens, and adults alike. Call us today for an appointment!

Why should I visit the dentist during my treatment?

February 21st, 2014

So, you just got your braces on, and you're wondering why you should continue visiting your general dentist since you’re seeing Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright every other month. Patients always ask us if they should continue to see their dentist while in orthodontic treatment. In short, the answer is yes.

Today, we thought we would share a few reasons why it’s crucial to keep up with your regular visits with your dentist in addition to coming in for your regular adjustments at Orthodontic Specialists.

One of the best reasons to visit your dentist while you undergo orthodontic treatment is to remove plaque and tartar. Having braces provides additional nooks and crannies in which food particles and bacteria can hide. Eventually, plaque and tartar can form around your brackets, bands or other appliances which can lead to cavities. Having your teeth professionally cleaned can help ensure most, if not all, plaque and tartar is removed. Even if you are undergoing clear aligner treatment, dental checkups and cleanings are equally as important.

The next reason to visit a dentist is to help protect your teeth from decalcification, or the loss of calcium in your teeth. A potentially serious condition in which white spots on your tooth surfaces, decalcification is irreversible and if left untreated, can lead to cavities. Decalcification is preventable; patients who cut down on sugary sweets and acidic foods, practice good oral hygiene, and visit their dentist regularly can help prevent decalcification.

The final reason we recommend visiting your dentist while you have braces is this: cavities can prolong your treatment. If you are interested in completing your orthodontic treatment on time and without any delays, visiting your dentist every six months or as recommended can go a long way toward making that a realistic goal. Your dentist can provide fluoride treatments or other treatments that strengthen your teeth and protect them from cavities.

Making sure to visit your dentist will help ensure your teeth look their best once your braces come off. If you do not have a general dentist and would like a recommendation on finding one in the Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN area, please give us a call or let us know at your next adjustment appointment!

Valentine's Day History

February 14th, 2014

Valentine’s Day is best known as a celebration of love in all its forms. Pink hearts, red roses, and cute greeting cards adorn every surface you see. What many people don’t realize is that the modern Valentine’s Day celebration arose from a religious holiday.

St. Valentine’s Day was originally celebrated as a religious feast day in honor of early Christian martyrs. Three martyrs named Valentine were honored: a priest in Rome, the persecuted bishop of Interamna (a town in central Italy), and a saint martyred in Africa. This saint’s day was celebrated throughout Christendom, although it was removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969.

The origin of Valentine’s Day as a holiday for lovers began with Geoffrey Chaucer in his 1382 poem “Parlement of Foules.” Chaucer wrote, “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate,” and the modern romantic holiday was born. William Shakespeare and other writers mentioned Valentine’s Day as a day of love.

Valentine’s Day as we know it came about in the early 19th century. In Victorian England, printers began manufacturing small numbers of cards with romantic verses, lace, ribbons, and other frills. Anonymous Valentine’s Day card were a popular way for young lovers to exchange romantic sentiments in an otherwise prudish time. As the 19th century progressed, printers began mass manufacturing Valentine’s Day cards. People in the United States give an estimated 190 million valentines every year, and up to one billion if you count children exchanging cards at school! With the rise of the Internet, Valentine’s Day e-cards have become a popular mode of communication, with millions of e-cards sent each year.

The other items associated with Valentine’s Day include chocolate and flowers. The tradition of giving chocolates has been around for decades, and Richard Cadbury created the first box of Valentine’s Day chocolates nearly 150 years ago. Today, purchases of chocolate total over $1 billion in the United States alone, with 35 million heart-shaped boxes sold each year. Loved ones also exchange flowers, with red roses being associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. On Valentine’s Day itself, florists sell nearly 200 stems of roses.

Although many people dismiss Valentine’s Day as a commercialized “Hallmark holiday,” it is beloved to couples and romantics across the United States and other countries. The team at Orthodontic Specialists wants to remind all patients that no matter what your celebratory plans, February 14th can be a wonderful day to celebrate the loved ones in your life. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Rubber Band Horoscopes: What your color says about you

February 7th, 2014

One exciting part about wearing braces from Orthodontic Specialists is getting to choose the colors of your rubber bands. Orthodontists place elastic bands, or ligatures, over each bracket to secure the archwire in place. These rubber bands may be individual or connected, depending on your mouth’s needs. From Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, you have the option of choosing the color of your elastics, which are changed about once every month at every visit. Our offices keep a color wheel handy to help you choose which ones suit you best!

Children and teens often enjoy picking different colors each month to express their creativity and coordinate their braces with outfits. Decorating your mouth with your favorite colors is fun for kids and takes some of the stress out of wearing braces. Adults who wish for subtlety have color options that blend in with the metal brackets and archwire. Common choices for adults include silver, clear, and gray tones.

Common Color Combinations for Rubber Bands

With individual ligatures for each bracket, you may choose different color combinations for special events. You can have alternating colors or place an entire rainbow over your teeth. Here are a few options to consider:

  • School spirit colors
  • Favorite sports team colors
  • Patriotic colors
  • Holiday themes

Some patients choose only one color to match their mood, personality, or favorite outfits. The palette of choices allows you to make bold statements with your braces or go for subtler tones that blend in with the metal structures. Keep in mind that bright colors make your teeth look whiter, while lighter shades, such as yellow and white, may cause your teeth to appear less bright.

What Your Rubber Band Color Says About You

  • Red tones indicate that you are ready for action and take charge of your life with aggressive, forward-thinking steps.
  • Blue tones are calm and relaxing. You are conservative and exhibit integrity when dealing with situations.
  • Green tones represent growth and balance. You are level-headed and look for opportunities to grow emotionally and spiritually.
  • Purple tones attract creative energies. You like to have fun and use your imagination in every aspect of your life.
  • Orange tones indicate that you are optimistic and thrive in social situations where communication is open.
  • Pink is a romantic color that represents a caring personality. You also enjoy having fun with silly games and endless laughter.

Indirect Bonding

January 31st, 2014

Many of our patients at Orthodontic Specialists ask us about indirect bonding, a method of applying brackets for braces to the teeth in such a manner that an entire set of braces can be applied, including expanders, in less than an hour. Until now, braces were placed on each individual tooth, one at a time. The procedure required meticulous, long, painstaking sessions for both patient and doctor, to ensure each bracket was in the correct position, especially in the back of the mouth.

Indirect bonding process

Indirect bonding is a technique in which molds of the teeth are made, and most of the work for the braces is done in the lab. It is a remarkable process that depends on our ability to make particularly accurate models of your teeth. Much detail goes into the accurate measurement and alignment of the model, since your mouth is naturally unique to you.

The brackets for the braces are placed on the models of the teeth, exactly in the right place, fitted into the trays made on the model, and sealed and cured.

Setting the braces

When you come to our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to have your braces fitted, the trays, made from your own teeth models, have been completed with the braces built into them. All that remains is a short sitting to fit the trays onto your teeth, align them, and separate the braces from the trays.

Your own teeth will have to undergo some preparatory work in order to accept the braces. This involves preparing the surface of the teeth for the adhesive for the braces, as well as preparing the surfaces of any crowns. You will also have a short period to wait while the adhesive cures, once the braces are in place.

All the other work that would traditionally have been done in the orthodontist’s chair has been done on the models, and by the time the orthodontist sees you for the second sitting, your braces are exactly aligned to your teeth, set in place, and the wires placed.

Adjustments to your braces

You will be seen approximately every six to 14 weeks. When needed, adjustments will be made to the wires that run through the braces. In this way, indirect bonded braces are very much like traditional braces. You’ll also need to follow a diet free of sticky, chewy, or crunchy foods, because they can damage your braces. If you have any questions about the potential for indirect bonding for your braces, please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office or ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright during your next visit!

Are you ready for orthodontic treatment?

January 24th, 2014

If you’ve been hiding your smile because you have crooked teeth or gaps between your teeth, it’s time to consider orthodontic treatment with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright. Preparing for treatment is an important part of getting the smile you want.

Basic exams

The first step of preparation is the examination. An oral exam and X-rays taken at our office are necessary to identify potential problems and ensure the right steps are taken to prepare for orthodontic treatment at Orthodontic Specialists.

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will first examine your teeth and take X-rays to determine if it is necessary to extract any teeth or additional work is necessary before braces are possible. You will be prepared for the next step of treatment after your exam is complete and potential problems are identified.

Model for bite

The next step in preparing for orthodontic is taking a plaster model of the mouth. With the model, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will be able to determine how the jaw is aligned so that appropriate adjustments can be made to the mouth and jaw with braces.

Depending on the situation, the model may be used to help evaluate your jaw and make decisions about appropriate treatment for your specific needs. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can create a model of your mouth with the bite indentation that is taken during preparation.

Extracting teeth

If it is determined that a tooth extraction is necessary, then the final step of preparing for orthodontic treatment is the removal of teeth. Only Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can determine if it is necessary to remove any teeth before moving forward with the procedure to put on braces.

When your teeth are crooked, have a gap, or otherwise make you unhappy, orthodontic treatment at Orthodontic Specialists may be an appropriate solution. Although it may take time to prepare for the actual procedure, making the decision to seek treatment can provide the opportunity to show the world a beautiful smile.

For more information about orthodontic treatment and its benefits, or to schedule a consultation with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office!

We proudly offer Invisalign Teen®!

January 17th, 2014

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team are excited to offer Invisalign Teen, a clear alternative to braces that’s just for teens! With Invisalign Teen, we are able to straighten your teen’s teeth without the hassle, discomfort, and embarrassment of traditional braces.

Invisalign Teen’s clear aligners are virtually invisible. What's more, they are removable, which means your child is free to eat anything they choose, as well as brush and floss with ease! And best of all, Invisalign Teen uses no wires or metal to straighten your teen's teeth.

Invisalign Teen aligners are made from a lightweight plastic material and fit precisely on the teeth. Invisalign Teen has become a popular treatment here at Orthodontic Specialists because it helps our younger patients achieve a straight, beautiful smile without their friends noticing.

Our team at Orthodontic Specialists is aware that most teens today have a busy lifestyle, and sometimes, they tend to lose things, including their retainers or aligners. But with Invisalign Teen, if your child happens to lose an aligner, let Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team know as soon as possible and we will have the aligner replaced.

For more information on Invisalign Teen, please give us a call at our convenient Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office today!

The Effects of Biting Your Nails

January 10th, 2014

Also known as onchophagia, the habit of nail biting is one of the so-called “nervous habits” that can be triggered by stress, excitement, or boredom. Approximately half of all kids between the ages of ten and 18 have been nail biters at one time or another. Experts say that about 30 percent of children and 15 percent of adults are nail biters, however most people stop chewing their nails by the time they turn 30.

Here are four dental and general reasons to stop biting your nails:

1. It’s unsanitary: Your nails harbor bacteria and germs, and are almost twice as dirty as fingers. What’s more, swallowing dirty nails can lead to stomach problems.

2. It wears down your teeth: Gnawing your nails can put added stress on your pearly whites, which can lead to crooked teeth.

3. It can delay your orthodontic treatment: For those of our patients wearing braces, nail biting puts additional pressure on teeth and weakens roots.

4. It can cost you, literally: It has been estimated that up to $4,000 in extra dental bills can build up over a lifetime.

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team recommend the following to kick your nail biting habit:

  • Keep your nails trimmed short; you’ll have less of a nail to bite.
  • Coat your nails with a bitter-tasting nail polish.
  • Ask us about obtaining a mouthguard, which can help prevent nail biting.
  • Put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it whenever you get the urge to gnaw on your nails.
  • Think about when and why you chew your nails. Whether you are nervous or just bored, understanding the triggers can help you find a solution and stop the habit.
  • If you can’t stop, behavioral therapy may be an effective option to stop nail biting. Ask Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team for a recommendation.

What is expected of me during my orthodontic treatment?

January 3rd, 2014

We hear this question a lot at Orthodontic Specialists, and we don’t mind when patients who are eager to complete their orthodontic treatment ask us. After all, we know there is no better feeling than getting your braces off!

During your initial consultation with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, we will map out a specific treatment for you and will try our hardest to give you a timeline of when we expect you to wrap up treatment.

Having said that, we know every patient is different. People have different biological responses to orthodontic treatment and some people’s teeth may move faster than others.

Luckily, there are things you can do to ensure your treatment wraps up in a timely manner. By following these suggestions, you can avoid any setbacks during your treatment.

  • Make sure to keep your adjustment appointments. Postponing or cancelling will delay treatment!
  • Be sure to show up on time to your appointments. This will give Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team time to do everything we planned during your adjustment visit.
  • When prescribed, make sure you are diligent about wearing rubber bands or other appliances.
  • Avoid damage to your braces and teeth by wearing a mouth guard during sports activities.
  • Make sure to brush and floss regularly! Gum disease or other dental work can delay orthodontic treatment.

If you remember to follow these guidelines, you’ll be on your way to having the dazzling, healthy smile you’ve always wanted. As for us, our team at Orthodontic Specialists will do our part to move your orthodontic treatment along efficiently. If you have any questions about your treatment time, please give us a call at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office or ask us during your next visit!

It's a Wrap: Ending the year with a smile!

December 30th, 2013

People have been ushering in the New Year for centuries but it became an official holiday in 1582 when Pope George XIII declared January 1st to be the day on which everyone would celebrate the New Year. At midnight people would yell, holler, and blow horns to scare away the evil spirits of the previous year so the New Year would be joyous and filled with opportunity. Nearly 500 years later, we still greet the New Year by whooping and hollering, but in a celebratory manner instead. Whether you intend to ring in the New Year quietly at home in the Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN area or have plans to join the countdown at a gala extravaganza, these tips can help you ring out the old and usher in the new with a smile.

Tips for a Happy New Year's Eve Celebration from Orthodontic Specialists

  • Be Safe. There's no way to predict the behavior of others on New Year's Eve, but you can be responsible for your own behavior to keep yourself safe. If adult beverages will be part of your celebration, plan on spending the night wherever you are or line up a designated driver to bring you home after the party is over.
  • Enjoy Family and Friends. Spending time with the important people in your life is what makes the holidays enjoyable. Coordinate your schedules and choose New Year's Eve activities that everyone in the group will enjoy. You don't have to go to a party to ring in the New Year; some people like to go bowling, see a movie, or have a great meal at home.
  • Accessorize with a Smile. Whether you dress up or have a quiet dinner with family and friends, one of the best accessories you can add to your attire is a beautiful smile.

New Year's Eve is a time to gather with friends and family, reflect on the year that's coming to an end, and look forward to the new one with anticipation. Enjoy this transitional holiday in a way that's safe, healthy, and fun. After all, counting down until the clock strikes 12 marks the beginning of a full year of opportunity ahead of you. From Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, have a great new year!.

Holiday Office Hours

December 23rd, 2013

Our schedule's a little different the next couple weeks to ensure our staff members get to spend some quality time with their families! Below you'll find a list of which offices are open when. Happy Holidays, from all of us here at Orthodontic Specialists, PC!

Monday 12/23: Munster and St. John offices will be open from 7am-2pm

Tuesday-Thursday 12/24-12/26 all offices will be closed for the Christmas holiday

Friday 12/27: Munster office open 7am-12pm (Schererville and St. John offices closed)

Monday 12/30: Munster office open 7am-7pm (Schererville and St. John business offices available 7am-3pm)

Tuesday 12/31: Munster and Schererville offices open 7am-12pm

Wednesday 1/1/2014: All offices closed for the New Year’s holiday

Thursday 1/2: Munster and St. John offices open 7am-5pm

How Braces Can Work at Any Age

December 20th, 2013

Are you an adult who is considering getting braces? Perhaps you’ve had them before, but over the years that dental work has been reversed. Or maybe you’ve never had any orthodontic work done, but are considering braces for the first time. In either case, Orthodontic Specialists can help you enjoy straighter teeth, an improved bite, and a more beautiful smile. If you are considering getting braces, here is what you need to know about adult orthodontic work from Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright.

Can braces work for adults?

Absolutely! Braces work for just about anyone. However, there are several different types of braces, and not all of them may work for you. Different types of orthodontic treatments include:

  • Ceramic braces
  • Metal braces
  • Self-ligating brackets
  • Lingual brackets (braces behind the teeth)
  • Invisible braces
  • Rubber bands for bite correction
  • Headgear and other appliances

By scheduling a consultation, we can determine which treatment or combination of treatments would be best for your specific needs.

How do I get started?

Getting braces can be a little bit daunting. At first glance, the process may appear expensive and time-consuming. However, if you take it step by step, getting braces can be a simple and relatively pain-free experience. Here are the first steps you need to take to get on the road to straight teeth:

First, you need information. If you are nervous about getting braces, or are having trouble getting started, learning more about the process can help ease your mind. Here are a few sample questions to ask:

  • What kind of braces do you recommend for my teeth?
  • How long will the treatment take?
  • How often will I need to come in for adjustments?
  • What is the total cost of the treatment? Do you accept insurance? Will you require the full amount up front, or do you have payment plans?

Asking these types of questions will help you understand what to expect during the entire process, which can aid your decision on the proper course of action.

The next step is to complete any prerequisite treatment. During your first meeting with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright, we’ll need to take some X-rays and molds of your teeth, and then help you determine an appropriate treatment plan. Recommendations may include some preliminary dental work before you get your braces, which can be an important step in making sure your orthodontic treatments are effective.

Once you have completed these steps, you are ready to get started! After you’ve chosen a treatment plan and undergone any necessary prerequisite dental work, you’ll be able to get your braces. Just like that, you’re on your way to a better smile! If you’d like to get started right away, call our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN location today!

Give a Smile Success

December 19th, 2013

Christmas is almost here, and we’re excited to share the news that our Give a Smile program was a huge success!

For the last few weeks, we’ve been collecting gifts for our local Salvation Army program. Each thoughtful gift will be matched with a $10 gift card from Drs. Koufos and Albright and staff at Orthodontic Specialists. Together we gave lots of smiles for some little boys and girls.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Five Tips in Caring for Your Braces During Orthodontic Treatment

December 13th, 2013

After getting your braces, it is important to know how to take care of your teeth in order to ensure that your braces stay intact and do their job so that your teeth are in top-notch condition after you complete your orthodontic treatment. Today, our team at Orthodontic Specialists thought we would provide you with five tips you need to know to ensure you undergo successful treatment at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office.

Flossing
Flossing twice a day or after every meal can help you clean areas between teeth and other places a toothbrush can miss. We also recommend using a floss threader, which can be used to help you navigate safely around your braces and brackets. It is vital to floss twice a day, preferably after lunch and before bedtime to keep gum disease and tooth decay at bay.

Brushing
Teeth and appliances should be brushed after every meal and before bedtime using fluoride toothpaste and gentle, soft strokes. We recommend using an interdental toothbrush, which can help you clean the hard-to-reach areas under wires better than an ordinary toothbrush.

Using Elastics
This phase of orthodontic treatment requires cooperation and consistency on your part. If your orthodontist has prescribed elastics, make sure they are worn at all times, except when eating meals or brushing teeth. It’s important that you wear the correct size elastics and have extras in case they are misplaced. By failing to wear your elastics for even one day, you run the risk your teeth moving back toward their original position.

Addressing Damage to Your Braces
In case your appliances are damaged, we ask that you call our team at Orthodontic Specialists immediately to set up an appointment.

Eat Friendly Foods
When undergoing treatment, there are certain foods you must avoid. Foods that are hard, sticky, chewy or sour can add months to your treatment time. These includes gum, caramels, taco shells, nuts, ice, chips or hard candies.

We hope that helps! If you have any questions, please give us a call at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office or ask us during your next adjustment appointment!

What are the benefits of Invisalign®?

December 6th, 2013

A popular option for straightening teeth at Orthodontic Specialists, Invisalign can be a great method for improving your smile, and can help patients with crowded teeth, crossbites, overbites, underbites, and more.

Invisalign, which is different from traditional braces, works by applying a series of clear, retainer-like aligners in order to eventually move your teeth into their ideal positions. Patients typically swap aligners approximately every couple of weeks.

At Orthodontic Specialists, we have lots of experience using this technology to give our patients the beautiful and healthy smile they’ve always wanted. During your initial visit at our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office, the first thing we do is take an impression of your teeth as they are now and digitize it. Using special software, we look at the current positioning of your teeth and compare it to the way your teeth should look.

Not only are the aligners invisible, they are also removable, so you can eat and drink what you want, and brushing and flossing are easier. Invisalign’s aligners are also comfortable, with no metal to cause mouth abrasions during your treatment. And, no metal and wires usually means you spend less time at our office getting adjustments. With Invisalign, you can view your own virtual treatment plan when you start, so you can see how your straight teeth will look when your treatment is complete!

Depending on the severity of the problem, Invisalign treatment may take anywhere from three to 18 months to complete. You should be aware that Invisalign is not as effective as traditional braces in treating bite problems, teeth that are lower or higher than others, or severely overcrowded teeth. Both teens and adults are now great candidates for Invisalign, so we invite you to contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office to set up an initial consultation and learn more on how Invisalign can give you the smile you’ve always wanted!

Give a Smile This Holiday Season!

December 2nd, 2013

Feeling like giving back this season?

If so, please consider to donate a holiday toy to our -Give a Smile- program! Stop by any of our 3 offices to select a boy or girl wish tag. All donations will be matched with a $10 gift card from Drs. Koufos & Albright to our local Salvation Army Angel Tree program to benefit NWI children. Any toy donations are welcome!

Please bring your unwrapped toy to our office by Thursday, December 12th.

We thank you for helping make our community even better with your kindness and generosity!

Keep that candy at bay during your treatment!

November 29th, 2013

Now that you have braces, it is more important than ever to maintain good oral hygiene during your treatment, as Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will tell you. While we trust you will continue brushing and flossing on a regular basis throughout your treatment at Orthodontic Specialists, you also have to mindful of what you eat. While all those sweet, sour, and sticky candies may taste great, these treats can actually damage your teeth and braces!

Sour candies  can be acidic to your teeth, and actually wear down the enamel that protects them, resulting in tooth decay and cavities. If you do indulge in eating these candies at some point during your treatment, be sure to wash your mouth out with water, drink milk or eat a few slices of cheese. These foods will help neutralize the acid in your mouth.

Besides cavities and tooth decay, many people do not realize that good oral health and hygiene are important to your overall health, too; researchers have discovered the connection between periodontal disease and other major health concerns, such as heart disease. Therefore, it is important to maintain a good oral hygiene routine just as you did before your braces. This includes visiting your dentist here in Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN every six months, brushing and flossing daily, and using an antibacterial mouthwash, as well as visiting Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright for your regular adjustment appointments.

For more questions about foods you should avoid while wearing braces, or if you have any general questions about your treatment, we encourage you to give us a call, ask us at your next adjustment appointment or ask us on Facebook!

Thanksgiving

November 22nd, 2013

At Orthodontic Specialists, we love to celebrate the holidays with vigor! Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright would love to share some unique ways of celebrating Thanksgiving from beyond the Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN area to the national level!

When Americans sit down to dinner on the last Thursday of November, the day that Abraham Lincoln designated as the day on which Thanksgiving would be celebrated, they do so thinking that the first Thanksgiving feast was held at Plymouth in 1621. According to National Geographic, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez Coronado and his men celebrated a feast of Thanksgiving in Texas in 1541, giving Texas the distinction of being the first place where Thanksgiving was celebrated.

Different Types of Celebrations

Native Americans had rituals around which they celebrated in hopes of ensuring a bountiful harvest. The Cherokees had a Green Corn Dance that they did for this very purpose. The Pilgrims (not to be confused with the Puritans,) rejected any type of public religious display. They held a three-day long non-religious Thanksgiving feast. Although they said grace, the focus of their celebration was on feasting, drinking alcohol (they did have beer,) and playing games.

The Pilgrims at the Plymouth Plantation celebrated a different day of Thanksgiving in 1623. Plagued by a crop-destroying drought, the settlers prayed for relief. They even fasted. A few days later, they got the rain they so desperately needed. Soon thereafter, they received another blessing when Captain Miles Standish came with staples they couldn't otherwise get. He also told them that a Dutch supply ship was en route. In gratitude for the abundance of good fortune, the Plymouth settlers celebrated a day of prayer and Thanksgiving on June 30, 1623.

The Story of Squanto

No discussion of Thanksgiving is complete without a discussion of Squanto, or Tisquantum, as he was known among his people, the Patuxet Indians. It is believed that he was born sometime around 1580. As he returned to his village after a long journey, he and several other Native Americans were kidnapped by Jamestown colonist, Thomas Hunt. Hunt put them on a ship heading to Spain where they were to be sold into slavery.

As fate would have it, some local friars rescued him and many of the other kidnapped natives. Squanto was educated by the friars. Eventually, after asking for freedom so he could return to North America, he ended up in London where he spent time working as a ship builder. By 1619, he was finally able to get passage on a ship headed to New England with other Pilgrims.

Upon arriving at Plymouth Rock, he learned that his entire tribe was wiped out by diseases that accompanied earlier settlers from Europe. In gratitude for passage on their ship, he helped them set up a settlement on the very land where his people once lived. They called the settlement Plymouth. Since they knew nothing about how to survive, let alone how to find food, Squanto taught them everything, from how to plant corn and other crops, how to fertilize them, how and where to get fish and eels and much more.

After a devastating winter during which many settlers died, thanks to Squanto's teaching, they had an abundant harvest. After that harvest, they honored him with a feast. It is this feast of 1621 which was celebrated between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians that is widely considered the first Thanksgiving celebration.

About the Meal of the Plymouth Settlers

Surviving journals of Edward Winslow that are housed at Plymouth Plantation indicate that the first Thanksgiving feast was nothing like what Americans eat today. The meal consisted of venison, various types of wild fowl (including wild turkey,) and Indian corn. There were no cranberries, stuffing, pumpkin pie, potatoes, or any of the other “traditional” foods that appear on modern menus.

Today, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, the day that Abraham Lincoln designated as the holiday. It is still a day of feasting, and for some, a day of prayer and thanksgiving. For others, it is a celebration of gathering, especially for families. Still others may celebrate in entirely different ways, including watching college football bowl games, or by playing family games.

If you ever wonder why you're so tired after the Thanksgiving meal, it's because turkey contains an amino acid, tryptophan, and it sets off chemicals whose chain reaction combine to make people sleepy.

What is dentofacial orthopedics?

November 15th, 2013

You may have noticed that we specialize in orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. And while most people we talk to have heard of orthodontics, many are confused by the dentofacial orthopedics part of the title. Today, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright and our team thought we would explain the difference.

While orthodontics entails the management of tooth movement, dentofacial orthopedics involves the guidance of facial growth and facial development, which occurs for the most part during childhood, and is a reason why kids are often the best candidates for receiving dentofacial orthopedic therapy. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will examine and monitor your child’s growth to determine when starting treatment will be most effective. If your child begins orthodontic treatment before his or her adult teeth have erupted, it is known as Phase-One treatment. During this phase, Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright will use treatments designed to correct your child’s jaw growth and make sure that the jaw bone is properly aligned before beginning the next phase of treatment, which usually involves placing braces to straighten your child's teeth.

Dentofacial orthopedics is also used to treat adult patients at Orthodontic Specialists, however, this process may involve surgery. With our younger patients, we know the jaw bones are still forming, making it easier for our team at Orthodontic Specialists to control bone growth and tooth movement. Adults, however, are a different story; their bones are no longer growing, and their jaw bones have hardened, so it is more difficult to adjust the bite and move teeth into proper alignment. Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright may recommend surgery to adjust the jaw bone and establish the proper bite alignment before beginning treatment.

Because our team at Orthodontic Specialists is skilled in both areas, we are able to diagnose any misalignments in the teeth and jaw as well as the facial structure, and can devise a treatment plan that integrates both orthodontic and dentofacial orthopedic treatments.

We hope that helps! To learn more about dentofacial orthopedics, and to find out if this type of treatment is right for you, please contact our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office and schedule an initial consultation for you or your child. It’s never too late to get a great smile, and we can’t wait to help you or your child get started.

Does my child need two-phase treatment?

November 8th, 2013

Two-phase orthodontic treatment involves two separate and distinct periods that your child receives orthodontic treatment. It allows your son or daughter to begin early treatment of bite and jaw problems, in order to reduce the dental issues he or she experiences later on.

Two-phase orthodontic treatment with Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can improve how well the second phase of the treatment works and helps to make room for permanent teeth. Overall, two-phase treatment helps to position the teeth and the jaw for an attractive profile. Our team at Orthodontic Specialists recommends that you bring your child to our Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN office at the age of seven or eight, so that Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright can determine if early (Phase-One) treatment is necessary.

Phase-One

Phase-One orthodontic treatment is known as early treatment. It begins shortly after your child’s first orthodontic examination, usually around age eight or nine. The main goal of Phase-One orthodontic treatment is to help make room for permanent teeth, which reduces crooked teeth as a result of overcrowding. It treats the jaw and bite growth, and issues like crossbite or underbite. This can reduce the need for your child to undergo extractions.

Phase-Two

Phase-Two orthodontic treatment is when braces are placed on the upper and/or lower teeth. The purpose is not just to correct spaces or misaligned teeth, but also to correct overbite or underbite concerns. Phase-Two usually begins around age 11 or 12, and the braces are worn for an average of two to three years, depending on your child’s unique needs. Some children have fewer issues and wear braces for little more than a year, while others need them for up to four years.

Signs your child needs two-phase orthodontic treatment

If your child exhibits the following signs, he or she may be a good candidate for two-phase orthodontic treatment:

  • Losing baby teeth early, before five years of age
  • Problems with biting or chewing
  • Sucking the thumb after age five
  • Evidence of a crossbite, where the teeth don’t come together when opening or closing of the mouth
  • Teeth are crowded at age seven or eight
  • Protruding teeth on the top or bottom

Not all children need to have early treatment, but if your child shows any of these signs, you should bring him or her to us for an evaluation at Orthodontic Specialists.

Halloween Guidelines from the American Association of Orthodontists

October 23rd, 2013

Fall can be a really enjoyable time of the year for you and your family. The kids are back in school, the leaves are changing, and Halloween approaches. This holiday is a lot of fun for kids, but our team here at Orthodontic Specialists wants to remind you it can also be risky, especially for your child’s braces. If you have kids with braces, take a look at the following tips from the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO) on how to keep your kids and their teeth safe this Halloween season.

Important Safety Tips

Trick-or-treating is a favorite Halloween activity for kids everywhere. While it is a great holiday tradition for children, it comes with some potential risks. To keep your kids safe while trick-or-treating, try following these simple guidelines:

  • If you have young children, make sure they are accompanied by an adult at all times.
  • You or your kids should always carry flashlights.
  • For costumes, try to include a light-colored or reflective element that can be easily seen by oncoming traffic.
  • Avoid costumes that include a mask, especially for younger children. These can pose a safety hazard for both the wearers and the people around them.
  • Tell your kids not to eat any of their candy until they arrive home. Be sure to inspect all treats carefully before letting them dig in.

Following these guidelines can help you keep your kids safe on Halloween.

Halloween Treats to Avoid if Your Child Has Braces

If your kids have braces, you’ll want them to steer clear of certain treats on Halloween. Many candies can cause damage to braces, so it’s wise to avoid them while you’re celebrating this fun holiday. Here is a list of treats to stay away from:

  • Hard candies
  • Chewy candies
  • Nuts
  • Caramel
  • Licorice
  • Jelly beans
  • Taffy
  • Bubblegum
  • Hard pretzels
  • Popcorn

Some of these treats may seem harmless, but all of them have the potential to bend or break your child’s braces. So it’s best to avoid eating them altogether.

Braces-Friendly Halloween Treats

If your children have braces, they may feel like they can’t enjoy any treats on Halloween. However, there are plenty of braces-safe treat options for them to choose from, including the following:

  • Soft chocolate
  • Peanut butter cups
  • Gelatin treats
  • Ice cream
  • Smoothies
  • Root beer floats
  • Apple cider

These are just a few braces-friendly alternatives to traditional Halloween candy. Helping your kids have a fun and safe Halloween—while at the same time protecting their braces—can be easy if you follow these simple tips and guidelines. Don't forget to bring your braces-busting candy to our Treats for Troops buy-back to help your kids enjoy the holiday without having to visit Drs. Koufos and Albright for repair work on damaged braces!

October is National Orthodontic Health Month

October 16th, 2013

What does the month of October mean to you? For people in the northern hemisphere, October is when the weather starts to get a little chilly: heavy jackets might come out of storage and the summer clothing gets packed away. You might start making plans for the upcoming holidays or looking at the beautiful and changing autumn scenery. October means something a little different to our team here at Orthodontic Specialists because this is National Orthodontic Health Month. During October, orthodontic clinics all over the country work together to promote their services and inform the community about the important work we do.

National Orthodontic Health Month is an awareness campaign created cooperatively by orthodontists and other dental health professionals. During this month, we make a special effort to promote dental health and orthodontic health in particular. This is a great time to get your questions answered by dental professionals in your community and to learn more about exactly what an orthodontist can do for you and your family. Events held in connection with National Orthodontic Health Month are also an opportunity for us orthodontists to come out and meet community members. If you have never been to an orthodontist before, you might not know what to expect. Meeting one of us in person before your checkup is a great way to find out what kind of person you’ll be seeing during your appointment.

Meeting our team in a relaxed “meet and greet” atmosphere can be especially helpful for any young orthodontic patients in your family. Kids of all ages–and their parents!–can feel anxiety about going to the dentist. Getting to know the person you have an appointment with can make the experience a lot less stressful for everyone. We don't want anyone to avoid seeing a dental professional for regular checkups just because they don't know who we are. Just meeting and talking with the orthodontist you'll be seeing may be enough to make you feel more comfortable about your upcoming appointment.

Dental health is something that affects everyone; healthy teeth and gums contribute to a healthy smile and a lifetime of comfort and well-being. Orthodontists are just one of the various dental practitioners you could visit at some point in your life, so taking a little time to learn who we are and what we do is certain to be a helpful experience. I look forward to seeing you and your family this October at one of our three convenient locations!

Introducing iTero™ Technology With Drs. Koufos & Albright!

August 12th, 2013

Here at Orthodontic Specialists, we are always looking for new ways to improve our patients’ experiences by investing in the latest technologies. That’s why we are very excited about our new digital scanner, a Cadent iTero™.

The iTero™ is a state-of-the-art machine that creates digital impressions of our patients’ teeth, replacing the need for conventional impressions. This process is fast and accurate, and will reduce our turnaround time on Invisalign™ aligners. It also creates a more comfortable experience for our patients – no more trays and putty!

Our team has been training on the new machine, and so far we’re having great success using it. Keep an eye open for it at your next visit!

Drs. Koufos and Albright - Northwest Indiana's Premier Invisalign Providers!

August 6th, 2013

Did you know that Drs. Koufos and Albright are Invisalign Premier Providers? We’re the only practice in Northwest Indiana (the Munster, Schererville, St. John, Dyer, Griffith, Highland, Crown Point, Hammond area) to achieve this distinction!

What makes an Invisalign Premier Provider so special?

Every doctor who wishes to offer Invisalign treatment must undergo training with the makers of Invisalign, and can then become a certified Invisalign provider. To reach Premier Provider status, however, the doctor must complete many successful cases of Invisalign treatment each year. Drs. Koufos and Albright have achieved this distinction through extensive experience using Invisalign, and works with many patients each year to create beautiful smiles.

If you have been considering Invisalign treatment, know that you are in great hands at Orthodontic Specialists! Give us a call to schedule your free consultation for Invisalign or Invisalign Teen.

Free Tutoring with Learning Curve and Orthodontic Specialists

June 20th, 2013

Have you heard about our new Learning Curve program? This summer, Drs. Koufos and Albright and our team here at Orthodontic Specialists are excited to announce that we’re offering free tutoring to students in our community!

If you’re entering Grades 7 through 9, enrolled in a Pre-Algebra or Algebra I class this August, and a patient of record at one of our three locations in Munster, Schererville, or St. John, IN, this is a great opportunity for you to sharpen your skills and get ahead. The lessons will be led by Phil Vasquez, an accomplished MIT graduate and experienced tutor in a variety of subjects, including math, Spanish, and ACT preparation.

Tutoring will take place at the Orthodontic Specialists Office in Munster, Indiana. Registration is on a first come, first served basis, so register today!

Drs. Koufos and Albright are proud to support our community and help shape its future. See you in the classroom!

April marks National Facial Protection Month

March 29th, 2013

With spring here, many children, teens and adults will once again pick up the ball, bring the bat out of seasonal retirement, and lace up their cleats to hit the fields for the return of spring sports! April, which is only a few days away, is National Facial Protection Month, and during this time, we urge our young athletes to play it safe when out on the field. If you play sports and are undergoing orthodontic treatment, it’s important that you consult us for special precautions, such as wearing a mouth guard. A protective mouth guard is advised for playing spring sports such as baseball, soccer, lacrosse and others. Be sure, however, to avoid mouth guards that custom form to your teeth as these will resist any tooth movements we are trying to achieve.

In case of any accident involving the face, check your mouth and the appliances immediately. If teeth are loosened or the appliances damaged, please schedule an appointment with our office. Only by using a mouth guard and other forms of facial protection can kids with and without braces avoid serious sports injuries. Please give us a call if you have any questions about mouth guards or your treatment.

Go Green for St. Patrick’s Day

March 15th, 2013

Millions of people wear green on St. Patrick’s Day so they can show their spirit for the holiday and avoid getting pinched. While it may be easy for you to throw on a green shirt, sport a St. Patrick’s Day button, or wear a pair of emerald-hued shoes, if you’re an avid St. Patty’s Day enthusiast you may want to try something different this year. Our office thought of a few ideas that will help you take your holiday spirit to the next level:

Visit Chicago’s Green River

If you happen to be near the Windy City during St. Patrick’s Day or you’re thinking of planning a trip, don’t miss out on going downtown to watch the large-scale celebration that kicks off when the city dyes the river bright green. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago has been celebrating the holiday with this tradition for more than 50 years, with tens of thousands of people gathering annually to witness the mysterious dying process and the stunning result.

Don Green Face Paint

Just like an avid sports fan on game day, you can use green face paints to showcase your enthusiasm for this holiday. Avoid breakouts or allergic reactions by only using paints that are specifically meant to be applied to the skin. A little bit of face paint can cover a large area, so feel free to get creative and decorate the whole family on St. Patrick’s Day.

Eat Green All Day

Not a fan of green eggs and ham? With the increasing popularity of green smoothies, there’s no better time to get in on this health craze. To create a green smoothie without the aid of food coloring, you can simply blend a generous amount of a leafy green vegetable, such as spinach or kale, with the ingredients that you would typically use to make a smoothie, like fruit, ice, milk, or juice. Keep the trend going throughout the day by using those same vegetables to create a green soup, egg salad, or a batch of bright green pastries. As an added bonus, you’ll get a healthy dose of vitamins without changing the taste of most of these foods.

If your old holiday routine has gotten stale, leave your green T-shirt in the drawer and try one or all of these tips. Don’t be surprised if you have so much fun that you decide to start a new, annual St. Patrick’s Day tradition! Have a happy St. Paddy’s day!

Patient question: "What is malocclusion?"

March 8th, 2013


This is a question we hear all the time. Malocclusion, or what we call having a “bad bite,” is the improper alignment of teeth and/or jaws. When your teeth and jaws are not properly aligned, it may impact your bite, the ability to properly care for your teeth, your gum tissue health and even your appearance. Most people will experience some degree of malocclusion, but it generally is not severe enough to require orthodontic treatment. If your malocclusion is serious enough, however, treatment may be necessary to correct the issue.

Untreated malocclusion can lead undesirable mouth problems, including tooth decay, gum disease, or chipped and cracked teeth. The most common solution for malocclusion, of course, is orthodontic treatment. The actual course of treatment, including the length of time you will require braces, will be determined by severity of your malocclusion. The goal of your treatment is to move your teeth into the proper position and correct any misalignment in the jaw.

We use the most advanced technology in the field in order to ensure that you receive the best possible results. If you have any questions about malocclusion or about starting your orthodontic treatment, please give us a call!

"I'm an adult - is orthodontic treatment right for me?"

March 1st, 2013

Good question! In an age—and society—where looks matter as much as anything, and at a time when evenly-aligned teeth might be the difference between getting a job or a promotion, adults are choosing—wisely, we think—to invest in orthodontics. Orthodontic treatment can be successful at any age, and we know that adults especially appreciate the benefits of a beautiful and healthy smile.

If you are still apprehensive about getting braces as an adult, a good option for straightening your teeth might be Invisalign, which uses a series of invisible, removable and comfortable aligners that no one can tell you’re wearing. If you’ve been thinking about getting that perfect smile, we would love to have you visit for an initial consultation! Please give us a call to set one up!

What's on your mind?

February 17th, 2013


By now, you’re probably familiar with our blog-writing process: Each week, we write about important orthodontic topics and your well-being, including the treatments we proudly offer.

This week, though, we thought we’d step back and ask you, our amazing patients: what’s on your mind? What would you like to know about the always-changing and exciting field of orthodontics? What would you like us to focus on our blog? Perhaps there’s something you’ve wanted to ask us for a while now? Here’s your chance! Let us know by posting here or on our Facebook page! Give us your best shot, and we’ll try to answer any question you may have!

Valentine's Celebration 2013

February 14th, 2013

What are you doing to celebrate Valentine's Day this year?

We decided to celebrate early this year so that our entire team could enjoy the fun together. On Monday, our doctors set up a chocolate fountain with all kinds of treats - fruit, pretzels, angel food cake, jumbo marshmallows, red velvet cupcakes, and candy!

Have a Happy Valentine's Day!

February is also Heart Month!

February 10th, 2013

You may remember our post from last week, when we discussed February being “National Children’s Dental Health Month.” But did you know February also marks American Heart Month?

It’s a great time to take notice of the health of your heart as cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death in the world, according to the American Heart Association. Studies have shown a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, underscoring the importance of good oral health care, especially while you are undergoing orthodontic treatment.

Visiting your dentist on a regular basis during your orthodontic treatment not only ensures a successful outcome, but can also help prevent gum disease or at least catch it in its early stages. In observance of Heart Month, it’s also important to know your numbers: blood pressure (less than 120/80), cholesterol (less than 200) and BMI (less than 25).

If you have any questions about heart health, about the importance of visiting your dentist or about your treatment at our office, please give us a call today!

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month!

February 4th, 2013

Each February for the past 63 years, our friends at the American Dental Association have sponsored National Children’s Dental Health Month to raise awareness about the importance of oral health at a young age, and especially during your orthodontic treatment. Developing good habits at an early age and scheduling regular visits with your dentist—even while you’re wearing braces—helps our young patients get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

For kids wearing braces, brushing and flossing can become more difficult, requiring extra time and effort to remove food particles that accrue on and between your teeth and braces. If you ignore your oral health during your treatment, the results can be significantly compromised. We are happy to explain why effective brushing and flossing is so critical during orthodontic treatment. If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call, ask us on Facebook or ask us at your next adjustment appointment!

The myths and facts about braces

January 28th, 2013

Some folks believe your chances of being struck by lightning increases when you have braces, while other folks believe having braces interferes with romance, and even metal detectors as you try to make your way through the airport for a much-needed vacation. Trust us when we say we know there are quite a few myths about braces out there these days. But before you buy into those myths, we think you should get the facts first! To help set the record straight, here is some great information on the myths and facts of orthodontics. We encourage you to check them out today!

If you have any questions about braces or your orthodontic treatment, please feel free to give us a call or ask us on Facebook! Smile bright!

Patient question: What can I eat with braces?

January 20th, 2013

We love when patients ask us this question! Now that you’re wearing braces, it’s just as important to maintain a good oral hygiene regimen as you did before your orthodontic treatment began. The first few days in braces are going to be more difficult to eat than normal. There will be a slight discomfort when you first get your braces on, so the act of chewing will make it slightly more painful.

Here are a few soft foods that do not require you to do much chewing and are easy to chew on when your teeth are sore:

Ice cream, yogurt, pudding, cool soups, Jell-O, scrambled eggs, cream of wheat, baked potatoes, soft cooked pasta, soup, bananas, cottage cheese, smoothies, macaroni and cheese, pancakes, soft cheeses, and milk are all foods you can eat safely without having to worry about pain or breaking your brackets.

Be sure to always check with us if you have questions about a particular food item by either giving us a call or asking us on Facebook!

Drs. Koufos and Albright Support College Education

January 18th, 2013

Drs. Michael Koufos and David Albright of Orthodontic Specialists understand the value of a formal education. For nearly 25 years, Drs. Koufos and Albright reward their patients with a local scholarship. Last year, the scholarship was called “Project Orange,” which symbolizes serving scholars in our local community. Patients submit a one page essay describing “How braces changed my life.”

Last year’s recipients each earned an Apple Mac Book laptop along with a $150 Apple gift card. Receiving over 70 entries from 11 different area high school, three winners were selected: Emily Milojkovitch of Munster High School, Ashley Voss of Lake Central High School, and Mallory Belinksy of Highland High School.

As one scholarship recipient wrote, “…smiling can literally change a person’s life! It is contagious, a stress reliever, and the most easily recognizable facial expression.” Her words express that beautiful smiles reflect much more than just straight teeth.

Patients interested in applying for this year’s scholarship can visit www.orthospcs.com/scholarships for more information.

Six oral hygiene tips for our patients

January 15th, 2013

If you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment, brushing and flossing after every meal and snack is the only way to prevent plaque build-up, tooth decay and gum disease. Your teeth will need extra care, especially during treatment at our office. Our goal is for you to have a beautiful healthy smile, and in order for us to achieve this good hygiene on your end is very important. Food and particles are known to get trapped by brackets, wires, bands and appliances, and this can make it difficult to keep your teeth clean. Using a Waterpik is another great way to clean teeth and gums. Here are a few tips to help with keeping your teeth clean and healthy during your orthodontic treatment:

1. Brush after every meal or snack

2. Floss daily to remove trapped food and particles

3. Rinse after eating with mouthwash to kill any bacteria

4. Brush with a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled tooth brush

5. Clean teeth with a proxabrush

6. Maintain regular check-ups with your general dentist throughout your treatment

We hope these tips help. For more information, we encourage you to give us a call, ask us on Facebook or ask us during your next adjustment visit!

Do germs really live on my toothbrush?

January 7th, 2013

The dreaded cold and flu season is here again! After recovering from your cold, one of the most important steps you can take to avoid becoming reinfected is replacing your toothbrush!

Germs can linger on the bristles, and you risk prolonging your sickness by continuing to use the same toothbrush. Be smart - keep a spare, just in case! To protect your toothbrush from bacteria all year long, consider the following tips:

• Wash your hands before and after brushing
• Allow the brush to air dry after each use, harmful bacteria dies after being exposed to oxygen
• Store the toothbrush in an upright position to allow water to drain and dry faster
• Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months. Worn bristles are less effective in properly cleaning your teeth, and can actually be damaging to teeth if used too long!

We hope these tips help! Feel free to give us a call or ask us on Facebook if you have any questions!

Happy New Year!

December 30th, 2012

With the year almost over, we thought we would ask you, our dear patients: what was memorable about 2012 for you, and what are you looking forward to in 2013? Do you have a new year's resolution, or any exciting plans for the coming year?

We want to wish all our patients, friends, family and all our dental and medical colleagues a happy and healthy New Year!

When you have an orthodontic emergency, we are here for you

December 23rd, 2012

Millions of patients undergoing orthodontic treatment will not be smiling this holiday season, and not because they didn't get the gift they wanted. These are people whose teeth and/or braces fall victim to the hard, chewy, gummy or sticky holiday treats.

We know orthodontic emergencies are never convenient nor timely. If you are a patient of record, we are committed to your oral health and are available to you. As a general rule, you should call our office when you experience severe pain or when you have a painful appliance problem that you can't take care of yourself. You might be surprised to learn that you may be able to temporarily solve many problems yourself until you schedule an appointment. When working with your appliances, you need to know the names of the parts of your appliances so you are able to identify what part is broken or out of place. After alleviating your discomfort, it is very important that you still call our office as soon as possible to schedule a time to repair the problem. Allowing your appliance to remain damaged for an extended period of time may result in disruptions in your treatment plan. If you have a orthodontic emergency after regular office hours, please give us a call and follow the emergency prompts to contact our team! We hope you're having a great holiday season!

Season's greetings!

December 18th, 2012

In this season given to tidings of comfort and joy, and as we reflect on the year that was, we’d like to ask you, our wonderful patients: What do you love about the holidays this year? Being with your loved ones? Hitting the slopes? A clean slate for 2013? Opening presents by the fireplace? All the delicious food?

Also, what gift are you most looking forward to getting this year? We’d love if you shared with us all the things you love about the holidays. Stay warm, and don’t forget to stay away from those sweets!

Need a New Year’s Resolution? How about a healthier, more beautiful smile?

December 10th, 2012

2013 is almost here, and it's a great time of year to get started on a lifetime of straight, dazzling and confident smiles. We are proud to offer some of today's most innovative orthodontic technologies that can straighten your smile in less time than you ever imagined. Not only do today’s braces and other orthodontic treatments straighten your teeth quicker, they also offer greater comfort for you, and require fewer visits to our office.

So if obtaining a healthy, beautiful smile is one of your New Year’s resolutions, we invite you to give us a call to schedule an initial orthodontic consultation. Happy holidays!

Where’s your bite? The differences between crossbites, overbites, and underbites

December 7th, 2012

Did you know there is a direct correlation between your bite and your overall health? When your teeth and jaws are not properly-aligned, it may affect your breathing, speech, and, in extreme cases, even affect the appearance of your face. As a result of malocclusion, also commonly referred to as “bad bite,” your teeth may become crooked, worn or protruded over time. Most people experience some degree of malocclusion, but it is generally not severe enough to require corrective measures. If your malocclusion is serious enough, however, orthodontic treatment may be necessary to correct the issue.

Malocclusion may also be referred to as an underbite, crossbite or overbite. So, what, exactly, is the difference between the three?

· Crossbites, which can involve a single tooth or a group of teeth, occur when your upper and lower jaws are both misaligned, and usually causes one or more upper teeth to bite on the inside of the lower teeth. Crossbites can happen on both the front and/or the sides of the mouth, and are known to cause wear of the teeth, gum disease and bone loss.

· Overbites, also known as “overjet,” occurs when your upper teeth overlap considerably with the lower teeth. Overbites can lead to gum issues or irritation and even wear on the lower teeth, and are known to cause painful jaw and joint problems. Overbites can usually be traced to genetics, bad oral habits, or overdevelopment of the bone that supports the teeth.

· Underbites, which occur when the lower teeth protrude past the front teeth, are caused by undergrowth of the upper jaw, overgrowth of the lower jaw, or both. Underbites can also be caused by missing upper teeth, which can prevent the normal function of front teeth ( molars). This in turn leads to tooth wear and pain in your joints and jaw.

Fortunately, we are able to treat bite problems. If you suspect you or your child has a bite misalignment, we encourage you to be examined at our office as early as possible. By starting early, you can make sure you or your child avoid years of pain and self-consciousness.

Make 2013 the year to improve your oral health!

December 1st, 2012

Many of our patients consider the beginning of a new year a time to not only reflect on the year that was, but also to set personal goals for the upcoming year. How are you planning to improve your health and happiness in 2013? Because it's never too early to start thinking about New Year's resolutions, we recommend that you make a New Year’s resolution to benefit your oral health!

It’s important that New Year’s resolutions are reasonable and attainable, and that they improve your overall quality of life—for example, did you know that flossing every day is the very best way to prevent periodontal, or gum disease during your orthodontic treatment? Using a straw when drinking sugary beverages can also help prevent cavities while you’re wearing braces. There are many small steps that you can take to prevent cavities, oral infections and bad breath.

Be sure to give us a call if you need a few suggestions on ways to improve your oral health. After all, oral health is about more than just a beautiful smile.

If your resolution is to attain a great-looking smile, we’d love to help! Please give us a call and schedule your initial consultation. We look forward to working with you and your family!

Happy holidays!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21st, 2012

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we would like to wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy a day filled of friends, family, and great food.

We are very thankful for all of our patients and their families. We’d like to know, what are you most thankful for this year? Leave us a comment, or if you have any stories, photos or recipes to share with us, we encourage you to share them below or on our Facebook page!

How Long After My Braces Come Off Should I Wear My Retainer?

November 16th, 2012


Braces are an investment in your smile. When your teeth reach a desired straightness, you’ll have a beautiful smile, but it’s important to keep it that way! You can accomplish this with a retainer.

A retainer is a small, custom-fit device that reinforces the new position of your teeth after your braces are removed. But for many patients, especially the youngest ones, wearing a retainer may seem like an annoyance. So exactly how long after your braces come off should you wear your retainer?

Graduation of Wear Time

When we remove your braces, we will evaluate the condition of the bone structure surrounding your teeth and determine how well it is adjusting to the new position of your teeth. For the first few months, we may require you to wear your retainer both day and night, except during meal times and for brushing and flossing.

As the bone and gum tissues adjust to your new smile, we may determine that you need to wear your retainer only at night. After about one year of wearing the retainer every night, you may be able to take a couple of nights off each week.
However, we do not recommend ever stopping permanently. To best secure the position of the teeth, especially through future extractions and oral health changes, wearing your retainer a few nights a week will be necessary for many years.

Considerations

If you are concerned about your appearance when you wear a retainer, there are many that can be worn discreetly. You could choose a clear plastic one that is less obvious during the months immediately following removal of your braces. When you change to night wear only, clear wire retainers are available for minimal visibility as well.

Remember, wearing your retainer is an investment in your smile. If you fail to wear it consistently, the tissues that support your teeth will be unsupported, and you may begin to experience noticeable shifting. You've worked hard to get that beautiful smile — your retainer will let you keep it!

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