How Braces Work

how braces work_700

WE ALL KNOW THAT braces shift misaligned teeth into their proper position over time, but have you ever wondered exactly how that process works? Today, we’re going to walk you through it, because it’s actually really neat.

The Pieces Of The Braces Puzzle

The different parts of your braces all contribute to the orthodontic treatment process in specific ways. You might have additional appliances tailored to your specific treatment plan, but everyone with traditional braces has brackets and archwires, tied together with o-rings (also called bands or ligatures).

Brackets

If you look carefully at braces brackets, you may notice that they aren’t all placed in a straight line. At first, the braces may even seem to emphasize the crookedness of the teeth. The way the orthodontist positions the brackets is what allows braces to shift teeth into their proper place. By the end of the treatment, the brackets — and, more importantly, the teeth — will be straight!

Archwire

The archwires run through the brackets on each row of teeth. The orthodontist chooses the thickness and material of the archwire carefully based on your treatment plan. As they try to straighten back into their original shape, archwires provide steady, gradual pressure in the right direction so that your teeth will shift towards their proper position. The colorful o-rings are what keep the archwires in place in the brackets.

Elastics

The most common addition to braces beyond the basics of brackets, archwires, and o-rings are elastics. If you have a malocclusion (bad bite) or misaligned jaw, elastics apply pressure to bring your jaws into proper alignment. In order for them to do their job, however, it is essential to exactly follow the orthodontist’s instructions. Wearing too many or too few rubber bands will interfere with your treatment and make it take longer.

The Biology Of Shifting Dental Alignment

So what’s actually happening on the cellular level during orthodontic treatment? Specialized cells called osteoclasts and osteoblasts respond to the pressure around the periodontal membrane (the pocket of gum tissue connecting the tooth’s root to the jaw bone). Osteoclasts break down the bone tissue so that the tooth can move, while osteoblasts gradually form new bone tissue behind it. So it’s not just your teeth moving into position; your jaw bones are reshaping themselves too!

What About Retainers?

Your teeth still remember where they used to be for a while after the braces come off, which is why it’s so important for you to remember to wear your retainers as directed. Retainers will help your teeth get used to their new position, and they’ll prevent unrelated shifting that happens to most people naturally over the course of time.

Want To Learn More About Your Orthodontic Treatment?

If you have any questions about how your braces are working to give you that properly aligned, more functional smile you’ve always wanted, just give us a call, or ask us about it at your next appointment. We want all of our patients to have the information they need to feel confident in their treatment!

We love seeing our patients’ smiles!

 

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Advertisements

How Clean Is Your Tongue?

tongue cleaning_700

“BRUSH YOUR TEETH for two full minutes twice a day and floss your teeth once a day.” You’ve probably lost count of how many times you’ve heard that, but how often have you heard that you should be cleaning your tongue every day too?

The Difference A Clean Tongue Makes

More bacteria likes to live on our tongues than just about anywhere else on our bodies. That’s because all those tiny crevices in the tongue’s surface are prime real estate for all kinds of pathogens. If we don’t actively keep our tongues clean, the harmful bacteria will stay put and multiply, causing bad breath and contributing to tooth decay on the inner surfaces of our teeth.

Another reason to regularly get rid of all that tongue bacteria is that it can dramatically improve your sense of taste. When the tongue is covered in bacteria, the tastebuds have a hard time doing their job, but with the bacteria gone, they’re free to absorb all those delicious flavors at their full capacity. Yum!

Chemical digestion begins in our mouths, and a clean tongue makes this process more effective too. So, if you want to enjoy your favorite foods as much as possible, keep your breath clean and fresh, and improve your digestive health, clean your tongue!

Finding The Best Tools For Cleaning Your Tongue

Keeping your tongue clean takes more than swishing mouthwash or rinsing with water. The bacteria hiding in all those tiny grooves is very stubborn, and washing with liquid won’t be enough do dislodge them. To really clear off the biofilm of bacteria, you need to scrape it with a tongue-scraper.

If you don’t find these in the grocery store near the toothbrushes, you can order one online, and some toothbrushes have tongue scrapers built in on the reverse side. Between brushing and rinsing your teeth is the best time to scrape your tongue. Start at the back and work forward, and try to get as much of the surface area as you can.

For the first few days, you might be surprised by how much biofilm comes away with the tongue scraper, but the longer you stick with it, the cleaner your tongue will become, until it seems like you’re scraping away nothing but clean spit. See if you notice the difference in your breath and your sense of taste when you get to this point!

Tongue-Scraping Is Older Than You Think

If you’ve never heard of tongue-scraping before, you might think it’s a new idea, but it’s actually been around since ancient times in some cultures. It’s part of the daily hygiene routine in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. Tongue-scraping tools have been made of many different materials across the centuries, including copper, silver, gold, ivory, whalebone, and tortoiseshell. Today, they’re typically plastic or stainless steel.

Have Any Questions About Tongue Cleaning?

If you have questions about tongue cleaning or would like our recommendations on the best tools for the job, just give us a call! We’re always happy to help our patients improve their daily dental hygiene regimens, and we look forward to seeing you at your next appointment!

Thank you for being such wonderful patients!

Don’t Take A Vacation From Oral Hygiene!

vacation teeth_700

WITH THE ARRIVAL OF SUMMER comes the season of family vacations and exciting trips to new places. We’re as excited for it as our patients, but before everyone leaves to explore parts unknown, we want to give you a few tips and reminders about taking care of your teeth while you’re away from home.

Before You Go, See The Dentist

The last thing anyone wants while relaxing on a beach or enjoying the rides at a theme park is for their fun to be interrupted by a toothache or dental emergency. Depending where you go on your vacation, it might be hard to get proper dental treatment. You’ll save yourself a major potential hassle by simply scheduling a dental appointment before you leave!

A simple dental checkup will ensure that your teeth are clean and cavity-free when you start your trip. It’s especially important to get any restorations (e.g. crowns and fillings) checked in case they’re becoming loose, and untreated cavities and weakened dental work can become painful due to the pressure changes on flights.

Don’t Get Too Carried Away With Vacation Food

We can probably all agree that the food is often one of the best parts of any vacation, but that can make it easy to overdo it. Try to avoid eating too many sweet treats and snacks, and maybe keep a pack of sugar free gum handy to help prevent cavities.

Don’t Slack On Brushing And Flossing

When we’re at home, it’s easy to go through daily routines like brushing in the morning and brushing and flossing in the evening. Make sure to pack your toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss when you go, and quickly establish these routines in your new location.

One important thing to remember is that bacteria grows fast on a toothbrush that is damp and in an enclosed space, such as in luggage. Give your brush time to dry before you pack it, and store it somewhere it can get plenty of ventilation between uses.

Instead of leaving your toothbrush out on a hotel counter, try a simple solution like this:

Have A Great Vacation!

Following these tips will help you keep your teeth strong and healthy while you’re away from home. That should make it easier to flash a big, bright smile for the camera during your adventures! Have a wonderful time, and we look forward to seeing you again soon!

Thank you for trusting us with your dental health!

How Braces Can Improve Speech Problems

speech_700.jpg

 

THE ABILITY TO SPEAK and enunciate clearly is based on a variety of factors. A speech disorder could be the result of hearing difficulties, genetics, or a cleft palate, but did you know that the position of the teeth can be part of the problem or even the cause? This is where orthodontic treatment and speech pathology overlap.

A Bad Bite Versus Your Speech

A major cause of lisps or whistling while talking is an overbite, which is when the upper teeth overlap the bottom teeth by too much. These problems can also be the result of gaps in the teeth, which allow air to escape when pressing the tongue against the teeth while talking, creating a whistling sound. Orthodontic treatment corrects overbites and closes the gaps between teeth.

Your Tongue Needs Room To Maneuver

Our tongues need space and freedom to move in order for us to correctly form words and control how fast we talk. Sometimes jaw structure or dental crowding restricts the tongue’s movement, increasing the chances of a stutter or slurred speech. Braces will align the teeth and make room for the tongue to do its job properly.

To Make The Right Sounds, Teeth Should Be In The Right Place

In English, there are several sounds that we need our teeth in the right place in order to articulate: F as in “feet,” V as in “van,” S as in “soup,” Z as in “zoom,” CH as in “chair,” SH as in “shape,” J as in “jump,” ZH as in “treasure,” voiceless TH as in “think,” and voiced TH as in “the.” Orthodontic treatment places teeth where they need to be for better pronunciation.

How Can Orthodontic Treatment Help You?

Not all speech disorders can be cured by braces, but for people whose poor dental alignment or bad bites are getting in the way of their pronunciation, orthodontic treatment can be life-changing. And clearer speech isn’t the only benefit! Straight teeth are also easier to keep healthy, they improve your digestion, and they make your smile more beautiful.

Invest In Your Confidence And Health With Orthodontic Treatment

There’s no reason to allow orthodontic-related speech difficulties to limit your personal and business relationships or keep you from being your most confident, well-spoken self. If you have a friend, family member, neighbor, or coworker who would like to learn more about how an orthodontic treatment plan can lead to a happier, healthier life, share this blog post with them or give us a call.

Thanks for being part of our practice family.

 

 

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Too Few Or Too Many Adult Teeth?

DEPENDING ON HOW MANY wisdom teeth come in and whether or not they have to be removed, most adults have 28-32 adult teeth. There are a few outliers in either direction, however. Some people have fewer teeth than they should (called hypodontia or congenitally missing teeth), while others have one or more extra (called hyperdontia or supernumerary teeth). How does this happen and what do we do about it?

Congenitally Missing Teeth

Between 2-4 percent of the population has at least one tooth missing from the adult set. The most common teeth affected by this condition are wisdom teeth, lower second premolars, and upper lateral incisors. It’s not really an issue to be missing wisdom teeth, but missing incisors and premolars can cause difficulties with chewing, the surrounding teeth may shift, and the decreased jaw support can lead to additional tooth loss.

The reason for congenitally missing teeth is nearly always genetics,which is why you tend to see it run in families. Sometimes it happens in conjunction with a larger genetic disorder like Down syndrome or ectodermal dysplasia.

Supernumerary Teeth

At the other end of the dental spectrum is hyperdontia, where extra teeth develop in the jaw. It happens more often with adult teeth than baby teeth. We don’t fully understand what causes this condition, but one leading theory is that it could be the result of a tooth bud dividing abnormally, producing two teeth instead of one.

Supernumerary teeth aren’t always shaped like normal teeth. They can also be peg-shaped, have multiple cusps, or simply be a mass of dental tissue. However they develop, they often don’t have room to erupt, so they remain impacted in the gums, causing crowding and alignment problems for the normal teeth.

Treatment For Hypodontia And Hyperdontia

The typical treatment for extra teeth is to extract them if there isn’t room for them, but dealing with a congenitally missing tooth can be more complicated. Depending on the age of the patient and how long the tooth has been missing, different options may be better. The first step is usually orthodontic treatment so that the gap will be wide enough to fit a replacement tooth. These come in a few forms:

  • Removable partial dentures are a simple solution. They can be attached to a retainer or anchored in place by the surrounding teeth.
  • Dental bridges “bridge” the gaps by anchoring to the neighboring teeth, but unlike dentures, they’re cemented in place.
  • The most permanent solution is a dental implant, which functions like a normal tooth. An implant consists of a post fixed in the jaw bone with a crown on top that matches the natural teeth. Implants can also provide support for bridges when multiple teeth are missing.

Let’s Take A Look At Those Teeth

With regular dental appointments, we can catch cases of hypodontia and hyperdontia early on and make a plan for how to address it. Keep up with your daily dental hygiene routine, keep scheduling those regular appointments, and give us a call if you have any questions about these rare conditions!

Keep on smiling!

The Dangers Of Chronic Teeth Grinding

GRINDING OUR TEETH briefly when we’re nervous or frustrated is pretty normal. When the grinding doesn’t stop, however, it can do a lot of damage, whether it happens during the day or while we’re asleep. This kind of chronic grinding is called bruxism.

What Causes Teeth Grinding?

While daytime bruxism can be the result of stress and sleep bruxism is often associated with sleep apnea or snoring, you don’t need stress or a sleep disorder to have a teeth-grinding habit (and vice versa). It could be because of missing or improperly aligned teeth, or a bad bite.

Certain factors can predispose someone to bruxism. These include anxiety and stress, age (children are more prone to grinding than adults), antidepressants (including prescription drugs, tobacco, and alcohol), a family history of bruxism, and other disorders like Parkinson’s disease, ADHD, and GERD.

Common Signs Of A Grinding Habit

Many people who grind their teeth don’t notice when they do it (especially if they’re mainly doing it in their sleep) but you don’t have to catch a teeth-grinder in the act, because there are plenty of other indicators:

  • Shortened, worn down teeth with flat chewing surfaces
  • Chips, cracks, and splits in the teeth
  • Exposed dentin (the more yellow layer beneath the white enamel)
  • Tooth loss
  • Soreness in the jaw (for nighttime teeth-grinders, the jaw will be most sore in the morning; for daytime grinders, the jaw will be most sore in the evening)
  • Frequent headaches
  • Overdeveloped jaw muscles

Treatment Options For Bruxism

The best treatment for bruxism will depend on which type it is, and some treatments focus more on minimizing damage while others focus on finding the cause of the grinding and addressing it.

Orthodontic Treatment

For bruxism that is caused by a bad bite or poorly aligned teeth, straightening those teeth out and correcting the bite may fix the problem.

Custom Mouthguards

While a mouthguard can’t do anything about the grinding itself or what’s causing it, it can protect the teeth from further damage by providing a cushion between the upper and lower teeth.

Behavioral Therapy

Habit-reversal techniques and behavioral therapy can help patients with teeth grinding become more aware of the habit and make a more conscious effort to stop. This is more effective for awake bruxism than sleep bruxism, as the latter is much more difficult to control.

Relaxation

In cases where bruxism is caused by stress or anxiety, relaxation techniques can help. These include activities like massages, warm baths, listening to calming music, getting a full night’s sleep, yoga, and deep breathing exercises.

It’s Time To Stop The Grind!

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms that indicate bruxism, schedule an appointment with us so we can make a plan for how to address it and stop the damage. It’s crucial not to leave a habit like this untreated, because that will only give it more time to hurt your teeth.

We’re here to help you keep your teeth healthy!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

It’s Time To Kick That Ice-Chewing Habit

CHEWING ICE MIGHT SEEM refreshing in the moment, but it’s not doing any favors for your teeth in the long run. Today we’re going to take a look at why ice chewing is such a common habit despite the dangers it poses, as well as what someone with this habit can do to stop.

Compulsive Ice Eating

The scientific name for compulsive ice eating is pagophagia. This goes beyond a simple habit and enters the territory of a mental disorder. Getting cravings for ice can be a sign of an eating disorder called pica, which involves a compulsion to eat things with no nutritional value, such as ice, clay, hair, and dirt. Pica is often the result of a nutritional deficiency.

Iron Deficiency Anemia

Studies have shown a correlation between compulsive ice eating and iron deficiency anemia, which is pretty common, with 20 percent of women, 50 percent of pregnant women, and 3 percent of men being iron deficient. Without enough iron in the blood, the red blood cells can’t effectively do their job of carrying oxygen throughout the body.

What does iron have to do with ice? Well, researchers theorize that chewing ice sends more blood to the brain, temporarily improving alertness and clarity of thought. This feels good, and so they keep doing it even when it causes dental problems.

Ice Versus Your Teeth

Our teeth are not designed to crunch against solid ice, and they are particularly not designed to chew through several trays of ice cubes a day. Doing this can destroy tooth enamel over time, not just because ice is hard but because it’s cold. The enamel expands and contracts due to these extreme temperature changes, creating tiny cracks in it and making it much weaker, just like pavement in snowy climates. All of this leaves the teeth painfully sensitive to hot and cold and far more vulnerable to cavities.

The texture of the ice can also cause injuries to gum tissue, which you may not even notice because of the numbing effect of the cold, and sometimes the ice can actually chip or break a tooth!

Breaking The Ice Eating Habit

The first step to kicking the ice eating habit is to find out what’s causing it. If the ice chewing is a symptom of anemia, getting iron supplements may eliminate the cravings, so it will be much easier to stop. If it’s pica, there are interventions to explore such as therapy and medication.

There’s also plenty you can do on your own. You can replace the crunchy texture of ice with baby carrots or apple chunks. If you struggle to give up the ice altogether, try letting slivers of ice melt on your tongue like candy rather than crunching on them. This will spare your teeth and gums from the damage of chewing the ice.

Your Dental And Health Care Professionals Can Help

If ice chewing is something you struggle with, make sure to schedule appointments with your doctor and dentist. Iron deficiency can cause a number of other problems besides triggering ice cravings, and it’s important to get diagnosed and treated before it gets worse, particularly for pregnant women.

Now go put that ice-chewing habit on ice!

 

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.