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A Clear Choice for Many Patients

Clear aligners can help many patients straighten their teeth invisibly.

Many adult orthodontic patients once dreamed of having a beautiful, straight smile. For one reason or another, they were never able to commit to orthodontic treatment as kids. Maybe their parents couldn’t afford braces when they were younger, or perhaps they did have braces as a child but didn’t keep up with their retainer (hey, we’re not judging). Sometimes just the thought of feeling self-conscious while enduring two years in metal brackets is too overwhelming.

Regardless of the reason, adults are flocking to orthodontics like never before. In fact, over 25% of patients in orthodontic treatment are adults! Straight, bright-white teeth are a symbol of youth and vitality. Thanks to advances in science and technology, many people can now get these results in a fraction of the time compared to traditional metal braces. Granted, there are still many cases where metal braces and a two-year treatment commitment are the best solutions, but clear aligners can help many adults have the smile of their dreams in a few simple steps.

Clear aligners have many brand names like Invisalign and Clear Correct. They are made of similar materials (a clear, thermoplastic tray that patients wear for up to 22 hours a day). Each brand has its benefits, but they are mostly the same. They are removed only when you eat, drink anything other than water, or when you clean your teeth.

After an exam, x-rays, and digital scans, your dentist or a lab will fabricate an entire set of trays. The trays have small “buttons” where the plastic is built up. These put pressure on specific teeth and encourage them to shift into position. Each set is worn for a couple of weeks. When the teeth have moved to the point that no pressure is felt on any single tooth, the next set is inserted and worn for another two weeks. This cycle continues until the teeth are moved into their ideal place. Like traditional braces, a retainer is worn after your active treatment phase is over.

Clear aligners are great for adults and some mature teens but are not recommended for children because they can be easily removed and lost.

A brief consultation and exam with your dentist can help determine if clear aligners are right for you. Sometimes your dentist can even show what your smile will look like when treatment is complete!

Whether you have always dreamed of a beautiful, straight smile or just recently given it some thought, give us a call to see if clear aligners can work for you!

Orthodontics Can Fix These Common Bite Problems

While everyone’s bite is unique, many people suffer from some form of bite misalignment. Here are a few common problems that can be corrected with braces.

Few people are born with a “perfect” smile. With a little help, modern orthodontics can help the rest of us get a picture-perfect smile and a functional bite.

While everyone’s bite is unique, most of us fall into one of several bite categories with varying severity. Here are some of the most common bite problems:

Open Bite – There are two types of open bite. When a patient has an anterior (front teeth) open bite, the top and bottom teeth don’t overlap properly when the patient’s mouth is closed. A posterior (back teeth) open bite happens when a patient’s back teeth don’t touch when the front teeth are closed. Sometimes an open bite is caused by thumb-sucking or a tongue thrust and can make taking a bite of certain foods like pizza or a chicken wing difficult.

Crossbite – Patients with a crossbite have upper teeth that fit inside their bottom teeth. You can have an anterior (front teeth) or posterior (back teeth) crossbite. A crossbite can affect one tooth or a whole side of a person’s mouth depending on the severity. If left untreated, a crossbite can cause stress on the temporomandibular, or jaw, joint causing discomfort and headaches, as well as tooth enamel erosion. Most dentists recommend treatment for a crossbite as early as possible to prevent permanent damage.

Crowding – One of the most common reasons for orthodontic treatment is crowding. If you or your child have a small jaw or large teeth, crowding can occur, making the teeth grow in crooked, rotated or overlapped. If crowding is not fixed, it may not only affect your self-confidence but can make teeth difficult to clean. This can cause cavities and periodontal disease.

Deep Bite – A deep bite is visible when a patient closes their mouth, and the top front teeth almost entirely cover the bottom front teeth. In some cases, their bite may be so deep the bottom teeth touch the roof of the mouth damaging the upper gums. When not treated properly, enamel erosion, gum issues, jaw pain, headaches, and a “gummy” smile can also occur.

Underbite – When a patient has an underbite, their lower jaw sticks out farther than their top jaw, which causes a “Bulldog” appearance. This can be caused by either the upper jaw being too small, or the lower jaw being too large. Underbites are usually inherited and can cause jaw pain, headaches, and tooth enamel erosion.

Overbite – An overbite is caused when a patient’s lower jaw is too small, or their top jaw is too large, causing the top teeth to stick out too far over the bottom jaw. Thumb sucking can make an overbite worse. If left untreated, overbites can cause speech delays, headaches, and eating difficulties.

These bite problems rarely correct themselves as a child grows and develops, and symptoms usually get worse with age. Early diagnosis and treatment are generally recommended, but even adults can benefit from orthodontics to solve these issues. It’s important to remember that it’s never too early or too late to have a beautiful smile that allows you to chew properly and speak clearly.

What is two-phase orthodontic treatment?

A greater understanding of the jaw and its relationship to the teeth allows many dentists and orthodontists to see the need for braces long before a child loses all their baby teeth. If this is the case, they may recommend something called two-phase treatment.

What is Two-Phase Treatment?

Two-phase treatment is exactly what it sounds like, a first phase to lay some groundwork for proper development, a resting period, and then a second phase to finalize and refine your child’s orthodontic work. The purpose of two-phase treatment is to use your child’s natural development to make treatment less painful and often less invasive than waiting until your child is a teen.

Phase One

The first phase involves x-rays, diagnostic records, and the use of palatal expanders and other appliances that are either removable or fixed depending on the child’s needs. These help the jaw develop in a way that allows the adult teeth to come in without crowding. Treatment begins between the ages of 7-11 and lasts about one year. Phase one usually doesn’t involve braces, but every child’s needs are unique.

Rest

After phase one, a retainer is used to preserve the work done during phase one until all or most of your child’s adult teeth have come in.

Phase Two

Once most of your child’s adult teeth have come in (usually around 12 years of age), phase two can begin. This commonly involves braces or, for some ideal candidates, Invisalign. The goal of the second phase is to make sure each tooth has a precise spot in the mouth where it is in harmony with the lips, cheeks, tongue, and other teeth. Phase two can take as little as a few months or up to two years, depending on the treatment plan.

Benefits of Two-Phase Treatment

Two-phase treatment can:

  • Help the jaw develop in a way that allows space for all the permanent teeth and may reduce or eliminate the need for extractions to make that room.
  • Equalize jaw growth to prevent an overbite or underbite.
  • Eliminate the need for corrective surgery as a teen because phase one works with the natural growth cycle.
  • Help prevent the removal of permanent teeth later in life, or the need for surgical procedures to realign or widen the jaws as an adult.

If your orthodontist recommends two-phase treatment, it’s to work with your child’s natural growth and development cycles. This makes a once tedious and painful experience more bearable. It can also prevent the need for extractions, which helps maintain your child’s natural bite, and it can (in some cases) eliminate the need for oral surgery to widen your child’s jaw.

Two-phase treatment may take place over an extended period, but it can reduce the need for more drastic procedures in the future and the pain associated with them.

How to Care for Your Clear Aligners in Seven Steps

Clear aligners like Invisalign and Clear Correct are an innovation in dentistry. They allow people to straighten their teeth invisibly and, in some cases, in less time than with traditional orthodontics.

Even though you only wear a set of trays for a couple of weeks before moving on to the next set, you still must take care of them.

Here are some tips for keeping your clear aligners looking good:

1. Rinse your trays whenever you take them out – Clear trays should be rinsed each time they are removed. This helps keep them wet to prevent plaque and saliva from drying on the trays, which can cause them to become stained and discolored.

2. NEVER brush your aligners with toothpaste – Using toothpaste can scratch the resin of your clear aligners, causing discoloration. With a separate toothbrush, use a clear, liquid anti-bacterial soap and rinse thoroughly in lukewarm water before putting your trays back in your mouth.

3. Brush your trays whenever you brush and floss – Both in the morning and before bed, brushing your aligners (without toothpaste) when you brush your teeth helps prevent bacteria and plaque buildup. Removing any leftover food particles helps keep your aligners looking new and prevents odor-causing buildup that can make your breath smell bad.

4. Soak your aligners once a day – Using a special clear aligner soak, denture cleaner, or a mixture of one part vinegar and one part water will help kill bacteria on your trays. Soak for about 30 minutes once a day (ideally while you are eating) and be sure to rinse them well before putting them back in your mouth!

5. Brush and floss after each meal – In addition to your morning and bedtime brushing routine, you should also brush and floss each time you eat. This helps remove food particles that might otherwise get stuck between your teeth and the aligner, allowing bacteria to eat away at your tooth enamel. This also causes discoloration of your trays that will make them not-so-invisible.

6. Don’t eat or drink with your clear aligners in your mouth – Water is the only thing you should consume while you are wearing your aligners. Food and drink can get stuck between your tray and your teeth. Clear aligners aren’t made to withstand chewing forces and could crack under the pressure.

7. Plan for the unknown – Spur of the moment day trips, unexpected errands, or an impromptu lunch out with friends might be a problem for you and your aligners if you’re not prepared. Make a small kit that goes with you every day and keep it in your book bag, car, wallet, or purse. Don’t forget to include an extra case for your aligners, a spare toothbrush, travel size toothpaste, and floss. In a pinch, you can brush your trays with your toothbrush but remember to use only water.

By following these simple steps, plus any advice from your dental team, you can keep your mouth decay-free and your trays sparkling and undetectable from their first day to their last.

Dispelling the Myth’s About Orthodontics

Despite more than 4 million Americans currently undergoing orthodontic treatment, there are still many myths about orthodontics floating around. Let’s look at some of the most common rumors and gain a new perspective on braces.

You’ll Always Be at the Dentist – Newer technology and the advent of computer models to guide orthodontic progress means that depending on the difficulty of your case, you may be able to spread evaluations out as far as 8 to 10 weeks. This doesn’t mean you can miss scheduled appointments and wait until a bracket pops off to been seen. Your doctor has checkups timed with your treatment progress and missing scheduled appointments no matter how close or far apart can be detrimental to your treatment plan.

Braces are expensive – It’s true that orthodontic work isn’t cheap. But you get what you pay for! Dentists undergo years of training and must take yearly continuing education courses to keep their licenses up to date and to make sure they offer their patients the latest techniques and technology available. Some cases are more difficult than others requiring more equipment or expertise. Many orthodontists offer payment plans spread out over the course of treatment and many dental benefits companies now cover orthodontic treatment – even if it covers just a small part of the total cost.

Braces Are Just for Kids – According to recent studies, more than 1.5 million adults are currently undergoing orthodontic treatment. We now know that teeth can be moved at any age and insight into the role that proper bite and aligned occlusion have on the head, neck, and jaw have encouraged many adults to get braces. Clear aligners have also taken away some of the cosmetic stigmas associated with being an adult with braces.

You’ll Have to Wear Braces for YEARS – We all have flashbacks to that one kid who had braces from middle school until high school graduation. While some treatment is very complex and does require a couple years of treatment, modern technology and computers give us the ability to treat simpler cases in as little as a few months.

Orthodontic Treatment is Just Cosmetic – Braces do more than make a pretty smile! While that’s a nice added benefit, more and more people are going through treatment to straighten out uneven bites and reduce the frequency of headaches, migraines, TMJ issues, and other problems that can develop when your teeth don’t come together correctly.

In today’s age of information, it’s hard to believe that the positive impact orthodontic treatment can have is still being overshadowed by these myths. Orthodontic treatment can be much more than just a means to get straight, pretty, front teeth. It can help give people back a life without pain, boost their self-confidence, and help them live a happy, fulfilled life.

DIY Ortho: Is it Safe?

It seems like the do-it-yourself fad has infiltrated every industry and dentistry is no different. From Facebook to YouTube, videos for at-home, no-dentist-required orthodontics are all over the place. But DIY-ing it can lead to more severe and more costly problems down the line.

Proper orthodontic treatment requires a trained professional. And that expertise costs money. You wouldn’t DIY your eye surgery or hip replacement, so why take such a risk with your mouth? You know, the thing you speak with, eat with, and rely on EVERYDAY to keep you alive? Taking orthodontic treatment into your own hands, without the professional guidance, is a recipe for disaster.

The dangers of at-home orthodontics are so high that the American Journal of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedists felt compelled to write about one particular case.

Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t try to straighten your own teeth:

Risk of Infection- Many online personalities have put tutorials online using 3D printers or other household items. But these materials are seldom sterile and can cause severe infections if you cut yourself while using them or already have an open sore in your mouth. If left untreated, oral infections can spread to the rest of your body causing sepsis, an infection that may require hospitalization to treat.

More Pain- Without the watchful eyes of your orthodontic team, you could experience more pain and discomfort. Your team is trained in the most efficient way to move teeth with as little pain as possible.

Relapse- While relapse may also happen under the care of the most qualified dental team, specially-designed retainers are made to keep post-orthodontic shifting to a minimum. Without this knowledge, your teeth will likely move back to their original position.

More Damage Than Good- Without proper guidance and monthly check-ins, you may do more damage resulting in tooth loss. If your bite is off, you could also develop a speech impediment or have trouble chewing food.

In the long run, do-it-yourself braces may be more expensive than seeing an orthodontist for proper treatment. Between the risk of infection, the cost to make the at-home braces, and the expense of having to correct the damage done, you’re better off paying a trained professional right from the start. The damage might not be noticeable at first, but the long-term risks are great and potentially life-threatening. The health of your teeth is so much more than just the appearance of your smile. Without proper monitoring or periodic x-rays, you have no way of telling what’s going on below the gum line.

If you or child need braces, check with a trained professional. Many insurance plans provide orthodontic coverage, and many offices accept payment plans for the remaining cost. Your dental team is here to work with you and make sure you get the care you need that fits within your budget.

Five Tips to Make Your Orthodontic Adjustments More Comfortable

Anyone who’s had braces can tell you the initial appointment to have your braces put on is just the beginning. Monthly appointments for adjustments and tightening can be a real pain in the, well, mouth. Some changes cause less discomfort, especially as treatment nears the end, but some can make your teeth so sore that it hurts to eat mashed potatoes (true story). While it’s all worth it in the end, it can be tough to keep your eye on the prize month after month.

Here are five ways to combat discomfort and get you back to your regular routine:

  • Take a pain reliever/anti-inflammatory before your visit – To help prevent discomfort, get proactive and try taking the recommended dose of whichever over-the-counter pain reliever you prefer (or whichever your orthodontist recommends) before your adjustment appointment. Be sure to follow all doctor recommendations and always follow packaging instructions. Remember that children should NEVER take aspirin because of the risk of Reye’s Syndrome.
  • Try an oral anesthetic – If you have one or two sensitive spots try using anesthetic gel that is sold in pharmacies and supermarkets. A small amount works wonders and can supply some much-needed relief. For larger areas, try an ice pack wrapped in a towel, so the ice pack is not directly in contact with the skin.
  • Eat soft food for a few days – While your mouth is recovering, take it easy and don’t expect to chew anything tough like steak for a bit. Soft, nourishing foods can keep you healthy until you can use your full bite again. After an adjustment, you might want to eat ice cream for a week, but foods like tofu, scrambled eggs, chicken or egg salad, cottage cheese, soups with soft or pureed vegetables, oatmeal, hummus, and pasta are all healthy, nutritious options that will help keep your strength up and allow your body to heal faster.
  • Use orthodontic wax liberally – Ortho wax can be a post-adjustment lifesaver. Brackets rubbing against the delicate tissue of the cheeks and lips can cause sore spots. When placed over the bracket or against an archwire, it can give your tissue some time to heal while the rest of your mouth adjusts to the new position of the braces.
  • Rest – Sometimes overlooked in today’s rush to do EVERYTHING, rest is an essential part of our body’s ability to heal. Be sure to take it easy after your visit and let your body do its thing.

The most important thing to remember after your orthodontic adjustment is to be patient. You’re asking your teeth to move in the bone, it’s no small feat. You should allow yourself and your mouth the time it takes to feel better. Keep looking to the future and keep in mind that in no time your braces with be a thing of the past and you’ll be left with a functional bite and a beautiful smile for all the world to see!