Posts for: August, 2013
Compared to traditional braces, orthodontic clear aligners seem miraculous in many ways, almost too good to be true. You may be wondering if they really work. The answer is yes — but they are not for everyone.
What are orthodontic aligners and how do they work?
Clear orthodontic aligners are an alternative to traditional braces that are used to move your teeth and transform your smile without much interference to your daily life. They are removable trays made of a clear plastic material that is essentially invisible.
When using aligners, a sequence of slightly different trays is custom-made to fit over your teeth. You must wear each one 20 hours a day for two weeks before changing to the next in the series. The aligners are computer generated, designed by state-of-the-art techniques based on models and images of your own teeth. They work because slight changes in the sequential aligners gradually shift your teeth. If they are worn consistently, the process takes from six months to two or three years.
Advantages over traditional braces are:
- The aligners can be removed for eating, drinking, brushing, flossing and social occasions.
- They have no rough edges or wires, making them more comfortable.
- Changes become visible quickly as your teeth move into their new, better positions.
Clear aligners are a good solution for correcting mild to moderately crowded or incorrectly spaced teeth. They are most effective if your back teeth already fit together properly. Clear aligners are usually effective in correcting simpler or tipping movements of teeth in two dimensions. For more complex movements, traditional braces may be required. Clear aligners are usually recommended for adults whose teeth and jaws are fully developed, and not for children.
When do you need traditional fixed braces?
Traditional braces are fixed brackets attached to the teeth through which narrow, flexible wires are threaded. They may be necessary if your teeth do not meet properly, creating too much overbite or underbite. Closing spaces where teeth are missing, rotating teeth, or other complicated situations probably make you a better candidate for traditional braces.
Each particular situation is unique. To find out if clear aligners are right for you, make an appointment with us for an assessment and diagnosis of your own situation. For more information see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Orthodontic Aligners.”
Habits — both good and bad — often begin at an early age. They can be defined as recurring, mostly unconscious patterns of behavior, which are acquired by frequent repetition. Wouldn't it be nice if you could start your children off with good, healthy ones? When it comes to oral health, you can!
Practicing good oral hygiene is actually one of the easier habits to instill. The time to start is when your baby's teeth first begin to appear. To clean them, wipe gently with a clean, damp washcloth. Starting at age 2, when more teeth have appeared, you should establish a brushing routine using just a smear of fluoride toothpaste.
In the toddler years, a child-size soft toothbrush with a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste will do the trick. By this time, they should have also put away their pacifiers and stopped sucking thumbs. Continual thumb-sucking past this age can lead to later problems with tooth and jaw development.
Kids soon get used to the feel of gentle brushing, and gradually begin taking over the job. However, they may need help until they're 6 or older, and have gained more manual dexterity. Don't forget to show them how to wiggle the brush back and forth along the gum line, as well as across the biting surfaces of the teeth.
You'll have to periodically confirm whether they did a good tooth-brushing job — but you can also teach them to check their own work. There are over-the-counter products that identify bacterial plaque by turning it a bright color, making it easy for you and your children to see how efficiently they have removed plaque. Another less precise way is to just have them run their tongue over their teeth: If the teeth feel nice and smooth, they're probably clean too. If not, it's back to the sink...
Eating healthy foods, getting moderate exercise, and avoiding sugary snacks between meals are a few more beneficial habits you can foster in your children. As parents, you can set a positive example by doing these things yourselves. The professionals in our office are ready to help you learn, practice and promote these healthy habits.
If you would like more information about instilling good oral health habits in your children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
Even though they eventually fall out, primary (baby) teeth play several vital roles in your child's development. Among other things, they serve as important guides for the developing permanent teeth that will replace them. If any are lost prematurely, the remaining baby teeth start to shift, migrating forward, decreasing the space necessary for the permanent teeth to erupt into their proper positions. This could result in a need for future orthodontics that may have been unnecessary. So it's important to keep primary teeth healthy and in place until they are ready to come out naturally.
Signs & Symptoms of Teething
Primary (baby) teeth typically begin emerging between six and nine months, though as early as three or as late as 12 months can occur. Usually, but not necessarily, the two lower front teeth appear first. All 20 primary teeth are generally in by the age of three.
Some typical signs of teething include: irritability, gum swelling, gnawing, drooling (due to increased saliva production), chin (facial) rash (due to excessive drooling), disrupted sleeping patterns, ear rubbing, and decreased appetite. Symptoms generally start about four days before a tooth emerges, are most intense during the week when the tooth breaks through the gum, and subside about three days following the event.
You may notice small, bluish, translucent “eruption cysts” on your baby's gum where a tooth is breaking through; sometimes blood mixes with the fluid in a cyst, at which point it's called an eruption hematoma. Both generally disappear on their own when the tooth erupts and pops them.
Suggestions for Soothing
To help keep your teething baby as comfortable as possible, try the following:
- A chilled rubber teething ring, pacifier, or cold wet washcloth
- Gentle gum massage using a clean finger
- Cold foods like popsicles when your child is old enough (just be careful about feeding him or her too much sugar, which can cause decay even in newly emerging/emerged teeth)
- Over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen in the appropriate dosage
The onset of teething is the perfect time to begin focusing on your child's pediatric dental care. Even though baby teeth eventually fall out, the quality of their care will have a direct and long-lasting impact on the health of the permanent teeth that follow.
If you would like more information about baby teething, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Teething Troubles.”
Billions of bacteria live in each of our mouths, sharing a common environment with teeth and soft tissues. Most of the time, they coexist in symbiotic balance. But sometimes that balance becomes disrupted, leading to a destructive condition known as periodontal disease.
From the Latin peri (“around”) and the Greek odont (“tooth”), periodontal refers to the tissues that are around the teeth. When they become diseased, it's a serious matter; and not just because of potential tooth loss — there is evidence that periodontal disease has links to cardiovascular disease and, for pregnant women, low birth weights in pre-term babies.
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of developing periodontal disease, like smoking, poor nutrition, and your systemic health. The biggest factor, however, is increased bacterial plaque due to poor oral hygiene practices.
Periodontal disease is progressive. As unhealthy bacteria levels increase, the bacteria eventually cause bone loss, the gums separate from the teeth and create what is referred to as periodontal pockets. As the pockets deepen around the teeth, plaque and tartar become extremely difficult to remove, even if you resume a proper hygiene routine. At this stage, treating the disease will require a different approach. And if left untreated, the teeth will most likely continue to lose bone and eventually be lost.
Through a dental exam, we can determine the presence and extent of the disease and recommend a treatment strategy. Besides lifestyle changes and better hygiene habits, this strategy might also include treatment with antibiotics, a thorough mechanical cleaning to remove tartar and plaque, surgical techniques to remove infected tissue, or occlusal bite therapy.
Above all, prevention is the key. Through proper dental hygiene and regular dental exams and cleanings, stopping periodontal disease from beginning in the first place is your best defense.
If you would like more information on the treatment of periodontal disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Understanding Gum Disease.”