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How braces can deliver more than just a straight smile

When contemplating the merits of orthodontic treatment, prospective patients don’t often look beyond the obvious benefits of an improved bite, straighter teeth, and a higher self-esteem. Braces can correct myriad of oral health issues that, if not treated, can cause bigger problems later in life.


And, while other non-traditional forms of orthodontic treatment to improve physical appearance have sprung up over recent years (like online mail-order services or the clear molded trays designed to move teeth), they’re not appropriate for everyone, and they do nothing to address other more serious dental health problems.


Crooked and misaligned teeth can contribute to improper cleaning of teeth, leading to tooth decay and possibly gum disease or total tooth loss. In more extreme cases, disfiguring of the face and mouth occurs, affecting the development of the jaw and position of the teeth. That can lead to breathing or swallowing problems which can cause snoring and sleep apnea problems as an adult. Improper occlusion and jaw alignment can also create speech, chewing or biting problems. Over time, excessive strain on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth can affect the jaw joints, leading to headaches or face and neck pain.


Of course, the typical reasons for braces are to correct a cross bite (one or more upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth), deep overbites (lower front teeth bite into the upper tissue of the upper teeth), under bites or lower jaw protrusion (when the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw) and spacing problems due to missing or extra teeth.


While orthodontic treatment is most common for young teens, all ages can benefit from braces, from pre-ortho treatment at age nine or so, to full braces for teens and young adults. And it’s not unheard of for older adults whose teeth may have shifted over the years to undergo treatment to realign their smiles.


Though orthodontic treatment can be done at any age, timely treatment ensures maximum dental health. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children get an orthodontic evaluation no later than age 7. Many parents take their children to the orthodontist to correct problems arising from issues of early childhood. For example, finger or thumb sucking habits can cause protrusion of the upper incisor teeth and constriction of the upper jaw. Teeth that erupt out of position can also be guided to proper alignment with braces.


It’s important to meet with an orthodontist for an evaluation. Many orthodontists provide ortho consultations free of charge. At that point, they can present options, including clear, gold or traditional braces, and discuss financing packages. With all the recent advancements in orthodontics, wearing braces has never been easier or more effective.

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How to get children to regularly brush their teeth
Let’s face facts: Kids hate to brush their teeth. And parents grow extremely weary of the daily battle to get them to do it. Brushing your teeth is crucial for everyone, especially kids who want to avoid bad habits at a young age that can lead to poor dental hygiene the rest of their life. Battling with a child who won’t regularly brush their teeth can become an unwanted bedtime nightmare. Dr. John Luther, Chief Dental Officer for Western Dental, provides 5 tips for getting kids to brush regularly. • Pick a fun Toothbrush, Toothpaste: Buy a cool new toothbrush – dinosaurs, race cars, Disney characters, Barbie – that your child is excited to use and do the same with a child’s toothpaste. Make a fun time of taking your kid to the store to pick out toothbrush and toothpaste. • Play their favorite song: Brush DJ – an award-winning free app – plays two-minute songs. Kids can pick the songs. The app also sets reminders to brush twice a day, floss, use a mouthwash, and visit the dentist. • Reward good brushing behavior: Suggestions include extra half hour of TV; 30 straight days leads to a gift of their choice; award stickers each time they brush, and provide a reward (new toy, trip to the zoo) when the child reaches a certain number of stickers. • Brushing with your kids: Many young kids enjoy emulating their parents. Set aside a time each evening where you can brush your teeth together. Make it fun – perhaps create a dance while brushing. But also make it informative. Show them the proper technique for brushing. • Story time: Create a story, like “sugar bugs” are attacking your child’s mouth. The only way to defeat the sugar bugs is to defend your mouth with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Your child becomes a superhero, fighting the evil sugar bugs. Or maybe it’s monsters invading Smile Kingdom. The idea is to make brushing FUN!
Traditional Braces vs. “Aligners:” the Straight Facts
When considering braces, you may be weighing the pros and cons of traditional braces and the clear “aligners” available by mail order. At face value, clear Mail Order Aligners may sound like the less expensive way to go. But a closer look at your choices may get you thinking that getting the right orthodontic treatment, delivered by a qualified orthodontic professional, an Orthodontist, is what you really need to attain a beautiful, straight smile in the long run. The process of getting traditional braces starts with clearance by a general dentist, who checks for cavities and any gum issues, and then a consultation and evaluation by a trained orthodontist. The orthodontist will determine any teeth straightening challenges you may have, estimate the length of time you’ll need to reach your goal, and develop a treatment plan. They will take impressions of your upper and lower teeth to make a working model, which will serve as a guide for the placement of traditional braces. Orthodontists have two to three years of additional training in an Orthodontic residency program, which makes them the most qualified person to evaluate and deliver Orthodontic Care face to face with the patient. The fact is, traditional braces aren’t so traditional anymore. Besides the commonplace metal braces our parents may have worn, braces are now available in gold brackets and are much more compact than traditional braces. Clear brackets are another option; they appear to blend into the surrounding teeth, giving a very subtle appearance. All traditional braces are securely attached so that they will constantly guide your teeth into their proper alignment throughout your treatment. Any way you decide, traditional braces have a high probability of delivering the smile you want, treat a wide range of teeth straightening complications, and are under direct supervision of a trained orthodontist at every step of the process. The orthodontist checks progress during your visits on a regular basis (every 4-6 weeks) and makes any adjustments as needed. Mail Order Aligners, on the other hand, are very limited in the results they produce. They aren’t appropriate for everyone and can only a treat a few very basic cases. Patients must take their own impressions, allow them to harden, and then mail them to the aligner company. There are no in-office visits; in fact, there is very little, if any, supervision of your treatment by a Board-certified orthodontist. Contact is “virtual” on an as-needed basis by staff with varying degrees of experience. If aligners are lost, precious treatment time is interrupted while waiting for replacements, which can add additional costs and negatively affect the outcome of treatment. Before considering Mail Order Aligners, it’s important to meet with an expert first. Orthodontic consultations with a Board Certified or Board Eligible Orthodontist at Western Dental and Brident are free, so it doesn’t hurt to make an appointment to get all the facts. And, when you consider that every Western Dental and Brident office is a complete “dental home” that includes hygiene, periodontics, general dentistry and a comprehensive range of dental specialties, you just may decide that starting your teeth-straightening journey there will be the best investment you can make for a lifetime of smiles.
My Perio Protect Journey, Part 3
I was at my Western Dental office again, this time to pick up my Perio Protect trays and get started on the road to perio health. My original anxiety was gone, replaced with anticipation about a new oral hygiene routine. I arrived a few minutes late, but the front desk greeted me with a smile and asked me to check in at the kiosk. A few minutes later, Ben the hygienist welcomed me back. Ben asked if I was glad to be picking up my trays. I suppose I was, but I could tell he was more excited, even though I was one of many Perio Protect patients that day. I guess if dental hygiene is your career, you’re going to be enthusiastic about any product that will improve the gum health of your patients. And any time a patient gets serious about oral hygiene, you’re going to give them your full support. While I sat in the chair, Ben opened the box containing my trays, a large tube of Perio Gel, a small brush – and a compact case to hold it all. There they were, the upper and lower trays, custom fit to my teeth. He handed them to me and asked me to place them on my teeth to check the fit. They were snug and comfortable (that was good), but they seemed to be a little rough in one area. Ben took them back to his station to gently smooth them out. After a couple of adjustments, they fit like a glove. I received instructions on proper daily use: After brushing and flossing, squeeze a small amount of Perio Gel along the inside of the tray, then use the small Perio Brush to spread the gel evenly. Use only a small amount (a little goes a long way). Firmly place the trays on your teeth, and if the gel seems to overflow from the trays, you’ve used too much. I’d get the hang of it after a couple of uses. Ben told me to keep the trays in for about 10-15 minutes, twice a day to start, then I could go to once a day. I was to come back to the office after about a month, to check my progress. . . . I’ve used Perio Protect for a couple of weeks now, and already notice a difference. In fact, each 15-minute Perio Protect treatment is like a trip to the hygienist! My teeth and gums feel squeaky clean, and the cool mint-flavored gel gives a pleasant tingling sensation. It’s a feeling that tells me I’m on my way to perfect gum health!