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‘Tis the Season—for Healthy Dental Choices!

December 1st, 2021

It might be the most wonderful time of the year, but if you’re dashing through the snow to an emergency orthodontic appointment, you’re not feeling very jolly. And post-holiday, no one wants to start off their New Year’s Resolutions with “Get Cavities Filled.” How to survive the sweetest of seasons with braces and enamel intact?

Candies and sweets would normally be on the naughty list, but we’re not Scrooges! Indulging in a treat or two is part of the holiday fun, and we have some advice for how to enjoy them guilt-free. But first, some treats are definitely more naughty than nice. Which are the ones that are better as decorations than desserts?

  • Candy Canes

If you’ve ever suffered a broken bracket or a chipped tooth after an innocently biting down on a much-harder-than-expected piece of candy, you know that caution is in order. That’s why we tend to savor candy canes, letting them dissolve slowly in the mouth. Of course, the drawback to this strategy is that now we’re slowly bathing our teeth in sugar, encouraging the growth of plaque and cavity-causing bacteria.

Candy canes, peppermints, and other hard candies are potentially bad for your teeth and braces when you crunch away, and definitely bad for your teeth if you let them dissolve slowly.

  • Gumdrops

Glistening, colorful gumdrops. Roofing your gingerbread house, trimming a gumdrop tree, or simply sitting in a bowl, they are one of the sweetest ways to decorate for the holidays.  And when we say “sweet,” we mean that literally. Most gumdrops are basically made of corn syrup and sugar—and then rolled in more sugar.

But their sugar content isn’t the only problem. This is sugar in an extra-gummy form that sticks between our teeth and along our gums, and gets caught around brackets and wires.

  • Toffees, Caramels, Taffy

They might come in lovely ribboned boxes, but these extremely sticky foods are not a gift to your teeth.

Not only do chewy candies stick to enamel, they stick to fillings, crowns (especially temporary crowns), and orthodontic wires and brackets. No one wants an unexpected trip to the dentist or orthodontist because dental work has been damaged or dislodged!

  • Gingerbread Houses

Nothing says the holidays like a gingerbread house—chewy, sticky gingerbread covered with hard sugar icing, gumdrops, and peppermints. Great for your décor; not so great for your dental health. Eat one gingerbread man if you’re in a spicy mood and leave your architectural masterpiece intact.

Well, this list wasn’t very jolly. So as a little holiday gift for you, here are some suggestions to help you enjoy your desserts in the healthiest way possible.

  • Be choosy.

Just like you search for the perfect presents for your family and friends, take the time to choose the perfect holiday treats for yourself. If you are wear braces, or are worried about cavities, or are just generally concerned with your oral health, stay away from sticky, hard, and excessively sugary desserts.

What can you accept from your holiday hosts with a grateful (and relieved) smile? The occasional soft chocolate should be nothing to stress about—and if you make it dark chocolate, you’ll actually get nutritional bonuses like magnesium and antioxidants. Soft cakes, cupcakes, cookies, and pies should be braces-friendly—yes, they are made with lots of sugar, but it is the holidays after all. Just be sure to follow our next suggestions to make that slice of cheesecake guilt-free.

  • Eat sweets with a meal.

Saliva does more than keep our mouths from getting dry. It also helps prevent cavities by washing away food particles and neutralizing the acids from food and bacteria which damage enamel.

Eat dessert with a meal, and you benefit from increased mealtime saliva production. When you snack throughout the day, this acid-neutralizing ability is greatly reduced.

  • Rinse after eating.

Rinsing your mouth with water after a meal or a snack, especially a sugary one, also helps wash away the sugars and carbs which oral bacteria convert into cavity-causing acids.

  • Brush immediately. (Maybe.)

If you wear braces, you want to make sure there are no food particles stuck around your brackets and wires. If you wear aligners, you want to get rid of food particles on and around your teeth before you replace your aligners after eating.

But if you’ve eaten acidic foods like citrus or colas, the acids in the food can weaken your enamel just enough to cause some potential enamel damage if you scour your teeth immediately after eating. We often recommend waiting about 30 minutes to brush to give your enamel a chance to recover.

Since every mouth is different, especially when you wear braces, talk to Dr. Pack for the best times and methods for holiday brushing.

You don’t want to ho-ho-hope that we can fit you in at our Murfreesboro, TN office for a bracket repair. Make your holiday dessert list and check it twice, and make sure you’re brushing and flossing more often if you’re indulging in seasonal treats—give yourself these two gifts, and you’ll be ringing in the New Year with a beautiful, healthy smile. Sweet!

How Long Will I Wear My Braces?

November 24th, 2021

How long? Well, a beautiful smile is both science and art—proper teeth and jaw alignment united with aesthetically pleasing results. Orthodontists achieve both these outcomes with a careful analysis of any dental and facial problems, a treatment plan designed specifically for each patient’s needs, and adjustments through each phase of treatment to carefully bring about that beautiful smile.

And that’s a long way of saying, there’s no one, standard answer as to how long a patient will wear braces because there is no one, standard patient. Often, treatment takes from 18 to 24 months, but it can be months shorter or months longer depending on a variety of different circumstances.

  • Different Needs

Your orthodontic needs and goals will generally determine your treatment time. Some patients need only a bit of alignment, which can lead to a fairly short orthodontic experience. Some have malocclusions such as crossbites and open bites that require more complex and lengthy treatment.

And, while we used to think of orthodontics as a teenage rite of passage, that’s certainly no longer the case. Some children will need two-phase orthodontic treatment, where early procedures before the adult teeth even come in ease the way for any necessary second stage treatment when the permanent teeth arrive years later. And some adults will want orthodontic work later in life, where denser bone tissue might lead to (somewhat) longer treatment.

  • Different Appliances

Today’s orthodontics offers you many choices in appliances. Lingual braces are an almost invisible option, with brackets and wires on the inside of the teeth. Aligners use clear, custom molded trays to move the teeth into a better position with each new tray. Even traditional braces are smaller and sleeker today, with metal or less visible ceramic brackets. Depending on the orthodontic goals you want to achieve, there might be a small difference in the amount of time each appliance will take to get you to those goals. Talk to us about all your options and what they mean for treatment time.

  • Different Levels of Participation in the Process

This is one area you can make a real difference! If you follow our instructions for using your appliances most effectively, you’ll make progress as quickly as possible. If you have aligner trays, be sure to wear them for as long as directed each day. If you have rubber bands attached to brackets on your upper and lower teeth, wear them for as many hours as required, because these little bands are actually the tools that are moving your teeth into alignment. If you don’t wear your braces or aligners as directed, not much is going to happen, and certainly not on schedule.

Give our Murfreesboro, TN office a call, and we can discuss your goals for creating your very best smile. Once we’ve decided on a treatment plan, Dr. Pack can give you a fairly good estimate as to how long your particular treatment will take. And, when you get to share that beautiful, healthy smile, the time you’ve spent achieving it will be well worth it!

 

Early Orthodontics

November 17th, 2021

Perhaps you are already planning for the years when your teenager will need orthodontic work. But hearing that your seven-year-old would benefit from orthodontic treatment? That might come as a complete surprise! It’s a recommendation with real benefits, though—early intervention can save children from tooth and bite problems now, and even simplify their future orthodontic care.

Treating young children for orthodontic problems is called “interceptive orthodontics.” When the permanent teeth start arriving, there might be problems with spacing, bite or protruding teeth. Often, treatment while the bones are still growing is the best way to prevent more serious problems later.

We recommend that your child have an orthodontic consultation with Dr. Pack around the age of seven. This exam is especially important for children who may have been thumb suckers or used a pacifier after the age of three, or if you notice obvious teeth, speech or bite issues.

  • Crowding and Spacing Issues

Teeth are arranged in two crescent shapes called arches. When the arch of your child’s mouth is small, the permanent teeth can become very crowded as they erupt. Formerly, teeth were removed to make more room. Now, early use of a palatal expander can enlarge the upper dental arch in order to help the permanent teeth come in without crowding. The need for future tooth extraction is reduced, and there is a better chance for correct spacing and alignment with early treatment.

On the other hand, when a child loses a tooth too soon, too much space left between baby teeth can also be a problem. The remaining teeth can shift, leaving the wrong place open for the adult tooth to come in. We might recommend a space maintainer so that there is no shifting of the teeth and there is room for the proper adult tooth to erupt in its proper spot.

  • Malocclusions (Bite Problems)

Some malocclusions, like a crossbite, can be caused by problems with jaw and facial structure. Again, we might recommend a palatal expander to help the upper arch of the teeth to fit properly with the lower jaw. Problems with overbite, open bite and other bite issues can also be addressed at this age if necessary. Early care can discourage TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders, reduce speech problems, and improve facial symmetry. 

  • Protruding Front Teeth

Teeth that protrude are much more likely to be damaged when playing or after a fall. Methods such as braces or appliances can reposition them and protect them from breaking or fracturing.

Many children will not need early intervention, and many can wait until they are older for orthodontic work. But if your young child has orthodontic problems that should be addressed, early intervention can do more than set the stage for successful orthodontics in the teen years. Talk to our Murfreesboro, TN team about what we can do for your child. Interceptive orthodontics can protect teeth, guide jaw and speech development, modify harmful oral habits and help to adjust bite problems before they become serious—when it comes to your child’s dental health, the best solutions are early ones!

How Long Do I Need To Wear Retainers?

November 10th, 2021

Once you get your braces off, you want to make sure your smile remains straight! This is where retainers come in.

Once your braces come off, you’ll be fitted for a retainer provided by Dr. Pack to keep those teeth in place. A retainer is a custom-fit device that sits in the mouth and reinforces the new position of your teeth. Wearing it may be annoying at first, but it’s an essential part of the process of keeping your teeth in place over the long term.

For the first few months after your braces are gone, Dr. Pack will tell you to wear your custom retainers all the time, except when you’re eating, drinking, or brushing. You have the option of having a clear plastic retainer made if you’re concerned about your appearance.

Eventually, we will recommend that you only have to wear the retainer during each night for a full year. After that, you may take a couple nights off from wearing them each week. In order to preserve the position of your teeth for as long as possible, we don’t recommend that you ever fully stop wearing your retainers.

If you’re concerned about forgetting to wear your retainer, and worried that your teeth may shift, a lingual retainer could be a good option for you. This gets placed on the back of your teeth and is not readily visible.

These retainers are permanent, but they could cause issues for you down the road if you don’t maintain good oral hygiene. Plaque and tartar can build up around these lingual bars, which is why we don’t usually recommend this as a primary choice.

Wearing your retainer is extremely vital after your braces come off. Without your retainer to keep them in place, the teeth you’ve taken so long to fix may begin to shift again. Getting braces is quite an investment, which is why you should keep wearing your retainer long after the braces have come off.

If you have questions or concerns regarding your retainers, contact our Murfreesboro, TN office and we can address any problems you may have.