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Five “Don’ts” When You Wear Aligners

May 27th, 2020

Choosing clear aligners was a great decision on your part! Straight teeth and a healthy bite? Subtle, almost invisible aligners? 3D technology custom-designed just for you? All the positives we’ve come to expect from your choice of orthodontic treatment.

So, don’t sabotage your good work! Here are five negative habits that will prevent you from getting the most out of your aligners:

  1. Don’t forget to keep them clean

One of the reasons you chose clear aligners is because they are nearly invisible. But careless cleaning habits can leave them discolored, scratched, or cloudy. Soaking in colored mouthwash can stain aligners. Using abrasive cleaning products or brushing with a heavy hand can cause scratches. And failing to keep aligners clean can lead to a buildup of cloudy plaque. Talk to us! We know all the best products and practices to keep your aligners their most sanitary—and most invisible.

  1. Don’t eat with your aligners in place

Aligners are simply not meant to be used while you eat. Chewing puts too much stress and pressure on them, and can lead to aligner damage and even breakage. Because you will be wearing your aligners for most of the day, planning ahead for your meals is key. One bonus: it’s a great way to eliminate unconscious snacking.

  1. Don’t let foods or drinks stain your aligners

It’s great that you take your aligners out to eat, but do you remember to brush before you replace them? Foods like spaghetti sauce and blueberries that stick to your enamel can stain your aligners. And it’s always best to remove your aligners before drinking a beverage. If a drink can stain your teeth, it can stain your aligners. Red wines, dark juices, colas, and, of course, coffee and tea can cause discoloration. Another thing to consider? Food particles in the trays can not only stain your aligners (and your enamel), but keep your teeth in contact with the acids and sugars that lead to cavities.

  1. Don’t run hot

Aligners are formed using heat, so it makes sense that heat can de-form them as well. Drinking hot beverages with your aligners in place can change their shape—and even subtle changes will affect your progress. Since warped aligners might have to be replaced, save the piping hot beverages for those times you’re not wearing aligners. It’s best not to clean them with very hot water as well.

  1. Don’t forget to wear them

Aligners need to be worn approximately 20-22 hours each day. If you’re not putting in the required time, you’re delaying your progress. If you’re having trouble with scheduling meals or activities, talk to Drs. Burk and Flinn when you visit our Rockville and Olney, MD office. We have suggestions.

But let’s not just dwell on the negatives. We like to focus on the positive, too, so here’s the one item on your “Do List” that will absolutely make your aligner experience the best it can be:

Do follow our recommendations!

Clean your aligners with the proper tools and products—and clean your teeth and aligners after every meal and snack. Remember that water is the only guaranteed problem-free beverage. Don’t expose aligners to heat or eat with them in place, because they can be warped or damaged. And be sure to wear them as long as you need to each day—this will keep your treatment on track and on schedule.

Enjoying a future filled with beautiful, healthy smiles? That’s not just a positive—it’s a happily-ever-after!

Orthodontic Treatment: Does a Missing Tooth Mean Missing Out?

May 20th, 2020

You’ve decided—now’s the time to talk to Drs. Burk and Flinn about straighter teeth and a better bite. So what’s holding you back? If you are concerned because you have a missing tooth, don’t let that stop you from making that first appointment. Orthodontists today have many options to help you achieve the benefits of a more attractive, and even healthier, smile.

How can we accommodate a patient with a missing tooth or teeth? Because each patient is different, our approach will be tailored to your specific needs.

A Lost or Missing Permanent Tooth

There are a number of treatment options available, depending on the position of your other teeth.

  • If your teeth are already crowded, it might be possible to close a small gap left by a missing tooth with braces.
  • If the space between your teeth is the perfect size for a replacement tooth, your orthodontic appliance will keep that spot open as your braces move the rest of the teeth into alignment.
  • If you need more space for a replacement tooth, braces can help widen the space between your surrounding teeth for an ideal fit.

Tooth loss can occur for a number of reasons. Accidents, decay, and gum disease can lead to tooth loss.  Congenitally missing teeth, teeth that simple never developed, are also a fairly common condition. But missing teeth are not merely a cosmetic issue, and should not be ignored. A gap in your smile can lead to shifting of the teeth around it, bite problems, difficulty chewing, and gradual loss of bone tissue beneath the missing tooth.

Today’s implants are a permanent, natural-looking replacement for a lost tooth. If you decide that an implant is your best option for tooth replacement, you are still a candidate for orthodontic treatment. Drs. Burk and Flinn and your oral surgeon can decide on a schedule that will provide the best timing for each phase of your treatment.

A Lost Baby Tooth

Finally, let’s not forget younger patients. Sometimes children benefit from orthodontic care before all of their adult teeth have erupted. If your child has lost a baby tooth too early, a space maintainer can be used to prevent shifting and misalignment of the remaining baby teeth and leave room for the adult tooth to erupt in its proper spot.

We recommend that your child have a first orthodontic assessment around age seven, but if your child has lost a primary tooth before its time, give our Rockville and Olney, MD office a call. We can let you know if a space maintainer is the best way to prevent future dental and orthodontic problems.

If you have concerns about a missing tooth or teeth, talk to us! Orthodontic treatment is always custom-designed to fit the needs of each individual patient. We can discuss your specific goals, and how orthodontic treatment can help you achieve them. There is no reason to let a missing tooth keep you from a more attractive, healthier smile!

The Best Brush of the Day

May 13th, 2020

Imagine that you’re only going to brush your teeth once tomorrow. Don’t worry, we know you would never skimp on your dental hygiene like that, but let’s just pretend for a moment. When would be the best time to brush? When you wake up? During the day? Or perhaps before you go to bed?

Actually, whenever you choose to brush, you’ll receive important overall dental benefits as well as specific benefits tied to the time of day. Let’s explore your daily schedule to see why.

Brushing in the Morning

Brushing when you first jump out of bed produces several positive results.

  • Cleaning plaque from your teeth

Plaque is a sticky film made up of oral bacteria, food particles, and saliva. As you sleep, these oral bacteria multiply and produce acids which attack the minerals in your enamel, leaving weak spots which, over time, can become cavities. Brushing removes these bacteria and acids from your enamel before they cause serious harm.

Moreover, plaque hardens if it’s left undisturbed, turning into tartar in a relatively short time. And once plaque becomes tartar, it must be removed by a dental professional. Brushing first thing in the morning removes this plaque buildup and helps prevent tartar from forming.

  • Fresh breath

That bacterial growth we mentioned? It’s also responsible for morning breath. If nothing else, brushing when you wake up means greeting a fresh day with fresh breath, and that’s reason enough to pick up your brush in the morning.

Brushing During the Day

Brushing after meals and snacks also has a lot to recommend it.

  • “Leftovers” lead to cavities

Foods, especially foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates, are converted by oral bacteria into acids which weaken enamel and lead to cavities. When food particles remain in the mouth after a meal, bacteria have more time and more fuel to manufacture these acids.

  • Acidic foods also affect your teeth

If you have eaten something acidic, such as citrus fruits, sodas, or pickled anything, the acids from these foods can temporarily weaken the mineral strength of your enamel. But brushing immediately after eating or drinking acidic foods can damage weakened enamel. Better to rinse well with water and brush after half an hour or so.

  • When you wear braces

One of the first things you discover when you get your braces is that you might need to brush more often. In fact, it’s best to brush after every meal and even every snack while you’re in braces.

Why? First, because no one wants to smile with food particles sticking to brackets and wires. Even more important, though, the filmy plaque which sticks to your enamel can be harder to remove with those brackets and wires in the way. Since plaque causes weakened enamel and cavities, brushing thoroughly is more important than ever when you wear braces.

  • When you wear aligners

Wearing clear aligners means you don’t need to worry about food trapped in brackets or cleaning around wires. After all, you take them out when you eat. But this doesn’t mean you are home free. Brushing after every meal is also a good idea when you wear aligners.

Our teeth have an organic way to help wash away food particles, acids, and bacteria between brushings—saliva! Your aligners, while covering your teeth, decrease their exposure to saliva. It’s really important, then, to make sure you brush after eating. Otherwise, food particles and acids which remain on your teeth after eating are trapped in your aligners, increasing the risk of enamel erosion and decay.

Whether you wear braces or aligners, you’re especially at risk for food particles sticking around your teeth and in your orthodontic appliances. Talk to Drs. Burk and Flinn about when to brush your teeth after eating and how to keep your braces or aligners clean throughout the day.

Brushing at Night

Growing up, you probably received regular reminders to brush before bedtime—for several really good reasons:

  • Saliva production slows while you sleep

During the day, saliva helps to wash away food particles and neutralize acidity in our mouths. It also contains proteins and minerals which help keep tooth enamel strong. But as we sleep, saliva production slows dramatically, and our bodies can’t remove bacteria and acids as effectively.

  • Food particles fuel bacterial growth

If you haven’t brushed since morning, you’ve accumulated a whole day’s worth of food particles from meals and snacks. Remember, oral bacteria use the sugars and carbs we eat as fuel to produce the acids which attack our tooth enamel throughout the night.

  • Brushing helps prevent both of these problems

Brushing your teeth before bed not only cleans away the accumulated food particles of the day, but also eliminates the plaque and bacteria which would have a much easier time sticking to your teeth without that daytime saliva flow to wash them away.

So, When’s the Best Time to Brush?

In the morning, during the day, at night—there are solid advantages to brushing any time of day. The question isn’t so much when to brush as how often you should brush.

While many dental professionals consider brushing before bedtime as the most important brush of the day, brushing at least two full minutes, at least twice during a 24 hour period, is a necessity for basic dental hygiene, along with flossing at least once a day.

When you’ve been eating sugary snacks, when you’re showing signs of gingivitis or getting more than your share of cavities, when you want to reduce the chance of plaque and tartar buildup, or when you simply want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to maintain your overall dental health, brushing after meals is also highly recommended.

And when you wear braces or aligners, frequent brushing (and flossing) is the very best way to make sure your teeth stay clean and cavity-free.

Talk to Drs. Burk and Flinn about your brushing habits at your next appointment at our Rockville and Olney, MD office. No need to use your imagination to plan your best brushing schedule. We have all the answers you need to help you brush your way to your best—and healthiest—smile!

Braces Repairs—Should You Try This at Home?

May 6th, 2020

No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen. Perhaps it’s a slice of apple that was a little bit larger than it should have been. Or you were chewing on your pencil while you were trying to work out an algebra problem. Or you tried a piece of candy that your friend really, truly thought didn’t have a caramel center.

No matter the cause, when something‘s wrong with your braces, you know it. And you want to fix it as soon as possible. What can you do to make yourself more comfortable? And which repairs are best left to orthodontic professionals?

First things first. If you have been injured, and suffered a trauma to your mouth or jaw that has damaged your braces, we want to make sure that you get any medical attention you might need before we worry about your appliance. Call Drs. Burk and Flinn, and your doctor, immediately if you have suffered a medical or dental injury.

Even if your braces are the only injured party, you might need a special appointment if the damage is something that shouldn’t wait and can delay your orthodontic progress. Broken wires, brackets that have fallen off, and loose orthodontic bands, for example, need to be replaced in our office.

But what about minor problems? First, call us to see if it’s something that really is minor, and whether you can do some home repairs to keep you going until your next regular visit.

  • Wayward Wires

One of the most common—and most annoying—problems is a broken or out-of-place wire. If a wire end is poking you, dental wax can be applied to the loose end to protect your cheeks and gums. If that doesn’t work, we can let you know how to apply gentle pressure to move the wire away from delicate tissue. Don’t try to cut a broken wire or remove it without talking to us—small pieces can be swallowed accidentally. We’ll give you suggestions for how to handle a broken or loose wire and protect your mouth until you can see us.

  • Breakaway Brackets

If your bracket becomes loose, this is another good reason to give us a call. Brackets are specifically placed to let your archwire guide your teeth where they need to be. Without a firmly bonded bracket, the wire isn’t doing you much good! If a loose bracket is irritating your cheeks or gums, you can try a bit of dental wax to stick it in place and cover hard edges until we can re-bond it. If the bracket comes off all together, bring it with you to your next appointment.

  • Balky Bands

Spacers are little rubber bands we put between your teeth if we need to create some room between your molars before you get your braces. They have a tendency to fall out after several days. We’ll let you know if their work is done, and you’re ready to start your orthodontic treatment. If you lose one of your ligatures, those colorful bands around your brackets, give us a call and we’ll let you know if replacement can wait.

We’re happy to help you with any braces problems, large or small. It’s best to check with us for even small fixes to make sure you avoid injury. Larger repairs can be handled in our Rockville and Olney, MD office—and we can give you tips on how to prevent future ones. Accidents happen, but they don’t need to delay your progress toward a beautiful, healthy smile.

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