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Just Add Water

July 21st, 2021

One of the many benefits of your clear aligners is that you can remove them to eat. You should brush after every meal, just like you would with traditional braces, but cleaning your teeth is much easier without having to work around and between brackets and wires.

But when you wear your aligners 22 hours a day, you might be tempted to leave them in when you’re just having a sip of something when you’re thirsty. Unless you’re drinking water, please don’t.

What’s the problem with a can of cola or a cup of coffee?

  • Staining

The virtue of your clear aligners is that they are, well, clear! Probably one of the reasons you decided on this method of treatment was because you liked the idea of an inconspicuous appliance.  Unfortunately, dark beverages such as colas, coffee, tea, and red wine can stain your aligner, making it more visible.

  • Warping

Very hot beverages might actually affect the shape of your aligners. Since they are formed using heat, it makes sense that heat can also de-form them. If hot teas and coffee drinks cause a change in the shape of your aligners, they will not move your teeth the way they were meant to.

  • Affecting Tooth Health

Even though our enamel is very strong, sugary and acidic drinks can damage it. Acidic foods can erode enamel, and the sugars in our diet provide food for cavity-causing bacteria, which then produce acids that erode enamel.

Normally, saliva provides some protection from acids and sugars by diluting them and washing them away from the teeth. When you drink a cola or an orange juice with your aligners on, some of the liquid will get in them, and can stay in them until the aligners are removed. You will actually give these problem beverages the opportunity to bathe your teeth in sugar and acid over a longer period of time, without exposure to saliva to help offset potential harm. And after all your work to create a beautiful smile, you certainly don’t want new cavities!

How to protect your aligners and keep them their cleanest—and most invisible?

  • Take your aligners out before drinking beverages that can stain them, or, if you can’t, try using a straw. Clean your aligners according to Dr. Gill and our team’s instructions to keep them as clear as possible.
  • Don’t drink very hot beverages with your aligners in place. Try icing your coffee and tea if you can’t remove your aligners. And if you think your aligners have changed shape, please give us a call.
  • Drink water! Water hydrates you, doesn’t damage enamel, and keeps your aligners clean. Tap water is your best option, as even bottled waters can be acidic.

If your aligners should become stained, remember that you change them frequently, so the staining can be a temporary problem. If you do have a drink of something hot and your aligners feel “off,” give our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office a call. We’ll let you know if you need to replace them.

But prevention is always best! Avoid staining from the start by removing your aligners before you drink dark beverages. Don’t expose your aligners to heat. Think about replacing unhealthy drinks with water. And certainly brush right away, or rinse with water if that’s not possible, if you drink a sugary or acidic beverage. These simple precautions will help keep your aligners, and, most important, your teeth, looking their best.

Digital X-rays

July 14th, 2021

Modern orthodontic technology has changed the way you wear braces. Brackets are smaller and come in a variety of shapes and colors. Wires are more efficient. Clear aligners can eliminate the need for brackets and wires altogether. And your high-tech advantages don’t stop there—today’s digital X-rays make creating your treatment plan even more convenient and efficient.

Why Are X-rays Necessary?

Beautifully aligned teeth and a healthy bite are the visible result of your orthodontic work, but there’s a lot going on above and below the surface that needs to be discovered and taken into account before your treatment even begins. X-rays help Dr. Gill evaluate:

  • The size, shape, and position of your teeth, including impacted teeth and wisdom teeth
  • The size, position, and health of your roots throughout treatment
  • The size and shape of your jaw bones, and how they affect your teeth alignment and bite
  • Your progress during different phases of treatment
  • The most effective type of retainer for protecting your beautiful smile after treatment.

How Do X-rays Work?

Traditional X-rays, or radiographs, make use of film just like traditional cameras. When you have an intraoral X-ray, for example, the film is sealed in a moisture- and light-proof packet, and placed inside the mouth to capture images of specific teeth and the bone around them.

The X-ray machine is aligned precisely with the film and an exposure is taken. The image at this point is latent, and won’t show on the film, because, just like photo film, traditional radiographs need to be chemically processed before they produce a visible image.

Digital technology, on the other hand, uses an electronic sensor instead of film. For an intraoral digital X-ray, a small sensor is positioned in the mouth just like a film. When the X-ray is taken, a digital image capture device produces an image which is formed by a matrix of pixels instead of a photo-like film exposure. This format allows the image to be sent directly to a computer for immediate display without requiring processing.

Even though these methods seem very similar, digital X-rays offer some significant advantages over traditional films. Let’s look at how they compare, more or less.

  • More Diagnostic Advantages

A traditional X-ray is a fixed image. It cannot be modified or enhanced. Here the digital X-ray offers a clear advantage in evaluating your teeth and the bone structure surrounding them.

Just as you can enlarge certain types of images on your computer without blurring or losing detail, a digital X-ray uses computer software to magnify images while keeping their details sharp. They can also be enhanced through brightness and contrast applications to make details stand out even more.

There is even digital subtraction radiography software available that can be used to compare recent images to older ones, removing (“subtracting”) all the similarities in the two images to display only the changes in the two—even small changes—that have taken place over time.

  • Less Exposure to Radiation

Modern technology means traditional X-rays expose patients to less radiation than ever before, but digital X-rays have significant advantages here as well. Radiation exposure can be reduced by an additional 10%, 20%, or more with a digital radiograph.

And while all types of dental X-rays expose you to very little radiation, it’s always best to reduce exposure whenever possible.

  • More Convenient for Sharing and Transmitting

If you need to share your X-rays with another dentist or physician, digital technology allows you to simply have them e-mailed to another office or multiple offices. You no longer need to worry about preserving physical copies, either.

  • Less Waste

Unlike traditional X-rays, digital X-rays don’t need to be processed, so you save time in the office. And while the processing time is not significant (usually several minutes), if you need to repeat some X-rays for a clearer picture, or require different images for several teeth, this time can add up.

Digital X-rays are also more eco-friendly.  The fact that they don’t need to be developed means that the chemicals used to process traditional films are no longer necessary—which also means that there is no need to dispose of chemical waste products afterward.

Our goal is to provide you with the safest, most efficient, and most effective treatment possible. Digital X-rays are an important tool for orthodontists, helping us to provide you with the best treatment plan possible. If you have any questions about digital X-ray technology, contact our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office. We’re happy to explain the science—and the benefits—behind this high-tech diagnostic tool.

Orthodontic Treatment: Does a Missing Tooth Mean Missing Out?

July 7th, 2021

You’ve decided—now’s the time to talk to Dr. Gill 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. Dr. Gill 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 Fargo, Wahpeton, ND 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!

Five Clues That It’s Time to Replace Your Toothbrush

July 1st, 2021

Your dashboard lights up when your car needs an oil change. Your family smoke detector beeps when you need to switch out the batteries. But when it’s time to replace your toothbrush, you’re on your own. Luckily, there are several not-too-subtle clues that you should be shopping for a new model.

  • Fraying

Is your toothbrush looking a bit scruffy? Do those once orderly bristles look like they have the toothbrush equivalent of bed head? Have some bristles vanished altogether? Time to retire that toothbrush. Once the bristles are frayed, you just can’t reach plaque as effectively, especially where it likes to hide between the teeth.

Are you prematurely fraying? You could be brushing too hard. Overbrushing can injure delicate gum tissue, cause wear and tear to tooth enamel, and even damage your braces. If you find your brush fraying after only a few weeks of use, you might be using too much force. Remember, plaque is a sticky film, but it’s a soft sticky film. Ask us for advice on just how hard you need—or don’t need—to brush.

  • Odor

This one really goes without saying—no one wants an aromatic toothbrush! How to make sure your toothbrush is fresh and clean?

Always rinse carefully after you brush. This will get rid of any toothpaste, bits of food, or other particles left on your brush.

Let your toothbrush air dry. It might seem more hygienic to keep your brush covered in a bathroom setting, but a closed, moist container is a perfect breeding ground for germs. Don’t let them make a home in your bristles!

  • Illness

A cold or a bacterial infection (like strep throat) is no fun. But now that you’re feeling better, it might be time to throw out your toothbrush. The chances of re-infection are very low, unless your immune system is compromised, but this is a perfect opportunity to replace your brush with a fresh, germ-free model.

And if you share your toothbrush, or if you store it right next to a family member’s (which you really shouldn’t do, for this very reason), germs get shared, too. Quarantine your brush while you’re ill, and replace it once you’re out and about.

  • Discomfort

Bigger isn’t necessarily better. A brush with a head that’s too big won’t allow you to get into those small spaces in your mouth where plaque likes to collect. And when you are trying to clean around brackets and wires, a regular brush might be a problem. Ask Dr. Gill for suggestions for the best tools for clean and comfortable brushing.

Also, harder doesn’t mean more effective. A brush with hard bristles can cause damage to your gums and enamel. We almost always recommend soft-bristled brushes for this every reason.

There are so many styles of brush out there, you’re bound to find the perfect fit with a little trial and error. Or ask us for suggestions the next time you’re at our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office for an adjustment!

  • You’ve Passed the “Best By” Date

Because of its durable construction, your toothbrush can last a long, long time. But no matter how comfortable and effective your toothbrush is right now, it was never meant to go through life with you. Bristles break down over a period of a few months, and just don’t clean as effectively. Your brush should be changed every three months, and this includes changing the head on your electric toothbrush. And because you wear braces, you’re brushing more often, so that three month lifespan might be stretching it.

Unfortunately, you don’t have a flashing light or annoying beep to remind you when it’s time to change brushes, so you’ll have to devise your own reminders. Reminder apps, calendar notes, the first day of a new season—use whatever works best for you. 

Don’t ignore the clues your toothbrush is leaving you. Replacing your brush whenever it’s necessary helps guarantee that the time you spend cleaning your teeth and gums will lead to confident, healthy smiles. Case closed!

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