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Which Retainer is Right for You?

May 18th, 2022

Brackets and wires, clear aligners, lingual braces, regular brackets, self-ligating braces, elastics, spacers—you and your orthodontist have had to narrow down a lot of choices to discover the best treatment for your orthodontic needs. Now that the end of treatment is in sight, there’s one more important choice left—your retainer!

Do I Need a Retainer?

No retainer at all is probably the one option that’s off the table from the start. It’s not just your teeth that have changed position; it’s the bone and ligaments holding them that have changed as well.

A retainer prevents your teeth from moving away from their new, ideal location while your bones and ligaments are stabilizing. This process takes months, so keeping your teeth in place as your bone rebuilds and regains density is crucial.

What Are Your Retainer Options?

Three of the most popular retainer options available at our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office include:

  • Hawley Retainers

This is the traditional retainer, with wires to hold your retainer in place and to keep the teeth properly aligned. The wires are attached to an acrylic plate molded to fit the roof of your mouth or around your bottom teeth. You can customize the acrylic base with colors and patterns for a one-of-a-kind look.

Hawley retainers are adjustable, so minor realignments can take place if necessary. The wire in front of your teeth makes these retainers visible, but, after several months of wearing them all day long, you may end up wearing them only at night.

Hawley retainers are removable, so you need to make sure they are safely in a case when you’re not wearing them. Minor damage can often be repaired, but it’s better to be proactive.

  • Clear Plastic Retainers

These retainers look like clear aligners. They are formed by heating a thin piece of plastic and vacuum-forming it around a model of your teeth to create a custom, comfortable fit.

Clear retainers are almost invisible when worn, and can be removed when you eat or drink—which they should be, because food particles and liquids can be trapped inside them.

When you’re not wearing it, a clear retainer should always be in its case, because it must be replaced if the plastic is warped, cracked, or broken.

  • Fixed Retainers

A fixed retainer is a small single wire bonded to the back of specific teeth, commonly the six bottom front teeth. Because fixed retainers don’t allow the teeth to move at all, they are often recommended for patients who had serious misalignments, extremely crowded teeth, or teeth with large gaps between them.

Many patients like fixed retainers because they keep teeth in perfect alignment, they won’t be seen, they’re comfortably small, and they can’t end up in the cafeteria recycling bin because you forget to replace them after lunch!

Fixed retainers are usually quite durable, but you’ll need to pay attention to your diet, because crunchy and chewy foods can put pressure on the retainer and damage it. These retainers also require special care with brushing and flossing, to make sure the teeth bonded to the wire stay clean and plaque-free.

The Right Retainer

The process of stabilizing your teeth in the jaw takes time. Choosing your retainer will depend in part on how long and how often you need to wear it: fulltime for months or for years, at night after several months of day-and-night wear, or long-term to make sure your orthodontic work lasts.

And there are other variables, as well. Your retainer might need to be removable. It might need to be adjustable. You might need a retainer for just your upper teeth, just your lower teeth, or both. All these factors and more need to be taken into consideration before deciding on your ideal retainer.

Fixed, removable, wire, plastic, colorful, clear—which retainer is right for you? The one that helps you retain the beautiful smile you’ve worked for all these months. Talk to Dr. Gill to discover the retainer that will protect that smile for years to come.

Understanding Your Overjet

May 11th, 2022

Bite problems are so common that most of us know someone who’s worn braces. So perhaps you’re already familiar with the terms “overbite” and “underbite”—but if you’ve been diagnosed with an “overjet,” that just might be an orthodontic diagnosis that is new to you. If so, here are a few questions and answers to help promote overjet understanding.

Just what is an “overjet”?

An overjet is a type of malocclusion, which means that there’s a problem with your bite, the way your jaws and teeth fit together when you bite down. In a healthy bite, the front top teeth project slightly beyond, and slightly overlap, the bottom teeth. The key word here is “slightly.”

An overjet is a Class II malocclusion, which means that the upper front teeth project further beyond the lower teeth than they should. Overjets and overbites are both Class II malocclusions, and the words are often used interchangeably, but there’s a notable difference between the two conditions.

An overbite occurs when the top teeth overlap the bottom teeth too far vertically, and you can’t see as much of the lower teeth as you should when you bite down.

An overjet is considered more horizontal in nature, where the top teeth project at an outward angle toward the lips instead of pointing straight down toward the bottom teeth. This condition is sometimes called protruding or buck teeth.

What causes an overjet?

The reason for your overjet might be dental (caused by tooth alignment), or skeletal (caused by bone development), or a combination of both.

Overjets can run in families. They can also be caused by the size and position of your jaws and the shape and position of your teeth, all of which affect your bite alignment. But early oral habits, such as prolonged and vigorous thumb-sucking or pacifier use, can also contribute to overjet development.

How do we treat an overjet?

There are many types of treatment available. Dr. Gill will recommend a treatment plan based on the cause and severity of your overjet. Because some treatments are effective while bones are still growing, age plays a part as well.

  • Braces and Aligners

If you have a mild overjet, and minor dental issues are the main cause of the malocclusion, braces or clear aligners can effective.

  • Functional Appliances

If the overjet is caused by a problem with upper and lower jaw development, devices called functional appliances can be used to help guide the growth of the jawbones while a child’s bones are still forming.

For young patients, there are several appliances which can help correct an overjet. Some, such as the Twin Block and the Forsus Spring appliances, work inside the mouth, while others, like headgear, are worn externally. Your orthodontist will recommend the most effective appliance for your needs.

  • Surgical treatment

In some cases, where the malocclusion is skeletal in nature as well as dental, surgical treatment might be necessary to reshape the jawbone itself.

If we recommend surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are experts in surgical procedures designed to create a healthy and symmetrical jaw alignment. Dr. Gill will work with your surgeon to design a treatment plan, which will usually include braces or other appliances following surgery.

Why treat your overjet?

A serious, moderate, or even mild overjet can lead to many dental and medical problems, including:

  • Concerns about facial and dental appearance
  • Front teeth which are more at risk for injury
  • Difficulty closing the lips
  • Problems speaking or chewing
  • Headaches, facial, and temporomandibular (jaw) joint pain

When you work with our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND team to correct your overjet, you’re not just correcting a problem. You’re also creating something—a healthy, comfortable bite, and an attractive, confident smile. We can talk about general answers to your overjet questions, but when it comes to understanding your very individual smile, Dr. Gill will have all the answers you need to make that healthy bite and that confident smile a reality! 

Talking Over Your Underbite

May 4th, 2022

You’ve been told that you have a malocclusion called an “underbite.” Let’s look at just what this diagnosis means, and what it means for you.

Just what is an “underbite”?

A malocclusion is another way of saying that you have a problem with your bite, which is the way your jaws and teeth fit together when you bite down. In a typical bite, the front top teeth project slightly beyond, and slightly overlap, the bottom teeth.

An underbite, on the other hand, results when the lower teeth and jaw extend further forward than the upper teeth and jaw, causing the bottom teeth to overlap the top teeth.

What causes an underbite?

Underbites tend to be genetic, and run in families, so, most often, an underbite is something you’re born with. The size of your jaws, the shape of your teeth, or both will affect your bite.

A smaller number of underbites develop because of injuries or early oral habits, such as prolonged and vigorous thumb sucking or tongue thrusting.

How do we treat an underbite?

Your treatment will depend on the type and severity of your underbite, and your age when treatment occurs.

  • Braces and Aligners

If your underbite is a slight one, caused, for example, by crowded or overly large teeth, braces or clear aligners can help move the teeth into proper alignment.

  • Functional Appliances

If the underbite is caused by a problem with upper and lower jaw development, devices called functional appliances can be used to help guide the growth of the jawbones while a child’s bones are still growing and forming.

If you’re a young patient, two appliances commonly used to help correct an underbite are palatal expanders, which gradually widen the upper jaw if it’s too narrow, and reverse pull headgear, which fits both inside the mouth and outside on the face, and provides a steady, gentle pull to encourage the forward growth of the upper jaw.

  • Surgical treatment

In some severe cases, surgical treatment can correct an underbite by reshaping the jawbone itself and positioning it further back to align properly with the upper jaw.

Why treat your underbite?

A serious underbite can cause damaged teeth and enamel, painful problems with the temporomandibular joint, headaches and facial pain, sleep apnea, difficulty chewing, eating, and speaking, and can affect confidence and self-esteem.

By following your treatment plan, you’ll not only prevent these consequences, but you’ll achieve major benefits—a healthy, comfortable bite, and an attractive, confident smile. Want to know more? Talk it over with Dr. Gill at our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office for all the information you’ll need!

Orthodontics and Oral Piercings

April 27th, 2022

Traditional braces and oral piercings—does the inevitable meeting of metals pose any risks? Let’s look at some of the potential problems with oral piercings, and you and Dr. Gill can decide if you should take a break from jewelry while you’re in treatment.

  • Tooth Damage

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies, but when up against constant contact with metal? It’s not a fair fight.

Tongue piercings, especially, cause problems for your teeth. Whenever you speak or eat—even while you’re sleeping!—your tongue is making contact with your teeth. This continual tapping of metal on enamel can chip and crack teeth and damage fillings. A serious fracture could mean a root canal.

You’re getting braces to create a more attractive, healthy smile, so keeping your teeth intact is a priority.

  • Gum Problems

Your gums are affected by orthodontic treatment. As the teeth move, the gums, ligaments, and bone around them adapt and even reshape over time. You might notice when you first get your braces, or when you go in for an adjustment, that you have a few days of swollen, sensitive gums afterward. You might also find that you are at greater risk of gingivitis, because it can be harder to keep plaque away from your gumline until you perfect your brushing and flossing skills.

Oral piercings bring their own gingival dangers. Jewelry in the tongue or lip can rub against gum tissue, especially around your lower front teeth. As the gum tissue continues to be irritated and inflamed, it pulls away from the teeth. This process is called gum recession.

Receding gums expose the tops of your roots to cavity-causing bacteria. They make you more sensitive to hot or cold foods. Pockets between gums and teeth can harbor infections that threaten the tooth itself.

Caring for your gums during braces is important for your dental health. Since people with oral piercings have a much higher rate of gum recession that those without, why add one more risk factor to your oral health?

  • Metal vs Metal

Lip and tongue piercings can make contact with traditional brackets and wires, especially if you have a habit of playing with them. And let’s not forget lingual braces! Lingual braces are almost invisible because their brackets and wires are custom fitted to the back of your teeth. Whenever you speak or eat, you’ll be taking the chance that a tongue piercing will damage these custom-made appliances.

Dr. Gill can tell you if your piercings are in any danger of interfering with your braces, but even if you’re planning on aligners, there are additional reasons to consider retiring your oral jewelry. Dental associations and medical associations discourage oral piercings because they can damage teeth and gums. And there’s more. Oral piercings can lead to swelling, bleeding, allergic reactions, infection, and nerve damage.

The reason you’re considering braces is because you want a healthy, attractive smile. Don’t let a tiny piece of jewelry make your life and your treatment more difficult! Do some research and talk to our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND team about your oral piercings, and come up with a solution that’s best for your health and best for your smile.

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