Our Blog

Interproximal Cavities: The Inside Story

August 17th, 2022

Time to brush! So, you make sure you gently brush the plaque off the outside surfaces of your teeth. You want to present a gleaming smile to the world, after all. And you make sure to brush the inside surfaces as well, because who wants to feel a fuzzy patch of plaque every time their tongue hits their teeth? And, naturally, you remember to clean the tops of your molars, because those crevices make them more cavity-prone than any other surface.

Done? Not quite!

You might be surprised to learn that no matter how well you’ve brushed all the visible surfaces of your teeth, you’ve left quite a bit of enamel untouched—the adjoining, or touching, surfaces of the teeth that sit next to each other.

You’ve probably noticed that your bristles can’t . . . quite . . . reach all the enamel between your teeth (especially between your molars!) when you’re brushing. This means that food particles and plaque have an easier time sticking around. And when the bacteria in plaque are left undisturbed, especially with a banquet of food particles available, they produce acids which gradually eat away at the enamel covering our teeth, creating a cavity.

Here’s where we work in some specific dental vocabulary. “Interproximal” means between the adjoining, or touching, surfaces of the teeth. And an interproximal cavity is a cavity that develops on one of those side surfaces of your teeth.

  • Preventing Interproximal Cavities

Fortunately, prevention is about as basic as it can be—brushing and flossing effectively. Dentists recommend brushing for two minutes at least twice a day and flossing once each day. While most of us are good about keeping up with brushing, sometimes that daily flossing is more a goal than a reality.

But it’s flossing which really does the trick when it comes to interproximal cleaning. If you floss correctly, food particles and plaque are removed from between the teeth and around the gum line—places where bristles just can’t reach.

When you wear braces, though, flossing isn’t quite so basic. Getting that floss just where it needs to be in between brackets and wires and in between teeth can be a challenge!

The good news is there are many products designed just to make flossing easier while you’re in orthodontic treatment:

  • Floss threaders are flexible hoops that help you thread floss behind your wires easily.
  • Precut floss strands use a stiff tip at one end for threading floss through wires.
  • Interproximal brushes are tiny, cone-shaped brushes which can fit between your teeth and braces for precise cleaning.
  • Water flossers eliminate floss altogether, using a pulsing stream of water to clean between and around teeth and braces.

During your next visit to our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office, Dr. Gill can give you tips on how to use any of these tools effectively for cleaner teeth and cleaner braces.

Preventing cavities on the exterior surfaces of your teeth is probably pretty much automatic by now, but don’t forget the potential for stealth decay! If we find signs of erosion on the sides of your teeth, or if your hygienist lets you know that you’ve got a lot of interproximal plaque buildup, work with your dental team to make sure “interproximal cavity” doesn’t become a working part of your dental vocabulary.

Bells and Whistles for Your Bristles?

August 10th, 2022

Modern dentistry has made the most of today’s technological innovations. And we’ve come a long way from the fraying sticks our ancestors used as toothbrushes.

On the other hand, while it’s a lot better than a fraying stick, the manual toothbrush model you’ve used for years might be ready for an upgrade. Should you take this opportunity to try out some new technology offering all the bells and whistles? Let’s answer that question by asking a few more questions.

Happy with your manual brush?

If you like your manual toothbrush and it’s doing the job, by all means, stick with it. But even your old familiar brush can evolve:

  • There are lots of bristle options, but soft bristles are almost always the way to go. Medium and hard bristles can be too abrasive for your enamel.
  • Heads come in a variety of sizes, so make sure the head size is comfortable. You want to be able to maneuver to reach every tooth surface, which a too-large brush head just can’t do.
  • Try a different handle shape if you’re having trouble maneuvering and keeping a firm grip.
  • Change your brush regularly. Brushes are effective for about three months before the bristles start to fray and breakdown. This is a good opportunity to experiment with different brands and styles.

Does your old brush suit your current needs?

Different types of manual toothbrushes are available for effective and comfortable brushing when you need options that a typical brush doesn’t provide:

  • Special orthodontic toothbrushes are designed with bristles trimmed to fit around brackets and wires and smaller heads to reach into tight places.
  • For those with mobility issues, brushes with larger or easy-grip handles make cleaning more comfortable.
  • Brushes with extra-soft bristles are available if you have enamel erosion or sensitive gums.
  • Because many women find their gums become especially sensitive during pregnancy, there are brushes designed especially for moms-to-be.

Is it time to go electric?

If you haven’t tried an electric toothbrush before, you might find that getting braces is a great reason to give one a spin.

  • Electric toothbrushes can outperform manual models. A dedicated brusher might manage hundreds of brushstrokes for each minute of brushing, while an electric brush can provide thousands. If, despite your regular brushing, you have plaque build-up, an electric brush might be a good alternative to your manual brush.
  • Models are available which can alert you when you’re brushing too hard—which is important for your enamel if you’re a heavy-handed brusher.
  • If you tend to *think* you’ve brushed for the recommended two minutes, but have *actually* brushed 32 seconds, some electric brushes come with timers!
  • There are tapered electric orthodontic brush heads designed just for people with braces.
  • Electric brushes have bigger handles and can be easier to grip.

Is your current brush doing the job?

So, should you stick with the familiar toothbrush that’s worked for you all these years, or take this opportunity to try out some new technology that offers all the bells and whistles? The answer is clear: the right brush for you is the one that works!

If your regular checkups show that plaque is under control, you’re doing just fine with the brush in hand. If you or Dr. Gill notice plaque buildup, it’s time to consider making some changes. Whether it’s a question of tools, techniques, or time spent brushing, your Fargo, Wahpeton, ND dental team has the answers you need for state-of-the-art dental hygiene.

Heading Back to School? Save Some Room in Your Backpack!

August 3rd, 2022

If you’re heading back to classes in the next few weeks, you’re probably getting your gear together now. So let’s talk about some of the items you can pack to make orthodontic care easier during school hours.

  • Dental-Healthy Food

Watching what foods you eat is especially important now. If you’re carrying your lunch or snacks in your pack, you want to be sure that they’re approved for braces and aligners.

If you wear braces, avoid foods which are sticky, chewy, or crunchy. They can stick to your teeth (making it easier for cavities to develop) or cause damage to your brackets and wires (making repairs necessary). Your orthodontist will give you a list of braces-friendly foods.

If you have clear aligners, even though you’ll remove them to eat, that sticky rule still applies. You don’t want food trapped in your aligners if you can’t brush right after eating, because that food is also food for the oral bacteria which cause cavities.

Bringing a water bottle with you is a great idea if it’s hard to brush after eating. Rinsing with water is a good way to get rid of loose food particles, and staying hydrated helps maintain normal saliva production—which also helps wash away food debris.

  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Floss

It’s best to clean your teeth after every snack and meal if at all possible. A travel-sized brush, toothpaste, and dental floss or picks designed for braces will help you get rid of any unwanted dental leftovers. And a small mirror can help you discover any lingering food particles.

It’s especially important now to practice careful hygiene, so be sure to wash your hands before and after cleaning your teeth or appliances.

  • Your Aligner or Retainer Case

Whenever you take off your retainer or aligners to eat, you should always have your case handy. Cases make sure your appliances stay off germy desk and table surfaces—or worse, floors—and protect them from breakage. A case is also a good way to make sure your retainer doesn’t accidentally end up in a trash bin after lunch.

Again, before and after you handle your braces, aligners, or retainer, be sure to wash your hands carefully.

  • Dental Wax & Extra Bands

Sometimes a wire comes loose or a bracket irritates the inside of your cheeks or mouth. In this case, dental wax is a great way to protect yourself from irritation and injury. And if a band is lost or breaks, it’s always good to have a spare (or two) handy. As always, handwashing rules apply!

  • Your Mouth Guard

If your afterschool activities involve contact sports, a mouthguard is always a good idea, and especially when you wear braces. Dr. Gill can create a custom guard which will protect your teeth, your delicate mouth tissue, and your braces from many impact injuries.

  • Your Orthodontist’s Phone Number

One important item that takes up almost no space in your backpack, locker, or phone is the phone number for our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office. If your braces are damaged, or if your aligner or retainer is lost or broken, we will let you know what to do until you can safely visit the office in person.

Talk to our team about how to care for your braces or aligners while you’re at school, and talk to your school about how you can manage your dental care safely during school hours.

Courting Disaster

July 27th, 2022

When we think of sports and dental damage, we naturally think of hockey and football. But when it comes to the actual number of dental injuries suffered each year, vying for top seed is the game of basketball.

How is this possible? After all, football and hockey are categorized as “collision sports”! But along with the helmets, shin guards, and padding, these teams quite often require mouthguards—and this makes all the difference. Studies have shown that an increase in the number of players wearing mouthguards means a decrease in the number of oral traumas.

And while basketball isn’t considered a collision sport, it is a contact sport. Basketball is a combination of running, jumping, hard surfaces, and solid bodies. And elbows. We can’t forget elbows. So a broken or even a knocked out tooth isn’t, unfortunately, all that unusual when bodies in motion meet hard surfaces—or other players. But there are other dental dangers as well. Besides tooth injuries, oral injuries can involve:

  • The ligaments and bone structures holding teeth in place
  • Bones in the upper and lower jaw
  • Delicate gum, tongue, and mouth tissue.

You need a solid defensive strategy to reduce the severity of oral injuries or to prevent them from happening altogether, especially when you wear braces. The best play in your playbook? Wearing a mouthguard!

Choosing the right guard is key. There are three common options, and you can choose the model which works best for you:

  • Stock guards, which are ready-made guards in pre-formed shapes and sizes. You can buy them over the counter in drug stores and sporting goods stores. Because these guards aren’t shaped to fit your teeth and mouth specifically, they can be less protective (and harder to speak around).
  • “Boil-and-bite” guards can also be purchased, and can provide a closer fit. After warming the guard in hot water as directed, you place it in your mouth and bite down firmly to mold it to your teeth.
  • Dr. Gill can make you a mouthguard that is designed and crafted specifically for your use. Because this guard is custom-fitted, it provides better protection for your teeth and mouth. Patients often find custom guards much more comfortable and more durable as well.

Mouthguards are most effective when you wear them on the court and care for them off the court. This means avoiding a few flagrant fouls.

  • Dirty play

All those moist nooks and crannies inside your mouthguard are a perfect environment for bacteria, mold, and plaque buildup. You should clean your mouthguard carefully every time you wear it, and let it air dry before popping it back in the case. Ask Dr. Gill for advice on getting your guard and its case their cleanest.

  • Failure to sub out in a timely fashion

Mouthguards don’t work if they’re damaged. If you notice any warping, breakage, or jagged or sharp edges, contact our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office for a replacement. If a guard doesn’t fit you properly, it doesn’t protect you, and sharp edges can irritate or injure delicate mouth tissue.

  • Unnecessary roughness

Your mouthguard protects you, so don’t forget to protect it! Keep your guard in its case when you’re not wearing it to save it from dirt, damage, and disappearance.

If you know your basketball, you know your guard game can make all the difference. Even though a mouthguard might not be mandatory on your team, that doesn’t mean it’s not essential. Remember that basketball is a contact sport, and protect your teeth, your mouth, and your braces with a mouthguard whenever you play.

Contact Us!
call email