May 10th, 2023
You have a lot going on. School. Sports. Activities. Family. Friends. Teens lead busy lives and have busy schedules, so you need to budget your time and energy. One thing you don’t want to spend any of your time and energy on? Dealing with gum disease.
Gum disease most often begins as a reaction to plaque and tartar. The bacteria in plaque produce acids which irritate gum tissue, causing inflammation, swelling, and bleeding. This is gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease.
Left untreated, early gum disease can become periodontitis. Periodontitis is a serious gum infection which can cause receding gums, loose teeth, and even tooth and bone loss.
We usually think about gum disease as something that only older adults worry about. But the unfortunate fact is that children and teens are also at risk for gum disease—and the teen years bring special risks. Why?
The teen years are the most common years for orthodontic treatment. Wearing traditional or lingual braces can make removing plaque from around brackets and wires, between the teeth, and near the gum line more challenging, and gum disease can be the result. When you’ve been working so hard to create a healthy attractive smile, you don’t want to delay your orthodontic progress to treat gum disease.
- Less-than-Nutritious Snacking
When you have after school commitments like sports practices, play rehearsals, or work, you probably carry a snack to give you the energy you need until dinner. Popular snacks like energy drinks, chips, or candy bars are common go-to choices, but they contain acids, simple carbs, and sugars which are bad for both gums and tooth enamel.
Increased hormone levels during puberty can make the gums more sensitive and more easily irritated.
- Your Busy Life
Maybe you’re not getting enough sleep. Or eating as well as you could. Or you’re feeling anxious. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and stress can affect your body’s immune system and your ability to fight off infection. And if you’re also not brushing and flossing regularly, your gum health can really suffer.
How do you know if you have gum disease? Good question! Sometimes the early stages of gum disease aren’t obvious. Perhaps you’ve noticed changes in your gums, such as:
- Bad breath even after brushing
Any of these changes can be symptoms of gum disease and are a good reason to give our Westerville, OH office a call, since time is important when treating gum disease.
Caught early, gingivitis is usually very treatable—in fact, you can often reverse early gingivitis by paying more attention to your daily dental hygiene. If gingivitis is more advanced, or if periodontitis develops, you need professional dental care to prevent serious damage to your gums, teeth, and bone.
Preventing gum disease from ever developing is always best, though, so let’s look at what you can do to keep gum disease from becoming a problem.
- Keep Up with Healthy Dental Habits
Even though you’re leading a busy life, take time for your dental care. Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes per session and flossing once a day take just a bit of your time and are the best way to keep your gums healthy. If you wear braces or have a tendency toward cavities and gum disease, Dr. David Ray might recommend brushing or flossing more often.
- Use the Right Tools
Using the right tools makes a big difference. You should always choose a toothbrush with soft bristles to protect your delicate gum tissue—especially if it’s extra sensitive. Too-harsh brushing can damage even your super-hard tooth enamel, so you can imagine what it can do to your gums! Change out your brush every three to four months when it starts to get frayed and worn.
If you wear braces, ask Dr. David Ray to recommend the best kind of floss to clean between your teeth and around your brackets and wires. The right tools will make flossing a lot easier, and will help you keep your gums healthy and your orthodontic treatment on track.
- No Matter How Busy You Are, Treat Yourself Well
Watch your diet. Drinking water to hydrate is a healthy (and inexpensive) alternative to sugary and acidic drinks. When you know you have after-school commitments, pack yourself a healthy snack. After snacking, it’s a good idea to rinse with water when you can’t brush to remove any food particles sticking around your teeth and gums.
And even though your schedule is demanding, caring for your mind and body should be a priority. If you have difficulties with sleep or stress, or questions about a nutritious diet, talk to your doctor for some valuable tips to make your daily life healthier and more enjoyable.
With so much going on in your active life, gum problems are problems you really don’t need. Make room in your schedule now for careful daily brushing and flossing, a healthy lifestyle, and regular visits to Ray Orthodontics, and you’ll be living that active life with a beautiful, healthy smile!
May 3rd, 2023
Just like that, it’s almost summertime. As the spring season ends, perhaps these lighter, brighter days are inspiring you to do a bit of last-minute spring cleaning. Or perhaps they’re not. No judgment here!
What Dr. David Ray can recommend wholeheartedly is finishing the season with a clean, sparkling smile. And we have some bright ideas for you!
Refresh Your Cleaning Technique
Tooth brushing can become so automatic that we don’t think about the basics anymore. And suddenly, we’ve finished brushing in half the time we used to, and, hey, how long has that floss been sitting on the counter, anyway?
Now that you’re in orthodontic treatment, it’s more important than ever to keep your teeth their cleanest:
- Plaque acids can strip minerals from your teeth. If you don’t clean around your brackets thoroughly, plaque buildup can leave discolored spots on your enamel.
- If a cavity develops, treatment could require removing part of your braces. This means extra appointments and a delay in your orthodontic schedule.
So, let’s review the brushing basics for a clean and healthy smile.
- Spend two minutes brushing, at least twice each day. Dr. David Ray might suggest brushing after every meal to make sure food doesn’t stick to your teeth and braces.
- Make sure you reach all the surfaces of your teeth, inside, outside, and on top of your molars.
- Use short, gentle brush strokes, covering a tooth or two at a time.
- Angle your brush to clean along the gum line. Plaque around the gums leads to irritation and inflammation, and is a common cause of gum disease.
- Use vertical strokes to clean the inside of your front teeth.
- Floss at least once each day, or as recommended by your orthodontist.
Special Jobs Require Special Tools
Since we’re tidying up, let’s talk about some helpful cleaning tools. The right tools make removing plaque a lot easier.
There are toothbrushes designed especially for braces, with angled heads, longer handles, and different bristle arrangements. Whether you try a new design, or stick with your old favorite, replace your brush whenever necessary.
After three to four months of brushing, your toothbrush bristles start to break down. Frayed and matted bristles can’t clean as effectively as a toothbrush in top shape. Electric toothbrush heads can wear down more quickly because they often have shorter bristles. Each change of season is a good time to remind yourself to change brushes.
Extra tip: Buy a brush with soft bristles. Even medium bristles can cause enamel abrasion.
- Floss Upgrades
If you wear braces, check out the floss options made just for you. Floss threaders help you thread floss under wires. Or try floss which comes in pre-cut strands with a stiff tip to thread the floss through wires more easily. You might find that an orthodontic flosser, a small piece of floss attached to a thin plastic handle, is the easiest way to clean between your teeth. Experiment until you find your most convenient and effective floss.
- Interproximal Brushes
These tiny cone-shaped brushes fit snugly and comfortably between the spaces of your teeth to remove plaque.
- Water Flossers
Water flossers are high-tech tools that use a pulsing stream of water to clean between and around the teeth. They’re particularly helpful if you have traditional or lingual braces.
Your Dr. David Ray can suggest the best tools for the cleanest teeth. And speaking of your dental team . . .
Some Cleaning Jobs Require Professional Help
Wearing braces doesn’t mean you should skip cleanings—in fact, it’s more important than ever to make sure that all the plaque that has built up around brackets and wires is removed. Your hygienist knows how to work with your braces for an effective and braces-friendly cleaning.
Spring’s coming to an end, but taking care of your dental health is always in season! A clean smile isn’t just a more confident smile, it’s a healthier one. Talk to our Westerville, OH team for more tips to create your best and brightest smile at any time of year.
April 26th, 2023
We often think of braces as a rite of passage for kids in middle and high school. So you might be surprised when your child’s dentist recommends a visit to see Dr. David Ray years earlier than you anticipated. In fact, dentists and orthodontists generally suggest a visit to the orthodontist by age seven at the latest.
Why see an orthodontist so early?
After all, your child is still growing, and many adult teeth haven’t come in at that age. And that’s the whole point.
Around this age, your child will probably have a mix of both baby and adult teeth, so your orthodontist will be able to assess whether there’s enough room for the permanent teeth to erupt without crowding or spacing problems. And malocclusions, or bad bites, caused by problems with jaw size or symmetry can be addressed while young bones are still forming and developing.
If your child has a first appointment coming up on the calendar, here’s a heads up on what often happens during a first visit, and potential problems your orthodontist will be on the lookout for.
What can you expect at a first visit?
The first visit is designed to evaluate how your child’s teeth and jaws work together now, and to look for potential future problems with tooth alignment and jaw structure and development.
First, Dr. David Ray will carefully examine your child’s teeth, jaws, and mouth. Your child will be asked to bite down several times to see how the teeth and jaws fit together, and if there’s any discomfort. Other helpful diagnostic tools could include:
- Scans or X-rays to evaluate jaw structure and the position of teeth which haven’t erupted yet
- Photos of your child’s teeth and face
- An impression of your child’s teeth
If there’s no immediate need for treatment, we might recommend periodic checkups at our Westerville, OH orthodontic office to follow the growth and development of your child’s teeth and jaws. If interceptive (early) treatment is your child’s best option for a healthy smile, your orthodontist will explain any immediate orthodontic issues and design a treatment plan tailored to your child’s specific needs.
What are the benefits of early treatment?
Interceptive treatment not only helps correct current orthodontic problems, it can help reduce the need for more complicated treatment in the future, when all of the adult teeth have arrived and bones are fully formed. Among its many benefits, early treatment can:
- Prevent crowding
If your child has a small upper palate, it can be gently enlarged while the palate is still growing with the help of a palatal expander. This will give the upper teeth the space they need to come in without crowding.
- Provide space
If primary teeth are lost too early, other teeth can shift out of alignment to fill the empty space. A space maintainer can be custom-made to keep the spot open until the right tooth is ready to erupt. If primary teeth are overstaying their welcome, Dr. David Ray might recommend extraction to allow the adult teeth to erupt in the proper place.
- Create jaw symmetry
Malocclusions can develop because the upper or lower jaw is too narrow, too far forward, too far back, or the jawbones don’t fit together properly. Dr. David Ray might suggest the use of a functional appliance such as the Herbst® appliance or headgear to help guide symmetrical bone development while your child’s young bones are still growing and forming.
- Protect teeth
Children with overjets, or protruding upper teeth, are more likely to suffer chips, cracks, and other trauma to those vulnerable front teeth. Functional appliances can help bring the upper and lower jaws into alignment as needed, and braces can move the teeth into alignment.
Every journey to a healthy smile begins with a first visit. And you don’t need to wait until your child is seven. Any time you’re concerned about an orthodontic issue is a good time for a consultation. Talk to Dr. David Ray about what to expect at your first visit to help create a comfortable experience for your child as you begin this journey together.
April 25th, 2023
Whenever we bite down, we’re applying force with our jaw muscles. Functional appliances direct these forces to create healthier tooth and jaw alignment. They’re used to help correct bite problems and to encourage symmetrical jaw growth.
Functional appliances aren’t always necessary. Because every child’s teeth and bite are different, orthodontic treatment at our Westerville, OH office is carefully tailored to your child’s individual needs.
- For the child with minor tooth misalignment, traditional braces or aligners might be all that’s needed.
- For the child with a minor malocclusion, or bite problem, an orthodontist might use elastics (rubber bands) to bring teeth into healthy alignment.
- For the child who has a more serious malocclusion, involving both tooth and jaw alignment, an orthodontist might recommend a functional appliance.
A severe Class II malocclusion can be caused when the upper jaw or teeth are positioned too far forward, and/or the lower jaw is too small or positioned too far back. Common Class II malocclusions include:
- Open bite—the front teeth don’t touch when the back teeth bite down, or the back teeth don’t touch when the front teeth close.
- Overbite—some overbite is normal. A deep overbite occurs when the upper teeth significantly overlap the lower teeth.
- Overjet—the upper front teeth protrude further horizontally than they should.
Today’s functional appliances come in a variety of designs to treat Class II malocclusions. They can be fixed or removable. They can be used with or without braces. Some are designed to expand the upper palate to make sure there’s room for all the permanent teeth. What they all do is advance the position of the lower teeth and jaw to create a healthier, more comfortable bite.
Fixed devices are attached to the teeth and meant to be used full-time. These include the Forsus™ device, the Herbst® appliance, and the MARA appliance.
- Forsus Device
This appliance works with braces. A spring coil rod is most often attached to bands on the first molars on the upper jaw. It’s then connected to the arch wire on the lower jaw. Just like elastics—but more effective!—these spring coil rods provide gentle forward pressure that encourages the lower jaw and teeth forward.
- Herbst Appliance
The Herbst appliance also applies forward pressure to the lower jaw using telescoping rods connecting the upper and lower teeth. The rods expand as the mouth opens, and telescope together as it closes, positioning the lower jaw further forward while the upper jaw is held back. The Herbst can be worn alone or with braces, and can also be used to expand the upper palate.
- MARA Appliance
The MARA (Mandibular Anterior Repositioning Appliance) uses an adjustable “elbow” piece connecting bands on upper and lower molars to guide the lower jaw and teeth forward when the jaw closes.
Removable appliances such as Bionator and Twin Block appliances can also improve Class II malocclusions. They are meant to be worn for a specific number of hours each day, and can be taken out for sports or other activities as needed. Because it’s essential to get all the necessary hours in, removable appliances require commitment!
A bionator is made of wire and acrylic, and it looks a lot like a retainer. The wire fits around the upper front teeth. It’s attached to a smooth piece of acrylic that sits behind the upper teeth and is shaped to guide the lower jaw forward when biting down. The bionator can also be adjusted to expand the upper palate.
- Twin Block Appliance
The twin block appliance uses two separate pieces made of wire and smooth acrylic. Both pieces are modeled to fit precisely over the upper and lower arches. The acrylic “blocks” fit over the biting surfaces of the teeth, working together like a 3D puzzle. When your child bites down, the upper blocks slide into place behind the lower blocks, pushing the lower jaw and teeth forward. The top plate can also be adjusted to expand the upper palate if needed.
Because these appliances are best used while a child’s bones are still growing and developing, dentists and orthodontists recommend an orthodontic evaluation by age seven. Early treatment with a functional appliance can help correct serious bite problems before or together with braces. In some cases, functional appliances may reduce the need for headgear or surgery.
Todays’ orthodontic technology has made functional appliances more comfortable and efficient than ever before. Talk to Dr. David Ray to discover how an individualized treatment plan and a custom appliance can give your child a healthy bite and a lasting smile.