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What Are Adjustments?

August 14th, 2019

If you’ve just gotten braces at our Merced, CA office, you’ve probably also learned a whole new vocabulary. Malocclusion, brackets, archwires, ligatures, elastics—you’ve got the definitions down. But now you’re scheduled for an “adjustment.” What exactly does that mean?

Why Do I Need an Adjustment?

After all, you’ve just gotten braces! But the fact is, moving your teeth to their ideal location is a process that involves many steps. The brackets and wires you have today are only a starting point. Wires, and rubber bands if you need them, put gentle pressure on the teeth, gradually moving them into a better position. Every time we see you, we check the progress you’ve made and adjust your braces to move the teeth into even better alignment. It’s a careful process to make sure your teeth and jaws fit together perfectly for straight teeth and a healthy bite.

What Will Happen at an Adjustment?

Because your braces are made specifically for you, there is no one answer for everyone or even every appointment. Usually, your ligatures (the colorful bands around your brackets) will be removed, and often the orthodontic wire that is attached to your brackets will be removed as well. We’ll check to make sure you are brushing and flossing properly around your wires and brackets, and check on the condition of your braces.

Your wire might be adjusted, or bent, or tightened, or replaced all together. In the beginning, the wire will probably be more flexible. Later in your treatment, you might get a thicker, firmer wire to move your teeth more effectively, or we might bend a wire to move specific teeth.

If you need rubber bands to make sure your bite is in alignment, we’ll show you how to attach and take care of those. We’ll also look for other adjustments that might need to be made to your brackets. If you have any concerns about brackets, wires, or any other part of your braces, let Dr. Clifton Lauritzen know! And once we’re done adjusting your braces, this is your chance to change the color of your ligatures for a new look.

Will It Hurt?

You might suffer some discomfort in the hours after an adjustment, so treat yourself gently! Stick to soft foods for a few days, and treat yourself to something cold and soothing like ice cream, yogurt, or a smoothie. Brush gently if your teeth are sensitive. Usually, over-the-counter pain relievers will take care of any soreness. You can even take a pain reliever 30 minutes to an hour before the adjustment if you are expecting some discomfort. We have more great ideas on how to reduce any tenderness you might feel—let us know if we can suggest some.

Within a day or two, you should be back to normal. If you ever suffer serious discomfort, or if the soreness lasts more than a few days, give us a call.

Remember, each adjustment brings you closer to your goal—straight teeth and a healthy bite. And that’s the definition of a beautiful smile!

Helpful Retainer Habits

August 7th, 2019

We’ve probably all seen that unhappy kid or frazzled parent sifting through trash for a lost retainer. If we’re really unlucky, we might have been that unhappy kid or frazzled parent sifting through the unpleasant remains of third period lunch hour. But getting tossed isn’t the only risk these appliances face. Read on for ways to keep your retainer (and your parent!) happy.

  • Keep Your Retainer With You

Always carry a retainer case. If you automatically put your retainer in its case when you’re eating, you are much more likely to remember it then if it has been wrapped up in a napkin on your lunch tray. And, if the worst happens, much more likely to recover it in one piece.

Choose the brightest colored case you can live with, so you will have an easier time locating it if need be, and discuss how to label the case to get it back safely to you--just in case.

  • Keep Your Retainer Intact

You might think if you put your retainer in your backpack, or purse, or saxophone case, or athletic bag, it will be safe. It will not. Retainers are designed to be tough enough for everyday wear, but being tossed on the floor while inside a backpack is not everyday wear. Always put your retainer back in its (brightly colored) case before packing it away.

Retainers can warp if they are exposed to heat, so keep them away from potential heat sources like stoves, microwaves, and washers and dryers. Even your car dashboard can become hot enough to warp your retainer. And never use boiling water to clean them.

Finally, your dog might find your retainer to be the #bestchewtoyever, so be sure to put it in a spot pets can’t reach when you’re not wearing it.

  • Keep Your Retainer Clean

Just like plaque can build up on your teeth, minerals and calcium can build up on your retainer. Different types of retainers require different cleaning methods, so talk to Dr. Clifton Lauritzen about how to keep your retainer clean and bacteria-free. We will be happy to give you instructions on the best way to take care of your particular appliance. And don’t forget to clean your case regularly!

Accidents will happen, of course. If your retainer is lost or damaged, call our Merced, CA office as soon as possible. We might be able to fix minor damage, and, if needed, we can replace a lost retainer quickly.

Your time in braces is over, but your teeth are still stabilizing in their new, healthy positions. Wearing your retainer regularly is the final step in producing the beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard for. Keep your retainer clean, keep it safe, and keep it with you, and you can enjoy that smile now and for years to come!

The Truth about TMJ

July 17th, 2019

TMJ is the quick way of referring to your Temporomandibular Joint. Pardon the pun, but that’s quite a mouthful! What is this joint, what does it do, and, if your Dr. Clifton Lauritzen and our team have told you that you have a TMJ disorder, what can we do to help?

The Temporomandibular Joint

Your two temporomandibular joints are amazing works of anatomical design. These are the joints where the temporal bone in the skull meets the mandible bone of the jaw, and allow our mouths to open and close, move back and forth, and slide from side to side. Muscle, bone, and cartilage work together to provide easy movement and to cushion the joint. But sometimes, the joint doesn’t work as smoothly as it should, and this can lead to Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMD.

When Should You Suspect You Have TMD?

You might have TMD if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Painful chewing
  • Pain around your TMJ, or in your face or neck
  • Earaches
  • Changes in your bite
  • Jaws that are limited in movement or lock open or shut
  • Clicking, popping or grating noises when you open and shut your jaw

There are many conditions linked to TMD. If you grind your teeth at night, have arthritis in the jaw, have suffered an injury or infection in the area, or have problems with your bite, for example, you might be more likely to have TMJ problems. If you suspect you have TMD, or suffer from any of the symptoms listed above for an extended period, give us a call.

Treating TMD

During your visit to our Merced, CA office, we will check your medical history, and examine your head and neck. We can take an X-ray or scan if needed for further examination of the joint. Because there is no real scientific agreement yet about the best way to treat TMJ disorders, a conservative treatment plan is often best. If you do show signs of TMD, we might first suggest relaxation techniques, over-the-counter pain relievers, or the use of ice packs or moist heat compresses. A change to a softer diet can help, and you should stop chewing gum and making any exaggerated jaw movements.

If these self-care practices aren’t effective, we might suggest a nightguard. This appliance is a comfortable and flexible mouthguard custom fitted for you, and will bring relief from teeth grinding when worn at night. If this treatment is not effective, talk to us about other options.

Luckily, most cases of TMD are temporary and don’t become worse over time. But any persistent discomfort is a good reason to visit us. Whether you have TMD, or any other problem causing you pain in the head or jaw, we want to help.

How Long Will I Wear My Braces?

July 10th, 2019

How long? Well, a beautiful smile is both science and art—proper teeth and jaw alignment united with aesthetically pleasing results. Orthodontists achieve both these outcomes with a careful analysis of any dental and facial problems, a treatment plan designed specifically for each patient’s needs, and adjustments through each phase of treatment to carefully bring about that beautiful smile.

And that’s a long way of saying, there’s no one, standard answer as to how long a patient will wear braces because there is no one, standard patient. Often, treatment takes from 18 to 24 months, but it can be months shorter or months longer depending on a variety of different circumstances.

  • Different Needs

Your orthodontic needs and goals will generally determine your treatment time. Some patients need only a bit of alignment, which can lead to a fairly short orthodontic experience. Some have malocclusions such as crossbites and open bites that require more complex and lengthy treatment.

And, while we used to think of orthodontics as a teenage rite of passage, that’s certainly no longer the case. Some children will need two-phase orthodontic treatment, where early procedures before the adult teeth even come in ease the way for any necessary second stage treatment when the permanent teeth arrive years later. And some adults will want orthodontic work later in life, where denser bone tissue might lead to (somewhat) longer treatment.

  • Different Appliances

Today’s orthodontics offers you many choices in appliances. Lingual braces are an almost invisible option, with brackets and wires on the inside of the teeth. Aligners use clear, custom molded trays to move the teeth into a better position with each new tray. Even traditional braces are smaller and sleeker today, with metal or less visible ceramic brackets. Depending on the orthodontic goals you want to achieve, there might be a small difference in the amount of time each appliance will take to get you to those goals. Talk to us about all your options and what they mean for treatment time.

  • Different Levels of Participation in the Process

This is one area you can make a real difference! If you follow our instructions for using your appliances most effectively, you’ll make progress as quickly as possible. If you have aligner trays, be sure to wear them for as long as directed each day. If you have rubber bands attached to brackets on your upper and lower teeth, wear them for as many hours as required, because these little bands are actually the tools that are moving your teeth into alignment. If you don’t wear your braces or aligners as directed, not much is going to happen, and certainly not on schedule.

Give our Merced, CA office a call, and we can discuss your goals for creating your very best smile. Once we’ve decided on a treatment plan, Dr. Clifton Lauritzen can give you a fairly good estimate as to how long your particular treatment will take. And, when you get to share that beautiful, healthy smile, the time you’ve spent achieving it will be well worth it!

 

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