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Spot Check

May 27th, 2020

After all your hard work, and months of orthodontic treatment, the big day is finally here—your braces are coming off! What you want to see: beautiful, straight teeth perfectly aligned to create a comfortable, healthy bite. What you don’t want to see: a collection of whitish spots dotting the enamel around your gum line or outlining the spot where your brackets used to be.

What are these spots? Can they be removed? And, most important, how do you avoid them?

Decalcification

Those white spots are caused by decalcification, or the removal of the minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus, that strengthen our enamel. How does this removal take place? When bacteria and plaque remain on the teeth, they produce acids that eat away at these minerals. The result is a weakened, discolored white spot in the enamel. Unfortunately, because many orthodontic patients don’t brush thoroughly around their braces, decalcification is an all-too-common problem.

Treating Decalcification

You might need cosmetic dentistry to eliminate or reduce white spots on the enamel. In some cases, they will fade over time, or teeth whitening can help. In more stubborn cases, tooth bonding or veneers can cover the affected enamel.

Preventing Decalcification

But, obviously, prevention is always better than treatment. Here are some of the ways to keep your enamel healthy and looking its best:

  • Brush thoroughly after every meal.

Getting rid of the bacteria and plaque on your enamel and around your gum line will greatly reduce your chances of decalcification—and cavities. Brush after every meal, and talk to us about the best products and techniques for cleaning your teeth and appliances. And be sure to spend the extra time you’ll need for brushing around your braces.

  • Floss

Even though it can be more difficult to floss with brackets and wires, it’s essential for removing plaque. We have suggestions for special flosses designed for braces wearers, and how best to use them. A water flosser can be helpful for reducing plaque if other flossing methods aren’t working.

  • Use fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride actually helps remineralize our teeth, replacing the important minerals that have been lost to acid attacks. We might also suggest remineralizing toothpastes or a fluoride rinse.

  • Watch your diet

Acidic foods increase the acidity levels in your mouth, sugars give bacteria the fuel they need to produce acids, and sticky foods allow bacteria to remain on teeth and braces longer. We’ll give you suggestions on the best foods to keep your teeth healthy (and your braces intact) while you’re undergoing treatment.

  • Have your teeth cleaned regularly

Your dental professional will be able to remove plaque and tartar that home brushing has missed.

  • Work with us!

If we let you know that you need to spend more time on your cleaning routine, or that you need to be more thorough when you brush and floss, take our suggestions to heart. We are happy to show you the most effective way to clean around your braces. Dr. Clifton Lauritzen can recommend the best dental products for your specific needs. We can suggest rinses and toothpastes that will help. We’ll let you know how much time you should spend brushing and how often.

If you have any questions at all about keeping your teeth and braces their cleanest, we are here to help. Always feel free to talk to our Merced, CA team about concerns you might have about decalcification, discoloration, or any other potential problems. We are want to make sure that when your braces come off, you have every reason to smile!

Can You Chew Gum and Wear Braces?

May 20th, 2020

Well, of course you can chew gum and wear braces. But, should you chew gum and wear braces? That can be a sticky question.

For many years, the answer was a firm “No.” Not only did our favorite chewables literally gum up the (dental) works, but they were filled with loads of the sugar that cavity-causing bacteria love to feed on. The result? A much better chance of damage to your orthodontic work, and a higher risk of cavities near your brackets and wires.

But times, and gum recipes, change. Today’s sugar-free gum provides us with some new ideas to chew over.

  • Sugarless gum is much less sticky than regular gum, so it is much less likely to stick to your appliance. If there is any chance that gum will damage your wires or brackets, we’ll let you know that it’s best to wait until your braces are off to indulge.
  • Some orthodontic patients find that their jaws and ligaments are less sore if they chew gum for a few minutes after an adjustment.
  • Most important, studies suggest that chewing sugarless gum might actually help prevent cavities from forming. How is that possible?

Because chewing gum increases our production of saliva! Okay, we don’t normally find saliva an exciting, exclamation-point-worthy topic, but let’s look at the dental benefits:

  • Saliva washes away food particles and bacteria. And because braces can trap food when we eat, it’s great to have some help washing away any meal-time souvenirs.
  • Saliva helps neutralize acids in the mouth. The acids found in foods and produced by oral bacteria lead to cavities, so diluting and neutralizing their effects provide important protection for our enamel.
  • Saliva helps bathe the teeth in minerals that can actually rebuild weakened enamel. Acids in the mouth attack minerals in the enamel such as the calcium and phosphate that strengthen our teeth. Fortunately, saliva provides calcium, phosphate, and fluoride that can actually help rebuild weakened enamel.

So, should you chew gum and wear braces? The real question is, should you chew gum while you’re in braces? Dr. Clifton Lauritzen and our team are more than happy to provide the right answer for you! Talk to us at your next visit to our Merced, CA office about the potential benefits and drawbacks of dentist-approved sugarless gum. Depending on the kind of gum you choose and the kind of orthodontic work you are having done, the answer just might surprise you.

Heading Off to College? Maybe It’s Time to Graduate to an Electric Toothbrush!

May 13th, 2020

Your trusty manual toothbrush has been with you from pre-school through high school—well, obviously not the same manual toothbrush, because that would be seriously unhygienic—but it’s the kind of toothbrush you’re used to and comfortable with.

Now, though, you’re off to college, and your lifestyle will be changing. Late night study sessions complete with study session snacks. Getting caught up in a project and making dinner from dorm vending machines. Grabbing fast food on the way to the practice field, or work-study job, or evening class. You get the point—meals can be hectic, unscheduled, and less than tooth friendly.

And if you’re wearing braces or aligners, you know you need to keep on top of brushing more than ever. It’s challenging to brush away cavity-causing plaque when it sticks around brackets and wires. And with aligners, teeth don’t benefit as much from the constant cleansing action of saliva, so it’s really important to brush away plaque and food particles before you replace the aligners after eating.

Maybe it’s time to consider an electric toothbrush. After all, anything that can make your life easier and more efficient during busy college days deserves a spot in your dorm room.

  • Electric Brushes Are Effective

The most important reason to switch to an electric toothbrush is its effectiveness. Several studies have shown that regular use of an electric toothbrush leads to a marked reduction in plaque, that bacteria-filled film which sticks to the teeth and leads to cavities and gingivitis. And it’s really no surprise that an electric brush can out-perform a manual brush.

Electric toothbrushes offer several design options, from oscillating/rotating brushes to oscillating/rotating/pulsating models to brushes using sonic vibration technology. What these technologies all have in common is the ability to remove plaque far more efficiently than we can on our own, because electric brushes provide the equivalent of thousands and even tens of thousands of brushstrokes per minute, compared to the hundreds we can achieve by hand.

There might be a bit of a learning curve to discover how to use your brush around wires and brackets. Ask us for the best method of using an electric brush with your braces, and check out brush heads specifically designed for orthodontic work.

If you use buttons with aligners, electric toothbrushes should be safe to gently clean around the buttons to remove built-up plaque. It’s usually best to stick with a manual brush for cleaning your aligners themselves—we’re happy to give you your best cleaning options, no matter which brush you choose.

You know by now what your brushing habits are like. If you tend to be a bit cavalier with your brushing and flossing, make sure you set yourself up for success. Because you have better things to do during semester breaks and summer vacations than visiting Dr. Clifton Lauritzen!

  • Electric Brushes Can Make Life Easier

Several of today’s electric brushes come with options designed to do more than simply remove plaque. They can let you know if you’ve brushed for the recommended two minutes and remind you when it’s time to replace the brush head. They can even alert you if you’re brushing too hard, which is especially important when you’re wearing braces.

Want more from your electric brush? Some models offer apps that can map out just where you’ve brushed, in case there are a few spots that often get overlooked. Or provide different brushing modes for daily cleaning, deep cleaning, whitening, and more. Or come with a travel case that can recharge while you’re busy exploring the world—or going home for a visit.

In the end, it’s up to you. Do some independent study and research the toothbrushes that will give you the best results for your individual brushing habits. You might not need or want a brush with all the technological bells and whistles.

If you’re comfortable with your manual brush and you get good grades when you visit our Merced, CA office, stick with it. But if you think you might benefit from the ease and efficiency of an electric toothbrush, if an electric toothbrush makes your teeth and gums healthier and your smile brighter, that’s extra credit worth pursuing.

Does My Pre-Existing Dental Work Mean I Can’t Wear Traditional Braces?

May 6th, 2020

When you get braces as a child, you usually present the orthodontist with a blank canvas—newly erupted, perfect permanent teeth, just waiting to be aligned. But if you are a bit older, your canvas might already be a bit busy, with fillings, crowns, perhaps even a missing tooth. Can Dr. Clifton Lauritzen still work with that more complicated picture? Yes!

  • Fillings

Many of us have acquired a filling or two. Normally, an old filling shouldn’t interfere with new braces. Large fillings, however, might call for spacers. These small rubber bands are inserted between two teeth as needed to create enough room for bands and brackets, and are generally put in place a week or two before you get your braces. They frequently fall out on their own as the space between the teeth gets a bit wider.

  • Crowns

If you have had a root canal or any other dental treatment that left you with a crowned tooth, no need to be concerned. A special dental adhesive can be used to adhere brackets to crowns.

  • Implants

If you have or would like to get an implant, this is a time to coordinate with your orthodontist and dentist or oral surgeon. Sometimes an implant can anchor your appliance, and sometimes it’s best to keep the spot open until your orthodontic work is completed. Once in place, an implant will not have the mobility of a tooth, so it’s always best to make sure your doctors can create a schedule that will work for both the installation of the implant and the positioning of your braces.

  • Healthy Teeth and Gums

Before you begin orthodontic work, talk to your dentist. If you need a filling or crown, are considering a dental implant, have symptoms of gum disease, or are looking at any other dental concerns, you should work with your dentist first. Healthy teeth and gums are the very best foundation for orthodontic treatment at any age.

If you are wondering whether Dr. Clifton Lauritzen can help you achieve the smile you’ve always wanted, talk to us when you visit our Merced, CA office! Your past dental work will be just one of the many variables we take into consideration when we’re planning your future of picture-perfect smiles.

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