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Straight Talk about Braces and Oral Health

May 18th, 2022

We’ll give it to you straight: it can be harder to keep your teeth their cleanest while you’re wearing braces. Food particles play hide-and-seek, plaque builds up around brackets, flossing is harder when you need to maneuver around wires. But keeping your teeth and gums healthy is even more important now that you’re wearing braces.

Why? Because when your braces come off, you want to enjoy the beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard for without worrying about discolored enamel, cavities, or swollen gums. Let’s look at some of the possible consequences when brushing and flossing are more challenging.

Decalcification

If you’ve noticed white spots around your brackets, you’re seeing the signs of decalcification, a common problem for those who wear braces.

Decalcification begins when plaque collects on the enamel around your brackets. The bacteria in plaque produce acids. These acids eat away at the minerals which keep your enamel strong, minerals like calcium and phosphorous. Places on the enamel where erosion takes place are left weakened and discolored.  Eventually, these weak spots can lead to . . .

Cavities

When plaque sticks around, whether near your brackets or anywhere on your teeth, it provides the perfect conditions for decay to develop. Left untreated, bacterial acids continue working away at decalcified spots in your enamel. This continuing erosion causes these surface spots to expand, grow deeper, and become cavities.

If you’re having trouble with built up plaque, and brushing isn’t doing the job for you, your dentist can remove it with a professional cleaning. Getting rid of plaque is healthy not only for your enamel, but your gums as well.

Gum disease

When plaque and tartar collect around the gumline, they irritate delicate gum tissue. This irritation causes gingivitis, or early gum disease. And, while young people rarely suffer from serious gum disease, the pain, redness, bleeding, swelling, and bad breath caused by gingivitis are not anyone’s life goals!

Brushing and flossing are essential to keeping your enamel and gums plaque-free. But even if you brush more often, it’s not as easy as it once was now that you have to work around and between brackets and wires. Luckily, there are lots of tools out there to help you get your teeth, gums, and braces their cleanest.

  • Orthodontic toothbrushes

Special brushes designed just for braces can help you work around brackets and wires. V- or U-shaped bristle formations let you brush around and over your braces. Curved bristles can fit under wires. Smaller brush heads let you reach those hard-to-reach places.

  • Electric toothbrushes

Many people find these brushes can clean more easily and effectively, especially when wearing braces. Tapered orthodontic brush heads are available, and, if you’re a heavy-handed brusher, there are models which alert you if you’re brushing too hard—protecting your braces and your enamel.

  • Orthodontic floss

Special orthodontic flosses can help you do the tricky job of fitting floss behind your wires and between your teeth, or use a floss threader, which helps guide uncooperative floss into tight spaces.

  • Water flossers

With their pulsing streams of water, water flossers can reach spots where regular brushes and flosses just can’t comfortably fit. There are even flossers available with special orthodontic tips.

Straight teeth are great. Straight and healthy teeth? Even better! You, Dr. Clifton Lauritzen, and our Merced, CA orthodontic staff make a great team. Take advantage of our advice and tips for the best tools and techniques to make sure your smile is both perfectly aligned and perfectly healthy once those braces come off!

Which Retainer is Right for You?

May 11th, 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 Merced, CA 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. Clifton Lauritzen to discover the retainer that will protect that smile for years to come.

Orthodontics and Oral Piercings

May 4th, 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. Clifton Lauritzen 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. Clifton Lauritzen 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 Merced, CA team about your oral piercings, and come up with a solution that’s best for your health and best for your smile.

Getting a Retainer? Make It Personal!

April 27th, 2022

If Dr. Clifton Lauritzen and our team recommend a Hawley retainer to complete your orthodontic treatment, you’re getting a classic. This retainer, invented by Dr. Charles Hawley, has been in use since the early decades of the twentieth century.

But this isn’t your great grandmother’s pink plastic retainer! The look of today’s Hawley retainer has really evolved from its early days as the “Hawley bite plate”—and pink is now a choice instead of an inevitability. In fact, you can choose from any number of colors, patterns, and designs to create a retainer that is uniquely you.

Each Hawley retainer is customized to fit your mouth and teeth perfectly. Wire clasps and a labial bow wire are securely attached to an acrylic base based on a model made from your teeth and mouth.

Your retainer is designed for function—the bow wire makes sure your teeth stay in the perfect position while your bones and ligaments get strong enough to hold them in place. The acrylic base, of course, is also functional—but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it!

Retainer bases can be formed in different ways.  One type of retainer model uses pre-formed acrylic discs for the base, and these are available in many pre-formed colors and patterns. Another type of retainer builds the base by alternating several applications of liquid and powder acrylics, layer after layer. This process allows the retainer technician to create one-of-a-kind designs.

What are some of the ways to make your retainer uniquely yours?

  • Color—whether deep tones, pastels, electrics, neon, or metallic, you can find an appealing shade in the color chart. Or, if you want your retainer to keep a low profile, choose a clear or a color-coordinated pink tone.
  • Glow in the Dark—if you don’t want your retainer to keep a low profile, this might be just the look for you!
  • Glitter—accessorize your sparkling smile with a sparkling retainer.
  • Patterns—stripes, polka dots, geometric shapes—even animal patterns are possible.
  • Color Combinations—why choose one color when you can have a marbled swirl of your favorites? Or a tie-dye look? Or team colors?
  • Acrylic Designs—a colorful design that captures your personality is available with some creative acrylic artistry. Rainbows and flags, hearts and flowers, ladybugs, and spider webs are just some of the options on hand.
  • Picture Perfect—for that special hobby, pet, team, or other personal favorite, decals or pictures can be applied under a layer of clear acrylic.

Hawley retainers are made to last, so choose your design with years of use in mind. Talk to our Merced, CA team about the custom looks which are available to celebrate your unique personality. After all, there’s nothing more personal than your smile!

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