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Spacing Out

August 19th, 2020

One of the most common reasons for getting braces is because there’s just not enough room for all your teeth to fit next to each other evenly. The result is overlapping and crooked teeth. What’s the first step in creating the space you need? Well, that depends on just how much room you need to align your teeth and bite properly.

When there is going to be a serious need for space, there are orthodontic solutions that can help, including palatal expanders, surgical options, and extractions. But if you only need a tiny bit of room so that regular braces will fit properly, we have a tiny solution—orthodontic spacers!

Why do you need to make space before you get braces? Because Dr. Clifton Lauritzen might need to make some room around crowded molars so your braces can be installed properly.

For example, you might need orthodontic bands to anchor your braces. An orthodontic band is a slim, custom-fitted ring of metal which fits snugly around a molar. It is durable, provides a place to attach bands and springs to help correct malocclusions (bite problems), and can securely surround a tooth that might be weak because of a large filling. Spacers can separate crowded teeth just enough to allow a band to be fitted around a molar.

Even if you don’t need bands, sometimes separators are necessary to provide enough space between the teeth for your braces to work effectively. The back teeth tend to move even closer together with braces, and, without adequate space, bite problems, risk of decay, and other difficulties can arise.

And while you might think that some serious equipment is in order to make room between those sturdy molars, the typical spacer, or separator, is actually extremely simple--usually a tiny, round elastic band, often made of rubber. Spacers can be placed between tight teeth in a matter of minutes. Each ring is stretched and positioned between your teeth with a special tool. As it returns to its original shape, the spacer’s width provides just enough pressure on the teeth it touches to make a bit of space between them. And a bit of space is usually all you’ll need.

What do spacers feel like? For some people, they can be uncomfortable. You might feel soreness, some pressure, or as though a piece of food is stuck between your teeth. Ask us for suggestions on making you more comfortable, whether it’s dining on ice cream and cold drinks, eating soft foods, or taking over-the-counter pain relief. Separators are only designed to be in place for a very short period (usually under two weeks), but if they are causing you pain, give us a call.

What do you need to do to help the process along? Actually, it’s more what you need not to do. Don’t use dental picks or floss on your separators, avoid chewing gum, and take chewy and sticky foods off the menu. And don’t be tempted to touch or play with your spacers!

Spacers can create space between the teeth so quickly and efficiently that they often fall out on their own after a few days. If your separators fall out, give our Merced, CA office a call. It could mean that you are ready for your braces, and on the way to a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles. And it’s a journey that begins with a tiny, springy step.

Five Clues That It’s Time to Replace Your Toothbrush

August 12th, 2020

Your dashboard lights up when your car needs an oil change. Your family smoke detector beeps when you need to switch out the batteries. But when it’s time to replace your toothbrush, you’re on your own. Luckily, there are several not-too-subtle clues that you should be shopping for a new model.

  • Fraying

Is your toothbrush looking a bit scruffy? Do those once orderly bristles look like they have the toothbrush equivalent of bed head? Have some bristles vanished altogether? Time to retire that toothbrush. Once the bristles are frayed, you just can’t reach plaque as effectively, especially where it likes to hide between the teeth.

Are you prematurely fraying? You could be brushing too hard. Overbrushing can injure delicate gum tissue, cause wear and tear to tooth enamel, and even damage your braces. If you find your brush fraying after only a few weeks of use, you might be using too much force. Remember, plaque is a sticky film, but it’s a soft sticky film. Ask us for advice on just how hard you need—or don’t need—to brush.

  • Odor

This one really goes without saying—no one wants an aromatic toothbrush! How to make sure your toothbrush is fresh and clean?

Always rinse carefully after you brush. This will get rid of any toothpaste, bits of food, or other particles left on your brush.

Let your toothbrush air dry. It might seem more hygienic to keep your brush covered in a bathroom setting, but a closed, moist container is a perfect breeding ground for germs. Don’t let them make a home in your bristles!

  • Illness

A cold or a bacterial infection (like strep throat) is no fun. But now that you’re feeling better, it might be time to throw out your toothbrush. The chances of re-infection are very low, unless your immune system is compromised, but this is a perfect opportunity to replace your brush with a fresh, germ-free model.

And if you share your toothbrush, or if you store it right next to a family member’s (which you really shouldn’t do, for this very reason), germs get shared, too. Quarantine your brush while you’re ill, and replace it once you’re out and about.

  • Discomfort

Bigger isn’t necessarily better. A brush with a head that’s too big won’t allow you to get into those small spaces in your mouth where plaque likes to collect. And when you are trying to clean around brackets and wires, a regular brush might be a problem. Ask Dr. Clifton Lauritzen for suggestions for the best tools for clean and comfortable brushing.

Also, harder doesn’t mean more effective. A brush with hard bristles can cause damage to your gums and enamel. We almost always recommend soft-bristled brushes for this every reason.

There are so many styles of brush out there, you’re bound to find the perfect fit with a little trial and error. Or ask us for suggestions the next time you’re at our Merced, CA office for an adjustment!

  • You’ve Passed the “Best By” Date

Because of its durable construction, your toothbrush can last a long, long time. But no matter how comfortable and effective your toothbrush is right now, it was never meant to go through life with you. Bristles break down over a period of a few months, and just don’t clean as effectively. Your brush should be changed every three months, and this includes changing the head on your electric toothbrush. And because you wear braces, you’re brushing more often, so that three month lifespan might be stretching it.

Unfortunately, you don’t have a flashing light or annoying beep to remind you when it’s time to change brushes, so you’ll have to devise your own reminders. Reminder apps, calendar notes, the first day of a new season—use whatever works best for you. 

Don’t ignore the clues your toothbrush is leaving you. Replacing your brush whenever it’s necessary helps guarantee that the time you spend cleaning your teeth and gums will lead to confident, healthy smiles. Case closed!

Five Ways You Won’t—And One Way You Will—Get Your Braces Off Faster

August 5th, 2020

It’s only natural when you’re waiting for something good—you count down the weeks until your birthday, or until the summer holidays, or until your braces come off. But while your birthday and your vacation won’t come any faster no matter what you do, you can help determine just how fast that happy day arrives when you’re done with your orthodontic treatment.

When you first got your appliance, Dr. Clifton Lauritzen gave you an estimate of how long your treatment would take. Of course, that estimate is based on everything going according to plan. What are some detours that can delay your progress?

  • Missing Appointments

With every adjustment at our Merced, CA office, you are moving closer to the ideal positioning for your teeth. If you miss or postpone appointments, it can take just that much longer to complete your orthodontic work.

  • Eating the Wrong Foods

You have a list of foods that are on the do-not-eat list. Hard, chewy, sticky bites are famous braces-breakers, but don’t forget that size also matters! Biting into a juicy apple or a buttery ear of corn can damage your brackets and wires just as much as chewy candy can. Be sure everything you eat is size-appropriate and braces-friendly. Obviously, damaged braces can’t straighten teeth as effectively as intact appliances!

  • Sticking with Bad Habits

Pressure from nail biting, chewing pencils, or crunching on ice can cause chips and cracks in your teeth, so just think what they can do to your appliance. Ask us for tips for quitting if you’ve picked up any of these habits. We know habits can be hard to break, but they are harder on your teeth and braces. If you bend or break a wire or loosen a bracket, you might be delaying your orthodontic progress. Which leads us to . . .

  • Ignoring Appliance Accidents

Accidents happen. Brackets or metal bands can become loose; wires can bend or break; spacers can fall out. If you notice a problem, call our office right away. Sometimes a minor problem can wait, but if your appliance is damaged, your teeth aren’t moving into position on schedule.

  • Blowing Off Bands

If you have bands to help correct your bite, be sure that you wear them as directed. If you skip hours or days of band-wear, you are adding to the time it will take to correct the bite problems they are meant to fix. And don’t double band to speed things up—that might put too much pressure on your teeth. Just follow our recommendations, and you will be done with those bands—and those braces—as soon as possible.

But, wait! We promised you one sure way to keep your orthodontic progress on track:

  • Follow Your Treatment Plan

If you keep your appointments, take care of your braces, call us promptly if they are damaged, and wear your appliance as directed, you will be doing your part to keep your treatment on track. And that happy day when your braces come off? It will arrive right on schedule!

I Only Have One Crooked Tooth. Should I See an Orthodontist?

July 29th, 2020

Your smile is just about perfect. There’s just that one tooth that’s out of place. So, do you really need to see an orthodontist?

Absolutely! Why? There are several good reasons.

First, let’s check to make sure there is no physical problem causing that turned tooth. A crooked tooth might result from an early oral trauma while the tooth is developing, or a baby tooth lost too early, or the loss of a nearby adult tooth. But a sudden change in a tooth’s orientation might also be caused by a cyst or a tumor. If you notice any changes in your tooth’s position, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Clifton Lauritzen.

Second, we want to make sure your bite is aligned properly. If your tooth is crooked due to crowding by your other teeth, or if it has rotated a bit because there is too much space between your teeth, your bite might be affected as well. Malocclusions, or bad bites, can lead to a number of unpleasant consequences, including headaches, jaw pain, and increased pressure and stress on the teeth.

Third, a crooked tooth can lead to more difficulty brushing and flossing between and around the teeth, which increases the chance of tooth decay.

Fourth, we provide the professional medical care you need. Some people with a turned tooth attempt self-help with rubber bands, dental floss, or other home remedies. Not only is this unlikely to work, it can actually lead to infection, root problems, and even tooth loss.

Maybe there are no health concerns causing, or caused by, your crooked tooth. Your bite is strong, and you like your unique smile just the way it is. In that case, smile on!

But if you are interested in aligning that one crooked tooth with the rest, give our Merced, CA office a call, and we’ll get to the root (literally!) of the problem. Depending on the reason your tooth is twisted, we’ll suggest the braces or clear aligners that will provide your most effective orthodontic treatment, and give you safe and lasting options for achieving the smile you’ve always wanted. Perfect!

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