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Mouthguard Protection

June 17th, 2020

Let’s talk about mouthguards.

We could talk about how important wearing a mouthguard is when you lead an active life. If you play sports, ride bikes, skateboard, or participate in many other kinds of exercise, mouthguards protect your teeth, mouth tissue, and jaws from accidents. 

Or we could talk about how wearing a mouthguard while you’re wearing braces has extra benefits. Besides its normal protection, your guard helps protect your brackets and wires from damaging contact, and your delicate mouth tissue from impact with your braces.

But we’re not going to talk about any of these important topics today. Instead of looking at how your mouthguard protects you, today we’re going to look at how you can protect your mouthguard.

If you want your guard to last longer, work better, and stay (and smell!) cleaner, some basic tips make all the difference.

  • Keep your guard clean.

This can’t be stressed enough. Without a good cleaning routine, your guard can become discolored, develop an unpleasant odor, and even cause illness. Not very appealing, right? Happily, keeping your mouthguard clean isn’t difficult.

When you wear your guard, the same plaque that is present in your mouth makes itself at home in your appliance. And when your guard is in its case, that dark, moist environment makes it a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

As soon as you take your mouthguard out, rinse it off. Brush with a soft toothbrush to remove all the plaque, saliva, or food debris that might be lingering in your appliance. (If you are on the playing field, in the park, or at some other inconvenient location, rinse it and brush as soon as you can.) Toothpaste can help get your guard its cleanest, but can be too abrasive for some appliances.

Once you’ve cleaned it, let your guard air dry in a clean spot for about 30 minutes. Air drying helps prevent bacterial growth. After your guard has dried, return it to its case.

Once a week, you might need to give your mouthguard a good soak in a mouthwash or other dental cleaning solution.

Since cleaning instructions can be different depending on which type of mouthguard you have, be sure to follow our instructions if you have a custom guard, or clean as directed by the manufacturer if you have a store guard.

  • Keep it safe.

When your mouthguard isn’t in your mouth, it should be in its case. Floating loose in your locker or tumbling around in your gym bag puts your guard at risk for breakage and bacteria.

And don’t forget to clean your case thoroughly every few days and air dry it as well. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and other unwelcome guests can collect in your case, too.

  • Keep it only as long as it’s in good condition.

You can purchase mouthguards from sporting or drug stores, or Dr. Clifton Lauritzen can make you a mouthguard designed to fit your teeth and braces perfectly. These appliances are made to be strong and durable, but they’re not indestructible. Over time they can wear down or become damaged, especially if you treat them carelessly.

Bacteria can lurk in dents and cracks, and you can cut your mouth on rough, sharp, or broken edges. But if your mouthguard isn’t fitting properly, don’t resort to self-help! Trying to repair, reshape, or trim your appliance yourself is not a good idea, because it might affect its fit and protective ability.

Any sign that your guard isn’t fitting properly or shows signs of wear and tear could mean it’s time for a replacement. You can replace a store model, or see Dr. Clifton Lauritzen about replacing or repairing your custom guard. A mouthguard that doesn’t fit, doesn’t keep you safe.

Take care of your guard, and it will take care of you. The reward for the small amount of time and effort you put into caring for your mouthguard is braces that will last through your treatment at our Merced, CA office and a smile that will last you for a lifetime. Those are benefits we can talk about all day!

Water Flossers and Braces

June 10th, 2020

You devote a lot of energy to your orthodontic treatment. Appointments, rubber bands, adjustments, cleaning (so much cleaning)—and why? Because you know that your attractive, healthy smile will be well worth the effort.

But if you find that keeping your teeth and braces clean requires more time and energy than it should, and you’re still not getting the results you’d like, a water flosser might be just the tool you need to help make your cleaning routine easier and more effective.

Plaque and tartar can be a real problem when you wear braces. Cleaning around braces and wires can be a challenge, and it can be difficult to get floss between your teeth and close to your gums, even with special threaders or floss designed to slip behind your wires.

But ignoring bacteria and plaque build-up can lead to cavities, weakened or discolored enamel, and gum problems. Fortunately, a water flosser can help wash away food particles, bacteria, and plaque even in tight, hard-to-reach spaces, while providing gentle cleaning along sensitive gums.

Water flossers use a pulsing stream of water to remove food particles and plaque between and around teeth. You can adjust the water pressure to apply just the right amount of cleaning power, and then direct the flow to your gum line, between your teeth, around your brackets, or anywhere else you need. Some models even offer tapered heads with brushes designed specifically for cleaning braces.

You might consider investing in a water flosser if you have:

  • Mobility issues. If you have joint or mobility issues, a water flosser will let you clean those hard-to-reach areas more easily.
  • Lingual braces. Because lingual braces are on the inside of the teeth, they can be more difficult to clean effectively with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Problems removing plaque. If you find that you are brushing and flossing regularly, but still have plaque build-up around your braces, give water flossing a try.

A beautiful smile is well worth all the time and effort you are devoting to it. If you think a water flosser might save you a bit of that time and effort, and provide better cleaning power, talk to Dr. Clifton Lauritzen  about your options during your next visit to our Merced, CA office. We’ll let you know if traditional flossing, a water flosser, or a combination of the two will give you your cleanest, healthiest smile.

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.

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