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Plaque Attack? Let’s Fight Back!

January 19th, 2022

Plaque is a sticky subject! It sticks to the enamel of our teeth above and below the gum line, and it collects around braces. Plaque is one of the major causes of tooth decay and gum disease, and our teeth are under daily attack by this filmy menace.

What are the facts about plaque, and how can we fight back? Read on for some effective strategies!

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film that builds up on our teeth, largely made up of millions of different types of oral bacteria. Plaque is a colorless biofilm at first, but as it collects, it takes on a white or yellow tint. If you haven’t brushed for a few days, that fuzziness you feel on your teeth is plaque build-up. Unless it’s removed, plaque hardens within a matter of days to become tartar.

  • Tip: You can remove plaque with careful brushing and flossing, but it takes a dental professional to remove tartar. Be proactive!

Why Does Plaque Cause Cavities?

Bacteria in plaque use our food as their food, especially sugars and carbs. They can then transform these nutrients into acids, which attack our tooth enamel, weakening it and leaving it vulnerable to further erosion and eventual decay.

  • Tip: Cavities aren’t the only damage caused by accumulated plaque. Plaque also collects along and below the gum line. If tartar forms here, it irritates delicate gum tissue, leading to gingivitis and more serious gum disease. Make sure you don’t forget your gums when you brush and floss.

When Does Plaque Build Up?

The short answer? Plaque is always forming, because oral bacteria are a natural part of our biology. (In fact, there are even oral bacterial which are beneficial.) Plaque starts building up within minutes after eating, and during the night as we sleep.

That’s why we recommend brushing for two minutes at least twice a day, and flossing at least once a day. When you wear braces or aligners, brushing more often is a good idea. Food collecting around braces or inside aligners is a feast for plaque! Ask Dr. Michael Solomon for suggestions for your best brushing schedule.

  • Tip: Just because plaque is unavoidable, that doesn’t mean we need to give the bacteria in plaque any additional encouragement. Every time you have a meal or a snack that’s heavy in carbs and sugars, you are providing more fuel for acid production. Cutting down on foods like sugary desserts and sodas is not only nutrition-healthy, it’s tooth-healthy!

Where Does Plaque Collect?

Plaque builds up all over tooth surfaces, at the gum line, and even below the gum line. It’s especially easy to miss in hard-to-reach places like the irregular surfaces of molars, between the teeth, behind our front teeth, and near the gum line. Plaque also collects around your braces, and requires special care to make sure your teeth don’t suffer cavities or the white spots caused by demineralization.

  • Tip: One of the ways plaque avoids detection is its invisibility. Fortunately, if you’re having trouble brushing away all your plaque, there are plaque-disclosing toothpastes and chewable tablets available in the dental aisle which reveal the plaque hiding between, behind, or around your teeth by tinting it with a can’t-miss color. Just brush the color away, and you’ve brushed the plaque away as well.

How Do We Clean Away Plaque?

Use the Right Tools

Floss at least once a day. There are different materials, sizes, and coatings for floss, so you can find one that’s comfortable for you. Floss reaches those spots in between teeth and around the gum line that brushes miss.

Choose a soft toothbrush (soft bristles are better for your enamel) and change it every three to four months, or as soon as the bristles show wear. Make sure the head is the right size—too big, and it’s not only uncomfortable, but you won’t be able to reach all the surfaces you need to.

  • Tips: There are special dental flosses created just for your braces. You can also use interproximal brushes water flosser to clean around wires and brackets. If you have trouble removing plaque around your teeth and braces with a manual toothbrush, consider an electric model. Several studies have shown a reduction in plaque with the use of an electric brush.

Use the Right Toothpaste

There are many toothpastes specifically formulated to fight plaque and tartar. And fluoride toothpastes not only fight cavities, they can strengthen your enamel.

  • Tip: Studies have shown that toothpastes with baking soda, in particular, are effective in reducing plaque. Ask Dr. Michael Solomon for a recommendation the next time you’re at our Killen office.

Use the Right Technique

What not to do?  A forceful, horizontal sawing motion is awkward, hard on your enamel, and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. Technique is important—not for style points, but for cleaner teeth!

Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, especially at the gum line, to gently remove plaque from teeth and gums. Use short strokes or a circular motion to clean as much of the surface and between the teeth as possible. Brush the inside of your front teeth with careful vertical strokes—remember, that’s one place where plaque is easy to overlook. The same holds true for the tops of your molars, so thoroughly clean those uneven surfaces.

If you wear braces, be sure to clean thoroughly around brackets and wires, where plaque can accumulate quickly.

  • Tip: If you wear clear aligners, don’t forget to give them a gentle brushing as well! Plaque can stick to aligners, causing discoloration and odors, so follow our cleaning instructions carefully.

Who Can Help You Fight Plaque?

Even when you do your best at home, plaque can still be a sticky problem. That’s why we advise regular professional cleanings, which not only remove any plaque that’s hiding away, but also eliminate any built-up tartar around your braces. And, of course, there you can learn all about how to keep your teeth their cleanest.

True, you’re fighting plaque every day, but you have all the tools you need to make sure your teeth and gums stay healthy. You’re winning the battle with plaque every time you eat a nutritious meal, and every time you brush and floss. With that kind of strategy, plaque doesn’t stand a chance. And your bright smile and healthy teeth and gums? That’s a victory worth celebrating!

How Long Will My Retainer Last?

January 12th, 2022

You’ve worked hard for your attractive, healthy smile, and now you’re making sure it stays attractive and healthy by wearing your retainer. Since wearing a retainer is usually a matter of years, not months, it’s natural to wonder just how long you can count on that retainer to help you maintain your smile.

That answer depends on the type of retainer you get at our Killen office. A Hawley retainer, a clear retainer, and a fixed wire retainer have different lifespans. Because they each have their own advantages, Dr. Michael Solomon will recommend the retainer that’s right for protecting your individual smile.

So let’s look at the average lifespan for different retainers, and, equally important, some of the common mishaps that can shorten that working life.

The Hawley Retainer

This is the retainer most people picture when they think “retainer.” Made of wire securely attached to an acrylic base, the Hawley retainer keeps the teeth in place, and can even be adjusted, if needed, to improve alignment. They generally last anywhere from three to ten years.

How can you make sure your Hawley retainer keeps working for you as long as possible?

  • Keep it in its case. While some damages to these retainers can be repaired, why take a chance? And it’s much harder to lose a retainer if it’s in its case as opposed to, say, a cafeteria napkin.
  • Keep it away from your pet. Dogs, especially, are tempted by the taste and smell of saliva, but there are safer, less expensive chew toys out there.
  • Keep wearing it. Without your retainer, your teeth can shift. Over time, not only will your retainer fail to fit anymore, but you might need to return for further orthodontic treatment. If you notice your retainer is starting to feel uncomfortable, give your orthodontist a call.

The Clear Retainer

Clear retainers look like clear aligners, and, like clear aligners, are almost invisible. Made of vacuum-formed plastic, they’re designed for a close, comfortable fit, often around the entire arch of your teeth. Also like clear aligners, these retainers aren’t made to last forever. If they become loose, warped, or cracked, they should be replaced. With care, they can last from six months to several years. How to protect them?

  • Protect your retainer from damage. Keep it in its case when you’re not wearing it. You’ll avoid losing it, and you’ll avoid damaging it.
  • Protect it from teeth. And we don’t just mean pets, although they find clear retainers yummy, too. If you grind your teeth, your retainer can suffer. Clear retainers are not the same thing as night guards, so talk to your orthodontist for recommendations.
  • Protect it from heat. Hot surfaces like ovens or heaters, hot dashboards, washers and dryers, even very hot drinks can be a problem. (You should only be drinking water while you wear your clear retainer, so that particular issue shouldn’t arise!)

The Fixed Retainer

A fixed retainer is a small piece of wire that is custom-fit and bonded to the back of specific teeth to prevent any movement from occurring. Because it’s bonded to the inside of the teeth, a fixed retainer is completely invisible when you speak or smile. It can last five years, ten years, and in some cases, even longer. Even though you won’t be exposing this retainer to external dangers like hungry pups or the wash-and-rinse cycle, there are still some situations to watch for:

  • Watch your diet. The same sticky, crunchy, or hard foods that can damage brackets and wires can also loosen a fixed retainer.
  • Watch your dental hygiene. While cleaning around a bonded retainer can be a bit challenging, not cleaning around it can result in plaque and tartar buildup—and your retainer might have to be removed to clean your teeth.
  • Watch for changes. If your teeth start to shift, it could mean your retainer has detached from one or more teeth. Ask your dentist to check the retainer’s bond whenever you have a checkup.

So, how long will that retainer last? Depending on the kind of retainer you have, if you don’t keep it in its case, or if you don’t watch your diet, or if you expose it to heat, the answer is—not nearly long enough. Dr. Michael Solomon will give you the very best tips to keep your retainer clean, safe, and working for as long as possible. Now, it’s up to you!

New Year’s Resolutions—Counting Down to a Beautiful Smile

January 5th, 2022

Traditionally, January is a great time to choose some bad habits you’d like to lose, and some good habits you’d like to develop. If one of your goals this year is to help make your orthodontic treatment as efficient and successful as possible, we have the perfect resolutions for your New Year.

  • Brush after every meal

If you’ve grown up brushing for two minutes twice each day and flossing regularly, you have been doing everything right! But now that you have braces or aligners, you should plan on brushing after every meal and each snack.

Food particles can stick to wires and brackets, which is nothing to smile about. Worse, plaque can be easy to miss around your braces, which can lead to enamel erosion and possible cavities. Brushing after eating is the best way to eliminate food particles and plaque from braces and enamel, but if you can’t brush, be sure to rinse well with water.

Patients with aligners benefit from brushing, too, to keep food particles and sugary or acidic beverages from remaining trapped around the teeth after the aligners are replaced. If you absolutely can’t brush, remember to rinse carefully with water after eating and drinking and before replacing your aligners.

  • Watch your diet

Changes to our diets are probably one of the most common resolutions, so it’s no surprise we have recommendations for your dental diet. Dr. Michael Solomon and our team are happy to provide you with a comprehensive list of the foods that can harm your wires and brackets, or which are especially difficult to keep from sticking to your appliance and enamel. No tempting caramels or buttery ears of corn are worth damage to your braces! Follow the guidelines for braces-friendly foods, and you’ll help keep your treatment problem-free and on track.

  • Do your part

Wearing braces or aligners can require some interactive work on your part. If you are supposed to wear your aligners for 22 hours a day, be sure to follow those instructions to keep your treatment plan on schedule. If you have bands that you need to wear with your traditional braces to help correct your bite, wear them as directed. And never try to make up for lost time by doubling your bands—this can actually be harmful to your teeth.

If we can help demonstrate or explain anything you need to do at home, don’t be afraid to ask!

  • Keep your retainer case handy

When you finish orthodontic treatment, you will probably have a retainer to help your teeth maintain their new, healthy alignment. Keep your retainer healthy by making sure to use your case whenever you’re not wearing it. Bent, broken, or lost retainers should be repaired or replaced as soon as possible to avoid changes in that smile you’ve worked so hard for.

  • Keep your appointments

The more you stay on schedule, the faster you will achieve your ideal smile. And if you have a problem between appointments, call our Killen office! Broken braces and aligners aren’t effective and can delay your progress, so let us know if you think you might need to see us earlier than scheduled. Finally, don’t forget your regular exams and cleanings at your dentist’s office.

Traditionally, the beginning of the year is a great time to choose some bad habits you’d like to lose, and some good habits you’d like to develop. But you needn’t wait for that New Year’s Eve countdown clock.  Adopting these orthodontic resolutions at any time of year will keep you on track for a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.

Why Do I Need a Retainer?

December 29th, 2021

Congratulations! You’ve done the hard work necessary to create your beautiful smile! You’ve carefully completed all the steps needed to reach the end of your orthodontic journey. Well, nearly all the steps. We can’t forget that last step which will ensure that all your hard work is rewarded.

When you first began orthodontic treatment, Dr. Michael Solomon decided on the best plan for straightening your teeth and perfecting your bite, whether you wore traditional braces, lingual braces, aligners, or other orthodontic appliances. And now that you’re finishing treatment, there’s one more option to consider—your retainer.

Why do I need a retainer?

While you’ve spent time in treatment, more has changed than just the position of your teeth. The periodontal ligament, the connective tissue that connects the teeth to the jawbone, is stretched as the teeth shift. The bone in your jaw changes, too, reforming and rebuilding around the roots of your teeth as they move to their ideal locations.

These changes happen because your braces or aligners apply gentle, constant pressure to move your teeth. When you’ve finished wearing these appliances, the pressure stops. Ligaments will try to return to their original shape, which can shift teeth back toward their old positions. And the rebuilding bone isn’t dense enough yet to stop teeth from shifting due to the normal, everyday pressures of eating, chewing, and smiling.

A retainer prevents your teeth from moving back, or “relapsing,” by giving your bones and ligaments time to stabilize and rebuild. The process takes months, so keeping your teeth in place as bones rebuild and grow denser is crucial. This is especially important for patients with more serious misalignments. Dr. Michael Solomon will let you know which kind of retainer will be best for you and just how long you’ll need to wear your retainer.

Are there different kinds of retainers?

There are! Retainers can be removable or fixed, visible or nearly invisible, metal, plastic, or metal and plastic. Three of the most popular retainer options include:

  • Hawley Retainers—the traditional removable retainer, which uses a molded acrylic plate with wires attached to keep your teeth properly aligned and to hold your retainer in place.
  • Clear Plastic Retainers—a removable retainer made of custom vacuum-formed plastic, which fits over the teeth like a clear aligner.
  • Fixed Retainers—a small single wire bonded to the back of specific teeth, which holds them in place and prevents any movement.

Dr. Michael Solomon will let you know whether a removable or fixed retainer is best for making sure your teeth don’t start to relapse, and fill you in on the benefits and care of each type of retainer.

How long do I need to wear a retainer?

There’s no standard answer to this question. Just like your retainer is custom-built to fit your individual teeth, the amount of time you’ll spend in that retainer depends on your individual needs. Retainers might be worn fulltime for months or years, be worn only at night after several months of daily wear, or be worn long-term to make sure your orthodontic work lasts.

Because you’ve done the hard work already, and your beautiful, healthy smile is the result. Talk to a member of our Killen team about which retainer option will be best for making sure that this smile lasts a lifetime.