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Orthodontic Treatment—The Sequel

January 19th, 2022

Some experiences are great, and we look forward to enjoying them again and again. Others have wonderful outcomes, but you feel no need for a sequel. If you’re wondering whether you need to revisit orthodontic treatment, you’re probably in this second group.

After all, you put in your time as a teenager. All those days in bands and braces, all the adjustments, all that cleaning with little tiny tools in little tiny places. That was a lot of work, and you reaped the rewards of your conscientious orthodontic habits with beautifully aligned teeth and a healthy, comfortable bite.

But now you’ve started to notice that your teeth aren’t quite as beautifully aligned, or your bite’s not quite as comfortable. So, what’s happened? Let’s look at some possibilities, and whether a return to the orthodontist’s office is in order.

  • You’ve Lost a Tooth

If you’ve lost a tooth because of injury or decay, that gap is an open invitation for surrounding teeth to move in to fill the void. Whenever you lose a tooth, consider an implant. Implants function, look, and maintain healthy spacing just like natural teeth.

One thing implants can’t do? Move like our own teeth will during orthodontic treatment. Your natural teeth can move because they are held in place within the bone by flexible periodontal ligaments. Implants, on the other hand, are anchored directly to the bone for stability.

If you’re considering new or further orthodontic work and want to replace a lost tooth with an implant, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Scott Smith to discover the best timing and scheduling for your procedures.

  • You’ve Gained a Tooth

Problems with your alignment can also arise if you add a tooth or teeth. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, wisdom teeth could be in your near future. And a new tooth can throw off the spacing and alignment of your existing teeth.

Talk to Dr. Scott Smith about your options if your wisdom teeth are about to make an appearance, and if it looks like your tooth and bite alignment might be affected.

  • You’re Getting Older

Our teeth naturally tend to shift as we age. Teeth move forward, causing crowded or crooked front teeth—especially on the lower jaw. There’s even a medical term for this phenomenon: mesial drift. While we don’t know exactly why this drifting occurs, we can treat it.

Adults make up a large—and growing—segment of orthodontic patients. If your teeth have lost their ideal alignment over time, a visit to our Springfield, MA office is a great way to bring your youthful smile back. And you’ll probably find your treatment much shorter and more comfortable than it was decades earlier!

  • You Haven’t Been Wearing Your Retainer

Remember that word “conscientious” in the second paragraph? You need to wear your retainer conscientiously, for as often and for as long as recommended by Dr. Scott Smith.

If you’ve been ignoring a damaged retainer, or you keep forgetting to look for your lost retainer, or you have a perfect, undamaged retainer sitting unworn on your dresser, your teeth can start to shift out of their hard-won alignment within a short time.

Does this mean it’s back to months of bands and adjustments and appointments? Maybe not! See us as soon as you notice any changes in your teeth or bite. When caught early, shifting teeth can be treated much more easily.

What can we do to help you regain your best smile? A lot!

  • Treatment Planning

When you need to accommodate implants, wisdom teeth, or other dental work which could affect your tooth alignment, Dr. Scott Smith can work with your dentist to make sure your alignment isn’t disturbed in the process. They can also map out a treatment schedule which coordinates your other procedures with any orthodontic treatment.

  • Retainer Evaluation/Adjustment

Your retainer is probably a passive retainer, meaning it keeps your teeth in place instead of moving them. If you notice your alignment shifting, or if your retainer is uncomfortable when you try to put it on after a lapse in nightly wear, ask us about a replacement.

  • Active Retainers

An active retainer helps move teeth into alignment rather than simply keeping them in place. A new active retainer might be just what you need to correct a slight shift.

  • Aligners or Braces

If you have some serious shifting going on, we might recommend a second round of treatment with clear aligners or braces. But there’s good news here, as well! Treatment to correct an orthodontic relapse usually takes less time than it did originally, and treatment options are more comfortable and less noticeable than ever before.

Talk to Dr. Scott Smith about an orthodontic sequel if you have any concerns about changes in your bite or alignment. You might need only a simple retainer adjustment or a short time in clear aligners or traditional braces to make your smile its best and healthiest once again. And this time, remember to wear your retainer to make sure there’s no need for Orthodontics—Part III!

How do I know if I need braces?

January 12th, 2022

Perhaps you feel your teeth are not perfectly straight, or you think your bite could be adjusted. It’s quite possible that braces and other orthodontic treatments might be the right choice for you. As orthodontic professionals, our team at R. Scott Smith Orthodontics works with your general dentist in order to determine the best options for your oral health and cosmetic appearance.

You might need braces if ...

  • You lost your baby teeth relatively early in life. If your baby teeth fell out too early and your adult teeth did not come in for a while, this could have affected the way your adult teeth grew and developed.
  • Your teeth look crowded or crooked. If you are embarrassed to smile because your teeth are not straight, it might be time to consider the cosmetic options available to you.
  • Your jaw shifts or makes sounds. This can signify a developmental issue with your teeth and your jaw line, and orthodontic treatment may be able to help. Set up an appointment with Dr. Scott Smith if your jaw is recessed or protruding as well.
  • You are constantly biting the sides of your cheek or hitting the roof of your mouth. This could indicate that your teeth are not properly aligned. Braces can address an underbite or an overbite.
  • You have a difficult time chewing your food. This is not only an inconvenience, but it can also be detrimental for your health. Braces can help fix the alignment of your teeth.
  • You have to breathe through your mouth on a regular basis. You may not attribute this to an issue with the development of your teeth or jaw, but orthodontic treatment might be able to help.

The ideal age for a child to be seen by an orthodontist is age seven. However, there are many orthodontic treatment options available to adults. It is becoming increasingly common for adults to wear braces and other orthodontic devices. We recommend that people who are interested in braces and other orthodontic treatment options set up a consultation appointment with Dr. Scott Smith today.

Make this the Year You Stop Smoking

January 5th, 2022

It’s a new year, and it couldn’t come fast enough for many of us! Let’s do our part to make this a better year in every way—and you can start by making this the year you quit smoking once and for all.

You know that smoking is very damaging to your body. Smokers are more likely to suffer from lung disease, heart attacks, and strokes. You’re at greater risk for cancer, high blood pressure, blood clots, and blood vessel disorders. With far-reaching consequences like this, it’s no surprise that your oral health suffers when you smoke as well.

How does smoking affect your teeth and mouth?

  • Appearance

While this is possibly the least harmful side effect of smoking, it’s a very visible one. Tar and nicotine start staining teeth right away. After months and years of smoking, your teeth can take on an unappealing dark yellow, orange, or brown color. Tobacco staining might require professional whitening treatments because it penetrates the enamel over time.

  • Plaque and Tartar

Bacterial plaque and tartar cause cavities and gum disease, and smokers suffer from plaque and tartar buildup more than non-smokers. Tartar, hardened plaque which can only be removed by a dental professional, is especially hard on delicate gum tissue.

  • Bad Breath

The chemicals in cigarettes linger on the surfaces of your mouth causing an unpleasant odor, but that’s not the only source of smoker’s breath. Smoking also dries out the mouth, and, without the normal flow of saliva to wash away food particles and bacteria, bad breath results. Another common cause of bad breath? Gum disease—which is also found more frequently among smokers.

  • Gum Disease

Smoking has been linked to greater numbers of harmful oral bacteria in the mouth and a greater risk of gingivitis (early gum disease). Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is much more common among smokers, and can lead to bone and tooth loss. Unsurprisingly, tooth loss is also more common among smokers.  

  • Implant Failure

Tooth implants look and function like our original teeth, and are one of the best solutions for tooth loss. While implant failure isn’t common, it does occur significantly more often among smokers. Studies suggest that there are multiple factors at work, which may include a smoker’s bone quality and density, gum tissue affected by constricted blood vessels, and compromised healing.

  • Healing Ability

Smoking has been linked to weakened immune systems, so it’s harder to fight off an infection and to heal after injury. Because smoking affects the immune system’s response to inflammation and infection, smokers suffering from gum disease don’t respond as well to treatment. Smokers experience a higher rate of root infections, and smoking also slows the healing process after oral surgeries or trauma.

  • Dry Socket

Smoking following a tooth extraction can cause a painful condition called “dry socket.” After extraction, a clot forms to protect the tooth socket. Just as this clot can be dislodged by sucking through a straw or spitting, it can also be dislodged by the force of inhaling and exhaling while smoking.

  • Oral Cancer

Research has shown again and again that smoking is the single most serious risk factor for oral cancer. Studies have also shown that you reduce your risk of oral cancer significantly when you quit smoking.

  • Consequences for Orthodontic Treatment

Finally, if this is the year that you’re investing the time and effort needed to create an attractive, healthy smile with orthodontic treatment, don’t sabotage yourself by smoking!

Cosmetically, smoking doesn’t just discolor your tooth enamel—tar and nicotine discolor your aligners and braces as well. If one of the reasons you chose clear aligners or ceramic brackets is for their invisible appearance, the last thing you want is yellow aligners and brackets.

More important, smoking, it’s been suggested, can interfere with your orthodontic progress. When blood vessels are constricted, your gums, periodontal ligaments, and bones can’t function at their healthy best, moving your teeth where they need to be steadily and efficiently. This means that your treatment could take longer. And if your smoking has caused gum disease, you might have to put any orthodontic treatment on hold completely until it’s under control.

Quitting smoking is a major accomplishment that will improve your life on every level. It’s always a good idea to talk to Dr. Scott Smith for strategies to help you achieve your wellness goals for the new year. Make this the year you stop smoking, and the year your health improves in countless ways because you did.

Straight Talk about Braces and Oral Health

December 29th, 2021

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. Scott Smith, and our Springfield, MA 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!

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