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Gums and Braces

April 22nd, 2020

“Yes,” you’re thinking, “I shouldn’t be chewing sugary, sticky gum while I’m wearing my braces.” Or perhaps, “I should check with my orthodontist to see if this sugar-free gum is safe for my braces.” And these are both great thoughts—but today, we’re thinking about gums of a different sort!

While you’ve been taking care of your teeth with regular brushing and flossing, you’ve also been taking care of your gums. And now that you’re wearing braces, your gums need a bit of special attention to keep them their healthiest.

We tend to think of gum disease as an adult problem. In fact, periodontitis, or serious gum disease, is one of the most common chronic infections in the adult population. But young gums need care, too! Gingivitis, a milder form of gum disease, is unfortunately a common problem for both children and adults.

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar. When plaque builds up, it irritates delicate gum tissue. And while gingivitis is not as serious as periodontitis, the symptoms caused by this disease are nothing to smile about:

  • Redness
  • Tenderness and soreness
  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Bad Breath

If you’re already feeling a little tender or swollen after an adjustment, the added discomfort caused by gingivitis is the last thing you want. But even worse, neglected gingivitis can lead to more serious infections of gum and even bone tissue. Luckily, gingivitis is both preventable and treatable with proper dental care.

So, how to protect your gums? We have some suggestions.

  • Brushing Better with Braces

It can be hard to brush around your brackets and wires, but keeping these areas free of food particles and plaque makes for healthy gums—and fewer cavities! There are specially designed manual toothbrushes made for braces wearers, and tiny interproximal brushes that can reach tight spaces. Or, perhaps an electric toothbrush will do a better job for you. Just be sure to brush after each meal for the most complete removal of bacteria and plaque.

  • Learn New Flossing Techniques

You might wonder how on earth you’ll get in between your teeth with your wires and brackets in the way. We have the answers! We know the best techniques for flossing your specific braces, and we’ll recommend specially designed flossing tools to make the job easier. Water flossers can also be a great help for cleaning in tight spots. Be sure to make flossing part of your daily routine—you’ll be able to remove plaque from places brushing just can’t reach.

  • Rinsing? Recommended.

Talk to Dr. Jeffrey Collins about the best dental rinses for reducing plaque and tartar, or how gargling can help prevent irritation. And drink water! Water helps wash away plaque and bacteria, and is a great way to rinse teeth and braces if you absolutely can’t brush after eating.

  • Keep up with Professional Cleanings

Be sure to keep up with your regular dental exams and cleanings. Your dentist or hygienist will be able to remove any plaque or tartar build up that home brushing can’t handle.

We want your time in braces to be as healthy—and comfortable—as possible. If you have any gum discomfort, swelling, or sensitivity, give our Parker, CO office a call. With prompt action, gingivitis can be treated, and with careful attention to your cleaning routine, gingivitis can be prevented altogether. Something to think about!

Just What Is Plaque?

April 15th, 2020

From the time you were small, you’ve been warned about the dangers of plaque. Why? Because:

  • It’s an unpleasant film that sticks to your teeth
  • It causes cavities
  • It causes gum disease
  • It can cause extra problems when you wear braces

And really, do we need to know much more than this to motivate us to brush? But if you’re in a curious mood, you might be wondering just how this soft, fuzzy film accomplishes all that damage. Let’s take a closer look at the sticky problem of plaque.

How does plaque form?

We live with hundreds of species of oral bacteria, most of which are harmless, and some of which are actually beneficial. But when our oral ecosystem gets out of balance, problems can occur. For example, without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, we start to build up plaque.

Plaque starts forming within hours of your last brushing. And even though plaque fits the very definition of “seems to appear overnight,” this biofilm is actually a complex microbial community with several different stages of development.

  • It starts with saliva.

Saliva is vital to our oral health, because it keeps us hydrated, washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth, and provides minerals which keep our enamel strong. Saliva also contains proteins, which help form a healthy, protective film on the tooth surface. This film is called a pellicle.

  • Bacteria attach to the pellicle.

There are species of oral bacteria that are able to attach themselves to the pellicle film within hours of its formation. As they become more firmly attached, they begin to grow and divide to form colonies, and are known as the early colonizers of the plaque biofilm.

  • A complex biofilm forms.

If you’ve skipped brushing for a few days (please don’t!), you’ll notice a fuzzy, sometimes discolored film on your enamel—that’s a thriving plaque community, and it only takes a matter of days to go from invisible to unpleasant.

If you’re not removing plaque regularly, it can harden further and become tartar. And once you have tartar buildup, you’ll need the care of a dental professional to remove it.

  • What happens if we ignore plaque and tartar?

We get cavities and gum disease.

How does plaque cause cavities?

  • The bacteria in plaque, like all organisms, need nutrients.

Our normal oral environment and the food in our everyday diets provide the nutrients plaque needs. And, as we mentioned above, certain types of oral bacteria convert these nutrients into acids. Foods such as carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are most easily converted into acids, which is why we recommend that you enjoy them in moderation.

  • The biofilm promotes acid production.

Within the plaque film, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which don’t use oxygen) convert sugars and starches into acids. As the plaque film becomes denser, it blocks acid-neutralizing saliva and oxygen from reaching these bacteria close to the tooth’s surface, creating an ideal environment for the bacteria to produce their acid waste products.

  • Acids attack enamel.

The sticky nature of plaque keeps these acids in contact with tooth enamel, where, over time, acids dissolve minerals in enamel, weakening the mineral structure of the tooth.

How does plaque cause gum disease?

  • Bacteria cause inflammation and gingivitis.

The bacteria in plaque irritate the delicate tissue of the gums, which causes an inflammation response which can leave your gums swollen, red, bleeding, or tender. This early form of gum disease is gingivitis. Fortunately, good dental care and careful brushing and flossing can usually prevent and even eliminate gingivitis.

  • Plaque and tartar can lead to periodontitis.

When plaque and tartar build up around and below the gumline, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect, leading to infection as well as inflammation. Infections and constant inflammation not only harm gum tissue, they can destroy the bone supporting the teeth. This serious gum condition is periodontitis, and should be treated immediately to avoid further infection and even tooth loss.

How does plaque affect orthodontic patients?

  • Plaque collects around your braces.

Braces provide plenty of spots for plaque to hide from your brush. If you aren’t extremely diligent with your brushing and flossing, plaque collects near brackets, wires, and bands—all those spots that a brush and floss find difficult to reach.

  • Plaque promotes demineralization

The demineralization process we mentioned above can cause white spots on teeth (decalcification), where minerals have dissolved. Sometimes these spots can be treated, and sometimes they are permanent. They can become quite sensitive, and may lead to cavities.

Careful brushing and flossing around your braces will help eliminate the plaque that can cause demineralization near brackets. Ask Dr. Jeffrey Collins about the tools and the brushing and flossing techniques which will give you the best results.

How do we fight plaque?

From the time you were small, you’ve learned how to fight plaque:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all of your tooth surfaces and around the gumline.
  • Floss to remove plaque from between the teeth and near the gumline.
  • See your dentist as recommended for a thorough professional cleaning.

Be proactive. If you have any questions, talk to us at our Parker, CO office about the best way to keep plaque at bay. We can show you the most effective ways to brush and floss, recommend anti-plaque toothpastes and rinses, even suggest plaque-revealing tablets if you’re missing some trouble spots.

We’ve only brushed up on some plaque basics, because there is a lot more to discover about this complex biofilm. Happily, even with all there is to learn about plaque’s growth and development, it’s reassuring to know that getting rid of it is quite simple—with just a soft-bristled brush, some dental floss, and a few minutes of your time each day, you’re on the way to a healthy, happy, plaque-free smile.

Tooth Extraction and Braces

April 8th, 2020

Perhaps you’ve heard from parents or older relatives what braces used to be like years ago—obvious, uncomfortable, hard to clean, and with inevitable tooth extractions to start off the whole lengthy process.

Today, brackets are much smaller and wires are more pliable. You can even choose ceramic brackets or clear aligners for an almost invisible effect. New tools make cleaning your braces easier than ever. And new braces technology means that treatment is often shorter. But what about extractions? Are they still inevitable?

For orthodontists like Dr. Jeffrey Collins, the objective is saving teeth. And modern practices and technology have made this goal more attainable than ever before. There are several ways that modern treatment procedures can help avoid extractions.

  • Early Intervention

We recommend that children visit our Parker, CO office for an orthodontic evaluation by age seven. Because a child’s jaw is still forming at this age, early intervention can lead to orthodontic treatment that expands the jaw in order to make room for permanent teeth, or starts correcting bite problems before they become more serious.

  • High-Tech Planning

Today’s technology allows us to map out the progression of your treatment before we begin. Scanners, X-rays, and computer programs help us to design a treatment plan which will accurately predict how best to move your teeth and correct your bite, taking into account the size and development of your teeth and jaw.

  • Surgical Options

By the time you reach your late teen years, the jaw bones have stopped growing and it’s no longer possible to expand them without surgery. Oral surgery can treat serious jaw problems that impact your teeth and bite, usually as part of a combined treatment plan designed by your orthodontist and your oral surgeon.

Because we always work to keep teeth intact—using these methods and others—you can be sure that, if we recommend extraction, it is absolutely necessary. What could make an extraction necessary?

  • Severe overcrowding. Sometimes, there’s just not enough room in the jaw for all of your teeth.
  • A tooth or teeth that prevent us from correcting a problem with your bite.
  • Wisdom teeth. Usually, orthodontic work takes place before a patient’s wisdom teeth start to erupt. If yours do make an appearance before or during treatment, we can adapt our treatment plan accordingly.
  • An extra tooth. It’s rare, but an extra, or supernumerary, tooth sometimes develops, and your jaw is not designed to accommodate extras!

It’s important that you talk to Dr. Jeffrey Collins about every step of your treatment, including extractions. We want you to understand the treatment plan which will give you your best outcome. If we recommend extraction, it is because this decision is the best way to achieve a healthy bite and alignment, creating your beautiful smile—and protecting it—for a lifetime.

This April, Let’s Celebrate National Facial Protection Month!

April 1st, 2020

Poor April. While other months celebrate romance, or giving thanks, or costumes and candy, April has—April Fool’s Day and a tax deadline. We might be forgiven for thinking these two dates seem more like warnings than celebrations.

So here’s a new topic for the April calendar: National Facial Protection Month! Take the opportunity this month to review your safety practices while you’re enjoying your favorite activities.

  • Mouthguards

If you have a mouthguard for sports or athletic activities, wear it! In any activity or sport where humans come into contact with solid objects (including other humans) tooth injury is possible. A mouthguard will help protect you from dental injuries caused by falls, physical contact, or other accidents that might happen in your active life. And it’s not just your teeth—mouthguards protect your lips, tongue, and jaw as well.

You can buy mouthguards in stock sizes or shape-to-fit models, or you can have a guard made especially for you at our Parker, CO office. Custom mouthguards fit perfectly and are designed to make breathing and speaking easy and comfortable. If you wear braces, a custom mouthguard can be designed to protect your smile and your appliance. Just talk to Dr. Jeffrey Collins for suggestions!

After all the time and work you’ve put into your orthodontic care, don’t let a sports injury set you back. What else should you consider for your facial protection?

  • Helmets

If there’s a helmet available for your sport, use it! Helmets are especially important for protecting athletes from brain injury and concussion, and they help protect the face and jaw as well.

  • Face Guards

If you’ve experienced a puck speeding toward you, or a defensive tackle hurtling your way, or a fast ball coming in at 90 miles an hour, you know the importance of wearing a face guard. These guards can help protect your eyes, face, teeth, and jaws. Many sports now recommend using face guards—it’s worth checking to see if your sport is one of them.

  • Eye Protection

And let’s not forget eye protection. Whether it’s safety glasses or a visor, protecting your eyes and the bones around them is extremely important. You can even get sports goggles or protective sports glasses with prescription lenses to keep you safe and seeing clearly.

So here are a few suggestions for your calendar this month:

  • If you haven’t gotten a mouthguard yet, now’s the time. Tooth and mouth injuries occur in sports beyond hockey and football. If you play basketball, ski, skateboard, ride a bike—in fact, almost any sport where you can fall or make contact with a person or object—a mouthguard is a must.
  • If you need to replace an ill-fitting or damaged helmet and face guard, do it before your next game. And do replace a bike helmet if you’ve been in a crash—most likely it won’t be as protective, even if damage isn’t visible.
  • Talk to your eye doctor about protective eyewear if off-the-rack products don’t work for you.
  • If you are a parent or caregiver, make sure your child athlete has the proper facial protection—and uses it.
  • If you are a coach, make sure your athletes have the right protective gear—and wear it.
  • It’s also a great time to commit to using your protective gear every single time you’re active.

But, wait—these reminders are helpful and important, but weren’t we promised something to celebrate this April? Good catch! The great news is, using facial protection for sports and athletic activities gives you rewards you can celebrate all year: fewer injuries, fewer visits to the emergency room, and a beautiful, healthy, intact smile. Suit up!

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