Category Archives: Orthodontics

Be Sure You Include Bite Treatment in Your Smile Makeover Plan

smile.

If you’re seriously considering turning your “smile makeover” dream into reality it’s a good idea to approach it like a home makeover. In both, there’s one critical element—make sure you’re working within the big picture.  A fresh coat of paint isn’t quite enough to renovate a house, for example, if it also has serious foundation flaws.

The same is true about your teeth—just changing their outward appearance with porcelain veneers, crowns or other restorations may not be enough to produce the desired appearance change. This is because the real cosmetic problem could be your teeth aren’t where they’re supposed to be due to a malocclusion (poor bite).

Your teeth are part of an overall framework that also includes your jaws and facial structure, the elements of which all blend together to create your smile appearance. A malocclusion resulting in misaligned teeth can therefore adversely affect your smile. That’s why your dentist and you may need to include orthodontic treatment in your smile transformation plan.

Orthodontics is a dental specialty that addresses occlusion (how the teeth come together and interact with each other) problems by moving teeth to better positions. While braces are the mainstay of orthodontic treatment, they’re by no means the only tool in an orthodontist’s tool kit, especially for complex malocclusions.

If the dentist directing your smile makeover detects a bite problem, he or she may refer you to an orthodontist for a complete assessment. Using a number of diagnostic tools like x-rays, CT scanning, mold impressions or computer modeling, an orthodontist can determine the exact nature of your malocclusion and the corrective actions to bring your teeth into proper alignment.

How your smile makeover proceeds from this point will depend on the type of malocclusion and its complexity. It will most likely involve a team approach between different specialties including orthodontics or periodontics (for the gums and other structures that support the teeth). Each team member will address some aspect of your care and work together to achieve your smile transformation.

Depending on your needs, your smile enhancement may proceed in stages and over an extensive period of time. In the end, though, your smile “renovation” will be thorough and lasting.

If you would like more information on smile transformations, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Magic of Orthodontics: The Original Smile Makeover.”

Anchors Make all the Difference in Successful Orthodontic Treatment

TADS.

Orthodontics shares a principle with the classic tug of war game: if you want things to move in the right direction you need a good anchor. Anchors help braces and other appliances apply constant pressure to misaligned teeth in the direction they need to go to correct a malocclusion (poor bite).

Orthodontic treatments work in cooperation with an existing oral mechanism that already moves teeth naturally in response to biting forces or other environmental factors. The key to this mechanism is an elastic tissue known as the periodontal ligament that lies between the tooth and the bone. Besides holding teeth in place through tiny attached fibers, the ligament also allows the teeth to move in tiny increments.

Braces’ wires laced through brackets affixed to the teeth exert pressure on them in the desired direction of movement –the periodontal ligament and other structures do the rest. To maintain that pressure we need to attach them to an “anchor”—in basic malocclusions that’s usually the back molar teeth.

But not all malocclusions are that simple. Some may require moving only certain teeth while not moving their neighbors. Younger patients’ jaws and facial structures still under development may also need to be considered during orthodontic treatment. That’s why orthodontists have other anchorage methods to address these possible complications.

One example of an alternate anchorage is a headgear appliance that actually uses the patient’s skull as the anchor. The headgear consists of a strap running around the back of the head and attached in front to orthodontic brackets (usually on molar teeth). The pressure it exerts can trigger tooth movement, but it can also help influence jaw development if an upper or lower jaw is growing too far forward or back.

Another useful anchorage method is a tiny metal screw called a temporary anchorage device (TAD) that is implanted into the jawbone above the teeth through the gums. Orthodontists then attach elastic bands between implanted TADs and specific braces’ brackets or wires to exert pressure on certain teeth but not others with pinpoint accuracy. After treatment the TADs can be easily removed.

Using these and other appliances allows orthodontists to customize treatment to an individual patient’s particular malocclusion. With the right anchor, even the most complex bite problem can be transformed into a beautiful and healthy smile.

If you would like more information on orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Orthodontic Headgear & Other Anchorage Appliances.”

Keep Your Smile Beautiful…in April and Beyond

spring cleaning.

There are well-known holidays on the calendar this month, but here’s one that might have escaped your notice: “Keep America Beautiful Month,” which is observed throughout April! At this time, people from coast to coast are encouraged to clean and beautify their communities. So why not think of it as an occasion to spiff up your smile? Here are five ways to do exactly that:

Have your teeth professionally cleaned. A routine dental visit, which includes a professional cleaning and exam, is one of the best preventive healthcare values there is. It’s a chance to catch dental problems (including potentially serious ones like oral cancer) before they become more difficult to treat. A dental professional can remove built-up deposits of tartar from your teeth using specialized instruments—something you can’t do at home. Plus, you’ll leave the office with a freshly polished smile that looks and feels great.

Get a professional teeth whitening. Having whiter teeth often makes people look more youthful. And one of the best ways to brighten dull teeth is with professional teeth whitening. You can achieve the fastest, most dramatic results with an in-office treatment—up to ten shades in just one visit! We can also make you a custom take-home kit to achieve similar results over time.

Repair chipped teeth. If you feel self-conscious about a chipped tooth, consider cosmetic bonding. In this relatively inexpensive procedure, which often takes just one office visit, tooth-colored resin material is applied to the chipped area and hardened under a special light. The translucent resin is built up layer by layer, bringing teeth with minor flaws back to a great, natural-looking appearance.

Replace old dental work. Sometimes old dental work can stand out more than we’d like it to. This is especially true of amalgam (silver) fillings—but even white fillings can absorb stain after many years. If you feel old dental work is detracting from your smile, it may be time to replace it with up-to-date dental materials.

Straighten your smile. Did you know that there is no maximum age for successful orthodontic treatment? It’s true: Healthy teeth can be moved at any age. And if you think metal braces wouldn’t fit in with your look or lifestyle, consider one of the less-visible alternatives to traditional orthodontic hardware—such as ceramic braces and clear aligners.

Having the smile you want can make you feel more confident in any month of the year. If you’d like more information on cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “How Your Dentist Can Help You Look Younger” and “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”

Get Ahead of Bite Problems with Interceptive Orthodontics

orthodontics.

At any given time some 4 million teens and pre-teens are wearing braces or other orthodontic appliances to correct a malocclusion (poor bite). While most cases are straightforward, some have difficulties that increase treatment time and cost.

But what if you could reduce some of these difficulties before they fully develop? We often can through interceptive orthodontics.

This growing concept involves early orthodontic treatment around 6 to 10 years of age with the goal of guiding the development of a child’s jaws and other mouth structures in the right direction. These early years are often the only time of life when many of these treatments will work.

For example, widening the roof of the mouth (the palate) in an abnormally narrow upper jaw takes advantage of a gap in the bone in the center of the palate that doesn’t fuse until later in adolescence. A device called a palatal expander exerts outward pressure on the back teeth to influence the jawbone to grow out. New bone fills in the gap to permanently expand the jaw.

In cases with a developing overbite (the upper front teeth extending too far over the lower teeth when closed), we can install a hinged device called a Herbst appliance to the jaws in the back of the mouth. The hinge mechanism coaxes the lower jaw to develop further forward, which may help avoid more extensive and expensive jaw surgery later.

Interceptive treatments can also be fairly simple in design like a space retainer, but still have a tremendous impact on bite development. A space maintainer is often used when a primary (“baby”) tooth is lost prematurely, which allows other teeth to drift into the empty space and crowd out the incoming permanent tooth. The wire loop device is placed within the open space to prevent drift and preserve the space for the permanent tooth.

To take advantage of these treatments, it’s best to have your child’s bite evaluated early. Professional organizations like the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommend a screening by age 7. While it may reveal no abnormalities at all, it could also provide the first signs of an emerging problem. With interceptive orthodontics we may be able to correct them now or make them less of a problem for the future.

If you would like more information on orthodontic treatments, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article “Interceptive Orthodontics.”

Stephen Colbert Shares Throwback Braces Photo for a Good Cause

colbert.

When we look at those glamorous faces on TV, it’s easy to forget that celebrities—like the rest of us—often went through an awkward stage in adolescence.  But once in a while, something comes along to remind us that flawless Hollywood smiles didn’t always start out that way. Right now, that something is the hashtag #PuberMe: an invitation from late-night TV host Stephen Colbert for fellow celebs to post awkward photos from their youth.

In exchange for posting the embarrassing images, Colbert’s charity is donating to the hurricane relief effort for Puerto Rico; so far about $1 million has been raised. Also raised: many eyebrows, by the adorably dorky pictures—such as the one of Colbert himself, with a smile full of metal braces!

Like many kids, Colbert had teeth that didn’t align properly in his bite. The picture shows that several of his top teeth are in less-than-perfect positions, with noticeable gaps in between. Yet to look at that same smile today, you’d never suspect there had been a problem. That’s the magic of orthodontics.

Time-tested and effective, metal braces like the ones in Colbert’s picture remain among the most widely used appliances today. But orthodontics has come a long way since the late 1970’s, and now there are several other methods for correcting misaligned teeth, including ceramic braces, clear plastic aligners, and invisible lingual braces. The main advantage of the newer methods is that are they are harder to notice (and maybe a bit less awkward).

Ceramic braces, for example, have brackets that match the color of the teeth; with only the thin archwire visible, they’re much more unobtrusive. Clear aligners are transparent plastic trays that completely cover the teeth. Almost impossible to spot, they are worn 22 hours per day, but may be removed for eating or important events. Lingual braces are literally invisible, since they are placed on the tongue side of teeth rather than the lip side. In many situations, they are at least as effective as traditional braces.

Which appliance is best for you? It depends on each person’s individual situation—but many orthodontic patients now have choices that weren’t available in the past. And that goes for both kids and adults, who often appreciate a more “grown-up” image while improving their smiles with orthodontic treatment.

If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule a consultation by calling (815) 741-1700. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Clear Aligners for Teenagers” and “Orthodontics for the Older Adult.”

Braces Take Advantage of Teeth’s Natural Ability to Move

braces.

There are many new and exciting ways now to transform an unattractive smile into one you’ll be confident to display. But not all “smile makeover” techniques are new — one in particular has been around for generations: using braces to correct crooked teeth.

Braces have improved the smiles (and also dental health) for millions of people. But as commonplace this orthodontic treatment is, it wouldn’t work at all if a natural mechanism for moving teeth didn’t already exist. Braces “partner” with this mechanism to move teeth to better positions.

The jawbone doesn’t actually hold teeth in place — that’s the job of an elastic gum tissue between the teeth and bone called the periodontal ligament. Tiny fibers extending from the ligament attach to the teeth on one side and to the bone on the other. In addition to securing them, the dynamic, moldable nature of the ligament allows teeth to move incrementally in response to forces applied against them.

To us, the teeth feel quite stationary (if they don’t, that’s a problem!). That’s because there’s sufficient length of the tooth roots that are surrounded by bone, periodontal ligament and gum tissue. But when pressure is applied against the teeth, the periodontal ligament forms both osteoblasts (bone-forming cells) and osteoclasts (bone-resorbing cells) causing the bone to remodel. This allows the teeth to move to a new position.

Braces take advantage of this in a controlled manner. The orthodontist bonds brackets to the outside face of the teeth through which they pass a thin metal wire. They attach the ends of the wire to the brackets (braces), usually on the back teeth. By using the tension placed in the wire, the orthodontist can control the gradual movement of teeth to achieve proper function and aesthetics. The orthodontist continues to monitor the treatment progress, while making periodic adjustments to the tension.

It takes time, but through this marvelous interplay between nature and dental science you’ll gain a more healthy and beautiful smile.

If you would like more information on improving your smile with orthodontics, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Moving Teeth with Orthodontics.”

Consider Clear Aligners Instead of Braces for Your Teen

clear aligners.

Your teenager is about to take a big step toward better health and a more attractive appearance — orthodontic treatment. You both know the benefits: better chewing function, lower risk of dental disease, and, of course, a straighter and more beautiful smile.

But your teen might also dread the next couple of years of wearing braces. And it’s hard to blame them: although they’re effective, wearing braces restricts eating certain snacks and foods, they require extra time and effort for brushing and flossing, and they’re often uncomfortable to wear. And of high importance to a teenager, they may feel embarrassed to wear them.

But over the last couple of decades a braces alternative has emerged: clear aligners. This form of bite correction requires fewer food restrictions, allows greater ease in hygiene, and is considered more attractive than braces. In fact, most observers won’t notice them when a wearer smiles.

Clear aligners are a series of clear plastic trays created by computer that are worn in a certain sequence. During wear each tray exerts pressure on the teeth to gradually move them in the desired direction. The patient wears a single tray for two weeks and then changes to the next tray in the sequence, which will be slightly different than the previous tray. At the end of the process, the teeth will have been moved to their new positions.

Clear aligners aren’t appropriate for all bite problems. When they are, though, they offer a couple of advantages over braces. Unlike braces, a wearer can remove the aligner to brush and floss their teeth or for rare, special or important social occasions. And, of course, their appearance makes them less likely to cause embarrassment while wearing them.

In recent years, design improvements have increased the kinds of bites aligners can be used to correct. For example, they now often include “power ridges,” tiny features that precisely control the amount and direction of pressure applied to the teeth. They’ve also become thinner and more comfortable to wear.

If you’re interested in clear aligners as a treatment option, talk with your orthodontist about whether your teen is a good candidate. If so, they could make orthodontic treatment for achieving a more attractive and healthy smile less of an ordeal.

If you would like more information on clear aligners as an orthodontic option, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners for Teens.”

Don’t Forget Your Oral Hygiene While Wearing Braces

braces.

There are a few things you need to do — and not do — while wearing braces: avoid hard or sticky foods, for example, or wear protection during sports to avoid injury. There’s one important thing, though, that should be at the top of your list — extra attention to daily brushing and flossing.

The fact is your risk for developing tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease increases during orthodontic treatment. This is because the braces make it more difficult to reach a number of locations around teeth with a toothbrush or floss. Bacterial plaque, the source for these dental diseases, can subsequently build up in these areas.

Teen-aged orthodontic patients are even more susceptible to dental disease than adults. Because their permanent teeth are relatively young they have less resistance to decay than adults with more mature teeth. Hormonal changes during puberty also contribute to greater gum disease vulnerability.

There are some things you can do while wearing braces to avoid these problems. Be sure you’re eating a nutritious diet and avoid sugary snacks or acidic foods and beverages (especially sports or energy drinks).  This will deprive bacteria of one of their favorite food sources, and the minerals in healthy food will contribute to strong enamel.

More importantly, take your time and thoroughly brush and floss all tooth surfaces (above and below the braces wire). To help you do this more efficiently, consider using a specialized toothbrush designed to maneuver around the braces. You might also try a floss threader or a water irrigator to remove plaque between teeth. The latter device uses a pressurized water spray rather than floss to loosen and wash away plaque between teeth.

Even with these efforts, there’s still a chance of infection. So, if you notice swollen, red or bleeding gums, or any other problems with your teeth, visit us as soon as possible for an examination. The sooner we detect and treat dental disease while you’re wearing braces, the less the impact on your future smile.

If you would like more information on taking care of teeth while wearing braces, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Caring for Teeth During Orthodontic Treatment.”

Transform Your Smile and Dental Health by Correcting Your Bad Bite

bad bite.

When planning for your new smile, we look at more than the condition of individual teeth. We also step back for the bigger “bite” picture: how do the teeth look and interact with each other?

If we have a normal bite, our teeth are aligned symmetrically with each other. This not only looks aesthetically pleasing with the rest of the face, it also contributes to good function when we chew food. A bad bite (malocclusion) disrupts this mouth-to-face symmetry, impairs chewing and makes hygiene and disease prevention much more difficult.

That’s where orthodontics, the dental specialty for moving teeth, can work wonders. With today’s advanced techniques, we can correct even the most complex malocclusions — and at any age. Even if your teen years are well behind you, repairing a bad bite can improve both your smile and your dental health.

The most common approach, of course, is braces. They consist of metal or plastic brackets bonded to the outside face of the teeth with a thin metal wire laced through them. The wire attaches to an anchorage point, the back teeth or one created with other appliances, and placed under tension or pressure. The gradual increasing of tension or pressure on the teeth will move them over time.

 Braces are versatile and quite effective, but they can be restrictive and highly noticeable. Many people, especially older adults, feel embarrassed to wear them. There is an alternative: clear aligners. These are a series of clear, plastic trays that you wear in sequence, a couple of weeks for each tray. When you change to the next tray in the series, it will be slightly different than its predecessor. As the trays change shape guided by computer-enhanced modeling, the teeth gradually move.

If you’re interested in having a poor bite corrected, the first step is a comprehensive orthodontic examination. This looks closely at not only teeth position, but also jaw function and overall oral and general health.

With that we can help you decide if orthodontics is right for you. If so, we’ll formulate a treatment plan that can transform your smile and boost your dental health.

If you would like more information on the cosmetic and health benefits of orthodontics, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Magic of Orthodontics.”

Clear Aligners Make it Easier for Teenagers to have Their Teeth Straightened

clear aligners.

Braces can change a person’s life — not just their appearance but their dental health as well. To be honest, though, wearing braces are, well, kind of a drag — especially for teenagers.

Braces can be restrictive and confining; you’ll also have to give up certain favorite foods for a while. But more than any of that, they’re just plain unattractive. Even being able to choose colors for the brackets and elastic bands can’t fully ease a teenager’s embarrassment when they smile.

There is, however, an alternative to braces: clear aligners. And they could make orthodontic treatment during this difficult phase of their life much easier to handle.

Clear aligners are a set of clear plastic trays that can be taken in and out of the mouth. Each of the custom-designed trays is slightly smaller from the previous one in the series. After wearing the first tray for a couple of weeks (at least 20 to 22 hours a day), the patient switches to the next tray in the series. They repeat this process until they’ve worn all the trays. The gradual change from tray to tray moves the teeth to the desired position.

Clear aligners have some distinct advantages over braces, especially for younger patients. They can be removed for cleaning or for a rare special event. They don’t limit movement as much as braces. And, they’re nearly invisible — other people may not even notice them. And newer aligners are now designed with tiny “power ridges” that increase their movement capabilities. This has made them more useful for teenagers with complicated bite problems and other issues.

There are cases, though, where braces may be the better choice: where you need more control over tooth movement or the patient needs jaw surgery to achieve proper tooth alignment. And their removability could be an issue if the patient won’t leave them in their mouth for the necessary time each day.

To find out if clear aligners might be a viable option for your teenager, visit us for a complete orthodontic examination. We can then discuss your best option — clear aligners or braces — to achieve the most desirable outcome for your teenager.

If you would like more information on treating bite problems in teenagers with clear aligners, please contact us by calling (815) 741-1700 for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Clear Aligners for teens.”