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Adult braces: You're never too old to straighten your teeth

January 17th, 2017

A record number of adults are seeking orthodontic treatment according to a recent study by the American Association of Orthodontists. Of course improved oral health is one of the obvious goals, but according to the research, adults also report “improvements in their personal and professional lives” after completing treatment.

The number of adults with misaligned teeth is comparable to the number of children and teens, and there are a number of reasons why more and more adults are seeking treatment:

  • Adults are often pleasantly surprised when they learn about the innovative technology available today such as, Esthetic braces (ceramic) invisible braces (Incognito) and clear aligners (Invisalign and Clear Aligner Therapy).
  • Adults who did not have access to orthodontic treatment as a child or teenager, are also surprised to find out about the affordable payment plans and the willingness of the staff – like ours at Brazos Valley Orthodontists – to work with them on individual needs and options.
  • Adults are realizing that even if they had braces as a child, they may need them again. Some people have mouths that just change naturally, and some need orthodontia due to changes in oral health or trauma.

Although teeth are the hardest part of our bodies – even harder than bone – they are not impervious to the consequences of time and aging. Even when you practice the most diligent oral hygiene routine, there are some unavoidable changes over time that can cause malocclusion. Let’s take a look at three of the most common causes of alignment issues in adulthood:

Mesial drift

Mesial drift might sound like something you expect to hear in geology class, but it’s actually an evolutionary phenomenon that happens in your mouth. Over time, as we age, teeth tend to shift toward the center of the face and head.  Scientists aren’t really certain about the reason this happens, but they suspect it was probably useful in prehistoric times when humans really put their teeth to the test by using them as tools, not just for chewing their food.  As a result, tooth loss was common. To compensate for the resulting spaces, teeth would shift forward to seal the space. In those days, of course, life expectancy was maybe 40 years. Today, we are lucky to live twice as long, or even longer – and thanks to modern dental techniques and oral hygiene practices – we keep our natural teeth for our whole lives. With the exception of someone who has extra space between teeth, there is no benefit for mesial shifting, except to annoy us.

Most people first notice the effects of mesial shifting on their lower front teeth, which can become crooked and crowded. Sometimes this change is hardly noticeable, but sometimes it can be significant, and compromise your ability to keep your teeth properly flossed and cleaned. This can, of course lead to periodontal disease and bone loss.

Aging

As we age, we also experience bone loss, which can make gums recede. This also leads to shifting teeth, and again, it’s usually most noticeable on the bottom lower teeth, which are thinner and tend to wear out faster. This can start happening as early as your 20s, although most of us don’t experience until middle age or later.

People with osteoporosis – a disease that compromises bone density – have higher risks of tooth loss and mobility issues that can obviously affect the alignment of the teeth.

Repetitive stress

We often think of repetitive stress injuries affecting joints like the knees, wrists or shoulders, but they can also have detrimental affects on your teeth and oral health.  Grinding, also called bruxism, is one of the more common of these. Most of us probably clinch our teeth on occasion without issue, but when grinding is severe, it can cause a myriad of problems that can affect your teeth, your gums and your jaw. Because the lower jaw is forced forward during grinding, it puts pressure on the upper teeth and, after time, can push the upper arch out of alignment. This results in protruding or crooked teeth. If you suspect you may suffer from bruxism – which often happens during sleep – come and talk to Dr. Watson or Dr. Gardner.

There are a number of solutions to get to the root (pun intended) of the grinding problem, as well as for returning your smile to its best.

The bottom line is that you are never too old to straighten your teeth. If you have any questions about your oral health, or the possibilities and promise of orthodontia, please give us a call.

Don't pass on the challenge to kick the smoking habit

November 11th, 2016

Each year The American Cancer Society dedicates the third Thursday of November as “The Great American Smokeout.” The call to action, of course, is to encourage smokers to lose the habit. The campaign got its start in 1970, in a quiet little event in Randolph, Massachusetts where a guidance counselor named Arthur P. Mullaney challenged the high school students to quit smoking for the day and donate the money they would have spent on cigarettes to a scholarship fund.  Fast-forward to November 18, 1976 when the California division of the ACS took the idea nation-wide and encouraged one million smokers to go cold turkey for the day. Thank you Mr. Mullaney. This annual campaign has not only emboldened millions of people to quit – since 1965, cigarette smoking in the United States has decreased from 42 percent to 17 percent – it also initiated the creation of smoke-free policies that have improved quality of life for smokers and non-smokers alike.

This year’s Smokeout takes place on Thursday, November 17 and while we at Brazos Valley Orthodontics applaud participation, we want you to know we are champions of kicking that habit all year long.

Smoking – implicated in most cases of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and a leading cause of asthma, strokes, heart ailments and birth defects – is the single leading preventable cause of premature death and disease in the U.S. In addition to general health risks, however, smoking is also a menace to your oral health. In fact, all types of tobacco – including cigars and smokeless tobacco – can pose dental health concerns.

According to the American Dental Association, the bad breath caused by tobacco problems is only the beginning of the potential problems. Among the other risks smoking poses to your oral health:

  • Oral cancer: Smoking significantly inreases the risk of this disease which often progresses rapidly and can be deadly if not caught early.  Your dentist and orthodontist can check for symptoms during routine exams but often there are no warning signs until the disease is advanced.
  • Gum disease: This is one of the leading causes of tooth decay and tooth loss in adults and it can also result in teeth shifting, crowding and becoming crooked.
  • Slow healing: People who smoke may experience extended recovery times after oral surgery.
  • Staining: Smoking is one of the most common culprits of teeth discoloration and the chemicals that cause the stain are stubborn, and can’t be removed with regular brushing. Smoking can also cause discoloration of the tongue.
  • Finally, smoking can complicate correction of cosmetic or corrective dental or orthodontic procedures.

If you smoke, or know someone who does, we encourage you to consider accepting the challenge from the ACS. As the organization wisely points out, “By quitting — even for one day — you will be taking an important step toward a healthier life — one that can lead to reducing your cancer risk.”

Pay a 'braces-friendly' homage to Halloween with chocolate

October 27th, 2016

“I could give up chocolate, but I’m not a quitter.”

If you or your child has braces, that quote might hit just a little too close to home.  As soon as your braces were placed, you heard all about the perils of candy, and how all that sugar can hide out behind wires, and between brackets, and do terrible things to your teeth. You’ve done a great job disciplining yourself – unwrapping fewer Hershey’s Kisses, and brushing right away when you do indulge – but one can only substitute apple wedges for Kit-Kats for so long. Especially during Halloween – the fifth season of the American calendar year.

Sure, Halloween looks like it’s only one night out of 365, but we all know better. Those mega bags of Reeses’s Peanut Butter Cups and Twix Bars start piling up on the end-racks at every grocery store in the country right after Labor Day, taunting you for a full two months before the big event.  And you’re only human, after all.

So, how can you properly pay homage to the sweet spirit of the spooky celebration without compromising the health of your teeth and the stature of your braces? It might sound counter intuitive coming from orthodontists, but we encourage you to err on the side of chocolate.

Yes, that’s right. We uttered the “c” word in the very same paragraph as we said “braces.” We’re not kidding in the least, but our recommendation does come with a few caveats.

  • First of all, make sure it’s soft chocolate like Hershey’s Kisses or Milky Ways. The meltier it is, the less chance it will damage your equipment.
  • For obvious reasons, avoid frozen chocolate.
  • As with any food consumption, brush your teeth as soon as possible.

Soft chocolate is, simply, easier on your teeth and braces than most other types of candy. While it’s not exactly a health food, there is some research that suggests chocolate might actually have health benefits like lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and lowering stress.  So you can take some measure of satisfaction in knowing that for now anyway, there’s some science on your side.

Other recommendations for your Halloween consumption include peanut butter cups, and lighter nougat-filled chocolates. If you prefer to err on the side of caution, consider crafting a smoothie from some of your goodies, or defaulting to the tried and true apple wedge. But think twice before you dip it in caramel. For those with braces, that sticky stuff can be more tricky, than treat. And if you're feeling ambitious, consider concocting your own braces friendly treats, like these fun, but low-fat, mummy cupcakes (pictured above).

Treats to avoid, should they appear in your candy basket:

  • Sticky candy can cause damage to braces as well as tooth decay
  • Sour candy can wear down enamel
  • Hard candy that can break braces, as well as teeth
  • Popcorn kernels that can get lodged in between teeth and gums and cause infections

Please remember, we are not endorsing the chocolate lifestyle. Conspicuous consumption of sugar can be detrimental to your oral health, as well as your overall physical wellbeing. Ultimately, our goal is the same as yours – to assist you in achieving your brightest, and healthiest smile.

Beyond your smile: the other important benefits of braces

October 1st, 2016

At Brazos Valley Orthodontics, we’re experts on the topic of braces and passionate about helping youth make the most of your smile. You might be surprised, however, to know that the benefits of braces go far beyond aesthetics. While it’s true most people decide to get them to improve their appearance, braces can improve your oral health as well as your overall health in general.

Getting it straight

One of the most common reasons for getting braces is crooked teeth. Of course most people just don’t like the way they look, but this condition can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease.  It turns out that the spaces created by those out-of-kilter teeth can become hide-outs for food, and bacteria with creepy names like Streptococcus mutans. Over time, this leads to tartar and plaque build-up and – you guessed it – you’ll be adding words like cavity and gingivitis to your vocabulary.  Correcting the teeth not only eliminates the abnormal spaces, it also decreases your risk of having to make appointments for annoying procedures like fillings.

No room for a crowd

Just as teeth can be crooked, they can also be overcrowded. You might not even realize that your mouth doesn’t have enough space to fit all of your teeth in comfortably, but your dentist or orthodontist will. Even if it doesn’t cause you any pain, this condition can also lead to dreaded tooth decay and gum disease because it makes it difficult for you to brush. Braces can remedy this condition. Fun fact: Graphic artist Michelle Romo named her company “Crowded Teeth.” She says she just thought it was a cute word combo, and she liked it better than her first choice, “Yellow Toothpick!” Even if you don’t think her company name is cute, you might think her art is. Ok, go check it here, but don’t forget to come back.

The right fit

Sometimes your upper and lower teeth don’t fit together like they’re meant to – your upper teeth are supposed to fit just slightly over your lower teeth – causing what is called malocclusion. Usually this is hereditary and is caused by differences in the sizes of the upper and lower jaw. Most of the time the issue is so minor it doesn’t need treatment, but for others, it can have painful consequences. Significant bite issues put stress on your teeth and mouth, causing wear and tear like chipping, and discomfort when eating. In more severe cases, the strain can cause headaches, earaches and even gastrointestinal issues if you can’t chew your food properly.  Malocclusion is the most common reason for visiting an orthodontist and the goal of treatment is to reposition the teeth so they can do the job they were meant to do.

Why did the deer need braces?
Because he had buck teeth.

You might have heard that bad joke by now, and you probably also know that these days we also refer to this condition – another type of malocclusion – as “protruding teeth.”  This is another of the more common orthodontic problems and one of the reasons it should be addressed is because it can be hazardous – especially if you play sports where the mouth can be subject to blunt trauma. For the record, it is, indeed, true that thumb or finger sucking can contribute to the development of protruding or buck teeth.  Experts say that even though thumb-sucking – often done in the womb – is perfectly normal behavior, it can have detrimental affects on oral health if it continues past the age of four. The goal of treatment for this condition is, again, to realign the teeth.

You’ll feel better about your smile, and yourself

Finally, most people find one of the most valuable and appreciated benefits of braces is the boost of self-confidence that comes with every successful treatment.  As this survey found, smiling is the best way to make a great first impression, and the better you feel about your smile, the more likely you are to share it.

We’re all about your smile at Brazos Valley Orthodontics. Whether you’re an adult just considering braces, or a parent with concerns about your child – it is never too late to explore this option – and its many quality of life benefits.

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