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Wisdom Teeth and Braces

May 28th, 2021

ONE OF THE BIG rites of passage for young adults is wisdom teeth removal. Of course, there are people who can actually fit those third molars in their jaws comfortably and there are a startling number who don’t even grow them in the first place, but for people who do need their wisdom teeth removed, it’s fun to post pictures of their swollen cheeks and videos of anesthesia antics while enjoying lots of ice cream and smoothies. So what’s the deal with these teeth so many people need removed?

Why Do We Have Teeth That Don’t Fit?

What’s the point of growing an extra set of molars if they don’t even fit in our mouths? We used to think it was all about genes leftover from prehistoric days, but more recently, the leading theory is that it’s actually about the foods we eat compared to what our ancient ancestors ate. Bone can atrophy or grow depending on what we put it through (kind of like muscle), and we simply aren’t giving our jaw bones the same resistance our hunter-gatherer ancestors did.

Prehistoric people’s jaws got an intense workout from grinding up the fibrous plants and raw meat in their diet, which stimulated enough bone growth to make room for the third molars. Today, we eat softer foods that are cooked and processed, so it’s less common for someone’s jaw to grow big enough to fit the wisdom teeth. (We don’t recommend attempting to test this theory, though.)

Why Are Wisdom Teeth Often Extracted?

Despite the growing percentage of people who never get wisdom teeth or don’t get the full set of four, most still get them between their teens and early twenties, and that can be a problem when there isn’t room. These wisdom teeth tend to end up impacted, or trapped under the gums. They can form cysts or damage the bone tissue or roots of neighboring teeth. This is why extraction is recommended so often.

How Do Wisdom Teeth Interact With Orthodontic Treatment?

Modern evidence shows that wisdom teeth don’t contribute greatly to dental crowding, so they don’t need to be removed for the sake of the straightness of the rest of the teeth. If they do need to be removed for other reasons, that can happen during orthodontic treatment. It’s also a myth that a post-braces smile can be made crooked by wisdom teeth. Our teeth naturally drift as we get older and wear them out more, but not due to wisdom teeth. (So make sure to keep wearing your retainers!)

Let’s Take Care of That Smile!

Everyone’s situation with wisdom teeth is different. Some people need them removed due to impaction, some don’t grow all or any of them, and some get to enjoy the added chewing power of an extra set of molars. We can help you figure out which category you fit into and answer any questions you may have about wisdom teeth and orthodontic treatment.

We love seeing our patients’ smiles!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Let’s Bust Some Myths About Braces!

May 7th, 2021

Even people who have never had braces before have probably still heard a lot of things about what they’re like. That’s why we’re here to bust a few popular braces myths.

Myth #1: Braces rust.

While braces are often made of metal, they do not rust. The metals in braces are stainless steel and titanium, so you never need to worry about them rusting during treatment.

Myth #2: It’s impossible to play an instrument with braces.

It certainly takes some adjusting to play brass or woodwind instruments with braces, but it’s still entirely doable! Don’t feel like there has to be a choice between playing a beloved instrument and getting a properly aligned smile. Orthodontic patients can have both!

Myth #3: It’s impossible to play sports with braces.

Athletes who play sports (especially contact sports) might have heard that they shouldn’t keep playing during orthodontic treatment, but that’s not true! A properly fitted mouthguard will provide great protection during practices and games.

Myth #4: Braces cause white spots on your teeth.

While it is true that patients can get white spots during treatment, the braces are NOT the cause! White spots form when food and plaque are left behind on the teeth. Good hygiene is the key to ensuring that your teeth stay white and healthy during orthodontic treatment.

Myth #5: Braces are only for teens.

While some things are best treated during the teenage years, there isn’t a time limit for getting braces. Adults of any age can get them too. Whether you're 6 or 86, there is an orthodontic option for you!

Trust the experts, not the myths!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Benefits of Having Straight Teeth

March 5th, 2021

STRAIGHT TEETH AREN’T just about looking good. People with straight teeth are perceived as being wealthier, happier, and more attractive than people with crooked teeth, and it can definitely be a nice confidence boost. What we want to focus on, though, are the very real health benefits that come with having straight teeth.

Straight Teeth Help With Clear Speech

Crooked or crowded teeth or a bad bite (such as a severe overbite or an underbite) can make it harder to enunciate clearly when speaking. We need our tongues, teeth, and lips in the right places to make the correct sounds, and if our teeth aren’t where they should be, then we have to try to compensate for it, which isn’t always very effective. Orthodontic treatment can help with that. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to figure out how to speak clearly around braces or a retainer. That will all be worth it at the end of treatment!

Straight Teeth Help With…Digestion?

It might sound strange, but yes, having straight teeth does help improve digestion. Chewing is a crucial step in the digestive process, and not just because it breaks food into small enough pieces to swallow. As our teeth grind up the food, digestive enzymes in our saliva begin to break it down chemically.

Poorly aligned teeth make it hard to get the most out of this step in the process, which puts a heavier burden on the rest of the digestive system and leads to gastrointestinal issues. It can even make it more difficult to lose weight!

It’s Easier to Breathe With Straight Teeth

First speaking, then eating, but breathing? What does breathing have to do with a straight smile? It’s about the way our teeth fit together. If you aren’t able to comfortably close your jaws when resting, then odds are you’ll end up breathing through your mouth more often. Mouth breathing is linked with many negative health effects, from dry mouth (which makes gum disease and tooth decay more likely) to bad breath to lower energy levels and difficulty focusing.

Straight Teeth Are Easier on the Jaws

A bad bite makes problems with the jaw joint (such as temporomandibular joint disorders or TMD) much more likely. Symptoms of a jaw problem include clicking sounds when moving the jaw, jaw pain, and even frequent headaches.

It’s Easier to Clean Straight Teeth

Teeth that overlap each other and are crowded together can be harder to effectively clean. There are more tight spaces that are hard to reach and easy to miss, leaving them more at risk of decay. It’s much easier to clean all the surfaces of straight teeth and keep that plaque at bay!

Let’s Get Started on a Straighter Smile!

Even if the aesthetics of a crooked smile have never bothered you, you could still be missing out on the health and function benefits of having a properly aligned smile. Just about everything we need teeth for works better when our teeth are straight. If you have any questions about the advantages of a straight smile, just give us a call!

We love helping patients achieve their smile goals!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

Lip and Tongue Ties

January 28th, 2021

DID YOU KNOW that it is possible to be tongue-tied in a medical sense? That’s right, it’s not just an expression. Lip ties and tongue ties are what we call it when the thin pieces of tissue that connect the upper lip to the gums and the tongue to the floor of the mouth are thicker and tighter than usual. These pieces of tissue are called frenula (frenum singular).

What’s Normal for a Frenum?

A normal frenum is supposed to be thin and highly elastic. This allows free mobility of the lips and tongue, which we need in order to chew, swallow, and talk normally. When the frenum under the tongue is too restrictive, it makes it harder to pronounce words correctly or chew effectively. Some people with tongue ties can’t even touch their tongues to the roofs of their mouths! They also can’t use their tongues to clean pieces of stuck food away.

A lip tie affects the frenum between the upper lip and the gums. Infants with lip ties may not be able to effectively latch when breastfeeding, and it can cause a large gap between the front teeth when they grow in as well as increasing the risk of gum recession.

Frenectomies: Untying Lips and Tongues

Fortunately, lip and tongue ties are easy to correct, thanks to a simple surgery called frenectomy. A frenectomy removes or reduces the abnormal frenum. It can be done quickly and there isn’t a long recovery period afterward. The doctor simply numbs the area and makes a small incision in the frenulum to release the lip or tongue. One technique to make recovery time even shorter and further reduce the risk of complications is to use laser surgery.

This procedure is one worth learning more about if you believe you or your child might have a lip tie or a tongue tie, particularly if it’s causing pain or discomfort, in addition to the complications mentioned above. After the surgery, make sure to follow the doctor’s instructions carefully so that recovery will be as quick and smooth as possible!

Who Can Diagnose a Tongue or Lip Tie?

Most of us are fortunate enough to have thin, stretchy frenula that don’t get in the way of the movement of our lips and tongue, but if you or your child are having difficulties, a dentist or orthodontist is a great place to start! They can then determine whether a frenectomy would be a good solution.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.

Top image used under CC0 Public Domain license. Image cropped and modified from original.

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