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Why choose an orthodontic specialist over a general dentist?

April 7th, 2021

Patients have so many choices for straightening their teeth nowadays — clear aligners, ceramic braces, lingual braces, self-ligating braces — but who is best suited to guide them through orthodontic treatment? Well, an orthodontist like Dr. Ted Vossers in Burlington, NC of course!

This may seem obvious, but there’s misinformation circulating with regard to the roles dentists and orthodontists play in treating patients’ oral health.

Dentists are trained to clean teeth, fill cavities, perform certain dental surgeries, and examine overall oral health. Many dentists now offer braces to their patients, but according to the American Association of Orthodontists, it’s better to consult an orthodontist if you need to straighten teeth or fix a bite.

Why an orthodontist? Because they are...

  • Specialists in straightening teeth and aligning jaws, even advanced cases
  • Required to study an additional two to three years after dental school
  • Trained to choose the correct treatment option because they have worked with all the available options
  • Trained to recognize the potential pitfalls with certain treatments and cases, which means there’s less chance of problems after treatment has started or been completed
  • Familiar with emerging treatments and technologies so they can make the best choice for a patient’s case

Some dentists claim to have taken enough continuing education or additional training to offer braces to their patients. But this can't compare to the advanced training an orthodontist receives during his or her education.

Ideally, dentists and orthodontists work hand in hand to make sure oral health and the alignment of teeth and jaws are the best they can be. Think of a dentist as the one who is there for a lifetime, to make sure teeth and gums are healthy.

In contrast, an orthodontist is the highly skilled teammate who helps the dentist by straightening teeth and aligning the jaws over the course of a few years. Instead of one replacing the other, they work together for the health and benefit of their patients.

Plaque Attack? Let’s Fight Back!

March 31st, 2021

Plaque is a sticky subject! It sticks to the enamel of our teeth above and below the gum line, and it collects around braces. Plaque is one of the major causes of tooth decay and gum disease, and our teeth are under daily attack by this filmy menace.

What are the facts about plaque, and how can we fight back? Read on for some effective strategies!

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film that builds up on our teeth, largely made up of millions of different types of oral bacteria. Plaque is a colorless biofilm at first, but as it collects, it takes on a white or yellow tint. If you haven’t brushed for a few days, that fuzziness you feel on your teeth is plaque build-up. Unless it’s removed, plaque hardens within a matter of days to become tartar.

  • Tip: You can remove plaque with careful brushing and flossing, but it takes a dental professional to remove tartar. Be proactive!

Why Does Plaque Cause Cavities?

Bacteria in plaque use our food as their food, especially sugars and carbs. They can then transform these nutrients into acids, which attack our tooth enamel, weakening it and leaving it vulnerable to further erosion and eventual decay.

  • Tip: Cavities aren’t the only damage caused by accumulated plaque. Plaque also collects along and below the gum line. If tartar forms here, it irritates delicate gum tissue, leading to gingivitis and more serious gum disease. Make sure you don’t forget your gums when you brush and floss.

When Does Plaque Build Up?

The short answer? Plaque is always forming, because oral bacteria are a natural part of our biology. (In fact, there are even oral bacterial which are beneficial.) Plaque starts building up within minutes after eating, and during the night as we sleep.

That’s why we recommend brushing for two minutes at least twice a day, and flossing at least once a day. When you wear braces or aligners, brushing more often is a good idea. Food collecting around braces or inside aligners is a feast for plaque! Ask Dr. Ted Vossers for suggestions for your best brushing schedule.

  • Tip: Just because plaque is unavoidable, that doesn’t mean we need to give the bacteria in plaque any additional encouragement. Every time you have a meal or a snack that’s heavy in carbs and sugars, you are providing more fuel for acid production. Cutting down on foods like sugary desserts and sodas is not only nutrition-healthy, it’s tooth-healthy!

Where Does Plaque Collect?

Plaque builds up all over tooth surfaces, at the gum line, and even below the gum line. It’s especially easy to miss in hard-to-reach places like the irregular surfaces of molars, between the teeth, behind our front teeth, and near the gum line. Plaque also collects around your braces, and requires special care to make sure your teeth don’t suffer cavities or the white spots caused by demineralization.

  • Tip: One of the ways plaque avoids detection is its invisibility. Fortunately, if you’re having trouble brushing away all your plaque, there are plaque-disclosing toothpastes and chewable tablets available in the dental aisle which reveal the plaque hiding between, behind, or around your teeth by tinting it with a can’t-miss color. Just brush the color away, and you’ve brushed the plaque away as well.

How Do We Clean Away Plaque?

Use the Right Tools

Floss at least once a day. There are different materials, sizes, and coatings for floss, so you can find one that’s comfortable for you. Floss reaches those spots in between teeth and around the gum line that brushes miss.

Choose a soft toothbrush (soft bristles are better for your enamel) and change it every three to four months, or as soon as the bristles show wear. Make sure the head is the right size—too big, and it’s not only uncomfortable, but you won’t be able to reach all the surfaces you need to.

  • Tips: There are special dental flosses created just for your braces. You can also use interproximal brushes water flosser to clean around wires and brackets. If you have trouble removing plaque around your teeth and braces with a manual toothbrush, consider an electric model. Several studies have shown a reduction in plaque with the use of an electric brush.

Use the Right Toothpaste

There are many toothpastes specifically formulated to fight plaque and tartar. And fluoride toothpastes not only fight cavities, they can strengthen your enamel.

  • Tip: Studies have shown that toothpastes with baking soda, in particular, are effective in reducing plaque. Ask Dr. Ted Vossers for a recommendation the next time you’re at our Burlington, NC office.

Use the Right Technique

What not to do?  A forceful, horizontal sawing motion is awkward, hard on your enamel, and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. Technique is important—not for style points, but for cleaner teeth!

Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, especially at the gum line, to gently remove plaque from teeth and gums. Use short strokes or a circular motion to clean as much of the surface and between the teeth as possible. Brush the inside of your front teeth with careful vertical strokes—remember, that’s one place where plaque is easy to overlook. The same holds true for the tops of your molars, so thoroughly clean those uneven surfaces.

If you wear braces, be sure to clean thoroughly around brackets and wires, where plaque can accumulate quickly.

  • Tip: If you wear clear aligners, don’t forget to give them a gentle brushing as well! Plaque can stick to aligners, causing discoloration and odors, so follow our cleaning instructions carefully.

Who Can Help You Fight Plaque?

Even when you do your best at home, plaque can still be a sticky problem. That’s why we advise regular professional cleanings, which not only remove any plaque that’s hiding away, but also eliminate any built-up tartar around your braces. And, of course, there you can learn all about how to keep your teeth their cleanest.

True, you’re fighting plaque every day, but you have all the tools you need to make sure your teeth and gums stay healthy. You’re winning the battle with plaque every time you eat a nutritious meal, and every time you brush and floss. With that kind of strategy, plaque doesn’t stand a chance. And your bright smile and healthy teeth and gums? That’s a victory worth celebrating!

Helpful Retainer Habits

March 24th, 2021

We’ve probably all seen that unhappy kid or frazzled parent sifting through trash for a lost retainer. If we’re really unlucky, we might have been that unhappy kid or frazzled parent sifting through the unpleasant remains of third period lunch hour. But getting tossed isn’t the only risk these appliances face. Read on for ways to keep your retainer (and your parent!) happy.

  • Keep Your Retainer With You

Always carry a retainer case. If you automatically put your retainer in its case when you’re eating, you are much more likely to remember it then if it has been wrapped up in a napkin on your lunch tray. And, if the worst happens, much more likely to recover it in one piece.

Choose the brightest colored case you can live with, so you will have an easier time locating it if need be, and discuss how to label the case to get it back safely to you--just in case.

  • Keep Your Retainer Intact

You might think if you put your retainer in your backpack, or purse, or saxophone case, or athletic bag, it will be safe. It will not. Retainers are designed to be tough enough for everyday wear, but being tossed on the floor while inside a backpack is not everyday wear. Always put your retainer back in its (brightly colored) case before packing it away.

Retainers can warp if they are exposed to heat, so keep them away from potential heat sources like stoves, microwaves, and washers and dryers. Even your car dashboard can become hot enough to warp your retainer. And never use boiling water to clean them.

Finally, your dog might find your retainer to be the #bestchewtoyever, so be sure to put it in a spot pets can’t reach when you’re not wearing it.

  • Keep Your Retainer Clean

Just like plaque can build up on your teeth, minerals and calcium can build up on your retainer. Different types of retainers require different cleaning methods, so talk to Dr. Ted Vossers about how to keep your retainer clean and bacteria-free. We will be happy to give you instructions on the best way to take care of your particular appliance. And don’t forget to clean your case regularly!

Accidents will happen, of course. If your retainer is lost or damaged, call our Burlington, NC office as soon as possible. We might be able to fix minor damage, and, if needed, we can replace a lost retainer quickly.

Your time in braces is over, but your teeth are still stabilizing in their new, healthy positions. Wearing your retainer regularly is the final step in producing the beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard for. Keep your retainer clean, keep it safe, and keep it with you, and you can enjoy that smile now and for years to come!

Gums and Braces

March 17th, 2021

“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. Ted Vossers 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 Burlington, NC 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!

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