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When Your Smile Isn’t Aging as Gracefully as You Are

November 30th, 2022

You might have been one of the lucky few born with perfectly straight teeth and a healthy bite. You might have spent months in orthodontic treatment as a teenager to achieve perfectly straight teeth and a healthy bite. But now that you’re growing older, you might be unhappily surprised to discover that your smile isn’t aging as gracefully as you are.  What’s changed?

That’s a trick question, because our bodies never stop changing, growing, and adapting. And these constant adjustments include the changes taking place in your teeth and mouth. You might begin to notice subtle differences in your smile when you’re in your thirties or forties. After young adulthood, several factors come into play which can cause shifting teeth and a misaligned bite:

  • Teeth naturally shift.

Shifting can be a result of the normal changes time brings. The periodontal ligaments which attach our teeth firmly to the jawbone lose some of their strength; the jawbones which hold our teeth in place lose some of their density and begin to narrow. Our teeth also have a natural tendency to move toward the front of the mouth, a phenomenon called “mesial drift.”

Add all of these elements together, and your once straight teeth start to crowd together and even overlap—especially the front bottom teeth.

  • Stressful habits stress your teeth.

If you habitually grind or clench your teeth, you’re putting pressure on them. Just like the gentle pressure of braces and aligners can shift teeth into alignment, the more uncontrolled force of grinding can push teeth out of alignment.  

  • Losing a tooth affects surrounding teeth.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does your smile. If you lose a tooth, your other teeth will automatically start to drift into the space left open by the missing tooth.

  • A neglected retainer is gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.

You might have spent time as a teenager in orthodontic treatment, with a beautiful smile to show for all your hard work. And, back in the day, your orthodontist no doubt let you know that you needed to keep wearing your retainer at night once your treatment was completed.

If that’s one healthy habit you abandoned as you got older, don’t be surprised if your teeth start to migrate back to their old, less-than-perfect positions.

Between normal biological changes and the wear and tear of daily life, you might find one day that your smile isn’t that same beaming smile you’re used to seeing in the mirror. And it’s not just an aesthetic concern.

Crooked teeth are harder to clean, and built-up plaque means more decay and gum disease. Shifting teeth can cause malocclusions, or bite problems, which can bring you jaw pain, headaches, and chipped or cracked teeth.

If your smile has changed over time, it’s time to give Dr. Theurer a call. There are many discreet options which can return your smile to you, including:

  • Clear aligners—comfortable, removable, and often unnoticeable.
  • Traditional braces—brackets are smaller than ever, and you can choose ceramic brackets which are color-matched to blend in with your enamel.
  • Lingual braces—these braces are attached to the inside of the teeth, for complete invisibility.

And what if you’ve never been as confident in your smile as you wanted to be? There’s good news here as well—it’s never too late to see an orthodontist. Make an appointment at our St. George, UT, Lancaster or Tehachapi, CA office to discover how you can make sure your smile looks just as young as you feel!

Retaining That New Smile

November 23rd, 2022

For months and months, you’ve been dedicated to following your orthodontic treatment plan. Wearing your bands or putting in the hours with your aligners. Eating orthodontic-friendly foods. Seeing your orthodontist on a regular basis.

But that’s all in the past. Today, your braces are coming off! You’ve finished with your last set of clear aligners! Now it’s time to enjoy your accomplishment and celebrate this moment.

And after you’ve celebrated the moment, what’s next? Why, it’s time to look to the future! Because one thing we can predict for the years ahead is that you’ll want to keep your smile looking as wonderful as it does today. Let’s look at some of the simple steps you can take to retain that new smile.

Keep Up With Your Brushing and Flossing

Wearing braces or aligners meant learning a whole new way to take care of your teeth and gums. You used special tools to clean around your brackets and wires. You learned how to keep your aligners clean and stain-free. You brushed and flossed after every meal and snack break.

So returning to regular hygiene habits should be a cinch—two minutes of thorough brushing at least twice a day, with careful flossing at least once each day. And you’ll probably notice something else which makes your life easier—properly aligned teeth are easier to brush and floss effectively.

But just because it’s easier, doesn’t mean it’s not as important. Keeping your teeth clean and cavity-free and your gums healthy will keep your smile looking its best, so be sure to brush and floss just as consistently as you did when you were in treatment.

See Your Dentist Regularly

Even though you won’t be making regular visits to our St. George, UT, Lancaster or Tehachapi, CA office anymore, that doesn’t mean your dental calendar is clear! Cavities aren’t a good look for your new smile. Neither are tartar stains or red and swollen gums.

Checkups once or twice a year mean that you have a healthy smile as well as a beautifully aligned one. And a professional cleaning from your dentist’s office will make sure it’s a gum-healthy, bright, and stain-free smile as well.

Wear Your Retainer

Your teeth may have moved to their perfect positions, but they haven’t moved there permanently yet.

During orthodontic treatment, gentle pressure from your appliance causes steady, careful tooth movement. As teeth move in the jaw, old bone cells around the roots break down where they’re no longer needed, and new bone cells build up around the roots in their new position. It’s a gradual process which makes sure your teeth are held firmly in the jawbone.

Bu this isn’t the end of the process. When you stop wearing braces or aligners, teeth and ligaments may begin shifting back to their original location. The new bone tissue that holds your teeth in their ideal spots isn’t strong enough yet to stop this shifting, especially with the normal forces of biting, chewing, clenching, and all the other activities that put pressure on teeth.

Your retainer holds your teeth in just the right position while jawbone tissue has time to reshape, rebuild, and stabilize. This can take months or more to accomplish, especially when you’ve had a more serious misalignment or bite correction.

Which also means . . .

Wear Your Retainer as Long as Necessary

Dr. Theurer will recommend the best retainer for you. Three popular options include:

  • Hawley Retainers—the traditional removable retainer. This appliance uses wires embedded in a molded acrylic plate to keep your teeth properly aligned and to hold your retainer in place.
  • Clear Plastic Retainers—a removable custom retainer made of vacuum-formed plastic. This piece looks and fits over the teeth like a clear aligner.
  • Fixed Retainers—a small single wire bonded to the back of specific teeth to hold them in place and prevent any movement.

For the first few months, you might need to wear your removeable retainer both night and day, and then switch to nighttime wear. Dr. Theurer might recommend long-term nightly retainer use, or perhaps taper to a few nights a week. A fixed retainer can last for many years. We can’t tell you how long you’ll need to wear your retainer because that answer depends on your specific orthodontic needs.

If you do stop wearing your retainer and find that your teeth are shifting, see Dr. Theurer as soon as possible. Fixing a slight shift can be fairly uncomplicated, but waiting until your teeth and bite are more seriously out of alignment could require another session in braces or aligners.

The hard work you’ve put in to create your smile is past, and today you’re enjoying all the benefits of aligned teeth and a comfortable bite. Taking simple steps to maintain these benefits will help guarantee a future filled with healthy, confident smiles.

Interproximal Cavities: The Inside Story

November 16th, 2022

Time to brush! So, you make sure you gently brush the plaque off the outside surfaces of your teeth. You want to present a gleaming smile to the world, after all. And you make sure to brush the inside surfaces as well, because who wants to feel a fuzzy patch of plaque every time their tongue hits their teeth? And, naturally, you remember to clean the tops of your molars, because those crevices make them more cavity-prone than any other surface.

Done? Not quite!

You might be surprised to learn that no matter how well you’ve brushed all the visible surfaces of your teeth, you’ve left quite a bit of enamel untouched—the adjoining, or touching, surfaces of the teeth that sit next to each other.

You’ve probably noticed that your bristles can’t . . . quite . . . reach all the enamel between your teeth (especially between your molars!) when you’re brushing. This means that food particles and plaque have an easier time sticking around. And when the bacteria in plaque are left undisturbed, especially with a banquet of food particles available, they produce acids which gradually eat away at the enamel covering our teeth, creating a cavity.

Here’s where we work in some specific dental vocabulary. “Interproximal” means between the adjoining, or touching, surfaces of the teeth. And an interproximal cavity is a cavity that develops on one of those side surfaces of your teeth.

  • Preventing Interproximal Cavities

Fortunately, prevention is about as basic as it can be—brushing and flossing effectively. Dentists recommend brushing for two minutes at least twice a day and flossing once each day. While most of us are good about keeping up with brushing, sometimes that daily flossing is more a goal than a reality.

But it’s flossing which really does the trick when it comes to interproximal cleaning. If you floss correctly, food particles and plaque are removed from between the teeth and around the gum line—places where bristles just can’t reach.

When you wear braces, though, flossing isn’t quite so basic. Getting that floss just where it needs to be in between brackets and wires and in between teeth can be a challenge!

The good news is there are many products designed just to make flossing easier while you’re in orthodontic treatment:

  • Floss threaders are flexible hoops that help you thread floss behind your wires easily.
  • Precut floss strands use a stiff tip at one end for threading floss through wires.
  • Interproximal brushes are tiny, cone-shaped brushes which can fit between your teeth and braces for precise cleaning.
  • Water flossers eliminate floss altogether, using a pulsing stream of water to clean between and around teeth and braces.

During your next visit to our St. George, UT, Lancaster or Tehachapi, CA office, Dr. Theurer can give you tips on how to use any of these tools effectively for cleaner teeth and cleaner braces.

Preventing cavities on the exterior surfaces of your teeth is probably pretty much automatic by now, but don’t forget the potential for stealth decay! If we find signs of erosion on the sides of your teeth, or if your hygienist lets you know that you’ve got a lot of interproximal plaque buildup, work with your dental team to make sure “interproximal cavity” doesn’t become a working part of your dental vocabulary.

Forget Something? It’s on the Tip of Your Tongue!

November 9th, 2022

Let’s see…

Toothbrush? Check.

Fluoride toothpaste? Check.

Floss? Check.

Two minutes of thorough brushing? Check.

Careful cleaning around your brackets and wires? Check.

Wait… there’s something else… it’s right on the tip of your…

Ah! Your tongue! Whenever you brush, morning, evening, or any time in between, if you want the freshest breath and cleanest teeth, don’t forget your tongue.

Why your tongue? Because the tongue is one of the most common sources of bad breath. Let’s examine just why this occurs.

The tongue is made up of a group of muscles that help us speak and chew and swallow. But there’s more to this remarkable organ than mere muscle. The surface of the tongue is covered with mucous membrane, like the smooth tissue which lines our mouths. But the tongue isn’t completely smooth—it’s textured with thousands of tiny bumps called papillae.

These little elevated surfaces have several shapes and functions. Some make the tongue’s surface a bit rough, which helps move food through your mouth. Some are temperature sensitive, letting you know that your slice of pizza is much too hot. And some are covered with thousands of the taste buds, which make eating that pizza so enjoyable.

All of these papillae with their various functions combine to create a textured surface, filled with miniscule nooks and crannies. And if there’s a nook or a cranny where bacteria can collect, no matter how miniscule, it’s a good bet that they will, and the surface of the tongue is no exception. But bacteria aren’t alone—the tongue’s surface can also hide food particles and dead cells.

How does this unappealing accumulation affect you? These elements work together to cause bad breath, especially the bacteria that break down food particles and cell debris to produce volatile sulfur compounds—compounds which create a particularly unpleasant odor. Including your tongue in your brushing routine helps remove one of the main causes of bad breath.

And that’s not the only benefit! Cleaning the tongue helps eliminate the white coating caused by bacterial film, and might even improve the sense of taste. Most important, studies show that regular cleaning noticeably lowers the levels of decay-causing plaque throughout the mouth.

So, how to get rid of that unwanted, unpleasant, and unhealthy debris?

  • When you’re done brushing your teeth, use your toothbrush to brush your tongue.

Clean your tongue by brushing gently front to back and then side to side. Rinse your mouth when you’re through. Simple as that! And just like a soft-bristled toothbrush helps protect tooth enamel and gum tissue, we also recommend soft bristles when you brush your tongue. Firm bristles can be too hard on tongue tissue.

  • Use a tongue scraper.

Some people find tongue scrapers more effective than brushing. Available in different shapes and materials, these tools are used to gently scrape the surface of the tongue clean of bacteria and debris. Always apply this tool from back to front, and rinse the scraper clean after every stroke. Wash and dry it when you’re through.

  • Add a mouthwash or rinse.

As part of your oral hygiene routine, antibacterial mouthwashes and rinses can assist in preventing bad breath. Ask Dr. Theurer for a recommendation.

  • Don’t brush or scrape too vigorously.

Your tongue is a sturdy, hard-working organ, but tongue tissue is still delicate enough to be injured with over-vigorous cleaning.

Taking a few extra seconds to clean your tongue helps eliminate the bacteria and food particles which contribute to bad breath and plaque formation. Make this practice part of your daily brushing routine—it’s a healthy habit well worth remembering!

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