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Just What Is Plaque?

October 13th, 2021

From the time you were small, you’ve been warned about the dangers of plaque. Why? Because:

  • It’s an unpleasant film that sticks to your teeth
  • It causes cavities
  • It causes gum disease
  • It can cause extra problems when you wear braces

And really, do we need to know much more than this to motivate us to brush? But if you’re in a curious mood, you might be wondering just how this soft, fuzzy film accomplishes all that damage. Let’s take a closer look at the sticky problem of plaque.

How does plaque form?

We live with hundreds of species of oral bacteria, most of which are harmless, and some of which are actually beneficial. But when our oral ecosystem gets out of balance, problems can occur. For example, without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, we start to build up plaque.

Plaque starts forming within hours of your last brushing. And even though plaque fits the very definition of “seems to appear overnight,” this biofilm is actually a complex microbial community with several different stages of development.

  • It starts with saliva.

Saliva is vital to our oral health, because it keeps us hydrated, washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth, and provides minerals which keep our enamel strong. Saliva also contains proteins, which help form a healthy, protective film on the tooth surface. This film is called a pellicle.

  • Bacteria attach to the pellicle.

There are species of oral bacteria that are able to attach themselves to the pellicle film within hours of its formation. As they become more firmly attached, they begin to grow and divide to form colonies, and are known as the early colonizers of the plaque biofilm.

  • A complex biofilm forms.

If you’ve skipped brushing for a few days (please don’t!), you’ll notice a fuzzy, sometimes discolored film on your enamel—that’s a thriving plaque community, and it only takes a matter of days to go from invisible to unpleasant.

If you’re not removing plaque regularly, it can harden further and become tartar. And once you have tartar buildup, you’ll need the care of a dental professional to remove it.

  • What happens if we ignore plaque and tartar?

We get cavities and gum disease.

How does plaque cause cavities?

  • The bacteria in plaque, like all organisms, need nutrients.

Our normal oral environment and the food in our everyday diets provide the nutrients plaque needs. And, as we mentioned above, certain types of oral bacteria convert these nutrients into acids. Foods such as carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are most easily converted into acids, which is why we recommend that you enjoy them in moderation.

  • The biofilm promotes acid production.

Within the plaque film, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which don’t use oxygen) convert sugars and starches into acids. As the plaque film becomes denser, it blocks acid-neutralizing saliva and oxygen from reaching these bacteria close to the tooth’s surface, creating an ideal environment for the bacteria to produce their acid waste products.

  • Acids attack enamel.

The sticky nature of plaque keeps these acids in contact with tooth enamel, where, over time, acids dissolve minerals in enamel, weakening the mineral structure of the tooth.

How does plaque cause gum disease?

  • Bacteria cause inflammation and gingivitis.

The bacteria in plaque irritate the delicate tissue of the gums, which causes an inflammation response which can leave your gums swollen, red, bleeding, or tender. This early form of gum disease is gingivitis. Fortunately, good dental care and careful brushing and flossing can usually prevent and even eliminate gingivitis.

  • Plaque and tartar can lead to periodontitis.

When plaque and tartar build up around and below the gumline, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect, leading to infection as well as inflammation. Infections and constant inflammation not only harm gum tissue, they can destroy the bone supporting the teeth. This serious gum condition is periodontitis, and should be treated immediately to avoid further infection and even tooth loss.

How does plaque affect orthodontic patients?

  • Plaque collects around your braces.

Braces provide plenty of spots for plaque to hide from your brush. If you aren’t extremely diligent with your brushing and flossing, plaque collects near brackets, wires, and bands—all those spots that a brush and floss find difficult to reach.

  • Plaque promotes demineralization

The demineralization process we mentioned above can cause white spots on teeth (decalcification), where minerals have dissolved. Sometimes these spots can be treated, and sometimes they are permanent. They can become quite sensitive, and may lead to cavities.

Careful brushing and flossing around your braces will help eliminate the plaque that can cause demineralization near brackets. Ask Dr. Theurer about the tools and the brushing and flossing techniques which will give you the best results.

How do we fight plaque?

From the time you were small, you’ve learned how to fight plaque:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all of your tooth surfaces and around the gumline.
  • Floss to remove plaque from between the teeth and near the gumline.
  • See your dentist as recommended for a thorough professional cleaning.

Be proactive. If you have any questions, talk to us at our St. George, UT, Lancaster or Tehachapi, CA office about the best way to keep plaque at bay. We can show you the most effective ways to brush and floss, recommend anti-plaque toothpastes and rinses, even suggest plaque-revealing tablets if you’re missing some trouble spots.

We’ve only brushed up on some plaque basics, because there is a lot more to discover about this complex biofilm. Happily, even with all there is to learn about plaque’s growth and development, it’s reassuring to know that getting rid of it is quite simple—with just a soft-bristled brush, some dental floss, and a few minutes of your time each day, you’re on the way to a healthy, happy, plaque-free smile.

Mouthguard Protection

October 6th, 2021

Let’s talk about mouthguards.

We could talk about how important wearing a mouthguard is when you lead an active life. If you play sports, ride bikes, skateboard, or participate in many other kinds of exercise, mouthguards protect your teeth, mouth tissue, and jaws from accidents. 

Or we could talk about how wearing a mouthguard while you’re wearing braces has extra benefits. Besides its normal protection, your guard helps protect your brackets and wires from damaging contact, and your delicate mouth tissue from impact with your braces.

But we’re not going to talk about any of these important topics today. Instead of looking at how your mouthguard protects you, today we’re going to look at how you can protect your mouthguard.

If you want your guard to last longer, work better, and stay (and smell!) cleaner, some basic tips make all the difference.

  • Keep your guard clean.

This can’t be stressed enough. Without a good cleaning routine, your guard can become discolored, develop an unpleasant odor, and even cause illness. Not very appealing, right? Happily, keeping your mouthguard clean isn’t difficult.

When you wear your guard, the same plaque that is present in your mouth makes itself at home in your appliance. And when your guard is in its case, that dark, moist environment makes it a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

As soon as you take your mouthguard out, rinse it off. Brush with a soft toothbrush to remove all the plaque, saliva, or food debris that might be lingering in your appliance. (If you are on the playing field, in the park, or at some other inconvenient location, rinse it and brush as soon as you can.) Toothpaste can help get your guard its cleanest, but can be too abrasive for some appliances.

Once you’ve cleaned it, let your guard air dry in a clean spot for about 30 minutes. Air drying helps prevent bacterial growth. After your guard has dried, return it to its case.

Once a week, you might need to give your mouthguard a good soak in a mouthwash or other dental cleaning solution.

Since cleaning instructions can be different depending on which type of mouthguard you have, be sure to follow our instructions if you have a custom guard, or clean as directed by the manufacturer if you have a store guard.

  • Keep it safe.

When your mouthguard isn’t in your mouth, it should be in its case. Floating loose in your locker or tumbling around in your gym bag puts your guard at risk for breakage and bacteria.

And don’t forget to clean your case thoroughly every few days and air dry it as well. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and other unwelcome guests can collect in your case, too.

  • Keep it only as long as it’s in good condition.

You can purchase mouthguards from sporting or drug stores, or Dr. Theurer can make you a mouthguard designed to fit your teeth and braces perfectly. These appliances are made to be strong and durable, but they’re not indestructible. Over time they can wear down or become damaged, especially if you treat them carelessly.

Bacteria can lurk in dents and cracks, and you can cut your mouth on rough, sharp, or broken edges. But if your mouthguard isn’t fitting properly, don’t resort to self-help! Trying to repair, reshape, or trim your appliance yourself is not a good idea, because it might affect its fit and protective ability.

Any sign that your guard isn’t fitting properly or shows signs of wear and tear could mean it’s time for a replacement. You can replace a store model, or see Dr. Theurer about replacing or repairing your custom guard. A mouthguard that doesn’t fit, doesn’t keep you safe.

Take care of your guard, and it will take care of you. The reward for the small amount of time and effort you put into caring for your mouthguard is braces that will last through your treatment at our St. George, UT, Lancaster or Tehachapi, CA office and a smile that will last you for a lifetime. Those are benefits we can talk about all day!

Tips for Keeping Your Breath Fresh While You’re in Braces

September 29th, 2021

You’ve got a lot going on in your busy life, and whether it’s school, practice, or simply socializing, you want to put a confident face forward. And part of that confidence comes from knowing your breath is its freshest!

Too often, though, this time of your life makes that goal seem difficult. Let’s look at ways to keep you smiling your brightest and feeling your freshest in any social setting.

  • Watch Your Diet

Sure, garlic, onions, and other pungent food choices are obvious culprits when it comes to bad breath, but did you know that sugars and simple carbs are the food of choice for the bacteria that cause decay, gingivitis, and bad breath? Eating a nutritious, braces-friendly diet will help keep your mouth, your braces, and your breath healthy.

And it’s not just what you eat. Dehydration also causes bad breath. But those caffeinated drinks and sodas that keep you going through the day are the source of acids and sugars that contribute to tooth decay, gum disease, and less-than-fresh breath. Water, milk, and healthy smoothies are a great way to stay hydrated, add vitamins and minerals to your diet, and go easy on your braces.          

  • Keep Up with Oral Hygiene

It’s hard to keep your teeth and gums their cleanest when it seems like you’re always on the go, but good oral habits are just as important now as they were when you were younger.

Brushing after every meal and snack and flossing daily will help get rid of the bacteria and plaque, which lead to cavities. Our tongues also harbor the bacteria that cause bad breath, so finish off your routine with a gentle brush of the tongue, or try a tongue scraper.

Flossing helps keep gums healthy, which, in turns, keeps your breath healthy as well. Dentists generally suggest flossing once a day, but wearing braces could require flossing more often to make sure you’re getting rid of all those food particles that can become trapped in brackets and wires. Studies have suggested that hormonal changes in teenagers can mean your gums are more at risk for periodontal problems, which can also lead to bad breath, so don’t neglect your gum health!

And be sure to make room in your schedule for regular checkups and cleanings. Your dentist and hygienist will let you know if you’re on track for healthy teeth and gums and fresh breath.

  • Wearing Braces?

Part of careful brushing and flossing means getting to all those places in your braces which trap food particles. Besides being a source of unpleasant odors, food particles lead to plaque buildup and tooth decay, another cause of bad breath.

Dr. Theurer can suggest the best methods for keeping your braces their cleanest—even in hard to reach spots—with suggestions for brushing and flossing techniques. We can also suggest the best and easiest-to-use products for your particular braces, and recommend or prescribe antibacterial mouthwashes.

  • Wearing Aligners?

Aligners are removed before you eat, so it’s easy to forget that they also need attention. Follow instructions given at our St. George, UT, Lancaster or Tehachapi, CA office for daily cleaning to prevent saliva and plaque from sticking to your aligners and causing odors. And always remember to brush before you replace aligners after eating a meal or even snacking—otherwise, you’re just trapping the food particles that cause cavities or odors next to your teeth.

You’ve got a lot going on in your busy life, and the last thing you need to worry about is fresh breath. Keep up with your solid dental routines, make sure your braces or aligners are clean and plaque-free, and show the world your healthiest, freshest, most confident smile.

Orthodontic Treatment through the Internet

September 22nd, 2021

You can learn just about anything on the Internet these days. You can also order just about anything on the Internet these days.

But would you order your braces on the Internet? There’s a new trend involving websites that claim to offer a solution for straightening teeth, without your ever seeing a dentist or orthodontist in person.

These companies usually have patients take an impression of their teeth using putty and a tray. Then you mail the impressions back to the company where a dentist reportedly examines them and suggests a course of treatment using 3D modeling software.

A series of clear aligners are made, to be worn by the patient in order to attain the desired result. Although this form of orthodontic treatment may cost less than seeing an orthodontist in person, there are several reasons why you should avoid it:

  • Potential health hazards are missed: If your oral health is not up to par (e.g., you have cavities, gingivitis, chipped teeth, etc.), an orthodontist would not suggest orthodontic treatment. Only after these issues are addressed would treatment be considered as an option. Whether this is the case with a person can’t be known when all the doctor sees is a set of impressions.
  • Lack of information about the patient: Before you receive any orthodontic treatment, an orthodontist will have X-rays taken to make sure you are a good candidate. If the bones or teeth do not look like they would align properly with treatment, another course of care may be suggested, even necessary. None of this background is available to over-the-net orthodontic providers.
  • No regular checkups: The purpose of regular checkups with Dr. Theurer is to ensure that everything is moving properly, on schedule, and most important, safely. This lack of hands-on care with Internet orthodontics could be a hazard for you as a patient and has the potential to do more harm than good.

It’s not worth the risk of getting orthodontic treatment over the net just to save some money. Our St. George, UT, Lancaster or Tehachapi, CA office is committed to working with you, whatever your financial situation may be.

Let’s work together to give you the smile you deserve!

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