Why Are Mouth Guards Such a GREAT Investment?

Most parents agree that they will do almost anything to help protect their young athletes, including using bubble wrap!  Usually this comment is made halfway joking but halfway wishing we could actually do this. Fortunately there are better options than just bubble wrap and we will discuss why mouthguards can play such a big role in keeping your star healthy and in the game!

Why are mouthguards important and what do they do?

Spring is in the air, the weather is warming up, and sports are now in full swing!  Let’s make sure we make the most of the season and stay safe! Mouthguards are incredibly effective at protecting the athlete and have been shown to reduce injuries just as much as helmets!   The American Dental Association (ADA) found that individuals are 60 times more likely to damage their teeth when not wearing a mouthguard when playing a contact sport or rigorous physical exercise.  They also found that 1 out of 10 athletes will experience head/facial injury each year.   These injuries can be very costly in terms of finances as well as permanent damage to the individual.

Most people can easily appreciate the benefit that a mouthguard has for the teeth, but mouthguards can also greatly reduce the chances of having concussions.  Mouthguards will help cushion a blow to the face and reduce the impact on the lips, cheeks, jaw and brain!

When Should You Wear a Mouthguard?

Short Answer: Any time you participate in sports!  

Long Answer: Any time you have a chance of getting hit in the face or hitting your face on something.  There are 29 sports that are recommended to wear a mouthguard, and the list is growing.  No need to memorize the list though.  A good rule of thumb to remember is that a mouthguard is a good idea if you wear a helmet or have a chance to get hit in the face! Below is a list of activities and sports that we would encourage you to wear a mouthgurard:

Types of Mouthguards

There are several families of mouthguards and we have different recommendations based on if you are wearing braces or not!  Just remember, the best mouthguard is the one that you will actually wear because they do not protect your teeth if they are in their case!

With Braces

While you are in orthodontic care and wearing braces, you need to be able to have some protection on your upper and lower teeth and your teeth still need to be able to move.  Having coverage on upper and lower gives your cheeks and lips an added level of protection in case you get hit.  “Stock” or non-customized mouthguards usually work best for our braces patients because they will fit over your braces and still allow your teeth to line up.  If you are playing a sport, please let us know and we will give you a mouthguard to wear!

A double guard has a nice level of protection and still allows you to communicate fairly easily with your team!

A full double coverage guard offers the most protection but is a little harder to communicate.  Usually best for sports where high impact in expected.

Without braces

Now that you have your perfect smile it is time to make sure you protect it.  Since we no longer need your teeth to move, having a boil-and-bite or a custom mouthguard will be your best option.   Both of these options are a little smaller and fit the teeth better than the stock options.

Boil-and-Bite

Heated up and then formed around your teeth.

Advantages:

  • Cost Effective
  • Available from sporting good stores
  • Moderate Protection

Disadvantages:

  • Inconsistent thickness
  • Harder to talk/breath in
  • Stock designs

Custom Mouthguard

Formed around a custom mold of your teeth.

Advantages:

  • Most comfort and best protection
  • Adjustable for different sports
  • Very consistent thickness
  • Custom designs

Disadvantages

  • Cost and need for impression

Mouthguard care tips!

A mouthguard is a great investment and here are some tips to help get the most out of them.

  • Always clean them with cool soapy water after use to prevent saliva from drying on it.
  • If needed, use a retainer cleaning solution but never heat it up. This will cause it to deform.
  • Don’t chew on the guard!  This will cause the material to break tear and not fit.
  • Always keep in a case with your name/number on it.

OUR biggest challenge!

Our biggest challenge is making sure individuals will actually wear the mouthguards and this begins with educating coaches, parents, and athletes on the need and benefit of wearing proper protection.  Most people have an initial objection to wearing a mouthguard because they are hard to talk in, uncomfortable or the individual believes there is no benefit because “I will NOT get hurt!” There is also the fact that many kids don’t want to be the only one wearing one and have the negative social pressure.    41% of parents state it is harder to get kids to wear a mouthguard than to eat vegetables without complaining!

A mouthguard can be easy and “Cool” to wear!  People just have to make a commitment to wearing one and make it a habit and then it becomes part of the uniform – just like helmets, shin guards and shoulder pads.

OK, but what could happen if I don’t wear one?

  I hope that I have convinced you of the wonderful benefits of protecting your teeth by wearing a mouthguard but some people always want to know what will happen if they don’t wear one!  Most of the injuries to the teeth are permanent and range from a small chip to complete avulsion (tooth knocked out).  Below are some photos of injuries that are graphic in nature.  Please only click on them if you need extra motivation to wear a mouthguard!!  

  1. Tooth Knocked Out
  2. Intruded Tooth
  3. Jaw Fracture

Brushing and Flossing with Braces

Once you have braces, one of the most important things you’ll need to do is learn to brush and floss your teeth effectively with braces. Since plaque and food particles can easily adhere to the teeth and the brackets, having braces can make oral care more difficult. However, failure to stick to a good oral health routine may result in problems like periodontal disease, decalcification, and gingivitis. Here’s a closer look at some helpful tips you can use when brushing and flossing to keep your oral health in great shape as you wear braces. Our goal is to make sure you have a beautiful and HEALTHY smile!

Tips for Brushing with Braces

Brushing teeth properly is essential when you are wearing braces. Whenever you begin your orthodontic care, we will go over proper brushing technique with you and you should at least be brushing after each meal to keep teeth clean and healthy while you are wearing braces. Food easily collects around your braces, so you need to make sure any food particles are removed after you eat (check out this video – https://youtu.be/stSxK4PG2Hk). It’s a good idea to rinse your mouth with water before you begin brushing, since this helps loosen any food particles that are lodged in or around your braces and it makes your job of teeth cleaning much easier. You’ll need to brush the chewing surfaces, inside, and outside surfaces of the teeth. The areas between brackets and gums and those between the wires and your teeth need to be cleaned thoroughly. Otherwise food particles can easily be trapped in these areas, causing problems like gum disease.  

Effects of Poor Oral Hygiene

It’s important to spend plenty of time brushing, since it takes time to get around the wires and brackets. You should spend a minimum of three minutes on your teeth. You should avoid rushing when brushing your teeth to ensure you don’t miss any areas. Always take the time to check all the areas of your mouth and braces after brushing to make sure you don’t miss any areas. We always suggest brushing your teeth before you get tired so that you can make sure your teeth are clean. Below are some tips that will help you keep your teeth in tip-top shape during your orthodontic care.

  • Use a timer. 3 minutes is a long time and most people feel they have been brushing their teeth much longer than they actually have.
  • Be systematic. Brush each area and go from one to another to make sure you don’t skip any surfaces.
  • Check your job with a hand mirror. A hand or makeup mirror will allow you to get a closer look at your teeth and all the teeth and braces should be smooth and shiny. If you look closely and see fuzz then go over that spot again.
  • Harder is NOT better. Treat your teeth like fine jewelry and use a gently touch. Do not scrub them like you are cleaning grout. Brushing too hard can actually damage your gums and teeth!
  • Practice with just water While you are learning the best technique, we suggest using just water for the first half so that you can see what you are doing without the foaming toothpaste and then use the toothpaste for the second half.

Some of the helpful tools that can make brushing and cleaning teeth easier when you have braces include:

  • Soft-bristle toothbrush
  • Interdental toothbrush, also known as a proxy brush: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LGIhCG1lvo&feature=youtu.be
  • Quality fluoride toothpaste: We will also suggest a prescription toothpaste if it would be beneficial.
  • Water picks, which use pressurized water to help clean teeth, eliminating trapped bits of food.

Tips for Flossing with Braces

Flossing can already be a bit difficult, but when you add braces to the mix, it’s even more challenging. The wires don’t allow for traditional flossing, but you still need to floss regularly to keep plaque and food particles from staying between teeth. Since it’s so tough to get floss between teeth and the wires when flossing, getting the right tool can be helpful. We give all of our patients an orthodontic floss threaders, which are disposable and inexpensive to purchase. This tool makes it easy for you to pull floss through your teeth above the braces wires, making it easier to get to your gum line. We also give our patients small orthodontic flossers that can make the job a little easier.

Using waxed floss is a great idea too when flossing with braces. If you use non-wax floss, it may catch on your braces, leaving behind pieces of shredded floss. The waxed floss when used with a floss threader will easily sleep between your teeth without as much risk of catching. Our personal favorite is a “tape” style floss that tends to be the easiest to get between braces. While flossing with braces will take you nearly twice as long as it does without braces, it’s essential to stick with this routine daily to prevent oral health problems.

A good fluoride rinse can also be helpful in addition to brushing and flossing your teeth daily. You can easily find fluoride rinses available at the store. If you have any specific concerns you can ask at your next appointment and we will be happy to make a recommendation.  Using the fluoride rinse daily can help offer you even more protection against white spots and cavities while you are wearing braces.

Brushing and flossing are important parts of oral hygiene that can make your orthodontic treatment more successful, so you need to follow these tips to ensure you’re doing it correctly. Please make sure you also keep your regular cleaning appointment with your dentist. While we are both dentists, your dentist and hygienist are experts and monitoring the health of your teeth and gums and it is extremely important to keep your cleaning appointments every 4-6 months.

Having good brushing and flossing techniques and routine during your orthodontic care will greatly help you make sure your teeth are healthy for years to come. Having a wonderful smile is a great blessing but you always have to work hard keeping your teeth healthy so you can enjoy your smile for years to come.

Learn more about braces or schedule an appointment to learn about how you may benefit from orthodontic care, please give us a call.

How Does Soft Tissue Laser Treatment Work?

Soft tissue laser is rapidly becoming mainstream technology in general dentistry practice. It’s easy to use and allows very quick and comfortable procedures for our patients. We use lasers to help provide access for restorative dentistry, develop proper gingival articture and to provide access to impacted teeth. Lasers have been used in dentistry for over two decades. Laser is an acronym that stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Every wavelength has a specific tissue interaction and thermal output. The most common dental lasers include CO2, Nd:YAG, diode and Er:YAG. The laser precisely ablates soft tissue and allows very quick healing and minimal discomfort.

Procedures with Soft Tissue Laser

Lasers can be used for many different uses in dentistry from removing soft tissue, decayed teeth, periodontal treatments, and even whitening teeth! The most common use of a soft tissue laser in our office is for the removal of gum tissue to improve gingival architecture, uncovering an impacted tooth or removal of extra tissue to allow for proper bracket placement.

Your gums are the frame of your smile and teeth. Some people may have extra gum tissue after orthodontic care and establishing proper gingival heights and shape greatly improves smile esthetics. This can also give access to any cosmetic or restorative dentistry that is needed. The removal of soft tissue is very precise and stable which lends to a very predictable outcome!

We also use a laser to gain access to an impacted tooth or a tooth that has extra gum tissue that is preventing proper bracket placement. Both of these procedures can greatly improve the efficiency and precision of your orthodontic care. We are able to remove the extra tissue using only topical anesthesia which prevents the need to have an injection. This is a great win-win for us as well as the patient!

Lasers are very versatile and can be used for a number of important uses in the dental field. Soft tissue laser assisted periodontal treatment is more effective than root planning and scaling alone. It assists in bacterial reduction, biostimulation, and debridement. The laser is placed into the periodontal sulcus and removes affected epithelium. Scaling is performed to remove calculus and built-up plaque from the root surfaces. Lasers can also be used to help during root canal procedures by helping with seeing canals and disinfection.

While the lasers we use in our office are specifically designed to remove just soft tissue, many lasers are designed to even remove tooth structure that is damaged by a cavity. These lasers allow for efficient removal of cavities and have been shown to cause less discomfort and some small cavities can be fixed without needing an injection. For this reason, they have become popular with pediatric dentists.

Have you ever had an ulcer that will not go away? Well, many lasers can be adjusted to cause minimal destruction to the aphthous ulcer and cause an increase in blood flow to the area. This treatment transforms the sore so you do not feel the discomfort and the stimulation greatly increases the rate of healing.

Want whiter teeth? Guess what! Some laser systems can be used to help stimulate and activate whitening agents. These lasers enhance the tooth-bleaching effect that can help your beautiful smile shine even brighter.

Lasers- the Dental Mutli-Tool

I know what you are thinking! Lasers are going to take a stand next to the great wonders like the Swiss Army Knife and duct tape! Well, maybe. Lasers are very versatile and the technology has advanced greatly over the last 20 years and keeps improving. These advancements have allowed lasers to become more effective and more flexible in our modern dental practice.

Some of the pros of soft tissue laser in dentistry include:

  • Less pain and reduction in need for anesthesia
  • Reduce anxiety in patients compared to a dental drill
  • Preservation of a healthier tooth in treatment of cavities
  • Reduced swelling and bleeding during soft tissue treatments
  • Faster healing
  • Less chance of infection

Lasers and Its Application in Orthodontics

Lasers also have a firm place in today’s orthodontics. The use of soft tissue lasers offers many advantages, including esthetic finishing, practice efficiencies and improved oral hygiene. They are certainly tools that will be used in dentistry for years to come. Today, dental lasers  are booming, with new applications for laser treatment continuing to surface in the field of dentistry. As a matter of fact, the future of lasers is now, and dentistry has entered a new era with the application of lasers.  Lasers can just be used in so many different dental procedures and they allow great precision and patient comfort! All around, lasers add a bit of both magic to the science and art of orthodontics.

Why We’re Lucky for Healthy Teeth

If you have healthy teeth and gums, you are quite lucky. Although many people rarely consider their oral health until a problem arises, your dental health has a significant impact on your comfort level and overall wellbeing. Here are a few reasons that you should count yourself as fortunate to have a healthy mouth:

Mastication- The funny word for chewing!

Although you may not think much about the benefits of healthy teeth when it comes to eating, without your teeth, your dietary choices would be quite limited. Each of your teeth serves a purpose. Your molars and premolars are important for grinding your food, and your incisors help tear your food into bite-sized morsels that can fit easily into your mouth.

Once your teeth become unhealthy, chewing can be difficult and painful. You may be relegated to omitting all crunchy, hard or chewy foods from your diet.  Imagine how unsavory it would be to only eat soft or liquefied foods. This can be especially important for a healthy diet. Can you think of some of your favorite foods that would be hard to enjoy without healthy teeth?

Discomfort

Dental problems are often accompanied by discomfort or even pain. Your teeth are comprised of multiple layers. The outermost layer, the enamel, is often the first portion of a tooth to incur damage. When oral bacteria feed on and digest leftover bits of food, they release acid as an end product of their digestion. This acid corrodes the enamel to cause decay.

Decay can easily spread, and over time, if no treatment is received, the deeper layers of the tooth may be affected. As the tooth decay invades the innermost layer of the tooth, which is the pulp, you may start to experience relentless pain.

The pulp of a tooth houses the dental nerves and blood vessels of the tooth. The decay can inflame the nerves, causing chronic pain and necessitating restorative dental care, such as root canal therapy. If a root canal is not performed, the decay tooth may need to be extracted. Our goal is to work closely with your dentist to carefully monitor the health of your teeth to ensure your teeth are beautiful and healthy when you complete your orthodontic care.

Bone Loss

Healthy teeth are not only important for chewing. They are also important for the maintenance of your jawbone density.

The bones of your jaw support your teeth and give structure to your face. However, your jawbones can start to atrophy without regular stimulation. Each time you chew, the bite pressure incurred by your teeth is transferred to your jawbones. This pressure stimulates the production of additional bone cells to maintain the thickness of the bone.

If your teeth are unhealthy, you may find it difficult to chew, and your bone density may decline. This can eventually cause your face to take on a sagging, aged appearance. In addition, your remaining teeth may not rest as securely in the bone, and as a result, they may be more easily lost.

If you have a lost tooth and some of the supporting bone, there are procedures that can be done in conjunction to your orthodontic care that can help restore the missing supporting bone. These restorative procedures can have a wonderful impact on your dental health and facial profile!

Systemic Conditions

The health of your teeth and gums also affects other areas of your body. There is a correlation between the health of your teeth and gums and that of your heart. People who suffer from gum disease are more apt to suffer a heart attack or stroke. Poor oral health is also linked to a higher incidence of dementia. If you have poor oral hygiene and gum disease, you have a higher number of oral bacteria and they can enter your body at any time you have trauma or even if you have any bleeding from flossing. As oral bacteria access other organs of the body through the bloodstream, inflammation can occur. When you are working hard to keep your teeth clean, you are not only protecting your teeth but your whole body as well!

How can you keep your teeth and gums healthy?

There are multiple things that you can do to ensure that your teeth and gums remain in good shape:

  • Brush regularly. You should brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice daily. It is important to use a soft-bristled toothbrush that will not damage your tooth enamel. In addition, small circular strokes should be used, and all exposed crown surfaces should be cleaned. Click here for a video demonstration of the proper technique: https://youtu.be/94eA08mjg0E
  • Floss daily. A toothbrush cannot fully access the areas between your teeth. It is important to remove plaque from the interdental spaces by flossing. String floss is typically used. If you wear braces, it must be paired with a threader to ensure that the floss can be navigated around the wires and brackets of your appliance. We also provide all of our patients with orthodontic flossers that can help make this task easier.  The use of an oral irrigator like a Waterpik is also a good tool to use to help clean the teeth. The concentrated stream of water from the device flushes debris and plaque from between the teeth and along the gum line.
  • Have regular dental cleanings by your dentist and hygienist. Brushing and flossing do not remove tartar from your teeth. The calcified plaque can only be scraped from your teeth using a professional dental tool. These regular visits also ensure your teeth and gums are in tip top shape and if your dentist has any concerns, they can be addressed when they are less severe! This is especially important during orthodontic treatment. Even though we are not a dentist, coming to see your orthodontist for your appointment is not a substitute for a cleaning.

You are lucky to have healthy teeth and to maintain your oral health you will still need to see your dentist regularly!

You are lucky to have healthy teeth, but to maintain your oral health, you will still need to see your dentist regularly.