What is an Orthodontist aka SMILE Saver?

what is an orthodontist

You may have heard of orthodontics, but if you are like many people, you may know little about orthodontists and what we do. Here is a bit of information to help you better understand the role of an orthodontist and what we do!

What Is an Orthodontist?

An orthodontist is a dental professional who specializes in the correction of misaligned jaws and teeth. The full name of our specialty is “Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics,” and helps describe that we not only focus on how the teeth fit together but also evaluate how your teeth, jaws and facial balance all fit together in harmony! Although orthodontists and dentists both treat the teeth, the services provided by a general dentist are usually broader. A dentist offers restorative and preventive care to promote the health of the teeth and gums. An orthodontist focuses more specifically on the dental alignment and fit of the teeth.
All dentists must successfully complete dental school. However, an orthodontist must have additional education and training. All orthodontists are dentists first and then complete an additional 2-3 year post-doctorate residency program beyond dental school. The specialized training consists of thousands of hours focusing on preventing, diagnosing, and correcting growth and bite problems. While a general dentist can provide all the services an orthodontist can provide, aligning teeth is the service we provide every day.

Image from: American Association of Orthodontists

Why is an Orthodontist the most qualified to provide orthodontic care?

We know that orthodontic care is a big decision and that people have many different options when selecting care from DIY mail order aligners to Board Certified Orthodontists. While all options have advantages and everyone’s situation are different, Orthodontists are incredible experts at moving teeth and knowing how people change and grow as they get older. And we are able to do this very predictably and with the help of technology we are incredibly efficient.

An orthodontist commits an incredible amount of time, energy, and resources to be able to provide excellent care and because of our expertise and experience of aligning teeth every day we are able to diagnose and correct problems with ease.

To achieve best results, your orthodontist and dentist will work closely together to ensure your teeth stay healthy during your care. This gives you the best chance to have a BEAUTIFUL and HEALTHY SMILE!

What Does an Orthodontist Do?

An orthodontist helps correct the positioning of teeth and jaws that are out of proper alignment, appear crooked, or impair the bite. But the proper diagnosis of a problem is the most important part of our job! Here are a few issues that an orthodontist can treat:


Crowding is a relatively common alignment issue. It often occurs when there is too little room in the oral cavity to accommodate the number/size of teeth that you have.

An orthodontist can create space by moving teeth, reshaping teeth or even removing teeth if needed in severe cases. The correction of crowded teeth is important because they are more difficult to clean. Poor cleaning can lead to more cavities or bone loss!

Anteroposterior Bite Problems

Anteroposterior bite problems occur when the upper or lower teeth are positioned behind or in front of the matching teeth of the opposing arch. When the lower teeth are located behind the upper teeth, the condition is considered excess overjet. Likewise, when the upper teeth are behind the lower teeth, an underbite is present.

Irregularly Spaced or Aligned Teeth

Even though the teeth may not be crowded, they may still be misaligned. Teeth that are irregularly spaced may be aligned to improve their aesthetic appeal. The treatment can make the teeth appear more uniform. Much of the final smile design will also incorporate some esthetic reshaping of the teeth to help establish a more appealing and uniform shape to the teeth and smile!

What Types of Applications Do Orthodontists Use to Properly Align the Jaws and Teeth?

Before beginning an orthodontic treatment, we assess the health of your teeth and jaws and how they are functioning together. X-rays, photographs, and digital models may be obtained to help diagnosis and plan your best treatment. Based on our findings and your desires, we will suggest several types of treatment options. Here are a few available options:


Braces use brackets, an archwire, and elastic ligatures to straighten the teeth. The brackets are bonded to the teeth, and the archwire is attached to the brackets using the elastic bands. As the archwire is adjusted, aligning force is applied to the teeth, moving them into their proper position. The wires are changed or adjusted at your appointments, which helps ensure your teeth continue to straighten.

Braces may be made of multiple materials, such as titanium, gold, and ceramic. In addition, the brackets may be applied to the front of the teeth or in the case of lingual braces, to the side of the teeth that is next to the tongue. Lingual braces are much more esthetic but tend to take longer to get used to.

Plastic Aligners

Plastic aligners may also be used to straighten the teeth. The aligners are thermoplastic trays that are created from a digital scan of your mouth. Multiple sets of aligners are used in a specified order to ensure that the teeth are progressively aligned over time. Aligners are nice because they are removable and very esthetic. Invisalign is the most popular type of aligner system that is currently available but there are many other companies that are developing similar products.

Rapid Palatal Expanders (AKA RPE or Expanders)

RPE’s are called many different things but all are designed to accomplish the same goal. The upper jaw is actually formed from two separate bones and the Expander is designed to move these two bones apart before they grow into one bone. This allows us to develop a larger upper jaw when your lower jaw is smaller than your upper jaw.

Orthodontic Retainers

After the teeth have been properly aligned, we will review all the different type of retainers and pick the best one for you! A retainer may be used to prevent the teeth from returning to their former positions.

For more information about orthodontists and the services that we offer, contact our office to schedule an appointment!

Accelerated Orthodontic Treatment Options

The last thing you want to do once you have made the decision to improve your smile is to have to wait months or even years. Unfortunately, that is exactly what will happen when you get traditional braces.

Every individual’s situation is different, but some orthodontic treatments can take 2+ years before you can enjoy your new smile. That is a long time to wait but we have to give the body the needed time to allow the process that occurs to allow teeth to move. Luckily, technology has improved and we have options that will increase the biological process that occurs and will decrease the number of months you have to wait until you can enjoy your new smile.

What is Accelerated Orthodontics?

Accelerated orthodontics is a term that is used to describe orthodontic treatment that is completed in a timeframe that is faster than traditional braces or even Invisalign. While the treatment and orthodontic appliances are the same, an adjunctive procedure or device is used that will effectively increase the activity of the cells around your teeth. These techniques can increase the rate of tooth movement by 25%-50% and allow the teeth to be healthier after movement! There are two main techniques that are commonly used today to achieve this goal and depending on your needs, one or both might be good options for you to achieve a beautiful and healthy smile in less time!

How can Accelerated Orthodontics Decrease Treatment Time?

Orthodontic treatment times are sped up with accelerated orthodontics thanks to advances in technology and a better understanding of the biology that is involved in tooth movement. Traditional braces and Invisalign treatments rely upon your orthodontist gently pushing and guiding your teeth back into proper position. The dissolving of bone and replacing of bone is how your body shifts teeth and this can take time. The same process happens with Accelerated Orthodontics, but just at a higher speed.

This image shows the biological process that takes place when are moving teeth and this process can be increased with the different procedures and devices that are used in Accelerated Orthodontics.

While Accelerated Orthodontics does have many advantages it is not a great option for everyone. We suggest using this method when there is a need or benefit to decrease total treatment time or when very difficult movements that are needed. Any accelerated orthodontics technique can be used during braces or aligner treatment. The techniques are different and stimulate tooth movement differently and we help select which method will be best for each patient.

When you choose accelerated orthodontics, advanced dental technology is used to speed up the process of moving your teeth. Depending upon the type of accelerated orthodontic treatment you choose to undergo, your orthodontist will use a device that administers tiny vibrations that help move your teeth or a device that stimulates the bone around your teeth and makes it easier to move.

There are currently two different types of treatment that are classified as accelerated orthodontics: Vibrations and Micro-Osteoperforations. Depending upon the type of accelerated orthodontic treatment that is selected, we will use a device that administers tiny vibrations that help move your teeth or a device that stimulates the bone around your teeth and makes it easier to move. They both speed up treatment time, but they do so in different ways.

Vibration Devices?

There are two main vibrations devices that are used and they are mostly used with aligner treatments. These devices use vibrations to help increase the cellular activity around the teeth and they also increase the quality of the aligner fit! By doing this, the aligners fit better and the teeth track better – Both things allow quicker aligner changes and an overall shorter treatment time.
The device is a small handheld appliance that fits similar to a mouthguard that is used 5-10minutes each day. Using these devices will have an increase in the rate of tooth movement and a decrease in discomfort during treatment.

What is Micro-Osteoperforations?

Micro-Osteoperforations are small dimples that are placed in the bond around the teeth. These small areas of trauma stimulate the cellular process that allows tooth movement. We have been using this understanding of biology to increase the rate of tooth movement for over 25years but it is just recently that we have a technique to achieve the desired acceleratory effect without having an extensive surgery. Propel is the accelerated FDA-approved orthodontic treatment that is used and we are able to do this procedure with just topical anesthesia – so we don’t even have to give a shot! Unlike the vibration devices, Propel is just as easy to use with both traditional braces and Invisalign technology.

The way Propel works is by using advanced technology to stimulate the bone that surrounds your teeth. When the bone is stimulated it becomes softer and easier to move. Since the bone is easy to move, your braces or Invisalign can shift and move your teeth into proper alignment faster than if you did nothing.

The treatment is fairly straightforward. You will arrive at our office and we will use a gel that will numb your gums to ensure you are comfortable. We will then use a device that administers micro-perforations which will soften the bone around specific teeth and help accelerate your orthodontic treatment. The appointment will usually be about 30-45 minutes and the accelerated effects will last 12 weeks to longer than 6 months!

If you want to learn more about accelerated orthodontics and to see if you can get the smile you have always wanted in less time, call Strickland Orthodontics to schedule an appointment. We will gladly help you explore whether or not accelerated orthodontics can help you quickly get a straighter smile.

Retainer Care & Wear Instructions

retainer care

Retainers are very effective tools for maintaining that beautiful and healthy smile!  As you get older, many things in your body change and your teeth are no different but the proper care and use of retainers will help ensure your teeth are always looking great! The following tips on retainer care and wear can help you use your retainer in the most effective way possible.

Bonded or Fixed Retainers

This style of retainer is glued onto your teeth and therefore you don’t actually have to remember to wear it to ensure it is working but this style does take extra effort in keeping them clean!  You will need to take extra care and time while cleaning around and underneath the retainer to ensure plaque and calculus doesn’t build up!

Removable Clear or Hawley Style of retainers

These are the other styles of orthodontic retainers that you are able to take in and out on your own.  Removable retainers will need to be worn 20-22 hours for a minimum of 2 weeks (your individual treatment might require longer) and then 12 hours per day indefinitely.  If retainers are not worn properly, there is a chance you will allow your teeth to move slightly.   How fast your teeth move if you are not wearing the retainers properly varies greatly from person to person and some people do have to wear retainers more than others!  Just remember that proper retainer is the best way to protect your investment of a beautiful smile!

Don’t Wear Your Retainer While Eating

Your retainers fit your mouth so well because they are custom made just for you. This may lead you to almost forget you have them on and you may even leave it in while you’re eating. However, you should never wear your retainer while you eat due to the risk of trapped bacteria.  It is ok to drink NON SUGAR fluids with retainers but best to remove if you are eating any type of food. Tiny particles of food can get lodged in crevices between the teeth and the gums easily, and the retainer can trap them in place. This allows harmful bacteria to cause serious tooth decay over time. The answer is simple, though: Simply remove your retainer prior to each meal or snack.  And after the first two weeks, wearing the retainers between dinner and breakfast is usually close to 12 hours! Don’t forget to brush and floss your teeth before you put the retainer back in place!

Clean Your Retainer Every Day

These are also good tips for cleaning your Invisalign trays!

Your retainer should be kept clean because it’s almost always touching your teeth and gums.  And it keeps it from smelling and tasting bad!  Cleaning your retainer doesn’t need to be complicated: You can use a soft bristle toothbrush and some mild soap and water, and then rinse it off thoroughly. Your goal it to make sure all the saliva is removed so they will dry and be clean and fresh when you wear them next.  DO NOT use any bleach or alcohol solutions to clean retainers and try to avoid temperature extremes like boiling water, microwave or dishwasher.  Also use caution with denture cleaners as they are specifically designed for dentures and some can cause damage to retainers. Here are some tips incase they need a little extra clean:

Light Yellow or Whitish Crusties:

So you have tried to clean them but you just cannot get the little white “barnacle” looking crusties off of the aligners or retainers.  The key is to use a little distilled white vinegar.   Get a bowl of warm NOT HOT water and add distilled white vinegar to a 50:50 solution.  Let the retainers or aligners soak for 15-30 minutes and then use a toothbrush to clean them with the solution.  You may need to repeat for super gnarly looking retainers!  Rinse the retainers well to get rid of the vinegar taste.

Warm Water and Distilled White Vinegar 50:50 solution 15-30 minutes soak

Relatively clear but have turned a yellow color

Your retainers are fairly clean but have started to turn an tan or yellow color that you cannot get out using normal cleaning methods.  Make a 50:50 solution of Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda and soak the retainers for 15-30 minutes.  Then brush the retainers with the solution to get the best result!  While these are household items, they make a strong cleaning solution and this should not be use as your normal daily cleaner as it will cause the retainers to become brittle and possible break or crack.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda in a 50:50 solution 15-30 minutes soak

Retainer Cleaners

There are also several different over the counter retainer cleaners that you can purchase that also do a great job (Retainer Brite, Fresh Guard).  While some companies state that you should use a “cleaner” daily, if you are getting all the saliva off each time you remove them this is not necessary.  Only using a cleaning solution as needed will save you some money and extend the life of your retainers.  

Hint:  Make sure you use a retainer cleaner and not a denture cleaner.  Retainers and dentures are made from different materials and thus have different cleaning solutions that should be used.

Speaking of Storage

Retainer storage is one of the biggest mistakes that many retainer wearers tend to make. This mainly happens because most people just don’t take the time to store it properly. You may have popped your retainer out and placed it on a lunch tray, on a napkin, or wrapped up in a tissue while you eat. All of these storage ideas tend to be problematic because they make it far too easy to accidentally toss the retainer into the trash. You’ll receive a retainer case when you get your new retainer, one which is shaped and sized perfectly for storage. It’s important that you use it and have your name and phone number on it! It’s small enough to easily fit into your pocket, bag, or purse. If you simply make a habit of placing the retainer in the case whenever it’s not in your mouth, you’re much less likely to misplace or lose it.

Feel Free to Check In!

If you are wearing your retainers properly, very few people have any problems during this phase of maintaining your smile!  But things do happen and sometimes the retainers get damaged, worn out or a stubborn tooth wants to shift.  It is important to give us a call anytime that you have any questions about your retainers and how to use them.  If you let us know as soon as you notice anything different we have many more options that take less time and money! We can identify any potential issues with retainer fit early on, which allows them to make any necessary adjustments or have new retainers created.  

Questions About Retainers?

Maintaining your beautiful smile is easy but does require constant use of a retainer.  If you have any questions about your retainers or any retainers options you may have, Please let us know!

Strickland Orthodontics is a orthodontic practice with five locations in Alabama. The practice is led by a father and son team of orthodontists. As a very well-established Alabama practice, Strickland Orthodontics has been honored with several prestigious awards. The services offered at Strickland Orthodontics include retainers, traditional braces, Invisalign, clear braces, gold braces, auxiliary appliances, expanders, soft tissue laser, and surgical orthodontics. Call the office anytime to learn more or to schedule an appointment.  We would love to talk to you about options to help you create a smile you will LOVE!

Am I too Old for Braces?

Am I Too Old for Braces

Many patients who have teeth alignment issues ask the question “Am I too old for braces?” The answer, at least in the majority of cases, is that you’re never too old to improve your teeth alignment. While childhood is certainly the best time to have orthodontic work done, not everyone has the opportunity to get the orthodontic care that they need as a child or during their adolescence. About 1 out of every 5 orthodontic patients today is an adult, in fact. There are many adults who have crooked teeth today, and it’s not too late to correct that through braces. You can have the straight smile that you’ve been wanting all your life.

What Type of Changes Are Needed?

One of the main determinants in evaluating an adult’s suitability for braces is the type and degree of alignment problem. As an adult, your bones aren’t growing anymore. This means that structural changes to the mouth are much more challenging than they’d be with a child or an adolescent whose mouth is still growing into its adult size. As long as the changes you need don’t require a major structural change to your mouth, braces should be a possibility for you. Most adults have correctable alignment issues. However, in cases of very serious misalignment, malformed jaw, or other major structural issues, surgery may be needed to correct the underlying issue before you can use braces for alignment correction. Your orthodontist can evaluate your case to determine whether you’ll benefit from braces now, or whether you may need to have a surgical correction done beforehand.

Worried About Metal Mouth?

One concern that many adults have when they’re considering braces is “metal mouth.” It’s not uncommon to hear patients say “I’m just too old to walk around with a metal mouth!” While this is a purely cosmetic concern, it’s a completely valid and understandable one. Fortunately, advances in the world of orthodontics now allow adults to straighten their teeth without being obvious about it. For example, two popular teeth straightening options at Strickland Orthodontics today are clear braces and Invisalign. Both of these options are designed to gradually shift the alignment of your teeth without anyone even knowing you’re doing so because they’re made from clear plastic. This allows adults to still feel like grown-ups while they get the alignment correction that they need. Clear straightening with devices like Invisalign also has the advantage of being significantly more comfortable than the metal brackets used in braces. You’re never too old, especially when it comes to invisible teeth straightening!

The Time Commitment Needed for Adult Braces

Adult braces of any type, whether it’s metal braces or a clear appliance like Invisalign, do require a time commitment. In most cases, adults need to wear braces for anywhere from 18 months to around 3 years. During that time, you’ll need to care for your braces properly, wear devices like Invisalign exactly as recommended, and see your orthodontist on a regular basis. Usually, this means visits every month or two, but this does vary by situation and patient. Check-ups are usually quite fast and easy, but they do require at least a small time commitment. They’re an essential part of straightening your teeth because this is the time when your orthodontist checks for proper fit, emerging issues, and alignment changes. Correcting teeth alignment issues in adults is usually a longer process than correcting the same issues in a child. However, if you’re willing to commit the time and effort you can still get great results.

Ready to Get the Straighter Smile You Deserve?

Strickland Orthodontics is an Alabama orthodontic practice that is owned and operated by a father and son team of orthodontists. Dr. H.L. Strickland and Dr. Stephen Strickland serve patients at five different Alabama locations, offering the highest level of patient convenience. As a leading provider of orthodontic care, Strickland Orthodontics has been awarded with several prestigious awards. They offer traditional braces, Invisalign, clear braces, auxiliary appliances, expanders, soft tissue laser, and surgical orthodontics along with many other services. The Strickland Orthodontics team is here to help, so call anytime to arrange a consultation.

Missing Lateral Incisors – What Can We Do?

The absence of lateral incisors is the most common congenital anomaly in the mouth. Normal mouths contain eight incisors. They are the four front-most or middle-most teeth on the upper and lower jaw. The lateral incisors are located next to the front two teeth. The canines are typically located next to the lateral incisors. When the lateral incisors are missing, they can create unsightly gaps in the teeth. Thankfully, there are many options when it comes to replacing your missing lateral incisors.

Missing Lateral Incisor Treatment Plans

Part of creating the best possible treatment plan involves performing a dental examination and taking x-rays and digital images. This gives us the best picture of your mouth and the spaces between your two front teeth and canines.

Closing the Gaps

Depending on the sizes of the gaps and the size and color of your canines as well as the existing room in the dental arch, we may be able to close the gaps with braces and recontour the canines so they will look like the lateral incisors.  Depending on the amount of shape change needed, we sometimes need to have veneers or crowns places to achieve a more ideal esthetic outcome!  This can be a great outcome because you will have minimal long term restorative needs and maintance but this is not the best option for everone.  There are specific factors that help make this option successful and if they are not followed the final outcome and smile is less than ideal.

Opening the Spaces for Dental Implants or Bridges

If the space of the missing teeth cannot be feasibly closed, a dental bridge or implant can help fill the space and improve your smile.  This will help rebuild the anatomy of the missing teeth and help establish a beautiful and proportionate smile. With today’s technology, you have several different options, including different types of bridges, removable partial dentures, and Marilyn Bridges as well as implants.

Removable Partial Dentures

Removable partial dentures offer an affordable way to improve the aesthetic of your mouth while replacing the missing lateral incisors. Since these bridges are removable and reversible, you may be able to consider other tooth replacement options in the future. The primary issues with these bridges are that they are bulky, and you may notice a decrease in the ability to taste food. If they are worn for the long-term, they can cause a breakdown of the surrounding bone and soft tissues, which would make a future implant difficult if not impossible to install. However, this may be a good temporary solution for some patients, especially for growing patients!

Fixed Partial Dentures (Bridges)

Fixed partial dentures offer several advantages over removable partial dentures. The primary advantages are patient comfort and longevity. They also look better in the mouth and are less bulky than removable dentures. The installation, however, involves a significant portion of tooth to be removed from the surrounding teeth in order to ensure a good bond between the bridge and the existing teeth. These bridges are considered aesthetically pleasing but do require removal of natural tooth structure.  Thes are great options if the adjacent teeth would also benefit from a crown or have large restorations.

Marilyn Bridges (Encore Bridges)

Encore bridges are often referred to as fiber-reinforced resin-bonded bridges. These bridges offer greater flexibility within the mouth and do not require as much tooth removal. They are also a very esthetic option that are made of just tooth colored material and looks great! They are a little bit more prone to becoming debonded than traditional fixed bridge.  For this bridge, a composite fiber or ceramic is spanned across the gap and bonded to the surrounding teeth. A denture tooth can be used to fill the gap or a tooth can be crafted from composite after a custom base, called a pontic button, has been placed on the gum for support. These types of bridges are generally very well tolerated.


Implants are an ideal solution for replacing missing lateral incisors because they work just like natural teeth and can be cleaned and flossed as normal. They also do not require any tooth removal of adjacent teeth.. However, implants require at least one oral surgery to implant the post into the jaw, and in order for an implant to be successful, there must be enough space between between the teeth and and the implant. There must also be enough bone density and gum tissue to support the implant. If the implant is to be installed in a younger person, the individual’s facial bones need to have stopped growing. This is because implants to not adjust for facial growth.  Most girls have completed growth by 18-19 years old and boys are usually 19-21.

Determining the Right Dental Solution for Your Missing Lateral Incisors

We will work closely with your dentist to determine several options for you and what would be the best one for you to replace your missing lateral incisors!  Every person is unique, so choosing the best option is a big decision and many factors help determine what would be best.  We will examine your facial proportions, smile design, tooth shape and color, and your desires and goals! To learn more about our practice and how we can help you achieve a beautiful smile, even if you are missing your front teeth, or to schedule an appointment, call us at 251-928-9292.

The Anatomy of a Beautiful Smile

There are multiple attributes that come together to complete the anatomy of a great-looking smile. For most people, a well-proportioned, white smile is considered very desirable and attractive. Here are some of the components that collectively make up the anatomy of a beautiful smile:

The Proportion of Your Upper Incisors

Your upper incisors (front four teeth) are the stars of the show!  Because of the position, they are very easy to seen and most noticeable.  Each tooth has a range of sizes and ratios of height x width that people find attractive.  There is also a relationship of how much of a tooth is shown when smiling.  This goes back to Pythagoras and his concept that beauty is an exact mathematical calculation or relationship! He referred to this relationship as the Golden Proportion.

As people age, the upper lip lengthens and a smaller amount of the upper front teeth are shown when smiling.   Thus, displaying all of the front teeth is a very vibrant and youthful smile!  As we are designing your smile, we look at you teeth and smile and enhance the positive attributes of your smile to maximize the youthfulness and beauty of your smile!

The Amount of Visible Gum Tissue

While having some gums showing when smiling is usually seen as a desirable and youthful part of a smile, excess, swollen or discolored gum tissue can be distracting and less desirable.   Depending on the cause and amount, the options to correct the gum tissue can be very easy and quick.  The gum display of a smile is a little like Goldilocks.  You don’t want too much or too little, but want it just right!.

The Arc of Your Smile

The arc of your smile is the way that the line formed by the lower edge of your top teeth correlates with the line formed by the top edge of your lower lip. The perfect smile arc includes a dental curve and a lip curve that are basically parallel to one another.

When we are looking at your smile and smile design, we also look at the anatomy of your lip and how your lip moves and changes when you talk and smile!  This allows us to achieve a beautiful and natural looking smile!

Negative Smile Space

When you smile, there’s usually a little black space that can be seen at each corner of your mouth. Although negative spaces should be displayed in every smile, if the space is too large or too small, it can detract from the appearance of the smile.

The Wideness of a Smile

Broader or wider smiles are often seen as more attractive. The broadness of your smile is the width of the displayed upper arch of your teeth.  People who have a narrow arch of teeth may only display a few of them when they smile and often their smile will look like “buck teeth.”

Ideally, the upper premolars should be visible when you smile and you upper arch should have a gentile curve. If your smile is not as broad as desired, in some cases, the jaw can be expanded using orthodontic appliances to create a wider smile.

Teeth Color

The color of your teeth is also important when it comes to the anatomy of a beautiful smile. Teeth that appear stained are deemed less attractive than those that are white and bright. Thus, even if your dental alignment is being corrected to improve the look of your smile, it is important to care for your teeth properly throughout and after the treatment process to prevent discoloration.  Depending on the cause of the discoloration, bleaching or various dental restorations can correct the concern.

The Emergence Profile of a Tooth

The emergence profile is the way that a tooth extends or emerges from the gum tissue when the tooth is observed from a side view. If the emergence profile does not allow a tooth to offer enough support to the cheeks and lips, the fullness of a person’s smile can be compromised. This can result in a worn, caved-in facial appearance.  If the upper teeth or jaw are too far forward, the teeth can look too protrusive and can also be undesirable .  We desire to obtain good lip support and a balanced profile smile!

There are a lot of components that go into making a beautiful smile and at Strickland Orthodontics, we enjoy looking at every patient’s smile and designing and developing their perfect smile!  If you have any concerns with you smile and what can be done to improve it, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.

Halitosis; Do You Smell That?

Nobody wants bad breath. However, millions of people suffer from the condition. Chronic halitosis, which is another name for bad breath, begins in many cases due to a buildup of bacteria in the mouth.

Often, people are concerned about removing bacteria from their teeth. However, oral bacteria also accumulates on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums and oral appliances, affecting the smell of your breath.

Why does bad breath occur?

Bad breath is frequently the result of byproducts of the oral bacteria in your mouth. The anaerobic bacteria that often live in the grooves of the tongue release volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs) that give bad breath its characteristic smell. In addition, food particles that are left in the mouth after a meal or snack can begin to rot within the mouth, emitting a foul odor. Additional causes of bad breath include dental infections, odorous foods and health conditions in other areas of the body.

Conditions Outside of the Mouth That Cause Bad Breath

Bad breath is also associated with other medical conditions, such as sinus infections, kidney problems, liver issues and diabetes. In addition, health conditions, treatments and medications that cause a reduction in the amount of saliva within the mouth can exacerbate halitosis. As a result, patients who are undergoing treatments, such as radiation therapy, may incur bad breath more frequently.

Why does dry mouth cause bad breath?

The saliva produced by your mouth helps wash away oral bacteria. Since the liquid keeps your mouth cleaner, it helps eliminate bad breath sources within the oral cavity. When saliva is scarce, your breath is more likely to have an unpleasant odor. This is the reason for morning breath.

Morning breath is often due to the reduction in saliva production that occurs as you sleep. With little saliva to rinse microbes away, the bacteria in your mouth reproduce rapidly, causing your morning breath.

Foods that Cause Bad Breath

Foods can also affect your breath. Some foods, such as onions and garlic, have a higher sulfur content than others. Even though the foods eventually reach your stomach, the odors can be absorbed by your body and released as you breathe.

What can be done to help alleviate bad breath?

Here are a few things that you can do to help improve the smell of your breath:

  • Brush. Brushing your teeth regularly can help decrease the levels of plaque within your mouth. As you brush, it is important to pay attention to the soft tissues of the mouth, such as your tongue, the roof of your mouth and your inner cheeks. My removing bacteria from as many surfaces as possible, you can help eliminate bad breath.
  • Use a tongue cleaner. Although a toothbrush is efficient at brushing the teeth, it is not as thorough as a tongue scraper at cleaning the tongue. The scraper is usually a simple tool made of plastic that is raked across the tongue to remove the build-up of bacteria.
  • Floss. Flossing is particularly important because particles of food that can decay within the mouth often become trapped between the teeth. Flossing also helps eliminate plaque between the teeth before it hardens into tartar. Due to the porous surface of tartar, it can become a haven for bacteria and other odorous substances that can exacerbate your bad breath.
  • Chew gum. Sugar-free gum can help keep oral bacteria at bay, especially varieties that contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that is also antimicrobial. In addition, the fragrance of the gum can improve the smell of your breath as you chew. The sticky nature of the gum also causes it to pull plaque and debris from your teeth and gums. It is especially helpful to chew the gum immediately after a meal or snack.
  • Visit your dentist often. Your dentist can help keep your mouth clean by regularly removing tartar deposits. In addition, he or she can identify the source of your bad breath and recommend a suitable treatment. If your dentist believes that your bad breath is being caused by a systemic condition, you may be referred to another medical professional for treatment.
  • Clean your dental appliances. If you wear braces or have a retainer, keeping these items clean can help improve your breath.

If you suffer from chronic bad breath and believe that it is associated with your braces, contact our office to schedule an appointment.

All About TMJ

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is like a hinge that slides and connects the jawbone to the skull. There is a TMJ joint on each side of the jaw. The bones that work in conjunction with the temporomandibular joint are covered with cartilage and a small shock-absorbing disk separates these bones from the joint itself, to ensure the movements of the jaw remain smooth. However, if this disk moves out of alignment or erodes, TMJ syndrome (aka TMD) can result. TMJ syndrome (or TMD) is the term used to refer to disorders affecting the temporomandibular joints and the muscles responsible for controlling the movement of the jaw.

How Common is TMJ Syndrome?

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, women seem to be more susceptible to TMJ disorders than men are. While the actual number of Americans who have TMJ is unknown, estimates suggest more than 10 million Americans are affected with this condition.

Are There Risk Factors for Developing TMJ?

Yes, there are several factors that increase an individual’s likelihood of developing TMJ syndrome, including:

  • being female;
  • osteoarthritis;
  • bruxism, which is a chronic (long-term) grinding or clenching of the teeth (it is important to note that bruxism and TMJ do not necessarily go hand-and-hand);
  • certain diseases that affect the connective tissue (i.e., systemic lupus erythematosus, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.);
  • a genetic disposition for certain inherited conditions;
  • an injury to the neck (whiplash); and/or
  • a jaw injury.

What Are the Symptoms of TMJ Syndrome?

The signs and symptoms associated with these disorders can include:

  • an aching in and around the ear;
  • tenderness or pain in the jaw;
  • an aching-type pain in the face;
  • difficulty chewing;
  • pain in the temporomandibular joint(s);
  • pain while chewing;
  • a clicking sound and/or odd sensation upon opening the mouth or chewing; as well as
  • difficulty opening and/or closing the mouth.

If you have TMJ, you will most likely experience pain and/or limited movement when your jaw clicks.

Diagnosing Temporomandibular Joint Disorders

Although there is not a standard test available for diagnosing TMJ, identifying these disorders involves collecting information related to your symptoms, as well as your medical and dental history. Furthermore, at Strickland Orthodontics, a thorough examination of the affected areas will be performed: These areas typically include the neck, head, jaw and face. Sometimes, imaging studies will be recommended.

Categorizing TMJ Syndrome

Researchers categorize temporomandibular joint syndrome using three main categories:

  1. Arthritis – referring to a group of inflammatory/degenerative joint disorders.
  2. Myofascial Pain – pain or discomfort in the muscles responsible for controlling the function of the jaw.
  3. Internal Derangement – a dislocated jaw, injury to the condyle (which is the round part of the bone forming the joint) or a displaced disk.

There are a variety of other health problems that tend to co-exist with temporomandibular joint disorders.

These problems include:

  • Sleep Disturbances/Disorders – insomnia, non-24 sleep wake disorder, sleep-related movement disorders (i.e., restless leg syndrome), etc.
  • Fibromyalgia – this is a painful condition that affects the soft tissues and muscles throughout the body.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – characterized by exhaustion, pain and sleep abnormalities that are made worse with exertion.

An individual may have one or more of these conditions.

When to Seek Medical Attention

You should contact Strickland Orthodontics right away if you are finding it difficult to open and/or close your jaw all the way or you are experiencing constant tenderness, or pain in your jaw.

Treating TMJ Disorders

If the cause of your TMJ is structural, Dr. H.L. Strickland and Dr. Stephen Strickland can correct any teeth malformations that are aggravating or causing the condition. If the problem is not structural, the discomfort and pain associated with these disorders can usually be relieved through nonsurgical treatments and/or self-managed care. Nonsurgical treatments may include medications and/or stabilization splints. Self-managed care may include eating soft foods, using ice packs as well as relaxing the jaw muscles using specialized techniques. Surgical intervention is only considered if the more conservative measures fail.

Dr. H.L. Strickland and Dr. Stephen Strickland offer individuals residing in Alabama five convenient locations to choose from. Whether you need clear braces, traditional braces, Invisalign™ , an auxiliary appliance, soft tissue laser,  an expander or surgical orthodontic treatment, Strickland Orthodontist can assist you in creating the beautiful smile you have always wanted and/or treating the symptoms associated with conditions like TMJ.

Our offices are open Monday through Friday from 7:30a.m. to 4:30p.m. If you would like to make an appointment at our Spanish Fort or Bay Minette office, please call (251) 272-3232: To contact our Fairhope, Fairhope South or Foley office, please call (251) 928-9292. If you would rather make your appointment online, please access our contact form by clicking here.


How Smiling Improves Your First Impression

When you smile, you tell the world and those around you that you are happy. In fact, a recent survey by the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry found that 57% of people say that a smile from a stranger makes them want to smile and can improve their day!  An astounding 88% of people say that smiling makes them feel good about themselves and improves their mood.  Unfortunately, if you have crooked teeth, an overbite or an underbite, you may be hesitant to smile and show off your teeth.  A beautiful smile that you are confident in will help improve your day as well as others that you see.  Thankfully, with help from our wonderful team at Strickland Orthodontics, you can achieve a beautiful and healthy smile that you can be proud to show off.

Why are First Impressions so Important

One of the main reasons is that they happen everyday.  Every time you meet someone you make a decision about that person based on how the interaction and conversation goes.  And in our modern society, a person’s visual appearance makes a big impact in this first meeting.  Even though we are always taught not to “judge a book by its cover,” this happens everyday from kids meeting new friends at school to human resource firms that are in charge of hiring professionals for the most prestigious companies in our country.  This snap judgment continues because it is all we have to develop an impression on the person and research has shown that they can be surprisingly accurate!  Since first impressions will always be a part of meeting new people and making new friends, we will share with you some things that will help improve your first impression!

Improve Your First Impression with a Smile

Smiling triggers the reward centers of the brain. This means that when you smile, you feel better about yourself and anyone who sees you smiling will feel better about themselves. You may even receive a smile in return, and you will make a positive first impression.

  • On the Job Interview – Job interviews can be extremely stressful. You not only need to make a good first impression, you need to be confident and highlight your skills while appearing to be at ease. If you are uncomfortable with your smile, you will be less likely to project confidence and less likely to smile, which may impact the impression you make on the interviewer. In contrast, when you have a straight, healthy smile, you will be viewed as confident, trustworthy and successful, and you will be more apt to smile more!
  • On a First Date – Meeting someone new is another area where having a confident smile can help you. When you smile upon meeting someone for the first time, you are telling them that you are at ease and glad to meet them. You are also triggering the reward center of their brain, and they will be more likely to return the smile and engage in conversation so that you may get to know each other better.
  • In Group Social Situations – One of the first things people will notice about you is your teeth and mouth. If you have crooked teeth, an overbite or an underbite, the people around you may view you as less confident and less attractive. They may even assume that you have bad oral hygiene. Straightening your teeth and corrective your improper bite can help you improve your appearance, help you feel more positive about yourself and help you make a lasting positive impression in group social situations.

Here are Some Quick Facts About Smiles and First Impressions:

  • 29% of Americans say teeth are the first facial feature noticed when meeting someone – Second to only your eyes!
  • People with straight teeth are described to be happier, friendlier, healthier, more popular, and trustworthy and have higher self-esteem than people with crooked teeth.
  • 38% would consider not going on a second date with someone who has misaligned teeth.  
  • People with straight teeth are 58% more likely to have professional success and to be hired with compared with someone with a similar skill-set.
  • Individuals with straight teeth are thought of as earning a higher salary than those with crooked teeth.

Correcting Common Dental Problems with Braces

There are many common dental problems that can cause dental health and esthetic concerns for you. Orthodontic care using aligners or braces can help correct a variety of dental problems, including crooked teeth, gaps, underbites, overbites and crossbites. They accomplish this by slowly adjusting the position of your teeth until they are in their ideal locations, and with the recent advancements in teeth straightening technology, there are more choices than ever when it comes to choosing the right braces for your teeth so that you can make a good first impression while improving the appearance of your teeth.

Selecting the best appliance for YOU!

When many children, teenagers and adults think about braces, their minds immediately show them images of adolescents and young adults with a mouth full of metal, wearing headgear.  I mean, this is how almost every orthodontic patient is portrayed in TV shows and movies! While metal braces are still available, there are other alternatives that are less noticeable. In our office, the metal braces are manufactured from titanium and this gives us many advantages over standard stainless steel braces. These braces are very small and comfortable and the titanium allows them to be exceptionally durable!  You can also select the color of the ties at each appointment so your smile can always be fashionable! Click here(http://stricklandorthodontics.com/metal-braces) to find out more about why we use these braces!

If you are more concern with esthetics, you now have the option of using crystal clear ceramic braces or aligners (Invisalign).  Both of these options allow you to achieve the benefits of orthodontic care while being less noticeable.  Clear braces are a great option for teens and adults that want to straighten their teeth while minimizing the noticeability of their braces. Clear braces are manufactured from ceramic and completely clear, which reduces the appearance of the braces so that you can correct your teeth in a more aesthetic fashion.

In our practice, we have worked very hard to become very proficient at providing exceptional care with removable aligners like Invisalign.  Our experience and clinical expertise has given us the ability to offer Invisalign to many different patients and still achieve the quality outcome that our patients have been accustomed to.  Invisalign is a series of custom fitted aligners that fit over your teeth and each aligner has a small amount of movement built in.  The material is similar to a retainer but has some stretch, which allows your teeth to move with less discomfort.  Invisalign allows you to address your smile concerns while having minimal impact on your lifestyle and eating habits!  Strickland Orthodontics is South Alabama’s leading Invisalign provider and successfully uses Invisalign to correct minor to very complex bite problems. Please click here if you are interested in learning more about Invisalign care at our office! (http://stricklandorthodontics.com/invisalign)

First impressions are very important in our modern society.  They are not always correct or even fair, but people make judgments of people every day based on a first impression that might only last a few minutes.   Your smile plays an important part of having a great first impression with friends or in a professional setting.  A beautiful and healthy smile gives you confidence and helps others see the real you!

To learn more about our wonderful office and how orthodontic care could improve your smile and first impressions, call us today.


The Sleep Benefits of Braces


When most people think about getting braces, they think of children and teens with a mouth full of metal. Fortunately, braces have evolved to include other types of braces, including clear ceramic braces and removable aligners, like Invisalign. Our older teen and adult patients now have many great options that are much more esthetic. You can reap all of the benefits of having straight teeth and a properly aligned jaw, including better airflow and a reduction in sleep apnea symptoms as well as a better smile.

How Overbites, Underbites and Crossbites Affect Sleep

If you have an overbite, underbite or crossbite, you may be self-conscious about your appearance and how people perceive you, but your physical appearance is not the only thing affected by a bad bite. In fact, if the condition is severe enough, your breathing may be impacted while you sleep. This can result in extremely loud snoring, difficulty breathing while asleep and sleep apnea in addition to other related health problems.

  • Overbites – An overbite occurs when your upper teeth rest in front of your lower teeth when you close your mouth.
  • Underbites – An underbite occurs when your lower teeth rest in front of your upper teeth when your jaw is closed.
  • Crossbites – A crossbite occurs when your teeth are tilted either towards your cheeks or toward your tongue.

Your Jaw and Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a very serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted while sleeping.  Sleep apnea can cause a large list of physical and psychological problems for the individual.  While there are three types of sleep apnea, the most common form is obstructive sleep apnea, which is caused by a physical blockage of the airway. One of the ways the airway can become blocked is with an improperly aligned jaw. When your jaw is not properly aligned, it can lead to the tissues of the upper or lower mouth blocking the airway, causing an obstruction. This can lead to the cessation of breathing while sleeping and a decrease in the levels of oxygen in your blood.

Orthodontic care, including braces, has been shown to help treat obstructive sleep apnea by correcting alignment problems with your jaw. When your jaw is properly aligned, your airway is less likely to become obstructed by the tissues in your mouth.

How Braces Can Help Improve Airflow and Sleep

Correcting bite problems and crooked teeth have been proven to help keep your airway clear while you sleep, which can reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea and help you breathe better at night.

Proper Positioning of the Lower Jaw

When your lower jaw is not properly aligned, it can obstruct your airway. This is usually a problem with patients with excess Overjet and their lower jaw is just too small!  Some of your muscles relax while you are sleeping which can narrow the opening of the airway. This can result in not enough air entering your lungs and you will actually stop breathing. When the bite problem is corrected, your airway will be open, and you will have an easier time breathing while you sleep so that you can feel rested and recharged in the morning.  Depending on the severity of the bite problem and the age of the patient, we may use braces alone or may use an oral appliance to help position your jaw forward.  If the problem is severe and you have severe sleep apnea, then having jaw surgery to correct the severe skeletal alignment is the best way to get the healthiest benefit from the treatment.

Easier Breathing Through the Nose

If you have a narrow upper arch, you may also have a narrow passage in your nose.  Depending on how your nose/sinus is shaped, this could be having a significant negative effect on your ability to breath easily.  Having an expander (RPE) will cause your upper jaw to increase in size and this will also increase the air volume of your sinus.  If the anatomy of your sinus was causing a negative effect on your ability to breath, having an expander will likely improve your able to breathe through your nose while you sleep. This can improve airflow and reduce snoring while helping to alleviate some of the other symptoms of sleep apnea.

Reduced Jaw Stress

Having a misaligned jaw and teeth can put stress on your jaw. You may even notice an increase in teeth grinding or clenching. This can cause jaw and neck pain as well as headaches. If you have these symptoms at night, you may have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Using braces to correct misalignments can reduce your jaw stress.

Choosing the Right Braces for Maximum Benefits

At Strickland Orthodontics, we can help you determine if braces would help you sleep better.  This is especially true if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and wear a CPAP device and are interested in a more permanent solution for this problem.  If we determine that you would benefit from orthodontic care to correct the alignment of your teeth and jaws, we can help you choose which types of braces or aligners would be best for you! If you have sleep apnea, we will work with your medical doctor to ensure we help provide you with the best care and final outcome.  If you have not been diagnosed with sleep apnea but are concerned with your trouble sleeping and have signs of sleep apnea, we can help refer you for a sleep study and can make recommendations on what treatment would be best for you!

To learn more about how braces can do more for your overall health than simply straightening your smile, give us a call today at 251-928-9292 or visit our website at http://stricklandorthodontics.com