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Spacing Out

December 9th, 2020

One of the most common reasons for getting braces is because there’s just not enough room for all your teeth to fit next to each other evenly. The result is overlapping and crooked teeth. What’s the first step in creating the space you need? Well, that depends on just how much room you need to align your teeth and bite properly.

When there is going to be a serious need for space, there are orthodontic solutions that can help, including palatal expanders, surgical options, and extractions. But if you only need a tiny bit of room so that regular braces will fit properly, we have a tiny solution—orthodontic spacers!

Why do you need to make space before you get braces? Because Dr. Zachary Varble might need to make some room around crowded molars so your braces can be installed properly.

For example, you might need orthodontic bands to anchor your braces. An orthodontic band is a slim, custom-fitted ring of metal which fits snugly around a molar. It is durable, provides a place to attach bands and springs to help correct malocclusions (bite problems), and can securely surround a tooth that might be weak because of a large filling. Spacers can separate crowded teeth just enough to allow a band to be fitted around a molar.

Even if you don’t need bands, sometimes separators are necessary to provide enough space between the teeth for your braces to work effectively. The back teeth tend to move even closer together with braces, and, without adequate space, bite problems, risk of decay, and other difficulties can arise.

And while you might think that some serious equipment is in order to make room between those sturdy molars, the typical spacer, or separator, is actually extremely simple--usually a tiny, round elastic band, often made of rubber. Spacers can be placed between tight teeth in a matter of minutes. Each ring is stretched and positioned between your teeth with a special tool. As it returns to its original shape, the spacer’s width provides just enough pressure on the teeth it touches to make a bit of space between them. And a bit of space is usually all you’ll need.

What do spacers feel like? For some people, they can be uncomfortable. You might feel soreness, some pressure, or as though a piece of food is stuck between your teeth. Ask us for suggestions on making you more comfortable, whether it’s dining on ice cream and cold drinks, eating soft foods, or taking over-the-counter pain relief. Separators are only designed to be in place for a very short period (usually under two weeks), but if they are causing you pain, give us a call.

What do you need to do to help the process along? Actually, it’s more what you need not to do. Don’t use dental picks or floss on your separators, avoid chewing gum, and take chewy and sticky foods off the menu. And don’t be tempted to touch or play with your spacers!

Spacers can create space between the teeth so quickly and efficiently that they often fall out on their own after a few days. If your separators fall out, give our Creve Couer or Saint Charles, MO office a call. It could mean that you are ready for your braces, and on the way to a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles. And it’s a journey that begins with a tiny, springy step.

Celebrate the Season with Braces-Friendly Treats

December 2nd, 2020

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, with the holidays around the corner, and visions of sugarplums and other tasty desserts dancing in everyone’s head.

Except, this year you have braces. This means some of your favorites might be on the naughty list. What to avoid? The same kinds of foods that you avoid now: anything hard, crunchy, sticky, or chewy. This means some of the traditional holiday favorites will have to be postponed for a while:

  • Pecan Pies

A festive tradition! But, nuts in a sticky sugar filling? Time to create a new dessert tradition that will be less of a problem for wires and brackets.

  • Gum Drops, Caramels, & Toffees

These super-sticky, chewy treats are definitely hazardous for your braces. Find a soft candy alternative instead.

  • Candy Canes & Hard Candies

Hard, sticky, and crunchy? Let’s save these candies for decorating the gingerbread house this year.

So what can you eat?

Luckily, there are plenty of dessert options that are nice to wires and brackets! Let’s look at some festive treats that also easy on your braces.

  • Cupcakes & Cakes

Soft, moist cupcakes and cakes should be no problem. Fruitcake, with its sticky dried fruits and nuts, should be avoided—which is a perfect excuse if you’re not a fan!

  • Pudding

Puddings are a smooth easy-to-eat treat, so enjoy! But know your puddings. Some traditional holiday puddings are more cakelike and contain the same chewy ingredients as fruitcakes, so the same advice applies—if it contains dried fruits and nuts, this is not the dessert for you.

  • Soft Candies

The same soft chocolates that you could eat for Halloween are good now, too! If it’s just not the holidays without peppermint, smooth peppermint patties are the way to go.

  • Pies & Other Favorites

Pecan pies are a firm no, but velvety desserts like pumpkin pie, cream pies, and cheesecake should be fine. And be sure you pick only the soft cookies in the holiday cookie exchange!

When you visit our Creve Couer or Saint Charles, MO office, ask Dr. Zachary Varble about these and other holiday treats to make sure they are safe for you and your braces. And one more word before we all dig in—too much sugar in your diet creates the perfect conditions for cavity-causing bacteria. But there’s no need to give up all your holiday treats.

Just as you would brush after any dessert without braces, be sure to brush now that you have them. Be especially careful to remove any sugary residue from around your brackets, between your teeth, and near your gum line. And it’s always best to eat sweet treats as part of a meal, to reduce the effect of sugars and acids on your teeth.

Oh, and about those sugarplums? These candies originally contained no soft, tender plums at all. They were actually tiny treats created by coating a seed or nut center with a hard sugar shell. But you don’t need to worry about missing out on Victorian treats—with all of your delicious and braces-safe dessert choices, you’ll be enjoying a very sweet holiday season!

Digital X-rays

November 25th, 2020

Modern orthodontic technology has changed the way you wear braces. Brackets are smaller and come in a variety of shapes and colors. Wires are more efficient. Clear aligners can eliminate the need for brackets and wires altogether. And your high-tech advantages don’t stop there—today’s digital X-rays make creating your treatment plan even more convenient and efficient.

Why Are X-rays Necessary?

Beautifully aligned teeth and a healthy bite are the visible result of your orthodontic work, but there’s a lot going on above and below the surface that needs to be discovered and taken into account before your treatment even begins. X-rays help Dr. Zachary Varble evaluate:

  • The size, shape, and position of your teeth, including impacted teeth and wisdom teeth
  • The size, position, and health of your roots throughout treatment
  • The size and shape of your jaw bones, and how they affect your teeth alignment and bite
  • Your progress during different phases of treatment
  • The most effective type of retainer for protecting your beautiful smile after treatment.

How Do X-rays Work?

Traditional X-rays, or radiographs, make use of film just like traditional cameras. When you have an intraoral X-ray, for example, the film is sealed in a moisture- and light-proof packet, and placed inside the mouth to capture images of specific teeth and the bone around them.

The X-ray machine is aligned precisely with the film and an exposure is taken. The image at this point is latent, and won’t show on the film, because, just like photo film, traditional radiographs need to be chemically processed before they produce a visible image.

Digital technology, on the other hand, uses an electronic sensor instead of film. For an intraoral digital X-ray, a small sensor is positioned in the mouth just like a film. When the X-ray is taken, a digital image capture device produces an image which is formed by a matrix of pixels instead of a photo-like film exposure. This format allows the image to be sent directly to a computer for immediate display without requiring processing.

Even though these methods seem very similar, digital X-rays offer some significant advantages over traditional films. Let’s look at how they compare, more or less.

  • More Diagnostic Advantages

A traditional X-ray is a fixed image. It cannot be modified or enhanced. Here the digital X-ray offers a clear advantage in evaluating your teeth and the bone structure surrounding them.

Just as you can enlarge certain types of images on your computer without blurring or losing detail, a digital X-ray uses computer software to magnify images while keeping their details sharp. They can also be enhanced through brightness and contrast applications to make details stand out even more.

There is even digital subtraction radiography software available that can be used to compare recent images to older ones, removing (“subtracting”) all the similarities in the two images to display only the changes in the two—even small changes—that have taken place over time.

  • Less Exposure to Radiation

Modern technology means traditional X-rays expose patients to less radiation than ever before, but digital X-rays have significant advantages here as well. Radiation exposure can be reduced by an additional 10%, 20%, or more with a digital radiograph.

And while all types of dental X-rays expose you to very little radiation, it’s always best to reduce exposure whenever possible.

  • More Convenient for Sharing and Transmitting

If you need to share your X-rays with another dentist or physician, digital technology allows you to simply have them e-mailed to another office or multiple offices. You no longer need to worry about preserving physical copies, either.

  • Less Waste

Unlike traditional X-rays, digital X-rays don’t need to be processed, so you save time in the office. And while the processing time is not significant (usually several minutes), if you need to repeat some X-rays for a clearer picture, or require different images for several teeth, this time can add up.

Digital X-rays are also more eco-friendly.  The fact that they don’t need to be developed means that the chemicals used to process traditional films are no longer necessary—which also means that there is no need to dispose of chemical waste products afterward.

Our goal is to provide you with the safest, most efficient, and most effective treatment possible. Digital X-rays are an important tool for orthodontists, helping us to provide you with the best treatment plan possible. If you have any questions about digital X-ray technology, contact our Creve Couer or Saint Charles, MO office. We’re happy to explain the science—and the benefits—behind this high-tech diagnostic tool.

There’s an App for That!

November 18th, 2020

Modern orthodontic technology has led to major changes in the world of braces. Brackets are smaller and come in both metal and ceramic materials. Wires are more efficient and more comfortable. Elastic bands come in a variety of vivid colors, or you can choose brackets which work without bands. You can even decide on clear aligners, with no brackets or wires at all.

And since modern software technology has given us a program for just about everything, it’s no surprise that you can install apps to help make your modern orthodontic treatment more convenient and more enjoyable. What can an orthodontic app do for you?

  • Keep Track of Your Appointments

There are many apps out there that are designed to help you keep your treatment on track with appointment reminders. This sounds pretty basic, but when you have school, work, sports, and activities filling your days, it doesn’t hurt to get a timely reminder that our Creve Couer or Saint Charles, MO office will be expecting you in the near future. And, since missed appointments delay your progress, you are making sure you achieve your beautiful, healthy smile in the shortest amount of time.

  • Mapping Out Your Routine

You know how important it is to keep track of the hours you wear your aligners. Apps can help remove the guesswork with a timer to make sure you’ve got the hours you need to progress to the next phase of treatment. Apps can also remind you when you’re ready for a new aligner, and let you track your progress in one convenient place with selfies after each aligner transition. After all, it’s really exciting to see just how far you’ve come.

If you wear traditional braces, there are apps with very helpful reminders for you, too. For example, forgetting to wear your elastics can really delay your progress. An app can let you know when it’s time to wear your rubber bands and keep track of your hours. It can also remind you to replace your bands regularly, because elastics become less elastic through the day. And take advantage of the countdown feature some apps offer to see just when you can expect to be done with your treatment when you keep on top of your routine.

  • Brushing and Flossing? Apply Yourself!

A big part of making your smile look its best after your orthodontic treatment is making sure you take care of your smile during your treatment. This means keeping up with daily brushing and flossing, and using proper technique. Two minutes brushing, twice each day, and flossing at least once a day are the basic recommendations for preventing cavities and gum disease. (During orthodontic treatment, you might need to increase your brushing and flossing—ask us how often is best for your needs.)

And to help you make sure you get a solid two minutes of brushing twice a day? Try an app that plays two minutes of your favorite music with a perfectly timed brushing playlist. Apps can also send you brushing and flossing reminders, let you know when it’s time to change your toothbrush (every three months, please!), and give you tips on better brushing and flossing techniques.

  • Have Fun with Your Appearance

Not sure just how you’ll look in braces? Get a preview with an app that uses one of your selfies to model different types and styles of braces, brackets, bands, and aligners. Metal brackets? Ceramic? Elastic bands in your favorite colors? No bands at all? Hardly visible aligners? Find the look that works for you!

  • When Problems Happen

Some apps will even guide you through common orthodontic problems, such as applying wax to an irritating bracket or relieving discomfort. Always remember, though, an app is not an orthodontist. If you have a serious problem or concern, call us immediately.

  • Orthodontist Approved

If you’ve checked out the orthodontic apps available for your operating system, you know that there are a lot of options out there. If you’re looking for an app providing information about your treatment, tips for dealing with your braces, or a convenient way to track your progress or even be part of a community, you want the best information, tips, and conveniences possible—and hopefully all in one place.

To help you find the best orthodontic app for you, talk to Dr. Zachary Varble! We might know just the app for your specific needs. Whether you choose aligners or brackets and wires, consider all the wireless options that can make your life easier, your dental care more complete, and—just maybe—your orthodontic experience a little more fun.

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