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Dental X-rays: The Inside Story

March 10th, 2021

We’re all friends here, so if you sometimes feel a bit nervous before your orthodontic appointments, no judging! Ask us about any worries you might have. We are happy to explain procedures, equipment, and your orthodontic options so you know exactly what is going on during treatment. And if X-rays are a concern, we can put your mind at ease here as well.

What Exactly Are X-rays?

Sometimes patients feel reluctant about the process of imaging because X-rays are a kind of radiation. But the fact is, radiation is all around us. We are exposed to radiation naturally from our soil and water, sun and air, as well as from modern inventions such as cell phones, Wi-Fi, and air travel.

Why is radiation so common? Because matter throughout the universe constantly gives off energy, and the energy that is emitted is called radiation. This radiation takes two forms—as particles (which we don’t need to consider!) and as traveling rays. This second type is known as electromagnetic radiation, created by photons traveling in regular waves at the speed of light.

We are exposed to electromagnetic radiation every day, because, whether we can see them or not, these different wavelengths and frequencies create various forms of light. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays are all part of the electromagnetic light spectrum.

Different types of radiation on this spectrum have different wavelengths and different frequencies, and produce different amounts of energy. Longer wavelengths mean lower frequencies and less energy. Because X-rays have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies than, for example, radio waves and visible light, they have more energy.

How Do Dental X-rays Work?

An X-ray machine produces a very narrow beam of X-ray photons. This beam passes through the body and captures images of our teeth and jaws on special film or digital sensors inside the mouth (intraoral X-rays), or on film or sensors located outside the mouth (extraoral X-rays). These X-ray images are also known as radiographs.

Why are X-rays able to take pictures inside our bodies? Remember that higher energy we talked about earlier? This energy enables X-rays to pass through the softer, less dense parts of our bodies, which are seen as gray background in a radiograph. But some substances in our bodies absorb X-rays, such as the calcium found in our bones and teeth. This is why they show up as sharp white images in radiographs. 

There are many different types of dental X-rays used in orthodontics, including:

  • Occlusal X-rays, which show the entire arch of teeth in the upper or lower jaw.
  • Panoramic X-rays, which use a special machine to rotate around the head to create a complete two-dimensional picture of teeth and jaws.
  • Cephalometric X-rays, which show the patient’s entire profile, and the position and development of the teeth and jaws.
  • Cone Beam Computed Tomography, an external device which uses digital images to create a three-dimensional picture of the teeth and jaws.

Why Do We Need X-rays?

You might have noticed that these X-rays, unlike, for example, typical bitewing X-rays, don’t take images of individual teeth. That is because orthodontists deal with the teeth in relationship to each other and to the structures around them.

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 us 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

How Do Orthodontists Make Sure Your X-rays Are As Safe As They Can Be?

First of all, the amount of radiation you are exposed to with a dental X-ray is very small. In fact, a typical panoramic X-ray provides roughly the same amount of radiation we are exposed to through our natural surroundings in just one day. Even so, Dr. Zachary Varble and our team are committed to making sure patients are exposed to as little radiation as possible.

Radiologists, the physicians who specialize in imaging procedures and diagnoses, recommend that all dentists and doctors follow the safety principal known as ALARA: “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest X-ray exposure necessary to achieve precise diagnostic results for all dental and medical patients.

The guidelines recommended for X-rays and other imaging have been designed to make sure all patients have the safest experience possible whenever they visit the dentist or the doctor. We ensure that imaging is safe and effective in a number of ways:

  • We take X-rays only when they are necessary.
  • We provide protective gear, such as apron shields and thyroid collars, whenever needed.
  • We make use of modern X-ray equipment, for both traditional X-rays and digital X-rays, which exposes patients to a lower amount of radiation than ever before.
  • When treating children, we set exposure times based on each child’s size and age.

And now that we’ve talked about some things you might like to know,

Please Let Us Know If . . .

  • You are changing orthodontists and have had previous orthodontic X-rays taken. Ask to have your older X-rays sent to our office so we have a complete record of your orthodontic history. (With digital X-ray technology, this transfer can be accomplished with e-mail!)
  • You’re pregnant, or think you might be pregnant. Even though radiation exposure is very low with dental radiographs, unless there is a dental emergency, dentists and doctors recommend against X-rays for pregnant patients.

X-rays play an important part in helping us make sure your orthodontic treatment provides you with a lifetime of beautiful and healthy smiles. If you have any concerns, contact our Creve Couer or Saint Charles, MO office. When it comes to making sure you’re comfortable with all of our procedures, including any X-rays that might be necessary, we’re happy to give you all the inside information!

I Only Have One Crooked Tooth. Should I See an Orthodontist?

February 17th, 2021

Your smile is just about perfect. There’s just that one tooth that’s out of place. So, do you really need to see an orthodontist?

Absolutely! Why? There are several good reasons.

First, let’s check to make sure there is no physical problem causing that turned tooth. A crooked tooth might result from an early oral trauma while the tooth is developing, or a baby tooth lost too early, or the loss of a nearby adult tooth. But a sudden change in a tooth’s orientation might also be caused by a cyst or a tumor. If you notice any changes in your tooth’s position, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Zachary Varble.

Second, we want to make sure your bite is aligned properly. If your tooth is crooked due to crowding by your other teeth, or if it has rotated a bit because there is too much space between your teeth, your bite might be affected as well. Malocclusions, or bad bites, can lead to a number of unpleasant consequences, including headaches, jaw pain, and increased pressure and stress on the teeth.

Third, a crooked tooth can lead to more difficulty brushing and flossing between and around the teeth, which increases the chance of tooth decay.

Fourth, we provide the professional medical care you need. Some people with a turned tooth attempt self-help with rubber bands, dental floss, or other home remedies. Not only is this unlikely to work, it can actually lead to infection, root problems, and even tooth loss.

Maybe there are no health concerns causing, or caused by, your crooked tooth. Your bite is strong, and you like your unique smile just the way it is. In that case, smile on!

But if you are interested in aligning that one crooked tooth with the rest, give our Creve Couer or Saint Charles, MO office a call, and we’ll get to the root (literally!) of the problem. Depending on the reason your tooth is twisted, we’ll suggest the braces or clear aligners that will provide your most effective orthodontic treatment, and give you safe and lasting options for achieving the smile you’ve always wanted. Perfect!

The Origins of Valentine's Day

February 10th, 2021

When we think of Valentine’s Day, we think of cards, flowers, and chocolates. We think of girlfriends celebrating being single together and couples celebrating their relationship. We think of all things pink and red taking over every pharmacy and grocery store imaginable. But what Dr. Zachary Varble and our team would like to think of is when and how this joyous, love-filled day began.

Several martyrs’ stories are associated with the origins of Valentine’s Day. One of the most widely known suggests that Valentine was a Roman priest who went against the law at a time when marriage had been banned for young men. He continued to perform marriage ceremonies for young lovers in secret and when he was discovered, he was sentenced to death.

Another tale claims that Valentine was killed for helping Christians escape from Roman prisons. Yet another says that Valentine himself sent the first valentine when he fell in love with a girl and sent her a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”

Other claims suggest that it all began when Geoffrey Chaucer, an Englishman often referred to as the father of English literature, wrote a poem that was the first to connect St. Valentine to romance. From there, it evolved into a day when lovers would express their feelings for each other. Cue the flowers, sweets, and cards!

Regardless of where the holiday came from, these stories all have one thing in common: They celebrate the love we are capable of as human beings. And though that’s largely in a romantic spirit these days, it doesn’t have to be. You could celebrate love for a sister, a friend, a parent, even a pet.

We hope all our patients know how much we love them! Wishing you all a very happy Valentine’s Day from the team at Varble Orthodontics!

Five “Don’ts” When You Wear Aligners

February 3rd, 2021

Choosing clear aligners was a great decision on your part! Straight teeth and a healthy bite? Subtle, almost invisible aligners? 3D technology custom-designed just for you? All the positives we’ve come to expect from your choice of orthodontic treatment.

So, don’t sabotage your good work! Here are five negative habits that will prevent you from getting the most out of your aligners:

  1. Don’t forget to keep them clean

One of the reasons you chose clear aligners is because they are nearly invisible. But careless cleaning habits can leave them discolored, scratched, or cloudy. Soaking in colored mouthwash can stain aligners. Using abrasive cleaning products or brushing with a heavy hand can cause scratches. And failing to keep aligners clean can lead to a buildup of cloudy plaque. Talk to us! We know all the best products and practices to keep your aligners their most sanitary—and most invisible.

  1. Don’t eat with your aligners in place

Aligners are simply not meant to be used while you eat. Chewing puts too much stress and pressure on them, and can lead to aligner damage and even breakage. Because you will be wearing your aligners for most of the day, planning ahead for your meals is key. One bonus: it’s a great way to eliminate unconscious snacking.

  1. Don’t let foods or drinks stain your aligners

It’s great that you take your aligners out to eat, but do you remember to brush before you replace them? Foods like spaghetti sauce and blueberries that stick to your enamel can stain your aligners. And it’s always best to remove your aligners before drinking a beverage. If a drink can stain your teeth, it can stain your aligners. Red wines, dark juices, colas, and, of course, coffee and tea can cause discoloration. Another thing to consider? Food particles in the trays can not only stain your aligners (and your enamel), but keep your teeth in contact with the acids and sugars that lead to cavities.

  1. Don’t run hot

Aligners are formed using heat, so it makes sense that heat can de-form them as well. Drinking hot beverages with your aligners in place can change their shape—and even subtle changes will affect your progress. Since warped aligners might have to be replaced, save the piping hot beverages for those times you’re not wearing aligners. It’s best not to clean them with very hot water as well.

  1. Don’t forget to wear them

Aligners need to be worn approximately 20-22 hours each day. If you’re not putting in the required time, you’re delaying your progress. If you’re having trouble with scheduling meals or activities, talk to Dr. Zachary Varble when you visit our Creve Couer or Saint Charles, MO office. We have suggestions.

But let’s not just dwell on the negatives. We like to focus on the positive, too, so here’s the one item on your “Do List” that will absolutely make your aligner experience the best it can be:

Do follow our recommendations!

Clean your aligners with the proper tools and products—and clean your teeth and aligners after every meal and snack. Remember that water is the only guaranteed problem-free beverage. Don’t expose aligners to heat or eat with them in place, because they can be warped or damaged. And be sure to wear them as long as you need to each day—this will keep your treatment on track and on schedule.

Enjoying a future filled with beautiful, healthy smiles? That’s not just a positive—it’s a happily-ever-after!

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