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Which Retainer is Right for You?

May 11th, 2022

Brackets and wires, clear aligners, lingual braces, regular brackets, self-ligating braces, elastics, spacers—you and your orthodontist have had to narrow down a lot of choices to discover the best treatment for your orthodontic needs. Now that the end of treatment is in sight, there’s one more important choice left—your retainer!

Do I Need a Retainer?

No retainer at all is probably the one option that’s off the table from the start. It’s not just your teeth that have changed position; it’s the bone and ligaments holding them that have changed as well.

A retainer prevents your teeth from moving away from their new, ideal location while your bones and ligaments are stabilizing. This process takes months, so keeping your teeth in place as your bone rebuilds and regains density is crucial.

What Are Your Retainer Options?

Three of the most popular retainer options available at our Chicago, IL office include:

  • Hawley Retainers

This is the traditional retainer, with wires to hold your retainer in place and to keep the teeth properly aligned. The wires are attached to an acrylic plate molded to fit the roof of your mouth or around your bottom teeth. You can customize the acrylic base with colors and patterns for a one-of-a-kind look.

Hawley retainers are adjustable, so minor realignments can take place if necessary. The wire in front of your teeth makes these retainers visible, but, after several months of wearing them all day long, you may end up wearing them only at night.

Hawley retainers are removable, so you need to make sure they are safely in a case when you’re not wearing them. Minor damage can often be repaired, but it’s better to be proactive.

  • Clear Plastic Retainers

These retainers look like clear aligners. They are formed by heating a thin piece of plastic and vacuum-forming it around a model of your teeth to create a custom, comfortable fit.

Clear retainers are almost invisible when worn, and can be removed when you eat or drink—which they should be, because food particles and liquids can be trapped inside them.

When you’re not wearing it, a clear retainer should always be in its case, because it must be replaced if the plastic is warped, cracked, or broken.

  • Fixed Retainers

A fixed retainer is a small single wire bonded to the back of specific teeth, commonly the six bottom front teeth. Because fixed retainers don’t allow the teeth to move at all, they are often recommended for patients who had serious misalignments, extremely crowded teeth, or teeth with large gaps between them.

Many patients like fixed retainers because they keep teeth in perfect alignment, they won’t be seen, they’re comfortably small, and they can’t end up in the cafeteria recycling bin because you forget to replace them after lunch!

Fixed retainers are usually quite durable, but you’ll need to pay attention to your diet, because crunchy and chewy foods can put pressure on the retainer and damage it. These retainers also require special care with brushing and flossing, to make sure the teeth bonded to the wire stay clean and plaque-free.

The Right Retainer

The process of stabilizing your teeth in the jaw takes time. Choosing your retainer will depend in part on how long and how often you need to wear it: fulltime for months or for years, at night after several months of day-and-night wear, or long-term to make sure your orthodontic work lasts.

And there are other variables, as well. Your retainer might need to be removable. It might need to be adjustable. You might need a retainer for just your upper teeth, just your lower teeth, or both. All these factors and more need to be taken into consideration before deciding on your ideal retainer.

Fixed, removable, wire, plastic, colorful, clear—which retainer is right for you? The one that helps you retain the beautiful smile you’ve worked for all these months. Talk to Dr. Karen Seder to discover the retainer that will protect that smile for years to come.

Are you too sensitive?

May 4th, 2022

We’re not talking about tearing up at the end of a sad movie, or that uncomfortable scratchy feeling you get from a coarse wool sweater—no shame in that kind of sensitivity! But it is a shame if you’re feeling unpleasant tooth sensitivity, especially while you’re wearing braces. No fear—we have some helpful ideas to make you more comfortable as you create your healthy, confident smile.

What do we mean by tooth sensitivity? You know it if you’ve felt it. Pain when you have a cold drink. Or a hot one. Or a sweet treat. Wincing when a light breeze hits your smile. Discomfort after an adjustment.

Fortunately, these annoying twinges can be avoided or eased with some proactive practices.

Keep Up with Your Brushing and Flossing

The oral bacteria in plaque break down enamel when they’re left on the teeth for too long. The result is a cavity, which leaves your sensitive dentin, the layer of the tooth between the enamel and the inner pulp chamber, exposed to elements which can trigger pain. These all-too-common elements include heat, cold, air, or sweet foods. If you suspect you have a cavity, a visit to the dentist will make sure your tooth is cleaned and filled to prevent further damage.

Better yet, prevent cavities before they cause tooth sensitivity. It can be harder to keep your teeth their cleanest while you’re in braces, but it’s more important than ever. You don’t want to have brackets and wires removed, even temporarily, to treat a cavity! You can keep decay at bay by:

  • Brushing after every meal and snack.
  • Flossing whenever necessary, making sure to clean around your brackets and wires.
  • Using cleaning tools made for braces for the easiest and most effective dental hygiene.

Avoid Aggressive Brushing

If you’re using anything other than a soft toothbrush, time for a shopping trip! Using a stiff bristled brush is almost always too abrasive for even the strongest enamel. And vigorous brushing is more harmful than helpful. Poor tools and poor technique can wear away enamel, and, when enamel is worn away, the more sensitive dentin is exposed. Your gums can also be injured, exposing the tops of your roots—which are more sensitive than the enameled crowns.

If your teeth are sensitive because of abrasive brushing, talk to Dr. Karen Seder about possible solutions for keeping your teeth both clean and strong.

  • Use a softer-bristled brush.
  • Try toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth.
  • Practice proper brushing technique. Gently rub, don’t scrub!

Care for Yourself after Adjustments

Your teeth might be sensitive after an adjustment. This discomfort is normal, and should pass in a few days. In the meantime, treat yourself kindly.

  • Brush as usual, taking special care to brush gently.
  • Fill your menu with soft and soothing foods. Cool treats like classic ice cream and pudding, or healthier choices like frozen yogurt and fruit smoothies. Comfort foods like cream soups and mashed potatoes. Or all-day breakfasts of oatmeal, pillowy pancakes, or scrambled eggs.
  • Take over the counter medication as recommended and as necessary.

Be sensitive to your needs while you’re in braces. If you’re feeling any kind of tooth sensitivity, talk to Dr. Karen Seder at our Chicago, IL office. We have solutions which will make sure you’re both comfortable and twinge-free on your journey to a healthy, attractive smile!

Be Prepared!

April 27th, 2022

When you’re busy at school or work, when you’re on vacation, when you’re on the road to adventure—preparation helps everything go smoothly. Especially when the unexpected happens! So, how can you be prepared for any orthodontic and dental situations which might arise? By creating these useful—and portable—travel kits.

Everyday Basics Kit

Dentists recommend brushing twice a day and flossing at least once each day for clean and healthy teeth. But after a long day at school or work with no time to head home before your date, or a garlic-heavy lunch in the cafeteria, or a dash from the classroom to after-school activities, you might feel like there’s no time like the present to give your smile a bit of a boost.

Be prepared with a small travel bag filled with these easy-to-carry basics to get you through your busy day with clean teeth, fresh breath, and a confident smile:

  • Toothbrush and case—and do make sure your case is ventilated so your brush can air dry. Bacteria love a closed, damp environment!
  • Toothpaste
  • Mini-bottle of mouthwash
  • Small mirror—to check for any lunch leftovers
  • Dental floss—to remove any lunch leftovers. Use braces-friendly dental floss if you have traditional braces.
  • Dental Wax—to cover any uncomfortable wires or brackets
  • Interproximal brushes—to remove food particles from around your braces and between your teeth
  • Extra rubber bands
  • Aligner/Retainer case—keep your aligner or retainer safe and clean while you’re eating

Flight Gear

Getting set to travel by air again after this long lay-over? Your basic kit will do the job with just a few minor additions and alterations.

  • A travel version of your manual or electric toothbrush and travel case
  • Plug adapter or voltage converter as needed for your electric brush if you’re visiting another country
  • Quart size, resealable plastic bag to hold your carry-on supplies. Toothpaste and mouthwash are included in the list of items which need to fit carry-on guidelines.
  • Travel-size toothpaste—3.4 oz (100 ml) or smaller tube size. (And an almost-empty regular size tube doesn’t count!)
  • Travel-size mouthwash—also in a 3.4 oz (100 ml) or smaller container
  • Our Chicago, IL office’s phone number. In case of emergency, Dr. Karen Seder can give you advice on how to handle any problem which might arise when you’re far from home.

Looking for Adventure?

If you’re camping in the forest, leaving for the lake, going for a road trip, or heading out on any travel adventure, you’ll be bringing the dental care basics, of course. We’d also like to recommend some items to take along in the event of a dental emergency while you’re away from home:

  • Dental mirror
  • Cotton rolls
  • Over-the-counter pain relief—including a tube of oral pain relief gel
  • Ice pack
  • Dental wax—this handy item not only protects against sharp wires, it can cover the sharp edges of a broken bracket
  • Temporary fillings—to protect your sensitive tooth if a filling or crown is lost
  • Tooth preservation kit—to protect a dislodged tooth in case it can be reimplanted. (This means seeing a dentist very quickly, usually within 30 minutes of the accident.)

And, if you’ll be mountain biking, water skiing, or enjoying any activity where there’s potential for impact, don’t forget to pack your mouthguard!

Preparation is key to eliminating a lot of stress in our daily lives, and who couldn’t use a bit of stress-relief these days? Make room in your bag, locker, desk, luggage, or backpack for some portable, lightweight dental necessities. Be prepared to share your confident, healthy smile no matter what life has in store!

Talking Over Your Underbite

April 20th, 2022

You’ve been told that you have a malocclusion called an “underbite.” Let’s look at just what this diagnosis means, and what it means for you.

Just what is an “underbite”?

A malocclusion is another way of saying that you have a problem with your bite, which is the way your jaws and teeth fit together when you bite down. In a typical bite, the front top teeth project slightly beyond, and slightly overlap, the bottom teeth.

An underbite, on the other hand, results when the lower teeth and jaw extend further forward than the upper teeth and jaw, causing the bottom teeth to overlap the top teeth.

What causes an underbite?

Underbites tend to be genetic, and run in families, so, most often, an underbite is something you’re born with. The size of your jaws, the shape of your teeth, or both will affect your bite.

A smaller number of underbites develop because of injuries or early oral habits, such as prolonged and vigorous thumb sucking or tongue thrusting.

How do we treat an underbite?

Your treatment will depend on the type and severity of your underbite, and your age when treatment occurs.

  • Braces and Aligners

If your underbite is a slight one, caused, for example, by crowded or overly large teeth, braces or clear aligners can help move the teeth into proper alignment.

  • Functional Appliances

If the underbite is caused by a problem with upper and lower jaw development, devices called functional appliances can be used to help guide the growth of the jawbones while a child’s bones are still growing and forming.

If you’re a young patient, two appliances commonly used to help correct an underbite are palatal expanders, which gradually widen the upper jaw if it’s too narrow, and reverse pull headgear, which fits both inside the mouth and outside on the face, and provides a steady, gentle pull to encourage the forward growth of the upper jaw.

  • Surgical treatment

In some severe cases, surgical treatment can correct an underbite by reshaping the jawbone itself and positioning it further back to align properly with the upper jaw.

Why treat your underbite?

A serious underbite can cause damaged teeth and enamel, painful problems with the temporomandibular joint, headaches and facial pain, sleep apnea, difficulty chewing, eating, and speaking, and can affect confidence and self-esteem.

By following your treatment plan, you’ll not only prevent these consequences, but you’ll achieve major benefits—a healthy, comfortable bite, and an attractive, confident smile. Want to know more? Talk it over with Dr. Karen Seder at our Chicago, IL office for all the information you’ll need!

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