Posts for: December, 2014
Most of us are quite familiar with what traditional braces look like. But occasionally we see more complex-looking devices being worn by young orthodontic patients: thicker wires that extend outside the mouth, with straps that may go behind the neck or over the chin. What are these devices, and why are they sometimes needed?
In general, orthodontic appliances with external parts braced by the head, neck or chin are referred to as “headgear.” These devices may be used to handle a number of particular orthodontic situations, but they all have one thing in common: They provide the additional anchorage needed to move teeth into better positions.
It may come as a surprise that teeth, which seem so solid, can actually be moved fairly easily over time. This is because teeth are not fixed directly into bone, but are instead held in place by a hammock-like structure called the periodontal ligament. Using a light, controlled force — such as the force of springy wires and elastics in traditional braces — teeth can be moved slowly through the jaw bone, like a stick being pulled through sand.
Of course, to pull a stick through sand, you need a firm anchorage — your legs, for example, bracing against a rock. Most of the time, the back teeth, with their large, multiple roots, provide plenty of support. But sometimes, the back teeth alone aren’t enough to do the job.
If a very large space between teeth is being closed, for example, the back teeth might be pulled forward as the front teeth are pulled back; this could result in poor alignment and bite problems. In other cases, the front teeth may need to be pulled forward instead of back. The back teeth can’t help here; this is a job for headgear.
Some types of headgear have a strap that goes behind the head or neck; they use the entire head as an anchorage. Other types, called “reverse pull” headgear, have a strap that comes over the chin or the forehead; they can pull teeth forward. Headgear can even influence the proper growth of facial structures — that’s why it is usually seen on preteens, whose growth isn’t yet complete.
Headgear is usually worn for 12 hours per day, for a limited period of time. In some cases, rather than headgear, appliances called “temporary anchorage devices” (TADS) may be recommended. These are tiny screws that are implanted into the jawbone in a minimally invasive procedure, and serve a similar function.
While it may not look pretty, orthodontic headgear is capable of moving teeth into their proper positions in a relatively short period of time — and ending up with a great-looking smile is what orthodontics is all about.
Olivia Newton-John, now in her early 60's, is still a fresh-faced picture of health — with a radiant smile to match. How does she do it? She does it with healthy habits learned from her German-born mother, Irene.
“I love greens, and as many organic vegetables as possible,” Olivia recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “From spinach to salads to beets — pretty much any and all greens!”
Olivia credits her mom with instilling her lifelong love of healthy foods. Irene used dark bread rather than white bread for sandwiches and even made her own yogurt — which she used as a topping on baked fruit for dessert.
“Growing up, my mum really taught us some great eating habits,” Olivia told the magazine. “When I was a girl in school, all of my friends would have cakes and cookies and fun foods but my mum was all about teaching us to eat healthy foods and to be very aware of what we were putting into our bodies. At the time I was annoyed about it, but looking back now I thank her for teaching me at an early age to eat healthily.”
Irene paid particular attention to her children's oral health. “My mum always made us brush and floss after every meal so, once again, like the foods we ate, she taught us early about the importance of great dental hygiene,” said Olivia, who has an older brother and sister.
As a mom herself, Olivia passed those healthy habits down to her daughter, Chloe.
“I always insisted on regular dental checkups and limited sugar, especially in soft drinks — they were never in our fridge,” she said.
Parents do play an important role in developing healthy oral habits from the very beginning, starting with proper tooth-brushing techniques. By age 2, a brushing routine should be established using a smear of fluoride toothpaste. For older toddlers, parents can use a child's size soft toothbrush with water and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Children need help brushing until at least age 6, when they can generally take over brushing by themselves and also learn to floss.
The point of a good daily oral hygiene routine is to remove the film of bacteria that collects daily along the gum line, and in the nooks and crannies of teeth. Effective daily removal of this biofilm will do more to prevent tooth decay and promote lifelong dental health than anything else.
If you would like to learn more about preventing tooth decay or teaching your child to brush and floss correctly, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Olivia Newton-John, please see “Olivia Newton-John.” Dear Doctor also has more on “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
As a parent, the task of guiding your children through their physical, mental and social development can sometimes seem overwhelming. That doesn’t have to be the case with their dental development — that’s because we’re one of your most reliable support partners for oral health. We’re available not only to treat problems as they arise, but to also offer expertise and resources that can help you help your children establish life-long oral health.
Here are just a few ways we can help guide you along the path to a brighter dental future for your children:
Age One Dental Visit. A healthy life is built on healthy habits — and there’s no better habit for great dental health than regular checkups. We recommend your child’s first visit with us around their first birthday. Beginning this early not only helps us identify any emerging dental problems, it can also help the child — and you — become more comfortable with visiting the dentist. As they grow older they’ll think nothing of their regular visits in the dentist’s chair.
Help! While your child’s first teeth coming in are exciting milestones, the teething process can be extremely frustrating. And, when those same primary teeth give way to their permanent versions, you’ll develop a new set of concerns about their development. By establishing a long-term trust relationship with us, we can offer a wealth of knowledge and tips (as well as needed reassurance) concerning the various stages of your child’s dental development.
“Do as I Do.” Dental visits are important — but the greatest contribution to long-term dental care is a daily habit of proper brushing and flossing, which should start as soon as your child’s first teeth begin to appear. “Modeling” is the best approach for instilling this habit in your child — performing hygiene tasks together and allowing them to learn how to do it from you. To be sure you’re passing on the proper technique, we’ll be glad to provide you with instruction on brushing and flossing — for your sake as well as theirs.
Although rewarding, raising a child is a tough job. When it comes to their oral health, though, we can help make that job a little easier.
If you would like more information on building the right foundation for your child's dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”