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Benefits of straight teeth: Not just for looks

Senior couple on cycle ride in countryside with straight teeth and being active and healthyRecently, a patient asked me, “Why are you always suggesting I straighten my teeth?”

This patient has had crooked teeth all his life, and his misalignment and imperfect smile don’t bother him. After all, he told me, he is happily married and has a great job, so what’s the point of spending money on braces?

After this conversation, I concluded that we dental professionals are not doing a very effective job of educating our patients on the health benefits of straight teeth. Straight teeth are about so much more than a pretty smile.

Not that appearance isn’t valuable. A perfect smile can raise self-esteem and create a great first impression, which may increase your confidence levels in your professional and personal life.

But while self-esteem is important, there are also some serious health reasons to have your teeth straightened. Some of these may surprise you:

  • Periodontitis: People who have crooked teeth are at much greater risk for tooth decay, gum disease (or periodontitis) and tooth loss. In fact, almost everyone who has crooked teeth has some gum disease. The reason? Misaligned teeth are more difficult to clean, which can lead to plaque buildup – and plaque is the cause of decay and gum disease.
  • Heart disease and stroke: According to some studies, including one by the National Institutes of Health, the oral bacteria that cause plaque also may contribute to heart disease and stroke. More research is needed to prove cause and effect, but it’s thought that oral bacteria release toxins or travel into the bloodstream, helping cause plaque buildup in the arteries.
  • Diabetes: Diabetics usually know they are more prone to periodontitis and must take diligent care of their teeth and gums, but now studies indicate the reverse could also be true: The inflammation associated with gum disease may play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. The research into this link is continuing.
  • Tooth breakage: If your teeth are misaligned, they are more likely to chip or break. Protruding front teeth, or “buck teeth,” are especially prone to breaking.
  • Traumatic occlusion: This is a dental term for teeth that hit too hard at the wrong angles. Chewing with teeth that are not properly aligned can cause notching of the teeth, gum recession and the loss of bone surrounding the teeth. Once traumatic occlusion starts, we know the patient will spend many hours in our office getting fillings, crowns and root canals, and even having teeth extracted. Two medical problems that can occur with traumatic occlusion are chronic headaches or neck pain.
  • Digestive problems: A bad bite can lead to ineffective chewing. Improperly processing your food could lead to digestive difficulties.
  • Poor speech: Misaligned teeth can affect speech patterns, and straightening your teeth could correct them.

There are several options for straightening your teeth, but our office believes Invisalign, or clear braces, is the best. Invisalign corrects your bite using a series of clear plastic trays that are practically invisible. These trays can be removed so that you can eat and clean your teeth properly. I wrote a previous post on the benefits of Invisalign.

For a consultation on whether Invisalign would benefit your bite or smile, please contact my office at info@carmichaelfamilydentist.com or 916-961-8454.

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Top 10 Least Known Advantages of Invisalign

I’ve been offering my patients in Carmichael, California, the option of Invisalign, or invisible braces, since 2006. Rather than filling your mouth with unsightly and uncomfortable metal wires, Invisalign straightens your teeth using a series of clear, plastic trays call aligners. When you’re wearing them, they are practically invisible.

That’s one of the most obvious Invisalign advantages – no one will know you’re wearing braces. And, of course, Invisalign does a great job of perfecting your alignment.

But, as we have been offering Invisalign for the past several years, we have learned of some other advantages, often reported by the wearers, that you may not expect. We’ve compiled these into a list we’re calling the “Top 10 Least Known Advantages of Invisalign.” Like David Letterman, we’ll present this list upside down.

10. The aligners can help protect your teeth.

Invisalign helps protect your teeth

If you clench or grind your teeth at night, this is good news for you:  the Invisalign tray acts like a night guard to protect your teeth and gums from wearing away from grinding.

Here’s another side use for the aligner:  place fluoride gel in it and wear it once or twice a week for about 30 minutes to strengthen your teeth, desensitize them from cold and make them more impervious to the acid attack from the bacteria that cause cavities. (Do discuss this with your own dentist first.)

9. The aligners can help give you true “pearly whites.”

Invisalign aligners can be used as tooth whitening trays.

You can use the Invisalign trays as if they were at-home whitening trays. Simply place the whitening agent into the aligner and wear as directed by your dentist. Your teeth will be whitened and straightened at the same time!

8. Dental cleanings will be shorter and more effective.

Dental cleanings are faster with Invisalign than with braces

I can’t count the number of times I have seen food and plaque stuck next to someone’s metal braces when they come into the office for their cleaning. That food may have been there for a long time because it’s hard to brush next to a metal bracket. Over time, this constant plaque will cause some pretty unpleasant problems. The gum tissue may grow over the teeth and brackets, and that tissue will need to be removed when the braces are taken off. Sometimes, the gum growth covers the brackets and wires, requiring the gum surgery to be done before the brackets are removed.

Invisalign is different. Because of its design, it doesn’t cause plaque retention. When an Invisalign wearer comes into our office for a routine cleaning, we don’t find excess gum tissue. The dental cleanings are easier for the patient and the dentist – and oral health at home is simpler, too, as you’ll see next.

7. Taking care of your teeth at home is easier.

It's easy to take care of your teeth with Invisalign.

With metal braces, you have to use special toothbrushes, and flossing is nearly impossible. With Invisalign, you need only take out your aligners to floss and brush your teeth just as you normally would. No special implements are required.

6. You speak more clearly.

With Invisalign, speak clearly and maintain your professionalism at work, and your confidence in social situations.

Metal braces take up a lot of room in your mouth, making speech difficult for some people. The Invisalign aligners are thin, and your lips and tongue adjust much more quickly to wearing them. It usually takes only a day or two to get used to talking with them. Invisalign has another advantage, too: Since you can keep the trays out for a portion of the day, you can simply remove them (briefly) for a speech, important meeting or date.

5. Invisalign can help relieve TMJ and neck pain.

Invisalign can help relieve TMJ and neck pain.

Many of my Invisalign patients are surprised to find the aligners help reduce pain from temperomandibular joint disorders (TMJ or jaw pain). The aligners can deprogram the muscles that are involved in clenching and grinding your teeth – which can cause TMJ – and may relieve jaw and neck pain and even headaches. That happened with my very first Invisalign patient. Before being fitted with her aligners, she had suffered weekly migraines. After just a week with Invisalign, her migraines disappeared. This may not work for everyone, but it is a possibility.

4. Correct alignment of your teeth can prevent ‘traumatic occlusion’ (and save you money).

Save money by avoiding future dental problems when you straighten your teeth with Invisalign.

When crooked teeth hit each other incorrectly as you chew, what dentists call “traumatic occlusion,” severe problems can result. We’re talking about gum recession, bone loss, loose teeth and the loss of teeth. No matter how clean you keep your teeth and gums, if your teeth come together at bad angles, you will likely have serious dental problems eventually. Straightening your teeth, especially when you are young, may seem expensive at the time, but it can save you many times the cost of your braces in corrective treatment for traumatic occlusion.

3. Fewer trips to the dentist will save you time.

Save time with fewer trips to the dentist with Invisalign versus braces.

Invisalign patients typically wear one aligner for two weeks, and you will receive two or three trays with each office visit. That means you can go as long as six weeks between orthodontist visits. My patients are all busy people, and they appreciate making fewer trips to my office!

2. Invisalign helps dieters lose weight.

When you wear Invisalign, it helps prevent snacking and can help you lose weight.

This is my favorite surprise benefit! Nearly every Invisalign patient has reported some modest weight loss after starting this treatment. Simply, because they are wearing Invisalign trays, they’re eating less. Invisalign allows you to keep your aligners out for about two hours a day. This is plenty of time to consume three meals (and clean your teeth), but it doesn’t support constant snacking (and re-brushing your teeth). It also can be awkward to remove your aligners at a party or event, so many patients don’t bother. Another bonus benefit we’ve heard: Invisalign prevents nail-biting. 

1. A great smile!

Get a beautiful smile with Invisalign.

This is the No. 1 benefit, of course. While you are undergoing Invisalign treatment, your smile will continually get more attractive. Plus, your aligners won’t show in photographs. After your course of treatment ends, your smile will be absolutely dazzling. Your teeth will be straight, your bite perfect, and your teeth and gums healthy enough to last the rest of your life. If that’s what you want, Invisalign is for you.

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Are Invisalign clear braces right for me?

Is Invisalign right for this young woman?I can’t begin to tell you how many times I hear the question, “Are Invisalign clear braces right for me?”  My answer to that question is almost always a definitive “of course you are.” The Invisalign system with the clear plastic aligners has very few limitations and when applied by a dentist who has extensive knowledge of how the clear aligners work — the possibilities are almost endless. Practically anyone who wants to move their teeth with the gentle, clear braces can do so.  If you have any questions, visit your dentist or orthodontist for an Invisalign consultation.

I have had a handful of patients come to me in my Carmichael office for a FREE Invisalign consultation and have told me their dentist or orthodontist told them they were bad candidates for Invisalign. When I hear that from my patients I think back to when I was much younger. Growing up my parents would always use the phrase, “you don’t know what you don’t know…” Unfortunately, like any profession, there are going to be people who have more desire to learn about a certain subject matter and to put it to use than other people. The dentists and orthodontists who tell people Invisalign won’t work aren’t trying to mislead anyone on purpose, they just lack the experience or the desire to learn how to apply it. And just like any skill…the more you do it, the better you get.

Here are a few examples of people who decided that Invisalign clear braces was the right choice for them:

So, to answer the question, “Is Invisalign right for me?,” let’s review some of the benefits about the Invisalign clear braces system.

  1. Invisalign will help top protect your teeth by preventing clenching and grinding forces at night as well as act as fluoride carriers to strengthen your teeth and prevent decay.
  2. You can use your invisible braces as whitening trays and whiten your teeth while you’re straightening your teeth.  There’s nothing like finishing your Invisalign treatment with straight pearly white teeth!
  3. They are virtually invisible. Your friends and co-workers will have no idea you are wearing them unless you tell them.
  4. You can eat anything you want. This one is a biggie! With traditional braces you really have to be careful.
  5. Daily oral hygiene is much easier with Invisalign than traditional metal braces. No more wires to floss under! Just take out your aligners and follow your normal oral hygiene regimen.
  6. Your speech will not be affected. After the first day it’s as if you have had them forever.
  7. They hurt less than traditional braces. The Invisalign clear braces system gently moves the teeth in a very controlled manner as opposed to traditional braces.
  8. They can do practically everything traditional braces can do. They are even being used for surgical cases, once thought impossible.
  9. They will straighten your teeth, which will lead to fewer dental problems like fractured teeth, crowns, root canals, etc. I can’t stress this enough.
  10. They will give you the smile you’ve always wanted in a virtually painless manner!

Invisalign is gentle, esthetic, virtually pain-free, and almost nobody can tell you’re wearing them. So if you like any of the above benefits that Invisalign clear braces offer, then Invisalign clear braces is a good choice for you!

If your dentist isn’t experienced with Invisalign or you want a second opinion, we offer free consultations in our Carmichael dental office at 6600 Madison Avenue #4B.  At the end of 2013 we will be moving into our new Fair Oaks office at 7840 Madison Avenue #185. You can reach us at (916) 961-8454 and we would be happy to answer your questions.

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How Do I Clean My Invisalign Aligners?

Use a jewelry cleaner as an Invisalign cleanerOne of the things that every patient I have in Invisalign asks me is, “How do I clean my aligners?” I completely understand why everyone is so worried about that. Who would want a bunch of plaque and food debris building up inside of their clear braces for everyone in the world to see when they smile? Not very healthy looking if you ask me. Fortunately it’s a very easy problem to solve, vastly easier than metal braces are.

The best way to clean your clear braces is to make sure you brush them with a toothbrush every time you brush your teeth. It doesn’t matter if you use toothpaste. But if you decide to use toothpaste, just don’t use the whitening type because it is abrasive and will dull your clear braces. Most of my patients have a Sonicare toothbrush, so I recommend for them to hold their clear braces under warm water while running the Sonicare along the inside and outside of the aligner. Of course, any toothbrush will do, but Sonicare just does it better.

Another recommendation I give is for my patients to use a battery operated sonic jewelry cleaner. Just drop your clear braces in the water bath in the sonic cleaner and let it run for 10 minutes or so. I would do this once a day in addition to brushing them at least twice a day. We give every one of our Invisalign patients one of these when they get started, and they seem to really like them. And for those of you who wear jewelry, you can also use it to clean your bling.

Cleaning the clear braces is important, and when you wear them you’ll understand why. But more importantly, don’t forget about your oral hygiene. It is important to have very efficient oral hygiene habits while you’re wearing any type of clear braces.

Many foods we eat are broken down into sugars that oral bacteria will turn into acid that will cause cavities. Invisalign’s removable aligners give you the freedom to eat anything you want, but if you eat a meal and place your clear braces back in without brushing and flossing first, you will trap that food between your teeth and inside your clear braces. Your saliva normally washes away a lot of the food and sugars after a meal, but if your clear braces are on, you can forget about anything washing away. It will make you more prone to cavities. So please make sure you have very good oral hygiene when wearing any clear braces.

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