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Does Your Valentine Wear Braces?

February 10th, 2021

The Valentine shopping list is traditional and simple: Flowers. Candy. But if your Valentine is in braces this year, suddenly your choices become more complicated. No need to worry! Dr. Jeff Loveless and our Faribault, Zumbrota, or Owatonna, MN team have some sweet suggestions that are both braces-friendly and Valentine-approved.

First, let’s look at some options where Cupid’s arrow has missed the mark.

  • Caramels—these sticky treats are difficult to clean from orthodontic work, and sticky, chewy foods can even cause damage to wires and brackets.
  • Chocolate covered nuts—hard foods such as nuts can break or bend wires and brackets.
  • Assorted chocolates—a confectionary minefield! There are bound to be some caramels and nuts in there somewhere, hiding beneath an innocent coat of chocolate, just waiting to ruin your Valentine’s evening.
  • Other candies such as taffy, licorice, hard candy? No, no, and no. Remember, anything sticky, chewy, or hard is on the “Loves Me Not” list.

So, which chocolate treats won’t break hearts or braces?

  • Soft truffles—if it’s not Valentine’s Day without a be-ribboned box of chocolates, choose soft truffles to fill it.
  • Chocolate mousse—the perfect end to a romantic dinner.
  • Chocolate covered strawberries—it’s a special occasion treat that won’t mistreat braces.
  • Rich chocolate cake—always a delightful indulgence, and even better if it’s in the shape of a heart.

If your Valentine is not a chocolate fan, there are other sweet treats that are delicious alternatives.

  • Cheesecake can be topped with (pitted!) cherries to celebrate in holiday-appropriate color.
  • Soft heart-shaped cookies will be even more romantic with decorative icing—add your initials for a personal touch.
  • Select an array of frozen yogurt, ice cream, or gelato in different shades of pink.
  • Macarons also come in a variety of pink and red shades—but make sure this confection is on your Valentine’s braces-friendly list!

Of course, you can celebrate the day without sugary tributes. A single flower, watching your favorite movie together or, best of all, a heartfelt card or letter are all wonderful ways to show you care. But if it’s just not the same holiday without a sweet treat, try some of our suggestions. Your Valentine will appreciate your thoughtfulness.

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

February 3rd, 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. Jeff Loveless.

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 Faribault, Zumbrota, or Owatonna, MN 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!

Just What Is Plaque?

January 27th, 2021

From the time you were small, you’ve been warned about the dangers of plaque. Why? Because:

  • It’s an unpleasant film that sticks to your teeth
  • It causes cavities
  • It causes gum disease
  • It can cause extra problems when you wear braces

And really, do we need to know much more than this to motivate us to brush? But if you’re in a curious mood, you might be wondering just how this soft, fuzzy film accomplishes all that damage. Let’s take a closer look at the sticky problem of plaque.

How does plaque form?

We live with hundreds of species of oral bacteria, most of which are harmless, and some of which are actually beneficial. But when our oral ecosystem gets out of balance, problems can occur. For example, without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, we start to build up plaque.

Plaque starts forming within hours of your last brushing. And even though plaque fits the very definition of “seems to appear overnight,” this biofilm is actually a complex microbial community with several different stages of development.

  • It starts with saliva.

Saliva is vital to our oral health, because it keeps us hydrated, washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth, and provides minerals which keep our enamel strong. Saliva also contains proteins, which help form a healthy, protective film on the tooth surface. This film is called a pellicle.

  • Bacteria attach to the pellicle.

There are species of oral bacteria that are able to attach themselves to the pellicle film within hours of its formation. As they become more firmly attached, they begin to grow and divide to form colonies, and are known as the early colonizers of the plaque biofilm.

  • A complex biofilm forms.

If you’ve skipped brushing for a few days (please don’t!), you’ll notice a fuzzy, sometimes discolored film on your enamel—that’s a thriving plaque community, and it only takes a matter of days to go from invisible to unpleasant.

If you’re not removing plaque regularly, it can harden further and become tartar. And once you have tartar buildup, you’ll need the care of a dental professional to remove it.

  • What happens if we ignore plaque and tartar?

We get cavities and gum disease.

How does plaque cause cavities?

  • The bacteria in plaque, like all organisms, need nutrients.

Our normal oral environment and the food in our everyday diets provide the nutrients plaque needs. And, as we mentioned above, certain types of oral bacteria convert these nutrients into acids. Foods such as carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are most easily converted into acids, which is why we recommend that you enjoy them in moderation.

  • The biofilm promotes acid production.

Within the plaque film, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which don’t use oxygen) convert sugars and starches into acids. As the plaque film becomes denser, it blocks acid-neutralizing saliva and oxygen from reaching these bacteria close to the tooth’s surface, creating an ideal environment for the bacteria to produce their acid waste products.

  • Acids attack enamel.

The sticky nature of plaque keeps these acids in contact with tooth enamel, where, over time, acids dissolve minerals in enamel, weakening the mineral structure of the tooth.

How does plaque cause gum disease?

  • Bacteria cause inflammation and gingivitis.

The bacteria in plaque irritate the delicate tissue of the gums, which causes an inflammation response which can leave your gums swollen, red, bleeding, or tender. This early form of gum disease is gingivitis. Fortunately, good dental care and careful brushing and flossing can usually prevent and even eliminate gingivitis.

  • Plaque and tartar can lead to periodontitis.

When plaque and tartar build up around and below the gumline, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect, leading to infection as well as inflammation. Infections and constant inflammation not only harm gum tissue, they can destroy the bone supporting the teeth. This serious gum condition is periodontitis, and should be treated immediately to avoid further infection and even tooth loss.

How does plaque affect orthodontic patients?

  • Plaque collects around your braces.

Braces provide plenty of spots for plaque to hide from your brush. If you aren’t extremely diligent with your brushing and flossing, plaque collects near brackets, wires, and bands—all those spots that a brush and floss find difficult to reach.

  • Plaque promotes demineralization

The demineralization process we mentioned above can cause white spots on teeth (decalcification), where minerals have dissolved. Sometimes these spots can be treated, and sometimes they are permanent. They can become quite sensitive, and may lead to cavities.

Careful brushing and flossing around your braces will help eliminate the plaque that can cause demineralization near brackets. Ask Dr. Jeff Loveless about the tools and the brushing and flossing techniques which will give you the best results.

How do we fight plaque?

From the time you were small, you’ve learned how to fight plaque:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all of your tooth surfaces and around the gumline.
  • Floss to remove plaque from between the teeth and near the gumline.
  • See your dentist as recommended for a thorough professional cleaning.

Be proactive. If you have any questions, talk to us at our Faribault, Zumbrota, or Owatonna, MN office about the best way to keep plaque at bay. We can show you the most effective ways to brush and floss, recommend anti-plaque toothpastes and rinses, even suggest plaque-revealing tablets if you’re missing some trouble spots.

We’ve only brushed up on some plaque basics, because there is a lot more to discover about this complex biofilm. Happily, even with all there is to learn about plaque’s growth and development, it’s reassuring to know that getting rid of it is quite simple—with just a soft-bristled brush, some dental floss, and a few minutes of your time each day, you’re on the way to a healthy, happy, plaque-free smile.

Five Ways You Won’t—And One Way You Will—Get Your Braces Off Faster

January 20th, 2021

It’s only natural when you’re waiting for something good—you count down the weeks until your birthday, or until the summer holidays, or until your braces come off. But while your birthday and your vacation won’t come any faster no matter what you do, you can help determine just how fast that happy day arrives when you’re done with your orthodontic treatment.

When you first got your appliance, Dr. Jeff Loveless gave you an estimate of how long your treatment would take. Of course, that estimate is based on everything going according to plan. What are some detours that can delay your progress?

  • Missing Appointments

With every adjustment at our Faribault, Zumbrota, or Owatonna, MN office, you are moving closer to the ideal positioning for your teeth. If you miss or postpone appointments, it can take just that much longer to complete your orthodontic work.

  • Eating the Wrong Foods

You have a list of foods that are on the do-not-eat list. Hard, chewy, sticky bites are famous braces-breakers, but don’t forget that size also matters! Biting into a juicy apple or a buttery ear of corn can damage your brackets and wires just as much as chewy candy can. Be sure everything you eat is size-appropriate and braces-friendly. Obviously, damaged braces can’t straighten teeth as effectively as intact appliances!

  • Sticking with Bad Habits

Pressure from nail biting, chewing pencils, or crunching on ice can cause chips and cracks in your teeth, so just think what they can do to your appliance. Ask us for tips for quitting if you’ve picked up any of these habits. We know habits can be hard to break, but they are harder on your teeth and braces. If you bend or break a wire or loosen a bracket, you might be delaying your orthodontic progress. Which leads us to . . .

  • Ignoring Appliance Accidents

Accidents happen. Brackets or metal bands can become loose; wires can bend or break; spacers can fall out. If you notice a problem, call our office right away. Sometimes a minor problem can wait, but if your appliance is damaged, your teeth aren’t moving into position on schedule.

  • Blowing Off Bands

If you have bands to help correct your bite, be sure that you wear them as directed. If you skip hours or days of band-wear, you are adding to the time it will take to correct the bite problems they are meant to fix. And don’t double band to speed things up—that might put too much pressure on your teeth. Just follow our recommendations, and you will be done with those bands—and those braces—as soon as possible.

But, wait! We promised you one sure way to keep your orthodontic progress on track:

  • Follow Your Treatment Plan

If you keep your appointments, take care of your braces, call us promptly if they are damaged, and wear your appliance as directed, you will be doing your part to keep your treatment on track. And that happy day when your braces come off? It will arrive right on schedule!

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