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Just Add Water

July 8th, 2020

One of the many benefits of your clear aligners is that you can remove them to eat. You should brush after every meal, just like you would with traditional braces, but cleaning your teeth is much easier without having to work around and between brackets and wires.

But when you wear your aligners 22 hours a day, you might be tempted to leave them in when you’re just having a sip of something when you’re thirsty. Unless you’re drinking water, please don’t.

What’s the problem with a can of cola or a cup of coffee?

  • Staining

The virtue of your clear aligners is that they are, well, clear! Probably one of the reasons you decided on this method of treatment was because you liked the idea of an inconspicuous appliance.  Unfortunately, dark beverages such as colas, coffee, tea, and red wine can stain your aligner, making it more visible.

  • Warping

Very hot beverages might actually affect the shape of your aligners. Since they are formed using heat, it makes sense that heat can also de-form them. If hot teas and coffee drinks cause a change in the shape of your aligners, they will not move your teeth the way they were meant to.

  • Affecting Tooth Health

Even though our enamel is very strong, sugary and acidic drinks can damage it. Acidic foods can erode enamel, and the sugars in our diet provide food for cavity-causing bacteria, which then produce acids that erode enamel.

Normally, saliva provides some protection from acids and sugars by diluting them and washing them away from the teeth. When you drink a cola or an orange juice with your aligners on, some of the liquid will get in them, and can stay in them until the aligners are removed. You will actually give these problem beverages the opportunity to bathe your teeth in sugar and acid over a longer period of time, without exposure to saliva to help offset potential harm. And after all your work to create a beautiful smile, you certainly don’t want new cavities!

How to protect your aligners and keep them their cleanest—and most invisible?

  • Take your aligners out before drinking beverages that can stain them, or, if you can’t, try using a straw. Clean your aligners according to Dr. Jed Hildebrand and our team’s instructions to keep them as clear as possible.
  • Don’t drink very hot beverages with your aligners in place. Try icing your coffee and tea if you can’t remove your aligners. And if you think your aligners have changed shape, please give us a call.
  • Drink water! Water hydrates you, doesn’t damage enamel, and keeps your aligners clean. Tap water is your best option, as even bottled waters can be acidic.

If your aligners should become stained, remember that you change them frequently, so the staining can be a temporary problem. If you do have a drink of something hot and your aligners feel “off,” give our Arlington, TX office a call. We’ll let you know if you need to replace them.

But prevention is always best! Avoid staining from the start by removing your aligners before you drink dark beverages. Don’t expose your aligners to heat. Think about replacing unhealthy drinks with water. And certainly brush right away, or rinse with water if that’s not possible, if you drink a sugary or acidic beverage. These simple precautions will help keep your aligners, and, most important, your teeth, looking their best.

Digital X-rays

June 24th, 2020

Modern orthodontic technology has changed the way you wear braces. Brackets are smaller and come in a variety of shapes and colors. Wires are more efficient. Clear aligners can eliminate the need for brackets and wires altogether. And your high-tech advantages don’t stop there—today’s digital X-rays make creating your treatment plan even more convenient and efficient.

Why Are X-rays Necessary?

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 Dr. Jed Hildebrand 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
  • The most effective type of retainer for protecting your beautiful smile after treatment.

How Do X-rays Work?

Traditional X-rays, or radiographs, make use of film just like traditional cameras. When you have an intraoral X-ray, for example, the film is sealed in a moisture- and light-proof packet, and placed inside the mouth to capture images of specific teeth and the bone around them.

The X-ray machine is aligned precisely with the film and an exposure is taken. The image at this point is latent, and won’t show on the film, because, just like photo film, traditional radiographs need to be chemically processed before they produce a visible image.

Digital technology, on the other hand, uses an electronic sensor instead of film. For an intraoral digital X-ray, a small sensor is positioned in the mouth just like a film. When the X-ray is taken, a digital image capture device produces an image which is formed by a matrix of pixels instead of a photo-like film exposure. This format allows the image to be sent directly to a computer for immediate display without requiring processing.

Even though these methods seem very similar, digital X-rays offer some significant advantages over traditional films. Let’s look at how they compare, more or less.

  • More Diagnostic Advantages

A traditional X-ray is a fixed image. It cannot be modified or enhanced. Here the digital X-ray offers a clear advantage in evaluating your teeth and the bone structure surrounding them.

Just as you can enlarge certain types of images on your computer without blurring or losing detail, a digital X-ray uses computer software to magnify images while keeping their details sharp. They can also be enhanced through brightness and contrast applications to make details stand out even more.

There is even digital subtraction radiography software available that can be used to compare recent images to older ones, removing (“subtracting”) all the similarities in the two images to display only the changes in the two—even small changes—that have taken place over time.

  • Less Exposure to Radiation

Modern technology means traditional X-rays expose patients to less radiation than ever before, but digital X-rays have significant advantages here as well. Radiation exposure can be reduced by an additional 10%, 20%, or more with a digital radiograph.

And while all types of dental X-rays expose you to very little radiation, it’s always best to reduce exposure whenever possible.

  • More Convenient for Sharing and Transmitting

If you need to share your X-rays with another dentist or physician, digital technology allows you to simply have them e-mailed to another office or multiple offices. You no longer need to worry about preserving physical copies, either.

  • Less Waste

Unlike traditional X-rays, digital X-rays don’t need to be processed, so you save time in the office. And while the processing time is not significant (usually several minutes), if you need to repeat some X-rays for a clearer picture, or require different images for several teeth, this time can add up.

Digital X-rays are also more eco-friendly.  The fact that they don’t need to be developed means that the chemicals used to process traditional films are no longer necessary—which also means that there is no need to dispose of chemical waste products afterward.

Our goal is to provide you with the safest, most efficient, and most effective treatment possible. Digital X-rays are an important tool for orthodontists, helping us to provide you with the best treatment plan possible. If you have any questions about digital X-ray technology, contact our Arlington, TX office. We’re happy to explain the science—and the benefits—behind this high-tech diagnostic tool.

The Best Brush of the Day

June 17th, 2020

Imagine that you’re only going to brush your teeth once tomorrow. Don’t worry, we know you would never skimp on your dental hygiene like that, but let’s just pretend for a moment. When would be the best time to brush? When you wake up? During the day? Or perhaps before you go to bed?

Actually, whenever you choose to brush, you’ll receive important overall dental benefits as well as specific benefits tied to the time of day. Let’s explore your daily schedule to see why.

Brushing in the Morning

Brushing when you first jump out of bed produces several positive results.

  • Cleaning plaque from your teeth

Plaque is a sticky film made up of oral bacteria, food particles, and saliva. As you sleep, these oral bacteria multiply and produce acids which attack the minerals in your enamel, leaving weak spots which, over time, can become cavities. Brushing removes these bacteria and acids from your enamel before they cause serious harm.

Moreover, plaque hardens if it’s left undisturbed, turning into tartar in a relatively short time. And once plaque becomes tartar, it must be removed by a dental professional. Brushing first thing in the morning removes this plaque buildup and helps prevent tartar from forming.

  • Fresh breath

That bacterial growth we mentioned? It’s also responsible for morning breath. If nothing else, brushing when you wake up means greeting a fresh day with fresh breath, and that’s reason enough to pick up your brush in the morning.

Brushing During the Day

Brushing after meals and snacks also has a lot to recommend it.

  • “Leftovers” lead to cavities

Foods, especially foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates, are converted by oral bacteria into acids which weaken enamel and lead to cavities. When food particles remain in the mouth after a meal, bacteria have more time and more fuel to manufacture these acids.

  • Acidic foods also affect your teeth

If you have eaten something acidic, such as citrus fruits, sodas, or pickled anything, the acids from these foods can temporarily weaken the mineral strength of your enamel. But brushing immediately after eating or drinking acidic foods can damage weakened enamel. Better to rinse well with water and brush after half an hour or so.

  • When you wear braces

One of the first things you discover when you get your braces is that you might need to brush more often. In fact, it’s best to brush after every meal and even every snack while you’re in braces.

Why? First, because no one wants to smile with food particles sticking to brackets and wires. Even more important, though, the filmy plaque which sticks to your enamel can be harder to remove with those brackets and wires in the way. Since plaque causes weakened enamel and cavities, brushing thoroughly is more important than ever when you wear braces.

  • When you wear aligners

Wearing clear aligners means you don’t need to worry about food trapped in brackets or cleaning around wires. After all, you take them out when you eat. But this doesn’t mean you are home free. Brushing after every meal is also a good idea when you wear aligners.

Our teeth have an organic way to help wash away food particles, acids, and bacteria between brushings—saliva! Your aligners, while covering your teeth, decrease their exposure to saliva. It’s really important, then, to make sure you brush after eating. Otherwise, food particles and acids which remain on your teeth after eating are trapped in your aligners, increasing the risk of enamel erosion and decay.

Whether you wear braces or aligners, you’re especially at risk for food particles sticking around your teeth and in your orthodontic appliances. Talk to Dr. Jed Hildebrand about when to brush your teeth after eating and how to keep your braces or aligners clean throughout the day.

Brushing at Night

Growing up, you probably received regular reminders to brush before bedtime—for several really good reasons:

  • Saliva production slows while you sleep

During the day, saliva helps to wash away food particles and neutralize acidity in our mouths. It also contains proteins and minerals which help keep tooth enamel strong. But as we sleep, saliva production slows dramatically, and our bodies can’t remove bacteria and acids as effectively.

  • Food particles fuel bacterial growth

If you haven’t brushed since morning, you’ve accumulated a whole day’s worth of food particles from meals and snacks. Remember, oral bacteria use the sugars and carbs we eat as fuel to produce the acids which attack our tooth enamel throughout the night.

  • Brushing helps prevent both of these problems

Brushing your teeth before bed not only cleans away the accumulated food particles of the day, but also eliminates the plaque and bacteria which would have a much easier time sticking to your teeth without that daytime saliva flow to wash them away.

So, When’s the Best Time to Brush?

In the morning, during the day, at night—there are solid advantages to brushing any time of day. The question isn’t so much when to brush as how often you should brush.

While many dental professionals consider brushing before bedtime as the most important brush of the day, brushing at least two full minutes, at least twice during a 24 hour period, is a necessity for basic dental hygiene, along with flossing at least once a day.

When you’ve been eating sugary snacks, when you’re showing signs of gingivitis or getting more than your share of cavities, when you want to reduce the chance of plaque and tartar buildup, or when you simply want to make sure you’re doing everything you can to maintain your overall dental health, brushing after meals is also highly recommended.

And when you wear braces or aligners, frequent brushing (and flossing) is the very best way to make sure your teeth stay clean and cavity-free.

Talk to Dr. Jed Hildebrand about your brushing habits at your next appointment at our Arlington, TX office. No need to use your imagination to plan your best brushing schedule. We have all the answers you need to help you brush your way to your best—and healthiest—smile!

Can You Chew Gum and Wear Braces?

June 10th, 2020

Well, of course you can chew gum and wear braces. But, should you chew gum and wear braces? That can be a sticky question.

For many years, the answer was a firm “No.” Not only did our favorite chewables literally gum up the (dental) works, but they were filled with loads of the sugar that cavity-causing bacteria love to feed on. The result? A much better chance of damage to your orthodontic work, and a higher risk of cavities near your brackets and wires.

But times, and gum recipes, change. Today’s sugar-free gum provides us with some new ideas to chew over.

  • Sugarless gum is much less sticky than regular gum, so it is much less likely to stick to your appliance. If there is any chance that gum will damage your wires or brackets, we’ll let you know that it’s best to wait until your braces are off to indulge.
  • Some orthodontic patients find that their jaws and ligaments are less sore if they chew gum for a few minutes after an adjustment.
  • Most important, studies suggest that chewing sugarless gum might actually help prevent cavities from forming. How is that possible?

Because chewing gum increases our production of saliva! Okay, we don’t normally find saliva an exciting, exclamation-point-worthy topic, but let’s look at the dental benefits:

  • Saliva washes away food particles and bacteria. And because braces can trap food when we eat, it’s great to have some help washing away any meal-time souvenirs.
  • Saliva helps neutralize acids in the mouth. The acids found in foods and produced by oral bacteria lead to cavities, so diluting and neutralizing their effects provide important protection for our enamel.
  • Saliva helps bathe the teeth in minerals that can actually rebuild weakened enamel. Acids in the mouth attack minerals in the enamel such as the calcium and phosphate that strengthen our teeth. Fortunately, saliva provides calcium, phosphate, and fluoride that can actually help rebuild weakened enamel.

So, should you chew gum and wear braces? The real question is, should you chew gum while you’re in braces? Dr. Jed Hildebrand and our team are more than happy to provide the right answer for you! Talk to us at your next visit to our Arlington, TX office about the potential benefits and drawbacks of dentist-approved sugarless gum. Depending on the kind of gum you choose and the kind of orthodontic work you are having done, the answer just might surprise you.