Dentist - Chicago
220-222 W. Huron, Suite 4002
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 548-7579 (Office)
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Posts for: August, 2013

By Reuben D. Collins, DDS
August 22, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: retainer   braces   orthodontics  
WearinganOrthodonticRetainerPreservesYourWell-EarnedSmile

Orthodontic treatment (commonly known as braces) can be a lengthy process to re-align your teeth to a more functional and aesthetic position. Once the orthodontic devices are removed, however, the treatment isn't finished. Wearing a retainer is the final step to ensuring that the re-alignment doesn't eventually fail. It's designed to do just what its name implies — to “retain” the teeth's new position and prevent a relapse to the old.

This can happen because of the way teeth fit into the jaw bone. The teeth are joined to the bone by the periodontal ligament, which works somewhat like a hammock: the ligament's fibers act like threads that fit into the tooth on one side and into the bone on the other, and hold the teeth in place.

As living tissue, the ligament's cell structure is dynamic and can adapt to the gentle pressure applied by an orthodontic device. However, once this pressure subsides after the device is removed “muscle memory” can cause the ligament to resist the new position and pull the teeth back to their original setting. The retainer helps hold the teeth in the new position while the bone and ligament continue to mature and stabilize around the teeth.

There are two basic types of retainers; the one recommended for you will depend on your age and the extent of your orthodontic treatment. One type is a removable device that is typically worn around the clock initially, but may eventually only need to be worn at night or for even a lesser interval of time. The other type is attached permanently behind the teeth and can only be removed by an orthodontist. Permanent retainers have the benefit of not being as visible as the removable type, and there's no bother with putting them in and taking them out.

You may consider wearing a retainer a nuisance especially after months of orthodontic treatment. But consider it the last lap in a long race — only by finishing can you achieve that winning smile.

If you would like more information on the use of a retainer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers” and “Why Orthodontic Retainers?


MouthguardsareYourBestProtectionAgainstSports-RelatedDentalInjuries

Whether you are a serious or “weekend” athlete, you know the importance of protecting yourself against injury. While looking after your joints, ligaments and bones may garner most of your attention, you shouldn't neglect looking after your teeth and mouth as well. In fact, there are more than 600,000 emergency room visits each year for sports-related dental injuries. A knocked out tooth could eventually cost you $10,000 to $20,000 in dental treatment during your lifetime.

The best protection is really quite simple — wear a properly-fitted athletic mouthguard. Researchers estimate that mouthguards may prevent more than 200,000 dental injuries annually. Be aware, though — not all mouthguards are alike or provide the same level of protection.

Mouthguards generally fall into three types. Stock mouthguards are the least expensive of the three, and also the least effective at protection. They come in limited sizes and can't be customized to the wearer. “Bite and Boil” mouthguards are made of thermoplastic that becomes pliable when heated (as when boiled in water). In this state the mouthguard can be pressed into the wearer's teeth, which hardens to that fit once the thermoplastic cools. However, the fit isn't exact and they don't always cover the back teeth. Also during the heat of competition, the mouthguard softens and loses some of its stability and protection.

While more expensive than the other two types, a custom-fitted mouthguard made by a dentist provides the best level of protection. Made of a tear-resistant material, they are more comfortable to wear than the other types and cover more of the interior of the wearer's mouth.

A properly fitted and worn mouthguard protects the mouth and jaw area in a number of ways. It cushions the soft tissue of the lips and gums from cuts and abrasions caused by contact with sharp teeth surfaces after an impact. It absorbs and distributes forces generated in an impact that can cause tooth loss or even jaw fracture, and also cushions the jaw joint (TMJ) to reduce the likelihood of dislocation or other trauma.

A custom-fitted mouthguard can cost hundreds of dollars, but that price is relatively small compared with the physical, emotional and financial price you'll pay for an injury. This investment in your oral health is well worth it.

If you would like more information on the use of athletic mouthguards, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”


ProtectYourChildAthleteFromInjuryWithaCustom-FittedMouthguard

Youth sports can be a positive life experience for your child or teenager. But there's also a risk of injury in many sporting activities, including to the teeth and mouth. An injury to the mouth, especially for a child or young adolescent whose teeth are still developing, can have a significant negative impact on their oral health.

When it comes to teeth or mouth injuries, the best preventive measure is for your child to wear an athletic mouthguard, especially for contact sports like football, hockey or soccer. But be warned: not all mouthguards are alike — and neither is their level of protection.

Mouthguards can be classified into three types. The first is known as “stock,” which is the least expensive and offers the least level of protection. They usually are available only in limited sizes (small, medium, large, etc.) and cannot be custom-fitted for the individual. This significantly lowers their protective ability, and thus we do not recommend these to our patients.

The next type is referred to as “boil and bite.” These mouthguards are made of a material called thermoplastic, which becomes pliable when heated. When first purchased, the guard is placed in boiling water until soft; the individual can then place them in the mouth and bite down or press the guard into the teeth until it hardens and forms to their palates. Although this type offers a better fit and more protection than stock mouthguards, it isn't the highest level of protection available.

That distinction goes to the last type — a custom mouthguard made by a dentist. Although the most expensive of the three, it offers the best fit and the highest level of protection. A well-made custom mouthguard is tear-resistant, fits comfortably, is easy to clean and doesn't restrict speaking and breathing. We recommend this guard as your best alternative for protecting your child athlete from tooth and mouth damage.

If you would like more information on the use of athletic mouthguards for young athletes, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Mouthguards.”