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When Your Permanent Retainer—Isn’t

September 28th, 2022

Even though it’s called a “permanent retainer,” your fixed retainer isn’t necessarily meant to last a lifetime. But with care, it should last just as long as you need it, keeping your teeth perfectly aligned after your orthodontic treatment is complete. Why is this retainer the one to choose for challenging alignments?

A fixed retainer is often used for teeth which were very crowded or had large gaps before treatment, especially along the bottom teeth, which tend to shift more. With a permanent retainer, a custom fitted wire is attached with a bonding adhesive to the back of each of the selected teeth. This design makes sure that the teeth can’t shift out of place while your bones and ligaments strengthen around them.

Occasionally, though, your permanent retainer isn’t quite as permanent as it should be. If you think your fixed retainer is becoming “unfixed,” what clues should you look for?

  • Broken wire

A clearly broken wire can be obvious, or you might discover it when you notice pain or irritation caused by the end of a wire poking around your tongue or mouth.

  • Loose bond

The orthodontic adhesive used to bond the wire to each tooth can come loose as the result of an accident, an unfortunately chewy treat, or simply with the passage of time.

  • Shifting teeth

You might not notice anything wrong with your retainer, but what you do notice is that your once-straight teeth have started shifting back to their old positions. If you see any movement in your teeth, your retainer might need repair.

What should you do?

  • Give our Highlands Ranch orthodontic office a call! It’s important to act promptly to prevent further retainer damage, oral discomfort, and tooth misalignment.
  • Rinse with warm water if your mouth is irritated.
  • If a wire is poking you, call us for advice on gently pushing it back into place.
  • Orthodontic wax can protect your teeth and tissue from detached wires.
  • If you have a clear retainer, wear it until you can come in. If you don’t have one, and you can’t see us immediately, ask if an over the counter moldable retainer is a good idea to help keep your teeth aligned in the meantime.

One benefit of a fixed retainer is that it’s almost invisible because it’s behind your teeth. But this hidden location can also make it difficult to notice potential problems. Fortunately, there are some proactive steps you can take to help your permanent retainer—and your bite—stay healthy:

  • Avoid foods which are sticky, hard, or chewy. If a food can damage traditional braces, it can damage your retainer.
  • Wear protective gear like mouthguards and helmets when you’re active—they protect more than just your retainer!
  • Ask your dentist to examine your retainer adhesive’s staying power whenever you have a checkup.

If you notice a detached wire or loose adhesive or see your teeth shifting, give Dr. Richard Elliott a call. It’s important to act promptly to fix a fixed retainer, because your teeth and bite alignment are in jeopardy when you delay. And always bring your retainer (or retainer pieces) with you in case we can repair it.

Permanent retainers don’t necessarily last forever. But whether your fixed retainer is going to be with you long-term, or whether you’re going to transition to a removable retainer in the future, let’s make sure your permanent retainer is just as “permanent” as it needs to be!

Why Am I Getting Cavities?

September 21st, 2022

Now that you’re in orthodontic treatment, you’re probably spending more time taking care of your teeth than ever before. So, why did your dentist find a cavity at your last checkup? Let’s look at some of the potential culprits.

  • Brushing More Doesn’t Always Mean Brushing Well

Even for adults with decades of experience, proper brushing technique is often overlooked. Brushing’s not as effective without covering all the tooth surfaces (inside, outside, and molar tops), holding the brush at a 45-degree angle, gently brushing the teeth with small strokes, brushing for at least two minutes, and flossing between the teeth at least once a day.

If you wear braces, you must also take care to reach all the spots between and around your wires and brackets. Which leads us to . . .

  • Are You Using the Right Tools?

Even with perfect brushing form, your braces will be a challenge for a regular toothbrush and floss. The right tools make any job easier, and that includes cleaning your teeth while you’re wearing braces.

Specially designed brushes with bristles designed to work with your brackets, floss made to fit behind wires, tiny cone-shaped interproximal brushes that fit between your teeth and around your brackets—all these tools are made specifically to remove plaque and food particles from your teeth and your braces.

  • Crunchy, Hard, and Sugary Aren’t the Only Problem Foods

You know sugary foods should be limited because sugars are the favorite food of cavity-causing bacteria. And hard and crunchy foods are off limits altogether because they can damage your braces. But what about treats which look soft and harmless? Well, looks can be deceiving!

Starches in soft, carb-rich foods like potato chips and white bread quickly break down into sugars. What’s more, they tend to stick around brackets and in between the teeth, giving those cavity-creating bacteria plenty of nourishment.

This isn’t to say that you must eliminate all sugars and carbs from your diet. But when you wear braces, be especially mindful about brushing or at least rinsing thoroughly whenever you have a snack.

  • Biology

Some people are biologically more prone to cavities, even with attentive brushing and flossing, so you shouldn’t feel guilty if you don’t have a perfect checkup every time. Instead, be proactive. Ask Dr. Richard Elliott for brushing and cleaning advice the next time you visit our Highlands Ranch office—and then follow it!

It’s not just spending more time taking care of your teeth—it’s using your valuable time the best way possible. It’s always time well-spent brushing properly, eating mindfully, and working with your orthodontist and your dentist to create a beautiful, healthy, cavity-free smile.

Bottled Water: Friend or Foe?

September 14th, 2022

Some people choose bottled water over tap because they think it’s cleaner. Some do it out of convenience: It’s easy to grab a bottle of water to take with you for the day as you run out the door or hop in your car.

Whatever the reason, bottled water has been coming in ahead of tap water for the last couple of years. What many people may not know is that choosing bottled water over tap can actually be detrimental to your dental health.

Most brands of bottled water fail to include a vital ingredient: fluoride. Fluoride plays an important role in helping maintain good oral health because it helps strengthen our teeth. Stronger teeth mean a lower chance of tooth decay, and who doesn’t want that?

When we choose bottled water over tap water, we deprive our pearly whites of something they might very well need.

The good news is that the American Dental Association has endorsed both community water fluoridation and products that contain fluoride as a safe way to prevent tooth decay. If bottled water happens to be the preference for you or your family, you don’t necessarily have to force everyone to start drinking tap water.

Just check the label and make sure the brand you purchase contains fluoride.

It’s essential to remember that switching up the water you drink isn’t going to put you on the fast track to perfect teeth, though. Flossing and brushing three times a day is vital!

If you have any questions about fluoride or your dental health, don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Richard Elliott at our Highlands Ranch office!

Bracing for the Heat? Try These Braces-Friendly Summer Treats!

September 7th, 2022

Summer means sun and heat and delicious, frosty treats to keep you cool while you’re enjoying the sun and heat. If you’re wearing braces this summer, not to worry! Dr. Richard Elliott and our team have plenty of ideas for icy treats to help you beat the heat.

  • Fruit Smoothies

Low on refined sugars, high on vitamins and minerals, refreshing, delicious, easy on brackets and wires—what’s not to like about fruit smoothies? And if you want to up the nutritional value by adding some green vegetables to the blender, even better!

If you’re buying your smoothie instead of making it yourself, watch out for added sugars in ingredients like ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt, and sweetened fruit juice. It can be more challenging to keep your teeth clean with braces, so watching your sugar intake is more important than ever. Try a smoothie made with low-fat yogurt, fruits and/or vegetables, and 100% fruit juice instead. Just as delicious, without extra tablespoons of added sugar.

  • Iced (Herbal, Green, or White) Tea & Frozen Coffee Treats

Coffee and black tea contain compounds called tannins, which can stain tooth enamel and braces. Using a straw can help you limit your enamel’s exposure. If you enjoy a cold, iced beverage occasionally, consider green, white, or herbal iced teas. They don’t stain as much, and many contain healthy antioxidants and other health benefits.

And if you can’t resist that creamy iced coffee beverage? Use a straw to avoid bathing your teeth in the stain-causing tannins and enamel-weakening acids found in coffee. Because these drinks can be full of added sugars, consider reduced-sugar options and skip the toppings.

  • Frozen Treats

When you hear that familiar tune coming from the neighborhood ice cream truck, do you have to stand on the sidewalk, sadly watching it disappear into the distance? Not necessarily!

Milk shakes, ice cream, and frozen yogurt are a refreshing choice in a braces-friendly form—and they contain calcium. Popsicles and fruit bars can be a safe choice if you don’t bite into solid ice. You wouldn’t chew on ice because it could damage your braces, so make sure your frozen bar softens a bit before you enjoy it.

What kinds of frozen treats to avoid? If your favorite flavor of ice cream or your go-to ice cream bar contains hard or chewy additions like nuts and pieces of candy, choose another item from the menu. Surrounding nuts and candies with ice cream doesn’t actually make them any safer for your brackets and wires, and may lead to an unplanned visit to our Highlands Ranch orthodontic office to fix a broken bracket.

We don’t recommend a steady diet of sweet treats, because you want a cavity-free smile when your braces come off. And water is always an excellent summertime choice for both hydration and health. But an occasional frosty dessert is cool and tasty and soothing, especially if you’ve just had an adjustment. Just be sure to brush—or rinse with water if you can’t brush—after indulging. Now, what’s on the menu for fall?

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