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How braces can deliver more than just a straight smile

When contemplating the merits of orthodontic treatment, prospective patients don’t often look beyond the obvious benefits of an improved bite, straighter teeth, and a higher self-esteem. Braces can correct myriad of oral health issues that, if not treated, can cause bigger problems later in life.

And, while other non-traditional forms of orthodontic treatment to improve physical appearance have sprung up over recent years (like online mail-order services or the clear molded trays designed to move teeth), they’re not appropriate for everyone, and they do nothing to address other more serious dental health problems.

Crooked and misaligned teeth can contribute to improper cleaning of teeth, leading to tooth decay and possibly gum disease or total tooth loss. In more extreme cases, disfiguring of the face and mouth occurs, affecting the development of the jaw and position of the teeth. That can lead to breathing or swallowing problems which can cause snoring and sleep apnea problems as an adult. Improper occlusion and jaw alignment can also create speech, chewing or biting problems. Over time, excessive strain on gum tissue and the bone that supports the teeth can affect the jaw joints, leading to headaches or face and neck pain.

Of course, the typical reasons for braces are to correct a cross bite (one or more upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth), deep overbites (lower front teeth bite into the upper tissue of the upper teeth), under bites or lower jaw protrusion (when the lower jaw is longer than the upper jaw) and spacing problems due to missing or extra teeth.

While orthodontic treatment is most common for young teens, all ages can benefit from braces, from pre-ortho treatment at age nine or so, to full braces for teens and young adults. And it’s not unheard of for older adults whose teeth may have shifted over the years to undergo treatment to realign their smiles.

Though orthodontic treatment can be done at any age, timely treatment ensures maximum dental health. The American Association of Orthodontics recommends that children get an orthodontic evaluation no later than age 7. Many parents take their children to the orthodontist to correct problems arising from issues of early childhood. For example, finger or thumb sucking habits can cause protrusion of the upper incisor teeth and constriction of the upper jaw. Teeth that erupt out of position can also be guided to proper alignment with braces.

It’s important to meet with an orthodontist for an evaluation. Many orthodontists provide ortho consultations free of charge. At that point, they can present options, including clear, gold or traditional braces, and discuss financing packages. With all the recent advancements in orthodontics, wearing braces has never been easier or more effective.

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My Perio Protect Journey, Part 2
I arrived at the Western Dental office in Hawthorne, California for a dental check-up. Being a new patient and a member of the Western Dental Plan, my exam and x-rays were free of charge. The main purpose of my visit, though, was to begin the Perio Protect program. Dental appointments can give me a twinge of anxiety, but the staff at the office made me feel calm and welcome. The first step of the process was getting a thorough set of digital x-rays from a very friendly and efficient x-ray technician (I was done in about five minutes). They needed those to build my file and to make sure I didn’t have any hidden problems before starting Perio Protect. But all looked good. Next was a teeth cleaning. The hygienist went to work on my teeth, cleaning, polishing and checking the depth of the gum “pockets” around each tooth. Anything over 3 millimeters, she explained, indicated warning signs of possible periodontal disease, or at the least, gingivitis (a milder form of the disease). I checked out ok, except for a few “4’s” around the back molars. Her advice: give extra attention when brushing, and make sure to floss. And Perio Protect was definitely going to help. After a thorough exam by the dentist, a dental assistant prepped the trays used to take impressions of my upper and lower arches. (The impressions would be used to make the customized Perio Protect trays I would need for my home-care routine.) She filled the trays with impression material (kind of like soft Silly Putty), then placed the first tray over my upper teeth and held it in place for a few minutes while the material set. After repeating the process on my lower teeth and rinsing out remnants of the impression material, they had all they needed. My part was done, for now. The office would send the impressions to a lab to make my Perio Protect trays. I’ll be back in a few weeks to pick them up and get started with the program. Can’t wait to reap the benefits!
My Perio Protect Journey, Part 1
Perio Protect is a take-home dental care treatment that prevents gum disease (with the added, long-term benefits of killing bacteria, freshening breath and whitening teeth). A Perio Protect kit consists of two light-weight dental trays made of a soft, pliable material that fit snugly over upper and lower teeth. Each tray is filled with a small amount of Perio Protect gel and worn for 15 minutes each day. The following describes one patient’s experience. Everyone loves the feel of a clean, fresh mouth. So when I heard how Perio Protect could maintain healthy gums and guarantee fresh breath by killing bacteria, I wanted to learn more. Being in the dental business, I was invited to attend a training session for dental hygienists that highlighted how Perio Protect works and the benefits of the treatment. By wearing customized trays filled with a small amount of Perio Protect Gel for 15 minutes each day, powerful medication is delivered deep below the gum line, reaching every possible nook and cranny where bacteria hide and multiply. Its clinical benefit is in the prevention and treatment of gum disease, but Perio Protect also alleviates swollen, sensitive or bleeding gums, maintains fresh breath and restores overall oral health. Over time, the mild concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the gel whitens teeth. Even though I’m meticulous about my oral hygiene, I learned what I was missing with my toothbrush, rinses and floss. I got a lot more detail than I needed, but enough to make me schedule an appointment the next day. I’ll report back after my visit. Stay tuned…