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Forget Something? It’s on the Tip of Your Tongue!

November 30th, 2022

Let’s see…

Toothbrush? Check.

Fluoride toothpaste? Check.

Floss? Check.

Two minutes of thorough brushing? Check.

Careful cleaning around your brackets and wires? Check.

Wait… there’s something else… it’s right on the tip of your…

Ah! Your tongue! Whenever you brush, morning, evening, or any time in between, if you want the freshest breath and cleanest teeth, don’t forget your tongue.

Why your tongue? Because the tongue is one of the most common sources of bad breath. Let’s examine just why this occurs.

The tongue is made up of a group of muscles that help us speak and chew and swallow. But there’s more to this remarkable organ than mere muscle. The surface of the tongue is covered with mucous membrane, like the smooth tissue which lines our mouths. But the tongue isn’t completely smooth—it’s textured with thousands of tiny bumps called papillae.

These little elevated surfaces have several shapes and functions. Some make the tongue’s surface a bit rough, which helps move food through your mouth. Some are temperature sensitive, letting you know that your slice of pizza is much too hot. And some are covered with thousands of the taste buds, which make eating that pizza so enjoyable.

All of these papillae with their various functions combine to create a textured surface, filled with miniscule nooks and crannies. And if there’s a nook or a cranny where bacteria can collect, no matter how miniscule, it’s a good bet that they will, and the surface of the tongue is no exception. But bacteria aren’t alone—the tongue’s surface can also hide food particles and dead cells.

How does this unappealing accumulation affect you? These elements work together to cause bad breath, especially the bacteria that break down food particles and cell debris to produce volatile sulfur compounds—compounds which create a particularly unpleasant odor. Including your tongue in your brushing routine helps remove one of the main causes of bad breath.

And that’s not the only benefit! Cleaning the tongue helps eliminate the white coating caused by bacterial film, and might even improve the sense of taste. Most important, studies show that regular cleaning noticeably lowers the levels of decay-causing plaque throughout the mouth.

So, how to get rid of that unwanted, unpleasant, and unhealthy debris?

  • When you’re done brushing your teeth, use your toothbrush to brush your tongue.

Clean your tongue by brushing gently front to back and then side to side. Rinse your mouth when you’re through. Simple as that! And just like a soft-bristled toothbrush helps protect tooth enamel and gum tissue, we also recommend soft bristles when you brush your tongue. Firm bristles can be too hard on tongue tissue.

  • Use a tongue scraper.

Some people find tongue scrapers more effective than brushing. Available in different shapes and materials, these tools are used to gently scrape the surface of the tongue clean of bacteria and debris. Always apply this tool from back to front, and rinse the scraper clean after every stroke. Wash and dry it when you’re through.

  • Add a mouthwash or rinse.

As part of your oral hygiene routine, antibacterial mouthwashes and rinses can assist in preventing bad breath. Ask Drs. Erickson and Aamodt for a recommendation.

  • Don’t brush or scrape too vigorously.

Your tongue is a sturdy, hard-working organ, but tongue tissue is still delicate enough to be injured with over-vigorous cleaning.

Taking a few extra seconds to clean your tongue helps eliminate the bacteria and food particles which contribute to bad breath and plaque formation. Make this practice part of your daily brushing routine—it’s a healthy habit well worth remembering!

When Does an Underbite Need Surgery?

November 16th, 2022

When does an underbite need surgery? The short answer is: when Drs. Erickson and Aamodt and our team recommend surgery as the best way to give you a healthy, functional bite. But let’s take a longer look, and see just why your doctors might come to that conclusion.

  • First, what exactly is an underbite?

In a perfect bite, the upper and lower jaws align, well, perfectly. Upper teeth overlap lower teeth very slightly, upper and lower teeth meet comfortably, and jawbones and joints function smoothly. When the alignment is off, it causes a malocclusion, or “bad bite.”

When we talk about an underbite, or Class 3 malocclusion, it means that the lower jaw protrudes further than the upper jaw. This protrusion causes the bottom teeth and jaw to overlap the upper teeth and jaw.

  • What causes an underbite?

Sometimes an underbite is caused by childhood behaviors while the teeth and jaw are developing, including tongue thrusting or prolonged thumb-sucking and pacifier use. (Working to stop these behaviors before they affect tooth and jaw formation is one of the many good reasons children should have regular visits with their dentists and pediatricians.)

Most underbites are genetic, however, and tend to run in families. It’s estimated that from five to ten percent of the population has some form of underbite. The lower jawbone (mandible) might be overdeveloped, the upper jawbone (maxilla) might be underdeveloped, both bones could be affected, or, sometimes, tooth size and placement might cause an underbite. These irregularities in jaw shape and size and/or tooth crowding are not something that can be prevented, and require professional treatment.

  • Why? What’s the problem with an underbite?

Even a minor underbite can cause difficulties with biting and chewing. A more severe underbite can lead to speech problems, decay and loss of enamel where the teeth overlap, mouth breathing and sleep apnea, persistent jaw and temporomandibular joint pain, and self-confidence issues.

  • Can’t my dentist treat my underbite?

Most probably not. A very mild underbite can be camouflaged cosmetically with veneers, but this does not address the cause of the underbite, and will not work for moderate or severe underbites.

  • Can my orthodontist treat my underbite?

Drs. Erickson and Aamodt will create an underbite treatment plan after a detailed study of each patient’s individual dental and skeletal structure. Treatment options will vary depending on the cause of the underbite, its severity, and even the patient’s age.

Early intervention is especially important for children who show signs of an underbite. That’s why we recommend that children visit our White Bear Lake, Eagan, Apple Valley, or Pine City, MN office by the age of seven.

If an underbite is caused by tooth misalignment or crowding, braces can reposition the lower teeth. Sometimes extractions are necessary to make room for proper alignment.

If the cause is due to jaw structure, children’s bones are still forming, so treatment can actually help correct bone development. Palatal expanders, headgear, and other appliances are various methods of encouraging and guiding bone development.

But braces and appliances aren’t effective for every patient with an underbite, and especially in patients (usually those in their late teens and older) when the jawbones are already fully formed. In this case, we might suggest coordinating treatment with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

  • What does an oral and maxillofacial surgeon do?

An oral surgeon has the training, experience, and skill to help correct an underbite by surgically reshaping and repositioning the jawbone. This corrective jaw surgery is called orthognathic surgery.

  • What will happen during orthognathic surgery?

Your treatment will be tailored to your specific needs. Two of the common surgical procedures for treating an underbite involve repositioning the upper jaw to lengthen it and/or reshaping the lower jaw to shorten it.

Bone is sometimes removed or added, small bone plates or screws are sometimes used to stabilize the bone after surgery—your surgeon will let you know exactly which procedures will give you a healthy, functional bite. The surgery itself is most often performed under general anesthesia and requires a brief stay in the hospital.

  • How will my orthodontist and oral surgeon coordinate my treatment?

Correcting a Class 3 malocclusion can take time. Your oral surgeon will work together with Drs. Erickson and Aamodt to analyze the interrelationship of teeth, bones, and joints to determine dental and skeletal problems, and will develop the best treatment plan possible to create a healthy alignment.

  • So, when does an underbite need surgery?

Sometimes, a minor underbite can be corrected with braces and appliances alone. A serious underbite, however, will often require the specialized skills of both Drs. Erickson and Aamodt and an oral surgeon.

And, while it’s not the primary purpose of surgery, corrective jaw surgery and orthodontics can also make you happier with your appearance and boost your self-confidence. Achieving a lifetime of beautiful, comfortable, and healthy smiles—that’s the answer to your question.

Which Retainer is Right for You?

November 9th, 2022

Brackets and wires, clear aligners, lingual braces, regular brackets, self-ligating braces, elastics, spacers—you and your orthodontist have had to narrow down a lot of choices to discover the best treatment for your orthodontic needs. Now that the end of treatment is in sight, there’s one more important choice left—your retainer!

Do I Need a Retainer?

No retainer at all is probably the one option that’s off the table from the start. It’s not just your teeth that have changed position; it’s the bone and ligaments holding them that have changed as well.

A retainer prevents your teeth from moving away from their new, ideal location while your bones and ligaments are stabilizing. This process takes months, so keeping your teeth in place as your bone rebuilds and regains density is crucial.

What Are Your Retainer Options?

Three of the most popular retainer options available at our White Bear Lake, Eagan, Apple Valley, or Pine City, MN office include:

  • Hawley Retainers

This is the traditional retainer, with wires to hold your retainer in place and to keep the teeth properly aligned. The wires are attached to an acrylic plate molded to fit the roof of your mouth or around your bottom teeth. You can customize the acrylic base with colors and patterns for a one-of-a-kind look.

Hawley retainers are adjustable, so minor realignments can take place if necessary. The wire in front of your teeth makes these retainers visible, but, after several months of wearing them all day long, you may end up wearing them only at night.

Hawley retainers are removable, so you need to make sure they are safely in a case when you’re not wearing them. Minor damage can often be repaired, but it’s better to be proactive.

  • Clear Plastic Retainers

These retainers look like clear aligners. They are formed by heating a thin piece of plastic and vacuum-forming it around a model of your teeth to create a custom, comfortable fit.

Clear retainers are almost invisible when worn, and can be removed when you eat or drink—which they should be, because food particles and liquids can be trapped inside them.

When you’re not wearing it, a clear retainer should always be in its case, because it must be replaced if the plastic is warped, cracked, or broken.

  • Fixed Retainers

A fixed retainer is a small single wire bonded to the back of specific teeth, commonly the six bottom front teeth. Because fixed retainers don’t allow the teeth to move at all, they are often recommended for patients who had serious misalignments, extremely crowded teeth, or teeth with large gaps between them.

Many patients like fixed retainers because they keep teeth in perfect alignment, they won’t be seen, they’re comfortably small, and they can’t end up in the cafeteria recycling bin because you forget to replace them after lunch!

Fixed retainers are usually quite durable, but you’ll need to pay attention to your diet, because crunchy and chewy foods can put pressure on the retainer and damage it. These retainers also require special care with brushing and flossing, to make sure the teeth bonded to the wire stay clean and plaque-free.

The Right Retainer

The process of stabilizing your teeth in the jaw takes time. Choosing your retainer will depend in part on how long and how often you need to wear it: fulltime for months or for years, at night after several months of day-and-night wear, or long-term to make sure your orthodontic work lasts.

And there are other variables, as well. Your retainer might need to be removable. It might need to be adjustable. You might need a retainer for just your upper teeth, just your lower teeth, or both. All these factors and more need to be taken into consideration before deciding on your ideal retainer.

Fixed, removable, wire, plastic, colorful, clear—which retainer is right for you? The one that helps you retain the beautiful smile you’ve worked for all these months. Talk to Drs. Erickson and Aamodt to discover the retainer that will protect that smile for years to come.

The Evolution of Braces

November 2nd, 2022

Did you know that even in ancient times, people wanted to improve the look and function of their smiles? Erickson - Aamodt Orthodontics thinks of modern orthodontic appliances as sleek, efficient technology, but this was not always so! Take a look at the highlights in the evolution of braces.

Ancient Times: From Greece to Rome

  • According to The Angle Orthodontist, Aristotle and Hippocrates first thought about methods for straightening teeth between 400 and 300 BC.
  • The Etruscans, in what we now know as Italy, buried their dead with appliances that maintained spaces and prevented collapse of their teeth and jaws during life. Archaeologists have discovered mummified remains in various locations that have metal bands wrapped around the teeth.
  • A Roman tomb has also been discovered in which the teeth were bound with gold wire, including documentation on the wire’s use as a dental device.

18th Century: A French Development

  • The French dentist Pierre Fauchard is acknowledged as the father of modern dentistry. In 1728 he published a book that described various methods for straightening teeth. Fauchard also used a device known as a “blandeau” to widen the upper palate.
  • Louis Bourdet was another French dentist who published a book in 1754 that discussed tooth alignment. Bourdet further refined the blandeau and was the first dentist to extract bicuspids, or the premolar teeth between canines and molars, for the purpose of reducing tooth crowding.

19th Century: Orthodontics Defined

  • Orthodontics started to become a separate dental specialty during the early 19th century. The first wire crib was used in 1819, marking the beginning of modern orthodontics.
  • During this period, gold, platinum, silver, steel, gum rubber, vulcanite, and occasionally wood, ivory, zinc, and copper were used — as was brass in the form of loops, hooks, spurs, and ligatures.
  • Edward Maynard first used gum elastics in 1843 and E. J. Tucker began making rubber bands for braces in 1850.
  • Norman W. Kingsley published the first paper on modern orthodontics in 1858 and J. N. Farrar was the first dentist to recommend the use of force over timed intervals to straighten teeth.

20th Century: New Materials Abound

  • Edward Angle developed the first classification systems for malocclusions (misaligned teeth) during the early 20th century in the United States, and it is still in use today. Angle founded the American Society of Orthodontia in 1901, which was renamed the American Association of Orthodontists in the 1930s.
  • By the 1960s, gold was universally abandoned in favor of stainless steel.
  • Lingual braces were the “invisible” braces of choice until the early 1980s, when tooth-colored aesthetic brackets made from single-crystal sapphire and ceramics became popular

Today

As we arrive in the present, you need only look at your own braces to see how far we’ve come. Your treatment plan was probably created with a 3D digital model, and we’ve likely used a computerized process to customize your archwires. Perhaps you have clear aligners, self-ligating brackets, or highly resilient ceramic brackets with heat-activated wires.

Orthodontics has come a long way from the days of Aristotle, and even the bulky wrap-around braces of just 60 years ago. Regardless of your specific treatment plan, the development of high-tech materials and methods has made it possible for your orthodontic experience to be as effective, efficient, and comfortable as possible. Call our office in White Bear Lake, Eagan, Apple Valley, or Pine City, MN to schedule your first orthodontic consultation!