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Spacing Out

November 24th, 2021

One of the most common reasons for getting braces is because there’s just not enough room for all your teeth to fit next to each other evenly. The result is overlapping and crooked teeth. What’s the first step in creating the space you need? Well, that depends on just how much room you need to align your teeth and bite properly.

When there is going to be a serious need for space, there are orthodontic solutions that can help, including palatal expanders, surgical options, and extractions. But if you only need a tiny bit of room so that regular braces will fit properly, we have a tiny solution—orthodontic spacers!

Why do you need to make space before you get braces? Because Dr. Harmon might need to make some room around crowded molars so your braces can be installed properly.

For example, you might need orthodontic bands to anchor your braces. An orthodontic band is a slim, custom-fitted ring of metal which fits snugly around a molar. It is durable, provides a place to attach bands and springs to help correct malocclusions (bite problems), and can securely surround a tooth that might be weak because of a large filling. Spacers can separate crowded teeth just enough to allow a band to be fitted around a molar.

Even if you don’t need bands, sometimes separators are necessary to provide enough space between the teeth for your braces to work effectively. The back teeth tend to move even closer together with braces, and, without adequate space, bite problems, risk of decay, and other difficulties can arise.

And while you might think that some serious equipment is in order to make room between those sturdy molars, the typical spacer, or separator, is actually extremely simple--usually a tiny, round elastic band, often made of rubber. Spacers can be placed between tight teeth in a matter of minutes. Each ring is stretched and positioned between your teeth with a special tool. As it returns to its original shape, the spacer’s width provides just enough pressure on the teeth it touches to make a bit of space between them. And a bit of space is usually all you’ll need.

What do spacers feel like? For some people, they can be uncomfortable. You might feel soreness, some pressure, or as though a piece of food is stuck between your teeth. Ask us for suggestions on making you more comfortable, whether it’s dining on ice cream and cold drinks, eating soft foods, or taking over-the-counter pain relief. Separators are only designed to be in place for a very short period (usually under two weeks), but if they are causing you pain, give us a call.

What do you need to do to help the process along? Actually, it’s more what you need not to do. Don’t use dental picks or floss on your separators, avoid chewing gum, and take chewy and sticky foods off the menu. And don’t be tempted to touch or play with your spacers!

Spacers can create space between the teeth so quickly and efficiently that they often fall out on their own after a few days. If your separators fall out, give our Sugar Land, Texas office a call. It could mean that you are ready for your braces, and on the way to a lifetime of healthy, beautiful smiles. And it’s a journey that begins with a tiny, springy step.

Positive Aging with Orthodontics

November 17th, 2021

Crooked or crowded teeth aren’t always just a cosmetic issue; they also are more difficult to clean, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Likewise, if your teeth don’t align properly when you bite (known as malocclusion), this can cause chewing, swallowing, and speaking problems.

You can put these risks to rest and look amazing, however, with well-thought-out orthodontic treatment from Dr. Harmon. More and more adults are opting for orthodontic treatment and changing their lives in the process.

Childhood is of course the ideal time to get treatment, since the mouth and jaws are still growing, but many adults still can get beautiful and lasting results which can be achieved discreetly and effectively with modern orthodontic appliances and technologies.

Traditional braces used to be the only thing going, and many adults understandably don’t like the way they look. There are so many other options for braces these days that it’s possible for almost any patient to be treated effectively and efficiently — usually in one to two years.

Here are some of the technologies being implemented in our modern Sugar Land, Texas orthodontic office:

  • Clear aligners: Practically invisible clear plastic aligners are great for less severe cases.
  • Lingual braces: These are placed on the back of your teeth instead of the front, and can handle anything that traditional braces can.
  • Ceramic braces: Translucent ceramic brackets make for effective and more discreet treatment.
  • Self-ligating braces: These require less manipulation by the orthodontist, which means fewer appointments and quicker results.

It should also be noted that the goal of orthodontic treatment (especially in adults) isn’t always limited to straightening teeth and/or correcting a bite. Teeth provide support for the lips and cheeks and help define your face.

The relationship between the jaws, teeth, face, soft tissues, and underlying skeleton of the face are important, and an orthodontist takes this into account when designing a smile.

In short, getting orthodontic treatment won’t just give you a good-looking and healthy smile; it can help define and enhance the entire appearance of your face. Knowing just how crucial your teeth are in determining how you look and live will help you age positively and confidently.

Just What Is Plaque?

November 10th, 2021

From the time you were small, you’ve been warned about the dangers of plaque. Why? Because:

  • It’s an unpleasant film that sticks to your teeth
  • It causes cavities
  • It causes gum disease
  • It can cause extra problems when you wear braces

And really, do we need to know much more than this to motivate us to brush? But if you’re in a curious mood, you might be wondering just how this soft, fuzzy film accomplishes all that damage. Let’s take a closer look at the sticky problem of plaque.

How does plaque form?

We live with hundreds of species of oral bacteria, most of which are harmless, and some of which are actually beneficial. But when our oral ecosystem gets out of balance, problems can occur. For example, without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, we start to build up plaque.

Plaque starts forming within hours of your last brushing. And even though plaque fits the very definition of “seems to appear overnight,” this biofilm is actually a complex microbial community with several different stages of development.

  • It starts with saliva.

Saliva is vital to our oral health, because it keeps us hydrated, washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth, and provides minerals which keep our enamel strong. Saliva also contains proteins, which help form a healthy, protective film on the tooth surface. This film is called a pellicle.

  • Bacteria attach to the pellicle.

There are species of oral bacteria that are able to attach themselves to the pellicle film within hours of its formation. As they become more firmly attached, they begin to grow and divide to form colonies, and are known as the early colonizers of the plaque biofilm.

  • A complex biofilm forms.

If you’ve skipped brushing for a few days (please don’t!), you’ll notice a fuzzy, sometimes discolored film on your enamel—that’s a thriving plaque community, and it only takes a matter of days to go from invisible to unpleasant.

If you’re not removing plaque regularly, it can harden further and become tartar. And once you have tartar buildup, you’ll need the care of a dental professional to remove it.

  • What happens if we ignore plaque and tartar?

We get cavities and gum disease.

How does plaque cause cavities?

  • The bacteria in plaque, like all organisms, need nutrients.

Our normal oral environment and the food in our everyday diets provide the nutrients plaque needs. And, as we mentioned above, certain types of oral bacteria convert these nutrients into acids. Foods such as carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are most easily converted into acids, which is why we recommend that you enjoy them in moderation.

  • The biofilm promotes acid production.

Within the plaque film, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which don’t use oxygen) convert sugars and starches into acids. As the plaque film becomes denser, it blocks acid-neutralizing saliva and oxygen from reaching these bacteria close to the tooth’s surface, creating an ideal environment for the bacteria to produce their acid waste products.

  • Acids attack enamel.

The sticky nature of plaque keeps these acids in contact with tooth enamel, where, over time, acids dissolve minerals in enamel, weakening the mineral structure of the tooth.

How does plaque cause gum disease?

  • Bacteria cause inflammation and gingivitis.

The bacteria in plaque irritate the delicate tissue of the gums, which causes an inflammation response which can leave your gums swollen, red, bleeding, or tender. This early form of gum disease is gingivitis. Fortunately, good dental care and careful brushing and flossing can usually prevent and even eliminate gingivitis.

  • Plaque and tartar can lead to periodontitis.

When plaque and tartar build up around and below the gumline, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect, leading to infection as well as inflammation. Infections and constant inflammation not only harm gum tissue, they can destroy the bone supporting the teeth. This serious gum condition is periodontitis, and should be treated immediately to avoid further infection and even tooth loss.

How does plaque affect orthodontic patients?

  • Plaque collects around your braces.

Braces provide plenty of spots for plaque to hide from your brush. If you aren’t extremely diligent with your brushing and flossing, plaque collects near brackets, wires, and bands—all those spots that a brush and floss find difficult to reach.

  • Plaque promotes demineralization

The demineralization process we mentioned above can cause white spots on teeth (decalcification), where minerals have dissolved. Sometimes these spots can be treated, and sometimes they are permanent. They can become quite sensitive, and may lead to cavities.

Careful brushing and flossing around your braces will help eliminate the plaque that can cause demineralization near brackets. Ask Dr. Harmon about the tools and the brushing and flossing techniques which will give you the best results.

How do we fight plaque?

From the time you were small, you’ve learned how to fight plaque:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all of your tooth surfaces and around the gumline.
  • Floss to remove plaque from between the teeth and near the gumline.
  • See your dentist as recommended for a thorough professional cleaning.

Be proactive. If you have any questions, talk to us at our Sugar Land, Texas office about the best way to keep plaque at bay. We can show you the most effective ways to brush and floss, recommend anti-plaque toothpastes and rinses, even suggest plaque-revealing tablets if you’re missing some trouble spots.

We’ve only brushed up on some plaque basics, because there is a lot more to discover about this complex biofilm. Happily, even with all there is to learn about plaque’s growth and development, it’s reassuring to know that getting rid of it is quite simple—with just a soft-bristled brush, some dental floss, and a few minutes of your time each day, you’re on the way to a healthy, happy, plaque-free smile.

Don’t let braces ruin your Halloween

October 27th, 2021

Halloween is a time to enjoy delicious candies you might avoid the rest of the year. Youngsters who get to dress up and ask for sweet treats out trick-or-treating cherish this holiday.

If you have braces on, Dr. Harmon would like you still to have fun and celebrate Halloween this year!

It’s easy to get carried away on Halloween by eating too much candy at once. Most parents try to prevent the all-too-common sugar high their kids experience on Halloween night. While there are certain candies that should be avoided, not all candy will cause problems for kids with braces. After trick-or-treating, you could trade unsafe candies with siblings and/or friends so they don’t miss out on the sugar buzz.

Dr. Harmon and our team have come up with a list of teeth-friendly treats that should keep you from worrying about breaking your braces. We also came up with a list of candies to avoid, so as to save you a trip to our Sugar Land, Texas office. Remember to be extra careful when you indulge this Halloween!

Braces-Friendly Sweets

  • Solid chocolate: Milk, white, or dark
  • Nougat-filled candy bars: Three Musketeers
  • Powdery candy: Sweet Tarts, Pixie Stix
  • Mint-flavored candy
  • Malted milk balls
  • Soft cookies
  • Peanut butter crackers

Avoid These Treats

  • Sticky candy: Starbursts, toffee, Tootsie Rolls
  • Hard candy: Suckers, Jolly Ranchers
  • Taffy
  • Caramels
  • Fruit chews
  • Gum
  • Caramel apples
  • Skittles
  • M&Ms

When in doubt, ask Dr. Harmon if a particular candy is safe to eat when you have braces. We hope you enjoy your Halloween sweets, and look forward to seeing you at your next appointment! Happy Halloween!

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