Our Blog

Why Do I Need a Retainer?

May 18th, 2022

Congratulations! You’ve done the hard work necessary to create your beautiful smile! You’ve carefully completed all the steps needed to reach the end of your orthodontic journey. Well, nearly all the steps. We can’t forget that last step which will ensure that all your hard work is rewarded.

When you first began orthodontic treatment, Dr. Harmon decided on the best plan for straightening your teeth and perfecting your bite, whether you wore traditional braces, lingual braces, aligners, or other orthodontic appliances. And now that you’re finishing treatment, there’s one more option to consider—your retainer.

Why do I need a retainer?

While you’ve spent time in treatment, more has changed than just the position of your teeth. The periodontal ligament, the connective tissue that connects the teeth to the jawbone, is stretched as the teeth shift. The bone in your jaw changes, too, reforming and rebuilding around the roots of your teeth as they move to their ideal locations.

These changes happen because your braces or aligners apply gentle, constant pressure to move your teeth. When you’ve finished wearing these appliances, the pressure stops. Ligaments will try to return to their original shape, which can shift teeth back toward their old positions. And the rebuilding bone isn’t dense enough yet to stop teeth from shifting due to the normal, everyday pressures of eating, chewing, and smiling.

A retainer prevents your teeth from moving back, or “relapsing,” by giving your bones and ligaments time to stabilize and rebuild. The process takes months, so keeping your teeth in place as bones rebuild and grow denser is crucial. This is especially important for patients with more serious misalignments. Dr. Harmon will let you know which kind of retainer will be best for you and just how long you’ll need to wear your retainer.

Are there different kinds of retainers?

There are! Retainers can be removable or fixed, visible or nearly invisible, metal, plastic, or metal and plastic. Three of the most popular retainer options include:

  • Hawley Retainers—the traditional removable retainer, which uses a molded acrylic plate with wires attached to keep your teeth properly aligned and to hold your retainer in place.
  • Clear Plastic Retainers—a removable retainer made of custom vacuum-formed plastic, which fits over the teeth like a clear aligner.
  • Fixed Retainers—a small single wire bonded to the back of specific teeth, which holds them in place and prevents any movement.

Dr. Harmon will let you know whether a removable or fixed retainer is best for making sure your teeth don’t start to relapse, and fill you in on the benefits and care of each type of retainer.

How long do I need to wear a retainer?

There’s no standard answer to this question. Just like your retainer is custom-built to fit your individual teeth, the amount of time you’ll spend in that retainer depends on your individual needs. Retainers might be worn fulltime for months or years, be worn only at night after several months of daily wear, or be worn long-term to make sure your orthodontic work lasts.

Because you’ve done the hard work already, and your beautiful, healthy smile is the result. Talk to a member of our Sugar Land, Texas team about which retainer option will be best for making sure that this smile lasts a lifetime.

Safety of Dental X-Ray Radiation

May 11th, 2022

We all want to live our healthiest lives. We know that part of keeping ourselves healthy is regular visits to our Sugar Land, Texas office for checkups and necessary dental work. And that dental work might require an X-ray. Should the amount of radiation in an X-ray concern us?

First, it is helpful to know that the radiation you are exposed to from a dental X-ray is very small. A set of most bitewing X-rays, for example, produces an amount of exposure about equal to the amount of background radiation we get from our normal surroundings in a typical day. We also take care to minimize your exposure even further by using specially designed equipment and protective shielding, and taking only necessary X-rays. If your child is very young, if you are pregnant, or if you have other health concerns, talk to us about the advisability of X-rays and whether they are essential to treatment.

Second, much of our careful general examination will be done visually. Dr. Harmon can check for cavities and other problems and assess tooth and gum health. But sometimes, there are conditions which can’t be detected without an X-ray.

  • Decay that isn’t visible in an oral exam—if a small cavity develops between teeth, or is hidden underneath a filling, an X-ray will catch it before more damage can take place.
  • Infection—An X-ray will reveal infections such as abscesses that can damage both bone and tooth, and gum disease that has harmed bone and connective tissue.
  • Orthodontic and periodontal issues—We might need an X-ray to determine the spacing and development of your child’s incoming teeth and maturing jaw structure, to properly create braces for adults or children, or to place an implant within the jawbone.
  • If you are a new patient, it is helpful to have complete X-rays taken as a baseline of your current dental health and previous dental work. This baseline allows us to track tooth and jaw development, if necessary, and to evaluate any future changes that might be a concern. (If you have had X-rays taken in another office, we can help you have them transferred so we have a background of your dental history.)

Even though the radiation from a dental X-ray is minimal, be assured that we will never request any unnecessary procedure. When we recommend an X-ray, we do so to make sure there is no decay or infection threatening the health of your gums and teeth, and that we have the essential knowledge we need to treat any dental, periodontal, or orthodontic condition. Because we all want to live our healthiest lives—and part of that healthy life is both active and proactive dental care.

Double Duty

May 4th, 2022

If you play a contact sport, you know about mouthguards. You know about the cushioning protection they provide for your teeth. And not just your teeth—mouthguards also help protect your lips, tongue, and jaw, helping you avoid or minimize many of the injuries caused by collisions.

But you don’t have to be part of the defensive line or face off on center ice to wear a mouthguard. It pays to be proactive with your oral health in any activity where impact is a possibility. Whether you play a team sport, practice gymnastics, ride a bike, ski, skateboard, or participate in other athletic pastimes, there’s almost always the risk of impact—with a ball, with the mat, with the sidewalk, with another person.

So, how do mouthguards protect your teeth and mouth? It’s a combination of materials and design. Mouthguards are made of a strong, cushioning material such as plastic or silicone which helps absorb and distribute the force of impact, usually in the form of a horseshoe-shaped piece which fits over your upper teeth. The specific design can be tailored to the sport or activity you’ll be using it for.

And now that you’re wearing braces? Working toward an attractive, healthy smile doesn’t mean you can’t be active or find a mouthguard which will work for you. In fact, when you wear braces, mouthguards do double duty—they protect your mouth and teeth, and they protect your braces, too!

Even minor impacts can damage wires and brackets, and damaged braces means more time at the orthodontist and lost treatment time. More important, your guard not only helps protect your brackets and wires from impact injury, it protects your delicate mouth tissue from trauma caused by impact with your brackets and wires.

Because you probably have braces on both upper and lower teeth, the usual mouthguard design might not work for you. To make sure you’re completely protected, you may need a guard which covers both upper and lower arches.

There are over-the-counter mouth guards designed for braces, and even for covering both your upper and lower teeth. These might be one-size-fits-all or fit-it-yourself guards, or models which should be used only after a fitting at our Sugar Land, Texas orthodontic office. While some of these guards are better than others, the best option for your teeth—and your braces—might be a custom mouthguard.

What are the benefits of a custom guard for orthodontic patients? They:

  • Provide a perfect fit around teeth and braces
  • Protect better because they fit better
  • Are designed for easy breathing and speaking
  • Are less bulky
  • Are more durable
  • Fit more comfortably
  • Can accommodate orthodontic adjustments
  • Can be tailored to your specific sport or activity.

Custom mouthguards are more expensive, because they are individually crafted for your teeth and braces, but in terms of effectiveness, they are the best guards out there—because they are individually crafted for your teeth and braces. If cost is an issue, Dr. Harmon can let you know whether an over-the-counter option might work for you.

An active life should mean proactive dental care. Wearing a mouthguard when you’re wearing braces protects both your body and your orthodontics. Whichever guard option you choose, it’s a good idea to check out the fit with Dr. Harmon to make sure you’re getting all the protection you need for both when your mouthguard is doing double duty.

Hot Day? Three Drinks to Leave Home When You’re Packing the Cooler

April 27th, 2022

Whew! It’s a hot one! And whenever the temperature soars, you need to stay hydrated, especially when you’re outside or exercising. But all cold drinks aren’t equal when it comes to healthy hydration. Which beverages shouldn’t have a prime spot in your cooler when you’re wearing braces or aligners?

  • Soft Drinks

You’re probably not surprised to find soft drinks at the top of the list. After all, sugar is a) a big part of what makes soda so popular, and b) not a healthy choice for your teeth.

Sugar is a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that make up plaque. These bacteria convert sugar into acids, and these acids attack the surface of your tooth enamel. Over time, the minerals which keep enamel strong begin to erode, and weakened, eroded enamel is a lot more susceptible to cavities.

So, what about sugar-free drinks? Does this make soft drinks a better choice? Unfortunately, you can take the sugar out of many sodas, but you can’t take the acids out. Most soft drinks are very acidic, even without sugar, and will cause enamel erosion just like the acids created by bacteria will.

  • Fruit Drinks

Fruit juice provides us with vitamins, which is great, but it’s also full of natural sugars and acids. And blended fruit drinks and fruit punches often contain added sugars and added citric acids. Best to choose 100% fruit content and check the labels before you buy. (And you can always get refreshing fruit flavor by adding a slice of fruit to a glass of water.)

  • Sports Drinks

You might be surprised to see these on the list—after all, they promise healthy hydration while you’re working out. And hydration is healthy—but sugars and acids aren’t. Even when the label tells you there’s no added sugar, that same label will often reveal high amounts of citric acid. In fact, some sports drinks are more acidic than sodas.

We’ll make an exception, though, for thirsty people who participate in sports or activities that require a lot of physical exercise and produce a lot of sweat. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, those ionized minerals which help regulate many vital bodily functions. Talk to Dr. Harmon about which sports drinks are best for you if you need to replenish your electrolytes when working out.

So, what’s your best hydration choice on a hot day? Water! It not only hydrates you, it cleans your teeth, it helps you produce saliva, and it often contains tooth-strengthening fluoride. But if you only have sports drinks in the cooler, or if you just want to enjoy a soft drink or a bottle of juice from time to time, no need to go thirsty. We have some ways to make sure your teeth are safer, even with this tricky trio:

  • Rinse with water after you drink a sugary or acidic drink. And remember to brush when you get home.
  • Be choosy. Check labels for added sugars and acids.
  • Don’t sip your drinks all day long. Saliva actually helps neutralize acids in the mouth, but sipping acidic beverages throughout the day doesn’t give saliva a chance to work.
  • Use a straw to avoid washing your enamel in sugars and acids.

While sugar and acids are never good for your teeth, it’s especially important to reduce your exposure while you’re in braces or aligners.

  • Increased sugar means increased plaque and bacteria, which can collect around your brackets. When plaque isn’t cleaned away, bacterial acids cause mineral erosion, which shows up as white spots on your enamel. You don’t want to see a collection of white spots when those brackets come off!
  • Filling a cavity might require the (temporary) removal of part of your braces.
  • There’s a reason Dr. Harmon and our team recommend that you only drink water with your aligners on. If you wear them while you drink sugary and acidic beverages, the liquid collects in your aligner tray, literally bathing your teeth in sugar and acid—and speeding up the process of erosion and decay.

You need to keep hydrated when it’s hot. When you’re packing your cooler, choose drinks that are healthy for your entire body, including your teeth and gums. Ask our Sugar Land, Texas team for the best choices in cold drinks to make sure you’re getting the hydration you need—without the sugar and acids you don’t!

Patient Testimonials

Back to Top

HomeAbout UsNew PatientsBraces 101About OrthoInvisalign®Contact UsSite Map

Website Powered by Sesame 24-7™