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Ouch! Are You Biting Your Cheeks More Often?

October 18th, 2023

You’re biting into something delicious, and, Ouch! You bite into something you didn’t mean to—the inside of your tender cheek.

Painful moments like this happen every now and again. But if you find that more frequent cheek biting means that you’re extra-cautious when eating or speaking, if you wake up with sore cheeks in the morning, or if you catch yourself gnawing on your cheeks during the day, it’s time to see Dr. Harmon.

Causes of Cheek Biting

Many of us experience the occasional cheek chomp when we’re eating or talking. No fun! Besides the pain, a bite can cause broken skin, inflammation, a canker sore, or a cyst. Luckily, the discomfort from these accidental bites generally resolves after a few days.  

Sometimes, though, biting becomes a more frequent annoyance. Regular bites can be caused by several conditions. One of the most common?

  • Orthodontic Misalignment

If you notice that you seem to be biting your cheek a lot when eating or speaking, it could be an orthodontic problem. When your teeth or jaws don’t align properly, if your mouth is small in proportion to your teeth, or if your teeth have shifted over time, your cheeks can feel the consequences! Dr. Harmon can help you discover if a misaligned bite is the source of your biting problems.

But it’s not just orthodontic problems which can cause painful cheek bites. Other causes can include:

  • Bruxism

Bruxism is a medical term for tooth grinding. If you clench or grind your teeth as you sleep, it’s hard on your teeth and on your jaws. And for some people, that nightly gnashing causes cheek biting as well.

  • Wisdom Teeth

Most of us don’t have the room to welcome four new—and large—teeth. As the wisdom teeth come in, they can cause bites, especially if they erupt leaning outward toward your cheeks. They can also push your other teeth out of place.

Treatment Options

Why visit our Sugar Land, Texas orthodontic office? A one-time bite can be extremely uncomfortable, and might lead to inflammation or a sore spot inside your mouth. Usually, these reactions fade in a short while.

But what about continuous biting? Regular biting injuries can lead to bigger problems. Tissue can get thicker or erode. Scar tissue can build up inside the mouth. Ulcers and other sores can become larger and more painful.

If you’ve been biting your cheeks more often, your orthodontist can diagnose the cause and offer you treatment options depending on the reason for this frequent biting:

  • Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontic treatment can improve tooth and bite alignment—and can eliminate those painful cheek bites if misalignment is what’s causing them. Today’s orthodontics offers more options than ever before, for both adults and kids.

  • Traditional braces are more effective—and more subtle—than ever, with brackets which are smaller or come in clear and ceramic styles.
  • Clear aligners are a convenient, almost invisible way to treat misalignment with a series of trays which gradually improve alignment with each new set.
  • Lingual braces are attached to the back of the teeth, so there are no visible brackets and wires.
  • Functional appliances can improve and correct bite issues which braces or aligners alone can’t treat as effectively.

Whatever the reason for painful cheek biting, you deserve to eat and speak and enjoy your day without constant “Ouch!” moments affecting your comfort and health. If these moments are happening all too often, visit our Sugar Land, Texas office for the answers to your biting problems.

Welcome to the Office!

October 11th, 2023

What do you imagine when you picture an orthodontic office? Do you see a steady stream of teenagers walking through the doors? Teen magazines in the reception room? Backpacks stowed under every chair? If so, we have an update for you.

In today’s office, you’ll find grade school kids, teens, and adults (and children’s books and games, and even the occasional golf magazine). Today’s orthodontic patients are more diverse than ever before!

Why? Because today, more than ever, more of us can benefit from orthodontic treatment.

Young Children

Even before a child’s adult teeth come in, a visit to Todd Harmon Orthodontics is a good idea. In fact, dentists and orthodontists recommend an orthodontic exam around the age of seven for every child.

Early intervention can make sure that there’s enough space for those incoming permanent teeth and can help correct jaw alignment problems for a healthy bite.

  • Palatal expanders can gently enlarge a small upper dental arch to make room for adult teeth.
  • Space maintainers will save room for an adult tooth to erupt in just the right spot if a baby tooth is lost too early.
  • Treatment for malocclusions like overbites, open bites, and underbites while young bones are still growing helps create a more comfortable, healthy bite and may prevent more complicated treatment in the future.

Older Adults

If you’ve always wanted straighter teeth or a pain-free bite, don’t let an imaginary age limit prevent you from getting orthodontic treatment! As long as your teeth and gums are healthy, orthodontic treatment is a terrific way to keep them healthy.

  • If you have painful bite issues which have never been treated,
  • If you’ve always wanted straighter teeth,
  • If your teeth have become more crowded over time,

there’s no time like the present to start working toward the smile you’ve always wanted.

Bonus: new technology in braces and aligners makes orthodontic treatment more subtle and discreet than ever before.

  • Traditional braces—brackets are smaller than ever, and come in a choice of several materials and colors, including ceramic brackets and tooth-colored and clear brackets.
  • Lingual braces—the least visible treatment, because brackets and wires are attached behind the teeth.
  • Clear aligners—a removable and almost invisible way to straighten teeth.

Tweens & Teens

Teenagers still make up the majority of patients in orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists often recommend starting treatment between the ages of ten to 14, because:

  • Most of the adult teeth have come in, so problems with crowding, spacing, or crooked tooth alignment can be diagnosed and corrected.
  • The jawbone is still growing, and the bone is not as dense, so it can be easier to realign teeth and jaws for straighter teeth and a symmetrical bite.

Today’s treatment choices offer more options and are more effective than ever before. Depending on a teen’s orthodontic needs, Dr. Harmon might suggest:

  • Traditional braces or aligners
  • Elastics (rubber bands) used with braces to bring the upper and lower teeth into alignment.
  • Functional appliances—together with braces or aligners, appliances like the Herbst® appliance, the Forsus™ device, the twin-block appliance, and headgear can work inside and/or outside the mouth to help correct problems with tooth and jaw alignment.

It’s no longer just the middle school and high school crowd you might meet in your orthodontist’s waiting room. Children, teenagers, and adults can all benefit from orthodontic treatment at our Sugar Land, Texas office. If someone in your family is one of those people, give your orthodontist a call to see just what orthodontic treatment can offer. Welcome in!

Your Sunny Smile

October 4th, 2023

Your beaming smile makes a sunny day even brighter—and that sunny day can return the favor! How does the sun affect your dental health? Let’s shine some light on the subject.

You may have heard how important calcium is to your body. Over 99% of the calcium in our bodies is used to form teeth and bones, providing strength and structure to the hardest parts of the body. But that’s not the only task on the calcium to-do list. Calcium is also necessary for:

  • muscles to work
  • nerves to carry messages
  • blood to deliver nutrients and oxygen
  • the release of hormones

When we don’t get enough calcium in our diets, our bodies start to draw the calcium they need for these critical functions from our teeth and bones. Over time, a severe calcium deficiency can lead to teeth that are brittle, or more vulnerable to decay, or loose due to weakened bone density in the jaw.

Keeping up with your calcium is especially important when you’re wearing braces or aligners. Calcium helps protect you from tooth decay and gum disease, which could delay your treatment. And you want your jaw bones strong and healthy as the bone tissue reforms and then stabilizes around your teeth as they move to their new, ideal positions.

We can get the calcium we need from a balanced diet. Dairy products are our most common source of calcium, and several servings of milk, cheese, or yogurt each day supply most of our needs. If dairy’s not on your menu, though, you can get calcium from other foods like broccoli, kale, collard greens, canned salmon, or sardines. Because calcium is so essential to our health, many foods are fortified with it, including fortified juices, bread, cereals—even tofu!

But there’s a snag here, and it’s a big one. We can’t really benefit from our careful consumption of calcium without the help of vitamin D. If calcium is the doorway to strong teeth and bones, vitamin D is the key which unlocks all of calcium’s benefits.

Without enough vitamin D, our bodies can’t absorb and make use of calcium. However, getting enough of this essential vitamin can be a problem. While we can get most of the vitamins we need from a balanced diet, there aren’t a lot of foods which are naturally rich in vitamin D.

So, how do we get this vital vitamin? The original option comes from nature.

  • Sunlight

Vitamin D is called “the sunshine vitamin” because of the unique chemical reaction which creates it. When the ultraviolet B rays of the sun reach special cells in our skin, they convert cholesterol in these cells to a basic form of vitamin D. These vitamin molecules travel through the body, picking up hydrogen and oxygen molecules in the liver and kidneys to become active vitamin D.

Since sunlight exposure is easy, available, and free, it seems like a simple solution to getting the vitamin D we need.

But we’ve understandably moved away from the days of basking in the sun for hours at a time. Over-exposure to UV rays damages the skin, causing premature aging and, worse, a much greater risk of skin cancer. If you enjoy time in the sun, talk to your doctor about safe sun exposure, which can depend on the part of the country you live in, the time of year, and your individual skin type.

And, if you need to avoid sun exposure, there are other opportunities for getting the vitamin D you need.

  • Diet

While there aren’t a lot of foods which are naturally rich in vitamin D, there are still a few options on the menu. Oily fish like salmon, tuna, and herring—and old-fashioned cod liver oil—are good sources of the vitamin. But most of us don’t live on a strict fish diet!

Instead, we can get the vitamin D we need from fortified foods. Vitamin D is commonly added to cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, and cereals to make sure the calcium in our diet is working effectively to keep our teeth and bones strong. Check out nutritional labels to discover whether your favorite grocery products contain vitamin D. And don’t forget to choose foods that are braces-friendly, as well!

  • Supplements

For hundreds of years, people who lived in climates and cities without a lot of sunshine suffered from the effects of vitamin D deficiency. Diseases like rickets, where the teeth and bones don’t form properly, were common in children. Adults who couldn’t absorb enough calcium suffered from weak teeth and bones.

Today, depending on age, allergies to sun or food products, dietary choices, and health conditions, some people are still at risk for vitamin D deficiency. If you’ve been diagnosed with this deficiency, your doctor might recommend a vitamin D supplement. (It’s important to take any supplement as directed, because taking too much vitamin D can be harmful, too.)

So, which form of vitamin D is best? Fortified foods? Supplements? Or is it that radiant original source—the sun? No need to worry. With any form of vitamin D, you’re getting the key you need to unlock the benefits of the calcium in your diet—for healthy teeth and bones before, during, and after your treatment at our Sugar Land, Texas orthodontic office. Your sunny smile will thank you!

Get Your Orthodontic Journey Off to a Good Start

September 27th, 2023

Whether you’ve chosen traditional braces or invisible aligners, congratulations! You’ve taken the first step on your way to a beautiful, healthy smile. Of course, like every other journey, a good start helps you get where you’re going as quickly and easily as possible. And the best way to start your orthodontic journey at Todd Harmon Orthodontics is with a visit to your dentist for a checkup and a cleaning.

Dr. Harmon and our team will want you to make sure your teeth and gums are healthy before you begin. A complete dental exam will let you know if you have any dental conditions that need to be addressed before you get braces or aligners. Why be proactive? Because if you need dental work during your orthodontic treatment, it can cause delays in your treatment plan.

  • Cavities

Cavities grow over time and can eventually reach the inside of the tooth, causing infection and damaging the pulp. For this reason alone, it’s best to find and treat cavities before you get braces or aligners.

If you’re wearing braces when a cavity’s discovered, the situation gets a bit more complicated. Your dentist might be able to work around your braces if the cavity is easy to reach. But if a cavity’s near your brackets, Dr. Harmon might have to remove a wire or bracket before treatment can start. This means scheduling different appointments to a) remove a section of your braces, b) repair your cavity, and c) replace your bracket and/or wire. See what we mean? Definitely more complicated.

  • Gum Disease

While serious gum disease is most common in adults, children and teens can suffer from early-stage gum disease. Your gum health affects your orthodontic treatment—and can be affected by it, too—so your gums need to be healthy before you begin wearing braces or aligners.

Early gum disease can frequently be reversed with careful brushing and flossing habits. Because advanced gum disease weakens the bone under the teeth, patients with this kind of gum disease will need dental or periodontal treatment before any orthodontic work.

  • A Clean Start

Once you’ve made sure your teeth and gums are healthy, there’s one more proactive step you can take for a better orthodontic experience. Whenever you’re at the dentist for an exam, it’s always a good idea to get a professional cleaning. It’s especially important when you’re getting—or wearing—braces.

Even with the most dedicated everyday brushing and flossing, plaque and tartar can build up, especially between and behind the teeth. A professional cleaning by an expert is just what you need to remove any plaque or tartar that you’ve missed before you start wearing braces or aligners.

And keep up with professional cleanings while you’re in treatment. It can be difficult to clean around brackets and underneath wires. Your dental team knows how to gently and thoroughly clean plaque from these hard-to-reach spots. In fact, Dr. Harmon and your dentist might recommend that you have your teeth cleaned more often while you’re wearing braces.

  • Your Best Bonding Experience

If you’re getting metal brackets, ceramic brackets, or lingual braces, your brackets will be applied to your tooth enamel with a special bonding glue. Applying brackets to teeth that are their cleanest will start you off with the best possible bond.

If you need dental work while you wear braces, we can certainly accommodate that. But why make life more difficult? See your dentist for a cleaning and an exam and get any necessary dental treatment before you get your braces at our Sugar Land, Texas orthodontic office. The easiest journey to a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles begins with a good start!

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