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Your Child’s First Visit to the Orthodontist

September 20th, 2023

We often think of braces as a rite of passage for kids in middle and high school. So you might be surprised when your child’s dentist recommends a visit to see Dr. Harmon years earlier than you anticipated. In fact, dentists and orthodontists generally suggest a visit to the orthodontist by age seven at the latest.

Why see an orthodontist so early?

After all, your child is still growing, and many adult teeth haven’t come in at that age. And that’s the whole point.

Around this age, your child will probably have a mix of both baby and adult teeth, so your orthodontist will be able to assess whether there’s enough room for the permanent teeth to erupt without crowding or spacing problems. And malocclusions, or bad bites, caused by problems with jaw size or symmetry can be addressed while young bones are still forming and developing.

If your child has a first appointment coming up on the calendar, here’s a heads up on what often happens during a first visit, and potential problems your orthodontist will be on the lookout for.

What can you expect at a first visit?

The first visit is designed to evaluate how your child’s teeth and jaws work together now, and to look for potential future problems with tooth alignment and jaw structure and development.

First, Dr. Harmon will carefully examine your child’s teeth, jaws, and mouth. Your child will be asked to bite down several times to see how the teeth and jaws fit together, and if there’s any discomfort. Other helpful diagnostic tools could include:

  • Scans or X-rays to evaluate jaw structure and the position of teeth which haven’t erupted yet
  • Photos of your child’s teeth and face
  • An impression of your child’s teeth

If there’s no immediate need for treatment, we might recommend periodic checkups at our Sugar Land, Texas orthodontic office to follow the growth and development of your child’s teeth and jaws. If interceptive (early) treatment is your child’s best option for a healthy smile, your orthodontist will explain any immediate orthodontic issues and design a treatment plan tailored to your child’s specific needs.

What are the benefits of early treatment?

Interceptive treatment not only helps correct current orthodontic problems, it can help reduce the need for more complicated treatment in the future, when all of the adult teeth have arrived and bones are fully formed. Among its many benefits, early treatment can:

  • Prevent crowding

If your child has a small upper palate, it can be gently enlarged while the palate is still growing with the help of a palatal expander. This will give the upper teeth the space they need to come in without crowding.

  • Provide space

If primary teeth are lost too early, other teeth can shift out of alignment to fill the empty space. A space maintainer can be custom-made to keep the spot open until the right tooth is ready to erupt. If primary teeth are overstaying their welcome, Dr. Harmon might recommend extraction to allow the adult teeth to erupt in the proper place.

  • Create jaw symmetry

Malocclusions can develop because the upper or lower jaw is too narrow, too far forward, too far back, or the jawbones don’t fit together properly. Dr. Harmon might suggest the use of a functional appliance such as the Herbst® appliance or headgear to help guide symmetrical bone development while your child’s young bones are still growing and forming.

  • Protect teeth

Children with overjets, or protruding upper teeth, are more likely to suffer chips, cracks, and other trauma to those vulnerable front teeth. Functional appliances can help bring the upper and lower jaws into alignment as needed, and braces can move the teeth into alignment.

Every journey to a healthy smile begins with a first visit. And you don’t need to wait until your child is seven. Any time you’re concerned about an orthodontic issue is a good time for a consultation. Talk to Dr. Harmon about what to expect at your first visit to help create a comfortable experience for your child as you begin this journey together.               

Teens and Gum Disease

September 13th, 2023

You have a lot going on. School. Sports. Activities. Family. Friends. Teens lead busy lives and have busy schedules, so you need to budget your time and energy. One thing you don’t want to spend any of your time and energy on? Dealing with gum disease.

Gum disease most often begins as a reaction to plaque and tartar. The bacteria in plaque produce acids which irritate gum tissue, causing inflammation, swelling, and bleeding. This is gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease.

Left untreated, early gum disease can become periodontitis. Periodontitis is a serious gum infection which can cause receding gums, loose teeth, and even tooth and bone loss.

We usually think about gum disease as something that only older adults worry about. But the unfortunate fact is that children and teens are also at risk for gum disease—and the teen years bring special risks. Why?

  • Braces

The teen years are the most common years for orthodontic treatment. Wearing traditional or lingual braces can make removing plaque from around brackets and wires, between the teeth, and near the gum line more challenging, and gum disease can be the result. When you’ve been working so hard to create a healthy attractive smile, you don’t want to delay your orthodontic progress to treat gum disease.

  • Less-than-Nutritious Snacking

When you have after school commitments like sports practices, play rehearsals, or work, you probably carry a snack to give you the energy you need until dinner. Popular snacks like energy drinks, chips, or candy bars are common go-to choices, but they contain acids, simple carbs, and sugars which are bad for both gums and tooth enamel.

  • Hormones

Increased hormone levels during puberty can make the gums more sensitive and more easily irritated.

  • Your Busy Life

Maybe you’re not getting enough sleep. Or eating as well as you could. Or you’re feeling anxious. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and stress can affect your body’s immune system and your ability to fight off infection. And if you’re also not brushing and flossing regularly, your gum health can really suffer.

How do you know if you have gum disease? Good question! Sometimes the early stages of gum disease aren’t obvious. Perhaps you’ve noticed changes in your gums, such as:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Soreness
  • Bleeding
  • Bad breath even after brushing

Any of these changes can be symptoms of gum disease and are a good reason to give our Sugar Land, Texas office a call, since time is important when treating gum disease.

Caught early, gingivitis is usually very treatable—in fact, you can often reverse early gingivitis by paying more attention to your daily dental hygiene. If gingivitis is more advanced, or if periodontitis develops, you need professional dental care to prevent serious damage to your gums, teeth, and bone.

Preventing gum disease from ever developing is always best, though, so let’s look at what you can do to keep gum disease from becoming a problem.

  • Keep Up with Healthy Dental Habits

Even though you’re leading a busy life, take time for your dental care. Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes per session and flossing once a day take just a bit of your time and are the best way to keep your gums healthy. If you wear braces or have a tendency toward cavities and gum disease, Dr. Harmon might recommend brushing or flossing more often.

  • Use the Right Tools

Using the right tools makes a big difference. You should always choose a toothbrush with soft bristles to protect your delicate gum tissue—especially if it’s extra sensitive. Too-harsh brushing can damage even your super-hard tooth enamel, so you can imagine what it can do to your gums! Change out your brush every three to four months when it starts to get frayed and worn.

If you wear braces, ask Dr. Harmon to recommend the best kind of floss to clean between your teeth and around your brackets and wires. The right tools will make flossing a lot easier, and will help you keep your gums healthy and your orthodontic treatment on track.

  • No Matter How Busy You Are, Treat Yourself Well

Watch your diet. Drinking water to hydrate is a healthy (and inexpensive) alternative to sugary and acidic drinks. When you know you have after-school commitments, pack yourself a healthy snack. After snacking, it’s a good idea to rinse with water when you can’t brush to remove any food particles sticking around your teeth and gums.

And even though your schedule is demanding, caring for your mind and body should be a priority. If you have difficulties with sleep or stress, or questions about a nutritious diet, talk to your doctor for some valuable tips to make your daily life healthier and more enjoyable.

With so much going on in your active life, gum problems are problems you really don’t need. Make room in your schedule now for careful daily brushing and flossing, a healthy lifestyle, and regular visits to Todd Harmon Orthodontics, and you’ll be living that active life with a beautiful, healthy smile!

Summer Smiles

September 7th, 2023

The “Back to School” ads are out already? Halloween candy’s showing up in stores? Just a minute—summer isn’t quite over yet! While the days are still sunny and warm, let’s look at a few cool ways to keep your smile bright with some healthy dental options:

  • Healthy Drinks

Hot summer days mean it’s time to hydrate. But sodas, fruit drinks, and sports drinks can have a lot of added sugars, which can mean added cavities. They can also be quite acidic, and acids break down tooth enamel. So, what to reach for on a hot day? Water!

Water is a good choice whenever you’re thirsty. Water is essential for healthy bodies and for healthy teeth and gums, too. Water helps wash away food particles which feed the cavity-causing bacteria in plaque. Acids in our foods and drinks break down tooth enamel, and water helps balance out those acids. If you have fluoridated water, fluoride makes enamel stronger and even helps reverse early decay.

  • Healthy Gear

It’s great to get outdoors again for sports like biking, water skiing, baseball, or hoops. And it’s great to keep your teeth safe while you’re active. A mouthguard will help protect your teeth and mouth from contact when you’re playing contact sports. If you wear braces, Dr. Harmon can craft a mouthguard that will protect both your mouth and your braces!

If you’re just out of braces or aligners, don’t forget to wear your retainer. Retainers keep your teeth from moving out of position while your jawbones rebuild strong bone tissue around them. Make sure that healthy smile you worked so hard for stays looking its best.

Your appliances protect you, so return the favor and make sure your appliances stay healthy by cleaning them after use and storing them in their protective cases.

And remember to replace another piece of protective equipment regularly—your toothbrush. If you haven’t replaced your toothbrush for several months, it’s time to go shopping. Toothbrushes wear down over time, especially if you wear braces, and, after three months or so, can’t clean plaque as effectively. Which reminds us . . .

  • Healthy Habits

Even as we take advantage of the end of summer with last minute camping, or travel, or action-filled weekends, one thing should stay on schedule—regular brushing and flossing.

You should be brushing twice a day, for two minutes each time. If it’s hard to time yourself, try playing a favorite two-minute song or using a timer or even a brushing app. And don’t forget to floss! Floss gets into spaces where bushes can’t to remove plaque. Floss once a day to keep your teeth their cleanest. Be proactive if your orthodontist suggests more frequent brushing and flossing while you’re wearing braces.

Finally, don’t neglect your orthodontic care. Keep up with appointments at our Sugar Land, Texas office. If you wear aligners, wear them all the hours recommended. If you have bands, replace them daily and whenever they start to feel loose. If you have an appliance, use it as directed. The more you keep to your orthodontic schedule, the faster you’ll be enjoying your healthy, beautifully aligned smile.

Summer’s almost over, but these healthy tips work in fall, winter, and spring, too—for a smile that’s sunny and bright all year long!

Three Reasons We're Fans of Fluoride

August 30th, 2023

Why all the fuss about fluoride? Your dentist recommends it, your toothpaste is formulated with it, most of our drinking water contains it. Just what is it about this mineral that makes dental professionals sing its praises? Read on for three good reasons why fluoride is a healthy choice for healthier teeth.

  1. Fluoride Works!

Fluoride is an attractive option for protecting your teeth—and we mean that literally. Fluoride protects the surface of your teeth by working on a molecular level to attract minerals which strengthen enamel and help prevent cavities.

Our tooth enamel is mostly made from calcium and phosphate ions. These elements combine to form hydroxyapatite, strong crystals which make up about 95% of our enamel. Hydroxyapatite is so strong, in fact, that tooth enamel is the hardest part of our bodies. What can go wrong?

Acids. Acids created by the bacteria in plaque and the acids in our diet strip away the calcium and phosphate ions in enamel, weakening the surface of the tooth. This process is called demineralization. Over time, weak spots become bigger as acids eat through enamel to the inner tooth, causing decay and cavities.

So, what can fluoride do?

First, fluoride helps remineralize tooth enamel. Fluoride is attracted to the tooth’s surface and bonds with its minerals. It also attracts the calcium and phosphate ions that are found in our saliva to restore any minerals that have been lost. This process helps repair any weak spots that might have begun to form.

But fluoride does more than restore and repair tooth strength—it improves it! Fluoride ions join with calcium and phosphate to form fluorapatite crystals, which are larger and stronger than hydroxyapatite crystals. Even better? These new crystals are more resistant to acids.

  1. Fluoride Is Doubly Effective

Fluoride works both externally and internally. We just looked at how fluoride helps keep teeth strong when applied to the outside of the teeth. This is called a topical application. Systemic benefits come the fluoride we consume in our diets.

Fluoride isn’t found in many foods, but it is found naturally in lakes, rivers, and other water sources. When the local water’s fluoride level is low, many communities add fluoride for its proven ability to prevent cavities. Water fluoridation is safe, has been studied for decades, and has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities by 25% or more for both children and adults.

Systemic fluoride was important when you were younger and still had your baby teeth. This is because fluoride joined with minerals in your adult teeth while they were growing and developing, creating stronger, more cavity-resistant teeth even before they erupted.

And now that your permanent teeth are here, you’re still in luck! When you drink fluoridated water, you’re increasing the amount of fluoride in your saliva. Just like fluoride toothpaste, saliva bathes your teeth with fluoride ions, remineralizing and strengthening the tooth surface and helping repair weak spots in your enamel.

  1. It’s Easy to Get Fluoride Protection

Because so much of our drinking water is fluoridated, most of us really don’t have to think about how to get the recommended amount of fluoride in our diet each day. If your community’s water is low in fluoride, Dr. Harmon can help you. Prescription fluoride rinses, gels, supplements, and other treatments are available at our Sugar Land, Texas orthodontic office to make sure that your teeth are well-protected, wherever you may live. We will let you know which products are best for you and how often to use them.

Most toothpastes are formulated with fluoride, so you’re getting the enamel-strengthening benefits of this mineral every time you brush. Keeping up with your brushing is especially important while you’re in orthodontic treatment.

Because wearing traditional braces can mean it’s harder to reach all the plaque on your teeth, especially behind wires and around your brackets, that demineralization we talked about earlier is a common problem during treatment. Demineralization often leads to discolored white spots on enamel and, eventually, cavities. If you need more protection than toothpaste alone provides, Dr. Harmon will suggest fluoride treatments to reduce the risk of demineralization and even reverse some of its effects.

Fluoride isn’t, of course, the only way to look out for your dental health. Proper brushing and flossing are still essential for removing plaque. And sealants for both kids and adults provide long-lasting protection for chewing surfaces. But when it comes to a proven cavity-fighter that’s simple to use, effective, and easily available—is it any wonder we’re big fans of fluoride?

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