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TMD Problems and How You Can Prevent Them

December 22nd, 2021

Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) describe a set of conditions that involve trouble with your jaw and face muscles. They result from a problem in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which is a hinge that connects the temporal bones, in your skull in front of each ear, to your jaw. The joint enables you to talk, yawn, and chew by letting your mouth move.

TMD can be very painful and interfere with functions such as eating and speaking. This what to watch for and how to try to prevent TMD.

Risk Factors for TMD

You are at higher risk for TMD if you are a women than if you are male. The disorder is most common among adults between the ages of 20 and 40 years. Other risk factors for TMJ disorders include the following.

  • Arthritis in the area, making movement more difficult
  • Excessive tooth grinding, because it increases stress on the joint
  • General stress, which can lead you to clench your teeth and strain facial muscles

Symptoms of TMD

Symptoms of TMD can last for just a short while, or for several years. Seeing Dr. Smith is important if your symptoms make it impossible for you to eat regularly or if you have unbearable pain or discomfort. The following symptoms can occur on both or one side of your face.

  • Aching or very tired facial muscles
  • Jaws that are fixed open or shut without you being able to unlock them
  • Grating or popping sounds when you chew or close or open your mouth
  • Pain in the entire area, including the mouth, jaw, neck, or shoulders, that comes on when you chew or yawn

Preventing TMD

You can try to prevent TMD by focusing on reducing risk factors. If you grind your teeth at night, ask Dr. Smith about wearing a mouthguard. If you are overly stressed, look into ways to better manage your stress and relax your muscles. Another strategy for trying to prevent the development of TMD is to avoid chewing gum, since that puts stress on your jaw.

If you have questions about TMD, don’t hesitate to contact our Washington DC office.

Five Ways You Won’t—And One Way You Will—Get Your Braces Off Faster

December 15th, 2021

It’s only natural when you’re waiting for something good—you count down the weeks until your birthday, or until the summer holidays, or until your braces come off. But while your birthday and your vacation won’t come any faster no matter what you do, you can help determine just how fast that happy day arrives when you’re done with your orthodontic treatment.

When you first got your appliance, Dr. Smith gave you an estimate of how long your treatment would take. Of course, that estimate is based on everything going according to plan. What are some detours that can delay your progress?

  • Missing Appointments

With every adjustment at our Washington DC office, you are moving closer to the ideal positioning for your teeth. If you miss or postpone appointments, it can take just that much longer to complete your orthodontic work.

  • Eating the Wrong Foods

You have a list of foods that are on the do-not-eat list. Hard, chewy, sticky bites are famous braces-breakers, but don’t forget that size also matters! Biting into a juicy apple or a buttery ear of corn can damage your brackets and wires just as much as chewy candy can. Be sure everything you eat is size-appropriate and braces-friendly. Obviously, damaged braces can’t straighten teeth as effectively as intact appliances!

  • Sticking with Bad Habits

Pressure from nail biting, chewing pencils, or crunching on ice can cause chips and cracks in your teeth, so just think what they can do to your appliance. Ask us for tips for quitting if you’ve picked up any of these habits. We know habits can be hard to break, but they are harder on your teeth and braces. If you bend or break a wire or loosen a bracket, you might be delaying your orthodontic progress. Which leads us to . . .

  • Ignoring Appliance Accidents

Accidents happen. Brackets or metal bands can become loose; wires can bend or break; spacers can fall out. If you notice a problem, call our office right away. Sometimes a minor problem can wait, but if your appliance is damaged, your teeth aren’t moving into position on schedule.

  • Blowing Off Bands

If you have bands to help correct your bite, be sure that you wear them as directed. If you skip hours or days of band-wear, you are adding to the time it will take to correct the bite problems they are meant to fix. And don’t double band to speed things up—that might put too much pressure on your teeth. Just follow our recommendations, and you will be done with those bands—and those braces—as soon as possible.

But, wait! We promised you one sure way to keep your orthodontic progress on track:

  • Follow Your Treatment Plan

If you keep your appointments, take care of your braces, call us promptly if they are damaged, and wear your appliance as directed, you will be doing your part to keep your treatment on track. And that happy day when your braces come off? It will arrive right on schedule!

Spot Check

December 8th, 2021

After all your hard work, and months of orthodontic treatment, the big day is finally here—your braces are coming off! What you want to see: beautiful, straight teeth perfectly aligned to create a comfortable, healthy bite. What you don’t want to see: a collection of whitish spots dotting the enamel around your gum line or outlining the spot where your brackets used to be.

What are these spots? Can they be removed? And, most important, how do you avoid them?

Decalcification

Those white spots are caused by decalcification, or the removal of the minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus, that strengthen our enamel. How does this removal take place? When bacteria and plaque remain on the teeth, they produce acids that eat away at these minerals. The result is a weakened, discolored white spot in the enamel. Unfortunately, because many orthodontic patients don’t brush thoroughly around their braces, decalcification is an all-too-common problem.

Treating Decalcification

You might need cosmetic dentistry to eliminate or reduce white spots on the enamel. In some cases, they will fade over time, or teeth whitening can help. In more stubborn cases, tooth bonding or veneers can cover the affected enamel.

Preventing Decalcification

But, obviously, prevention is always better than treatment. Here are some of the ways to keep your enamel healthy and looking its best:

  • Brush thoroughly after every meal.

Getting rid of the bacteria and plaque on your enamel and around your gum line will greatly reduce your chances of decalcification—and cavities. Brush after every meal, and talk to us about the best products and techniques for cleaning your teeth and appliances. And be sure to spend the extra time you’ll need for brushing around your braces.

  • Floss

Even though it can be more difficult to floss with brackets and wires, it’s essential for removing plaque. We have suggestions for special flosses designed for braces wearers, and how best to use them. A water flosser can be helpful for reducing plaque if other flossing methods aren’t working.

  • Use fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride actually helps remineralize our teeth, replacing the important minerals that have been lost to acid attacks. We might also suggest remineralizing toothpastes or a fluoride rinse.

  • Watch your diet

Acidic foods increase the acidity levels in your mouth, sugars give bacteria the fuel they need to produce acids, and sticky foods allow bacteria to remain on teeth and braces longer. We’ll give you suggestions on the best foods to keep your teeth healthy (and your braces intact) while you’re undergoing treatment.

  • Have your teeth cleaned regularly

Your dental professional will be able to remove plaque and tartar that home brushing has missed.

  • Work with us!

If we let you know that you need to spend more time on your cleaning routine, or that you need to be more thorough when you brush and floss, take our suggestions to heart. We are happy to show you the most effective way to clean around your braces. Dr. Smith can recommend the best dental products for your specific needs. We can suggest rinses and toothpastes that will help. We’ll let you know how much time you should spend brushing and how often.

If you have any questions at all about keeping your teeth and braces their cleanest, we are here to help. Always feel free to talk to our Washington DC team about concerns you might have about decalcification, discoloration, or any other potential problems. We are want to make sure that when your braces come off, you have every reason to smile!

Celebrate the Season with Braces-Friendly Treats

December 1st, 2021

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, with the holidays around the corner, and visions of sugarplums and other tasty desserts dancing in everyone’s head.

Except, this year you have braces. This means some of your favorites might be on the naughty list. What to avoid? The same kinds of foods that you avoid now: anything hard, crunchy, sticky, or chewy. This means some of the traditional holiday favorites will have to be postponed for a while:

  • Pecan Pies

A festive tradition! But, nuts in a sticky sugar filling? Time to create a new dessert tradition that will be less of a problem for wires and brackets.

  • Gum Drops, Caramels, & Toffees

These super-sticky, chewy treats are definitely hazardous for your braces. Find a soft candy alternative instead.

  • Candy Canes & Hard Candies

Hard, sticky, and crunchy? Let’s save these candies for decorating the gingerbread house this year.

So what can you eat?

Luckily, there are plenty of dessert options that are nice to wires and brackets! Let’s look at some festive treats that also easy on your braces.

  • Cupcakes & Cakes

Soft, moist cupcakes and cakes should be no problem. Fruitcake, with its sticky dried fruits and nuts, should be avoided—which is a perfect excuse if you’re not a fan!

  • Pudding

Puddings are a smooth easy-to-eat treat, so enjoy! But know your puddings. Some traditional holiday puddings are more cakelike and contain the same chewy ingredients as fruitcakes, so the same advice applies—if it contains dried fruits and nuts, this is not the dessert for you.

  • Soft Candies

The same soft chocolates that you could eat for Halloween are good now, too! If it’s just not the holidays without peppermint, smooth peppermint patties are the way to go.

  • Pies & Other Favorites

Pecan pies are a firm no, but velvety desserts like pumpkin pie, cream pies, and cheesecake should be fine. And be sure you pick only the soft cookies in the holiday cookie exchange!

When you visit our Washington DC office, ask Dr. Smith about these and other holiday treats to make sure they are safe for you and your braces. And one more word before we all dig in—too much sugar in your diet creates the perfect conditions for cavity-causing bacteria. But there’s no need to give up all your holiday treats.

Just as you would brush after any dessert without braces, be sure to brush now that you have them. Be especially careful to remove any sugary residue from around your brackets, between your teeth, and near your gum line. And it’s always best to eat sweet treats as part of a meal, to reduce the effect of sugars and acids on your teeth.

Oh, and about those sugarplums? These candies originally contained no soft, tender plums at all. They were actually tiny treats created by coating a seed or nut center with a hard sugar shell. But you don’t need to worry about missing out on Victorian treats—with all of your delicious and braces-safe dessert choices, you’ll be enjoying a very sweet holiday season!

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