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Orthodontics and Oral Piercings

May 18th, 2022

Traditional braces and oral piercings—does the inevitable meeting of metals pose any risks? Let’s look at some of the potential problems with oral piercings, and you and Dr. Daniel Ma can decide if you should take a break from jewelry while you’re in treatment.

  • Tooth Damage

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies, but when up against constant contact with metal? It’s not a fair fight.

Tongue piercings, especially, cause problems for your teeth. Whenever you speak or eat—even while you’re sleeping!—your tongue is making contact with your teeth. This continual tapping of metal on enamel can chip and crack teeth and damage fillings. A serious fracture could mean a root canal.

You’re getting braces to create a more attractive, healthy smile, so keeping your teeth intact is a priority.

  • Gum Problems

Your gums are affected by orthodontic treatment. As the teeth move, the gums, ligaments, and bone around them adapt and even reshape over time. You might notice when you first get your braces, or when you go in for an adjustment, that you have a few days of swollen, sensitive gums afterward. You might also find that you are at greater risk of gingivitis, because it can be harder to keep plaque away from your gumline until you perfect your brushing and flossing skills.

Oral piercings bring their own gingival dangers. Jewelry in the tongue or lip can rub against gum tissue, especially around your lower front teeth. As the gum tissue continues to be irritated and inflamed, it pulls away from the teeth. This process is called gum recession.

Receding gums expose the tops of your roots to cavity-causing bacteria. They make you more sensitive to hot or cold foods. Pockets between gums and teeth can harbor infections that threaten the tooth itself.

Caring for your gums during braces is important for your dental health. Since people with oral piercings have a much higher rate of gum recession that those without, why add one more risk factor to your oral health?

  • Metal vs Metal

Lip and tongue piercings can make contact with traditional brackets and wires, especially if you have a habit of playing with them. And let’s not forget lingual braces! Lingual braces are almost invisible because their brackets and wires are custom fitted to the back of your teeth. Whenever you speak or eat, you’ll be taking the chance that a tongue piercing will damage these custom-made appliances.

Dr. Daniel Ma can tell you if your piercings are in any danger of interfering with your braces, but even if you’re planning on aligners, there are additional reasons to consider retiring your oral jewelry. Dental associations and medical associations discourage oral piercings because they can damage teeth and gums. And there’s more. Oral piercings can lead to swelling, bleeding, allergic reactions, infection, and nerve damage.

The reason you’re considering braces is because you want a healthy, attractive smile. Don’t let a tiny piece of jewelry make your life and your treatment more difficult! Do some research and talk to our Vancouver, BC team about your oral piercings, and come up with a solution that’s best for your health and best for your smile.

How does wisdom tooth removal affect orthodontic care?

May 11th, 2022

The purpose of braces and other forms of orthodontic treatment at our office is to correct malocclusion, also known as crooked or crowded teeth, or “bad bites.” Past orthodontic practice dictated that wisdom teeth be removed, especially in cases of crowding.

The wisdom teeth are the last teeth to come in, and are officially known as the third molars. The teeth typically erupt, or break the surface of the skin, in young people between the ages of 13 and 20.

Sometimes, wisdom teeth are impacted. That means they cannot break through the gum tissue. This typically happens when the mouth or jaw is too small to accommodate the teeth. Impacted wisdom teeth can become infected, and some dentists and orthodontists may want to remove them as prophylaxis to prevent possible future infection.

Justification for removing wisdom teeth

Dr. Daniel Ma will tell you that in some cases, wisdom teeth attempt to come in the wrong way, either tilting in the jaw, or sideways. If the mouth is too small to accommodate these additional teeth, they inevitably become impacted. Swelling or infection of the gum flap above an impacted wisdom tooth may cause pain. The greatest danger is pericoronitis, a potentially dangerous infection that can occur in the gum area around an impacted wisdom tooth, or around a wisdom tooth that has erupted.

Orthodontists base their decision to remove wisdom teeth on each patient's individual circumstances. To learn more about the impact wisdom teeth have on orthodontic treatment, or to schedule a visit with Dr. Daniel Ma, please give us a call at our convenient Vancouver, BC office!

Getting a Retainer? Make It Personal!

May 4th, 2022

If Dr. Daniel Ma and our team recommend a Hawley retainer to complete your orthodontic treatment, you’re getting a classic. This retainer, invented by Dr. Charles Hawley, has been in use since the early decades of the twentieth century.

But this isn’t your great grandmother’s pink plastic retainer! The look of today’s Hawley retainer has really evolved from its early days as the “Hawley bite plate”—and pink is now a choice instead of an inevitability. In fact, you can choose from any number of colors, patterns, and designs to create a retainer that is uniquely you.

Each Hawley retainer is customized to fit your mouth and teeth perfectly. Wire clasps and a labial bow wire are securely attached to an acrylic base based on a model made from your teeth and mouth.

Your retainer is designed for function—the bow wire makes sure your teeth stay in the perfect position while your bones and ligaments get strong enough to hold them in place. The acrylic base, of course, is also functional—but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it!

Retainer bases can be formed in different ways.  One type of retainer model uses pre-formed acrylic discs for the base, and these are available in many pre-formed colors and patterns. Another type of retainer builds the base by alternating several applications of liquid and powder acrylics, layer after layer. This process allows the retainer technician to create one-of-a-kind designs.

What are some of the ways to make your retainer uniquely yours?

  • Color—whether deep tones, pastels, electrics, neon, or metallic, you can find an appealing shade in the color chart. Or, if you want your retainer to keep a low profile, choose a clear or a color-coordinated pink tone.
  • Glow in the Dark—if you don’t want your retainer to keep a low profile, this might be just the look for you!
  • Glitter—accessorize your sparkling smile with a sparkling retainer.
  • Patterns—stripes, polka dots, geometric shapes—even animal patterns are possible.
  • Color Combinations—why choose one color when you can have a marbled swirl of your favorites? Or a tie-dye look? Or team colors?
  • Acrylic Designs—a colorful design that captures your personality is available with some creative acrylic artistry. Rainbows and flags, hearts and flowers, ladybugs, and spider webs are just some of the options on hand.
  • Picture Perfect—for that special hobby, pet, team, or other personal favorite, decals or pictures can be applied under a layer of clear acrylic.

Hawley retainers are made to last, so choose your design with years of use in mind. Talk to our Vancouver, BC team about the custom looks which are available to celebrate your unique personality. After all, there’s nothing more personal than your smile!

Overbite Overview

April 27th, 2022

An overbite is one of the most common malocclusions. If Dr. Daniel Ma and our team have diagnosed you with an overbite, you probably have lots of questions. Let’s try to answer some of them!

Just what is an “overbite”?

A malocclusion is another way of saying that you have a problem with your bite, which is the way your jaws and teeth fit together when you bite down. In a healthy bite, the front top teeth project slightly beyond, and slightly overlap, the bottom teeth. A normal overlap is generally considered one or two millimeters.

An overbite is a Class II malocclusion, and means that the upper front teeth cover more of the lower teeth than they should. But that’s a very general definition, and we will diagnose and treat your own, very specific, bite and teeth alignment.

Because overbites aren’t all alike. They might be barely noticeable. Upper teeth might overlap lowers by an extra millimeter or two. In more severe overbites, the upper teeth might cover the lower teeth completely. The amount of overlap and the cause of the overbite will determine your treatment.

What causes an overbite?

Overbites can be dental, caused by tooth alignment, or skeletal, caused by bone development, or a combination of both. They are usually hereditary, so, most often, an overbite is something you’re born with.

The size and position of your jaws, the shape and position of your teeth, all affect your bite alignment. But early oral habits, such as prolonged and vigorous thumb-sucking or pacifier use can contribute to overbite development. Missing teeth and bruxism, or tooth grinding, can also affect the alignment of your bite.

How do we treat an overbite?

There are many types of treatment available. Dr. Daniel Ma will recommend a treatment plan based on the type and severity of your overbite. Because some treatments are effective while bones are still growing, your age plays a part as well.

  • Braces and Aligners

If dental issues are the main reason for your overbite, braces or clear aligners can be very effective. Rubber bands are commonly used to help bring teeth and jaw into alignment.

  • Functional Appliances

If the overbite is caused by a problem with upper and lower jaw development, devices called functional appliances can be used to help guide the growth of the jawbones while a child’s bones are still forming.

For young patients, there are several appliances that can help correct an overbite. Some, like the Herbst appliance, work inside the mouth, while others, like headgear, are worn externally. Your orthodontist will recommend the most effective appliance for your needs.

  • Surgical treatment

In some cases, where the problem is skeletal rather than dental, surgical treatment might be necessary to reshape the jawbone itself. This is especially true for adults, whose bones have finished forming.

If we recommend surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgeons are experts in surgical procedures designed to create a healthy and symmetrical jaw alignment. Dr. Daniel Ma will work with your surgeon to design a treatment plan, which will usually include braces or other appliances following surgery.

Why treat your overbite?

Sometimes, a very slight overbite won’t require treatment. A serious, moderate, or even mild overbite, though, can lead to many dental and medical problems, including:

  • Crooked, crowded teeth
  • Worn teeth and enamel
  • Problems speaking or chewing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches, facial, and temporomandibular (jaw) joint pain

When you work with our Vancouver, BC team to correct your overbite, you’ll not only prevent these unpleasant consequences, but you’ll achieve major benefits as well—a healthy, comfortable bite, and an attractive, confident smile. If you’d like more than an overbite overview, Dr. Daniel Ma can provide the specific information and treatment plan you need to make that healthy bite and that confident smile a reality!  

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