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Toothbrush Science

September 23rd, 2020

Let’s talk science! From the vastness of the cosmos to sub-atomic particles, science helps us understand the world around us and how it works. So, let’s take some familiar scientific fields of study and apply them to your toothbrush.

My toothbrush?

Yes, indeed! When it comes to your oral health, your toothbrush is the first line of defense, so understanding how and why it works so well might help us use this handy tool even more effectively.

Biology—the study of living organisms

Unfortunately for your toothbrush, the living organisms we’re talking about here are the bacteria which cause tooth decay and those which can lead to illness. How do these problems arise, and how do we prevent them?

Fight Plaque

Plaque is the sticky film that builds up on teeth, and millions of oral bacteria help make up this biofilm. These bacteria convert sugars and other carbohydrates in the foods we eat into acids. And these acids erode our tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. (More on this when we get to Chemistry.) The best ways to get rid of plaque?

  • Brush often. The recommended minimum is two minutes of brushing twice a day, but when you’re having orthodontic work done, it’s even more important to banish the plaque that can stick to your braces or inside aligners. Ask us what brushing schedule is best for you.
  • Try an electric toothbrush. For some people with braces, cleaning the teeth is easier and more thorough with an electric brush.
  • Replace your brush regularly. Brushes become worn and frayed after three or four months, and you won’t be brushing as effectively.

Stop Germs from Spreading

  • Don’t share. Sharing toothbrushes can lead to an increased risk of colds and infections.
  • Rinse thoroughly after brushing, making sure you remove any toothpaste or debris left after you brush.
  • Store the brush upright and let it air-dry. Covering the brush or keeping it in a closed container can promote the growth of bacteria more easily.
  • Keep different brushes separate when they’re drying to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Replace your brush regularly!

Chemistry—the study of what makes up substances, their properties, and how they interact

When it comes to improving your brushing chemistry, the best thing you can do for your toothbrush is to put a dab of fluoride toothpaste on it! Why fluoride? Let’s look at the chemistry of tooth enamel.

Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—even stronger than bone. But it is not indestructible, and acidic substances can dissolve the mineral bonds which give our enamel its strength, whether they come from the bacteria in plaque or are found in our favorite foods and drinks (sodas, coffee, tomatoes, and citrus are among the tasty, but acidic, culprits).

The enamel in our teeth contains calcium and phosphate ions, minerals which help make it the strongest substance in our bodies. But when the level of acidity in our mouths becomes too high, these minerals begin to dissolve. Eventually, teeth become pitted, bacteria can penetrate more deeply, and decay is the result.

So what can we do? While our saliva helps neutralize acidity naturally, and we can cut back on acidic foods in our diets, using fluoride toothpaste actually helps restore the strength of our enamel in a process known as “remineralization.”

Fluoride works on the surface of enamel to both attract and anchor calcium ions, reducing mineral loss and strengthening the weakened enamel. Fluoride also interacts with the calcium and phosphate compound to create a new compound that is even stronger and more acid-resistant.

When you brush with fluoride toothpaste, you help replace and restore the mineral composition of your enamel—and there’s evidence that fluoride might even interfere with oral bacteria’s ability to produce acid. Now that’s good chemistry!

Physics—the study of matter and energy and their interactions

The matter here is your tooth enamel, and the energy is the force you use when brushing. And this is one time the force should not be with you.

  • Over-vigorous brushing can not only damage your brackets, but can also irritate delicate gum tissue and wear down enamel. A “sawing” back-and-forth motion is both hard on your enamel and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. We’ll be happy to show you the safest and most effective way to brush with braces. Just remember, “Massage, don’t scrub.”
  • A soft toothbrush is almost always your best option when you use a manual brush, but if you’re still a heavy-handed brusher, or have sensitive teeth and gums, consider an electric model. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any heavy pressure from the brusher. Some models will even let you know when you are brushing too hard.

Brushing harder is not brushing better, and your teeth, gums, and braces will be heathier with careful brushing habits. If you need tips on brushing with braces, contact our Chula Vista, CA office and ask!

There’s a lot of science in the simple act of brushing, but we don’t need to spend hours studying to get a passing grade in dental health. The things you do normally—brushing at least two minutes twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste, and applying proper brushing technique—will help create a smile which will earn you top marks from Dr. Prater for a lifetime!

Treatment Options for TMD

September 16th, 2020

Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) refers to a diverse range of disorders that relate to muscular function in the jaw and face — the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). That could mean difficulty opening your mouth, pain in the jaw or face, or any sort of problem with the jaw joint.

TMD can be difficult to diagnose because of the varied causes. Whatever the case, an accurate diagnosis from Dr. Prater helps make treatment as successful as possible.

Most often, jaw problems will resolve themselves within several weeks or months. Surgeries like arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery should be a last resort. More conservative and reversible treatments should come first and are in fact the most critical step in the treatment of TMD.

Less invasive treatments like acupuncture and splints can be helpful, but that will depend on your particular case. It’s worth your while to speak with Dr. Prater at our Chula Vista, CA office to learn about solutions that could work for you.

A combination of treatments will most often produce the greatest relief for TMJ patients. It’s a good idea to avoid activities that overuse the jaws, such as chewing gum or clenching your jaws.

You can be proactive in finding relief for TMD by trying the following remedies at home:

  • Eat soft food: When you eat soft and/or blended food, your jaw gets an opportunity to rest. Avoid chewy and crunchy food, and food that requires you to open your mouth wide, like apples or corn on the cob.
  • Apply moist heat: A hot water bottle wrapped in a moist towel can help reduce symptoms.
  • Apply ice: Applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or towel for no longer than 15 minutes may also reduce pain and promote healing.
  • Do jaw exercises: A physical therapist can help identify the exercises that will work for you. Jaw exercises have been shown to be an effective treatment method that can be performed at home.
  • Relaxation: Actively try to relax the muscles of the face and lips, and let your teeth come apart. Many find meditation, yoga, and slow, deep breathing to be helpful for reducing stress and tension.
  • Avoid wide yawns: Keep your fist under your jaw when you feel a yawn coming on, to keep your jaw from opening too widely.

Stars Who Had Braces

September 9th, 2020

Not everyone is born with a million-dollar smile, not even some celebrities. The following stars have all had their moments as a “brace face,” either as a child, teenager, or adult. You might be surprised to learn about stars who had braces (including Gwen Stefani, who got braces just because she could!).

Take a look at some famous faces who sported braces!

Emma Watson: Emma admits to going through a rather awkward stage that included “terrible skin,” fluctuating weight, and braces. But look at the swan that emerged!

Tom Cruise: Who would have thought that one of the world’s most famous smiles could use an overhaul? Well, Mr. Cruise pulled it off … and most people didn’t even know. He wore “invisible” braces that had ceramic brackets for a few months just after his 40th birthday. And the results were pretty WOW!

Dakota Fanning: This lovely young actress had some troublesome teeth when she was younger. However, braces and dental work gave her that stunning star-quality smile we see now. Props to her, though, for staying real. She sported her headgear during an appearance on The Tonight Show and didn’t bat an eye.

Gwyneth Paltrow: The stunning Ms. Paltrow, who, in 2013 was named the Most Beautiful Woman by People Magazine, wore braces in high school. And she probably carried it off with the poise and grace for which she is so famous today.

Niall Horan: This member of One Direction, the boy band that’s currently tearing it up (and breaking some hearts along the way) wore his braces for several months. He got them removed in April 2013.

Other notable celebs who have had braces include Faye Dunaway, who got hers at the age of 61! Ryan Seacrest, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and Drew Barrymore also belonged to the metal mouth club at one time or another.

What is comes down to is this: It isn’t whether you wear braces that are fully hidden, ceramic brackets, or have the traditional metal train tracks running across your teeth. Nope, it’s all about how you work it!

Common Braces Problems

August 26th, 2020

It’s useful to know some of the common problems that can arise when you get braces. Even if you take great care of your braces and teeth, you might not be able to avoid certain issues or side effects that accompany braces. But don’t worry: These are all common problems that can be taken care of by following some simple advice.

If you just had your braces put on, you may notice some general soreness in your mouth. Your teeth are starting to adjust to having to shift, so they may ache, and your jaw might feel tender at first. This will subside once your mouth becomes used to the new appliance in residence.

You may experience soreness on your tongue or mouth, which may be a sign of a canker sore. Canker sores are common when braces rub against your mouth. You can use ointments to relieve pain and numb the area that’s been irritated. Canker sores are commonly caused by broken wires or loose bands on your braces.

Common Issues

  • Loose brackets: Apply a small amount of orthodontic wax to the bracket. You might also apply a little between the braces and the soft tissue of your mouth.
  • Loose bands: These must be secured in place by Dr. Prater. Try to save the band for repair.
  • Protruding or broken wires: Use the eraser end of a pencil to push the wire carefully to a less painful spot. If you are unable to move it, apply orthodontic wax to the tip. If a mouth sore develops, clean your mouth with warm salt water or antiseptic rinse.
  • Loose spacers: These will need to be repositioned by Dr. Prater and possibly replaced.

Avoiding Issues

You should avoid certain foods that could cause major damage to your braces. No matter what you eat, make the effort to cut your food into small pieces that can be chewed easily. This will prevent chunks of it from getting lodged between brackets.

Avoiding hard and chewy foods is also wise. Some foods can break your hardware: for example, popcorn, nuts, apples, gum, taffy, and hard candies. Avoiding any foods that easily got stuck in your teeth when you didn’t have braces is a good rule to follow.

The appliances in your mouth are bound to attract food particles and make it easier for plaque to build up. By making sure you brush and floss carefully every day, you can prevent stains and cavities from developing over time. Dr. Prater and our team recommend brushing and making sure that food isn’t lodged between your braces after every meal.

Having braces can be very exciting, but it can also be challenging at first. Watching for these common issues during your first few weeks can prevent problems down the road. If you experience a lot of pain from your braces, contact our Chula Vista, CA office and we can try to resolve any issues.

Braces can sometimes be a pain, but they’re well worth it once your new smile gets revealed!

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