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Our Blog

Why Do I Need a Retainer?

May 11th, 2022

Congratulations! You’ve done the hard work necessary to create your beautiful smile! You’ve carefully completed all the steps needed to reach the end of your orthodontic journey. Well, nearly all the steps. We can’t forget that last step which will ensure that all your hard work is rewarded.

When you first began orthodontic treatment, Dr. Cronin decided on the best plan for straightening your teeth and perfecting your bite, whether you wore traditional braces, lingual braces, aligners, or other orthodontic appliances. And now that you’re finishing treatment, there’s one more option to consider—your retainer.

Why do I need a retainer?

While you’ve spent time in treatment, more has changed than just the position of your teeth. The periodontal ligament, the connective tissue that connects the teeth to the jawbone, is stretched as the teeth shift. The bone in your jaw changes, too, reforming and rebuilding around the roots of your teeth as they move to their ideal locations.

These changes happen because your braces or aligners apply gentle, constant pressure to move your teeth. When you’ve finished wearing these appliances, the pressure stops. Ligaments will try to return to their original shape, which can shift teeth back toward their old positions. And the rebuilding bone isn’t dense enough yet to stop teeth from shifting due to the normal, everyday pressures of eating, chewing, and smiling.

A retainer prevents your teeth from moving back, or “relapsing,” by giving your bones and ligaments time to stabilize and rebuild. The process takes months, so keeping your teeth in place as bones rebuild and grow denser is crucial. This is especially important for patients with more serious misalignments. Dr. Cronin will let you know which kind of retainer will be best for you and just how long you’ll need to wear your retainer.

Are there different kinds of retainers?

There are! Retainers can be removable or fixed, visible or nearly invisible, metal, plastic, or metal and plastic. Three of the most popular retainer options include:

  • Hawley Retainers—the traditional removable retainer, which uses a molded acrylic plate with wires attached to keep your teeth properly aligned and to hold your retainer in place.
  • Clear Plastic Retainers—a removable retainer made of custom vacuum-formed plastic, which fits over the teeth like a clear aligner.
  • Fixed Retainers—a small single wire bonded to the back of specific teeth, which holds them in place and prevents any movement.

Dr. Cronin will let you know whether a removable or fixed retainer is best for making sure your teeth don’t start to relapse, and fill you in on the benefits and care of each type of retainer.

How long do I need to wear a retainer?

There’s no standard answer to this question. Just like your retainer is custom-built to fit your individual teeth, the amount of time you’ll spend in that retainer depends on your individual needs. Retainers might be worn fulltime for months or years, be worn only at night after several months of daily wear, or be worn long-term to make sure your orthodontic work lasts.

Because you’ve done the hard work already, and your beautiful, healthy smile is the result. Talk to a member of our Langley team about which retainer option will be best for making sure that this smile lasts a lifetime.

Double Duty

May 4th, 2022

If you play a contact sport, you know about mouthguards. You know about the cushioning protection they provide for your teeth. And not just your teeth—mouthguards also help protect your lips, tongue, and jaw, helping you avoid or minimize many of the injuries caused by collisions.

But you don’t have to be part of the defensive line or face off on center ice to wear a mouthguard. It pays to be proactive with your oral health in any activity where impact is a possibility. Whether you play a team sport, practice gymnastics, ride a bike, ski, skateboard, or participate in other athletic pastimes, there’s almost always the risk of impact—with a ball, with the mat, with the sidewalk, with another person.

So, how do mouthguards protect your teeth and mouth? It’s a combination of materials and design. Mouthguards are made of a strong, cushioning material such as plastic or silicone which helps absorb and distribute the force of impact, usually in the form of a horseshoe-shaped piece which fits over your upper teeth. The specific design can be tailored to the sport or activity you’ll be using it for.

And now that you’re wearing braces? Working toward an attractive, healthy smile doesn’t mean you can’t be active or find a mouthguard which will work for you. In fact, when you wear braces, mouthguards do double duty—they protect your mouth and teeth, and they protect your braces, too!

Even minor impacts can damage wires and brackets, and damaged braces means more time at the orthodontist and lost treatment time. More important, your guard not only helps protect your brackets and wires from impact injury, it protects your delicate mouth tissue from trauma caused by impact with your brackets and wires.

Because you probably have braces on both upper and lower teeth, the usual mouthguard design might not work for you. To make sure you’re completely protected, you may need a guard which covers both upper and lower arches.

There are over-the-counter mouth guards designed for braces, and even for covering both your upper and lower teeth. These might be one-size-fits-all or fit-it-yourself guards, or models which should be used only after a fitting at our Langley orthodontic office. While some of these guards are better than others, the best option for your teeth—and your braces—might be a custom mouthguard.

What are the benefits of a custom guard for orthodontic patients? They:

  • Provide a perfect fit around teeth and braces
  • Protect better because they fit better
  • Are designed for easy breathing and speaking
  • Are less bulky
  • Are more durable
  • Fit more comfortably
  • Can accommodate orthodontic adjustments
  • Can be tailored to your specific sport or activity.

Custom mouthguards are more expensive, because they are individually crafted for your teeth and braces, but in terms of effectiveness, they are the best guards out there—because they are individually crafted for your teeth and braces. If cost is an issue, Dr. Cronin can let you know whether an over-the-counter option might work for you.

An active life should mean proactive dental care. Wearing a mouthguard when you’re wearing braces protects both your body and your orthodontics. Whichever guard option you choose, it’s a good idea to check out the fit with Dr. Cronin to make sure you’re getting all the protection you need for both when your mouthguard is doing double duty.

Working Behind the Scenes—Lingual Braces

April 27th, 2022

There are many great reasons to see an orthodontist. For a healthier bite. For straighter teeth. For a more confident smile. So why are you hesitating? If the visibility of traditional braces is what’s holding you back, ask Dr. Cronin about lingual braces.

With regular braces, brackets are bonded to the front of each tooth with a special adhesive. Ligatures around each bracket or bracket clips grip an archwire, which does the work of moving the teeth. The gentle pressure from the wire guides the teeth into alignment in gradual stages. Every adjustment moves the teeth to their perfect positions. These braces are quite effective—and they are usually quite visible.

Lingual braces, on the other hand, are virtually invisible. Lingual means “toward the tongue,” and this placement is the difference between lingual braces and more traditional types of orthodontic braces.

Lingual braces are custom designed to be applied to the inside of your teeth. Specially designed brackets are attached to the backs of the teeth. Individually crafted archwires are used to guide your teeth to their best alignment.

Lingual braces can be the solution to many orthodontic concerns:

  • If you need or want invisible braces for personal or professional reasons, lingual braces are a great option. Because they are behind your teeth, they are even less noticeable than clear aligners—and you don’t need to keep track of your hours wearing them.
  • Lingual braces keep the front of your teeth braces-free for playing a brass or reed instrument, or for participating in sports. (Just remember, a mouthguard is always a good idea for athletic activities, and especially when you wear braces.)
  • Both brackets and wires can be customized to fit your teeth perfectly, and new lingual brackets and wires are more comfortable than ever.

You might be a good candidate for lingual braces if:

  • You have a large enough tooth surface to place a bracket. Adults with small teeth—or children—might not be have enough room on the back of each tooth to hold a bracket.
  • You don’t have a major malocclusion (bite problem) which would make lingual braces impractical. A deep overbite, for example, could cause the wires and brackets behind the upper teeth to come loose or detach as they come in contact with lower teeth.
  • You are dedicated to keeping up with your oral hygiene. Because wires and brackets are behind the teeth, it can be harder to keep them free from food particles and plaque.

Finally, even if lingual braces aren’t the perfect match for your orthodontic needs, there are other options that can work for you. Smaller metal brackets, ceramic brackets that blend in with your enamel, and clear aligners mean today’s orthodontic work is more subtle and discreet than ever before.

For a healthier bite, for straighter teeth, for a more confident smile—don’t hesitate. Contact our Langley office to discuss the many great options you have available to give you the smile you’ve always wanted—front and center.

Midline Misalignment

April 20th, 2022

By and large, the human body is a marvel of symmetry. But, of course, no one is perfect. You might have noticed one ear is a bit higher than the other. That you wear a shoe a half-size bigger on your left foot. That one shirtsleeve always looks longer.

Or that your smile looks off-center. This dental asymmetry could be caused by a condition known as “midline misalignment,” and, unlike that left foot, you can do something about it!

The dividing line between our center teeth, upper and lower, is called the midline. If we draw an imaginary line down the middle of a face, from the forehead to the nose to the midpoint of the chin, that line should go right between the front teeth. When it doesn’t, because the teeth have shifted past the midpoint, it’s often due to a condition called midline misalignment.

This kind of misalignment, also known as a deviated midline, can have several causes:

  • Baby teeth that are lost too early

Baby teeth do more than promote healthy eating and speech development. They also reserve space for permanent teeth. If a primary tooth is lost too early, permanent teeth might “drift” to fill the empty space, causing the midline to move as well.

  • Thumb sucking that goes on too long

As a child gets older, and certainly when by the time permanent teeth start to arrive, aggressive thumb sucking can lead to numerous orthodontic problems, including a deviated midline, as the teeth shift in response to that continuous pressure.

  • Missing adult teeth

When you lose a tooth through decay or trauma, or when an adult tooth simply never develops, the remaining teeth can shift over to fill the open spot.

  • Spacing issues

Crowded teeth, teeth with significant gaps between them, very large teeth, very small teeth—all of these issues can affect spacing and midline alignment.

  • Crossbite

A crossbite is a kind of malocclusion, or bite problem. When you have a crossbite, the teeth don’t fit together properly, with upper teeth fitting inside lower teeth, instead of aligning on the outside where they belong. A deviated midline can indicate a posterior crossbite, where the top back teeth slant inwards or fit inside the bottom back teeth.

A tiny bit of midline shift one way or the other might be nothing to worry about, but if one front tooth is literally the center of attention, or if your teeth are noticeably out of alignment, it’s a good idea to talk to our Langley orthodontic team.

Because there are several potential causes for midline misalignment, Dr. Cronin will carefully analyze your individual situation to determine where the problem lies: with the teeth, the bite, or, rarely, the jaw itself.

Dr. Cronin will also offer you your best dental treatment options. A shift of a few millimeters might be treated with clear aligners or traditional braces. A crossbite could require braces or aligners coupled with elastics (rubber bands) to bring your bite into alignment. A palatal expander can help correct a serious crossbite.

Why visit Cronin Orthodontics because of a little asymmetry? Because a deviated midline is more than a cosmetic concern. If you have a malocclusion to begin with, or if your misalignment leads to changes in chewing habits, which cause new bite problems, you might be facing jaw pain, chipped and cracked teeth, headaches, and all the other unpleasant consequences of malocclusion.

By and large, perfect symmetry in life is unattainable. But if you want a smile that is well-balanced and healthy, talk to us about all the treatments available to make sure your smile—and not a single tooth—is the center of attention.