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Clearing Up Your Questions About Clear Braces

February 1st, 2023

First, let’s clarify what we mean about clear braces. We’re not talking about clear aligners, which can be a great option if you want treatment that is a) removable and b) almost invisible. But sometimes only traditional brackets-and-wires braces will do when it comes to your orthodontic treatment. Does this mean you can’t opt for a more subtle, less visible treatment plan?

No! Orthodontic advances in materials and design mean that you have more options than ever before when it comes to selecting brackets and wires. If you prefer more inconspicuous braces for professional or personal reasons, some of the current options in clear braces might be just the (inconspicuous) look for you.

“Clear braces” can refer to several styles of brackets and wires:

  • Brackets themselves can be crafted in porcelain, ceramic, or plastic. High quality materials make them strong and stain-resistant.
  • Brackets can be transparent or can be carefully tinted to blend in with your enamel.
  • Some of these brackets require the usual ligatures (those tiny rubber bands holding the wire to the brackets), so it’s important to choose a band color to coordinate for a monochromatic look.
  • Some of these brackets are self-ligating, designed to hold the archwire with built-in clips and needing no ligatures at all.
  • Finally, there are coated and even non-metallic archwires that are designed to blend in with your enamel color and work without calling attention to themselves. Depending on your individual bite and tooth alignment, these wires might be an option.

Some of the common questions about clear braces include:

  • Can everyone use clear braces?

While clear braces generally function just as traditional metal braces do, there are some cases where they might not be ideal depending on the amount and type of alignment and bite correction you need. Dr. Betsy Meade will let you know the best options to treat your orthodontic problems as effectively as possible.

  • Are they as strong as typical metal braces?

Clear brackets are quite strong, but they’re not as durable as metal brackets. If you choose porcelain, ceramic, or plastic brackets, we’ll give you all the information you need for their care.

  • Do clear braces take longer to work?

They might take a bit more time to bring your teeth into alignment, or they could work just as quickly as traditional braces. They often take less time than aligners. Today’s orthodontic treatments work more efficiently and therefore more quickly than ever before, so if there are any differences in wear-time, they probably won’t be significant.

Your individual orthodontic needs will dictate how long any treatment plan will take, and if different treatment options will add or save you time. Before you choose any orthodontic plan, we’ll go over all your options and give you an estimate for treatment time for each of them.

  • Any notable differences from metal brackets?

Clear brackets can be larger than metal versions. Because they can also be somewhat abrasive, they might be suggested only for your upper teeth. We’ll let you know if these brackets are a good fit for you.

  • Do clear braces stain?

Today’s clear brackets aren’t prone to staining—that would certainly defeat the purpose of choosing them! We’ll give you instructions on keeping them as clean and clear as possible. Do remember, if you use ligatures, that these little bands can stain if your diet is big on coffee, tea, cola, blueberries, or any other colorful food.

  • Are clear braces more expensive?

Cost of treatment is based on several factors, including the type of braces you select. We’ll be happy to compare the costs of your various treatment options.

If you want the benefits of traditional braces, but don’t necessarily want the visibility of regular metal brackets, consider the many transparent and tinted options available. Want more clarity? Talk to a member of our Ypsilanti, MI orthodontic team! You might discover that clear braces are the clear choice to create your healthy, beautiful smile.

Bracketology

January 25th, 2023

Analyzing strong points, looking for potential problems, making comparisons—it’s bracketology time! Nope, not basketball (although we hear they have something similar), but a brief analysis of your orthodontic options when it comes to choosing a winning bracket.

If you’re getting braces, you’re probably already familiar with how they work—brackets are bonded to the teeth to hold an archwire, which provides gentle, controlled pressure to move the teeth into alignment. But within that basic bracket-and-wire system, there are several different bracket designs available to you at our Ypsilanti, MI orthodontic office. Let’s see what the scouting report has turned up on our final four, pointing out their distinct advantages as well as some potential mismatches.

Traditional metal brackets

Advantages:

  • Traditional braces with metal brackets are effective for more than just straightening teeth. They can be used to correct rotated teeth, differences in tooth height, and bite problems. For severe bite and alignment problems, traditional braces are most often the right choice.
  • Metal construction makes these brackets able to handle the controlled pressure needed to treat serious malocclusions.
  • Cost-effective. These are usually the least expensive option.

Potential Disadvantage:

Clear/Ceramic Brackets

Advantages:

  • Lack of visibility! Whether you go for clear brackets or brackets tinted to match your enamel, you’ll be keeping a low-profile with this choice.
  • Stronger and more stain-resistant than ever before, using the latest in ceramic, porcelain, or plastic materials.

Potential Disadvantages:

  • Not as durable. Unlike metal, these clear brackets can crack or break. If you play a contact sport, these might not be for you.
  • Some ceramic brackets are larger than other choices, so might be recommended only for the top teeth.
  • Clear or tinted brackets can be more expensive.

Self-Ligating Brackets

Advantages:

  • These brackets use a clip or trapdoor mechanism to hold your archwire without the need of bands. Ceramic options are available if you want an even more discreet appearance.
  • Can be more comfortable with less friction between wire and bracket.

Potential Disadvantages:

  • Self-ligating braces are generally more expensive.

Lingual Braces

Advantages:

  • Lingual braces use metal brackets, but they attach to the back of each tooth for almost invisible bite correction.
  • Custom-made. Lingual brackets can be designed and fabricated to fit your individual teeth perfectly.

Potential Disadvantages:

  • Trickier to clean because of their placement behind teeth.
  • Might not be suitable for a deep bite if there’s not enough clearance between top and bottom teeth.
  • Initial discomfort caused by the tongue’s contact with the braces when you speak and eat.
  • Custom-made brackets are more expensive.

So that’s a brief rundown of your bracket choices. But, unlike sports bracketology, there are no losers here! Dr. Betsy Meade can give you the pros and cons of each bracket design, so you can make an informed decision based on the kind of braces which will work best for you. With coaching like that, no matter which bracket option you choose, the final result is the same—a winning smile!

Which Retainer is Right for You?

January 11th, 2023

Brackets and wires, clear aligners, lingual braces, regular brackets, self-ligating braces, elastics, spacers—you and your orthodontist have had to narrow down a lot of choices to discover the best treatment for your orthodontic needs. Now that the end of treatment is in sight, there’s one more important choice left—your retainer!

Do I Need a Retainer?

No retainer at all is probably the one option that’s off the table from the start. It’s not just your teeth that have changed position; it’s the bone and ligaments holding them that have changed as well.

A retainer prevents your teeth from moving away from their new, ideal location while your bones and ligaments are stabilizing. This process takes months, so keeping your teeth in place as your bone rebuilds and regains density is crucial.

What Are Your Retainer Options?

Three of the most popular retainer options available at our Ypsilanti, MI office include:

  • Hawley Retainers

This is the traditional retainer, with wires to hold your retainer in place and to keep the teeth properly aligned. The wires are attached to an acrylic plate molded to fit the roof of your mouth or around your bottom teeth. You can customize the acrylic base with colors and patterns for a one-of-a-kind look.

Hawley retainers are adjustable, so minor realignments can take place if necessary. The wire in front of your teeth makes these retainers visible, but, after several months of wearing them all day long, you may end up wearing them only at night.

Hawley retainers are removable, so you need to make sure they are safely in a case when you’re not wearing them. Minor damage can often be repaired, but it’s better to be proactive.

  • Clear Plastic Retainers

These retainers look like clear aligners. They are formed by heating a thin piece of plastic and vacuum-forming it around a model of your teeth to create a custom, comfortable fit.

Clear retainers are almost invisible when worn, and can be removed when you eat or drink—which they should be, because food particles and liquids can be trapped inside them.

When you’re not wearing it, a clear retainer should always be in its case, because it must be replaced if the plastic is warped, cracked, or broken.

  • Fixed Retainers

A fixed retainer is a small single wire bonded to the back of specific teeth, commonly the six bottom front teeth. Because fixed retainers don’t allow the teeth to move at all, they are often recommended for patients who had serious misalignments, extremely crowded teeth, or teeth with large gaps between them.

Many patients like fixed retainers because they keep teeth in perfect alignment, they won’t be seen, they’re comfortably small, and they can’t end up in the cafeteria recycling bin because you forget to replace them after lunch!

Fixed retainers are usually quite durable, but you’ll need to pay attention to your diet, because crunchy and chewy foods can put pressure on the retainer and damage it. These retainers also require special care with brushing and flossing, to make sure the teeth bonded to the wire stay clean and plaque-free.

The Right Retainer

The process of stabilizing your teeth in the jaw takes time. Choosing your retainer will depend in part on how long and how often you need to wear it: fulltime for months or for years, at night after several months of day-and-night wear, or long-term to make sure your orthodontic work lasts.

And there are other variables, as well. Your retainer might need to be removable. It might need to be adjustable. You might need a retainer for just your upper teeth, just your lower teeth, or both. All these factors and more need to be taken into consideration before deciding on your ideal retainer.

Fixed, removable, wire, plastic, colorful, clear—which retainer is right for you? The one that helps you retain the beautiful smile you’ve worked for all these months. Talk to Dr. Betsy Meade to discover the retainer that will protect that smile for years to come.

Make this the Year You Stop Smoking

January 4th, 2023

It’s a new year, and it couldn’t come fast enough for many of us! Let’s do our part to make this a better year in every way—and you can start by making this the year you quit smoking once and for all.

You know that smoking is very damaging to your body. Smokers are more likely to suffer from lung disease, heart attacks, and strokes. You’re at greater risk for cancer, high blood pressure, blood clots, and blood vessel disorders. With far-reaching consequences like this, it’s no surprise that your oral health suffers when you smoke as well.

How does smoking affect your teeth and mouth?

  • Appearance

While this is possibly the least harmful side effect of smoking, it’s a very visible one. Tar and nicotine start staining teeth right away. After months and years of smoking, your teeth can take on an unappealing dark yellow, orange, or brown color. Tobacco staining might require professional whitening treatments because it penetrates the enamel over time.

  • Plaque and Tartar

Bacterial plaque and tartar cause cavities and gum disease, and smokers suffer from plaque and tartar buildup more than non-smokers. Tartar, hardened plaque which can only be removed by a dental professional, is especially hard on delicate gum tissue.

  • Bad Breath

The chemicals in cigarettes linger on the surfaces of your mouth causing an unpleasant odor, but that’s not the only source of smoker’s breath. Smoking also dries out the mouth, and, without the normal flow of saliva to wash away food particles and bacteria, bad breath results. Another common cause of bad breath? Gum disease—which is also found more frequently among smokers.

  • Gum Disease

Smoking has been linked to greater numbers of harmful oral bacteria in the mouth and a greater risk of gingivitis (early gum disease). Periodontitis, or severe gum disease, is much more common among smokers, and can lead to bone and tooth loss. Unsurprisingly, tooth loss is also more common among smokers.  

  • Implant Failure

Tooth implants look and function like our original teeth, and are one of the best solutions for tooth loss. While implant failure isn’t common, it does occur significantly more often among smokers. Studies suggest that there are multiple factors at work, which may include a smoker’s bone quality and density, gum tissue affected by constricted blood vessels, and compromised healing.

  • Healing Ability

Smoking has been linked to weakened immune systems, so it’s harder to fight off an infection and to heal after injury. Because smoking affects the immune system’s response to inflammation and infection, smokers suffering from gum disease don’t respond as well to treatment. Smokers experience a higher rate of root infections, and smoking also slows the healing process after oral surgeries or trauma.

  • Dry Socket

Smoking following a tooth extraction can cause a painful condition called “dry socket.” After extraction, a clot forms to protect the tooth socket. Just as this clot can be dislodged by sucking through a straw or spitting, it can also be dislodged by the force of inhaling and exhaling while smoking.

  • Oral Cancer

Research has shown again and again that smoking is the single most serious risk factor for oral cancer. Studies have also shown that you reduce your risk of oral cancer significantly when you quit smoking.

  • Consequences for Orthodontic Treatment

Finally, if this is the year that you’re investing the time and effort needed to create an attractive, healthy smile with orthodontic treatment, don’t sabotage yourself by smoking!

Cosmetically, smoking doesn’t just discolor your tooth enamel—tar and nicotine discolor your aligners and braces as well. If one of the reasons you chose clear aligners or ceramic brackets is for their invisible appearance, the last thing you want is yellow aligners and brackets.

More important, smoking, it’s been suggested, can interfere with your orthodontic progress. When blood vessels are constricted, your gums, periodontal ligaments, and bones can’t function at their healthy best, moving your teeth where they need to be steadily and efficiently. This means that your treatment could take longer. And if your smoking has caused gum disease, you might have to put any orthodontic treatment on hold completely until it’s under control.

Quitting smoking is a major accomplishment that will improve your life on every level. It’s always a good idea to talk to Dr. Betsy Meade for strategies to help you achieve your wellness goals for the new year. Make this the year you stop smoking, and the year your health improves in countless ways because you did.

American Association of Orthodontists American Board of Orthodontics
2780 Packard St, Ypsilanti, MI 48197 (734) 481-1060