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The Dangers of DIY Orthodontic Care

March 6th, 2019

On a recent relaxing Saturday afternoon, I was enjoying some college football and watching one of my favorite games of the year: Army vs. Navy. Orthodontists tend to be pretty anal and spend most of their time thinking about teeth, so I was enjoying the temporary distraction from tooth talk and tooth thought. And then it happened. A commercial for a do-it-yourself orthodontic company! Suddenly my thoughts switched from football back to teeth. Ugh!
For those that are not aware, several DIY, at-home aligner companies have exploded in to the market over the last few years. They are trying to ‘disrupt’ the orthodontic industry and sell their products directly to the consumer and cut out the orthodontist altogether. Now, full disclosure, I am a DIYer. You can watch a YouTube video and learn how to do just about anything. But trying to perform your own orthodontic care without seeing an orthodontist can have much more serious consequences than trying to build your own bookshelf.
From an outside perspective, this looks like another example of industry disruption, like Uber vs. taxis, Airbnb vs. hotels, or Amazon vs. basically all retail. On the surface, pursuing orthodontic treatment may feel like buying a product and just looking for the best deal out there. But when you make the often life-changing decision to have orthodontic treatment you’re not buying a product; you’re investing in a medical treatment and in the doctor that delivers that treatment. Orthodontists are dental specialists, and spend an additional 6-7 years after college earning their dental degree, followed by a post-graduate program to earn a specialty certificate and often a Master’s degree in order to attain the title of Orthodontist. When patients come to see us, we take extensive records and use our knowledge and expertise to provide a complete diagnosis of the crowding, bite, and determine if teeth are even healthy enough to be moved with orthodontics.
DIY treatment won’t provide that information. The typical at-home process involves having the patient take a few selfies of their bite and then mix some of that goopy impression material to take molds of their own teeth. Now it’s no secret that people don’t love impressions, and that’s when people that know what they’re doing are taking them. Imagine having to take them on yourself. Without accurate impressions, the aligners won’t fit properly, and without properly fitting aligners, the teeth won’t move as planned. So, before you drop a few thousand dollars on unsupervised treatment to change your teeth, bone, gums, and bite, let’s review some pros and cons of DIY orthodontics.

- DIY aligner treatment is cheaper than seeing an orthodontist
- DIY aligner treatment is convenient. You never have to leave your home.

- No clinical examination is done and no radiographs are taken. As stated earlier, this information provides the basis for a safe and effective treatment plan. Sure, the main benefit a lot of people get out of orthodontics is a cosmetic one, but there’s much more going on behind the scenes when you pop those aligners in your mouth or get your braces adjusted. As teeth feel the forces exerted on them by braces or aligners or any other orthodontic appliance, the bone around your teeth is actually remodeling and changing, which is what allows the teeth to slowly move and straighten. The process happens safely when the bone is healthy and tooth movements are properly planned. Tooth movement in and through unhealthy bone can accelerate loss of bone and in the worst cases, even lead to loss of teeth. Even if the bone is healthy, but the tooth movements aren’t planned or performed properly, those risks still exist. There’s just no substitute for a real in-person orthodontist when it comes to providing an individualized treatment plan with the biology of bone and the mechanics of tooth movement front and center.

- There isn’t an orthodontist directly supervising your treatment. Orthodontic treatment doesn’t usually play out like the slick 3D video simulations you may have seen. Big or small modifications to the plan may need to happen during treatment to achieve your goals, and that’s another reason it’s important to have the orthodontist that created your plan involved in monitoring your progress and making any needed adjustments along the way. In the DIY world, rarely is direct communication with the doctor that created your tooth movement plan allowed. So if something is going wrong, your only option is to voice your concerns to a customer service representative. These are generally people that are going to be completely unfamiliar with your prescribed tooth movements. It’s frustrating when the teeth aren’t moving the way you hoped and you can’t get answers as to why.

- Many kinds of tooth movements are difficult if not impossible with DIY aligners. So here is a little-known fact about clear aligner treatment: about 95% of cases require attachments to be bonded to some of the upper and lower teeth. These are small tooth-colored bumps customized in shape and size that aid the aligners in moving the teeth as prescribed, and are then removed at the end of treatment. Tons of research and thousands of completed cases have proven that using these attachments is a key factor in the success of getting teeth to move the way we want them to. The aligners engage these attachments to deliver the specific forces necessary to produce the desired tooth movement. Without attachments, some tooth movements just aren’t possible, and other tooth movements might only get 50% of the way there. Attachments can only be placed and removed by a licensed doctor, so that means DIY aligners simply won’t have them. The lack of attachments is just one example of the options that aren’t available in DIY systems.

In all honesty, is it possible that DIY aligners might do the trick for some people with truly simple issues? It is. Someone with just a little bit of crowding, or a little bit of spacing might respond well to the use of one of these systems and be happy with the results. But more often than not there are underlying reasons for why that little bit of crowding or spacing exists, and if those reasons aren’t identified and resolved, then a seemingly simple issue could become a much more complex one with a host of unintended consequences. The only way to really find out whether your issues are quite simple or deceivingly more complex is to visit an orthodontist for a thorough examination and records.
At Orthodontic Group we offer complimentary exams to new patients that include diagnostic x-rays, digital photos, and a 3D scan of your teeth and bite (no goopy impressions!). We are an Invisalign Platinum provider, which means we’ve treated hundreds of cases with clear aligners and are experts at knowing what is possible with plastic. But most importantly, we take the time to talk to you about what we see, about what your goals are with orthodontic treatment, and thoroughly explain what options are available to help you meet those goals. And if affordability is a concern, we can work with you to stay in your budget with in-office financing and payment plans. You have nothing to lose by seeking an expert opinion before taking on the risks of DIY orthodontics. Call us, e-mail us, or submit an appointment request on our website today!
In case you were wondering, the Army Black Knights defeated the Navy Midshipmen 17-10. Through 2018, Navy leads the series 60-52-7 but has lost the last three games.



Orthodontics: From Tooth Fairy to Retainer

February 26th, 2019

You might be surprised to learn that Dr. Randall Welser and Dr. Kirby Marine and our team recommend an orthodontic appointment even before your child has had that last visit from the Tooth Fairy. In fact, orthodontic assessments at our Moline or Geneseo, IL or Clinton, IA office can be beneficial at many stages of your child’s life. Let’s look at some of the reasons why.

The Right Spaces

There’s a reason why we recommend that every child see an orthodontist by the age of seven. If there’s room enough in your child’s mouth to accommodate all the permanent teeth that will be arriving soon, you’re good to go. But if it looks like there won’t be enough space for those adult teeth, there are solutions we can offer to make the transition from baby teeth to adult teeth a smoother one.

  • If your child’s mouth is small, the permanent teeth might have too little room to fit in when they arrive. We may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander. This device will provide room for the adult teeth, and could potentially shorten second phase treatment time.
  • Too much space can also be a problem. If a child loses a baby tooth too soon, too much space between the remaining teeth can cause them to shift out of position, leaving the wrong spot open for the adult tooth to come in. We might recommend a space maintainer so that there is no shifting of the teeth, and there is room for the adult tooth to erupt in its proper spot.
  • If there is a bite problem, early treatment can prevent more serious problems down the road.

If no treatment is necessary immediately, we can monitor the development of your child’s teeth and bite during periodic visits.

(Stay in) The Right Places

Once your child has achieved that perfect smile, it’s time to maintain it. Teeth actually move and shift throughout our lives, whether we have had orthodontic treatment or not. But with orthodontic treatment, the bone tissue and ligaments around the teeth remodel over time to hold the teeth in their new and improved positions. That’s why it’s often important to wear a retainer constantly for several months after the braces come off, as bone and ligament become a firm, strong anchor for the newly aligned teeth and bite.

But there’s no one expiration date on retainers! Worn nightly as needed, they help teeth stay securely in their new positions for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Healthy Smiles Mean Happy Faces

If you think your child is ready for any phase of orthodontic work, give us a call. We will be happy to make sure there is ample room for permanent teeth to erupt in their proper spots even during the baby teeth years. If braces are indicated at a later date, we will analyze any potential alignment and bite problems and present all of your treatment options. Finally, after the orthodontic work is completed, we want to make sure your child knows the best way to maintain that beautiful smile with conscientious retainer wear.

If you have any concerns about your child’s teeth or bite, even before the permanent teeth arrive, give our Moline or Geneseo, IL or Clinton, IA office a call. Early treatment can often prevent future problems and might even lead to faster orthodontic results. At each stage of your child’s growth, we are here to provide your best options for healthy, happy smiles.

Snacks that are Healthy for Your Body and Your Braces

February 19th, 2019

You know the school day’s over when you hear these seven little words: “I’m home! Is there anything to eat?”

And before your child got braces, you had the answer: simple, tasty snacks that provided not only an energy boost, but nutritional elements to help build strong teeth and strong bodies. But now whole carrot sticks and unsliced apples are out. Nuts and crunchy peanut butter? Not in your pantry. Hard cheeses and crunchy whole grain crackers? Also off the shopping list.

Because any foods that are crunchy, chewy, or hard to bite into can damage brackets and wires, it’s time to freshen up your go-to snack list. Luckily, Dr. Randall Welser and Dr. Kirby Marine can recommend many healthy and braces-friendly choices when children need something to tide them over until dinner.

  • Fruits and Vegetables for Vitamins and Minerals

Soft fruits like berries, melon, and bananas provide essential vitamins and minerals while going easy on your child’s braces. Make it a blended smoothie for a cool treat—you can even add a healthy handful of spinach or kale without interfering with that fruity taste. If your child still loves apples and carrots best, keep them on hand—but remember that thin slices are the only way to go.

  • Dairy Delivers Calcium

Cottage cheese, string cheese, and other soft cheeses provide essential calcium and vitamin D. Yogurt in all its many flavors is another great option.

  • Meats Provides Protein

Lean meats such as thinly sliced ham, chicken, or turkey provide flavor and protein, and don’t require the chewing that bologna, roast beef, and salami do. And nothing packs a protein punch like eggs—hard boiled, deviled, or diced up in egg salad.

  • Grains, Legumes, and Vegetables for Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates—the “good” carbs—are important sources of energy for our bodies. Snacks such as hummus with soft whole grain pita wedges or blended black bean dip and soft crackers are a delicious, energizing option.

You are constantly looking for ways to make your children’s lives better. Mix and match any of these foods for a snack that’s not only good for their braces, but good for their teeth and bodies! Let us know your child’s favorite snack the next time you visit our Moline or Geneseo, IL or Clinton, IA office!

Team Dark Chocolate

February 12th, 2019

Valentine’s Day is the holiday to celebrate all the treasured relationships in your life. It’s a time to honor love in all shapes and forms with cards, social gatherings, and sometimes even binge eating of sweets.

It's hard to look the other way when grocery stores and pharmacies are invaded with goodies connected to the Valentine’s Day theme, and especially if you’re on the receiving end of some of these sweets. We get it. In fact, we’re all for it!

However, we also support a cavity-free smile. So in the interest of your dental and general health, and because we think it’s genuinely tasty, Dr. Randall Welser and Dr. Kirby Marine recommends an alternative to the Valentine treats you may be accustomed to: dark chocolate. 

Yes, Healthy Chocolate Exists

Studies have shown that dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, an ingredient found in the cocoa beans used to make chocolate. Flavonoids can help protect the body against toxins, reduce blood pressure, and improve blood flow to the heart and brain.

By opting for dark chocolate rather than milk chocolate, you get to reap these benefits! Pretty sweet, right? Just make sure to stick to high-quality dark chocolates that have undergone minimal processing.

Dark Chocolate, AKA Protector of Teeth

Not only does dark chocolate provide some nice benefits for your overall health, it also helps protect your teeth against cavities! According to the Texas A&M Health Science Center, dark chocolate contains high amounts of tannins, another ingredient present in cocoa beans.

Tannins can actually help prevent cavities by interfering with the bacteria that causes them. Think of them as scarecrows for bacteria. They don’t always prevail, but isn’t it nice to have them there?

Smooth Never Sticky

Unlike many popular candies, dark chocolate is less likely to stick in the crevices of your teeth. Chewy, gooey sweets are more likely to hang around in your mouth for longer periods of time, which means they raise the odds of your harboring cavity-creating bacteria.

While some dark chocolates have additives like caramel or marshmallow, it’s best to opt for the plain varieties, which are just as delicious. If you’re feeling festive, though, a dark chocolate with caramel is still better than a milk chocolate with caramel, so that’s the way to go!

While dark chocolate has some pretty sweet benefits, the most important thing to remember (whether you go the dark chocolate route or not), is that moderation is key. That being said, we hope you have fun satisfying your sweet tooth and shopping for treats for your friends and loved ones. Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Orthodontic Group Associates!

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