For those of you that are in, or have gone through orthodontic treatment, you may have noticed that we here at L&M Orthodontics are sticklers for oral hygiene (brushing and flossing your teeth). Why is that, you may ask. The answer, in a few words, is to prevent decalcification.
Now what is decalcification?
Decalcification, often shortened to decal when used in discussion, is the process that teeth undergo in a highly acidic environment which results in white spot lesions (white marks on your teeth). When subjected to acids, the enamel of the teeth loses key ingredients to its structure. As a consequence, these areas of decal do not reflect light in the same way as the healthy tooth structure, resulting in an unaesthetic opaque/chalky appearance, and leaving the tooth more susceptible to decay. Unfortunately, these marks are permanent, and can really spoil an otherwise ideal orthodontic result. If you are interested in what decal looks like, click on the following link to see the results of our google search: Images
A common misconception is that braces cause these white spot lesions. However, braces themselves DO NOT cause decalcification and/or decay. The true culprit here is something youve probably heard your dentist mention before: plaque. Dental plaque is a sticky mixture of the bacteria in the mouth and the foods that we eat (mainly those rich in carbohydrates). Plaque can form in any mouth, with or without braces. Braces, however, tend to give the plaque more surface area to adhere to, and can therefore increase the chance for decalcification if the plaque is not cleaned away.
So, how can we prevent all of our hard orthodontic work from being spoiled by unsightly decal and decay? Some very easy steps can help eliminate decalcification, and give you the result you always wanted.
1) ORAL HYGIENE! This is #1, because it is the most important tool against decalcification for anyone undergoing orthodontic treatment. As mentioned above, decal is caused by the acids released from dental plaque adhered to your teeth and braces. The best way to prevent this is to remove the plaque from the teeth. Proper brushing and flossing after every meal is how we maximize plaque removal. If you have any questions of proper technique, ask one of our staff. We go over this with every patient at the start of treatment, but we are always happy to go over again. In fact, decal and decay can happen even without braces, so keep up the good habits always.
2) See Your Dentist for Regular Check-ups Regular visits to the dentist provide added prevention of decal/decay. Although you are doing your best to be diligent in your home care, the dentist has a trained eye and better equipment to identify and treat trouble areas. For most, biannual appointments are adequate. However, for those with a greater tendency towards decalcification, appointments every 3-4 months may be recommended.
3) Fluoride Rinses and Toothpastes Fluoride is a great additional tool in fighting decal, because it helps to remineralize the tooth structure, making it less susceptible to decalcification and decay. Check to make sure your toothpaste is fluoridated and ADA approved. Also, fluoride rinses such as Phos-Flur and ACT used daily can help to increase the fluoride delivered to the teeth. As a precaution for those with poor oral hygiene and large areas of decay, we may prescribe an additional toothpaste with a high fluoride content to help.
4) Be Wary of Your Diet Try to reduce your intake of acidic foods and drinks such as: sour candies, lemons, vinegar based foods, and acidic drinks such as soda, sports drinks, and lemonade. Additionally, try to limit the amount of carbohydrates you ingest. This includes sugars, pastas, breads, etc. These foods and drinks increase the risk of developing decalcification marks if consumed on a regular basis by feeding the plaque bacteria and raising the acidity of the oral environment.
Remember, your #1 job during orthodontic treatment is to keep your teeth clean. Also, braces DO NOT cause decal and or decay. Plaque due to poor oral hygiene does. Luckily, the mouth is not normally an acidic environment, and keeping it that way is very easy with proper oral hygiene. Dont let white spots ruin your L&M Star Smile. At the end of the day, just take care of your teeth, and they will take care of you.