OUR BLOG

When Does an Underbite Need Surgery?

July 29, 2020

When does an underbite need surgery? The short answer is: when Drs. Fidler and Huang and our team recommend surgery as the best way to give you a healthy, functional bite. But let’s take a longer look, and see just why your doctors might come to that conclusion.

  • First, what exactly is an underbite?

In a perfect bite, the upper and lower jaws align, well, perfectly. Upper teeth overlap lower teeth very slightly, upper and lower teeth meet comfortably, and jawbones and joints function smoothly. When the alignment is off, it causes a malocclusion, or “bad bite.”

When we talk about an underbite, or Class 3 malocclusion, it means that the lower jaw protrudes further than the upper jaw. This protrusion causes the bottom teeth and jaw to overlap the upper teeth and jaw.

  • What causes an underbite?

Sometimes an underbite is caused by childhood behaviors while the teeth and jaw are developing, including tongue thrusting or prolonged thumb-sucking and pacifier use. (Working to stop these behaviors before they affect tooth and jaw formation is one of the many good reasons children should have regular visits with their dentists and pediatricians.)

Most underbites are genetic, however, and tend to run in families. It’s estimated that from five to ten percent of the population has some form of underbite. The lower jawbone (mandible) might be overdeveloped, the upper jawbone (maxilla) might be underdeveloped, both bones could be affected, or, sometimes, tooth size and placement might cause an underbite. These irregularities in jaw shape and size and/or tooth crowding are not something that can be prevented, and require professional treatment.

  • Why? What’s the problem with an underbite?

Even a minor underbite can cause difficulties with biting and chewing. A more severe underbite can lead to speech problems, decay and loss of enamel where the teeth overlap, mouth breathing and sleep apnea, persistent jaw and temporomandibular joint pain, and self-confidence issues.

  • Can’t my dentist treat my underbite?

Most probably not. A very mild underbite can be camouflaged cosmetically with veneers, but this does not address the cause of the underbite, and will not work for moderate or severe underbites.

  • Can my orthodontist treat my underbite?

Drs. Fidler and Huang will create an underbite treatment plan after a detailed study of each patient’s individual dental and skeletal structure. Treatment options will vary depending on the cause of the underbite, its severity, and even the patient’s age.

Early intervention is especially important for children who show signs of an underbite. That’s why we recommend that children visit our Bellevue, WA office by the age of seven.

If an underbite is caused by tooth misalignment or crowding, braces can reposition the lower teeth. Sometimes extractions are necessary to make room for proper alignment.

If the cause is due to jaw structure, children’s bones are still forming, so treatment can actually help correct bone development. Palatal expanders, headgear, and other appliances are various methods of encouraging and guiding bone development.

But braces and appliances aren’t effective for every patient with an underbite, and especially in patients (usually those in their late teens and older) when the jawbones are already fully formed. In this case, we might suggest coordinating treatment with an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

  • What does an oral and maxillofacial surgeon do?

An oral surgeon has the training, experience, and skill to help correct an underbite by surgically reshaping and repositioning the jawbone. This corrective jaw surgery is called orthognathic surgery.

  • What will happen during orthognathic surgery?

Your treatment will be tailored to your specific needs. Two of the common surgical procedures for treating an underbite involve repositioning the upper jaw to lengthen it and/or reshaping the lower jaw to shorten it.

Bone is sometimes removed or added, small bone plates or screws are sometimes used to stabilize the bone after surgery—your surgeon will let you know exactly which procedures will give you a healthy, functional bite. The surgery itself is most often performed under general anesthesia and requires a brief stay in the hospital.

  • How will my orthodontist and oral surgeon coordinate my treatment?

Correcting a Class 3 malocclusion can take time. Your oral surgeon will work together with Drs. Fidler and Huang to analyze the interrelationship of teeth, bones, and joints to determine dental and skeletal problems, and will develop the best treatment plan possible to create a healthy alignment.

  • So, when does an underbite need surgery?

Sometimes, a minor underbite can be corrected with braces and appliances alone. A serious underbite, however, will often require the specialized skills of both Drs. Fidler and Huang and an oral surgeon.

And, while it’s not the primary purpose of surgery, corrective jaw surgery and orthodontics can also make you happier with your appearance and boost your self-confidence. Achieving a lifetime of beautiful, comfortable, and healthy smiles—that’s the answer to your question.

Tips for Keeping Your Breath Fresh While You’re in Braces

July 22, 2020

You’ve got a lot going on in your busy life, and whether it’s school, practice, or simply socializing, you want to put a confident face forward. And part of that confidence comes from knowing your breath is its freshest!

Too often, though, this time of your life makes that goal seem difficult. Let’s look at ways to keep you smiling your brightest and feeling your freshest in any social setting.

  • Watch Your Diet

Sure, garlic, onions, and other pungent food choices are obvious culprits when it comes to bad breath, but did you know that sugars and simple carbs are the food of choice for the bacteria that cause decay, gingivitis, and bad breath? Eating a nutritious, braces-friendly diet will help keep your mouth, your braces, and your breath healthy.

And it’s not just what you eat. Dehydration also causes bad breath. But those caffeinated drinks and sodas that keep you going through the day are the source of acids and sugars that contribute to tooth decay, gum disease, and less-than-fresh breath. Water, milk, and healthy smoothies are a great way to stay hydrated, add vitamins and minerals to your diet, and go easy on your braces.

  • Keep Up with Oral Hygiene

It’s hard to keep your teeth and gums their cleanest when it seems like you’re always on the go, but good oral habits are just as important now as they were when you were younger.

Brushing after every meal and snack and flossing daily will help get rid of the bacteria and plaque, which lead to cavities. Our tongues also harbor the bacteria that cause bad breath, so finish off your routine with a gentle brush of the tongue, or try a tongue scraper.

Flossing helps keep gums healthy, which, in turns, keeps your breath healthy as well. Dentists generally suggest flossing once a day, but wearing braces could require flossing more often to make sure you’re getting rid of all those food particles that can become trapped in brackets and wires. Studies have suggested that hormonal changes in teenagers can mean your gums are more at risk for periodontal problems, which can also lead to bad breath, so don’t neglect your gum health!

And be sure to make room in your schedule for regular checkups and cleanings. Your dentist and hygienist will let you know if you’re on track for healthy teeth and gums and fresh breath.

  • Wearing Braces?

Part of careful brushing and flossing means getting to all those places in your braces which trap food particles. Besides being a source of unpleasant odors, food particles lead to plaque buildup and tooth decay, another cause of bad breath.

Drs. Fidler and Huang can suggest the best methods for keeping your braces their cleanest—even in hard to reach spots—with suggestions for brushing and flossing techniques. We can also suggest the best and easiest-to-use products for your particular braces, and recommend or prescribe antibacterial mouthwashes.

  • Wearing Aligners?

Aligners are removed before you eat, so it’s easy to forget that they also need attention. Follow instructions given at our Bellevue, WA office for daily cleaning to prevent saliva and plaque from sticking to your aligners and causing odors. And always remember to brush before you replace aligners after eating a meal or even snacking—otherwise, you’re just trapping the food particles that cause cavities or odors next to your teeth.

You’ve got a lot going on in your busy life, and the last thing you need to worry about is fresh breath. Keep up with your solid dental routines, make sure your braces or aligners are clean and plaque-free, and show the world your healthiest, freshest, most confident smile.

Five Clues That It’s Time to Replace Your Toothbrush

July 15, 2020

Your dashboard lights up when your car needs an oil change. Your family smoke detector beeps when you need to switch out the batteries. But when it’s time to replace your toothbrush, you’re on your own. Luckily, there are several not-too-subtle clues that you should be shopping for a new model.

  • Fraying

Is your toothbrush looking a bit scruffy? Do those once orderly bristles look like they have the toothbrush equivalent of bed head? Have some bristles vanished altogether? Time to retire that toothbrush. Once the bristles are frayed, you just can’t reach plaque as effectively, especially where it likes to hide between the teeth.

Are you prematurely fraying? You could be brushing too hard. Overbrushing can injure delicate gum tissue, cause wear and tear to tooth enamel, and even damage your braces. If you find your brush fraying after only a few weeks of use, you might be using too much force. Remember, plaque is a sticky film, but it’s a soft sticky film. Ask us for advice on just how hard you need—or don’t need—to brush.

  • Odor

This one really goes without saying—no one wants an aromatic toothbrush! How to make sure your toothbrush is fresh and clean?

Always rinse carefully after you brush. This will get rid of any toothpaste, bits of food, or other particles left on your brush.

Let your toothbrush air dry. It might seem more hygienic to keep your brush covered in a bathroom setting, but a closed, moist container is a perfect breeding ground for germs. Don’t let them make a home in your bristles!

  • Illness

A cold or a bacterial infection (like strep throat) is no fun. But now that you’re feeling better, it might be time to throw out your toothbrush. The chances of re-infection are very low, unless your immune system is compromised, but this is a perfect opportunity to replace your brush with a fresh, germ-free model.

And if you share your toothbrush, or if you store it right next to a family member’s (which you really shouldn’t do, for this very reason), germs get shared, too. Quarantine your brush while you’re ill, and replace it once you’re out and about.

  • Discomfort

Bigger isn’t necessarily better. A brush with a head that’s too big won’t allow you to get into those small spaces in your mouth where plaque likes to collect. And when you are trying to clean around brackets and wires, a regular brush might be a problem. Ask Drs. Fidler and Huang for suggestions for the best tools for clean and comfortable brushing.

Also, harder doesn’t mean more effective. A brush with hard bristles can cause damage to your gums and enamel. We almost always recommend soft-bristled brushes for this every reason.

There are so many styles of brush out there, you’re bound to find the perfect fit with a little trial and error. Or ask us for suggestions the next time you’re at our Bellevue, WA office for an adjustment!

  • You’ve Passed the “Best By” Date

Because of its durable construction, your toothbrush can last a long, long time. But no matter how comfortable and effective your toothbrush is right now, it was never meant to go through life with you. Bristles break down over a period of a few months, and just don’t clean as effectively. Your brush should be changed every three months, and this includes changing the head on your electric toothbrush. And because you wear braces, you’re brushing more often, so that three month lifespan might be stretching it.

Unfortunately, you don’t have a flashing light or annoying beep to remind you when it’s time to change brushes, so you’ll have to devise your own reminders. Reminder apps, calendar notes, the first day of a new season—use whatever works best for you.

Don’t ignore the clues your toothbrush is leaving you. Replacing your brush whenever it’s necessary helps guarantee that the time you spend cleaning your teeth and gums will lead to confident, healthy smiles. Case closed!

Time to Brush Up on Brushing and Flossing

July 8, 2020

If your child has just gotten braces, chances are it’s a good time to brush up on dental hygiene! Why now? What’s different? And how can you help? Let’s take a few minutes and explore these timely questions.

Brushing and Flossing Are Especially Important with Braces

There’s no getting around it, it’s harder to clean teeth with brackets and wires. But it’s essential to pay attention to dental hygiene. When bacteria and plaque start building up, your child is at risk for gum disease, cavities, and tooth discoloration.

  • Gingivitis

This early stage of gum disease is the result of gum irritation caused by plaque. The gums become red, swollen, sore, and can bleed or start to recede. With proper brushing and flossing, gingivitis can be eliminated, along with the risk of developing more serious gum disease.

  • Tooth Decay

One of the major reasons for cavities is the erosion of enamel caused by oral bacteria. These bacteria feed on sugars from our diet and produce acids that attack the tooth’s surface. Plaque, formed by a mass of these bacteria, sticks around brackets and the gum line, putting your child at risk for cavities near his orthodontic work—which might require removing wires and brackets to treat.

  • Demineralization

When acids attack teeth, they remove the minerals from our enamel. This demineralization eventually leads to cavities, but in its early stages can cause white spots to appear where the mineral structure has been weakened. Braces wearers are at special risk for demineralization, especially around brackets and near the gums, where plaque can be missed while brushing.

Time for New Brushing and Flossing Techniques

Even if your child has always done a wonderful job of brushing and flossing, braces provide a new challenge for getting teeth their cleanest. Unfortunately, plaque buildup around the brackets and the gum line is all too common in orthodontic patients. Drs. Fidler and Huang can recommend some tools that make the cleaning process easier and more effective.

  • Toothbrushes

Manual brushes are available with small, soft-bristled heads designed especially for braces wearers. If your child still has problems getting rid of plaque and food debris, an electric toothbrush might be helpful. And remember, encourage your child to be thorough but gentle for the sake of both braces and gums.

  • Flossing with Braces

Flossing can be challenging for children at any time, but especially with braces. We’ll show you how floss threaders work, and how special flosses designed just for braces can fit under wires. This might also be a good time to invest in a water flosser. Your help demonstrating how to floss even with brackets and wires blocking the way will be appreciated by your child and your dentist!

  • Products Just for Braces

Interproximal brushes are tiny cone-shaped brushes designed to fit around brackets and wires and between teeth. We can also suggest special toothpastes and rinses to help fight plaque and prevent cavities from developing. Ask us about what to shop for to make both of your lives easier.

You Can Help!

  • Teamwork—Works!

When your child first gets braces, practice brushing and flossing together. Our Bellevue, WA team will be happy to show you both the very best techniques for keeping teeth their cleanest and healthiest. Especially for young children, your help will make sure those techniques are learned and used.

  • Make Time for Cleaning

Your child’s before-braces routine might have meant brushing two minutes each morning and two minutes at night. But thorough cleaning around brackets and wires might take a bit longer. (And, with braces, it’s best to brush after every meal rather than the common twice-a-day routine). Be available, at least at first, for a quick check to make sure braces and teeth are their cleanest. And you may have to help with removing and replacing bands until your child gets the hang of it.

  • Be Prepared!

Whether it’s a day at school or an overnighter with friends, be sure your child has a kit filled with cleaning supplies ready to take along. A toothbrush, floss, an interproximal brush, toothpaste, a mirror—with these necessities, your child can keep on top of any cleaning emergencies.

For younger children especially, learning how to keep teeth and braces their cleanest can take some time. Be patient, be prepared, and be willing to help, and you and your child will have a new routine mastered—in no time at all!