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Our Blog

Predicting Your Smile’s Future?

May 9th, 2024

Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow and our team have the experience and training to evaluate the present state of your teeth and bite, and to design a treatment plan to give you the healthy, attractive smile you picture for your future. And when you choose Invisalign® for your treatment, you’ll be able to get an advance view of exactly what that future will look like!

How is this possible? Because when you choose Invisalign, you’re getting the benefit of some of the most advanced technology in orthodontics.

The process begins with a computerized scan of your teeth and mouth. Special scanner software creates a 3D image to capture your smile as it is now. But that’s not all. Using our customized treatment plan, Invisalign software can provide not only a model of your smile today, but an evolving model of what your smile can be. Seeing your present smile transform step-by-step into your future smile is a great motivator to follow that treatment plan!

For each step of your treatment, Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow will provide a new set of aligners created to move your teeth and bite toward this goal. Why don’t you need a mold made of your teeth every time you get a new aligner? Because, with Invisalign, we design your aligners to fit your future tooth alignment.

Aligners are not fabricated to snugly fit around your teeth as they are, but as they will be after several days of wear. Each set is molded with small improvements to your alignment, and provides gentle, consistent pressure to move your teeth to that next step.

This “future fit” is why you may experience a bit of discomfort with a new set of aligners. Over the days that you wear them, the fit will become more and more comfortable. This won’t be because your aligners have changed. It will happen because your teeth have gradually moved where your aligners direct them.

Once your teeth and bite have reached this new step in your treatment, it will be time for the next set of aligners in the series, and so on. Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow will let you know just how long you need to wear each set, and you can even track your progress with every appointment.

So, are we predicting the future? Not really. When you use Invisalign, we are planning and creating your future smile. Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow will use the Invisalign system to customize your treatment for your very specific needs, step by step, and aligner by aligner, until you attain the smile you previewed before you even started treatment.

But one thing we can predict: If you follow our recommendations, keep your appointments at our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA office, and wear your aligners as directed, there’s going to be a beautiful, healthy smile in your future.

Spring Cleaning

May 2nd, 2024

Just like that, it’s almost summertime. As the spring season ends, perhaps these lighter, brighter days are inspiring you to do a bit of last-minute spring cleaning. Or perhaps they’re not. No judgment here!

What Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow can recommend wholeheartedly is finishing the season with a clean, sparkling smile. And we have some bright ideas for you!

Refresh Your Cleaning Technique

Tooth brushing can become so automatic that we don’t think about the basics anymore. And suddenly, we’ve finished brushing in half the time we used to, and, hey, how long has that floss been sitting on the counter, anyway?

Now that you’re in orthodontic treatment, it’s more important than ever to keep your teeth their cleanest:

  • Plaque acids can strip minerals from your teeth. If you don’t clean around your brackets thoroughly, plaque buildup can leave discolored spots on your enamel.
  • If a cavity develops, treatment could require removing part of your braces. This means extra appointments and a delay in your orthodontic schedule.

So, let’s review the brushing basics for a clean and healthy smile.

  • Spend two minutes brushing, at least twice each day. Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow might suggest brushing after every meal to make sure food doesn’t stick to your teeth and braces.
  • Make sure you reach all the surfaces of your teeth, inside, outside, and on top of your molars.
  • Use short, gentle brush strokes, covering a tooth or two at a time.
  • Angle your brush to clean along the gum line. Plaque around the gums leads to irritation and inflammation, and is a common cause of gum disease.
  • Use vertical strokes to clean the inside of your front teeth.
  • Floss at least once each day, or as recommended by your orthodontist.

Special Jobs Require Special Tools

Since we’re tidying up, let’s talk about some helpful cleaning tools. The right tools make removing plaque a lot easier.

  • Toothbrushes

There are toothbrushes designed especially for braces, with angled heads, longer handles, and different bristle arrangements. Whether you try a new design, or stick with your old favorite, replace your brush whenever necessary.

After three to four months of brushing, your toothbrush bristles start to break down. Frayed and matted bristles can’t clean as effectively as a toothbrush in top shape. Electric toothbrush heads can wear down more quickly because they often have shorter bristles. Each change of season is a good time to remind yourself to change brushes.

Extra tip: Buy a brush with soft bristles. Even medium bristles can cause enamel abrasion.

  • Floss Upgrades

If you wear braces, check out the floss options made just for you. Floss threaders help you thread floss under wires. Or try floss which comes in pre-cut strands with a stiff tip to thread the floss through wires more easily. You might find that an orthodontic flosser, a small piece of floss attached to a thin plastic handle, is the easiest way to clean between your teeth. Experiment until you find your most convenient and effective floss.

  • Interproximal Brushes

These tiny cone-shaped brushes fit snugly and comfortably between the spaces of your teeth to remove plaque.

  • Water Flossers

Water flossers are high-tech tools that use a pulsing stream of water to clean between and around the teeth. They’re particularly helpful if you have traditional or lingual braces.

Your Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow can suggest the best tools for the cleanest teeth. And speaking of your dental team . . .

Some Cleaning Jobs Require Professional Help

Wearing braces doesn’t mean you should skip cleanings—in fact, it’s more important than ever to make sure that all the plaque that has built up around brackets and wires is removed. Your hygienist knows how to work with your braces for an effective and braces-friendly cleaning.

Spring’s coming to an end, but taking care of your dental health is always in season! A clean smile isn’t just a more confident smile, it’s a healthier one. Talk to our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA team for more tips to create your best and brightest smile at any time of year.

Straight Talk about Braces and Oral Health

April 25th, 2024

We’ll give it to you straight: it can be harder to keep your teeth their cleanest while you’re wearing braces. Food particles play hide-and-seek, plaque builds up around brackets, flossing is harder when you need to maneuver around wires. But keeping your teeth and gums healthy is even more important now that you’re wearing braces.

Why? Because when your braces come off, you want to enjoy the beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard for without worrying about discolored enamel, cavities, or swollen gums. Let’s look at some of the possible consequences when brushing and flossing are more challenging.

Decalcification

If you’ve noticed white spots around your brackets, you’re seeing the signs of decalcification, a common problem for those who wear braces.

Decalcification begins when plaque collects on the enamel around your brackets. The bacteria in plaque produce acids. These acids eat away at the minerals which keep your enamel strong, minerals like calcium and phosphorous. Places on the enamel where erosion takes place are left weakened and discolored.  Eventually, these weak spots can lead to . . .

Cavities

When plaque sticks around, whether near your brackets or anywhere on your teeth, it provides the perfect conditions for decay to develop. Left untreated, bacterial acids continue working away at decalcified spots in your enamel. This continuing erosion causes these surface spots to expand, grow deeper, and become cavities.

If you’re having trouble with built up plaque, and brushing isn’t doing the job for you, your dentist can remove it with a professional cleaning. Getting rid of plaque is healthy not only for your enamel, but your gums as well.

Gum disease

When plaque and tartar collect around the gumline, they irritate delicate gum tissue. This irritation causes gingivitis, or early gum disease. And, while young people rarely suffer from serious gum disease, the pain, redness, bleeding, swelling, and bad breath caused by gingivitis are not anyone’s life goals!

Brushing and flossing are essential to keeping your enamel and gums plaque-free. But even if you brush more often, it’s not as easy as it once was now that you have to work around and between brackets and wires. Luckily, there are lots of tools out there to help you get your teeth, gums, and braces their cleanest.

  • Orthodontic toothbrushes

Special brushes designed just for braces can help you work around brackets and wires. V- or U-shaped bristle formations let you brush around and over your braces. Curved bristles can fit under wires. Smaller brush heads let you reach those hard-to-reach places.

  • Electric toothbrushes

Many people find these brushes can clean more easily and effectively, especially when wearing braces. Tapered orthodontic brush heads are available, and, if you’re a heavy-handed brusher, there are models which alert you if you’re brushing too hard—protecting your braces and your enamel.

  • Orthodontic floss

Special orthodontic flosses can help you do the tricky job of fitting floss behind your wires and between your teeth, or use a floss threader, which helps guide uncooperative floss into tight spaces.

  • Water flossers

With their pulsing streams of water, water flossers can reach spots where regular brushes and flosses just can’t comfortably fit. There are even flossers available with special orthodontic tips.

Straight teeth are great. Straight and healthy teeth? Even better! You, Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow, and our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA orthodontic staff make a great team. Take advantage of our advice and tips for the best tools and techniques to make sure your smile is both perfectly aligned and perfectly healthy once those braces come off!

The Twin Block Appliance

April 18th, 2024

Orthodontic treatment involves a lot more than just straightening your teeth. For a healthy smile, your bite must be healthy as well! This means that the upper and lower jaws need to fit together properly and comfortably.

If your bite is out of alignment because of jaw misalignment, orthodontic treatment can help correct the shape and position of your jaws with devices called functional appliances. These appliances are most often used for young patients whose bones are still growing, and are designed to treat malocclusions, or bite problems.

Common malocclusions such as overbites and overjets can occur when the upper teeth protrude further than they should, or the lower jaw is positioned too far back, or both. The Twin Block appliance can be used in such cases to help move your lower jaw and teeth into alignment with your upper jaw.

Why “Twin”? Because the Twin Block appliance is two separate pieces, each made of wire and smooth acrylic. Both pieces are crafted to fit precisely over your upper and lower arches and can be adjusted as your treatment progresses. The top plate can also be adjusted, if necessary, to widen the upper palate.

Why “Block”? Acrylic blocks cover the biting surfaces of several of your upper and lower teeth. These blocks fit together like a 3D puzzle. When you bite down, the upper blocks interlock with the lower blocks, pushing the lower blocks forward just a bit before you can bite down completely. Over time, bit by bit (and bite by bite), the Twin Block appliance advances your lower jaw and teeth to create a balanced, comfortable bite.

For the quickest and best results, you should wear your Twin Block appliance as directed. It’s made to be worn comfortably while you sleep, eat, and otherwise go about your day. (It’s a good idea to check with our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA orthodontic team to see about removing it when you’re active, especially for swimming and contact sports.) When it’s time to brush, the Twin Block appliance is removable. This means that you can clean your teeth and your appliance easily.

And, while it’s made to work hard for you, it’s not indestructible. Don’t expose your appliance to heat or hot water, as the plastic may warp. Use the cleaning methods we recommend. Finally, when your appliance is out of your mouth, keep it in its case! You don’t want your appliance to end up carefully wrapped in a napkin in the nearby recycling bin. Or, even worse, in your dog’s mouth instead of yours.

The Twin Block appliance might fit together like a puzzle, but there’s nothing puzzling about how to achieve your best and fastest results. Your success really depends on you. Follow Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow and our team’s advice, wear your appliance as directed, and you’ll be on your way to a healthy, comfortable bite and an attractive, confident smile!

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