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Three Reasons We're Fans of Fluoride

May 28th, 2024

Why all the fuss about fluoride? Your dentist recommends it, your toothpaste is formulated with it, most of our drinking water contains it. Just what is it about this mineral that makes dental professionals sing its praises? Read on for three good reasons why fluoride is a healthy choice for healthier teeth.

  1. Fluoride Works!

Fluoride is an attractive option for protecting your teeth—and we mean that literally. Fluoride protects the surface of your teeth by working on a molecular level to attract minerals which strengthen enamel and help prevent cavities.

Our tooth enamel is mostly made from calcium and phosphate ions. These elements combine to form hydroxyapatite, strong crystals which make up about 95% of our enamel. Hydroxyapatite is so strong, in fact, that tooth enamel is the hardest part of our bodies. What can go wrong?

Acids. Acids created by the bacteria in plaque and the acids in our diet strip away the calcium and phosphate ions in enamel, weakening the surface of the tooth. This process is called demineralization. Over time, weak spots become bigger as acids eat through enamel to the inner tooth, causing decay and cavities.

So, what can fluoride do?

First, fluoride helps remineralize tooth enamel. Fluoride is attracted to the tooth’s surface and bonds with its minerals. It also attracts the calcium and phosphate ions that are found in our saliva to restore any minerals that have been lost. This process helps repair any weak spots that might have begun to form.

But fluoride does more than restore and repair tooth strength—it improves it! Fluoride ions join with calcium and phosphate to form fluorapatite crystals, which are larger and stronger than hydroxyapatite crystals. Even better? These new crystals are more resistant to acids.

  1. Fluoride Is Doubly Effective

Fluoride works both externally and internally. We just looked at how fluoride helps keep teeth strong when applied to the outside of the teeth. This is called a topical application. Systemic benefits come the fluoride we consume in our diets.

Fluoride isn’t found in many foods, but it is found naturally in lakes, rivers, and other water sources. When the local water’s fluoride level is low, many communities add fluoride for its proven ability to prevent cavities. Water fluoridation is safe, has been studied for decades, and has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities by 25% or more for both children and adults.

Systemic fluoride was important when you were younger and still had your baby teeth. This is because fluoride joined with minerals in your adult teeth while they were growing and developing, creating stronger, more cavity-resistant teeth even before they erupted.

And now that your permanent teeth are here, you’re still in luck! When you drink fluoridated water, you’re increasing the amount of fluoride in your saliva. Just like fluoride toothpaste, saliva bathes your teeth with fluoride ions, remineralizing and strengthening the tooth surface and helping repair weak spots in your enamel.

  1. It’s Easy to Get Fluoride Protection

Because so much of our drinking water is fluoridated, most of us really don’t have to think about how to get the recommended amount of fluoride in our diet each day. If your community’s water is low in fluoride, Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow can help you. Prescription fluoride rinses, gels, supplements, and other treatments are available at our Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA orthodontic office to make sure that your teeth are well-protected, wherever you may live. We will let you know which products are best for you and how often to use them.

Most toothpastes are formulated with fluoride, so you’re getting the enamel-strengthening benefits of this mineral every time you brush. Keeping up with your brushing is especially important while you’re in orthodontic treatment.

Because wearing traditional braces can mean it’s harder to reach all the plaque on your teeth, especially behind wires and around your brackets, that demineralization we talked about earlier is a common problem during treatment. Demineralization often leads to discolored white spots on enamel and, eventually, cavities. If you need more protection than toothpaste alone provides, Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow will suggest fluoride treatments to reduce the risk of demineralization and even reverse some of its effects.

Fluoride isn’t, of course, the only way to look out for your dental health. Proper brushing and flossing are still essential for removing plaque. And sealants for both kids and adults provide long-lasting protection for chewing surfaces. But when it comes to a proven cavity-fighter that’s simple to use, effective, and easily available—is it any wonder we’re big fans of fluoride?

Bells and Whistles for Your Bristles?

May 28th, 2024

Modern dentistry has made the most of today’s technological innovations. And we’ve come a long way from the fraying sticks our ancestors used as toothbrushes.

On the other hand, while it’s a lot better than a fraying stick, the manual toothbrush model you’ve used for years might be ready for an upgrade. Should you take this opportunity to try out some new technology offering all the bells and whistles? Let’s answer that question by asking a few more questions.

Happy with your manual brush?

If you like your manual toothbrush and it’s doing the job, by all means, stick with it. But even your old familiar brush can evolve:

  • There are lots of bristle options, but soft bristles are almost always the way to go. Medium and hard bristles can be too abrasive for your enamel.
  • Heads come in a variety of sizes, so make sure the head size is comfortable. You want to be able to maneuver to reach every tooth surface, which a too-large brush head just can’t do.
  • Try a different handle shape if you’re having trouble maneuvering and keeping a firm grip.
  • Change your brush regularly. Brushes are effective for about three months before the bristles start to fray and breakdown. This is a good opportunity to experiment with different brands and styles.

Does your old brush suit your current needs?

Different types of manual toothbrushes are available for effective and comfortable brushing when you need options that a typical brush doesn’t provide:

  • Special orthodontic toothbrushes are designed with bristles trimmed to fit around brackets and wires and smaller heads to reach into tight places.
  • For those with mobility issues, brushes with larger or easy-grip handles make cleaning more comfortable.
  • Brushes with extra-soft bristles are available if you have enamel erosion or sensitive gums.
  • Because many women find their gums become especially sensitive during pregnancy, there are brushes designed especially for moms-to-be.

Is it time to go electric?

If you haven’t tried an electric toothbrush before, you might find that getting braces is a great reason to give one a spin.

  • Electric toothbrushes can outperform manual models. A dedicated brusher might manage hundreds of brushstrokes for each minute of brushing, while an electric brush can provide thousands. If, despite your regular brushing, you have plaque build-up, an electric brush might be a good alternative to your manual brush.
  • Models are available which can alert you when you’re brushing too hard—which is important for your enamel if you’re a heavy-handed brusher.
  • If you tend to *think* you’ve brushed for the recommended two minutes, but have *actually* brushed 32 seconds, some electric brushes come with timers!
  • There are tapered electric orthodontic brush heads designed just for people with braces.
  • Electric brushes have bigger handles and can be easier to grip.

Is your current brush doing the job?

So, should you stick with the familiar toothbrush that’s worked for you all these years, or take this opportunity to try out some new technology that offers all the bells and whistles? The answer is clear: the right brush for you is the one that works!

If your regular checkups show that plaque is under control, you’re doing just fine with the brush in hand. If you or Dr. Don Connolly and Dr. Stanley Sokolow notice plaque buildup, it’s time to consider making some changes. Whether it’s a question of tools, techniques, or time spent brushing, your Santa Cruz, Aptos, or Watsonville, CA dental team has the answers you need for state-of-the-art dental hygiene.

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.

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