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Orthodontic Treatment—The Sequel

January 12th, 2022

Some experiences are great, and we look forward to enjoying them again and again. Others have wonderful outcomes, but you feel no need for a sequel. If you’re wondering whether you need to revisit orthodontic treatment, you’re probably in this second group.

After all, you put in your time as a teenager. All those days in bands and braces, all the adjustments, all that cleaning with little tiny tools in little tiny places. That was a lot of work, and you reaped the rewards of your conscientious orthodontic habits with beautifully aligned teeth and a healthy, comfortable bite.

But now you’ve started to notice that your teeth aren’t quite as beautifully aligned, or your bite’s not quite as comfortable. So, what’s happened? Let’s look at some possibilities, and whether a return to the orthodontist’s office is in order.

  • You’ve Lost a Tooth

If you’ve lost a tooth because of injury or decay, that gap is an open invitation for surrounding teeth to move in to fill the void. Whenever you lose a tooth, consider an implant. Implants function, look, and maintain healthy spacing just like natural teeth.

One thing implants can’t do? Move like our own teeth will during orthodontic treatment. Your natural teeth can move because they are held in place within the bone by flexible periodontal ligaments. Implants, on the other hand, are anchored directly to the bone for stability.

If you’re considering new or further orthodontic work and want to replace a lost tooth with an implant, it’s a good idea to talk to Dr. Ryan Hinckley to discover the best timing and scheduling for your procedures.

  • You’ve Gained a Tooth

Problems with your alignment can also arise if you add a tooth or teeth. If you’re in your late teens or early twenties, wisdom teeth could be in your near future. And a new tooth can throw off the spacing and alignment of your existing teeth.

Talk to Dr. Ryan Hinckley about your options if your wisdom teeth are about to make an appearance, and if it looks like your tooth and bite alignment might be affected.

  • You’re Getting Older

Our teeth naturally tend to shift as we age. Teeth move forward, causing crowded or crooked front teeth—especially on the lower jaw. There’s even a medical term for this phenomenon: mesial drift. While we don’t know exactly why this drifting occurs, we can treat it.

Adults make up a large—and growing—segment of orthodontic patients. If your teeth have lost their ideal alignment over time, a visit to our Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Center, Crockett, TX office is a great way to bring your youthful smile back. And you’ll probably find your treatment much shorter and more comfortable than it was decades earlier!

  • You Haven’t Been Wearing Your Retainer

Remember that word “conscientious” in the second paragraph? You need to wear your retainer conscientiously, for as often and for as long as recommended by Dr. Ryan Hinckley.

If you’ve been ignoring a damaged retainer, or you keep forgetting to look for your lost retainer, or you have a perfect, undamaged retainer sitting unworn on your dresser, your teeth can start to shift out of their hard-won alignment within a short time.

Does this mean it’s back to months of bands and adjustments and appointments? Maybe not! See us as soon as you notice any changes in your teeth or bite. When caught early, shifting teeth can be treated much more easily.

What can we do to help you regain your best smile? A lot!

  • Treatment Planning

When you need to accommodate implants, wisdom teeth, or other dental work which could affect your tooth alignment, Dr. Ryan Hinckley can work with your dentist to make sure your alignment isn’t disturbed in the process. They can also map out a treatment schedule which coordinates your other procedures with any orthodontic treatment.

  • Retainer Evaluation/Adjustment

Your retainer is probably a passive retainer, meaning it keeps your teeth in place instead of moving them. If you notice your alignment shifting, or if your retainer is uncomfortable when you try to put it on after a lapse in nightly wear, ask us about a replacement.

  • Active Retainers

An active retainer helps move teeth into alignment rather than simply keeping them in place. A new active retainer might be just what you need to correct a slight shift.

  • Aligners or Braces

If you have some serious shifting going on, we might recommend a second round of treatment with clear aligners or braces. But there’s good news here, as well! Treatment to correct an orthodontic relapse usually takes less time than it did originally, and treatment options are more comfortable and less noticeable than ever before.

Talk to Dr. Ryan Hinckley about an orthodontic sequel if you have any concerns about changes in your bite or alignment. You might need only a simple retainer adjustment or a short time in clear aligners or traditional braces to make your smile its best and healthiest once again. And this time, remember to wear your retainer to make sure there’s no need for Orthodontics—Part III!

Hot Day? Three Drinks to Leave Home When You’re Packing the Cooler

December 29th, 2021

Whew! It’s a hot one! And whenever the temperature soars, you need to stay hydrated, especially when you’re outside or exercising. But all cold drinks aren’t equal when it comes to healthy hydration. Which beverages shouldn’t have a prime spot in your cooler when you’re wearing braces or aligners?

  • Soft Drinks

You’re probably not surprised to find soft drinks at the top of the list. After all, sugar is a) a big part of what makes soda so popular, and b) not a healthy choice for your teeth.

Sugar is a favorite food source for the oral bacteria that make up plaque. These bacteria convert sugar into acids, and these acids attack the surface of your tooth enamel. Over time, the minerals which keep enamel strong begin to erode, and weakened, eroded enamel is a lot more susceptible to cavities.

So, what about sugar-free drinks? Does this make soft drinks a better choice? Unfortunately, you can take the sugar out of many sodas, but you can’t take the acids out. Most soft drinks are very acidic, even without sugar, and will cause enamel erosion just like the acids created by bacteria will.

  • Fruit Drinks

Fruit juice provides us with vitamins, which is great, but it’s also full of natural sugars and acids. And blended fruit drinks and fruit punches often contain added sugars and added citric acids. Best to choose 100% fruit content and check the labels before you buy. (And you can always get refreshing fruit flavor by adding a slice of fruit to a glass of water.)

  • Sports Drinks

You might be surprised to see these on the list—after all, they promise healthy hydration while you’re working out. And hydration is healthy—but sugars and acids aren’t. Even when the label tells you there’s no added sugar, that same label will often reveal high amounts of citric acid. In fact, some sports drinks are more acidic than sodas.

We’ll make an exception, though, for thirsty people who participate in sports or activities that require a lot of physical exercise and produce a lot of sweat. When we sweat, we lose electrolytes, those ionized minerals which help regulate many vital bodily functions. Talk to Dr. Ryan Hinckley about which sports drinks are best for you if you need to replenish your electrolytes when working out.

So, what’s your best hydration choice on a hot day? Water! It not only hydrates you, it cleans your teeth, it helps you produce saliva, and it often contains tooth-strengthening fluoride. But if you only have sports drinks in the cooler, or if you just want to enjoy a soft drink or a bottle of juice from time to time, no need to go thirsty. We have some ways to make sure your teeth are safer, even with this tricky trio:

  • Rinse with water after you drink a sugary or acidic drink. And remember to brush when you get home.
  • Be choosy. Check labels for added sugars and acids.
  • Don’t sip your drinks all day long. Saliva actually helps neutralize acids in the mouth, but sipping acidic beverages throughout the day doesn’t give saliva a chance to work.
  • Use a straw to avoid washing your enamel in sugars and acids.

While sugar and acids are never good for your teeth, it’s especially important to reduce your exposure while you’re in braces or aligners.

  • Increased sugar means increased plaque and bacteria, which can collect around your brackets. When plaque isn’t cleaned away, bacterial acids cause mineral erosion, which shows up as white spots on your enamel. You don’t want to see a collection of white spots when those brackets come off!
  • Filling a cavity might require the (temporary) removal of part of your braces.
  • There’s a reason Dr. Ryan Hinckley and our team recommend that you only drink water with your aligners on. If you wear them while you drink sugary and acidic beverages, the liquid collects in your aligner tray, literally bathing your teeth in sugar and acid—and speeding up the process of erosion and decay.

You need to keep hydrated when it’s hot. When you’re packing your cooler, choose drinks that are healthy for your entire body, including your teeth and gums. Ask our Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Center, Crockett, TX team for the best choices in cold drinks to make sure you’re getting the hydration you need—without the sugar and acids you don’t!

When Your Smile Isn’t Aging as Gracefully as You Are

December 22nd, 2021

You might have been one of the lucky few born with perfectly straight teeth and a healthy bite. You might have spent months in orthodontic treatment as a teenager to achieve perfectly straight teeth and a healthy bite. But now that you’re growing older, you might be unhappily surprised to discover that your smile isn’t aging as gracefully as you are.  What’s changed?

That’s a trick question, because our bodies never stop changing, growing, and adapting. And these constant adjustments include the changes taking place in your teeth and mouth. You might begin to notice subtle differences in your smile when you’re in your thirties or forties. After young adulthood, several factors come into play which can cause shifting teeth and a misaligned bite:

  • Teeth naturally shift.

Shifting can be a result of the normal changes time brings. The periodontal ligaments which attach our teeth firmly to the jawbone lose some of their strength; the jawbones which hold our teeth in place lose some of their density and begin to narrow. Our teeth also have a natural tendency to move toward the front of the mouth, a phenomenon called “mesial drift.”

Add all of these elements together, and your once straight teeth start to crowd together and even overlap—especially the front bottom teeth.

  • Stressful habits stress your teeth.

If you habitually grind or clench your teeth, you’re putting pressure on them. Just like the gentle pressure of braces and aligners can shift teeth into alignment, the more uncontrolled force of grinding can push teeth out of alignment.  

  • Losing a tooth affects surrounding teeth.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so does your smile. If you lose a tooth, your other teeth will automatically start to drift into the space left open by the missing tooth.

  • A neglected retainer is gathering dust in a drawer somewhere.

You might have spent time as a teenager in orthodontic treatment, with a beautiful smile to show for all your hard work. And, back in the day, your orthodontist no doubt let you know that you needed to keep wearing your retainer at night once your treatment was completed.

If that’s one healthy habit you abandoned as you got older, don’t be surprised if your teeth start to migrate back to their old, less-than-perfect positions.

Between normal biological changes and the wear and tear of daily life, you might find one day that your smile isn’t that same beaming smile you’re used to seeing in the mirror. And it’s not just an aesthetic concern.

Crooked teeth are harder to clean, and built-up plaque means more decay and gum disease. Shifting teeth can cause malocclusions, or bite problems, which can bring you jaw pain, headaches, and chipped or cracked teeth.

If your smile has changed over time, it’s time to give Dr. Ryan Hinckley a call. There are many discreet options which can return your smile to you, including:

  • Clear aligners—comfortable, removable, and often unnoticeable.
  • Traditional braces—brackets are smaller than ever, and you can choose ceramic brackets which are color-matched to blend in with your enamel.
  • Lingual braces—these braces are attached to the inside of the teeth, for complete invisibility.

And what if you’ve never been as confident in your smile as you wanted to be? There’s good news here as well—it’s never too late to see an orthodontist. Make an appointment at our Lufkin, Nacogdoches, Center, Crockett, TX office to discover how you can make sure your smile looks just as young as you feel!

Forget Something? It’s on the Tip of Your Tongue!

December 15th, 2021

Let’s see…

Toothbrush? Check.

Fluoride toothpaste? Check.

Floss? Check.

Two minutes of thorough brushing? Check.

Careful cleaning around your brackets and wires? Check.

Wait… there’s something else… it’s right on the tip of your…

Ah! Your tongue! Whenever you brush, morning, evening, or any time in between, if you want the freshest breath and cleanest teeth, don’t forget your tongue.

Why your tongue? Because the tongue is one of the most common sources of bad breath. Let’s examine just why this occurs.

The tongue is made up of a group of muscles that help us speak and chew and swallow. But there’s more to this remarkable organ than mere muscle. The surface of the tongue is covered with mucous membrane, like the smooth tissue which lines our mouths. But the tongue isn’t completely smooth—it’s textured with thousands of tiny bumps called papillae.

These little elevated surfaces have several shapes and functions. Some make the tongue’s surface a bit rough, which helps move food through your mouth. Some are temperature sensitive, letting you know that your slice of pizza is much too hot. And some are covered with thousands of the taste buds, which make eating that pizza so enjoyable.

All of these papillae with their various functions combine to create a textured surface, filled with miniscule nooks and crannies. And if there’s a nook or a cranny where bacteria can collect, no matter how miniscule, it’s a good bet that they will, and the surface of the tongue is no exception. But bacteria aren’t alone—the tongue’s surface can also hide food particles and dead cells.

How does this unappealing accumulation affect you? These elements work together to cause bad breath, especially the bacteria that break down food particles and cell debris to produce volatile sulfur compounds—compounds which create a particularly unpleasant odor. Including your tongue in your brushing routine helps remove one of the main causes of bad breath.

And that’s not the only benefit! Cleaning the tongue helps eliminate the white coating caused by bacterial film, and might even improve the sense of taste. Most important, studies show that regular cleaning noticeably lowers the levels of decay-causing plaque throughout the mouth.

So, how to get rid of that unwanted, unpleasant, and unhealthy debris?

  • When you’re done brushing your teeth, use your toothbrush to brush your tongue.

Clean your tongue by brushing gently front to back and then side to side. Rinse your mouth when you’re through. Simple as that! And just like a soft-bristled toothbrush helps protect tooth enamel and gum tissue, we also recommend soft bristles when you brush your tongue. Firm bristles can be too hard on tongue tissue.

  • Use a tongue scraper.

Some people find tongue scrapers more effective than brushing. Available in different shapes and materials, these tools are used to gently scrape the surface of the tongue clean of bacteria and debris. Always apply this tool from back to front, and rinse the scraper clean after every stroke. Wash and dry it when you’re through.

  • Add a mouthwash or rinse.

As part of your oral hygiene routine, antibacterial mouthwashes and rinses can assist in preventing bad breath. Ask Dr. Ryan Hinckley for a recommendation.

  • Don’t brush or scrape too vigorously.

Your tongue is a sturdy, hard-working organ, but tongue tissue is still delicate enough to be injured with over-vigorous cleaning.

Taking a few extra seconds to clean your tongue helps eliminate the bacteria and food particles which contribute to bad breath and plaque formation. Make this practice part of your daily brushing routine—it’s a healthy habit well worth remembering!

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