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Plaque Attack? Let’s Fight Back!

September 22nd, 2021

Plaque is a sticky subject! It sticks to the enamel of our teeth above and below the gum line, and it collects around braces. Plaque is one of the major causes of tooth decay and gum disease, and our teeth are under daily attack by this filmy menace.

What are the facts about plaque, and how can we fight back? Read on for some effective strategies!

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film that builds up on our teeth, largely made up of millions of different types of oral bacteria. Plaque is a colorless biofilm at first, but as it collects, it takes on a white or yellow tint. If you haven’t brushed for a few days, that fuzziness you feel on your teeth is plaque build-up. Unless it’s removed, plaque hardens within a matter of days to become tartar.

  • Tip: You can remove plaque with careful brushing and flossing, but it takes a dental professional to remove tartar. Be proactive!

Why Does Plaque Cause Cavities?

Bacteria in plaque use our food as their food, especially sugars and carbs. They can then transform these nutrients into acids, which attack our tooth enamel, weakening it and leaving it vulnerable to further erosion and eventual decay.

  • Tip: Cavities aren’t the only damage caused by accumulated plaque. Plaque also collects along and below the gum line. If tartar forms here, it irritates delicate gum tissue, leading to gingivitis and more serious gum disease. Make sure you don’t forget your gums when you brush and floss.

When Does Plaque Build Up?

The short answer? Plaque is always forming, because oral bacteria are a natural part of our biology. (In fact, there are even oral bacterial which are beneficial.) Plaque starts building up within minutes after eating, and during the night as we sleep.

That’s why we recommend brushing for two minutes at least twice a day, and flossing at least once a day. When you wear braces or aligners, brushing more often is a good idea. Food collecting around braces or inside aligners is a feast for plaque! Ask Dr. Schmidtke for suggestions for your best brushing schedule.

  • Tip: Just because plaque is unavoidable, that doesn’t mean we need to give the bacteria in plaque any additional encouragement. Every time you have a meal or a snack that’s heavy in carbs and sugars, you are providing more fuel for acid production. Cutting down on foods like sugary desserts and sodas is not only nutrition-healthy, it’s tooth-healthy!

Where Does Plaque Collect?

Plaque builds up all over tooth surfaces, at the gum line, and even below the gum line. It’s especially easy to miss in hard-to-reach places like the irregular surfaces of molars, between the teeth, behind our front teeth, and near the gum line. Plaque also collects around your braces, and requires special care to make sure your teeth don’t suffer cavities or the white spots caused by demineralization.

  • Tip: One of the ways plaque avoids detection is its invisibility. Fortunately, if you’re having trouble brushing away all your plaque, there are plaque-disclosing toothpastes and chewable tablets available in the dental aisle which reveal the plaque hiding between, behind, or around your teeth by tinting it with a can’t-miss color. Just brush the color away, and you’ve brushed the plaque away as well.

How Do We Clean Away Plaque?

Use the Right Tools

Floss at least once a day. There are different materials, sizes, and coatings for floss, so you can find one that’s comfortable for you. Floss reaches those spots in between teeth and around the gum line that brushes miss.

Choose a soft toothbrush (soft bristles are better for your enamel) and change it every three to four months, or as soon as the bristles show wear. Make sure the head is the right size—too big, and it’s not only uncomfortable, but you won’t be able to reach all the surfaces you need to.

  • Tips: There are special dental flosses created just for your braces. You can also use interproximal brushes water flosser to clean around wires and brackets. If you have trouble removing plaque around your teeth and braces with a manual toothbrush, consider an electric model. Several studies have shown a reduction in plaque with the use of an electric brush.

Use the Right Toothpaste

There are many toothpastes specifically formulated to fight plaque and tartar. And fluoride toothpastes not only fight cavities, they can strengthen your enamel.

  • Tip: Studies have shown that toothpastes with baking soda, in particular, are effective in reducing plaque. Ask Dr. Schmidtke for a recommendation the next time you’re at our Hortonville or Appleville office.

Use the Right Technique

What not to do?  A forceful, horizontal sawing motion is awkward, hard on your enamel, and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. Technique is important—not for style points, but for cleaner teeth!

Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, especially at the gum line, to gently remove plaque from teeth and gums. Use short strokes or a circular motion to clean as much of the surface and between the teeth as possible. Brush the inside of your front teeth with careful vertical strokes—remember, that’s one place where plaque is easy to overlook. The same holds true for the tops of your molars, so thoroughly clean those uneven surfaces.

If you wear braces, be sure to clean thoroughly around brackets and wires, where plaque can accumulate quickly.

  • Tip: If you wear clear aligners, don’t forget to give them a gentle brushing as well! Plaque can stick to aligners, causing discoloration and odors, so follow our cleaning instructions carefully.

Who Can Help You Fight Plaque?

Even when you do your best at home, plaque can still be a sticky problem. That’s why we advise regular professional cleanings, which not only remove any plaque that’s hiding away, but also eliminate any built-up tartar around your braces. And, of course, there you can learn all about how to keep your teeth their cleanest.

True, you’re fighting plaque every day, but you have all the tools you need to make sure your teeth and gums stay healthy. You’re winning the battle with plaque every time you eat a nutritious meal, and every time you brush and floss. With that kind of strategy, plaque doesn’t stand a chance. And your bright smile and healthy teeth and gums? That’s a victory worth celebrating!

Breakfast with Braces

September 15th, 2021

Breakfast is called the most important meal of the day for many reasons. Children need to refuel after a long night’s sleep, and studies suggest that school kids who eat a good breakfast have more energy, better attendance and behavior, and even higher test scores than kids who don’t.  

But sometimes, especially with new braces or braces that have just been adjusted, the last thing on your child’s mind is breakfast. Fortunately, Dr. Schmidtke can recommend many early morning options that will be both gentle on braces and healthy for growing bodies!

  • Yogurt

Soft, creamy, and filled with calcium and vitamin D, yogurt is an easy and nutritious choice. Try different fruit flavors or Greek yogurt for variety.

  • Eggs

Packed with protein, scrambled eggs are delicious on their own, or with the addition of cheese or soft veggies. If you’d like to add a bit of flair to the table, a cheese omelet is another great choice. Any egg option is a good one—just remember to skip the crunchy toast on the side.

  • Smoothies

Not only a great way to start your day, but a great way to get vitamins and minerals in one delicious meal. And with a flavor base of banana, mango, berries, or apple, no one will notice if some spinach or kale make their way into the blender!

  • Oatmeal

Unfortunately for the cereal lover, crunchy cereals and even granola are potentially damaging to wires and brackets. But oatmeal is a healthy alternative that can be made even tastier with the addition of soft fruits such as mangos, berries, and bananas.

  • Breads and Pastries

Crunchy and chewy breads and pastries can lead to broken brackets and wires. Soft breads, pancakes, non-crunchy French toast, and soft pastries are much kinder to braces. Because so many of these options are rich in sugar (especially with syrup!), it’s best to go lighter on foods like this and be sure to brush carefully afterward.

  • Fruit

Bananas, peaches, nectarines, berries—if it’s soft, it’s good to go! Cut larger fruits into bite-sized pieces. Dried fruits like raisins, dates, and cranberries can be chewy, sticky, and sugary, so best to take them off the shopping list for the time being.

It’s described as the most important meal of the day for many good reasons. With some of these easy-to-prepare breakfasts, you can add delicious, healthy, and braces-friendly to that description! If you stumble on a delicious recipe, don’t forget to share it the next time you visit our Hortonville or Appleville office!

Orthodontic Myths

September 8th, 2021

Some myths never wear out their welcome. If the Tooth Fairy helps your child transition from baby teeth to adult teeth, more power to her! On the other hand, some myths we can do without. Here are five common misconceptions about orthodontics, and the reality behind the myth.

  • It’s Only Cosmetic

If you think orthodontists can make a crooked smile straight, you’re right! Creating a beautifully aligned smile is one of our specialties. And if your primary interest is in a straight, even smile for you or your child, that’s a good thing. You can’t underestimate the confidence a beautiful smile brings. But please don’t think that’s all we do. In orthodontics, aesthetics and function work together. An essential part of an orthodontist’s work is diagnosing and treating malocclusions, or bad bites. The correct alignment of teeth and jaw is what makes a beautiful smile a healthy one as well.

  • I Don’t Need an Orthodontist for Orthodontic Treatment

All dentists receive comprehensive training and experience in order to earn their dental degrees. But did you know orthodontists like Dr. Schmidtke receive two to three years of additional formal training, concentrating specifically in the field of orthodontics? An orthodontist is a specialist, and diagnoses and treats problems with tooth alignment while taking into account dental, jaw and facial development. That is why an orthodontic specialist is best qualified to create a unique, custom-tailored treatment plan for each patient in order to achieve a beautiful, balanced, and healthy smile.

  • My Child is Too Young for Orthodontic Treatment

We actually recommend that every child see an orthodontist for an evaluation by the age of seven. It’s important to be aware of any potential orthodontic problems that might affect your child’s later years, but we can also treat problems even before braces are on the horizon. If your child’s mouth is very small, we may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander to accommodate adult teeth as they erupt. If a baby tooth is lost too soon, we can provide a space maintainer so your child’s permanent tooth can erupt in the right place. We can even treat bite problems before all the adult teeth arrive. A visit when your child is young might help prevent the need for more complicated treatment in the future.

  • I’m Too Old for Orthodontic Treatment

You’re really not. As long as your teeth and gums are healthy, orthodontic treatment is a great way to keep them healthy. Crowded teeth and malocclusions can lead to problems like worn or cracked enamel, headaches, jaw problems, increased tooth decay, and periodontal disease, to name but a few. And today’s orthodontics offer a much wider variety of treatment options than the metal gear you remember from your high school days. Which leads us to our last myth of the day:

  • Those Metal Braces Aren’t for Me

In that case, it’s a good thing we have many other options to offer. Ceramic brackets and clear elastic ligatures make traditional braces much less visible. Lingual braces use brackets and wires placed behind the teeth, which are almost impossible to detect. And clear aligners allow you to subtly reposition your teeth with each new aligner tray—and are removable if need be. In fact, even those metal braces you might remember from your own high school days have gotten smaller and sleeker. Talk to us about the many discreet options available for older and younger patients.

If you are interested in what orthodontics might do for you, give our Hortonville or Appleville office a call! We are here to help you discover what’s possible and then to design the best possible treatment plan in order to achieve it.  Let’s make your beautiful, healthy smile a reality!

Toothbrush Science

September 1st, 2021

Let’s talk science! From the vastness of the cosmos to sub-atomic particles, science helps us understand the world around us and how it works. So, let’s take some familiar scientific fields of study and apply them to your toothbrush.

My toothbrush?

Yes, indeed! When it comes to your oral health, your toothbrush is the first line of defense, so understanding how and why it works so well might help us use this handy tool even more effectively.

Biology—the study of living organisms

Unfortunately for your toothbrush, the living organisms we’re talking about here are the bacteria which cause tooth decay and those which can lead to illness. How do these problems arise, and how do we prevent them?

Fight Plaque

Plaque is the sticky film that builds up on teeth, and millions of oral bacteria help make up this biofilm. These bacteria convert sugars and other carbohydrates in the foods we eat into acids. And these acids erode our tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. (More on this when we get to Chemistry.) The best ways to get rid of plaque?

  • Brush often. The recommended minimum is two minutes of brushing twice a day, but when you’re having orthodontic work done, it’s even more important to banish the plaque that can stick to your braces or inside aligners. Ask us what brushing schedule is best for you.
  • Try an electric toothbrush. For some people with braces, cleaning the teeth is easier and more thorough with an electric brush.
  • Replace your brush regularly. Brushes become worn and frayed after three or four months, and you won’t be brushing as effectively.

Stop Germs from Spreading

  • Don’t share. Sharing toothbrushes can lead to an increased risk of colds and infections.
  • Rinse thoroughly after brushing, making sure you remove any toothpaste or debris left after you brush.
  • Store the brush upright and let it air-dry. Covering the brush or keeping it in a closed container can promote the growth of bacteria more easily.
  • Keep different brushes separate when they’re drying to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Replace your brush regularly!

Chemistry—the study of what makes up substances, their properties, and how they interact

When it comes to improving your brushing chemistry, the best thing you can do for your toothbrush is to put a dab of fluoride toothpaste on it! Why fluoride? Let’s look at the chemistry of tooth enamel.

Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—even stronger than bone. But it is not indestructible, and acidic substances can dissolve the mineral bonds which give our enamel its strength, whether they come from the bacteria in plaque or are found in our favorite foods and drinks (sodas, coffee, tomatoes, and citrus are among the tasty, but acidic, culprits).

The enamel in our teeth contains calcium and phosphate ions, minerals which help make it the strongest substance in our bodies. But when the level of acidity in our mouths becomes too high, these minerals begin to dissolve. Eventually, teeth become pitted, bacteria can penetrate more deeply, and decay is the result.

So what can we do? While our saliva helps neutralize acidity naturally, and we can cut back on acidic foods in our diets, using fluoride toothpaste actually helps restore the strength of our enamel in a process known as “remineralization.”

Fluoride works on the surface of enamel to both attract and anchor calcium ions, reducing mineral loss and strengthening the weakened enamel. Fluoride also interacts with the calcium and phosphate compound to create a new compound that is even stronger and more acid-resistant.

When you brush with fluoride toothpaste, you help replace and restore the mineral composition of your enamel—and there’s evidence that fluoride might even interfere with oral bacteria’s ability to produce acid. Now that’s good chemistry!

Physics—the study of matter and energy and their interactions

The matter here is your tooth enamel, and the energy is the force you use when brushing. And this is one time the force should not be with you.

  • Over-vigorous brushing can not only damage your brackets, but can also irritate delicate gum tissue and wear down enamel. A “sawing” back-and-forth motion is both hard on your enamel and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. We’ll be happy to show you the safest and most effective way to brush with braces. Just remember, “Massage, don’t scrub.”
  • A soft toothbrush is almost always your best option when you use a manual brush, but if you’re still a heavy-handed brusher, or have sensitive teeth and gums, consider an electric model. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any heavy pressure from the brusher. Some models will even let you know when you are brushing too hard.

Brushing harder is not brushing better, and your teeth, gums, and braces will be heathier with careful brushing habits. If you need tips on brushing with braces, contact our Hortonville or Appleville office and ask!

There’s a lot of science in the simple act of brushing, but we don’t need to spend hours studying to get a passing grade in dental health. The things you do normally—brushing at least two minutes twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste, and applying proper brushing technique—will help create a smile which will earn you top marks from Dr. Schmidtke for a lifetime!

testimonials
I loved going to Schmidtke Orthodontics as a child. Now I am bringing my daughter and find it’s still the same great practice. Thank you for providing beautiful smiles for my daughter and I. – Andrea T.
My child had a difficult case. Dr. Schmidtke was sensitive to our concerns and went out of his way to make sure we felt comfortable with the care. – Robert F.
I decided to pursue orthodontics as a 43 year old woman. I admit, at first I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of wearing braces as an adult. The staff at Schmidtke Orthodontics quickly put me at ease with the decision I had made. They took the time at every appointment to explain exactly what was going to be happening. The time flew by and I am so happy I went through with it. My smile looks great and I feel much more confident. – Susan V.
If you’re looking for a top-quality orthodontic experience, I highly recommend Schmidtke Orthodontics. Dr. Schmidtke and his staff are second-to-none. They will have you smiling beautifully, and the friendships you’ll make along the way are truly priceless. – Deb S.