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Predicting Your Smile’s Future?

February 1st, 2023

Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek 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. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek 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. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek 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. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek 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 Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA office, and wear your aligners as directed, there’s going to be a beautiful, healthy smile in your future.

Working Behind the Scenes—Lingual Braces

February 1st, 2023

There are many great reasons to see an orthodontist. For a healthier bite. For straighter teeth. For a more confident smile. So why are you hesitating? If the visibility of traditional braces is what’s holding you back, ask Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek about lingual braces.

With regular braces, brackets are bonded to the front of each tooth with a special adhesive. Ligatures around each bracket or bracket clips grip an archwire, which does the work of moving the teeth. The gentle pressure from the wire guides the teeth into alignment in gradual stages. Every adjustment moves the teeth to their perfect positions. These braces are quite effective—and they are usually quite visible.

Lingual braces, on the other hand, are virtually invisible. Lingual means “toward the tongue,” and this placement is the difference between lingual braces and more traditional types of orthodontic braces.

Lingual braces are custom designed to be applied to the inside of your teeth. Specially designed brackets are attached to the backs of the teeth. Individually crafted archwires are used to guide your teeth to their best alignment.

Lingual braces can be the solution to many orthodontic concerns:

  • If you need or want invisible braces for personal or professional reasons, lingual braces are a great option. Because they are behind your teeth, they are even less noticeable than clear aligners—and you don’t need to keep track of your hours wearing them.
  • Lingual braces keep the front of your teeth braces-free for playing a brass or reed instrument, or for participating in sports. (Just remember, a mouthguard is always a good idea for athletic activities, and especially when you wear braces.)
  • Both brackets and wires can be customized to fit your teeth perfectly, and new lingual brackets and wires are more comfortable than ever.

You might be a good candidate for lingual braces if:

  • You have a large enough tooth surface to place a bracket. Adults with small teeth—or children—might not be have enough room on the back of each tooth to hold a bracket.
  • You don’t have a major malocclusion (bite problem) which would make lingual braces impractical. A deep overbite, for example, could cause the wires and brackets behind the upper teeth to come loose or detach as they come in contact with lower teeth.
  • You are dedicated to keeping up with your oral hygiene. Because wires and brackets are behind the teeth, it can be harder to keep them free from food particles and plaque.

Finally, even if lingual braces aren’t the perfect match for your orthodontic needs, there are other options that can work for you. Smaller metal brackets, ceramic brackets that blend in with your enamel, and clear aligners mean today’s orthodontic work is more subtle and discreet than ever before.

For a healthier bite, for straighter teeth, for a more confident smile—don’t hesitate. Contact our Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA office to discuss the many great options you have available to give you the smile you’ve always wanted—front and center.

Clearing Up Your Questions About Clear Braces

January 25th, 2023

First, let’s clarify what we mean about clear braces. We’re not talking about clear aligners, which can be a great option if you want treatment that is a) removable and b) almost invisible. But sometimes only traditional brackets-and-wires braces will do when it comes to your orthodontic treatment. Does this mean you can’t opt for a more subtle, less visible treatment plan?

No! Orthodontic advances in materials and design mean that you have more options than ever before when it comes to selecting brackets and wires. If you prefer more inconspicuous braces for professional or personal reasons, some of the current options in clear braces might be just the (inconspicuous) look for you.

“Clear braces” can refer to several styles of brackets and wires:

  • Brackets themselves can be crafted in porcelain, ceramic, or plastic. High quality materials make them strong and stain-resistant.
  • Brackets can be transparent or can be carefully tinted to blend in with your enamel.
  • Some of these brackets require the usual ligatures (those tiny rubber bands holding the wire to the brackets), so it’s important to choose a band color to coordinate for a monochromatic look.
  • Some of these brackets are self-ligating, designed to hold the archwire with built-in clips and needing no ligatures at all.
  • Finally, there are coated and even non-metallic archwires that are designed to blend in with your enamel color and work without calling attention to themselves. Depending on your individual bite and tooth alignment, these wires might be an option.

Some of the common questions about clear braces include:

  • Can everyone use clear braces?

While clear braces generally function just as traditional metal braces do, there are some cases where they might not be ideal depending on the amount and type of alignment and bite correction you need. Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek will let you know the best options to treat your orthodontic problems as effectively as possible.

  • Are they as strong as typical metal braces?

Clear brackets are quite strong, but they’re not as durable as metal brackets. If you choose porcelain, ceramic, or plastic brackets, we’ll give you all the information you need for their care.

  • Do clear braces take longer to work?

They might take a bit more time to bring your teeth into alignment, or they could work just as quickly as traditional braces. They often take less time than aligners. Today’s orthodontic treatments work more efficiently and therefore more quickly than ever before, so if there are any differences in wear-time, they probably won’t be significant.

Your individual orthodontic needs will dictate how long any treatment plan will take, and if different treatment options will add or save you time. Before you choose any orthodontic plan, we’ll go over all your options and give you an estimate for treatment time for each of them.

  • Any notable differences from metal brackets?

Clear brackets can be larger than metal versions. Because they can also be somewhat abrasive, they might be suggested only for your upper teeth. We’ll let you know if these brackets are a good fit for you.

  • Do clear braces stain?

Today’s clear brackets aren’t prone to staining—that would certainly defeat the purpose of choosing them! We’ll give you instructions on keeping them as clean and clear as possible. Do remember, if you use ligatures, that these little bands can stain if your diet is big on coffee, tea, cola, blueberries, or any other colorful food.

  • Are clear braces more expensive?

Cost of treatment is based on several factors, including the type of braces you select. We’ll be happy to compare the costs of your various treatment options.

If you want the benefits of traditional braces, but don’t necessarily want the visibility of regular metal brackets, consider the many transparent and tinted options available. Want more clarity? Talk to a member of our Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA orthodontic team! You might discover that clear braces are the clear choice to create your healthy, beautiful smile.

Why Do I Need a Retainer?

January 25th, 2023

Congratulations! You’ve done the hard work necessary to create your beautiful smile! You’ve carefully completed all the steps needed to reach the end of your orthodontic journey. Well, nearly all the steps. We can’t forget that last step which will ensure that all your hard work is rewarded.

When you first began orthodontic treatment, Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek decided on the best plan for straightening your teeth and perfecting your bite, whether you wore traditional braces, lingual braces, aligners, or other orthodontic appliances. And now that you’re finishing treatment, there’s one more option to consider—your retainer.

Why do I need a retainer?

While you’ve spent time in treatment, more has changed than just the position of your teeth. The periodontal ligament, the connective tissue that connects the teeth to the jawbone, is stretched as the teeth shift. The bone in your jaw changes, too, reforming and rebuilding around the roots of your teeth as they move to their ideal locations.

These changes happen because your braces or aligners apply gentle, constant pressure to move your teeth. When you’ve finished wearing these appliances, the pressure stops. Ligaments will try to return to their original shape, which can shift teeth back toward their old positions. And the rebuilding bone isn’t dense enough yet to stop teeth from shifting due to the normal, everyday pressures of eating, chewing, and smiling.

A retainer prevents your teeth from moving back, or “relapsing,” by giving your bones and ligaments time to stabilize and rebuild. The process takes months, so keeping your teeth in place as bones rebuild and grow denser is crucial. This is especially important for patients with more serious misalignments. Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek will let you know which kind of retainer will be best for you and just how long you’ll need to wear your retainer.

Are there different kinds of retainers?

There are! Retainers can be removable or fixed, visible or nearly invisible, metal, plastic, or metal and plastic. Three of the most popular retainer options include:

  • Hawley Retainers—the traditional removable retainer, which uses a molded acrylic plate with wires attached to keep your teeth properly aligned and to hold your retainer in place.
  • Clear Plastic Retainers—a removable retainer made of custom vacuum-formed plastic, which fits over the teeth like a clear aligner.
  • Fixed Retainers—a small single wire bonded to the back of specific teeth, which holds them in place and prevents any movement.

Dr. Allen Garai & Dr. Karen Tratensek will let you know whether a removable or fixed retainer is best for making sure your teeth don’t start to relapse, and fill you in on the benefits and care of each type of retainer.

How long do I need to wear a retainer?

There’s no standard answer to this question. Just like your retainer is custom-built to fit your individual teeth, the amount of time you’ll spend in that retainer depends on your individual needs. Retainers might be worn fulltime for months or years, be worn only at night after several months of daily wear, or be worn long-term to make sure your orthodontic work lasts.

Because you’ve done the hard work already, and your beautiful, healthy smile is the result. Talk to a member of our Vienna, VA & Great Falls VA team about which retainer option will be best for making sure that this smile lasts a lifetime.

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