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The Herbst® Appliance

February 2nd, 2023

Maybe you’ve known people with braces and aligners—maybe you’ve worn them yourself!—so if braces or aligners are in your teen’s future, you have some idea what to expect and when to expect it.

But quite often, orthodontic issues require more treatment than braces alone can provide. When misalignment affects not only the teeth but the jaw as well, treatment can be more effective when it begins earlier and makes use of a different kind of appliance—the “functional appliance.”

During the years your child’s bones are still rapidly growing and forming, around the ages of eight to 14, functional appliances can help guide tooth movement and encourage jaw growth and development. One of the most widely used of these devices is the Herbst® appliance.

What does the Herbst appliance do?

There are several types of malocclusions, or “bad bites” treated by Dr. James Dean Jensen. A common condition called a Class II malocclusion occurs when the upper jaw and teeth project too far forward over the lower jaw and teeth. Signs of a Class II malocclusion might include an overjet (protruding upper teeth), and/or a small or recessive lower jaw.

While correcting this malocclusion often enhances facial symmetry, which can be very important for a child’s confidence, correcting a Class II malocclusion also promotes jaw and dental health. Misaligned teeth are more difficult to clean, which can lead to decay and gum disease. Bite problems can cause persistent jaw pain and damage to the teeth. And, with an overjet, a child’s upper teeth are more at risk for injury.

The Herbst appliance was developed to treat this kind of malocclusion. It moves the lower jaw and teeth forward to create a balanced, healthy smile.

How does the Herbst appliance work?

The Herbst appliance is fixed in place with stainless steel bands or crowns that are secured to four teeth in the rear of the mouth, often the first molars on each side of the upper and lower jaws. The band or crown on each lower tooth is equipped with a small bar that extends toward the front of the mouth.

An arm on each side links the bands or crowns on the upper teeth to the front of the bar assemblies on the lower teeth. Each arm consists of a rod that fits smoothly into a tube. The telescoping action of the rod and tube allows the mouth to open and close normally. When the mouth is closed, the arms on both sides telescope shut, forming compact cylinders that hold the jaw forward.

While a child’s bones are still growing, the lower jaw’s new forward position can stimulate further bone growth and remodeling to maintain the jaw in that forward position. The Herbst appliance also has a restraining effect on the forward movement of the upper jaw. The result is a steady, noticeable improvement in the relationship between the upper teeth and jaw and the lower teeth and jaw.

Is the Herbst appliance hard to take care of?

The Herbst appliance is fairly low maintenance, but, like any orthodontic gear, it should be treated with care.

  • It’s important to watch your child’s diet, because sticky, crunchy, and chewy foods can damage the appliance. Save the caramels for a post-treatment celebration!
  • Carefully cleaning around the appliance is necessary, because a buildup of bacteria and plaque leads to consequences like bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay. A water flosser can make reaching and cleaning tight spots easier if a brush alone isn’t effective.
  • If the Herbst appliance is damaged, some minor fixes might be doable at home with instructions from your treatment team. But if a band or crown comes loose, or if there’s a problem you’re unfamiliar with, call our East Plano or West Plano, TX office right away.
  • To help avoid the need for minor (or major) fixes, playing with the appliance with fingers or tongue, nibbling on pens and pencils, chewing on ice, or any other risky habits should be strictly off limits.

When it comes to your child’s health, you always have high expectations. Dr. James Dean Jensen and our team have all the answers you’ll need about what to expect from this phase of your child’s orthodontic treatment, and just why the Herbst appliance is the very best option to create a future of attractive, healthy smiles.

Shark Teeth

January 26th, 2023

It seems like sharks are everywhere these days—on land, sea, and air(waves). A halftime show meme gone viral. A week of summer TV devoted to our favorite apex predators. And who doesn’t have “Baby Shark” playing in their heads all day once they’ve heard it? But are we jumping the shark to discuss this topic in an orthodontic blog?

Not at all! Because today, we’re going to talk about shark teeth—just not the ones you might be expecting.

One of the expected sights when a shark opens its mouth are those rows and rows of shiny shark teeth. Sharks can grow from two to 15 rows of teeth at any one time (and some sharks have even more). This means sharp new teeth are always ready to replace any shark tooth which is lost, broken, or worn out.

An unexpected sight? When children point to their new adult tooth or teeth coming in—right behind their still-firmly rooted baby teeth! This double set of teeth is called “shark teeth,” and, while it certainly might come as a surprise, it’s not all that uncommon. But why do children develop shark teeth at all?

After all, baby, or primary, teeth have small roots, and are designed to come out easily when the adult teeth start arriving. When a permanent tooth starts to erupt, it pushes against the root of the baby tooth above it. This pressure gradually dissolves the root of the primary tooth, and with nothing to anchor it, it’s now loose, wiggly, and ready to fall out. That’s why baby teeth often look like they have no roots at all when they eventually wiggle free.

Sometimes, though, the roots of a primary tooth don’t break down, which means baby teeth stay right where they are. It also means that the permanent teeth have to erupt somewhere else—usually behind those stubborn little baby teeth.

Shark teeth can first appear around the ages of five to seven when the permanent front teeth start arriving, or several years later, when the adult molars begin to come in. Any extra teeth in one small jaw naturally raise concerns about tooth misalignment, especially when those extra teeth are molars. If double molars are causing crowding, it’s a good time for your child to have an orthodontic examination at our East Plano or West Plano, TX office to make sure the permanent teeth are properly positioned.

Unlike sharks, we don’t have an endless supply of replacement teeth, so it’s understandable to worry when you see anything unexpected. If you want to know more about shark teeth, or if you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to call Dr. James Dean Jensen for expert advice.

Getting a Retainer? Make It Personal!

January 19th, 2023

If Dr. James Dean Jensen and our team recommend a Hawley retainer to complete your orthodontic treatment, you’re getting a classic. This retainer, invented by Dr. Charles Hawley, has been in use since the early decades of the twentieth century.

But this isn’t your great grandmother’s pink plastic retainer! The look of today’s Hawley retainer has really evolved from its early days as the “Hawley bite plate”—and pink is now a choice instead of an inevitability. In fact, you can choose from any number of colors, patterns, and designs to create a retainer that is uniquely you.

Each Hawley retainer is customized to fit your mouth and teeth perfectly. Wire clasps and a labial bow wire are securely attached to an acrylic base based on a model made from your teeth and mouth.

Your retainer is designed for function—the bow wire makes sure your teeth stay in the perfect position while your bones and ligaments get strong enough to hold them in place. The acrylic base, of course, is also functional—but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it!

Retainer bases can be formed in different ways.  One type of retainer model uses pre-formed acrylic discs for the base, and these are available in many pre-formed colors and patterns. Another type of retainer builds the base by alternating several applications of liquid and powder acrylics, layer after layer. This process allows the retainer technician to create one-of-a-kind designs.

What are some of the ways to make your retainer uniquely yours?

  • Color—whether deep tones, pastels, electrics, neon, or metallic, you can find an appealing shade in the color chart. Or, if you want your retainer to keep a low profile, choose a clear or a color-coordinated pink tone.
  • Glow in the Dark—if you don’t want your retainer to keep a low profile, this might be just the look for you!
  • Glitter—accessorize your sparkling smile with a sparkling retainer.
  • Patterns—stripes, polka dots, geometric shapes—even animal patterns are possible.
  • Color Combinations—why choose one color when you can have a marbled swirl of your favorites? Or a tie-dye look? Or team colors?
  • Acrylic Designs—a colorful design that captures your personality is available with some creative acrylic artistry. Rainbows and flags, hearts and flowers, ladybugs, and spider webs are just some of the options on hand.
  • Picture Perfect—for that special hobby, pet, team, or other personal favorite, decals or pictures can be applied under a layer of clear acrylic.

Hawley retainers are made to last, so choose your design with years of use in mind. Talk to our East Plano or West Plano, TX team about the custom looks which are available to celebrate your unique personality. After all, there’s nothing more personal than your smile!

Bracing for the Heat? Try These Braces-Friendly Summer Treats!

January 12th, 2023

Summer means sun and heat and delicious, frosty treats to keep you cool while you’re enjoying the sun and heat. If you’re wearing braces this summer, not to worry! Dr. James Dean Jensen and our team have plenty of ideas for icy treats to help you beat the heat.

  • Fruit Smoothies

Low on refined sugars, high on vitamins and minerals, refreshing, delicious, easy on brackets and wires—what’s not to like about fruit smoothies? And if you want to up the nutritional value by adding some green vegetables to the blender, even better!

If you’re buying your smoothie instead of making it yourself, watch out for added sugars in ingredients like ice cream, sherbet, frozen yogurt, and sweetened fruit juice. It can be more challenging to keep your teeth clean with braces, so watching your sugar intake is more important than ever. Try a smoothie made with low-fat yogurt, fruits and/or vegetables, and 100% fruit juice instead. Just as delicious, without extra tablespoons of added sugar.

  • Iced (Herbal, Green, or White) Tea & Frozen Coffee Treats

Coffee and black tea contain compounds called tannins, which can stain tooth enamel and braces. Using a straw can help you limit your enamel’s exposure. If you enjoy a cold, iced beverage occasionally, consider green, white, or herbal iced teas. They don’t stain as much, and many contain healthy antioxidants and other health benefits.

And if you can’t resist that creamy iced coffee beverage? Use a straw to avoid bathing your teeth in the stain-causing tannins and enamel-weakening acids found in coffee. Because these drinks can be full of added sugars, consider reduced-sugar options and skip the toppings.

  • Frozen Treats

When you hear that familiar tune coming from the neighborhood ice cream truck, do you have to stand on the sidewalk, sadly watching it disappear into the distance? Not necessarily!

Milk shakes, ice cream, and frozen yogurt are a refreshing choice in a braces-friendly form—and they contain calcium. Popsicles and fruit bars can be a safe choice if you don’t bite into solid ice. You wouldn’t chew on ice because it could damage your braces, so make sure your frozen bar softens a bit before you enjoy it.

What kinds of frozen treats to avoid? If your favorite flavor of ice cream or your go-to ice cream bar contains hard or chewy additions like nuts and pieces of candy, choose another item from the menu. Surrounding nuts and candies with ice cream doesn’t actually make them any safer for your brackets and wires, and may lead to an unplanned visit to our East Plano or West Plano, TX orthodontic office to fix a broken bracket.

We don’t recommend a steady diet of sweet treats, because you want a cavity-free smile when your braces come off. And water is always an excellent summertime choice for both hydration and health. But an occasional frosty dessert is cool and tasty and soothing, especially if you’ve just had an adjustment. Just be sure to brush—or rinse with water if you can’t brush—after indulging. Now, what’s on the menu for fall?