Digital X-rays

May 8th, 2024

Modern orthodontic technology has changed the way you wear braces. Brackets are smaller and come in a variety of shapes and colors. Wires are more efficient. Clear aligners can eliminate the need for brackets and wires altogether. And your high-tech advantages don’t stop there—today’s digital X-rays make creating your treatment plan even more convenient and efficient.

Why Are X-rays Necessary?

Beautifully aligned teeth and a healthy bite are the visible result of your orthodontic work, but there’s a lot going on above and below the surface that needs to be discovered and taken into account before your treatment even begins. X-rays help Dr. David Baker evaluate:

  • The size, shape, and position of your teeth, including impacted teeth and wisdom teeth
  • The size, position, and health of your roots throughout treatment
  • The size and shape of your jaw bones, and how they affect your teeth alignment and bite
  • Your progress during different phases of treatment
  • The most effective type of retainer for protecting your beautiful smile after treatment.

How Do X-rays Work?

Traditional X-rays, or radiographs, make use of film just like traditional cameras. When you have an intraoral X-ray, for example, the film is sealed in a moisture- and light-proof packet, and placed inside the mouth to capture images of specific teeth and the bone around them.

The X-ray machine is aligned precisely with the film and an exposure is taken. The image at this point is latent, and won’t show on the film, because, just like photo film, traditional radiographs need to be chemically processed before they produce a visible image.

Digital technology, on the other hand, uses an electronic sensor instead of film. For an intraoral digital X-ray, a small sensor is positioned in the mouth just like a film. When the X-ray is taken, a digital image capture device produces an image which is formed by a matrix of pixels instead of a photo-like film exposure. This format allows the image to be sent directly to a computer for immediate display without requiring processing.

Even though these methods seem very similar, digital X-rays offer some significant advantages over traditional films. Let’s look at how they compare, more or less.

  • More Diagnostic Advantages

A traditional X-ray is a fixed image. It cannot be modified or enhanced. Here the digital X-ray offers a clear advantage in evaluating your teeth and the bone structure surrounding them.

Just as you can enlarge certain types of images on your computer without blurring or losing detail, a digital X-ray uses computer software to magnify images while keeping their details sharp. They can also be enhanced through brightness and contrast applications to make details stand out even more.

There is even digital subtraction radiography software available that can be used to compare recent images to older ones, removing (“subtracting”) all the similarities in the two images to display only the changes in the two—even small changes—that have taken place over time.

  • Less Exposure to Radiation

Modern technology means traditional X-rays expose patients to less radiation than ever before, but digital X-rays have significant advantages here as well. Radiation exposure can be reduced by an additional 10%, 20%, or more with a digital radiograph.

And while all types of dental X-rays expose you to very little radiation, it’s always best to reduce exposure whenever possible.

  • More Convenient for Sharing and Transmitting

If you need to share your X-rays with another dentist or physician, digital technology allows you to simply have them e-mailed to another office or multiple offices. You no longer need to worry about preserving physical copies, either.

  • Less Waste

Unlike traditional X-rays, digital X-rays don’t need to be processed, so you save time in the office. And while the processing time is not significant (usually several minutes), if you need to repeat some X-rays for a clearer picture, or require different images for several teeth, this time can add up.

Digital X-rays are also more eco-friendly.  The fact that they don’t need to be developed means that the chemicals used to process traditional films are no longer necessary—which also means that there is no need to dispose of chemical waste products afterward.

Our goal is to provide you with the safest, most efficient, and most effective treatment possible. Digital X-rays are an important tool for orthodontists, helping us to provide you with the best treatment plan possible. If you have any questions about digital X-ray technology, contact our Portland or Vancouver office. We’re happy to explain the science—and the benefits—behind this high-tech diagnostic tool.

May Marks National Physical Fitness and Sports Month!

May 1st, 2024

The merry month of May also happens to be National Fitness and Sports Month, so take advantage of the warmer days to get outside and exercise! Bringing a friend, family member, or coworker with you when you go for a brisk walk during a lunch break can provide an opportunity to socialize as well as health benefits. If you need a little more motivation, here are some good reasons to stay active and fit.

Exercise provides:

  • Improved stamina and energy as well as toned muscles and bone strength and density
  • Improved circulation and breathing for a healthier heart and lungs
  • Reduced risk for Type 2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer
  • For older adults, regular exercise may help improve balance and reduce the risk of falls as well as improved cognitive abilities

Children and Teens

Children and teenagers spend long hours at their desks in school, on the computer, watching television, and involved in other sedentary activities that result in obesity and poor health later in life. Getting them engaged in school or community sports teams can help them form good life-long exercise habits. One important note: If they are participating in contact sports, Dr. David Baker and our team at Baker Orthodontics recommend your kids wear an approved mouthguard to protect those valuable teeth from injury! Ask us for a proper fitting of your safety appliance during your next visit!

A gym membership is nice but not necessary to stay fit; try these easy ways to work some exercise into your daily routine.

At Home

  • Take a friend along for company on a walk through your neighborhood.
  • Pursue gardening or other yard work, including mowing or raking.
  • Take your kids on a bike ride or have them push a baby stroller around the block.

Couch potatoes take note: simply moving from the sofa to the floor for some sit-ups, leg-lifts, or push-ups while you’re watching television can help you get in better shape in no time.

At Work

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Take exercise breaks for walks around the building or parking lot.
  • Walk or ride a bike to work.

So what are you waiting for? Get moving!

For more information on exercise techniques, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. David Baker, please give us a call at our convenient Portland or Vancouver office!

Mouthguard Protection

April 24th, 2024

Let’s talk about mouthguards.

We could talk about how important wearing a mouthguard is when you lead an active life. If you play sports, ride bikes, skateboard, or participate in many other kinds of exercise, mouthguards protect your teeth, mouth tissue, and jaws from accidents. 

Or we could talk about how wearing a mouthguard while you’re wearing braces has extra benefits. Besides its normal protection, your guard helps protect your brackets and wires from damaging contact, and your delicate mouth tissue from impact with your braces.

But we’re not going to talk about any of these important topics today. Instead of looking at how your mouthguard protects you, today we’re going to look at how you can protect your mouthguard.

If you want your guard to last longer, work better, and stay (and smell!) cleaner, some basic tips make all the difference.

  • Keep your guard clean.

This can’t be stressed enough. Without a good cleaning routine, your guard can become discolored, develop an unpleasant odor, and even cause illness. Not very appealing, right? Happily, keeping your mouthguard clean isn’t difficult.

When you wear your guard, the same plaque that is present in your mouth makes itself at home in your appliance. And when your guard is in its case, that dark, moist environment makes it a perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

As soon as you take your mouthguard out, rinse it off. Brush with a soft toothbrush to remove all the plaque, saliva, or food debris that might be lingering in your appliance. (If you are on the playing field, in the park, or at some other inconvenient location, rinse it and brush as soon as you can.) Toothpaste can help get your guard its cleanest, but can be too abrasive for some appliances.

Once you’ve cleaned it, let your guard air dry in a clean spot for about 30 minutes. Air drying helps prevent bacterial growth. After your guard has dried, return it to its case.

Once a week, you might need to give your mouthguard a good soak in a mouthwash or other dental cleaning solution.

Since cleaning instructions can be different depending on which type of mouthguard you have, be sure to follow our instructions if you have a custom guard, or clean as directed by the manufacturer if you have a store guard.

  • Keep it safe.

When your mouthguard isn’t in your mouth, it should be in its case. Floating loose in your locker or tumbling around in your gym bag puts your guard at risk for breakage and bacteria.

And don’t forget to clean your case thoroughly every few days and air dry it as well. Bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold, and other unwelcome guests can collect in your case, too.

  • Keep it only as long as it’s in good condition.

You can purchase mouthguards from sporting or drug stores, or Dr. David Baker can make you a mouthguard designed to fit your teeth and braces perfectly. These appliances are made to be strong and durable, but they’re not indestructible. Over time they can wear down or become damaged, especially if you treat them carelessly.

Bacteria can lurk in dents and cracks, and you can cut your mouth on rough, sharp, or broken edges. But if your mouthguard isn’t fitting properly, don’t resort to self-help! Trying to repair, reshape, or trim your appliance yourself is not a good idea, because it might affect its fit and protective ability.

Any sign that your guard isn’t fitting properly or shows signs of wear and tear could mean it’s time for a replacement. You can replace a store model, or see Dr. David Baker about replacing or repairing your custom guard. A mouthguard that doesn’t fit, doesn’t keep you safe.

Take care of your guard, and it will take care of you. The reward for the small amount of time and effort you put into caring for your mouthguard is braces that will last through your treatment at our Portland or Vancouver office and a smile that will last you for a lifetime. Those are benefits we can talk about all day!

Snowball Effect

April 3rd, 2024

Winter and its snowball fights are behind us, true, but there might be another kind of snowball heading your way. When you neglect the small steps involved in your everyday orthodontic routines, little problems can start to snowball into bigger ones, affecting your dental health and delaying your orthodontic progress.

Here are three areas where letting the small steps in your routine slide can have consequences:

Dental Hygiene

It can be harder to get your teeth their cleanest while you’re wearing braces. After all, there are wires to get behind and brackets to brush around, and you still need to get that floss in between your teeth. But neglecting your dental hygiene can have big consequences:

  • Demineralization

The bacteria in plaque create acids that strip the minerals from tooth enamel. This process is called demineralization. Wherever plaque is allowed to build up, you’ll start to see white spots in the enamel. This discoloration is a sign that minerals are missing, and is often found around brackets, where it’s harder to brush. White spots can be treated cosmetically, but better to avoid them as much as possible, because eventually they can become . . .

  • Cavities

As demineralization continues, the enamel becomes weaker and weaker, until a hole forms in the tooth—a cavity. Besides damaging your tooth, a cavity can put you behind your orthodontic schedule if you need parts of your braces removed for treatment.

  • Gum Disease

When plaque builds up around the gums, gum tissue becomes inflamed and irritated—this is gingivitis, or early-stage gum disease. Symptoms often include puffy gums, redness, bleeding, and bad breath. Mild gum disease becomes more serious over time, so treat gingivitis early—or, even better, prevent gum disease with careful brushing and flossing.

Looking After Your Appliances

  • Follow Care Instructions

Orthodontic appliances need love, too! Any instructions you get for their care are for a good reason. Brackets can become loose when you bite down on chewy foods. Wires can break when you eat hard candy. Aligners can warp if you leave them on a hot dashboard. If you follow instructions carefully, you won’t need to postpone your progress while you wait for repairs.

  • Use Your Protective Case

If you wear aligners, or a removable appliance, or a retainer, don’t forget to protect these items when you’re not wearing them. This means placing them in their cases, not wrapped in a napkin on your lunch tray, or in the bottom of your gym bag, or anywhere your dog can reach them!

  • Be Proactive If Accidents Happen

Unfortunately, accidents do happen, and loose brackets, broken wires, lost ligatures, and cracked or warped aligners can interrupt orthodontic progress and cause you pain and discomfort. Give our Portland or Vancouver orthodontic office a call to see if minor damage to an appliance can be handled at home, or whether you should be seen before your next regular appointment for repairs.

Following Your Orthodontic Plan

There’s more to following your orthodontic schedule than arriving on time for appointments. Depending on your treatment, you might be responsible for keeping track of the time you spend wearing:

  • Elastics

Elastic bands can be used to help align your upper and lower jaws. If you don’t wear your bands as directed, you won’t make progress as quickly as you could. And remember to replace your elastics as often as recommended, because after hours of s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g they lose their effectiveness.

  • Aligners

Most aligners are worn for around 22 hours each day. If you don’t follow your orthodontist’s instructions and wear your aligners for the recommend hours each day, your teeth won’t be in the proper alignment when your next set of trays is ready to begin work.

  • Retainers

If you have a retainer and don’t wear it, your teeth will start to shift position. Skip wearing your retainer long enough, and you might need a return to your braces or aligners to repair any new misalignment.

Don’t ignore what seem like little dental and orthodontic responsibilities. Keep up with daily cleaning and brushing, take care of your appliances, and follow your orthodontic plan, and you’ll finish your treatment with a beautiful and healthy smile—right on schedule.

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