Our Blog

Safety of Dental X-Ray Radiation

July 5th, 2019

We all want to live our healthiest lives. We know that part of keeping ourselves healthy is regular visits to our McLean, VA office for checkups and necessary dental work. And that dental work might require an X-ray. Should the amount of radiation in an X-ray concern us?

First, it is helpful to know that the radiation you are exposed to from a dental X-ray is very small. A set of most bitewing X-rays, for example, produces an amount of exposure about equal to the amount of background radiation we get from our normal surroundings in a typical day. We also take care to minimize your exposure even further by using specially designed equipment and protective shielding, and taking only necessary X-rays. If your child is very young, if you are pregnant, or if you have other health concerns, talk to us about the advisability of X-rays and whether they are essential to treatment.

Second, much of our careful general examination will be done visually. Dr Deirdre Maull can check for cavities and other problems and assess tooth and gum health. But sometimes, there are conditions which can’t be detected without an X-ray.

  • Decay that isn’t visible in an oral exam—if a small cavity develops between teeth, or is hidden underneath a filling, an X-ray will catch it before more damage can take place.
  • Infection—An X-ray will reveal infections such as abscesses that can damage both bone and tooth, and gum disease that has harmed bone and connective tissue.
  • Orthodontic and periodontal issues—We might need an X-ray to determine the spacing and development of your child’s incoming teeth and maturing jaw structure, to properly create braces for adults or children, or to place an implant within the jawbone.
  • If you are a new patient, it is helpful to have complete X-rays taken as a baseline of your current dental health and previous dental work. This baseline allows us to track tooth and jaw development, if necessary, and to evaluate any future changes that might be a concern. (If you have had X-rays taken in another office, we can help you have them transferred so we have a background of your dental history.)

Even though the radiation from a dental X-ray is minimal, be assured that we will never request any unnecessary procedure. When we recommend an X-ray, we do so to make sure there is no decay or infection threatening the health of your gums and teeth, and that we have the essential knowledge we need to treat any dental, periodontal, or orthodontic condition. Because we all want to live our healthiest lives—and part of that healthy life is both active and proactive dental care.

Does my child need two-phase treatment?

June 28th, 2019

You might be surprised to see one of your second grader’s friends with a dental appliance. Isn’t orthodontic work just for teenagers? And, if not, should your seven-year-old be sporting braces right now? The answer to both of those questions is “Not necessarily.” Two-phase treatment is a process designed to correct issues that arise during different times in your child’s life.

First Phase Treatment

We recommend that every child have an orthodontic evaluation around the age of seven to determine if there is a problem that would benefit from early treatment. First phase orthodontics is not the same as orthodontics for older patients. The focus here is on the developing bone and muscle structures which form your child’s bite and provide space for the permanent teeth when they arrive.

There are some clear-cut orthodontic goals that are much easier to attain when children’s bones are still growing.

  • Reducing Crowding

If your child’s mouth is small, the permanent teeth will have little room to fit in when they arrive. We may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander. This device will provide room for the adult teeth, and could potentially shorten second phase treatment time. Sometimes the extractions necessary to create more room for permanent teeth in later years can be avoided, as well as the possibility of an impacted tooth—one which doesn’t erupt because it is blocked by other teeth.

  • Dealing with Jaw and Bite Concerns

Bones and muscles do not always develop properly, leading to problems with jaw and facial structure. Your younger child still has growing bones, so this is a great time to gently re-form the jaw into a healthy shape. Problems caused by crossbites, underbites, open bites, and other malocclusions can be reduced with early treatment.  

  • Protecting Teeth

If your child has protruding front teeth, these teeth are more likely to be damaged in falls, at play, or while participating in sports. We can gently reposition them.

Second Phase Treatment

Second phase treatment is designed for your older child. After a resting period, when the permanent teeth finish erupting, we should see your child to evaluate any further orthodontic needs. This is the time to finish the process of straightening the teeth and making sure that each tooth fits together properly for a comfortable and healthy bite. This phase usually makes use of braces or aligners, and can take approximately 12-24 months.

Two-phase treatment is not necessary for every child. But there are some unique reasons that early orthodontics might be recommended for your child, even if it’s clear that more orthodontic work will be needed later. Make an appointment with Dr Deirdre Maull at our McLean, VA office, and let’s evaluate your child’s orthodontic needs, whether now or in the future, for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

Electric Toothbrush: How do you choose?

June 21st, 2019

Since the introduction of the power toothbrush in the 1960s, this tool has undergone many technological advances, from design and bristle motions to rotation oscillation and sonic vibration.

What is rotation oscillation? That’s when the head of the toothbrush alternately rotates in one direction and then the other. Power toothbrushes can deliver up to 50,000 strokes per minute, which is much more effective than the average 300 strokes per minute with a manual toothbrush.

A smaller brush head is available for hard-to-reach areas, which is a good alternative for small mouths. The brush heads are replaceable and should be changed every three to six months. Each family member should have his or her own brush head while sharing the base motor. What a great deal! Check the handle size. A large handle is better for members of the household with arthritis, children, or family with other physical disabilities.

A rechargeable toothbrush is ideal. It should deliver enough power on a full charge for one week of brushing.

We recommend you brush for a minimum of two minutes. Some electric toothbrushes include a signal you can hear, such as a beep every 30 seconds, to indicate it's time to switch to a different area of the mouth. Others sound an alert after the full two minutes has elapsed.

Will an electric toothbrush harm the teeth or gums? Studies indicate that people tend to apply more damaging pressure to their teeth and gums during manual brushing than when they use an electric toothbrush. If you experience tooth sensitivity, choose a model with pressure sensors that stop the toothbrush any time you press too hard.

Who would benefit from an electric toothbrush? Everyone! Consumers with a physical disability may have specific needs that power toothbrushes can address. Children also tend to maintain better oral health hygiene when they use an automatic toothbrush. Plus, many of them find it fun to brush!

Automatic toothbrushes really do remove debris better than the old-fashioned way. You may have heard the term “biofilm.” Better known as plaque when it occurs in the mouth, biofilm is the debris and bacteria that cause infections to your teeth. It regenerates quickly, so healthy habits are the best defense for a healthier you! With a healthier mouth, you face a lower risk of gum disease and other conditions like heart disease: mouth health has been linked to heart health.

When you're ready to make your decisions, be a wise comparison shopper. Consult with Dr Deirdre Maull at Deirdre Maull DMD MS Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics to decide what is best for you!

Getting to the Bottom of Chewing Gum Myths

June 14th, 2019

It's a moment many of our patients have experienced. One second you're chewing on a piece of gum, then suddenly you forget to keep chewing and swallow the entire rubbery gob whole! It's at this point you remember your mother warning you as a child that if you swallow gum it will stake a claim and take up residency in your belly for seven years. Dr Deirdre Maull and our team at Deirdre Maull DMD MS Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics hate to take all the fun out of the mystery, but the truth is that chewing gum, when swallowed, will enter your stomach and move through your digestive system just like any other piece of food. So, if you ever accidentally swallow a piece of gum, there is no need to worry!

That being said, it's important to know that gum does not have any dietary benefits, so while it’s not exactly harmful to swallow, you still want to avoid swallowing it. If you are an avid gum-chewer, we encourage you to chew sugarless gum, especially if you are wearing braces, because gum with sugar can lead to cavities. Sugarless gum still has the same amount of flavor, but has fewer cavity-causing ingredients. In fact, many brands contain an additive called xylitol, a natural sweetener known to fight cavity-causing bacteria. Xylitol is also known to increase salivary flow as it rinses away plaque and acid.

The fact is, when the bacterium in your mouth breaks down sugar, what’s left behind is acid. This acid eats away at the enamel coating of your teeth, causing holes that we call cavities. Cavities can lead to other long-term mouth problems if they are not treated in time, so it is best to try and avoid overexposing your teeth to too many harmful substances!

If you have any questions about chewing gum, please contact our office. Happy (sugar-free) gum chewing!