It’s obvious that your airway is essential for you to live. An open, non-constricted airway allows air to enter into your body, which allows oxygen to be absorbed by your blood through the lungs, and which in turn allows you to live a healthful life. Everyone is aware of this… but did you know that your orthodontics can impact your airway?
How Orthodontics Impacts Airway
When you think about orthodontics and their effects on your airway, the gut reaction may be to panic as you imagine a piece of your braces falling off and down into your throat. You can rest assured -- this doesn’t happen! And that’s not what we are talking about. Instead, we are talking about how restructuring your teeth and jaw, through the use of orthodontics, can either constrict or actually help open up your airway.
To understand how this might happen, you need to first think about the pathway your air takes as you breathe: when you inhale, the air goes in through your nose or mouth, passes over the soft palate and tongue, and then goes down into the lungs. (That’s the simplified version, but you get the idea!)
Anything that occurs along the way in this process can restrict your air. For example, when your tongue is inadvertently moved down and/or back, possibly when you are in a deep sleep in the middle of the night, and it relaxes to the point where it falls, it makes the airway opening smaller. This limits your air intake and could cause you to have a sleepless night.
For us here at OBC, it’s important to understand these concepts because a patient’s facial structure, which is often addressed by orthodontics, can affect the airway. In fact, an open facial structure is usually a good indicator of an open airway.
Unfortunately, some orthodontic work, when not planned properly, can lead to airway constriction. In some cases, tooth extractions or retractions due to overbites and protruding teeth can actually lead to the teeth and jaws falling back from their original position. This makes the tongue and soft palate fall back too, which narrows an otherwise normal and healthy airway.
A patient probably won’t notice this constriction during waking hours, but when they lie down to go to sleep, that narrow airway becomes even smaller, and could lead to serious health issues, including Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This condition arises when the airway becomes completely cut off, interrupting a person’s sleep and creating a slew of problems.
In the treatment of our patients, it’s important for us to execute modern orthodontics that leave plenty of room in the mouth for the tongue and jaw to rest without obstructing the airway.
This means opting for orthodontics that either keep the jaw in place or expand and develop it forward, instead of allowing the teeth and jaw to fall back. For our patients who have had orthodontic work done somewhere else, or long ago, it means first checking to see what their facial structure looks like, monitoring them for signs of OSA or other problems, and working to fix any airway issues that may arise.
At OBC we want your smile to make a splash, but we also care about your overall health too! Schedule a consult with us so we can evaluate your or your child’s airway. We look forward to giving great service, smiles, and health education to our patients.
If you have crooked teeth, you might want to hide your smile with your hand. But sometimes, a joke is too funny and you want to laugh without apprehension. It’s true that many people don’t seek out orthodontic solutions to fix their crooked teeth because they don’t want to spend time or money on adjusting something “just to make themselves look better.” They may feel selfish, or consider straight teeth to be a luxury. But the reality is that adjusting a smile isn’t just about how you look… it’s also about your overall health.
Teeth that are crooked offer far more problems than just the anxiety caused by what others might think. When you leave crooked teeth unattended to, you are setting yourself up for a host of more painful problems in the future.
Crooked Teeth Mean More Cavities
When your teeth are crooked and improperly aligned, you run the risk of getting more food caught in between the teeth. It is harder to clean crooked teeth, because you can’t always fit the brush in the places that it needs to be. When you can’t clean your teeth properly, you run a greater risk of plaque build-up, not to mention proliferation of the bacteria that can grow in your mouth. This buildup leads to cavities, and a greater risk of developing gum disease. By fixing crooked teeth, you allow your teeth the best possible chance for a healthy, clean, plaque-free smile.
Crooked Teeth Go Through More Wear and Tear
When your teeth don’t line up properly, they end up rubbing against each other in odd places. This brings unnecessary wear and tear upon your teeth. You are more susceptible to chips on your teeth, or even a flattening of a tooth. All of this produces potential problems like cavities, tooth disease, and pain that has to be corrected potentially with surgery.
Crooked Teeth are Painful
Chances are that if you have crooked teeth, your teeth aren’t touching correctly when you chew. This places more pressure on the joints in your jaw (especially the temporomandibular joint aka TMJ), which causes tightness, pain, and “popping” noises, especially when chewing. You might even encounter your jaw “locking up” where you can no longer open it the same amount. Additionally, jaw pain is often linked to headaches, or strain in your face and neck. Have you heard about TruDenta?
Crooked Teeth Can Cause Speech Problems
While crooked teeth can cause dental health issues, did you know that crooked teeth can also result in speech impediments? Things like an overbite or underbite can significantly impact your speech clarity. Your teeth are part of your articulators, which means they help you produce vocal sounds. There are some words that are difficult to pronounce with an overbite, underbite, or even gaps in your teeth, and entire sounds like “sh” and “ch” will sound incorrect. Additionally, your crooked teeth might lead to a lisp or even a slight “whistle sound” that happens when you speak.
Getting Treatment is Self-Care, Not Selfish
Correcting crooked teeth is essential to your health and longevity of your smile. With the variety of orthodontic treatments we offer, Dr. Crutchfield will help you choose the best one to fit your lifestyle while helping you make a splash with your new, improved smile.
Most of us grew up either having braces or with friends and siblings who went through having them, and we all have plenty of feelings about the experience: there’s the horror of being “stuck” with braces for years at a time with no end in sight, the pain associated with having to tighten them or wear uncomfortable rubber bands, or the annoyance of monthly office visits where you constantly sit for disgusting updated plaster casts, only to get yet another adjustment.
Fortunately for the kids (and adults!) of today, when it comes to orthodontics, there’s a lot more to smile about.
Innovations in orthodontics like suresmile braces and invisible aligners take away both guesswork for the dentist and uncomfortability for the patient. Using technologies like suresmile and invisible aligners makes for a more customized approach to orthodontic care.
We are confident that suresmile methods are the wave of the future. Forget plastic molds and plaster casts; suresmile uses 3-D images of the teeth to assess the current trouble spots, as well as help the doctor map out a treatment plan for the future smile of the patient. The doctor then creates wires using the imaging from the computer, and a robot physically makes these wires to ensure microscopic precision.
For those wanting the super high-tech experience of suresmile with the sleeker look of no wires, you can also choose invisible aligners, which are clear trays that gently shift your teeth.
These trays are created by your dentist utilizing a 3-D image of your teeth, along with digital X-rays and pictures. You wear each set of invisible aligners for 2 weeks before trading them out for new ones.
The benefits of both suresmile braces and invisible aligners far outweigh traditional and dated methods of the past. Both suresmile and invisible aligners use the newest technologies to attain terrific results quicker and with better accuracy, making for a smoother orthodontics journey for both patient and doctor.
Our faces contain thousands of muscles and nerves that help us translate our feelings to facial expressions, our thoughts to spoken words, and external stimuli to internal reactions. We smile at a familiar face, say hello, and squint as we continue to talk in the bright sun.
These muscles and nerves communicate our senses largely without our knowledge until one of those senses is pain—and then they are all we think about. Headache and migraine sufferers know all too well what happens when muscles and nerves in the head and neck become irritated. One of the ways to manage recurring headaches and migraines is to manage what triggers them; illness, stress, diet, alcohol, and dehydration are common causes of headaches. And, of course, toothaches.
It turns out toothaches and headaches have something in common that goes beyond the fact they are both painful; they are both detected by the trigeminal nerve, one of the largest nerves in the head. Because of this connection, most toothaches--and the behavior surrounding toothaches, like teeth grinding and jaw clenching--can be the direct causes of headaches and triggers for migraines.
Of course, migraines are a class of headache all to themselves. Characterized by their recurrent, throbbing pain on one side of the head, migraines are often accompanied by nausea, blurred vision, and increased sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells.
Your dentist and orthodontist can work with you to alleviate aggravating symptoms, like alignment and bite issues, to provide you ease and relief.
“Even when tooth pain doesn’t trigger a migraine, it certainly doesn’t make a throbbing headache feel better when the two occur at the same time,” says Dr. Crutchfield. “By improving oral health and decreasing irritation, we can often reduce pain triggers and give patients more control over their headaches.”
Are you ready to feel better? Request an appointment here.
Metal brackets. Wires. Bands. Braces seem to look and feel a lot like they did 10, 20, and even 30 years ago. With all the technology being introduced to orthodontia lately, it begs the question, “How has technology changed the way we move teeth?”
“Tremendously,” said Dr. Crutchfield. “The difference between how orthodontia was done even ten years ago and how we manage it now is quite drastic. We may use the same basic components, but how we use them, where we use them, and when we use them has changed quite a bit.”
He’s referring to the Damon System, which uses a passive system that facilitates faster tooth movement without the need for extraction or surgery. “Technology allows us to create a unique strategy for each patient,” he adds. “It also removes the guesswork. We can clearly see and play out tooth movement and develop a plan for the optimal scenario--a natural smile without unnecessary pain, time, or expense.”
To this end, technology ends up being the silent partner in the orthodontist office. Orthodontists like Dr. Crutchfield stay at the forefront of technology because it maximizes patient comfort; from eliminating the need for messy plaster molds to decreasing the time patients spend in brackets, technology improves patient experience, outcomes, and overall satisfaction.
“Technology may never make getting braces ‘fun,’” says Dr. Crutchfield. “But it certainly has made getting them more comfortable. Patients these days have fewer appointments, and the ones they have are short and quick. Results come faster and with reduced pain. And that’s still plenty to smile about. Especially at the OBC, our staff does everything we can to make sure you leave smiling.”
When you’re ready for technology to play a role in your smile, we’re here to take care of you. Schedule your free assessment today.
How Orthodontia Helps Free Obstructed Airways
In early growth and development, there is a remarkable cycle of events that occur along the airway
structures through the course of proper breathing. Under normal conditions, the tongue stays high and
naturally coaxes the upper palate to expand over time. When the upper jaw expands, the nasal passages
grow along with it, promoting efficient nose breathing and all the long-term benefits that go along with it: better sleep, fewer illnesses, better cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and better school and
There are some instances, however, when this proper development doesn’t take place, resulting in
obstructed airways that never perform to their full potential. When young kids breathe primarily through
their mouth, this is an indication the cycle of development has been disrupted. Mouth breathing requires a low tongue position to make the most of the air coming in. A low tongue position prevents the tongue from pressing against and expanding the roof of the mouth, resulting in a narrowed nasal cavity and obstructed breathing. It can also create a narrowed tongue, which further compounds the problem.
The symptoms of obstructed airways present differently in children and adults and can include:
Identifying and correcting these important airway structures is imperative to helping kids and adults
achieve their full health and developmental potential. Pronounced mouth breathing is the most inefficient way to deliver oxygen to the body and the brain and has been known to cause or worsen conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and asthma.
Young patients who have already had their tonsils and adenoids removed with little relief could benefit
from orthodontic treatments that can make the most of the increased space.Studies have shown that
patients with airway obstruction have benefitted from oral appliances that guide the development of their upper and lower jaws. Palate expanders, for instance, can have a dramatic effect on nasal and sinus
passages, which expand along with the palate. As the passages grow to their full potential, patients find
that breathing through their noses not only becomes easier but also second nature. And that is a very
strong step toward proper brain and body health.
Some dentists will claim there is a difference between “traditional orthodontia” and "functional orthodontia.” At Orthodontics by Crutchfield, we know the relationship between form and function is much more closely related. Our job as your orthodontic team is to give you the most authentic smile on the best possible foundation, giving you the look you want and the comfortable bite, speech clarity, airway improvement, oral health, and overall wellness you deserve. Function will always come first and form will follow, as will the results that last a lifetime.
Schedule your free airway and orthodontic consultation now.
If you are familiar with our practice, you know we preach “proper care at the proper time,” but what does this mean exactly?
For our youngest patients, it means patience.
“While there are a handful of exceptions, most alignment issues benefit from more time,” says Dr. Crutchfield. “Applying braces at this stage won’t guarantee a perfect smile later on nor will it prevent braces from being needed in the teenage years.”
Dr. Crutchfield created the “Hanging Loose Club” at his Chantilly orthodontics practice specifically for the patients who may or may not require braces at a later time. He offers free evaluations for kids as young as seven and eight to help families determine their options and choices.
Learn more about the Hanging Loose Club.
For our pre-teen and teenage patients, it means coordinated care.
The adolescent years are marked by huge growth and change opportunities, which means it is an ideal time for orthodontics if they are necessary. “Braces may seem like they are synonymous with the teenage years, but they aren’t always needed or necessary,” adds Crutchfield. “We evaluate and determine the best course of action given each patient’s situation.”
Since our office features some of the latest high-tech orthodontics on the market, we also have several orthodontics options for our teenagers that are easy on growing mouths, parent schedules, and family budgets. After all, the fewer appointments mom has to worry about, the better for the whole family.
For our adult patients, it means flexibility and lasting results.
Today’s adult orthodontic options, which include Invisalign, Suresmile and Damon Clear Braces, improved results while reducing treatment time and unnecessary office visits. We use state-of-the-art imaging software design the best possible course of action for your orthodontic care. No surprises. No hidden fees. No crazy scheduling. The result is a better orthodontic experience and result for you.
“Braces have come a long way since straight wires and brackets, and it’s easier than ever for adults to get the smile, bite relief, and airway clarity they’ve always wanted,” said Dr. Crutchfield. “We have efficient ways to maximize your unique facial profile and tooth position to create a smile that is as natural and authentic as you are.”
At Orthodontics by Crutchfield, we encourage scheduling a free evaluation or getting a second opinion, particularly for young children. We’ll make sure you have the right information you need to make an informed decision, and we’ll be here for you when you’re ready to make it.
“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression,” said Will Rogers. But the multi-talented actor probably wasn’t talking about dental molds.
Traditionally, the only way to get a clear look at the shape, alignment, and positioning of a patient’s teeth was to fill a dental tray full of thick impression material, insert it into the patient’s mouth, and wait for it to set up. While mostly effective, it is no one’s favorite activity; traditional impressions can be messy, uncomfortable, and, for a few patients, a little too close for comfort with their gag reflex. The other bad news is that the accuracy of your impression depends not only on the skill of the technician, but also on the temperature and humidity of the air and the temperature of the water used to make the mix. All of these errors can add up and adversely affect the result.
“Dental impressions leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouths,” said Dr. Bill Crutchfield, an orthodontist in Chantilly, Virginia. “That’s one of the reasons why we don’t do them anymore. The more important reason, though, is because we have much better alternatives that allow us to see more, capture it more accurately, and do more with the information without torturing our patients.”
Dr. Crutchfield is referring to the high-resolution imagery technology now available in his practice, and in orthodontic practices around the country. Through 3-D digital imagery, more information can be captured, assessed and manipulated; instead of just getting the external tooth shape and position, now orthodontists have access to bone structures, jaw placement, bite, tooth movement, and airway. This eliminates those ghastly impressions, but also the need for multiple X-rays.
“In our practice, patient experience and patient results are two of the strongest guiding principles for our care,” adds Dr. Crutchfield. “Adding a comfortable and painless digital “impression” method is crucial to giving the best of both.”
From 3D modeling to high-resolution imagery of the entire jaw, skull, and underlying tooth structures, the technology in today’s orthodontist offices feels more like science fiction these days. The results, however, are as real as they come.
Today’s computerized orthodontia features state-of-the-art imaging scanners, the latest in 3D printers, and customized smile design. While impressive and effective, it is simply another tool for skilled orthodontists to address and correct oral health issues for all ages of patients.
“It certainly is an exciting time for orthodontics,” says Dr. Bill Crutchfield. “I’m glad to see us move away from unnecessary extractions and the one-size-fits-all wires and brackets system. Every smile and patient present a unique challenge, and they should receive a customized treatment plan that reflects their particular needs.”
Orthodontists now have a wider variety of tools and methods to treat a variety of conditions, and in-office cone beam CT scanners provide much more information than conventional x-rays, reducing the need for multiple visits and consultations.
“Being able to manipulate high-definition imagery and play through a variety of scenarios is one of the biggest advancements in the industry,” states Dr. Crutchfield. “We can account for changes and make adjustments to treatment plans before we even get started. The patient experience is better, the results are better, and the length of treatment time is shorter. There are very few downsides.”
In fact, high-tech orthodontia isn’t just bringing more smiles to patients. “Technology is letting us help more patients and do more with our skills and experience, and that’s a very good thing,” adds Dr. Crutchfield. “I know my staff and I are smiling more, too.”
Like growth spurts and voice changes, braces have become a recognizable milestone of adolescence. It’s an ideal time for orthodontic treatment for many reasons, mostly because it takes advantage of the rapid body changes and growth as the body prepares for adulthood; applying orthodontics at this stage can shorten treatment time dramatically, whether we are adjusting for cosmetic, oral health, or airway functionality reasons.
We believe it’s important to treat teenagers for several oral health issues before they become painful, embarrassing, or problematic. Bite issues, gaps between teeth, overcrowded and crooked teeth can be corrected with the help of orthodontics. The care taken at this time of life sets up your child for better oral health for the rest of their lives.
There are several options available when considering which orthodontic treatment modality will be best for your child. Here are a few of the options we offer at Orthodontics by Crutchfield:
Invisalign uses a 3-D image of your mouth to create custom clear aligners that guide your teeth to their desired position. There are no braces just a series of clear “aligners”. Each thin aligner gently guides the teeth into their desired positions. While removable, Invisalign must be worn at least 22 hours each day to be effective. Not every situation can be addressed with Invisalign treatrment.
Best braces orthodontic treatment for: Teenagers who already have good hygiene, are dependable and who understand the importance of consistent use.
Not great for: Teenagers who are not able (or who tend to forget) to wear the aligners for at least 22 hours. Teenagers who practice or play sports with a mouthguard more than three hours a day may find it difficult to wear the aligners the required minimum of daily hours.
Suresmile combines braces with the latest 3D technology in orthodontics. The result is a highly customized look and functionality that not only is more precise, but also more efficient. An added benefit of Suresmile is that it produces better results while reducing treatment times by about 30%. And that’s something that makes all teenagers (and their parents) happy.
Best care for: Teens and almost everyone.
Not great for: Teenagers who want to avoid the “look” of braces or who do not care about their results, even if the treatments take longer.
Damon Smile System
Unlike traditional braces, which use elastic bands hold the orthodontic wire (the active component of braces systems) in place, Damon braces employ a passive sliding mechanism that reduces friction, pressure, and the constant need for adjustments. As a result, treatment times and discomfort are also reduced. The Damon Smile System has been clinically proven to align teeth and enhance facial aesthetics reducing the need for palate expanders, tooth extraction, or continually tightened wires. At Orthodontics by Crutchfield, the Damon Smile System is combined with Suresmile technology for the best synergistic orthodontic care for our patients.
Best orthodontic care system for: Teens who love discrete brackets and who fit the conditions for treatment under the Damon Smile System.
Not great for: Teenagers who don’t like the look and feel of braces. The Damon Smile system is regarding as one of the most sophisticated care systems in orthodontics today. Dr. Crutchfield exclusively uses the Damon Smile System for all of his braces patients.
Our goal is to help teens achieve a lasting outcome with a proper bite, spacing, and oral health. “The right braces give your teenager something to smile about for a lifetime,” says Dr. Bill Crutchfield at Orthodontics by Crutchfield. “And a smiling teenager is always a great thing.”