Treatment Options

How we use technology to eliminate unpopular dental procedures

February 8th, 2021

Perhaps you have memories of sitting in a dental chair anxiously waiting for a dental impression (dental mold).  Memories of a cold, gooey mixture inching closer down your throat. Memories of drool hanging off the edge of your lip while the mold is held in place. The very thought of it for some people will make them gag!

We have good news for you: meet the intraoral scanner. While this technology has been out for some time, it is still not universally used. Here are some information about what it is and how it will make your trip to the orthodontist much better.

Dr. Zach Frazier, orthodontist in Downers Grove, with a 3D tooth scanner used for braces and Invisalign treatment.

  1. What is 3D digital intraoral scanner?

    1. It is a high-tech video camera that captures images of your teeth to create a 3D digital model of your teeth.
  2. Does it use any radiation like an x-ray?

    1. No radiation is used - it is simply a video camera that stitches many images together to create the 3D image of your teeth.
  3. How long does it take to have your teeth scanned?

    1. It depends on the experience of the user, but in most cases it will take less than 5 minutes to get a full scan of all of your upper and lower teeth.
  4. What do you do with the 3D image?

    1. We can use the image in lots of ways. We can use it to diagnose your bite or create 3D printed physical models of your teeth. With the printed models, we can make all sorts of orthodontic appliances and retainers without ever having to take a dental mold.
  5. Do you still have to take a mold to get retainers?

    1. No way : ) Our patients do not have to have dental impressions taken at any time.
  6. Can this be used for Invisalign clear aligner treatment?

    1. Yes! Additionally the aligners will be better fitting as a 3D intraoral scanner is more accurate than traditional dental molds.

We absolutely love the 3D intraoral scanners in our office. Treatment is dramatically more comfortable for our patients leading to a better experience. Additionally, we are getting more accurate orthodontic appliances which leads to better treatment and reduced time spent at the orthodontist. Finally, it is great form an environmental standpoint as there are fewer steps, fewer appointments, and less waste by using the scanner.

If you're interested in pursuing braces treatment or you are considering Invisalign clear aligner treatment, make sure you visit an orthodontist with a 3D intraoral scanner. You will thank me later ; )

What age is best for first orthodontic screening?

January 5th, 2020

If you have school age children, determining the age of the first orthodontic visit may be confusing. You may see some first graders in braces and you may be wondering: "Why in the world are they wearing braces already? As a parent, am I missing something?"

It is very common for parents to ask me:

What is the best age to bring my child for their first orthodontic screening?

In my opinion, I believe the best time for a first visit is around their 8th birthday. At this age, children have a mix of both adult and baby teeth, and we can start to foresee how their teeth and jaws will line up in the future. Specifically, I am looking for:
- Cross bites (top jaw is too small)
- Excessive crowding or spacing of the teeth
- Overbites and underbites (mismatch of upper and lower jaw size)
- Missing teeth, late erupting teeth, extra teeth, abnormally shaped teeth
- Environmental factors (thumb sucking habits, mouth breathing, etc.)

While there are many things I am looking for at this age, it does not necessarily mean that I will treat them at this age. In fact, for most kids under the age of 11, I recommend waiting.  While every orthodontist is different, I prefer a conservative approach and I firmly believe "less is more" when it comes to orthodontic treatment.

Why do I take this approach? For many bites, we have studies that show we can get the same result if we treat in one stage instead of two. This not only saves time and money in orthodontic treatment, but it gives your kid the chance to be a kid without having braces from age 8 until 13. Additionally, we have to consider these are their adult teeth - they need to have them forever! Hygiene is very important, and I want to give every kid the chance to keep their teeth clean and cavity-free if possible.

Does this mean I wait in all cases? Not at all! It is true - some cases I do recommend a 2 step approach with early orthodontic intervention at age 8-10 years old. Often times, this is for bone growth issues that are best addressed at that age, or for teeth alignment issues that if left untreated will make for a more difficult treatment in the future. If this is the case, I try to do an early treatment for as little time as possible to help correct the problem. Then we can wait and approach the rest as a pre-teen or teenagerI sincerely look at every child as if they were my own, and if there is a situation that I would treat my son or daughter, then I let you know.

I take pride in our conservative approach to early treatment. Best of all, we do not charge anything for an initial screening - our first appointment is entirely free, and you do not need a referral from your dentist to check us out. Feel free to reach out anytime with questions - I am here to help : )

-Dr. Zach

Missing Teeth, Impacted Canines, and Your Family Tree

August 24th, 2019

Teeth genetics are weird. There is so much variation in size, shape, and color teeth. There is also a lot of variation when it comes to timing of when baby teeth are lost. We are all so different from one another, with a few exceptions: our teeth are very much like those of our parents and siblings.

Teeth abnormalities are pretty common in the general public, and many people are affected by them. For example, approximately 30% of people are missing at least one tooth. This is most commonly a wisdom tooth. Also, approximately 2-3% of the population has an impacted canine, where the canine is stuck in the bone and does not want to come in. It is more common on the left side than the right side (how weird!) and it is more common in girls than boys (sorry ladies!).

As a parent, it is important to keep this in mind. Are you missing an adult tooth, or was your brother or sister missing a tooth? Do you still have a baby tooth in your mouth? Do you remember having braces to fix an impacted canine? Your kids will be more at risk for similar problems. Impacted canine teeth can damage other adult teeth, and missing teeth can be a dental problem in the future if not addressed early.

So what do you do? It's simple - get a screening early. I recommend having an orthodontic  screening at age 8 to evaluate for these conditions early. We take a panoramic x-ray that looks at all of the developing teeth so that we can see if any of these problems may occur. Most orthodontists do not charge for this screening, and it basically informational to help you understand your child's current or future needs.

Is it OK to have a screening even if you didn't have these problems? Yes - definitely! You may not know that grandma or great-uncle was missing 4 adult teeth. Additionally, we are screening for more than just missing teeth. We look for crowding issues, spacing issues, overbites, underbites, cross bites, and much more.

At the end of the day, please do not lose sleep over any of these issues. Genetics is out of your control, but we are here to help however we can. We can correct impacted teeth, missing teeth, and bite issues in many different ways with braces and Invisalign®. Feel free to reach out with any question : )

Take care and love your smile!
Dr. Zach

4 Questions To Ask Your Doctor Before Invisalign®

April 29th, 2019

Many adults are seeing the awesome benefits from straight teeth. From improved esthetics and self-confidence to improved oral hygiene and maintenance, it is clear that well aligned teeth are an important piece of keeping you feeling healthy and young.

With Invisalign® treatment as a popular choice for adult orthodontic treatment, it is becoming more popular than ever to have straight teeth as an adult. However, there is a common misconception that Invisalign® is doing the work to move the teeth. The truth is this – the doctors getting the best results in the shortest amount of time are the experienced orthodontists with skills in all aspects of straightening teeth and correcting bites.

To get a feel for your doctor’s skill and comfort using Invisalign® to straighten your teeth, here are four questions to ask before choosing the best person to help you with your smile.

  1. Are you a specialist at moving teeth?

    Orthodontists are the only dental specialists with professionally, certified training to move teeth. This high-level training extends 2+ years after dental school. If you want to get a better smile and straighter teeth with Invisalign®, why wouldn’t you go to an expert in the field?

  2. How many cases have you treated like mine?

    As an orthodontist, I have changed thousands (yes, thousands!) of smiles over my career. Whether it is braces or Invisalign®, there is probably not much I haven’t seen already. Once again, you should look for someone with vast experience in straightening teeth.

  3. What if Invisalign® doesn’t work on my teeth?

    To be honest, I am not perfect, and no dentist can be perfect. However, if something isn’t going as planned or a tooth is not moving as expected, I have additional tools and skills to get you to the finish line. If all your doctor knows is Invisalign® and that doesn’t work, what will you do when the result is not what you expected?

  4. If you wanted to straighten your teeth or your child’s teeth, who would you go to?

    Besides treating many dentists and their family members, we often treat their team members and their team members’ children! When it comes to getting the best result, ask your family dentist who they prefer for their orthodontic care : )

Keep these in mind as you start your journey to a new smile. Our office offers complimentary consultations to anyone considering orthodontic treatment. So if you want to see what I can do for your smile using Invisalign®, give us a call or send us a message via text or email!

- Dr. Zach

Direct-to-Consumer Orthodontic Treatment - What to know before you consider being your own orthodontist

February 25th, 2019

Direct-to-consumer orthodontic treatment has been expanding quickly with new companies entering the market all the time. While it may seem like it is harmless to straighten your teeth on your own, the truth is that unsupervised health care treatment can have negative effects. As an orthodontic specialist and an expert in the art and science of moving teeth to create amazing smiles and healthy bites, I am obviously biased. Nevertheless, I believe as a  professional, it is my duty to my community to shed light on some of the things the DIY companies fail to talk about. Let's break down the three most common reasons people participate with DIY orthodontics from both sides!

First, let's take a look at some of the real reasons someone might consider the DIY option:
1) Cost - all of these companies market against one another for the cheapest solution and thus use the cheapest means to deliver the treatment. However, they don't have many of the costs an orthodontic office has with team members, an office space, and the latest in-office dental technology. This makes for a cheaper alternative to seeing a professional.
2) No appointments - no visits to the doctor's office means that you get to do all the treatment from your home and can progress the treatment as it fits your own schedule.
3) Convenience - for the first molding of your teeth, they will send you materials to your house so you can do the molding yourself. Then, the aligners are delivered directly to you.

While the reasons may seem valid and make sense, there are some issues with this reasoning:
1) Cheaper materials means you will likely get lower quality treatment. While this may not matter at first, when the result is low quality, you may wonder how much money you actually saved for getting a less than ideal result. As they say, you get what you pay for : )
2) When your care is not supervised by an orthodontist, you are responsible for monitoring your own outcome and the side effects of treatment. If you aren't aware of what to look for, you may end up in a worse spot than where you started. For example, you may have closed the gap in your teeth, but now your bite does not fit together. Or you may have corrected that crooked tooth, but now there is excessive gum loss. Orthodontic appointments in our office are typically pretty short and painless - they are worth it to ensure the best result.
3) While it may be convenient to do all of this in your pajamas at home, you should really have a professional exam and x-rays prior to starting. There is a lot of nuance to orthodontic treatment. Even if a company claims you will have a "doctor assigned to you," if you don't know whom he/she is, how can you be sure they really care about your outcome? It is all up to you!

A few other considerations:
1) In our office, we use Invisalign which incorporates a series of attachments on the teeth along with other appliances to ensure a smooth experience and a great result. Attachments are bonded to your teeth to help them move. DIY orthodontics may work for some very limited and minor movements, but chances are if you want a more dramatic change, you will need something more robust to complete the complex tooth movements.
2) Orthodontic treatment can be a significant expense and we acknowledge that. However, we offer very flexible payment plans and we will work with insurance to keep the cost very reasonable. When you break it down, it might not cost that much more to see an orthodontist and in fact, with insurance, it may not be much different than a DTC company's cost.

While DTC orthodontic treatment may be tempting for a few reasons, I encourage you to seek an orthodontic consultation if you are curious about straightening your teeth. We don't charge anything for a consultation, so it is very low risk! We can guide you and educate you on the best way to achieve your goals, and we can save you time and money in the long run.

I have some patients that attempted the DTC route prior to coming to our Downers Grove office, and every single one of them wished they didn't waste the time or money trying to go it alone. The advertising makes it sound so simple and easy. But, how often do you cut your own hair? There are so many things that we could do ourselves, but we know if we trust someone with experience, the result will be so much better!

Now go out there and find your neighborhood orthodontist : )

- Dr. Zach

Sleep Issues in Children – Read before your child’s next physical exam

February 3rd, 2019


When you hear the words sleep apnea, you probably don’t think much about kids. However, sleep apnea affects 2-3% of kids, and the symptoms are subtler than they are in adults. Children with sleep apnea may appear totally normal at a physical exam, but there are some signs to watch out for. This list is not all-inclusive, nor does it mean that any one of these indicates a problem. However, if some of these describe your child, it may be a good idea to consult with your family doctor about the possibility that sleep may a problem.

  • Snoring – No child should snore – period. An occasional load breath may be heard, but your child should not be snoring or breathing loudly at night on a regular basis. Snoring in children goes hand-in-hand with sleep apnea, and this should definitely be brought the attention of your family doctor.
  • Teeth grinding – Grinding teeth at night may be a defense mechanism for the body. If your child is struggling with proper airflow at nighttime (due to a collapsed airway, tonsils, adenoids, allergies, etc.), pushing the lower jaw forward often helps open the airway to allow a better passage of air down the throat. This protective measure for the body is helpful for breathing, but can really cause long lasting harmful effects on the teeth.
  • Bedwetting – Typically, by around the age of 5, most kids will be able to sleep without wetting the bed. An accident here or there is much different than an older child who is wetting the bed frequently. Although this can be due to other medical conditions, bedwetting can be linked to sleep disorders as the body fails to awaken when the bladder is full.
  • Mouth breathing – While humans are able to breathe through both the nose and the mouth, we are technically “obligate nasal breathers” as a species, meaning we are supposed to breathe through our nose. Deviated septum, allergies, and other nasal airway obstructions can make it difficult to breathe through the nose. Mouth breathing can affect the development of the face, jaws, and teeth position, often times leading to orthodontic treatment to normalize the effects of letting the mouth hang open all the time.
  • ADHD – Sleep issues may contribute to problems relating to attention span. When some kids don’t get enough sleep, they actually act opposite of what we would expect – they actually become hyperactive rather than tired. Additionally, they may be irritable, unfocused, and easily distracted, and these consequences can have a very negative effect on school performance. Studies have shown that 1/3 kids with ADHD also snore while sleeping.
  • Morning headaches – If your child’s airway is partially blocked while sleeping, the amount of oxygen in the blood will be reduced. This reduction in oxygen level may lead to headaches, specifically in the morning after waking from a poor night’s sleep.
  • Sleepwalking and sleep talking – Typically if these are observed, they are usually shortly after going to bed and associated with “confused arousal.” This means that something startles the child awake, but they are still subconscious and may not be fully awake. This arousal may be from other medical conditions, but it may also be from airway obstruction that causes sleepwalking and/or sleep talking.

The bottom line is this – sleep is obviously important for all of us, but many kids with sleep issues are not being identified. As an orthodontist, I am a specialist in facial growth and development, and my job is to simply screen for some of these issues. I can fix some of the side effects on the teeth and jaws, but ultimately a physician (sleep specialist or ENT physician) needs to put all the pieces together to make a diagnosis. So, if you see these issues at home, or your dentist or orthodontist has mentioned some of them to you, make sure to follow up with your physician. Improving your child’s sleep very well could change their life, so the sooner we do it, the better : )

- Dr. Zach

IT'S ABOUT MORE THAN JUST STRAIGHT TEETH

October 13th, 2018

Orthodontics is awesome. Using braces or Invisalign, we have the ability to shape a person's smile over the course of 12-24 months. It's simply amazing to see the transformation in esthetics and bite correction along the way.

Traditionally, orthodontics has been focused on just the teeth - which, I agree, is the main point : ) - but there is so much more to it than just straightening teeth. The teeth, more importantly, are the focal point in the smile. A smile is our own, personal, lifelong asset that is truly unique to us. It conveys emotion to our friends, family, and strangers, and it will show up in photos that capture the most important memories and events of our lives.

It should come as no surprise that with so much emphasis on our smile, some people are truly not happy with it. They may feel they have to hide it, or worse, that others are teasing them in school because of their appearance. This can be very challenging for both kids and adults alike, and this is why orthodontics is so much more powerful than straight teeth.

 

In the course of wearing braces or Invisalign, we get to see the change in confidence and self-esteem of so many people. It is truly gratifying to know that treatment can affect a person's life in such profound ways. There are many studies that support that orthodontic treatment has positive psychosocial effects, and this is truly what it is all about.

It's about improving lives by improving smiles. It's about feeling confident in all those important moments in life. It's about giving your child more self-esteem in all those awkward years of their young lives. It's about looking back at photos of those milestone days of our lives and really appreciating that each and every one of us has a unique smile, and we should not be afraid to show it : )

- Dr. Zach

 

Retainers for LIFE : )

August 19th, 2018

Many people are surprised to learn that the teeth continue to move throughout life. This always leads to many questions about retainers and keeping the teeth straight. Let's dive into a few common questions.

Why do we need retainers?
Retainers help keep the teeth straight after they have been aligned with braces or Invisalign. Our teeth are held into the bone by ligaments, and over time as we age, our bones and ligaments change. As these changes occur, our teeth will unfortunately move.Example of teeth that shifted due to lack of retainer wear. We corrected the teeth with Invisalign, and placed a "fixed" retainer glued to the back of the teeth to prevent future shifting.

What types of retainers are there?
Retainers come in many shapes and forms. In our office, we use three main types of retainers. We use "fixed" retainers (AKA glued retainers, bonded retainers, permanent retainers) in many cases to hold the lower teeth straight. We use these retainers often because the lower front teeth tend be the teeth most affected by crowding as an adult. We use clear retainers (AKA Essix retainers, Invisalign retainers) in most cases, and these retainers wrap around the entire surface of your teeth like a mouthguard. In some cases, we use Hawley retainers (AKA wire retainers) which are made of acrylic and wire. Depending on your circumstance, we recommend what is best for you and give you options.

Will may retainers last forever?
We wish they could last forever, but just like anything else - glasses, shoes, etc. - they will wear out over time and need to be replaced. They tend to last longer if they are well maintained and cleaned regularly. If you need to have them replaced or feel that some teeth are shifting, make sure to call us to replace it before teeth move too much.

How long do we need to wear retainers?
The honest answer is you need to wear them as long as you want to keep straight teeth : )  Everybody is different, and some people may experience very minimal shifting without retainers while others will see lots of shifting. Unfortunately, we cannot predict whose teeth will move and whose will not, so many orthodontists now recommend "lifetime retention" to ensure a beautiful, straight smile. Dr. Zach is definitely on board with "lifetime retention" and he still wears his retainers to keep his teeth straight.

Think of this way: If you wear glasses or contacts, you must use them in order to see. They are simply a tool to help you see more clearly. Retainers are essentially the same thing: they are just a tool to help keep your teeth straight. So when you go to bed, you wear retainers as part of your maintenance to your body. It's that simple!

Wear your retainers : )
- Dr. Zach

Simplified Braces Diet

July 9th, 2018

The first thing anyone asks when they hear they need braces is inevitably "What am I going to be able to eat?!?!" Many people worry that they will not be able to eat the foods they enjoy, and that is not necessarily the truth. Although we encourage that some of the hard foods listed below are avoided, there are ways to still enjoy some of these foods. On the other hand, sticky candy and chewy snacks with high sugar content should be avoided - with or without braces on : )

If you take a quick look at our list below, you will also see items like hard bread, chips, and popcorn. Occasionally, these foods can be eaten, and with careful chewing, these foods can still be enjoyed during your braces journey. You will also note the delicious foods listed at the bottom - apples, corn, chicken legs, and ribs - that can be eaten by just breaking them down into smaller pieces before you take a bite.

So why do we have a special braces diet? Basically, it comes down to two things. The first is that candy and sugary snacks are in the hard, sticky food department, and these foods are not good for your teeth as they promote plaque to form acid on the teeth. The acid can erode the teeth and lead to white scars around the braces. The second is simple - hard and sticky foods will break the braces which leads to more appointments and more time in the braces.

So don't worry - you will still get to eat well as you make the commitment to a straighter smile. Questions about other foods not on the list? Fee free to reach to us anytime - we would be happy to help guide you!

- Dr. Zach

7 Common Questions About Invisalign Clear Aligners

June 15th, 2018

Clear aligner treatment, like Invisalign, is another tool that we use to straighten your teeth and give you an awesome smile. As someone who has gone through Invisalign treatment myself, I can tell you that is relatively easy and well worth the investment. While many people are familiar with braces, we get a lot of questions regarding Invisalign. Here are just a few of our most popular questions:

How does Invisalign work?
Invisalign is a series of clear, plastic retainers that put pressure on the teeth in order to move them. Each one has a small movement built into the shape of the aligner, and progressively over time, the slight changes in shape lead to dramatic changes in your smile and bite.

What are the "bumps" or attachments on the teeth?
For most cases, small attachments or "bumps" are glued to the teeth with transparent dental filling material. This material is the same thing dentists use to fix cavities on your teeth, and they are removed at the end. The small attachments allow for more complex movements of the teeth to ensure we can deliver the result you deserve.

Are my teeth going to be sore?
Any time we apply pressure to a tooth, it will be sore. Teeth don't know whether they are being pushed by braces, Invisalign, or a retainer. The adjustment period is usually about one week at the start of treatment, and it can be easily handled with a softer diet and over-the-counter pain medication.

How often do I wear them?
In order to be effective in changing your smile, they must be worn at least 22 hours per day. There really is no exception to this rule as teeth need constant pressure to change their position. They are removed for eating and brushing, and each aligner is replaced by a new on a weekly basis in most cases.

How long does the total treatment take?
Invisalign treatment time varies based on the complexity of your treatment. Some cases require more movement and bite correction. A typical Invisalign treatment may range from 4 months for small movements to 24 months for complex movements. However, the average time in treatment is usually around 12 to 15 months.

Does dental insurance cover Invisalign treatment?
Yes - if your dental insurance has orthodontic coverage, the benefit may be used for braces or Invisalign. This is great news as you can choose the treatment option that best suits you and your lifestyle. We offer flexible payment plans which makes treatment much more affordable than people expect.

How do I know if Invisalign is right for me?
Invisalign treatment does require excellent participation during treatment, but the benefits are huge! If you would like to change your smile without compromising esthetics or your diet, Invisalign may be a great choice for you. The best way to find out if you are a candidate is to schedule a complimentary consultation with our office.

Want more information about your Invisalign experience with our office? Give us a call or send an email - we are always happy to help : )

- Dr. Zach

6 Common Questions About Palatal Expanders

June 1st, 2018

Many young kids are referred to our office by their dentist, and parents are often wondering why we see kids that are 7 to 10 years old. In some cases, there may be a bone size imbalance between the upper and lower jaw, and palatal expanders are a great way to correct these problems to set children up for more balanced growth and tooth eruption as they enter adolescence. Here are some common questions that I answer on a daily basis about palatal expanders.

1) Why does my child need an expander?
A palatal expander is typically used to widen the upper jaw when it is too narrow compared to the lower jaw. It commonly treats a dental condition known as "cross bite" which is when the top teeth fit inside the bottom teeth. In some cases, expanders are used to create room for teeth that are stuck or impacted.

2) What does an expander do?
A palatal expander widens the upper jaw slowly to correct a bone size problem and make room for more teeth. It works by actually pushing the bones apart on the roof of the mouth, and then holds the bones in the new position while solid bone is created on the roof of the mouth. This new bone that forms will stabilize the correction.

3) What can we expect with our new palatal expander?
It make take up to one week to adjust to an expander. Your child may feel some pressure on the roof of the mouth and on the molar teeth. Your child may also complain that it feels funny to swallow as his or her tongue must adjust to the new appliance. Spacing may occur between the front teeth as the upper jaw widens.

4) Will the expander be painful?
We rarely hear complaints of pain with a palatal expander since are slowing moving the teeth and the bones. Tongue discomfort in the first week is the most common complaint.

5) Are there any eating restrictions?
Hard and sticky foods can dislodge the expander. We recommend avoiding all sticky and chewy candies as well as very hard foods.

6) How long does will the expander stay in place?
Typically, an expander will be in place for about 9 months total time. This may vary from child to child depending on his or her needs.

I hope this information is helpful in answering some common questions about expanders. If you have any other questions or are looking for more information, feel free to send us an email or call for a complimentary consultation. As Downers Grove's community orthodontist, I look forward to helping you and your family : )

- Dr. Zach

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