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Our Blog

Dental X-rays: The Inside Story

July 22nd, 2021

We’re all friends here, so if you sometimes feel a bit nervous before your orthodontic appointments, no judging! Ask us about any worries you might have. We are happy to explain procedures, equipment, and your orthodontic options so you know exactly what is going on during treatment. And if X-rays are a concern, we can put your mind at ease here as well.

What Exactly Are X-rays?

Sometimes patients feel reluctant about the process of imaging because X-rays are a kind of radiation. But the fact is, radiation is all around us. We are exposed to radiation naturally from our soil and water, sun and air, as well as from modern inventions such as cell phones, Wi-Fi, and air travel.

Why is radiation so common? Because matter throughout the universe constantly gives off energy, and the energy that is emitted is called radiation. This radiation takes two forms—as particles (which we don’t need to consider!) and as traveling rays. This second type is known as electromagnetic radiation, created by photons traveling in regular waves at the speed of light.

We are exposed to electromagnetic radiation every day, because, whether we can see them or not, these different wavelengths and frequencies create various forms of light. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light, X-rays, and gamma rays are all part of the electromagnetic light spectrum.

Different types of radiation on this spectrum have different wavelengths and different frequencies, and produce different amounts of energy. Longer wavelengths mean lower frequencies and less energy. Because X-rays have shorter wavelengths and higher frequencies than, for example, radio waves and visible light, they have more energy.

How Do Dental X-rays Work?

An X-ray machine produces a very narrow beam of X-ray photons. This beam passes through the body and captures images of our teeth and jaws on special film or digital sensors inside the mouth (intraoral X-rays), or on film or sensors located outside the mouth (extraoral X-rays). These X-ray images are also known as radiographs.

Why are X-rays able to take pictures inside our bodies? Remember that higher energy we talked about earlier? This energy enables X-rays to pass through the softer, less dense parts of our bodies, which are seen as gray background in a radiograph. But some substances in our bodies absorb X-rays, such as the calcium found in our bones and teeth. This is why they show up as sharp white images in radiographs. 

There are many different types of dental X-rays used in orthodontics, including:

  • Occlusal X-rays, which show the entire arch of teeth in the upper or lower jaw.
  • Panoramic X-rays, which use a special machine to rotate around the head to create a complete two-dimensional picture of teeth and jaws.
  • Cephalometric X-rays, which show the patient’s entire profile, and the position and development of the teeth and jaws.
  • Cone Beam Computed Tomography, an external device which uses digital images to create a three-dimensional picture of the teeth and jaws.

Why Do We Need X-rays?

You might have noticed that these X-rays, unlike, for example, typical bitewing X-rays, don’t take images of individual teeth. That is because orthodontists deal with the teeth in relationship to each other and to the structures around them.

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 us 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

How Do Orthodontists Make Sure Your X-rays Are As Safe As They Can Be?

First of all, the amount of radiation you are exposed to with a dental X-ray is very small. In fact, a typical panoramic X-ray provides roughly the same amount of radiation we are exposed to through our natural surroundings in just one day. Even so, Dr. Donald Neely and our team are committed to making sure patients are exposed to as little radiation as possible.

Radiologists, the physicians who specialize in imaging procedures and diagnoses, recommend that all dentists and doctors follow the safety principal known as ALARA: “As Low As Reasonably Achievable.” This means using the lowest X-ray exposure necessary to achieve precise diagnostic results for all dental and medical patients.

The guidelines recommended for X-rays and other imaging have been designed to make sure all patients have the safest experience possible whenever they visit the dentist or the doctor. We ensure that imaging is safe and effective in a number of ways:

  • We take X-rays only when they are necessary.
  • We provide protective gear, such as apron shields and thyroid collars, whenever needed.
  • We make use of modern X-ray equipment, for both traditional X-rays and digital X-rays, which exposes patients to a lower amount of radiation than ever before.
  • When treating children, we set exposure times based on each child’s size and age.

And now that we’ve talked about some things you might like to know,

Please Let Us Know If . . .

  • You are changing orthodontists and have had previous orthodontic X-rays taken. Ask to have your older X-rays sent to our office so we have a complete record of your orthodontic history. (With digital X-ray technology, this transfer can be accomplished with e-mail!)
  • You’re pregnant, or think you might be pregnant. Even though radiation exposure is very low with dental radiographs, unless there is a dental emergency, dentists and doctors recommend against X-rays for pregnant patients.

X-rays play an important part in helping us make sure your orthodontic treatment provides you with a lifetime of beautiful and healthy smiles. If you have any concerns, contact our Hanover, NH office. When it comes to making sure you’re comfortable with all of our procedures, including any X-rays that might be necessary, we’re happy to give you all the inside information!

Braces Repairs—Should You Try This at Home?

July 14th, 2021

No matter how careful you are, accidents can happen. Perhaps it’s a slice of apple that was a little bit larger than it should have been. Or you were chewing on your pencil while you were trying to work out an algebra problem. Or you tried a piece of candy that your friend really, truly thought didn’t have a caramel center.

No matter the cause, when something‘s wrong with your braces, you know it. And you want to fix it as soon as possible. What can you do to make yourself more comfortable? And which repairs are best left to orthodontic professionals?

First things first. If you have been injured, and suffered a trauma to your mouth or jaw that has damaged your braces, we want to make sure that you get any medical attention you might need before we worry about your appliance. Call Dr. Donald Neely, and your doctor, immediately if you have suffered a medical or dental injury.

Even if your braces are the only injured party, you might need a special appointment if the damage is something that shouldn’t wait and can delay your orthodontic progress. Broken wires, brackets that have fallen off, and loose orthodontic bands, for example, need to be replaced in our office.

But what about minor problems? First, call us to see if it’s something that really is minor, and whether you can do some home repairs to keep you going until your next regular visit.

  • Wayward Wires

One of the most common—and most annoying—problems is a broken or out-of-place wire. If a wire end is poking you, dental wax can be applied to the loose end to protect your cheeks and gums. If that doesn’t work, we can let you know how to apply gentle pressure to move the wire away from delicate tissue. Don’t try to cut a broken wire or remove it without talking to us—small pieces can be swallowed accidentally. We’ll give you suggestions for how to handle a broken or loose wire and protect your mouth until you can see us.

  • Breakaway Brackets

If your bracket becomes loose, this is another good reason to give us a call. Brackets are specifically placed to let your archwire guide your teeth where they need to be. Without a firmly bonded bracket, the wire isn’t doing you much good! If a loose bracket is irritating your cheeks or gums, you can try a bit of dental wax to stick it in place and cover hard edges until we can re-bond it. If the bracket comes off all together, bring it with you to your next appointment.

  • Balky Bands

Spacers are little rubber bands we put between your teeth if we need to create some room between your molars before you get your braces. They have a tendency to fall out after several days. We’ll let you know if their work is done, and you’re ready to start your orthodontic treatment. If you lose one of your ligatures, those colorful bands around your brackets, give us a call and we’ll let you know if replacement can wait.

We’re happy to help you with any braces problems, large or small. It’s best to check with us for even small fixes to make sure you avoid injury. Larger repairs can be handled in our Hanover, NH office—and we can give you tips on how to prevent future ones. Accidents happen, but they don’t need to delay your progress toward a beautiful, healthy smile.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

July 7th, 2021

You’re going to the game! And no matter which sport you follow, there’s so much to enjoy—the best athletes, exciting play, hometown pride—and those delicious concession stands! But if you’re wearing braces, your team spirit might be flagging. Here are a few ideas to help keep your food choices out of foul territory.

You know that you should avoid the foods that can damage braces or stick around your wires and brackets. This means any snacks that are sticky, chewy, hard, or crunchy are benched. So most of the traditional game foods—peanuts, popcorn, nachos, licorice—are just not safe for traditional metal or ceramic braces. Let’s save those for next season.

So what is on the program? You still have many great choices.

  • Ice Cream. A favorite that’s easy on your braces (no nuts or caramel, please). If you want a healthier option, try frozen yogurt or a smoothie.
  • Hearty Snacks. Pretzels and pizza can be too thick and chewy. Go for the mac and cheese, chili, or deli meats on soft bread. And remember, small bites! Check with us to see if hamburgers and hot dogs are safe for your braces.
  • Soft Candies and Cookies. Licorice, caramels, and crunchy cookies are out, but soft chocolate bars and moist, tender cookies are still on the menu.
  • Sodas and sports drinks can create a sugary and/or acidic environment which can damage enamel over time. If you do indulge, try to rinse with water ASAP.

Stadium and arena menus contain a lot of starches and sugars, which stick to braces and fuel cavity-causing bacteria. So it’s best to go easy on the snacks. But you don’t have to give up a half-time treat entirely—just enjoy in moderation and be sure to brush thoroughly when you get home.

If you wear clear aligners, your choices are simpler. You can remove your aligners, eat normally, and clean your teeth thoroughly before replacing them. But one flag on this play—remember that you’re supposed to wear your aligners for a set number of hours each day. You don’t want to be putting your treatment behind schedule if the game goes into triple overtime. Keep your eye on the clock, and you should be fine.

Dr. Donald Neely and our Hanover, NH team are always happy to recommend the best food options for your individual orthodontic treatment, and we can help you select a roster of safe and healthy choices. You might miss out on a few of your favorite sports snacks right now, but let’s remember the true fan’s motto: There’s always next year! Taking care of your braces and teeth means faster treatment and healthier teeth. Your All-Star smile will be worth it!

Orthodontic Treatment: Does a Missing Tooth Mean Missing Out?

July 1st, 2021

You’ve decided—now’s the time to talk to Dr. Donald Neely about straighter teeth and a better bite. So what’s holding you back? If you are concerned because you have a missing tooth, don’t let that stop you from making that first appointment. Orthodontists today have many options to help you achieve the benefits of a more attractive, and even healthier, smile.

How can we accommodate a patient with a missing tooth or teeth? Because each patient is different, our approach will be tailored to your specific needs.

A Lost or Missing Permanent Tooth

There are a number of treatment options available, depending on the position of your other teeth.

  • If your teeth are already crowded, it might be possible to close a small gap left by a missing tooth with braces.
  • If the space between your teeth is the perfect size for a replacement tooth, your orthodontic appliance will keep that spot open as your braces move the rest of the teeth into alignment.
  • If you need more space for a replacement tooth, braces can help widen the space between your surrounding teeth for an ideal fit.

Tooth loss can occur for a number of reasons. Accidents, decay, and gum disease can lead to tooth loss.  Congenitally missing teeth, teeth that simple never developed, are also a fairly common condition. But missing teeth are not merely a cosmetic issue, and should not be ignored. A gap in your smile can lead to shifting of the teeth around it, bite problems, difficulty chewing, and gradual loss of bone tissue beneath the missing tooth.

Today’s implants are a permanent, natural-looking replacement for a lost tooth. If you decide that an implant is your best option for tooth replacement, you are still a candidate for orthodontic treatment. Dr. Donald Neely and your oral surgeon can decide on a schedule that will provide the best timing for each phase of your treatment.

A Lost Baby Tooth

Finally, let’s not forget younger patients. Sometimes children benefit from orthodontic care before all of their adult teeth have erupted. If your child has lost a baby tooth too early, a space maintainer can be used to prevent shifting and misalignment of the remaining baby teeth and leave room for the adult tooth to erupt in its proper spot.

We recommend that your child have a first orthodontic assessment around age seven, but if your child has lost a primary tooth before its time, give our Hanover, NH office a call. We can let you know if a space maintainer is the best way to prevent future dental and orthodontic problems.

If you have concerns about a missing tooth or teeth, talk to us! Orthodontic treatment is always custom-designed to fit the needs of each individual patient. We can discuss your specific goals, and how orthodontic treatment can help you achieve them. There is no reason to let a missing tooth keep you from a more attractive, healthier smile!

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