Earth Day

April 20th, 2022

The idea for Earth Day was the brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, a senator from Wisconsin. He envisioned an Earth Day that would be a kind of environmental teach-in. The first Earth Day celebration took place on April 22, 1970, and a surprising 20 million people participated on that day. Ultimately, it became the largest organized celebration in US history.

Earth Day Over the Years

Over the years, the recognition of the day, and the number of people celebrating it all over the world, turned Earth Day into an international celebration. Because it is celebrated throughout the world, it is not only the largest international environmental observation, but it is also more widely celebrated than any other environmental event in the world. Today, Earth Day is celebrated in 175 countries where over 500 million people participate in celebrations.

The Earth Day Movement

The Earth Day movement is credited with developing the idea that people should “think green”. It encouraged congress to enact laws, including one that resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. It also inspired the passage of the Endangered Species Act.

The Five R's and Their Importance

  • Reduce – Reduce by avoiding unnecessary purchases. Reduce your use of materials that wind up in landfills. Reduce the use of chemicals around your house. Reduce your use of disposable bags, plates, cups, eating utensils, and batteries.
  • Reuse – Instead of using plastic bags for your groceries or purchases, bring your own reusable bags. When you go to buy coffee at Starbucks, take a travel mug so you don't have to get your coffee in a disposable paper cup. Instead of storing food in disposable refrigerator containers, buy containers that can be washed and reused. Don't use regular batteries. Whenever possible, opt for rechargeable batteries that you can reuse.
  • Recycle – Most cities offer a recycling program to collect used bottles, cans, and newspapers. Recycling includes collecting recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers and manufacturing raw materials into new products.
  • Re-buy – Make an effort to purchase things that are made through recycling. When purchasing furniture, look for items that are made from reclaimed wood. When buying paper for kids school work, computer printer paper, holiday cards, or anything else, make a point of purchasing recycled paper products. Instead of buying clothing at full retail price, shop for second hand clothing. You will save a lot of money by doing so!
  • Rethink – Rethink the way you do things so that you do them in an eco-conscious way at all times. Instead of driving to work alone, consider taking the bus or going in a carpool. Walk or ride your bike when you're only going a short distance. Plan your shopping trips and errand runs so that you can do everything on one day, and do it in a way where you can save time and gas.

Other ways to "think green" include growing your own food, composting yard waste and food scraps, or by participating in local recycling programs. Join a group like Freecycle so you can share your unneeded and unwanted possessions with people who can use them. Likewise, you'll be able to get things you need or want for free.

Earth Day teaches people that the planet belongs to everyone, so everyone is equally responsible for protecting it. Although Earth Day is an environmental celebration, our team at Braces by Billings wants to remind you that you don't have to wait until then to make changes that will allow you and your family to live a greener life.

Happy Earth Day from the team at Braces by Billings.

Positioned for Success

April 13th, 2022

As you near the end of your orthodontic treatment, you’re probably already imagining the day when your brackets and wires finally come off. Or the moment you’ve finished with your last set of aligners. That day might come just a bit sooner if Dr. Steven Billings and our team recommend a positioner.

While not as well-known as other orthodontic treatments, a positioner is an appliance that can shorten your time in traditional braces and aligners by weeks or even months. Curious? Read on!

  • What Exactly Is a Positioner?

A positioner resembles a clear mouthguard. Its arched shape is designed to fit snugly over your teeth. It’s sometimes called a finishing appliance, because it’s designed to make those last small adjustments to your alignment and bite. If you’re a good candidate for a positioner, it can replace your braces or aligners for your last several weeks or months of treatment.

  • How Are Positioners Made?

This appliance is custom fabricated to fit your very specific orthodontic needs. Commonly, a mold is made of your teeth. A model of your teeth is made from this mold. Precision instruments are used to move the model teeth into your ideal alignment.

Once this model of your future finished smile is complete, it is used to create the positioner. When the thermoplastic material is molded to the model, it creates an appliance with an indentation for each individual tooth in its desired final location.

Available in a variety of materials, a positioner is most often designed as a clear single piece, covering both your upper and lower teeth. This makes sure that your teeth are not only aligned properly, but that your upper and lower teeth are working together for a healthy bite. Openings in the positioner provide airways which allow you to breathe easily.

  • How Do Positioners Work?

Because your teeth haven’t settled firmly into place yet (this will happen as you wear your retainer), they’re still able to move. That’s why your positioner is shaped to fit your teeth in their future ideal placement, not where they are at present.

Positioners require your active participation. Your teeth move to the ideal spots molded into the positioner through “exercise”—biting down on your appliance for 15-20 seconds before relaxing your bite, usually every 10-15 minutes during your daily wear. The gentle force provided by your jaw muscles helps guide your teeth into position more quickly. Dr. Steven Billings will give you instructions on just how to—and how often to—do these exercises.

  • How Long Are They Worn?

Positioners are commonly worn at least four hours a day to start with and all night long, or Dr. Steven Billings might recommend 24 hour a day wear for the first week. As you progress, you’ll wear them for shorter periods during the day, gradually tapering off until your treatment is complete.

Depending on the amount of correction that’s still needed, positioner use ranges from several weeks to several months. One thing that will ensure that your time in a positioner is as short as it can be is your willingness to follow our instructions. The speed and effectiveness of your final tooth movements is largely up to you!

  • Caring for a Positioner

Gentle treatment is best. Clean your positioner before and after wearing it using a toothbrush and mild toothpaste. Never boil it or expose it to heat. We will give you instructions for how to clean it more thoroughly, if needed.

Like retainers, clear aligners, and mouthguards, a positioner needs to be protected when it’s not in your mouth. Your positioner will come with a case, so be sure to use it!

Positioners aren’t recommended for every orthodontic patient. But if you feel this might be an option worth pursuing, talk to us when you visit our Parkville, Platte City, or Belton, MO office. A positioner could be an effective, time-saving step on your path to a lifetime of healthy smiles.

April is National Facial Protection Month

April 6th, 2022

The Importance of Facial Protection

Americans from all walks of life should mark April as National Facial Protection Month on their calendars. The American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, Academy for Sports Dentistry, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, and American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons have combined forces to sponsor this annual campaign, which aims to educate and remind us of the importance of protecting our face and teeth against impacts and injuries.

Wearing a helmet can save your life and prevent devastating physical damage in a variety of situations, from playing football to riding a bicycle. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, helmets reduce the risk of various head injuries by as much as 85 percent. Whether helmet laws apply in your area or not, Dr. Steven Billings and our team at Braces by Billings want you to make sure you and your loved ones wear helmets with the appropriate safety ratings for specific activities. (A sticker on or inside the helmet will usually indicate this rating.) Helmets can also help save your teeth if they come with an attached faceguard, an essential addition for football players and others involved in contact sports.

Preventing Dental Injuries

A mouthguard can protect you against a variety of dental injuries, such as cracked, broken, or knocked-out teeth. The American Dental Association states that mouthguards play an essential role in preventing up to 200,000 dental injuries each year, and many states mandate their use for sports activities such as football and hockey. The Academy for Sports Dentistry warns, however, that these mouthguards must be custom-fitted as precisely as possible to prove effective. Have a professional-quality mouthguard molded and fitted by our team at Braces by Billings for better protection than a generic store-bought or “boil-and-bite” variety can offer. These cheaper versions tend to wear out quickly, interfere with proper breathing, and provide uneven degrees of cushion against impacts. Always have a fresh mouthguard fitted for each new sports season.

Choose the right combination of helmet, faceguard, and mouthguard to protect your teeth and face this April, and tell your friends to do the same! To learn more about mouthguards, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Steven Billings, please give us a call at our convenient Parkville, Platte City, or Belton, MO office!

The Herbst® Appliance

March 30th, 2022

Maybe you’ve known people with braces and aligners—maybe you’ve worn them yourself!—so if braces or aligners are in your teen’s future, you have some idea what to expect and when to expect it.

But quite often, orthodontic issues require more treatment than braces alone can provide. When misalignment affects not only the teeth but the jaw as well, treatment can be more effective when it begins earlier and makes use of a different kind of appliance—the “functional appliance.”

During the years your child’s bones are still rapidly growing and forming, around the ages of eight to 14, functional appliances can help guide tooth movement and encourage jaw growth and development. One of the most widely used of these devices is the Herbst® appliance.

What does the Herbst appliance do?

There are several types of malocclusions, or “bad bites” treated by Dr. Steven Billings. A common condition called a Class II malocclusion occurs when the upper jaw and teeth project too far forward over the lower jaw and teeth. Signs of a Class II malocclusion might include an overjet (protruding upper teeth), and/or a small or recessive lower jaw.

While correcting this malocclusion often enhances facial symmetry, which can be very important for a child’s confidence, correcting a Class II malocclusion also promotes jaw and dental health. Misaligned teeth are more difficult to clean, which can lead to decay and gum disease. Bite problems can cause persistent jaw pain and damage to the teeth. And, with an overjet, a child’s upper teeth are more at risk for injury.

The Herbst appliance was developed to treat this kind of malocclusion. It moves the lower jaw and teeth forward to create a balanced, healthy smile.

How does the Herbst appliance work?

The Herbst appliance is fixed in place with stainless steel bands or crowns that are secured to four teeth in the rear of the mouth, often the first molars on each side of the upper and lower jaws. The band or crown on each lower tooth is equipped with a small bar that extends toward the front of the mouth.

An arm on each side links the bands or crowns on the upper teeth to the front of the bar assemblies on the lower teeth. Each arm consists of a rod that fits smoothly into a tube. The telescoping action of the rod and tube allows the mouth to open and close normally. When the mouth is closed, the arms on both sides telescope shut, forming compact cylinders that hold the jaw forward.

While a child’s bones are still growing, the lower jaw’s new forward position can stimulate further bone growth and remodeling to maintain the jaw in that forward position. The Herbst appliance also has a restraining effect on the forward movement of the upper jaw. The result is a steady, noticeable improvement in the relationship between the upper teeth and jaw and the lower teeth and jaw.

Is the Herbst appliance hard to take care of?

The Herbst appliance is fairly low maintenance, but, like any orthodontic gear, it should be treated with care.

  • It’s important to watch your child’s diet, because sticky, crunchy, and chewy foods can damage the appliance. Save the caramels for a post-treatment celebration!
  • Carefully cleaning around the appliance is necessary, because a buildup of bacteria and plaque leads to consequences like bad breath, gum disease, and tooth decay. A water flosser can make reaching and cleaning tight spots easier if a brush alone isn’t effective.
  • If the Herbst appliance is damaged, some minor fixes might be doable at home with instructions from your treatment team. But if a band or crown comes loose, or if there’s a problem you’re unfamiliar with, call our Parkville, Platte City, or Belton, MO office right away.
  • To help avoid the need for minor (or major) fixes, playing with the appliance with fingers or tongue, nibbling on pens and pencils, chewing on ice, or any other risky habits should be strictly off limits.

When it comes to your child’s health, you always have high expectations. Dr. Steven Billings and our team have all the answers you’ll need about what to expect from this phase of your child’s orthodontic treatment, and just why the Herbst appliance is the very best option to create a future of attractive, healthy smiles.

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