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In her decades-long career, renowned actress Kathy Bates has won Golden Globes, Emmys, and many other honors. Bates began acting in her twenties, but didn't achieve national recognition until she won the best actress Oscar for Misery — when she was 42 years old! “I was told early on that because of my physique and my look, I'd probably blossom more in my middle age,” she recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “[That] has certainly been true.” So if there's one lesson we can take from her success, it might be that persistence pays off.

When it comes to her smile, Kathy also recognizes the value of persistence. Now 67, the veteran actress had orthodontic treatment in her 50's to straighten her teeth. Yet she is still conscientious about wearing her retainer. “I wear a retainer every night,” she said. “I got lazy about it once, and then it was very difficult to put the retainer back in. So I was aware that the teeth really do move.”

Indeed they do. In fact, the ability to move teeth is what makes orthodontic treatment work. By applying consistent and gentle forces, the teeth can be shifted into better positions in the smile. That's called the active stage of orthodontic treatment. Once that stage is over, another begins: the retention stage. The purpose of retention is to keep that straightened smile looking as good as it did when the braces came off. And that's where the retainer comes in.

There are several different kinds of retainers, but all have the same purpose: To hold the teeth in their new positions and keep them from shifting back to where they were. We sometimes say teeth have a “memory” — not literally, but in the sense that if left alone, teeth tend to migrate back to their former locations. And if you've worn orthodontic appliances, like braces or aligners, that means right back where you started before treatment.

By holding the teeth in place, retainers help stabilize them in their new positions. They allow new bone and ligaments to re-form and mature around them, and give the gums time to remodel themselves. This process can take months to years to be complete. But you may not need to wear a retainer all the time: Often, removable retainers are worn 24 hours a day at first; later they are worn only at night. We will let you know what's best in your individual situation.

So take a tip from Kathy Bates, star of the hit TV series American Horror Story, and wear your retainer as instructed. That's the best way to keep your straight new smile from changing back to the way it was — and to keep a bad dream from coming true.

If you would like more information about orthodontic retainers, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Why Orthodontic Retainers?” and “The Importance of Orthodontic Retainers.” The interview with Kathy Bates appears in the latest issue of Dear Doctor.


When we refer to periodontal (gum) disease, we’re actually talking about a family of progressive, infectious diseases that attack the gums and other tissues attached to the teeth. Caused primarily by bacterial plaque left on tooth surfaces from inefficient oral hygiene, gum disease can ultimately lead to tooth loss.

There’s only one way to stop the infection and restore health to diseased tissues — remove all of the offending plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) possible from tooth and gum surfaces, including below the gum line at the roots. The basic tools for this task are specialized hand instruments called scalers or ultrasonic equipment that vibrates plaque loose. A series of cleaning sessions using these tools could stop the infection and promote healing if followed with a consistent, efficient daily hygiene habit.

There are times, however, when the infection has progressed so deeply below the gum line or into the tissues that it requires other procedures to remove the plaque and infected tissue. One such situation is the formation of an abscess within the gum tissues, a pus-filled sac that has developed in response to infection. After administering local anesthesia, the abscess must be treated to remove the cause and allow the infectious fluid to drain. The area is then thoroughly flushed with saline or an antibacterial solution.

The gum tissues are not completely attached to the tooth surface for a small distance creating a space. These spaces are called periodontal pockets when they are inflamed and continue to deepen as the disease progresses. These inflamed and sometimes pus-filled pockets form when tissues damaged by the infection detach from the teeth. If the pockets are located near the gum line, it may be possible to clean out the infectious material using scaling techniques. If, however, they’re located four or more millimeters below the gum line a technique known as root planing may be needed, where plaque and calculus are shaved or “planed” from the root surface. As the disease progresses and the pockets deepen, it may also be necessary for surgical intervention to gain access to the tooth roots.

To stop gum disease and promote soft tissue healing, we should use any or all treatment tools at our disposal to reach even the most difficult places for removing plaque and calculus. The end result — a saved tooth — is well worth the effort.

If you would like more information on treating periodontal disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treating Difficult Areas of Periodontal Disease.”


When is the best time to floss your teeth: Morning? Bedtime? How about: whenever and wherever the moment feels right?

For Cam Newton, award-winning NFL quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, the answer is clearly the latter. During the third quarter of the 2016 season-opener between his team and the Denver Broncos, TV cameras focused on Newton as he sat on the bench. The 2015 MVP was clearly seen stretching a string of dental floss between his index fingers and taking care of some dental hygiene business… and thereby creating a minor storm on the internet.

Inappropriate? We don't think so. As dentists, we're always happy when someone comes along to remind people how important it is to floss. And when that person has a million-dollar smile like Cam Newton's — so much the better.

Of course, there has been a lot of discussion lately about flossing. News outlets have gleefully reported that there's a lack of hard evidence at present to show that flossing is effective. But we would like to point out that, as the saying goes, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” There are a number of reasons why health care organizations like the American Dental Association (ADA) still firmly recommend daily flossing. Here are a few:

  • It's well established that when plaque is allowed to build up on teeth, tooth decay and gum disease are bound to follow.
  • A tooth brush does a good job of cleaning most tooth surfaces, but it can't reach into spaces between teeth.
  • Cleaning between teeth (interdental cleaning) has been shown to remove plaque and food debris from these hard-to-reach spaces.
  • Dental floss isn't the only method for interdental cleaning… but it is recognized by dentists as the best way, and is an excellent method for doing this at home — or anywhere else!

Whether you use dental floss or another type of interdental cleaner is up to you. But the ADA stands by its recommendations for maintaining good oral health: Brush twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste; visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups; and clean between teeth once a day with an interdental cleaner like floss. It doesn't matter if you do it in your own home, or on the sidelines of an NFL game… as long as you do it!

If you would like more information about flossing and oral hygiene, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Dr. Alice Charland Bassford D.M.D. M.A.G.D.
June 05, 2017
Category: Oral Health

Do you take good care of your teeth or could your oral hygiene routine benefit from a little TLC? Silver Spring, MD, comprehensive familyoral hygiene dentist, Dr. Alice Charland Bassford, explains how preventive care will keep your smile healthy.

A strong oral hygiene routine reduces your cavity risk

There's no way to avoid plaque. The sticky film constantly forms on your teeth during the day and night. Although plaque can make your teeth feel a little rough, that uncomfortable feeling isn't the only drawback of plaque. The film contains bacteria, which contributes to tooth decay. If you eat a handful of chips or indulge in a candy bar, the bacteria interacts with sugars in those foods and produces strong acids capable of creating cavities.

Brushing your teeth removes the bacterial film, reducing your tooth decay risk. Getting rid of plaque prevents it from turning into tartar. Tartar, a very hard deposit, is responsible for gum disease. These tips can help reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease:

  • Brush Twice a Day: Brushing in the morning and evening helps keep plaque from damaging your teeth. Worried that you'll miss some spots? Brush for at least two minutes.
  • Floss Once a Day: Flossing removes plaque that forms between your teeth. Use a gentle up-and-down motion when you floss, and be sure to clean around the base of your teeth, too.
  • Brush Your Tongue: Bacteria doesn't just form on your teeth, but also grows on your tongue. Brushing your tongue with your toothbrush or a tongue scraper will get rid of it before it can transfer to your teeth.
  • Use Mouthwash for Additional Protection: Rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash offers an additional layer of protection for your teeth.
  • Stay Away from Sticky Candy: Caramels, gummy worms and other sticky candies expose your teeth to sugar for long periods, increasing your tooth decay risk. Long after you finish that gummy worm, tiny pieces may still remain on your teeth.

Regular dental visits are essential

One of the best ways to protect your smile is with twice yearly visits to our Silver Spring office. During your visit, plaque and tartar will be removed with a thorough dental cleaning. Regular visits also include examinations of your teeth, mouth, jaw and neck, and a fluoride varnish application and oral cancer screening. We will also discuss your health and how your mouth/gums may be affecting your Systemic Health and screen for Sleep Apnea using a simple 8 question interview. Sometimes, no matter how carefully you care for your teeth, cavities can still occur. Luckily, prompt treatment will mean you'll only need a small filling (Bonding).

Has it been a while since you've seen the dentist? Call Silver Spring, MD, comprehensive family dentist Dr. Bassford at (301) 593-5500 to schedule your visit.

By Dr. Alice Charland Bassford D.M.D. M.A.G.D.
April 04, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: Headaches   migraines  

Find out if your symptoms are caused by a headache or whether a migraine could be to blame.headaches

Your head is throbbing. You can’t concentrate at work. You wish you could just close the door to your office a lie down. Does this scenario sound familiar? It might be if you deal with headaches. Of course, have you always wondered whether your symptoms are just that of a regular headache or something more serious like a migraine? Our Silver Spring, MD, family dentist, Dr. Alice Charland Bassford, provides insight into the difference between these two conditions and how she might be able to provide relief.


While a headache will certainly cause an aching pain it can also cause pressure. While you may notice that your headache originates more along the temples or forehead it will often show up on both sides. Headaches can last a couple of hours or even days. Tension is often the cause of headaches, but stress and sinus problems may also be to blame.


Unlike headaches, which can be mild, migraines are characterized by severe and sometimes debilitating pain. Along with extreme pain you may also experience pain behind the eyes, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to sound or light, or blurry vision. Migraines are also more likely to just affect one side of the head rather than both.

How can a dentist help manage your symptoms?

You might not think about it, but our Silver Spring dentist can actually help treat your headaches and migraines. How? When you come in for a consultation we will be able to examine your teeth and jaws to determine whether misaligned teeth, a TMJ disorder (a problem that affects the jaw joint) or a bad bite (malocclusion) could be causing your recurring symptoms. Depending on the cause of your pain, we will determine whether dental appliances, jaw exercises, orthodontics or other conservative options can finally provide you with the relief you’ve been looking for.

If your headache could be due to tension or a TMJ disorder then it’s time you called our Silver Spring, MD, dental office today at (301) 593-5500 to schedule an appointment. Let’s finally provide you with the relief you need to say goodbye to your headaches!

Here is our patient questionnaire on Head Health History.

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