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Category Archives: Blog

COVID-19 Updates

Patient safety is always our top priority at Fredericksburg Smile Center. As one of the region’s largest and technologically advanced dental practices, we are uniquely equipped and committed to exceeding CDC guidelines for safety and best practices.

At this time, our practice is open for all elective procedures and surgeries as well as emergency and critical dental care. If you need to schedule an appointment or have general questions concerning your oral health, please contact us at 540-684-5625. To better serve all of our patients, we also now offer TeleDentistry video services at this time.

TeleDentistry at Fredericksburg Smile Center

To help us connect and provide dental consultations for our patients from the safety of their own homes, we are happy to now provide TeleDentistry services. To learn more about these services and how to get started, please visit our TeleDentistry page.

Invisalign vs. Braces: What’s the Difference?

Invisalign or braces? That is one of the frequently asked questions among those who are looking for the best option to straighten their teeth or their children’s teeth. Many people want the option that best fits their individual situation to ensure their money will help deliver the best results. So, which is better? Braces or Invisalign? Let’s learn more about the differences!

Braces vs Invisalign: What You Need to Know

So, the overall goal for both braces and Invisalign is the same. They are designed to help straighten teeth, improve one’s smile, and better your overall oral health. Invisalign just happens to be a newer, less conspicuous way of achieving this goal.

How Do Braces Work?

Metal braces normally include metal brackets that are glued to your teeth and are connected by rubber bands and metal wires. These then help guide your teeth into a better position over time. 

How Does Invisalign Work?

Unlike braces, Invisalign uses trays made with BPA-free clear plastic that are designed to be worn overtop your teeth throughout the day and at night. Since these trays use plastic, they are nearly invisible when wearing them — hence the name, Invisalign! These trays gently move one’s teeth into the desired position. As your teeth move, you switch trays to continue that movement. 

Invisalign vs Braces: Which Is Better?

Now that you know how these two options generally work, you should make a few comparisons to see which of these best fits your situation. A few examples would be the Invisalign vs braces effectiveness, the cost, the speed of the option, or even wondering if Invisalign is faster than braces. Below we will get into more specific benefits of each.

Benefits of Braces

There are a number of benefits to braces that will depend on one’s personality. For instance, braces are unable to be removed so there are no temptations to leave them out so less self-discipline is needed. Braces can also tackle more complex oral issues, but they do take more time to achieve the desired results.

Benefits of Invisalign

With Invisalign, one major benefit is that they are removable and are clear. This makes it so patients are not embarrassed wearing these out in public and can easily remove them when they want to have a meal. There are no issues with getting food caught in the Invisalign trays since there are no wires. Also, with no wires, there is no discomfort from wires or brackets rubbing against the inside of your mouth. Lastly, Invisalign tends to reach results 2~3 times faster than traditional metal braces!

Which Should You Choose?

In the end, it will really depend on your specific situation. If you value ease, speed, and having the freedom to remove your trays, then Invisalign is for you. If hygiene is also important to you, then you may want to reconsider braces as they are harder to clean than Invisalign trays. Since every patient’s situation is different, it is always best to consult your oral health specialist when making a decision such as this. 

If you live in the Fredericksburg, VA area and are wondering, “Is there Invisalign near me?”, then reach out to us Fredericksburg Smile Center to set an appointment for a consultation.

Dispelling the Top 5 Misconceptions about Dental Implants

The average adult smile consists of twenty-eight teeth (not including wisdom teeth), and each tooth serves a purpose. When a tooth is lost from injury, gum disease, or decay, the gap left behind can expose the other teeth to harmful bacteria, decay, and potential injury. In the last couple of decades, dental implants have been recommended as an optimal solution for the replacement of missing teeth. Implants are typically suggested after all efforts to preserve a tooth have been made.

What is a Dental Implant?

An implant is an artificial replacement for the root of a tooth. It mimics the natural tooth structure and serves as an anchor for one or more replacement teeth. The term “dental implant” often refers to the following three components: ceramic crown, connector or abutment, and the titanium base that fuses with the jawbone.

Dispelling the Misconceptions

1. Dental implants look fake.

Perhaps the most common misconception about dental implants is that they will look noticeable, not natural. Most patients are actually surprised by how real their implants look and how natural they feel.

2. Getting implants is painful.

Actually, since there are not many nerve endings in bone, local anesthesia easily minimizes the discomfort. In fact, there is almost no postoperative pain involved. After the procedure itself, you may become used to your implants so quickly that you forget you even have them!

3. The cost of implants is expensive.

While implants do have a higher initial cost than most other dental procedures, they last much longer than other alternative options. Unlike bridges that may only last about ten years, implants can last a lifetime. The biocompatible titanium base is non-toxic and is integrated directly with your jawbone. Patients can brush, floss, and eat as they would with any of their other teeth.

4. Implants are unhealthy.

During the past several decades, this procedure has had a 95% success rate. The biocompatible titanium base is non-toxic and integrated directly with your jawbone.

5. Only an oral surgeon can place implants.

Oral surgery should always be performed by a skilled specialist. However, implants may be placed by a periodontist, prosthodontist, or general dentist who specializes in implants.

If you’re like the millions of Americans who have one or more missing teeth, you could benefit from dental implants. Serving the Fredericksburg region with a combined thirty-eight years of experience, Dr. Cathie Hidalgo Seaman and Dr. Joel Butterworth specialize in dental implant surgery. Contact Smile Center to schedule your consultation today: 540-899-7791!

The Top 7 Benefits of Dental Implants

Many of our patients are surprised to learn that when it comes to dealing with the discomfort and frustration of having missing teeth, they are not alone. In fact, nearly 69% of adults aged 35-44 are missing at least one tooth. And avoiding tooth replacement is just as common.

For patients who are candidates, dental implants look, feel, and operate just like natural teeth. With proper hygiene and care, an implant can last a lifetime. When it comes to your smile, implants are not just about aesthetics. There are significant problems that may occur when one or more teeth are missing, and implants offer patients a long-term solution.

7 Benefits of Dental Implants

Natural look and performance

Dental implants look, feel, and act like a natural tooth. Perhaps the biggest benefit is restoring the ability to chew normally. You can smile, eat, speak, and clean your teeth just as you normally would.


Unlike dentures, implants are not removable. There’s no need to soak overnight. Teeth are brushed and flossed as usual and you can enjoy the comfort of having a complete smile at all times of the day and night.


Unlike bridges that may only last about ten years, implants can last a lifetime. The biocompatible titanium base is non-toxic and is integrated directly with your jawbone.

Reducing exposure

When a tooth is missing, the other teeth are exposed to deterioration and decay. Food may become trapped in gaps in the gum line and lead to the growth of harmful bacteria and gum disease. Without the protection of an adjacent tooth, exposed teeth also become more susceptible to injury.


Gaps from missing teeth can cause the adjacent teeth to become unstable. Without the support of the missing teeth, a significant shift in position can negatively impact your bite, ability to chew, and the appearance of your smile. This shifting can lead to problems with TMJ and pain in the jawbone.

Prevention of bone loss

Within the first year of losing a tooth, the exposed area of the jawbone deteriorates rapidly with up to 25% loss. This bone loss, caused by a lack of stimulation, can actually be accelerated by dentures with abrasion.

Preserving the shape of your smile

If the roots of the teeth are not replaced with implants, the bone deterioration can lead to significant sagging and premature aging of the face. This, in turn, may lead to partial facial collapse, thinning of the lips, and increased wrinkles around the mouth.

Schedule Your Consultation

If you’re like the millions of Americans who have one or more missing teeth, you could benefit from dental implants. Serving the Fredericksburg region with a combined thirty-eight years of experience, Dr. Cathie Hidalgo Seaman and Dr. Joel Butterworth specialize in dental implant surgery. Contact Smile Center to schedule your consultation today: 540-899-7791!

What Happens After Invisalign?

When the moment arrives and your Invisalign treatment is complete, we will all be smiling together! But what happens after Invisalign? Here is what you can expect upon completion of your Invisalign treatment.

Compare Before Invisalign and After Invisalign Photos

At your final appointment at Smile Center in Fredericksburg, we will take “after” photos so that you can compare your results. It’s always exciting for our patients to see how the “before” and “after” photos reveal amazing results that match the 3D images created at the very first appointment. From start to finish, we help you achieve the smile you deserve.

Achieve and Preserve Your Results

Here at Smile Center, we’re dedicated to helping you achieve and preserve those results. Like most doctors, we recommend the use of a retainer after orthodontic treatment. The retainer will ensure that your smile doesn’t shift back to its initial position over time. The treatment plan for preserving your results will vary from patient to patient. You may wear a retainer throughout the day for a period of time. You may wear a retainer only at night. We will discuss the best options for your smile.

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Vivera Retainers

There are many different types of retainers, but we are committed to the level of quality that Invisalign provides. That’s why we recommend Vivera retainers after Invisalign. Like Invisalign clear aligners, Vivera retainers are virtually invisible. They are made with the same state-of-the-art technology that created the Invisalign treatment system. 2x as durable and 30% stronger, Vivera retainers are less likely to break than any of the other leading clear retainer brands.

In the same way that your Invisalign clear aligners were designed for you, your Vivera retainer will be designed from a digital scan of your teeth. Your custom retainer will be ordered and we will contact you when it arrives. In fact, you’ll be supplied with four sets of retainers when purchasing. We recommend switching your Vivera retainers out every one to two years as the material can deform over time.

A Follow-up Plan That Suits Your Needs

Each patient will have a plan that uniquely suits their needs. Some may wear the retainer all day and night, gradually decreasing wearing time. Some patients may only need to wear their retainer at night. Call Smile Center today to schedule your free smile assessment. We’re with you every step of the way: 540-899-7791.

Taking Care of Your Clear Aligners

Taking care of your clear aligners is simple. Easy maintenance is actually one of the greatest benefits of using aligners for orthodontic treatment. Maintaining your oral health and cleaning your clear aligners is a very important part of the treatment process.

Cleaning Your Clear Aligners

The best way to clean your aligners is to use the Invisalign Cleaning System developed by Invisalign specifically for this purpose. It is available online or right in our office. The aligners can also be brushed with a toothbrush and toothpaste and then rinsed in lukewarm water. The most important thing to remember when cleaning your aligners is never to use hot water as it could permanently warp the plastic.

We like to encourage our patients to floss and brush after each meal or snack, before putting their aligners back into place. One of the reasons for this is to avoid staining the aligners with food residue (like berries or sauce).

Avoiding Bacteria with a Few Simple Steps

Our patients are also strongly encouraged to avoid harboring bacteria by keeping their aligners clean at all times. If you drop your aligners in an unsanitary place, it’s extremely important to ensure that they are hygienic before putting them back into your mouth. Invisalign Cleaning Crystals help keep your aligners clean and hygienic. In as little as 15 minutes, this cleaning system can remove plaque and keep your aligners clear.

Breaking or Losing Your Clear Aligners

If your aligner breaks or if you lose it, it’s important to call the office right away. Since aligners and retainers are considered prescription items, patients cannot order replacements directly from Invisalign. We will work with you to keep you on track with your treatment. For some patients, this could mean wearing a previous set of aligners until replacement aligners are ordered and delivered.

The simplicity and ease of caring for your clear aligners is just one more reason to smile about Invisalign! Call our office at (540) 899- 8859 to schedule your free smile scan today!

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Living with Invisalign: Answers to 8 Fantastic Questions from Our Patients

Invisalign clear aligners are designed to have a maximum impact on your smile and a minimum impact on your daily life. If you are considering clear aligner therapy, perhaps the following questions will help clarify some of your concerns.

Will my aligners be noticeable?

Invisalign clear aligners are comfortable and barely noticeable. Made from SmartTrack material and designed to comfortably conform to each tooth, Invisalign is virtually invisible.

Are my aligners removable?

Yes! One of the great benefits of clear aligner therapy is that your aligners are removable. You can eat, drink, brush and floss teeth as usual. They can even be removed for special activities or occasions like playing an instrument or sport, getting married or going on a job interview. In order to achieve the best possible results, we advise our patients to wear their aligners for 20-22 hours per day.

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Are there are eating restrictions?

There are no eating restrictions with Invisalign! The aligners can simply be removed while eating or chewing gum. That means you won’t have to say goodbye to your favorite foods during your treatment. It’s crucial to the treatment process, however, to minimize the time spent with the aligners removed. Since the aligners must be worn for at least 20-22 hours a day, we do recommend that you eat while wearing your aligners, if possible.

Is living with Invisalign painful?

With the use of precise, gentle pressure and constant force, the treatment can cause minor discomfort. This usually subsides within the first few days of wearing a new set of aligners. Our patients describe this temporary feeling as “pressure.” The good news is—that gentle pressure is a sign that you are getting closer and closer to your new smile! If discomfort persists, don’t hesitate to call our office.

Is it normal for my teeth to feel loose?

If your teeth feel slightly loose, that is normal. As your teeth gradually shift into proper position, this shifting and reforming can cause the sensation of having loose teeth. If it persists, please call our office.

Will my speech be affected by wearing aligners?

As your tongue adjusts to having the clear aligners in your mouth, it may feel awkward to speak. Some patients have a slight lisp that quickly goes away.

Will my aligners fall out while I sleep?

Your aligners are customized to fit your teeth comfortably and snugly. It is not likely that they will fall out whether you are sleeping, talking, laughing or exercising. You can enjoy maximum comfort with a minimal impact on your daily life.

What happens if I skip a couple of days during my treatment?

Don’t do this! However, your aligners may still fit if you have only skipped a couple of days. When putting your aligners back on your teeth, you may have some discomfort. Call our office immediately so that we can help you get back on track as quickly as possible!


At Smile Center, your Invisalign treatment will be a team effort! We are here to help answer any questions you may have, to fully customize your treatment and to ensure that you have the best possible experience with your clear aligners. Call our office today to start smiling with Invisalign: (540) 899-7791.

Clear Aligner Therapy: An Inside Look at Invisalign

Many of our patients have been asking us: “What is clear aligner therapy?” or “What is Invisalign treatment?”. We are always happy to take the time to listen and to answer our patients’ questions. We are also happy to share about Invisalign treatment because we know that the impact it’s had on our patients’ lives has been positive and significant.

What is Invisalign treatment?

Invisalign is an orthodontic treatment in which teeth are gently corrected by using a series of custom clear aligners. Unlike other clear aligners, Invisalign is made of a patented, flexible thermoplastic called SmartTrack®, engineered specifically for comfort and effectiveness. This material is FDA-approved and does not contain BPA, BPS, latex, or gluten. Since they are thin and custom designed to fit over your teeth, they are virtually invisible.

In order to get that snug, custom fit, Dr. Joel Butterworth designs a digital treatment plan that is unique to you. Each movement of your teeth will be mapped with precision. Based on your treatment plan, your aligners will be crafted to apply the exact amount of force to each tooth at the right time. Dr. Joel will monitor the progress closely and ensure the best possible fit.

What are the primary benefits of Invisalign treatment?

Smile Center has chosen to offer Invisalign treatment for the advantages it provides in:

  • lifestyle
  • appearance
  • hygiene
  • material
  • comfort
  • tracking
  • cost

Most patients have treatable cases and find that they can easily address with Invisalign what they had planned to correct with braces. Typically, the cost is similar and the treatment times may be up to 2x faster, as well.

In a traditional metal braces system, metal brackets are glued to each individual tooth and connected with wires and rubber bands. Wax is used as a preventative for abrasions inside the mouth caused by exposed metal. When a wire pops or bracket brakes, you need to make time for repairs with an emergency orthodontic appointment. The smooth BPA-free plastic aligners are a durable, convenient, comfortable solution you can incorporate into your lifestyle.

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6 Benefits of Invisalign Treatment

  1. No food restrictions.
  2. No physical activity restrictions.
  3. Unobstructed brushing and flossing.
  4. No broken wires or emergency visits.
  5. Invisalign is nearly invisible.
  6. Custom fit.

Am I guaranteed to have straight teeth with Invisalign treatment?

We begin your treatment with an extensive, free consultation in order to achieve the best results possible. While we cannot guarantee a treatment outcome, we know from the hundreds of patients we have treated at Smile Center over the past 18 years as an Invisalign provider that every smile is unique. We take the time to listen to your treatment goals and encourage you to communicate your goals to us at your consultation.

Schedule your free smile assessment with us today!

Clear Aligner Therapy: 7 Frequently Asked Questions

Are you dissatisfied with your smile? Have you been experiencing problems with your teeth as a result of crooked teeth or an improper bite? The following is a list of the most frequently asked questions we have answered for our patients during their consultation appointment:

What is clear aligner therapy?

Clear aligner therapy is an orthodontic treatment option that gradually corrects the positioning of the teeth as patients wear a series of clear aligners. Each aligner is custom designed for slight shifts over a period of time until optimal results are achieved.

Are clear aligners right for me?

Invisalign can be used to successfully correct every type of malocclusion: overbite, underbite, crossbite, open bite, and more. It is also a successful treatment plan for crowded teeth, gap teeth, or generally straighter teeth.

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What can I expect during my consultation?

At your consultation appointment, you will have the opportunity to see the science behind your new smile and actually preview what Invisalign treatment can do for you with customized before and after images. Our iTero Element Scanner eliminates the need for messy molds. Taking 6,000 images per second, the scanner will instantly generate a 3D rendering of your mouth. Then, the scanned images will be loaded into the ClinCheck Software in which Dr. Joel will work with Invisalign technology to expertly design every shift of each tooth. This individualized plan can be previewed on the spot so that you can see exactly what clear aligner therapy can do for you.

How does clear aligner therapy work?

The individualized treatment plan will map each movement of every tooth. A series of clear aligners are custom designed to apply gentle force with precision. Progress is monitored at every step so that you can be assured that your treatment is going according to plan and the aligners are fitted and trimmed correctly.

What is Invisalign made of and what does it look like?

Invisalign SmartTrack is a patented, flexible thermoplastic material that is both BPA-free and BPS-free, and does not contain latex or gluten. The thin aligners are clear and custom fit for maximum comfort and virtual invisibility. The trimmed and contoured gum line ensures an ideal, snug fit.

How long does Invisalign treatment take?

The length of treatment varies depending on each patients’ needs. By using the aligners for 22 hours each day, you will be closer and closer to your new smile. The timeline for Invisalign treatment can be faster than or similar to braces, depending on each individual’s case. The full course of treatment could typically be anywhere from 3 months to 2 years. Most patients complete their treatment by using an Invisalign retainer to keep their new smile in place.

How much does Invisalign cost?

You might be surprised by how affordable your new smile can be. Our patients typically find that the cost of Invisalign treatment is actually similar to the cost of traditional braces. Depending on your plan, insurance may cover costs up to $3,500. Since patients also may use pre-tax dollars through a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA), there are actually three ways to pay. As an Invisalign provider, Smile Center can walk you through a monthly payment plan process that works best for you. Ultimately, an investment in your smile could save you thousands of dollars by helping you avoid the negative side effects of having misaligned teeth.

At Smile Center, more and more patients are asking Dr. Joel Butterworth about clear aligner therapy. Dr. Joel is a Platinum Invisalign Provider who has helped hundreds of patients in the Fredericksburg region achieve the smile they deserve. Call the office today at 540-899-7791 to book an appointment. We look forward to discussing the many reasons why Invisalign could impact your smile and your life.

A Patient’s Guide to Malocclusion

One in five people has some form of malocclusion or irregular contact between their upper and lower teeth. Occlusion, or the proper alignment of teeth, is not always naturally achieved. Ideally, the jaws align so that the upper teeth fit slightly over the lower teeth and the positioning of every tooth fits into the grooves of its partner. Teeth that do not fit together correctly are harder to keep clean, consequently putting patients at greater risk for tooth decay and gum disease, among other issues associated with malocclusion.

Before deciding on a treatment plan, it is helpful for patients to be informed of the different categories and types of malocclusion.

The 3 Categories of Malocclusion

  1. Class 1 is the most common category of malocclusion. There is a normal bite with slight overlap or slightly abnormal spacing, rotation, or crowding.
  2. Class 2 or retrognathism is an overbite with severe overlap of the upper and lower jaw and poor molar correlation.
  3. Class 3 or prognathism is an underbite in which the lower jaw protrudes, causing an overlap of the lower and upper jaw.

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The 10 Different Types of Malocclusion

  1. Crowding is the most common malocclusion. A lack of space can lead to crooked teeth and overlap. Crowding can affect a few teeth or every tooth.
  2. Overjet is a horizontal extension of the top teeth over the bottom teeth. It differs from overbite. Exposed, protruding teeth are susceptible to damage and may cause problems with speech and/or eating.
  3. Overbite is the overlapping of the upper teeth with the lower teeth. Slight overlap is actually ideal, but an extended overlap necessitates treatment.
  4. Crossbite occurs when the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth on one or both sides of the jaw, affecting the front or back teeth.
  5. Anterior Crossbite refers to underbite or the overlapping of the bottom teeth with the upper teeth.
  6. Spacing between two or more teeth may occur as a result of smaller teeth, missing teeth, a tongue thrust, or thumb sucking.
  7. Diastema is spacing between only two teeth, typically the top front teeth.
  8. Impaction occurs when a tooth is unable to descend and erupt past the gum line due to an obstruction. Crowding can lead to a tooth being impacted.
  9. Hypodontia is simply a missing tooth, resulting from improper development or blunt trauma.
  10. Open Bite occurs when there is no overlap between the upper and lower teeth. Tongue thrust or thumb sucking are the most common causes of open bite.


With advancements in orthodontics, treatment options for malocclusions are more convenient than ever before. Clear aligner therapy can address every type of malocclusion, and Dr. Joel Butterworth specializes in customizing a treatment plan that works efficiently and effectively. We look forward to scheduling an appointment to discuss your specific needs: 540-899-7791.