My Blog

Posts for: January, 2014

By Constance E. Smith, DDS
January 29, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
FiveFactsAboutPalatalExpanders

Have you heard of palatal expanders? If your child needs orthodontic work, then you ought to hear about them! These small appliances offer plenty of advantages to kids whose smiles, due to a variety of problems, may need some help. Here are five things you should know:

1. Palatal expanders are small orthodontic appliances that fit inside the mouth.

Custom-fabricated for each child, these devices are placed near the roof of the mouth, in between the two rows of upper teeth. They consist of two small metal brackets with a tensioning system that can be adjusted by a tiny key. Not everyone needs one, but they can really benefit kids with certain orthodontic conditions.

2. Palatal expanders take advantage of a child's natural growth processes.

That's part of the reason they work so well. Since the bones of a child's upper jaw don't fuse together until sometime after puberty, it's relatively easy to move them apart before that time. The palatal expander applies gentle pressure to gradually move the left and right halves of the upper jaw apart, over a period of a few months. Then it's left on several weeks longer, allowing new bone to fill in and stabilize the expansion.

3. Palatal expanders are helpful in treating a variety of orthodontic problems.

Crowding — that is, not having enough space in the jaw to accommodate all of the teeth — is one major issue. A related issue is impacted teeth: These are teeth that are blocked from coming in (erupting) by other teeth or jaw structures. A third issue is crossbite: That's when the back top teeth come down to bite inside, rather than outside, the bottom teeth. Gaining additional space in the upper jaw can help relieve all of these problems.

4. Palatal expanders can eliminate the need for tooth extraction.

Once upon a time, extraction was the only way to solve these problems. However it's an invasive (and potentially complex) procedure. A palatal expander can often provide the same — or better — results, via a noninvasive method.

5. Palatal expanders typically shorten overall orthodontic treatment time.

They're generally worn for a total of three to six months, but they can considerably shorten a child's overall orthodontic treatment time. Plus, they're invisible — a big plus to image-conscious teens. Could they benefit your child?

If you have questions about palatal expanders, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Palatal Expanders” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”


DentalSealantsOneoftheChildhoodSecretsTVDesignerNateBerkusCreditsforHisBeautifulSmile

As a successful author, interior design guru (with 127 makeovers in eight years on The Oprah Winfrey Show), and host of his own television program, The Nate Berkus Show, Nate Berkus understands the important role a beautiful smile plays in one's life and career. In a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Nate discussed his oral health history. Berkus credits his all natural smile — no cosmetic dentistry here — to the treatments he received as a child from his dentist. “I'm grateful for having been given fluoride treatments and sealants as a child.” He then added that, “healthy habits should start at a young age.”

Dental sealants are important because they help protect developing young teeth until the enamel has matured. Without dental sealants, the newly erupted immature enamel of teeth is more permeable, meaning that the acids produced by bacteria in the mouth can damage these teeth more easily. This makes the teeth less resistant and thus more susceptible to tooth decay.

Regardless of how much your children brush their teeth, the reality is that toothbrush bristles cannot reach down to clean out the crevices found in the deep grooves (“pits and fissures”) of teeth. And if not removed, the bacteria found in these grooves produce decay-causing acids as a byproduct of metabolizing sugar. However, when sealants are used in combination with fluoride, good hygiene and nutrition (including lower sugar consumption), the odds of having tooth decay is dramatically reduced.

We refer to dental sealants as “pit and fissure” sealants because they protect the grooves found in the top of back teeth and the back of front teeth. Sealants also may reduce the need for subsequent treatments as your child grows older — just as it did for Nate Berkus. For these reasons, sealants are definitely something that all parents and caregivers should consider for their young children.

To learn more about dental sealants, contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination, discuss any questions you have as well as what treatment options will be best for you or your child. Or to learn more about sealants now, you can continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sealants for Children.” And to read the entire interview with Nate Berkus, please see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nate Berkus.”