My Blog

Posts for: January, 2014

By John Leitner DDS
January 23, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
IntroducingthePalatalExpander

Is there a single orthodontic appliance that can help your child get a wider, better-looking smile, correct problems with the bite, make room in a crowded upper jaw for new teeth to erupt (come in)... and shorten the overall time he or she will need to wear braces? The answer is yes: It's the palatal expander, a device that works with the natural growth patterns of a child's mouth, and offers dramatic results.

What's a palatal expander? Basically, it's a custom-made orthodontic appliance that fits between the rows of back teeth at the top (roof) of the mouth, close to the palate. After it has been put in place, it can be tensioned with a special key. Because it is contained inside the mouth, it's invisible when worn — but its benefits are easy to see.

How does it work? The palatal expander takes advantage of the fact that the left and right halves of a child's upper jaw bone don't completely fuse (knit together) until sometime after puberty. Until that happens, the upper jaw is relatively soft and easy to manipulate. When tension is applied, the palatal expander gently moves the bones apart, just like braces do for teeth. Then new bone tissue naturally fills in the space.

The appliance is tightened daily for a few weeks — while spacing improves dramatically — and then it's left on for several weeks more to stabilize the expansion. The total time a child needs to wear it is generally 3-6 months. After that, a set of braces can be put on if needed. So, what's so great about a palatal expander?

For one thing, the device can correct a crossbite, which occurs when the back top teeth bite inside (instead of outside) the bottom teeth. For another, expanding the upper jaw can relieve the condition known as crowding, which happens when the jaw isn't big enough to accommodate all the teeth. A related situation — impacted teeth — occurs when a tooth that hasn't yet erupted is blocked by another tooth above it. Both these conditions formerly required tooth extraction: an invasive and sometimes complicated procedure. Both can now be remedied by a palatal expander.

But maybe the biggest plus to a youngster — where a month can seem like an age — is the prospect of having to wear braces for less time. And that alone is a good reason to smile.

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.”


WhatFlorenceHendersonLearnedFromHerImpactedTeeth

Life lessons are learned in the most surprising places. This is no different for celebrities. Take, for example, Florence Henderson, an actress, singer, philanthropist, author and star of the hit television series, The Brady Bunch. As she told Dear Doctor magazine, her experience with having four impacted wisdom teeth removed — at the same time — “...only made me more aware of how important dental care is.” She continued, “This is why I have always gone every six months for a check up.”

Another important lesson we want to share is the fact that even if your impacted third molars (wisdom teeth) are not bothering you or causing any pain, you may still need to have them removed.

Why? Having a tooth submerged below the gum, pressing on the roots of other teeth is problematic; the tooth should be removed so that you can avoid major dental problems before they occur. For example, it is not uncommon for us to find an impacted third molar pressing against the roots of the adjacent second molar. Furthermore, because the enamel crown of this impacted tooth is trapped below the gum, we sometimes find an infection, gum disease or even cyst formation occurring.

Often, the best time to remove a wisdom tooth is when it is not causing any problems. This is because a painful wisdom tooth or pain in the area of the wisdom tooth may be a sign that significant damage has occurred or is occurring. It is also better to remove wisdom teeth when you are young, as young healthy people with no prior infections at the site provide the best opportunity for us to remove the tooth with no complications.

To learn more about impacted wisdom teeth, continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Removing Wisdom Teeth.” Or if you suspect or already know that you have an impacted wisdom tooth, contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination that includes x-rays. During this private consultation, we will also address any questions you have as well as your treatment options. And if you want to read the entire article on Florence Henderson, continue reading “Florence Henderson.”