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What is a palatal expander?

November 7th, 2018

Orthodontists like Dr. Farina recommend a first orthodontic visit and evaluation for your child around the age of seven. We will evaluate your child’s jaw and facial development and make sure that there is enough room in the mouth for the permanent teeth when they arrive. One of the recommendations we might make for early treatment is the use of a palatal expander. If you are unfamiliar with this device, let’s take a closer look at why it’s necessary and what exactly it does.

Why do we recommend the palatal expander?

There are two dental arches, composed of the upper and the lower teeth, in your child’s mouth. This arch-shaped design is meant to accommodate all the permanent teeth. Further, when the upper and lower teeth meet, they should result in a healthy occlusion, or bite.

Sometimes, the upper dental arch is simply too small to accommodate all of your child’s permanent teeth, leading to crowding, extractions, and impacted teeth. Also, a too-narrow arch can result in a crossbite, where some of the upper teeth bite inside the lower ones. An improper bite can lead to problems such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder, improper wear and stress on teeth, certain speech difficulties, and other potential complications. The palatal expander was designed to prevent these problems from occurring.

What is a palatal expander and how does it work?

The expander itself is a device that increases the size of the upper dental arch. Before your child’s bones are finished growing, the space between the two bones of the upper palate is filled with cartilage. This tissue is flexible when children are young, but gradually fuses solidly into place by the time they are finished growing (usually in the early to mid-teens). If the arch can be widened to accommodate the emerging permanent teeth, or to reduce malocclusions, this improvement can also affect the need for, and length of, future dental work.

There are several types of expanders available at our Tampa, FL office. These are custom-made appliances, commonly attached between the upper teeth on each side of the jaw. The two halves of the device are connected with a screw-type mechanism that can be adjusted to widen the upper palate and dental arch with gentle pressure. This is a gradual process, with small adjustments usually made once or twice a day to slowly move the bones further apart. As weeks go by, you will notice a successful change in the spacing of the teeth. Your child might even develop a gap in the front teeth, which is normal and will generally close on its own.

If you would like more detailed information, talk to Dr. Farina about the palate expander. We can tell you what to expect from this treatment if we think it is best for your child’s unique needs, and how to make it as easy as possible for your child. Our goal is to provide your child with the healthiest teeth and bite possible, always making use of treatments that are both gentle and effective.

A Fun Halloween with Braces

October 31st, 2018

Having teeth encased in braces can be discouraging during Halloween. If you or your child has braces, there are certain candies to avoid this holiday season—and in general—while you have braces. Candy can be tempting, especially for children.

But don’t worry; other sweet treat options can readily take their place. Take a look at the American Association of Orthodontists’ tips on how to keep your braces safe.

Treats to avoid because they can cause damage to your braces include:

  • Hard candies
  • Chewy candies
  • Nuts
  • Caramel
  • Licorice
  • Jelly beans
  • Taffy
  • Bubblegum
  • Hard pretzels
  • Popcorn

These goodies should be avoided because they have the potential to bend or break your braces. Broken brackets and loose wires can waste time and money.

Switch out hard, chewy, and sticky candies for these options in the mean time:

  • Soft chocolate
  • Peanut butter cups
  • Gelatin treats
  • Ice cream
  • Smoothies
  • Root beer floats
  • Apple cider

Encouraging your child to stay with alternative, braces-friendly treats may prevent her from trying to eat candies that could break or damage braces. Halloween can still be fun, especially if your youngster (or you) don’t have to visit our Tampa, FL office get braces fixed.

Make sure to remind your child to avoid harmful candies, and encourage him to exchange treats with friends to make it more fun. Only passing out candies that children can eat safely, such as soft chocolates, can make them feel included.

Dr. Farina and our team hope you enjoy your Halloween season, regardless of whether you are wearing braces.

Early Orthodontics

October 24th, 2018

Perhaps you are already planning for the years when your teenager will need orthodontic work. But hearing that your seven-year-old would benefit from orthodontic treatment? That might come as a complete surprise! It’s a recommendation with real benefits, though—early intervention can save children from tooth and bite problems now, and even simplify their future orthodontic care.

Treating young children for orthodontic problems is called “interceptive orthodontics.” When the permanent teeth start arriving, there might be problems with spacing, bite or protruding teeth. Often, treatment while the bones are still growing is the best way to prevent more serious problems later.

We recommend that your child have an orthodontic consultation with Dr. Farina around the age of seven. This exam is especially important for children who may have been thumb suckers or used a pacifier after the age of three, or if you notice obvious teeth, speech or bite issues.

  • Crowding and Spacing Issues

Teeth are arranged in two crescent shapes called arches. When the arch of your child’s mouth is small, the permanent teeth can become very crowded as they erupt. Formerly, teeth were removed to make more room. Now, early use of a palatal expander can enlarge the upper dental arch in order to help the permanent teeth come in without crowding. The need for future tooth extraction is reduced, and there is a better chance for correct spacing and alignment with early treatment.

On the other hand, when a child loses a tooth too soon, too much space left between baby teeth can also be a problem. The remaining teeth can shift, leaving the wrong place open for the adult tooth to come in. We might recommend a space maintainer so that there is no shifting of the teeth and there is room for the proper adult tooth to erupt in its proper spot.

  • Malocclusions (Bite Problems)

Some malocclusions, like a crossbite, can be caused by problems with jaw and facial structure. Again, we might recommend a palatal expander to help the upper arch of the teeth to fit properly with the lower jaw. Problems with overbite, open bite and other bite issues can also be addressed at this age if necessary. Early care can discourage TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders, reduce speech problems, and improve facial symmetry. 

  • Protruding Front Teeth

Teeth that protrude are much more likely to be damaged when playing or after a fall. Methods such as braces or appliances can reposition them and protect them from breaking or fracturing.

Many children will not need early intervention, and many can wait until they are older for orthodontic work. But if your young child has orthodontic problems that should be addressed, early intervention can do more than set the stage for successful orthodontics in the teen years. Talk to our Tampa, FL team about what we can do for your child. Interceptive orthodontics can protect teeth, guide jaw and speech development, modify harmful oral habits and help to adjust bite problems before they become serious—when it comes to your child’s dental health, the best solutions are early ones!

Electric Toothbrushes vs. Regular Toothbrushes

October 17th, 2018

Convertible or sedan? Downtown or suburbs? Electric or manual toothbrush? As life decisions go, it’s certainly not choosing your next car, or deciding where you want to live. But, even when you are selecting a toothbrush, it helps to make a list of the pros and cons of the contenders before you make that final selection.

  • Efficiency

The most important factor in choosing a toothbrush is finding out which model works best to eliminate bacteria and plaque. And studies have shown that, used properly, both electric and manual toothbrushes do a great job of removing plaque. Some electric models can reach the backs of teeth and the gumline more easily, some manual head designs work better for your individual mouth and teeth, so your particular needs should dictate which style of toothbrush you use. Talk to us about the best methods to brush with your preferred toothbrush, and we’ll let you know if one type of toothbrush or the other might work better for you.

  • Health Considerations

Brushing too energetically can actually harm teeth and gums, causing sensitivity and damage to the enamel and gum tissue. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any pressure from the brusher. This might be the model for you if you have a too-vigorous approach to brushing, or sensitive teeth and gums.

An electric toothbrush can also be more efficient for older and younger brushers, those with limited mobility, and those with health conditions or injuries that make brushing with a regular toothbrush more difficult.

  • Cost

An electric toothbrush is not a one-time investment. You should change the removable head as often as you change your manual toothbrush (every three to four months, please). But this cost is offset if an electric toothbrush is more efficient in removing your plaque, easier to use, or even if you just prefer it to manual brushing. If you find that you brush better and more often with an electric toothbrush, the added expense is well worth it.

Whichever brush you decide on, the most important part of the brush is the person holding it! A regular appointment with your toothbrush for two minutes of thorough brushing in the morning and two in the evening, daily flossing, and regular visits to our office for checkups and cleanings will keep your teeth healthy and strong no matter which toothbrush you choose.

Questions about your toothbrush choices? Don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Farina at our Tampa, FL office.