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Closeup of crowded teeth in dental patient's mouth

Upper jaw expansion is an orthodontic treatment that creates more space growth for developing kids by widening the circumference of the palate. This procedure helps correct crossbites, reduces overcrowding, and improves breathing ability. Most adolescents will receive this treatment before 16 years of age, but adults can also expand their upper jaw, if needed, as well. Read on to find out how upper jaw expansion works and what the advantages are with these tips!

 

Jaw Positioning and Malocclusion

Many patients deal with malocclusion, or crooked teeth and a poor bite. A poor bite refers to the way the upper and lower teeth line up, which is affected by the structure of the jaw. A “normal bite” consists of the upper teeth sitting slightly forward of the lower teeth, which allows for proper movement. Malocclusion is normally a cosmetic problem, but when it interferes with how teeth erupt, it can cause crooked teeth and tooth decay. A common cause of malocclusion is having too much or too little room in the jaw, which affects whether teeth grow in crowded or crooked. The shape and size of the jaw can also affect how severe someone’s malocclusion is, but thumb-sucking and tooth loss can also influence this process. For many patients, especially children, malocclusion is caused by a limited amount of space in the mouth for teeth to grow, so they either grow in crooked or the bite is altered. For this reason, many young dental patients receive upper jaw expansion treatments to allow more room in the mouth and prevent malocclusion. As more study and insight has been gained on the structure of the mouth, there are now more possibilities to fix incorrect bites, adjust occlusion and prevent crooked teeth starting from an earlier age.

 

Reasons For Upper Jaw Expansion

Upper jaw expansion is a specific treatment for widening the circumference of the palate to increase the perimeter of the dental arch in the mouth, which creates more space for teeth to grow. When there is enough room for teeth to grow, they are more likely to develop correctly. During childhood, palatal or maxillary expanders are used to aid this process. Through these expanders, dentists can help correct a crossbite that is caused by malocclusion. Normally, the upper teeth should close around the outside of the lower teeth, but when someone has a narrow palate, the opposite can occur and create a crossbite. As the upper teeth bite inside the lower teeth, an asymmetrical growth of the lower jaw can develop and change the symmetry of one’s face. This can cause serious complications if not addressed early on. Lastly, upper jaw expansion methods improve breathing ability, which is greatly affected by a narrow jaw. A narrow or deep upper jaw can make it difficult for a child to breathe through their nose and results in constant mouth breathing. While it doesn’t sound very serious, consistent mouth breathing keeps the mouth open at night, allowing for unfiltered bacteria to enter into the oral cavity, causing dry mouth and halitosis (bad breath).

 

Treatment OptionsPatient with dental expander in mouth being treated by dentist

Upper jaw expansion is most successful when done at an earlier age while the mouth is still developing. For adults, those with a crossbite may only need a dental expansion instead of a palatal expansion, but may need surgery if palatal expansion is required to fix concerns. Depending on the age of the patient and the reason for treatment, a rapid palatal expander (RPE) may be used to increase the width of the jaw. The RPE is attached to the upper molars by bonding or cemented bands, and uses a special key that is used to widen the space by turning a screw in the appliance at certain points in time. This process puts extra pressure on the two halves of the upper jaw, which causes extra bone to grow between them. Gradually, by turning the screw with the key each day, the jaw widens to make room available for developing teeth. For adults, removable expanders can be used, as well, whenever the degree of expansion is minimal. Resembling a partial denture, removable expanders are typically made of chrome and recommended for adults as they more easily comply with treatment. After treatment, an orthodontic retainer may be given to maintain the space until all permanent teeth have developed. A third but least common option for expansion is a surgically assisted rapid palatal expander (SARPE), which is a combination of orthodontic treatment and surgery. This is used in the case that expansion cannot be achieved by the appliance alone. A custom appliance is made before surgery, and while during surgery, the upper jaw is intentionally fractured to separate it into movable sections. This allows the bone to grow between the fractures after the appliance is inserted.

 

Pros and Cons

Palatal expanders help straighten teeth, improve breathing and fix incorrect bites, but there are important suggestions to make note of. Since children are most likely to have one, a palatal expander, just like any orthodontic appliance, needs to be thoroughly cleaned each day to prevent plaque buildup and decay around the teeth. For young children, this can be difficult to do without help and can be easily overlooked, so parental supervision is essential. Additionally, the entire process can cost up to $3,000, depending on the degree of correction. For many, there is also some minor discomfort during expansion, but it is well worth it when you’re avoiding an inaccurate bite later in life.

 

For more information on which treatment option is best to fix yours or your child’s palate, call Belmar Orthodontics at (303) 225-9016! Our experienced team is dedicated to improving your oral health and getting you the smile that you deserve!

 

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Young woman holding magnifying glass over mouth to show gap between teeth

A gap between the teeth, called “diastema,” are common among many dental patients and can be found between any teeth in the mouth, but usually between the two upper front teeth. Why do these spaces develop, and what are the differences between a diastema in children versus adults? Diastemata develop through a variety of reasons, such as misaligned jaw bones, missing teeth, and thumb-sucking. Not all spaces can be prevented, but many can be adjusted through orthodontic treatment. If you have a diastema that you would like to have treated, learn what your treatment options are through this guide!

 

Changes in Orthodontic Care

Orthodontic treatment options have been revolutionized through modern technology and dental science. Poorly aligned teeth have been a nuisance for dental patients for hundreds of years, and orthodontic work was even performed on willing subjects dating back to the ancient Egyptians and the Romans. From crude metal bands to catgut, archaeologists have discovered that even ancient societies performed orthodontic care on patients in an effort to straighten teeth. For those suffering from malocclusion, or misalignment, a common practice for moving emerging teeth into their correct position was by regularly pushing them with the fingers, a practice that has long been outdated since the invention of custom-fit metal appliances in the 18th century. Eventually, orthodontics treatment evolved into the process that we see today: brackets being cemented to each individual tooth with a metal wire attached to cinch the teeth together. Options for invisible treatments, such as lingual braces or even Invisalign, further allow patients to choose how they straighten their teeth. While there are so many options to choose from to decide how to straighten our teeth, how our teeth first develop and erupt in our mouth is a separate process. Since every patient is different and will experience a variety of dental issues, some patients may face something called “diastema,” which can have certain dental complications and be caused by a variety of reasons. Understanding how diastemata form and what you can do to fix them can give you the freedom to be in control of your oral health and appearance.

 

Gaps Between Teeth

Many people across the world are born with a diastema, or a gap between their teeth. These spaces can form anywhere in the mouth, but are most commonly found between the two upper front teeth. Both children and adults can have a diastema, and many times a child’s diastema will disappear once their permanent teeth grow in. While some gaps are relatively small and barely noticeable, others can be quite large and can cause cosmetic issues for some patients. While relatively harmless, most patients who fix their diastema do it for aesthetic reasons.

 

There are a variety of reasons why a diastema develops. A mismatch between the size of the jawbone and the size of teeth that develops can cause gaps to appear, or even too small of teeth (or a missing tooth) can create spaces, as well. Sometimes a diastema can be caused by an oversized labial frenum. This part of the mouth is a piece of tissue that extends from the inside of your upper lip to the gum just above your upper front teeth. Occasionally, this will grow too much and pass between the two front teeth, causing a gap. Bad habits, such as thumb sucking, can also lead to gaps between the teeth as the movement of the thumb tends to push teeth forward, creating a gap. A diastema can also develop due to incorrect swallowing reflexes. Normally, the tongue will push against the roof of the mouth when swallowing, but some people’s tongues may push against the teeth, which causes separation. This is called a tongue thrust. Lastly, gaps can form from periodontal disease in which inflammation damages the gums and teeth, which can cause teeth to loosen and fall out, or decay.

 

Treatment Options

A diastema can result from a mixture of orthodontic problems, or it can develop on its own. Many people who fix the gap in their teeth do it for appearance, but for those patients who have missing teeth, they might need to have a dental implant or bridge inserted. More often than not, braces are needed to close the gap between teeth, no matter where the gap is located. Fixing a diastema affects the entire mouth structure, so braces will be installed on both the top and lower teeth for proper alignment. If your diastema is due to an oversized labial frenum, a frenectomy will be performed to help the gap close on its own. If there is any sign of gum disease, periodontal treatment will be needed first to restore gum health before any braces will be put on.

 

Keeping The Gap ClosedHand holding a clear retainer

Spaces will tend to stay closed when done through orthodontic or dental repair. To prevent any gaps from developing in the future, make sure to wear your retainer that you will receive after treatment and use it according to your orthodontist’s instructions. For extra protection, your orthodontist might also splint (attach) the backs of the teeth to other teeth with composite and a wire to prevent them from moving. If you notice a space between your teeth or in your child’s mouth, contact your dentist for an evaluation to determine what kind of orthodontic treatment you might need. For more information on how to fix a diastema and improve your oral health, call Belmar Orthodontics at (303) 225-9016 to start improving your smile today!

 

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Picture of young adult wearing braces and smiling

Whenever our teeth need an extra push to shift them into a straighter position, orthodontists will typically install a temporary anchorage device, commonly known as a “TAD.” Although they’re not used in every case, they help pull, push, and lift difficult to adjust teeth into the correct position. If your orthodontist recommends that you have a TAD, read through this guide to understand how they function and what you can do to maintain them!

 

Origins of Orthodontia

Poorly aligned jaws and teeth have been a nuisance to mankind since the beginning of time, so it’s no surprise that orthodontics has been around for so long. Archaeologists have found human remains with crooked teeth dating back 50,000 years; interestingly enough, the remains of some ancient civilizations, like Egypt, have been found with crude metal bands around their teeth, a form of orthodontics very similar to braces that we see nowadays. The ancient Greek, the Etruscans, and the Romans also practiced orthodontia and kept records of their discoveries. The ancient Greek physician, Hippocrates, was the first to describe teeth irregularities around 400 BC, and centuries later, Celcus would advise bringing newly emerging teeth into their proper position by pushing them with your fingers.

 

By the 1700 and 1800s, orthodontics was developing rapidly. Pierre Fauchard, the “Father of Dentistry,” would create the bandeau that allowed teeth to align correctly by using a strip of metal with regularly spaced holes that fit around the teeth. During the 20th century, Edward Hartley Angle would identify the true properties of a malocclusion, or misalignment, and begin addressing them with an effective set of orthodontic appliances that were developed much earlier. By the 1970s, braces would further advance through the invention of dental adhesives that would allow orthodontists to stick brackets to teeth surfaces rather than wiring them around each tooth. Stainless steel replaced gold and silver that were previously used as the wire, which helped reduce the cost of braces significantly. Even with the impressive advances that we have made since the beginning of orthodontics, patients around the world still suffer from advanced teeth and jaw malocclusion that normal braces can’t resolve on their own. For the purpose of increasing the effectiveness of braces, other orthodontic devices have been invented to facilitate this process.

 

Orthodontic DevicesOrthodontic model of orthodontic devices used in the mouth

Whenever we think of “orthodontics,” we innately assume braces. Braces have two basic parts: brackets and wires. Wires move the teeth and brackets serve as a stationary holder for the wires. Contemporary braces can be stainless steel, gold-colored, or tooth-colored ceramic. Most braces go on the front of the teeth, but there are some, called lingual braces, that are fastened onto the backs of teeth that are virtually invisible. Lingual braces are not the same as clear aligners, which is another orthodontic device. Clear aligners are made of a transparent plastic-like material and are considered “invisible braces.” They are made to fit the patient’s teeth at different stages of treatment. Each set of aligners is worn for 1-3 weeks for at least 22 hours a day, and are designed to move the teeth incrementally until the next set is used. While these types of braces are a very common sight to see in many homes, schools, and workplaces, they aren’t the only devices used to move teeth and align jaws. Power chains are sometimes used with braces for an added push. They are stronger than the traditional elastic rings and can apply an extra force when needed. The last orthodontic device that is commonly used, although many patients don’t know what their purpose is, is a temporary anchorage device, or TAD.

 

TADs

Temporary anchorage devices, most commonly known as TADs, are used in some orthodontic cases to help shift the teeth into a straighter position when traditional braces can’t do it on their own. For this reason, not everyone needs them. TADS use titanium mini-screws (sometimes called mini-implants or micro-implants) that provide a fixed object that can be used to push, pull, lift, or intrude teeth that are being straightened. TADS don’t move and can be placed in many different parts of the mouth, so they are highly efficient at moving difficult teeth back into proper alignment. Before TADs are ever inserted into your mouth, though, your orthodontist will evaluate your teeth and determine whether your malocclusion is severe enough to receive a TAD. Before insertion, your gum tissue and jaw area will be numbed so that the procedure will be nearly painless. The TAD is then placed into your jawbone, and will eventually be removed once your orthodontist feels that it is no longer needed for straightening your teeth.

 

Just like braces, it may take a couple of days for the discomfort to subside and your mouth to get used to the TAD. Try taking an over-the-counter pain relief medication to alleviate any excessive discomfort. An important part of maintaining your TAD is continuing your oral hygiene regimen. Continue to brush your teeth at least twice a day and use mouthwash with antimicrobial ingredients. As long as your gums are healthy throughout the duration of your treatment, you shouldn’t have any complications with your TAD.

 

Get Straighter Teeth Today

To learn more about TADS, or to schedule an appointment to begin your treatment plan for braces, call Belmar Orthodontics at (303) 225-9016! At Belmar Orthodontics, we have a highly skilled and experienced team that is happy to help you start your journey to a healthier and happier smile.

 

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Young woman pointing at braces

Braces are incredible devices that can help transform your teeth and reshape your jaws. However, they are not always fool-proof. Every so often, a patient will have a dental emergency. That may be a bad cavity that needs to be fixed, or a bracket or wire will break. There are only a few dental emergencies that can happen with braces. We can help you to know what to do when each of those emergencies happen!

 

Origins of Braces

Orthodontic treatments have been around for a long time-even as far back as the ancient Egyptians! Although their ways were archaic, people for centuries have been trying to fix crooked teeth and develop a prettier smile through orthodontic work. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Etruscans were known to have practiced orthodontia, and interestingly, the Etruscans used to attach gold bands to women’s teeth to preserve the position of their teeth after death. Orthodontics saw a surge in progress during the 18th century thanks to Pierre Fauchard. Known as the “Father of Dentistry,” he invented an appliance called a bandeau, which was a horseshoe-shaped piece of metal with regularly spaced holes that fit around the teeth to correct the alignment. He would also use forceps to physically realign teeth into their correct positions and tie them to neighboring teeth until they healed.

 

Orthodontics in the United States exploded during the 19th century. J.S. Gunnell created a type of headgear that fashioned to the head and exerted a soft pull on teeth while Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber which would eventually become one of the most commonly used appliances in orthodontics. But Edward Hartley Angle, the “Father of Modern Orthodontics,” took orthodontics to another level by identifying the true properties of malocclusion, or misalignment, and addressed them with his own set of orthodontic appliances in 1880. Until the 1970s, orthodontist would attach anchored brackets around each tooth with winding wires, but with the invention of dental adhesives, orthodontists could then stick the brackets to teeth surfaces. Stainless steel then replaced gold and silver as the most popular option for wires, due to its manipulability, and became the most cost-efficient option for braces.

 

Dental Emergencies and What To Do About Them

Braces have come a long way since their beginnings many centuries ago, but as braces have evolved, so have the problems that come with them. Although dental emergencies are few and far between when it comes to braces, there are some common issues that can be readily addressed and fixed if serious enough. The least serious issues that you can have with your braces is tooth tenderness and lip and cheek sores. As your teeth become accustomed to your braces, your teeth will most likely be sore for 2-4 days. Using headgear, rubber bands, and springs can add to this soreness, but that discomfort normally goes away in the same amount of time. Eating soft foods and taking an over the counter pain reliever can help dull the ache. Loose or broke bands and brackets are also another annoyance that sometimes occur with braces. Although not considered an emergency, they normally break due to patient’s eating prohibited foods or picking at their braces. Whenever this occurs, place a piece of wax on the spot of irritation and wait until your next orthodontic appointment, unless the broken bracket breaks on one of the upper or lower front four teeth, then call your orthodontist as soon as possible.

 

Protruding wires are not only bothersome, but can stab the inside of your lips and mouth if not fixed. Wires can come loose from eating sticky foods, like candy, or by picking at your braces. If this has occurred, try using a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire in towards the teeth. To avoid accidental damage to the wire, make sure to not bite your nails or pens and pencils. In rare occasions, a piece of the appliance may break and be swallowed by the patient. Although alarming, keep calm and have someone look in your mouth to see if the appliance if visible. If confident that you can remove it, you may carefully attempt to do so. If you are unable to see the piece, are coughing excessively, or having difficulty breathing, that could be a sign that the piece could have been aspirated and you should contact your orthodontist immediately.

 

How To Protect Your BracesMan flossing braces and smiling

Unless under extenuating circumstances, most dental emergencies are avoidable. Maintaining good oral health and hygiene throughout your time with braces is vital in ensuring healthy teeth and gums, and preventing cavities. Food particles are easier to get stuck between braces, and when not cleaned thoroughly, can lead to other dental emergencies, like tooth decay, which can cause major complications. Hard foods, sticky foods, and foods high in sugar should be avoided as they are known to break brackets and cause cavities, which you more susceptible of developing while wearing braces. Some of the need-to-avoid foods include hard candy, nuts, apples, popcorn, ice, gum, caramel, and licorice.

 

Because braces are so notorious for getting food stuck in them, make sure that you are brushing after every meal to prevent staining and reducing bacteria buildup in your mouth. Use a soft brush, and brush each tooth by starting at the top and brushing down, then repeating the motion and brushing up around each bracket. Use threadable floss of a floss threader to get the hard to reach areas in between teeth that are covered by the archwire. Using the pointed end, insert between the teeth and gently move the floss back and forth between the two teeth. For added care, use a proxabrush, sometimes called a “Christmas tree brush,” to scrub between each bracket in an up and down motion to get any extra gunk that might be stuck there. For any dental emergencies that you might be having, make sure to contact Belmar Orthodontics at  (303) 225-9016 for your next consultation!