Palatal Expander

What are orthodontic tooth separators or spacers?

May 17th, 2020

Orthodontic separators (also known as “spacers”) are small latex-free rubber bands that fit in between two teeth to make space in preparation for fitting an orthodontic band or ring around the tooth. These are commonly placed before a palatal expander is placed.

What can my child expect after the separator or "spacer" is placed?

  1. Mild soreness from the spacer is expected – use over the counter pain medications as needed.
  2. Pressure or feeling of something stuck between the teeth is normal.
  3. If the spacer falls out a few days before the next appointment, that usually means enough space has been made.

Tips:

  1. Do not try to remove the spacers at home – this may delay fitting the orthodontic band or appliance at the next appointment
  2. Avoid sticky and chewy foods that may dislodge the spacer
  3. Brush the area normally but do not floss the area with the spacers

If the spacer falls out before your next appointment, the ring around the tooth should still fit in most cases so there is no need to come in for a separate appointment. If you have any questions or concerns about the spacer, please call our office, as we are happy to help!

Managing your braces & Invisalign during COVID-19

March 18th, 2020

With the recent outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), dental and orthodontic offices around the nation are closing due to recommendations by the American Dental Association. While offices remain open for emergency care, many people have questions about how to manage their ongoing orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign. Here are a few guidelines to help you out : )

GENERAL GUIDELINES:

  • Wash your hands very often!
    • Orthodontic treatment involves putting your hands in your mouth. Whether you are placing rubber bands, wax, retainers, or an Invisalign clear aligner, you need to put your hands in your mouth. You should be washing your hands for at least 20 seconds BEFORE AND AFTER putting your hands in your mouth. Additionally, you should be washing your hands, in general, more often.
  • If you can't wash your hands, use hand sanitizer
    • If soap and water are not available, be sure you use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. Rub all surfaces of your hands well.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
    • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay at home and follow the CDC guidelines for social distancing
    • The illness is spread by close contact with other people or via droplets in the air. Please do not use this time away from work or school to spend time with friends and family. Many people who have the virus do not know it!
  • If you are getting sick, contact your medical health care provider for help.
    • If you are sick, first and foremost, stay away from others so you do not spread the illness to them. Contact your medical professional for advice on what to do next. They are your best resource of information on where to go to get help.

For any significant pain or concern, please call or email Dr. Zach as we are still available to help you out. Here are some common questions we are getting about braces, Invisalign, and retainers:

BRACES - COMMON QUESTIONS

  • Should I wear my rubber bands?
    • Yes! For now continue to wear rubber bands as instructed to continue your progress.
  • What if I run out of rubber bands?
    • Call or email our office - we can arrange a pick up!
  • What should I do if I have a broken brace?
    • If you are not in pain, you can attempt to remove the brace or place wax on it to stabilize the brace. If it is causing a significant discomfort that makes it difficult to eat or sleep, please call us and we can arrange an emergency visit to get you comfortable. Unfortunately at this time, we cannot fix broken braces but we can get you comfortable again.
  • What should I do if I am in pain?
    • Call or email our office - we will set up an emergency appointment to adjust the braces to get you comfortable again.
  • Will the COVID-19 shut down delay my treatment?
    • It depends on how long we are closed, but in the meantime, make sure you do the following:
      • Continue to brush your teeth 3 times per day
      • Avoid hard and sticky foods to ensure nothing is broken
      • Wear your rubber bands as instructed
  • What if I have a question or something does not seem right?
    • Call or email us - Dr. Zach is available for questions : )
  • Other tips:
    • Dispose of your used rubber bands and wax properly - do not put them on counters or clean surfaces
    • Since you are home, brush your teeth and floss them more often. Be sure to wash your hands before and after
    • Avoid sugary drinks to protect your teeth from white spots

INVISALIGN - COMMON QUESTIONS

  • Should I continue to wear my aligners?
    • Yes! For now, continue to wear aligners as instructed to continue your progress.
  • If I have rubber bands, should I wear those too?
    • Yes! For now continue to wear rubber bands as instructed to continue your progress.
  • What if I run out of aligners?
    • Please give us a call and we can arrange a pick up if we have more in the office. In the event it was the last of the box, we will have to wait for another 3D scan to order more. If you are on your last aligner for awhile, please be sure to clean it more often.
  • Can I clean them with soap and water?
    • Yes! You can use hand soap to clean your aligners with cold water.
  • What if something does not seem right?
    • Give us a call or send an email - Dr. Zach is available for questions : )
  • Other tips:
    • Clean and brush your aligners more often during this time
    • Clean your Invisalign retainer case often
    • Be sure to carry your hand sanitizer with you
    • Do not set your Invisalign down on any unclean surfaces

PALATAL EXPANDERS

  • Should I keep turning the expander?
    • No, at this time, if you have not been instructed to continue your turns, you should stop and wait until your next appointment with Dr. Zach.
  • Is it OK to leave it in place?
    • Yes. The expander is usually in for 9-10 months.
  • What if my child was due to have it removed during the closure?
    • Please be patient and sit tight. A few extra weeks will not cause any harm.
  • What if it is causing pain or discomfort?
    • Please call our office and we will be happy to help you out : )

RETAINERS - COMMON QUESTIONS

  • Should I continue to wear my retainer?
    • Yes! Please continue as instructed by Dr. Zach
  • Can I clean my retainer with soap and water?
    • Yes! You can use hand soap and cold water to clean your retainer. It is a good idea at this time to keep it as clean as possible. You should clean both before and after using it.
  • What if I lost my retainer?
    • If you lost your retainer and you have your 3D printed model of your teeth, please give us a call and we may be able to make you a new one. We would have to arrange a drop-off/pick-up.
  • Other tips:
    • Clean and brush your retainers more often during this time
    • Clean your retainer case often
    • Do not set your retainers down on any unclean surfaces

If there is any other question you have, let us know! We are here to help you and we can't wait to see your smile again : ) 

What age is best for first orthodontic screening?

January 5th, 2020

If you have school age children, determining the age of the first orthodontic visit may be confusing. You may see some first graders in braces and you may be wondering: "Why in the world are they wearing braces already? As a parent, am I missing something?"

It is very common for parents to ask me:

What is the best age to bring my child for their first orthodontic screening?

In my opinion, I believe the best time for a first visit is around their 8th birthday. At this age, children have a mix of both adult and baby teeth, and we can start to foresee how their teeth and jaws will line up in the future. Specifically, I am looking for:
- Cross bites (top jaw is too small)
- Excessive crowding or spacing of the teeth
- Overbites and underbites (mismatch of upper and lower jaw size)
- Missing teeth, late erupting teeth, extra teeth, abnormally shaped teeth
- Environmental factors (thumb sucking habits, mouth breathing, etc.)

While there are many things I am looking for at this age, it does not necessarily mean that I will treat them at this age. In fact, for most kids under the age of 11, I recommend waiting.  While every orthodontist is different, I prefer a conservative approach and I firmly believe "less is more" when it comes to orthodontic treatment.

Why do I take this approach? For many bites, we have studies that show we can get the same result if we treat in one stage instead of two. This not only saves time and money in orthodontic treatment, but it gives your kid the chance to be a kid without having braces from age 8 until 13. Additionally, we have to consider these are their adult teeth - they need to have them forever! Hygiene is very important, and I want to give every kid the chance to keep their teeth clean and cavity-free if possible.

Does this mean I wait in all cases? Not at all! It is true - some cases I do recommend a 2 step approach with early orthodontic intervention at age 8-10 years old. Often times, this is for bone growth issues that are best addressed at that age, or for teeth alignment issues that if left untreated will make for a more difficult treatment in the future. If this is the case, I try to do an early treatment for as little time as possible to help correct the problem. Then we can wait and approach the rest as a pre-teen or teenagerI sincerely look at every child as if they were my own, and if there is a situation that I would treat my son or daughter, then I let you know.

I take pride in our conservative approach to early treatment. Best of all, we do not charge anything for an initial screening - our first appointment is entirely free, and you do not need a referral from your dentist to check us out. Feel free to reach out anytime with questions - I am here to help : )

-Dr. Zach

Missing Teeth, Impacted Canines, and Your Family Tree

August 24th, 2019

Teeth genetics are weird. There is so much variation in size, shape, and color teeth. There is also a lot of variation when it comes to timing of when baby teeth are lost. We are all so different from one another, with a few exceptions: our teeth are very much like those of our parents and siblings.

Teeth abnormalities are pretty common in the general public, and many people are affected by them. For example, approximately 30% of people are missing at least one tooth. This is most commonly a wisdom tooth. Also, approximately 2-3% of the population has an impacted canine, where the canine is stuck in the bone and does not want to come in. It is more common on the left side than the right side (how weird!) and it is more common in girls than boys (sorry ladies!).

As a parent, it is important to keep this in mind. Are you missing an adult tooth, or was your brother or sister missing a tooth? Do you still have a baby tooth in your mouth? Do you remember having braces to fix an impacted canine? Your kids will be more at risk for similar problems. Impacted canine teeth can damage other adult teeth, and missing teeth can be a dental problem in the future if not addressed early.

So what do you do? It's simple - get a screening early. I recommend having an orthodontic  screening at age 8 to evaluate for these conditions early. We take a panoramic x-ray that looks at all of the developing teeth so that we can see if any of these problems may occur. Most orthodontists do not charge for this screening, and it basically informational to help you understand your child's current or future needs.

Is it OK to have a screening even if you didn't have these problems? Yes - definitely! You may not know that grandma or great-uncle was missing 4 adult teeth. Additionally, we are screening for more than just missing teeth. We look for crowding issues, spacing issues, overbites, underbites, cross bites, and much more.

At the end of the day, please do not lose sleep over any of these issues. Genetics is out of your control, but we are here to help however we can. We can correct impacted teeth, missing teeth, and bite issues in many different ways with braces and Invisalign®. Feel free to reach out with any question : )

Take care and love your smile!
Dr. Zach

6 Common Questions About Palatal Expanders

June 1st, 2018

Many young kids are referred to our office by their dentist, and parents are often wondering why we see kids that are 7 to 10 years old. In some cases, there may be a bone size imbalance between the upper and lower jaw, and palatal expanders are a great way to correct these problems to set children up for more balanced growth and tooth eruption as they enter adolescence. Here are some common questions that I answer on a daily basis about palatal expanders.

1) Why does my child need an expander?
A palatal expander is typically used to widen the upper jaw when it is too narrow compared to the lower jaw. It commonly treats a dental condition known as "cross bite" which is when the top teeth fit inside the bottom teeth. In some cases, expanders are used to create room for teeth that are stuck or impacted.

2) What does an expander do?
A palatal expander widens the upper jaw slowly to correct a bone size problem and make room for more teeth. It works by actually pushing the bones apart on the roof of the mouth, and then holds the bones in the new position while solid bone is created on the roof of the mouth. This new bone that forms will stabilize the correction.

3) What can we expect with our new palatal expander?
It make take up to one week to adjust to an expander. Your child may feel some pressure on the roof of the mouth and on the molar teeth. Your child may also complain that it feels funny to swallow as his or her tongue must adjust to the new appliance. Spacing may occur between the front teeth as the upper jaw widens.

4) Will the expander be painful?
We rarely hear complaints of pain with a palatal expander since are slowing moving the teeth and the bones. Tongue discomfort in the first week is the most common complaint.

5) Are there any eating restrictions?
Hard and sticky foods can dislodge the expander. We recommend avoiding all sticky and chewy candies as well as very hard foods.

6) How long does will the expander stay in place?
Typically, an expander will be in place for about 9 months total time. This may vary from child to child depending on his or her needs.

I hope this information is helpful in answering some common questions about expanders. If you have any other questions or are looking for more information, feel free to send us an email or call for a complimentary consultation. As Downers Grove's community orthodontist, I look forward to helping you and your family : )

- Dr. Zach

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