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Early Orthodontics

December 12th, 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. Kathleen Tavarez 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 Menlo Park or San Carlos, CA 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!

Not-So-Sweet Sweets

December 5th, 2018

Birthdays. Valentine’s Day. Halloween. A trip to the movies. There are just some occasions where a sweet treat is on the menu. Now that you are getting braces, does that mean you have to give up desserts completely? Not at all! The trick to finding the right treat is to know which foods are safe for your braces and which should wait until your treatment is complete.

There are some foods which should always be avoided. They fall into three main categories:

  • Hard and Crunchy

Hard candies, peanut brittle, popcorn balls, nutty candy bars—anything that is hard to bite into is hard on your braces, and can damage brackets or even break them.

  • Chewy

Caramels, taffy, chewy squares and rolls, licorice and other super-chewy candies can break brackets and bend wires. Not to mention, they are really difficult to clean from the surface of teeth and braces.

  • Sticky

Soft foods are generally fine, but soft and sticky candies are another thing entirely. Gumdrops, jelly beans, most gum and other sticky treats stick to your braces, making it hard to clean all that sugar from around your brackets. And even soft sticky candies can bend wires or damage your brackets.

As you have probably noticed, almost all candy falls into one of these categories. Of course, while sugary treats shouldn’t be a major part of anyone’s diet, and careful brushing and flossing are always on the menu if you do indulge, wearing braces does not mean giving up on treats entirely. A better alternative when you are craving something sweet is to choose something that avoids crunchy, chewy and sticky hazards, such as soft puddings, cupcakes or cookies. There are even some candy brands that are safe for your braces.

Talk to Dr. Kathleen Tavarez the next time you visit our Menlo Park or San Carlos, CA office about the dos and don’ts of desserts—we have tasty suggestions that will make those special occasions both sweet for you and safe for your orthodontic work!

Generic Clear Aligners vs. Invisalign®

November 28th, 2018

You may have a talent for home repairs. You may be able to rebuild your computer. You may even be able to put together a whole room of furniture armed only with flat-box kits and an Allen wrench. But, please—don’t try do-it-yourself orthodontics!

Now that generic clear aligners are available, you might consider giving them a try to save some money. But is straightening your own teeth really a good idea? Before you are tempted, let’s look more closely at the products and the dental science involved.

Invisalign®

  • Invisalign clear aligners are used by orthodontists and dentists with experience in custom treatment for your smile. A 3D image of your teeth will be captured by the iTero Element® scanner. Using special software, your doctor can map out each projected shift in your teeth, and even show you a projection of your finished smile!
  • Your Invisalign aligners will be tailored to fit your teeth precisely using the 3D scan and 3D printing. They are made from SmartTrack® material, a product specifically engineered for a perfect, comfortable fit. Invisalign aligners are even trimmed to fit your individual gumline to prevent irritation.
  • When your first sets of Invisalign aligners arrive at our Menlo Park or San Carlos, CA office, Dr. Kathleen Tavarez will check for fit, answer any questions you might have about use and care, and let you know what to look for and what to expect. Your progress will be monitored with visits every six to eight weeks. (And for parents of teens, Invisalign aligners can offer blue “compliance indicators” to let you know they are being worn the 20-22 hours a day necessary for the best and fastest results.)

Generic Aligners

  • You might be required to make a putty mold of your own upper and lower teeth, which is not the easiest thing to do well, and to take selfies of your teeth.
  • The aligners will be sent to you in the mail. They are generally made of hard plastic with generic gumlines. There will be no one to tell you if the aligners fit properly.
  • They are sometimes less expensive because there is no in-person medical supervision. A dental professional working for the company will look at the model created from molds you submit, and recommend a series of aligners to correct the problems he detects by looking at the model and your selfies. This supervisor will not be able to assess the overall dental health of each patient to make sure teeth and gums are healthy and ready to start treatment, and will not be able to tell if the teeth are moving properly or improperly once the aligners are in use.

Finally, while generic aligners may potentially have some success in minor tooth straightening, they are not created to deal with complex bite issues or malocclusions.  In fact, using generic aligners with no supervision can cause more serious dental problems than a patient started with.

Sure, sometimes a do-it-yourself project turns out well. But your teeth and bones are too important for home improvement. When it comes to creating a beautiful, even smile and balanced, comfortable bite while making sure of your dental health, it’s always best to trust a professional like Dr. Kathleen Tavarez to provide you with gentle, tested, and successful care!

Does my child need two-phase treatment?

November 21st, 2018

You might be surprised to see one of your second grader’s friends with a dental appliance. Isn’t orthodontic work just for teenagers? And, if not, should your seven-year-old be sporting braces right now? The answer to both of those questions is “Not necessarily.” Two-phase treatment is a process designed to correct issues that arise during different times in your child’s life.

First Phase Treatment

We recommend that every child have an orthodontic evaluation around the age of seven to determine if there is a problem that would benefit from early treatment. First phase orthodontics is not the same as orthodontics for older patients. The focus here is on the developing bone and muscle structures which form your child’s bite and provide space for the permanent teeth when they arrive.

There are some clear-cut orthodontic goals that are much easier to attain when children’s bones are still growing.

  • Reducing Crowding

If your child’s mouth is small, the permanent teeth will have little room to fit in when they arrive. We may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander. This device will provide room for the adult teeth, and could potentially shorten second phase treatment time. Sometimes the extractions necessary to create more room for permanent teeth in later years can be avoided, as well as the possibility of an impacted tooth—one which doesn’t erupt because it is blocked by other teeth.

  • Dealing with Jaw and Bite Concerns

Bones and muscles do not always develop properly, leading to problems with jaw and facial structure. Your younger child still has growing bones, so this is a great time to gently re-form the jaw into a healthy shape. Problems caused by crossbites, underbites, open bites, and other malocclusions can be reduced with early treatment.  

  • Protecting Teeth

If your child has protruding front teeth, these teeth are more likely to be damaged in falls, at play, or while participating in sports. We can gently reposition them.

Second Phase Treatment

Second phase treatment is designed for your older child. After a resting period, when the permanent teeth finish erupting, we should see your child to evaluate any further orthodontic needs. This is the time to finish the process of straightening the teeth and making sure that each tooth fits together properly for a comfortable and healthy bite. This phase usually makes use of braces or aligners, and can take approximately 12-24 months.

Two-phase treatment is not necessary for every child. But there are some unique reasons that early orthodontics might be recommended for your child, even if it’s clear that more orthodontic work will be needed later. Make an appointment with Dr. Kathleen Tavarez at our Menlo Park or San Carlos, CA office, and let’s evaluate your child’s orthodontic needs, whether now or in the future, for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.