Monthly Archives: March 2018

Upper Jaw Expansion: Understanding This Orthodontic Procedure

A lesser-known but highly useful children’s orthodontic procedure, upper jaw expansion sounds much more intimidating than it actually is. It is used to widen the palate and increase the dental arch length, making room for teeth to grow in. Here is a brief overview of upper jaw expansion.

upper jaw expansion

Reasons for Upper Jaw Expansion

Upper jaw expansion is typically performed for one of three reasons:

Dental Overcrowding: If the jaw is too narrow, the teeth do not have room to properly emerge. Upper jaw expansion in childhood can reduce the risk of expensive and frustrating corrective procedures as an adult.

Crossbite: The upper teeth should gently close around the lower teeth. If the upper jaw is too narrow, though, the upper teeth may close inside the lower teeth instead, leading to chewing problems and facial asymmetry.

Breathing Issues: A particularly narrow upper jaw could make breathing through the nose difficult. Constantly breathing through the mouth can cause bad breath and dry mouth, and may make the child more susceptible to pollution and airborne bacteria.

Age Guidelines

Upper jaw expansion should be performed between the ages of 5 and 15, preferably at the lower end of that range. Older teens and adults who require more than slight upper jaw expansion generally need surgery.

Treatment Techniques

There are three basic ways to expand the upper jaw, depending on the patient’s unique needs:

Rapid Palatal Expander (RPE): A fixed appliance that is bonded to the upper molars, a rapid palatal expander puts even pressure on both sides of the jaw. A screw at the center of the expander is turned at designated times with a special key, gradually increasing the pressure. This allows extra bone to grow into the space, slowly expanding the jaw.

Removable Palatal Expander: Used most often in teens and adults who need only slight jaw widening, a removable palatal expander resembles an all-chrome partial denture. The expander must be handled with care.

Surgically Assisted Rapid Palatal Expansion (SARPE): When a great deal of expansion is needed, or an adult or older teen needs significant jaw expansion, SARPE is generally recommended. First, a custom fitted appliance is created. Then surgery is performed to separate the upper jaw into segments. The appliance gently spreads the jaw segments apart, creating space for bone to grow.

If your child’s permanent teeth have not yet fully grown in, an orthodontic retainer will likely be used after upper jaw expansion to keep the space open until the teeth are in place.

Upper jaw expansion is not exactly comfortable, but it should not cause outright pain. It can save a great deal of time, discomfort, and money later in life. Make sure your child thoroughly cleans the palate expander when brushing and flossing. If a removable expander is selected, monitor your child to be sure it is being properly used. The effort you and your child put in now will pay off in the long run.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.

Baby Pacifiers: Fears vs. Facts

Baby pacifiers inspire a great deal of debate among parents. Some argue that their kids will not fall asleep without using one, while others claim that even brief pacifier use can destroy a baby’s developing teeth. In reality, pacifiers are neither as dangerous as some believe or as safe as others claim. Here’s a look at the fears versus the facts.

baby pacifiers

Child Age

Infants have a strong sucking reflex, and find pacifiers to be soothing. Sucking on a pacifier can regulate how deeply a baby sleeps, reducing the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Pacifiers have not been shown to cause any harm to the oral health or development of babies under 2 years of age, and the benefits are significant, so pacifier use IS recommended for this age group.

For children aged 2 and above, though, things are different. Those who still use pacifiers or suck their thumbs should be discouraged. These behaviors could interfere with oral development, misalign the baby teeth, and put children at risk for ear infections.

Pacifier Design

Pacifier design is another vital consideration. For example, latex nipples should be avoided, as they can lead to a latex allergy and are at risk for babies biting through them. A silicone nipple is highly preferred.

Plastic shields are nearly ubiquitous on pacifiers, and there is no significant difference between colors and shapes. However, the shield must have holes to prevent choking.

It’s easier for a baby to grasp a button on the back of the pacifier, but a ring back is easier for parents to retrieve when dropped. Likewise, a glow in the dark back makes late-night retrieval simpler. A nice, but not required, feature is an automatic cover that will protect the nipple when the pacifier is dropped.

Pacifier Safety

Like any object, a pacifier may be made more or less safe depending on the precautions that are taken. For example, any attachment cord should be no longer than 6 inches to minimize choking risks. Glued on novelty parts are generally not safe, as they may come off and form a choking hazard. Although it is generally safe for a baby to fall asleep sucking a pacifier, it should never be inserted into the mouth of a baby that is already sleeping. The pacifier should be washed daily with a mild soap solution and thoroughly rinsed.

In addition, be careful not to use the pacifier as your default solution for a fussy baby. Babies cry for reasons ranging from hunger to a full diaper. Make sure your baby is clean and fed, and that plenty of cuddles are given, before offering the pacifier. Ideally, the pacifier should be a tool for bedtime and unusually fussy periods rather than a simple go-to.

Weaning Your Baby Off a Pacifier

Since your baby should not use a pacifier past the age of 2, it is best to start the process of weaning around the first birthday. This provides plenty of time to make the transition without worrying about your child’s oral health.

Start with some simple restrictions on pacifier use, and gradually increase those restrictions. For example, you might allow use of the pacifier only at home, and then only at naptime and bedtime. Insist that your child remove the pacifier when talking. Minimize overstimulation and be sure that the child is getting plenty of sleep and does not get too hungry, as she is more likely to crave the pacifier when not feeling her best. Offer plenty of love and support instead of the pacifier.

When you and your child are ready, quit the pacifier cold turkey. It is easiest to do this when connected to an event, such as a family vacation, but you can just choose a date. Expect some crying and anger. Remain calm, offer comfort, and remind the child in a matter of fact way that the pacifier is no longer an option. It can be tough, but the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be for both you and your child.

Married dentists Chad and Alexandra Schnabel welcome you to Savannah Dental Solutions. From caring children’s dentistry to high-tech cosmetic procedures and even full-mouth reconstruction, we blend the latest technology with traditional customer-oriented values. To start your journey to better oral health, call us today at (912) 354-1366.