Posts for: January, 2015
Kristin Cavallari's flawless smile has been featured on TV, film and magazine covers. But the 25-year-old actress and reality-show personality didn't always have a perfect set of teeth. In fact, she told Dear Doctor magazine — where readers recently voted to crown her with the “Smile of the Year” award — that her dental treatments began the same way many do: with orthodontics in sixth grade.
“I had the ‘spaghetti catcher,’ which is what everyone used to call it,” she reminisced. But by that, she didn't mean a strainer — she's talking about what dentists call a “palatal expander.”
In case you're not familiar with this orthodontic device, a palatal expander takes advantage of the natural growth patterns of a child's upper jaw to create additional space for the top set of teeth. How does it work? Basically, it's similar to braces: By applying gentle pressure, the appliance creates changes in the jaw. Unlike braces, however, it's invisible — it fits between the upper teeth, close to the roof of the mouth.
During the three to six months a child wears the palatal expander, it pushes the left and right halves of the upper jawbone apart, and then maintains and stabilizes the new, wider spacing. Since the palatal bones don't fuse until after puberty, tightening it a little bit each day for the first few weeks provides a quick and painless method of making the upper jaw a bit roomier. And that can be a very good thing. Why?
There are lots of reasons. For one, it can relieve the condition called “crowding,” when there is not enough space in the upper jaw to accommodate the proper alignment of the permanent teeth. In the past, teeth often had to be extracted in that situation. It may even allow “impacted” teeth — ones which are blocked from erupting by other teeth — to come in normally.
It can help treat a “crossbite,” when the back top teeth come down to bite inside (instead of outside) the lower back teeth. It also generally shortens the total time a child needs for orthodontic treatment. That's good news for any teenager — even if their own day-to-day “reality show” isn't featured on TV!
If you would like more information about palatal expanders, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Palatal Expanders” and “Early Orthodontic Evaluation.”
When we refer to periodontal (gum) disease, we’re actually talking about a family of progressive, infectious diseases that attack the gums and other tissues attached to the teeth. Caused primarily by bacterial plaque left on tooth surfaces from inefficient oral hygiene, gum disease can ultimately lead to tooth loss.
There’s only one way to stop the infection and restore health to diseased tissues — remove all of the offending plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) possible from tooth and gum surfaces, including below the gum line at the roots. The basic tools for this task are specialized hand instruments called scalers or ultrasonic equipment that vibrates plaque loose. A series of cleaning sessions using these tools could stop the infection and promote healing if followed with a consistent, efficient daily hygiene habit.
There are times, however, when the infection has progressed so deeply below the gum line or into the tissues that it requires other procedures to remove the plaque and infected tissue. One such situation is the formation of an abscess within the gum tissues, a pus-filled sac that has developed in response to infection. After administering local anesthesia, the abscess must be treated to remove the cause and allow the infectious fluid to drain. The area is then thoroughly flushed with saline or an antibacterial solution.
The gum tissues are not completely attached to the tooth surface for a small distance creating a space. These spaces are called periodontal pockets when they are inflamed and continue to deepen as the disease progresses. These inflamed and sometimes pus-filled pockets form when tissues damaged by the infection detach from the teeth. If the pockets are located near the gum line, it may be possible to clean out the infectious material using scaling techniques. If, however, they’re located four or more millimeters below the gum line a technique known as root planing may be needed, where plaque and calculus are shaved or “planed” from the root surface. As the disease progresses and the pockets deepen, it may also be necessary for surgical intervention to gain access to the tooth roots.
To stop gum disease and promote soft tissue healing, we should use any or all treatment tools at our disposal to reach even the most difficult places for removing plaque and calculus. The end result — a saved tooth — is well worth the effort.
If you would like more information on treating periodontal disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treating Difficult Areas of Periodontal Disease.”