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What is a palatal expander?

October 18th, 2018

If Dr. Iroshini Perera and our team at Kids Smile Dental Center have recommended a palatal expander, you might be wondering what it is and how it will help you. A palatal expander is a small appliance fitted in your mouth to create a wider space in the upper jaw. It is often used when there is a problem with overcrowding of the teeth or when the upper and lower molars don’t fit together correctly. While it is most commonly used in children, some teens and adults may also need a palatal expander.

Reasons to get a palatal expander

There are several reasons you might need to get a palatal expander:

  • Insufficient room for permanent teeth currently erupting
  • Insufficient space for permanent teeth still developing which might need extraction in the future
  • A back crossbite with a narrow upper arch
  • A front crossbite with a narrow upper arch

How long will you need the palatal expander?

On average, patients have the palatal expander for four to seven months, although this is based on the individual and the amount of correction needed. Several months are needed to allow the bone to form and move to the desired width. It is not removable and must remain in the mouth for the entire time.

Does it prevent the necessity for braces?

The palatal expander doesn’t necessarily remove the need for braces in the future, but it can in some cases. Some people only need braces because of a crossbite or overcrowding of the teeth, which a palatal expander can help correct during childhood, when teeth are just beginning to erupt. However, others may eventually need braces if, once all their permanent teeth come in, they have grown in crookedly or with additional spaces between.

If you think your child could benefit from a palatal expander, or want to learn about your own orthodontic treatment options, please feel free to contact our San Mateo office!

Not-So-Sweet Sweets

October 11th, 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. Iroshini Perera the next time you visit our San Mateo 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!

Fall Holiday Guide for Braces

October 4th, 2018

If this is your child’s first holiday season with braces, here are some tips on how to help children get the most enjoyment from these celebrations without compromising their braces or leaving them feeling left out of the festivities.

Halloween

When you think dental health, “Halloween” is not usually the first thing that comes to mind. Halloween can be tricky, but with some planning and intervention, you can make sure your child doesn’t miss out on the treats that make the holiday a favorite.

Braces present other challenges besides dealing with the scary amount of sugar in every trick-or-treat bag. Certain treats can be a challenge to clean from braces, and can even cause broken brackets and wires. How to avoid these frightful results?

  • Go through your child’s treat bag when you get home after neighborhood trick-or-treating. Anything which can damage braces, such as regular gum, candy with nuts or caramel, or hard or chewy candies should be discarded. Perhaps you and your child can choose a selection of soft candy such as plain chocolate and peanut butter cups to trade for those tricky treats. Your child’s favorite soft fruits, cupcakes, and cookies could also be safe substitutes.
  • Party time? Candy apples, bowls of candy corn, and popcorn balls are favorite treats at Halloween parties, but very bad for braces. Help your child recognize what should be avoided before attending, and suggest safe options like soft cupcakes.
  • Finally, even safe treats will leave more sugar than normal in your child’s mouth and therefore more potential for plaque build-up. Brush and floss more often, if needed, and rinse regularly with water.

Talk candy guidelines over in advance with your child. If you’d like, Dr. Iroshini Perera can recommend safe alternatives. With your help, Halloween won’t be a fearsome experience for you or your trick-or-treater.

Thanksgiving

Now, this is a holiday to be thankful for! Almost all of your traditional favorites are perfect for family members with braces.

  • Appetizers: Offer soft food options such as silky cheeses and deviled eggs instead of crunchy vegetables, chips, and nuts.
  • Dinner: Turkey is a required dish on many tables, and no need to miss out! Just make sure pieces are bite-size and off the bone. Creamy mashed potatoes and gravy and jellied cranberry sauce are also braces-friendly traditions. Any cooked vegetable should be fine, but do cut the corn from the cob first. Dressing is a great side dish if your child avoids any crunchy tops and edges, as are soft, nut-free rolls and muffins.
  • Dessert: Pumpkin pie, cheesecake, and apple pie with ice cream are all safe (and delicious) choices. Leave the pecan pie, caramel sauce, and anything nutty or chewy off your child’s menu. And remember to brush and floss carefully after the feast!

If you are concerned that following the usual food guidelines might be a little more difficult during this time of year, talk to us. Dr. Iroshini Perera and our team are happy to suggest ways to make your child’s first holidays with braces memorable for all the right reasons. The last thing you’ll want is an emergency visit to our San Mateo office!

Are braces right for me?

September 27th, 2018

According to Preferred Consumer, it's estimated that 50 percent of people around the world have teeth that are crooked, not aligned properly, or irregular. Fortunately today, orthodontics has advanced to the point where corrective devices, such as braces and retainers, are less obvious, more comfortable, and can be worn for shorter periods of time.

So, with that being said, how do you know if braces are right for you? Typically your dentist will be able to point out any issues with your teeth at your regular six-month cleanings and recommend you to an orthodontist. But here are some other things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not braces could be in your future:

Crooked Teeth

As children grow, so do their teeth. And more often than not, certain teeth will grow in crooked. This isn't uncommon, as the majority of children will require some sort of teeth correction, whether that’s braces or retainers. Retainers are custom-made devices that either work to hold teeth in place or correct tooth alignment. They're often worn all day, aside from meals, at the start of the treatment period and then eventually are rolled back so they're just worn at night. Braces on the other hand are worn for at least a year and work to help straighten or position teeth.

Overbite or Underbite

The other main oral issue that orthodontics helps correct is uneven alignment, such as an underbite or an overbite. You might hear Dr. Iroshini Perera refer to this as a "malocclusion," which means "bad bite." Braces can help rearrange your alignment so an overbite or underbite is less of a problem. Typically after the braces come off for this sort of treatment, patients need to wear a retainer from Kids Smile Dental Center to finish the treatment.

While braces are typically associated with dental issues in children, more adults are wearing the devices as well. About one in every five braces wearers are adults; a sign that it's never too late to correct any oral issues. Part of this is due to the technological advancements in orthodontics. For instance, new braces feel much better and come in a variety of styles — including clear — so they're far less obvious. Plus, the wires on braces are now made from advanced metals, which are stronger and lighter, so they get the job done much more efficiently. With so many people wearing braces these days, nicknames like "metal mouth" and "brace face" are almost a thing of the past. What's more, is that insurance plans are increasingly covering orthodontic treatment, making braces a much more feasible option for families on a budget.

When weighing whether or not braces are in your future, it's important to study all of your options about the styles of braces and what treatment option is best for you. Also be sure to contact your insurance provider to see what is covered and what will have to be paid out of pocket. It might take a few years of treatment, but braces can give you that winning smile for the rest of your life. Call our San Mateo office with any questions you might have!