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What is a palatal expander?

November 7th, 2018

Orthodontists like Dr. Ellingsen recommend a first orthodontic visit and evaluation for your child around the age of seven. We will evaluate your child’s jaw and facial development and make sure that there is enough room in the mouth for the permanent teeth when they arrive. One of the recommendations we might make for early treatment is the use of a palatal expander. If you are unfamiliar with this device, let’s take a closer look at why it’s necessary and what exactly it does.

Why do we recommend the palatal expander?

There are two dental arches, composed of the upper and the lower teeth, in your child’s mouth. This arch-shaped design is meant to accommodate all the permanent teeth. Further, when the upper and lower teeth meet, they should result in a healthy occlusion, or bite.

Sometimes, the upper dental arch is simply too small to accommodate all of your child’s permanent teeth, leading to crowding, extractions, and impacted teeth. Also, a too-narrow arch can result in a crossbite, where some of the upper teeth bite inside the lower ones. An improper bite can lead to problems such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder, improper wear and stress on teeth, certain speech difficulties, and other potential complications. The palatal expander was designed to prevent these problems from occurring.

What is a palatal expander and how does it work?

The expander itself is a device that increases the size of the upper dental arch. Before your child’s bones are finished growing, the space between the two bones of the upper palate is filled with cartilage. This tissue is flexible when children are young, but gradually fuses solidly into place by the time they are finished growing (usually in the early to mid-teens). If the arch can be widened to accommodate the emerging permanent teeth, or to reduce malocclusions, this improvement can also affect the need for, and length of, future dental work.

There are several types of expanders available at our Spokane, WA office. These are custom-made appliances, commonly attached between the upper teeth on each side of the jaw. The two halves of the device are connected with a screw-type mechanism that can be adjusted to widen the upper palate and dental arch with gentle pressure. This is a gradual process, with small adjustments usually made once or twice a day to slowly move the bones further apart. As weeks go by, you will notice a successful change in the spacing of the teeth. Your child might even develop a gap in the front teeth, which is normal and will generally close on its own.

If you would like more detailed information, talk to Dr. Ellingsen about the palate expander. We can tell you what to expect from this treatment if we think it is best for your child’s unique needs, and how to make it as easy as possible for your child. Our goal is to provide your child with the healthiest teeth and bite possible, always making use of treatments that are both gentle and effective.

A Fun Halloween with Braces

October 31st, 2018

Having teeth encased in braces can be discouraging during Halloween. If you or your child has braces, there are certain candies to avoid this holiday season—and in general—while you have braces. Candy can be tempting, especially for children.

But don’t worry; other sweet treat options can readily take their place. Take a look at the American Association of Orthodontists’ tips on how to keep your braces safe.

Treats to avoid because they can cause damage to your braces include:

  • Hard candies
  • Chewy candies
  • Nuts
  • Caramel
  • Licorice
  • Jelly beans
  • Taffy
  • Bubblegum
  • Hard pretzels
  • Popcorn

These goodies should be avoided because they have the potential to bend or break your braces. Broken brackets and loose wires can waste time and money.

Switch out hard, chewy, and sticky candies for these options in the mean time:

  • Soft chocolate
  • Peanut butter cups
  • Gelatin treats
  • Ice cream
  • Smoothies
  • Root beer floats
  • Apple cider

Encouraging your child to stay with alternative, braces-friendly treats may prevent her from trying to eat candies that could break or damage braces. Halloween can still be fun, especially if your youngster (or you) don’t have to visit our Spokane, WA office get braces fixed.

Make sure to remind your child to avoid harmful candies, and encourage him to exchange treats with friends to make it more fun. Only passing out candies that children can eat safely, such as soft chocolates, can make them feel included.

Dr. Ellingsen and our team hope you enjoy your Halloween season, regardless of whether you are wearing braces.

Electric Toothbrushes vs. Regular Toothbrushes

October 24th, 2018

Convertible or sedan? Downtown or suburbs? Electric or manual toothbrush? As life decisions go, it’s certainly not choosing your next car, or deciding where you want to live. But, even when you are selecting a toothbrush, it helps to make a list of the pros and cons of the contenders before you make that final selection.

  • Efficiency

The most important factor in choosing a toothbrush is finding out which model works best to eliminate bacteria and plaque. And studies have shown that, used properly, both electric and manual toothbrushes do a great job of removing plaque. Some electric models can reach the backs of teeth and the gumline more easily, some manual head designs work better for your individual mouth and teeth, so your particular needs should dictate which style of toothbrush you use. Talk to us about the best methods to brush with your preferred toothbrush, and we’ll let you know if one type of toothbrush or the other might work better for you.

  • Health Considerations

Brushing too energetically can actually harm teeth and gums, causing sensitivity and damage to the enamel and gum tissue. An electric toothbrush should provide a continuous brushing motion without needing any pressure from the brusher. This might be the model for you if you have a too-vigorous approach to brushing, or sensitive teeth and gums.

An electric toothbrush can also be more efficient for older and younger brushers, those with limited mobility, and those with health conditions or injuries that make brushing with a regular toothbrush more difficult.

  • Cost

An electric toothbrush is not a one-time investment. You should change the removable head as often as you change your manual toothbrush (every three to four months, please). But this cost is offset if an electric toothbrush is more efficient in removing your plaque, easier to use, or even if you just prefer it to manual brushing. If you find that you brush better and more often with an electric toothbrush, the added expense is well worth it.

Whichever brush you decide on, the most important part of the brush is the person holding it! A regular appointment with your toothbrush for two minutes of thorough brushing in the morning and two in the evening, daily flossing, and regular visits to our office for checkups and cleanings will keep your teeth healthy and strong no matter which toothbrush you choose.

Questions about your toothbrush choices? Don’t hesitate to ask Dr. Ellingsen at our Spokane, WA office.

Not-So-Sweet Sweets

October 17th, 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. Ellingsen the next time you visit our Spokane, WA 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!

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