Posts for: September, 2014

By Oral and Facial Surgery Center of Tallahassee
September 24, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
KristinCavallarisSpaghettiCatcher-FirstStepToAWinningSmile

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.”


By Oral and Facial Surgery Center of Tallahassee
September 09, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: orthodontics   jaw surgery  
JawSurgerymaybeNecessarytoOvercomeSomeTeethMisalignments

Orthodontics is a specialty of dentistry dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of misaligned teeth, or malocclusions. The goal is to help patients achieve better long-term oral health by improving teeth alignment. Sometimes, though, the misalignment is much more involved than the position of the teeth — it may be that the jaw structure is also misaligned. In that case, the skills of an oral surgeon may be in order.

The jaws are similar in shape to the arch of a horseshoe, hence the referral to either upper or lower sets of teeth as dental arches. In a normal jaw structure, the lower arch fits just inside the upper arch when you bite down and the teeth are able to function correctly. In some individuals, though, the lower arch closes in front of the upper arch, commonly known as an underbite. If the underbite is only slight, the malocclusion can be corrected by repositioning the teeth only, as with braces. If, though, the underbite is more severe it would require a surgical procedure to realign the jaws, also known as orthognathic surgery.

Orthognathic surgery can help relieve a number of functional complications caused by jaw-related malocclusions: difficulty chewing and swallowing; chronic jaw or head pain; or sleep apnea. It can also enhance the patient’s facial appearance by correcting an imbalance between the two lateral sides (asymmetry), or by minimizing a receding chin or protruding jaw.

Its primary benefit, though, is its effect on the patient’s bite and tooth alignment. For this purpose, the orthodontist and oral surgeon work together to achieve the best result possible. In some cases, the orthodontist may perform his or her work first by moving teeth into the proper position. This sets the stage for the oral surgeon to perform orthognathic surgery to complete the correction of the misalignment.

Each individual patient’s case is different — the best plan of action must begin with a full examination by an orthodontist, and a consultation with an oral surgeon if necessary. It may require time and the expertise of two specialties, but the final result will be better health and a better look.

If you would like more information on various orthodontic procedures, 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 “Jaw Surgery & Orthodontics.”