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What is a palatal expander?

November 8th, 2018

Orthodontists like Dr. Daniel Ma 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 Vancouver, BC 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. Daniel Ma 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.

Does my child need two-phase treatment?

November 1st, 2018

You might be surprised to see one of your second grader’s friends with a dental appliance. Isn’t orthodontic work just for teenagers? And, if not, should your seven-year-old be sporting braces right now? The answer to both of those questions is “Not necessarily.” Two-phase treatment is a process designed to correct issues that arise during different times in your child’s life.

First Phase Treatment

We recommend that every child have an orthodontic evaluation around the age of seven to determine if there is a problem that would benefit from early treatment. First phase orthodontics is not the same as orthodontics for older patients. The focus here is on the developing bone and muscle structures which form your child’s bite and provide space for the permanent teeth when they arrive.

There are some clear-cut orthodontic goals that are much easier to attain when children’s bones are still growing.

  • Reducing Crowding

If your child’s mouth is small, the permanent teeth will have little room to fit in when they arrive. We may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander. This device will provide room for the adult teeth, and could potentially shorten second phase treatment time. Sometimes the extractions necessary to create more room for permanent teeth in later years can be avoided, as well as the possibility of an impacted tooth—one which doesn’t erupt because it is blocked by other teeth.

  • Dealing with Jaw and Bite Concerns

Bones and muscles do not always develop properly, leading to problems with jaw and facial structure. Your younger child still has growing bones, so this is a great time to gently re-form the jaw into a healthy shape. Problems caused by crossbites, underbites, open bites, and other malocclusions can be reduced with early treatment.  

  • Protecting Teeth

If your child has protruding front teeth, these teeth are more likely to be damaged in falls, at play, or while participating in sports. We can gently reposition them.

Second Phase Treatment

Second phase treatment is designed for your older child. After a resting period, when the permanent teeth finish erupting, we should see your child to evaluate any further orthodontic needs. This is the time to finish the process of straightening the teeth and making sure that each tooth fits together properly for a comfortable and healthy bite. This phase usually makes use of braces or aligners, and can take approximately 12-24 months.

Two-phase treatment is not necessary for every child. But there are some unique reasons that early orthodontics might be recommended for your child, even if it’s clear that more orthodontic work will be needed later. Make an appointment with Dr. Daniel Ma at our Vancouver, BC office, and let’s evaluate your child’s orthodontic needs, whether now or in the future, for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.

The Intriguing History of Halloween

October 25th, 2018

Halloween is fast approaching, and Dr. Daniel Ma wanted to be sure to wish our patients a happy day, no matter how you might celebrate this holiday. The Halloween that is familiar to most people today bears little resemblance to the original Halloween; back in the "old days" it wasn't even called Halloween!

Festival of the Dead

Halloween started out as a Celtic festival of the dead that honored departed loved ones and signified a change in the cycle of the seasons. The Celtic people viewed Halloween, then called "Samhain," as a very special day – almost like our New Years day in fact, as their new calendar year began on November 1st. Samhain was the last day of autumn, so it was the time to harvest the last of the season's crops, store food away for winter, and situate livestock comfortably for the upcoming cold weather. The Celts believed that during this day, the last day of winter, the veil between this world and the spirit world is the thinnest, and that the living could communicate with departed loved ones most effectively on Samhain due to this.

Modern Halloween

Halloween as we know it today started because Christian missionaries were working to convert the Celtic people to Christianity. The Celts believed in religious concepts that were not supported by the Christian church, and these practices, which stemmed from Druidism, were perceived by the Christian church as being "devil worship" and dangerous.

When Pope Gregory the First instructed his missionaries to work at converting the Pagan people, he told them to try to incorporate some of the Pagan practices into Christian practices in a limited way. This meant that November 1st became "All Saints Day," which allowed Pagan people to still celebrate a beloved holiday without violating Christian beliefs.

Today, Halloween has evolved into a day devoted purely to fun, candy, and kids. What a change from its origins! We encourage all of our patients to have fun during the holiday, but be safe with the treats. Consider giving apples or fruit roll-ups to the kids instead of candy that is potentially damaging to the teeth and gums.

Remind kids to limit their candy and brush after eating it! Sweets can cause major tooth decay and aggrivate gum disease, so to avoid extra visits to our Vancouver, BC office, make your Halloween a safe one!

Brushing: Before or after breakfast?

October 18th, 2018

In a perfect world, we would all jump out of bed ready to greet the day with a big smile and a toothbrush close at hand to clean our teeth immediately. But if you can’t even find your toothbrush before you’ve had your first cup of coffee, does it really make a difference if you brush and floss after breakfast? Perhaps! Let’s talk biology.

Normal saliva production during the day benefits our teeth and mouths in surprising ways. Saliva washes away food particles to keep our teeth cleaner. It contains cells which combat bacteria and infection. It even provides proteins and minerals to help protect our teeth from decay. But saliva production slows dramatically as we sleep, and the amount of bacteria in our mouths increases. While one of the nasty—and obvious—side effects of bacterial growth is morning breath, there is an invisible effect, which is more harmful. Bacteria in plaque convert sugar and carbohydrates into acids which attack our gums and enamel and can lead to both gingivitis and cavities.

  • If You Brush Before Breakfast

Brushing and flossing first thing in the morning removes the plaque that has built up during the night and takes care of many of the bacteria who are ready to enjoy the sugar and carbs in that breakfast with you. If you brush before eating breakfast, rinse your mouth with water after your meal, floss if needed, and you are good to go.

  • If You Choose to Brush After Breakfast

But if you decide that doughnut simply can’t wait, you should ideally postpone brushing for 20-30 minutes after your meal. Of course, these are minutes in which bacteria can make use of those new sugars and carbohydrates. So why shouldn’t you brush immediately after eating? Many foods and beverages, especially acidic ones such as grapefruit and orange juice, can weaken the surface of your teeth. If you rinse with water after eating and wait at least 20-30 minutes before brushing, your enamel will be “remineralized” (another benefit of saliva) and ready for cleaning.

No matter if you take a “seize the day” approach and brush first thing in the morning, or a “seize the doughnut” approach and brush soon after eating, the important word here is “brushing.” Dr. Daniel Ma and our Vancouver, BC team are happy to make suggestions as to the best morning routine for you. One thing is certain: if you give your teeth and gums two minutes of careful brushing and flossing in the morning, you can’t help but start your day off right!

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