My child is young, what should I be looking for? I thought ortho was for teenagers!

What to look for starting at age 4/5:

  • Thumb sucking habits, prolonged pacifier use past age 3, mouth breathing, inability to focus/sleeping difficulties, dark circles under the eyes and tongue tie!
  • No spacing amongst the primary dentition (indicates crowding and small jaws), deep bites (they can hold back the development of the lower jaw in the primary dentition),
  • Extreme overjet/overbite (often times accompanied by prominent front teeth).
  • Underbite.

Don’t hesitate to ask Dr Blais about these things. She is happy to look early and oftentimes offer some advice that will allow your child to grow properly. She only intervenes when it is absolutely necessary at such a young age, but sometimes a very small change can a very large impact! #lovethewayyousmile

What is the difference between phase I and phase II? Is there a phase III?

Phase I is Dr B’s favorite because it makes such a tremendous impact in one short year and can alleviate crowding that would otherwise call for extractions. Phase I is the “foundation building” phase where we use simple appliances to address the bones and improve facial growth and development, setting up the facial growth pattern for success!! This is when beautiful faces are made! It lasts 12 months. It is started typically ages 5/6-9 but can still make an impact at age 10.

We are treating the whole person, not just the teeth. It’s extremely important to remember that the health of the person is contingent upon the jaws being in good relation to one another—it can affect how someone breathes, sleeps, chews and speaks.

***It’s important to remember that when there are underdeveloped jaws due to improper tooth position, and thus improper functioning, this will not change as the adult teeth grow in. The same growth pattern will continue into adulthood without intervention!  We cannot “let it grow out”. Click here for more information on this topic. 
Phase II is for aligning adult teeth and improving smile esthetics and functionality. Timing can vary depending on the severity of the case. We use braces and Invisalign to do that. We can also address minor jaw discrepancies during this phase.

Phase III is retention! Retention for life—the gingival fibers have memory and we must hold the teeth in their final position for as long as possible.

How do expanders help and what the heck are they?

Expanders are amazing devices that help little ones starting at age 5-6 if needed and can be used into young adulthood (TAD expander). There are also adult expanders called MSE’s which are able to help adults with narrow upper jaws and mild sleep apnea.

Expanders for children are easy to get used to and cannot be seen unless you’re able to peer into someone’s mouth because they sit on the roof of the mouth.

When activated, these devices expand the width of the upper jaw. The upper jaw sits on top of the lower jaw like a “lid on a jar”. Thus, a small upper jaw definitely affects the growth of the lower jaw. Expanding early sets up the proper boney foundation for proper sized jaws that are well-related to one another and can also relieve crowding. It makes room to avoid impacted canines, which are very tricky, and allows us to teach our children the “lips closed, breathe through your nose” mantra which is incredibly important for proper facial growth!

Narrow upper jaws present in many different ways: crossbite or no crossbite, crowding in the upper and lower arches, airway issues, sleep-disordered breathing, and unbalanced facial growth. Small jaws can lead to improper facial growth and development, which can lead to airway and sleep issues. School-age children who still wet the bed, have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD and/or have speech issues likely have a small upper jaw and a small airway. To read more about how orthodontics is related to airway and the overall health of you or your child, click here

Why Adult Ortho? (Read this, it’s worth it)

Why adult ortho? I say why not? Why should age be the barrier that dictates whether or not we deserve to improve something? Because at age 60, it doesn’t matter anymore?  Everyone deserves to feel confident and happy, and everyone certainly deserves a properly functioning bite that is not causing more harm than good. I’ve seen many patients sit in my chair and ask why their lower front tooth is so loose and then tell me that it’s been that way for a while! (This is a traumatic bite and is essentially slowly extracting the tooth and causing bone loss, aka a big fat problem).

Everyone should not only have a well-functioning bite but should love the way they smile! We need more smiling people in this day in age. The truth is, most adults put their children first, making excuses like, “I’m too old. Well, it’s not that bad, it doesn’t bother me that much.” Then we get to talking and I learn that most of the time no one likes how their teeth look in pictures or they tell they never smile. I hear this from younger patients as well. Smiling makes us physically happier; it is healthy to smile. Just think of that famous scene from the movie Elf—“Smiling is my favorite!”. It’s true—smiling actually brings on a physiologic change in your body making you feel better. I need you to love the way you smile!

It’s ok, it’s not vain. Each of us deserves to feel happy, healthy, and confident in our own way, and you sure do deserve it after all those years of putting yourself last. 
Most of my adult patients are referred to me by other specialists who declare that the bite, the gums and/or the bone, or the teeth are deteriorating in some capacity and that in order to achieve their final goal (veneers, crowns, gum grafts, implants, etc), orthodontics must be done first (50% of the time after the Orthodontics is complete, a lot of the crowds, bondings or veneers are not needed).  Orthodontics builds bone, saves teeth, restores the proper relationship between the teeth so the teeth can function properly instead of causing trouble, and sets up the proper foundation so those new veneers will last! Ortho provides a healthy foundation and in doing so can address airway issues, poor sleep, and tension headaches. 

In sum, Orthodontics when done right can help from age 5 to age 75—and it doesn’t have to be with braces. Plus it’s ok :) everyone is doing it!