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Posts for: April, 2015

By James L Bialk DDS
April 24, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: celebrity smiles   braces  
KristiYamaguchisBracesHelpedGiveHeraWinningSmile

If Kristi Yamaguchi's kids inherit her figure skating ability, they might just be headed for the Olympics — after all, their mom won the gold medal for figure skating in the 1992 games. When it comes to teeth, however, she wouldn't mind if they inherited her spouse's instead. “My husband [fellow Olympian turned pro hockey player Bret Hedican] never had braces,” she recently told an interviewer. “I'm hoping they get his teeth.”

When you look at the elegant skating star's pearly smile, you'd never suspect she had dental problems. In fact, Kristi had four permanent teeth extracted to relieve the crowding in her mouth. She also wore braces to correct irregularities in both upper and lower teeth. Could orthodontics work the same “magic” for your kids — or yourself?

It just might. The first step toward finding out is having an orthodontic evaluation. For kids, the right time for an initial evaluation is no later than age 7. By then, the first molars are usually present and your child's bite pattern is establishing. Even though treatment may not begin for several more years, it's helpful to know what problems may arise in your child's individual situation — and to start treating them at just the right time.

Orthodontics has progressed a great deal in the two decades since Yamaguchi's braces came off. Today, small devices called palatal expanders are often used to create more space in the mouth, as an alternative to tooth extraction. There are also many new options for orthodontic appliances, in addition to standard metal braces. These include unobtrusive tooth-colored braces and lingual braces, which are applied to the tongue side of the teeth and can't be seen. In some cases, clear plastic aligners can be used instead of braces, for a look that's almost invisible.

Adolescence is often the preferred time to do orthodontic treatment. By then, the permanent teeth have mostly come in, but there's still some growing left to do. But age isn't a factor that should stop you from getting the smile you've always wanted. About one in five orthodontic patients today is an adult — and those less-visible appliances can fit in well with the more “professional” image of an older person.

Orthodontics can't help make someone an Olympic athlete — only lots of talent and practice can do that. But it can make a big difference in a person's appearance. “Once my braces came off, it was like — Wow! That looks so much nicer,” Yamaguchi recollected. And today, the mother of two, author, and philanthropist sports the same appealing smile she had on the podium at the Albertville Olympic Games.

If you would like more information on how orthodontics could help you get the smile you've dreamed about, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Early Orthodontic Evaluation” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”


SleepApneaandBehavioralProblemsinChildrenHowYourDentistCanHelp

We all know how much better we feel after a good night’s sleep: refreshed, energized and ready to handle — even excel at — our day-to-day responsibilities. Yet millions of people, young and old, are robbed of a good night’s rest by sleep-related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea, in which the soft tissues in the back of the throat block the airway during sleep. This temporarily disrupts airflow, causing numerous “micro-arousals” (sleep interruptions) that we may not even be aware of. A lack of sleep can make us drowsy, irritable and unfocused. In children, these typical symptoms of sleep apnea can lead to mistaken diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The relationship between sleep apnea and behavioral problems has been highlighted in several recent scientific journal articles, including a major study published several years ago in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The lead author, Dr. Karen Bonuck, said at the time: “We found that children with sleep-disordered breathing were from 40 to 100 percent more likely to develop neurobehavioral problems by age 7, compared with children without breathing problems. The biggest increase was in hyperactivity, but we saw significant increases across [other] behavioral measures.” Therefore, an accurate diagnosis of a child’s behavioral problems — leading to the right treatment — is crucial. While sleep apnea must be diagnosed by a physician, treatment for the condition is often provided by a dentist.

What can be done for children suffering from sleep apnea? The most common treatment is surgical removal of the tonsils or adenoids. This treatment can sometimes be performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, a dentist who has received several years of post-graduate surgical training. There are several other procedures oral surgeons can perform to open the airway, depending on what anatomical structures are blocking it.

Sometimes a child with sleep apnea can benefit from a procedure to expand the palate (roof of the mouth) to enlarge the airway. This is not a surgical treatment but rather an orthodontic one. An orthodontist (a dentist who specializes in moving teeth) will fit the child with a palatal expander, a butterfly-shaped device that gradually separates the two bones that form the upper jaw and roof of the mouth. This is often done to prevent crowding of teeth and other bite problems, but has been shown in some cases to improve airflow.

There is another dental approach used to treat adults and older children, whose jaw growth is complete. It’s called oral appliance therapy, and it involves wearing a custom-made device during sleep that resembles a sports mouthguard or orthodontic retainer. An oral appliance can maintain an opened, unobstructed, upper airway during sleep in various ways, including: repositioning the lower jaw, tongue, soft palate and uvula; stabilizing the lower jaw and tongue; increasing the muscle tone of the tongue.

If your child has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, we can help you find the best treatment approach. For more information, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry” and “Snoring & Sleep Apnea.”