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What is a palatal expander?

January 15th, 2020

Orthodontists like Dr. Andrew Schwartz 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 Washington DC 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. Andrew Schwartz 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.

When is the best time to floss?

January 8th, 2020

At Capitol Orthodontics, we prefer our patients to practice good oral hygiene between office visits. Part of that process includes flossing, which Dr. Andrew Schwartz will tell you, is the process of cleaning between the teeth to remove food and debris from the areas that are hard to reach with a toothbrush. When food is allowed to remain between the teeth, it provides a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause periodontal disease.

Should you floss before or after brushing?

You can floss either before or after brushing, according to your own preference. By flossing first, you can brush away dislodged food debris afterward. On the other hand, brushing first allows you to loosen plaque between the teeth, making it easier to floss more effectively.

Whichever you choose, the most important goal is to floss thoroughly. That means using a fresh strand of dental floss each day, and carefully pulling it back and forth between all of the teeth. Do not skip flossing because your teeth look or feel clean.

When to Floss

Unlike brushing, you need only floss between your teeth once per day. Although you may choose to do it in the morning or afternoon, many prefer to floss at night to prevent food and debris from remaining in the crevices of the teeth overnight. This could prevent the build-up of plaque too, which is a cause of tooth decay.

Help with Flossing

If you have questions about your flossing technique or what type of floss is best for your teeth, contact our office. Our staff will be more than happy to assist you in perfecting your home hygiene regimen. In most cases, you can choose between interdental cleaning picks or flexible floss strands to perform your daily flossing routine. If you have permanent oral appliances or restorations, be sure to follow the flossing instructions provided to you, and contact our Washington DC office with any questions.

Energy and Sports Drinks Eat Away at Teeth, Study Says

January 1st, 2020

Sports and energy drinks cause irreversible damage to the teeth of teens and young adults. A recent study published in General Dentistry states that energy and sports drinks contain so much acid that they begin destroying teeth after only five days of consistent use. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of U.S. teenagers consume energy drinks and as many as 62 percent consume at least one sports drink per day. The high acidity levels in the drinks erode tooth enamel and the result is irreversible damage.

Dr. Andrew Schwartz and our team at Capitol Orthodontics encourage our patients to limit their intake of sports drinks. The enamel erosion ultimately makes teeth more susceptible to bacteria and that can lead to hypersensitivity, staining, and tooth decay. If you do consume an energy or sports drink, make sure to wait at least 45 minutes until you brush, as consumption of acidic drinks causes tooth enamel to soften, making teeth more vulnerable to wear from the abrasives found in toothpaste.

Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma. It’s also preventable with proper care. Dr. Andrew Schwartz and our team can help identify early signs of erosion and offer solutions on how to prevent further damage and more serious problems from occurring.

Orthodontic Myths

December 25th, 2019

Some myths never wear out their welcome. If the Tooth Fairy helps your child transition from baby teeth to adult teeth, more power to her! On the other hand, some myths we can do without. Here are five common misconceptions about orthodontics, and the reality behind the myth.

  • It’s Only Cosmetic

If you think orthodontists can make a crooked smile straight, you’re right! Creating a beautifully aligned smile is one of our specialties. And if your primary interest is in a straight, even smile for you or your child, that’s a good thing. You can’t underestimate the confidence a beautiful smile brings. But please don’t think that’s all we do. In orthodontics, aesthetics and function work together. An essential part of an orthodontist’s work is diagnosing and treating malocclusions, or bad bites. The correct alignment of teeth and jaw is what makes a beautiful smile a healthy one as well.

  • I Don’t Need an Orthodontist for Orthodontic Treatment

All dentists receive comprehensive training and experience in order to earn their dental degrees. But did you know orthodontists like Dr. Andrew Schwartz receive two to three years of additional formal training, concentrating specifically in the field of orthodontics? An orthodontist is a specialist, and diagnoses and treats problems with tooth alignment while taking into account dental, jaw and facial development. That is why an orthodontic specialist is best qualified to create a unique, custom-tailored treatment plan for each patient in order to achieve a beautiful, balanced, and healthy smile.

  • My Child is Too Young for Orthodontic Treatment

We actually recommend that every child see an orthodontist for an evaluation by the age of seven. It’s important to be aware of any potential orthodontic problems that might affect your child’s later years, but we can also treat problems even before braces are on the horizon. If your child’s mouth is very small, we may recommend gently enlarging the upper dental arch with the use of a palatal expander to accommodate adult teeth as they erupt. If a baby tooth is lost too soon, we can provide a space maintainer so your child’s permanent tooth can erupt in the right place. We can even treat bite problems before all the adult teeth arrive. A visit when your child is young might help prevent the need for more complicated treatment in the future.

  • I’m Too Old for Orthodontic Treatment

You’re really not. As long as your teeth and gums are healthy, orthodontic treatment is a great way to keep them healthy. Crowded teeth and malocclusions can lead to problems like worn or cracked enamel, headaches, jaw problems, increased tooth decay, and periodontal disease, to name but a few. And today’s orthodontics offer a much wider variety of treatment options than the metal gear you remember from your high school days. Which leads us to our last myth of the day:

  • Those Metal Braces Aren’t for Me

In that case, it’s a good thing we have many other options to offer. Ceramic brackets and clear elastic ligatures make traditional braces much less visible. Lingual braces use brackets and wires placed behind the teeth, which are almost impossible to detect. And clear aligners allow you to subtly reposition your teeth with each new aligner tray—and are removable if need be. In fact, even those metal braces you might remember from your own high school days have gotten smaller and sleeker. Talk to us about the many discreet options available for older and younger patients.

If you are interested in what orthodontics might do for you, give our Washington DC office a call! We are here to help you discover what’s possible and then to design the best possible treatment plan in order to achieve it.  Let’s make your beautiful, healthy smile a reality!