What is a palatal expander?

April 25th, 2019

Orthodontists like Dr. Bryce Willcox 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 Tigard, OR 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. Bryce Willcox 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.

Braces and Band? Play On!

April 18th, 2019

You’re in the band and you’re getting braces. Now what? If you are a member of the string or percussion sections, you can go back to rehearsal. You’re good to go. When your talents have seated you in the reed or brass sections, though, a little adjustment might be necessary to keep your instrument and your braces working in harmony.

If you play a wind instrument, you know the term embouchure—the way you position and use your lips, tongue, facial muscles, and teeth to produce the sound you want. Depending on the instrument you play, you might be completely unaffected when you get your braces, or you might need to develop a more comfortable embouchure to accommodate them.

Wires and Woodwinds?

If you play a wind instrument such as the flute or piccolo, you might find that your normal lip positioning or blowing angle is affected by your braces, but usually the adjustment time is fairly short. Reed instruments such as the saxophone, clarinet, oboe, and bassoon are considered some of the easiest to adjust to when you have braces, but even though the single and double reed mouthpieces don’t require as much pressure as brass instruments, there can still be an adjustment period. One thing you should look out for is more condensation in your mouthpiece or instrument—be sure to keep your instrument clean to keep your sound pure.

Brackets and Brass?

Brass instruments require mouthpiece pressure. This leaves your lips pressed between the mouthpiece and your braces. For this reason, many brass players have a more challenging adjustment when wearing braces. Smaller mouthpieces (trumpet, French horn) usually require more pressure than larger ones (tuba, trombone). It’s important to learn how to use technique to avoid cuts, irritation, and other injuries caused by the pressure of your braces against your lips. Learning to play with less pressure on the lips and more air control and breath support will help you to recover your tone and range of notes while protecting your lips and mouth.

How Can We Help?

Let Dr. Bryce Willcox know if you play, or plan to play, a wind instrument. We might be able to offer some suggestions. For regular metal and ceramic braces, some musicians find extra wax is helpful in preventing lip and cheek injuries. There are brace guards available that can be applied over the braces to protect your lips and mouth if wax doesn’t do the trick.

There are also alternatives to regular bracket-and-wire braces, depending on your orthodontic needs, cost factors, and length of treatment. Invisalign® devices fit smoothly over your teeth and can even be removed when it is time to practice or play, as long as you get the necessary hours of wear in per day. In some cases, lingual braces, where the brackets and wires are placed behind the teeth, might be the best choice for you.

Finally, don’t forget to talk to your music instructor. Don’t be dismayed if you find the quality of your playing has been affected. Your teacher might have valuable suggestions for adjusting your embouchure, playing with less pressure on the lips, and developing better air and breath support. You might need to shorten your practice time at first, and there might be another period of adjustment after your braces come off.

Above all, take care of yourself! If something is poking your lip or cheek, call our Tigard, OR office immediately before it causes injury. It might be difficult at first, but finding an embouchure that works for your comfort and technique is worth it. And remember, these temporary fine-tunings will lead to a wonderful coda: skilled musicianship and a beautiful, healthy smile. Bravo!

 

Breakfast with Braces

April 11th, 2019

Breakfast is called the most important meal of the day for many reasons. Children need to refuel after a long night’s sleep, and studies suggest that school kids who eat a good breakfast have more energy, better attendance and behavior, and even higher test scores than kids who don’t.  

But sometimes, especially with new braces or braces that have just been adjusted, the last thing on your child’s mind is breakfast. Fortunately, Dr. Bryce Willcox can recommend many early morning options that will be both gentle on braces and healthy for growing bodies!

  • Yogurt

Soft, creamy, and filled with calcium and vitamin D, yogurt is an easy and nutritious choice. Try different fruit flavors or Greek yogurt for variety.

  • Eggs

Packed with protein, scrambled eggs are delicious on their own, or with the addition of cheese or soft veggies. If you’d like to add a bit of flair to the table, a cheese omelet is another great choice. Any egg option is a good one—just remember to skip the crunchy toast on the side.

  • Smoothies

Not only a great way to start your day, but a great way to get vitamins and minerals in one delicious meal. And with a flavor base of banana, mango, berries, or apple, no one will notice if some spinach or kale make their way into the blender!

  • Oatmeal

Unfortunately for the cereal lover, crunchy cereals and even granola are potentially damaging to wires and brackets. But oatmeal is a healthy alternative that can be made even tastier with the addition of soft fruits such as mangos, berries, and bananas.

  • Breads and Pastries

Crunchy and chewy breads and pastries can lead to broken brackets and wires. Soft breads, pancakes, non-crunchy French toast, and soft pastries are much kinder to braces. Because so many of these options are rich in sugar (especially with syrup!), it’s best to go lighter on foods like this and be sure to brush carefully afterward.

  • Fruit

Bananas, peaches, nectarines, berries—if it’s soft, it’s good to go! Cut larger fruits into bite-sized pieces. Dried fruits like raisins, dates, and cranberries can be chewy, sticky, and sugary, so best to take them off the shopping list for the time being.

It’s described as the most important meal of the day for many good reasons. With some of these easy-to-prepare breakfasts, you can add delicious, healthy, and braces-friendly to that description! If you stumble on a delicious recipe, don’t forget to share it the next time you visit our Tigard, OR office!

Snacks that are Healthy for Your Body and Your Braces

April 4th, 2019

You know the school day’s over when you hear these seven little words: “I’m home! Is there anything to eat?”

And before your child got braces, you had the answer: simple, tasty snacks that provided not only an energy boost, but nutritional elements to help build strong teeth and strong bodies. But now whole carrot sticks and unsliced apples are out. Nuts and crunchy peanut butter? Not in your pantry. Hard cheeses and crunchy whole grain crackers? Also off the shopping list.

Because any foods that are crunchy, chewy, or hard to bite into can damage brackets and wires, it’s time to freshen up your go-to snack list. Luckily, Dr. Bryce Willcox can recommend many healthy and braces-friendly choices when children need something to tide them over until dinner.

  • Fruits and Vegetables for Vitamins and Minerals

Soft fruits like berries, melon, and bananas provide essential vitamins and minerals while going easy on your child’s braces. Make it a blended smoothie for a cool treat—you can even add a healthy handful of spinach or kale without interfering with that fruity taste. If your child still loves apples and carrots best, keep them on hand—but remember that thin slices are the only way to go.

  • Dairy Delivers Calcium

Cottage cheese, string cheese, and other soft cheeses provide essential calcium and vitamin D. Yogurt in all its many flavors is another great option.

  • Meats Provides Protein

Lean meats such as thinly sliced ham, chicken, or turkey provide flavor and protein, and don’t require the chewing that bologna, roast beef, and salami do. And nothing packs a protein punch like eggs—hard boiled, deviled, or diced up in egg salad.

  • Grains, Legumes, and Vegetables for Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates—the “good” carbs—are important sources of energy for our bodies. Snacks such as hummus with soft whole grain pita wedges or blended black bean dip and soft crackers are a delicious, energizing option.

You are constantly looking for ways to make your children’s lives better. Mix and match any of these foods for a snack that’s not only good for their braces, but good for their teeth and bodies! Let us know your child’s favorite snack the next time you visit our Tigard, OR office!

Dental Care For All

(and we do mean ALL)

Together, Dr. Bryce and his wife, veterinarian, Dr. Sarah Willcox, volunteer to benefit animals and have made several trips to Wildlife Safari in Winston, OR, to help provide dental care to lions, tigers, and bears —

Oh My!
Dr. Bryce Willcox Volunteering Dr. Bryce Willcox Volunteering Dr. Bryce Willcox Volunteering