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Common Orthodontic Treatments: Jaw and Teeth Issues (Part 2)

Since 1991, Burke & Redford Orthodontists has been providing orthodontic treatment to children, teens, and adults throughout Riverside County. In part one of this two-part article, we discussed how orthodontists treat different bite issues. In the second part of this article, we’ll look at other issues that can be treated by an orthodontist, including narrow jaws, crowded teeth, impacted teeth, the early loss of baby teeth, and unwanted oral habits.

Narrow Jaws

When a patient’s upper jaw is too narrow, it can lead to teeth crowding, excessive wear and tear, proportion problems, undesirable shifting of the jaw to one side when biting down, and difficulties with chewing and speech. To widen the jaw, doctors use orthodontic devices called palatal expanders.

narrow jaws before and after treatment
Narrow Jaws Before and After Treatment

As the name implies, palatal expanders are used to expand the upper jaw. The easiest and best results are achieved in younger patients whose jaws haven’t finished growing and whose growth plates are still pliable. Although adults can also have their jaws widened, treatment is more challenging and may require an associated surgical procedure.

There are two types of palatal expanders—banded expanders and bonded expanders. Banded expanders are the most common type of expander and used on patients of all ages, while a bonded expander is typically used on younger patients who have a mix of adult and baby teeth.

palatal expander
Palatal Expander Before and After

Crowded Teeth

Crowded teeth occur when there isn’t enough space in the mouth for all the teeth to fit properly. The lack of space leads to misaligned teeth.

Teeth crowding is very common and has several causes, including: a small jaw, large teeth, extra teeth, early loss of baby teeth, and late growth of the lower jaw.

If left untreated, crowded teeth can cause a variety of problems, including increased likelihood of cavities and gum disease (because teeth are more difficult to clean properly), bite issues, and excessive wear and tear on teeth enamel. In addition, many people with crowded teeth are unhappy with their smile.

Depending on the severity of the issue, orthodontists correct tooth crowding in a variety of ways, including braces, Invisalign, retainers, space maintainers, palatal expanders, habit appliances, tooth size reduction, and tooth removal (only in extreme cases).

Crowded Teeth - Before Pictures - Burke Redford Orthodontists
Crowded Teeth

Impacted Teeth

A tooth is considered impacted when it doesn’t erupt through the gums when expected or erupts (or gets stuck) in an improper position. This often happens when children are in the process of getting their adult teeth. For example, a permanent tooth may become trapped in the gums if a baby tooth doesn’t shed properly—thereby blocking the tooth’s path and potentially causing it to erupt in the wrong place.

Teeth can become impacted for a variety of reasons, including genetics, improper orientation in the gums, overcrowding, the shape of the tooth, early loss of nearby baby teeth, or if the tooth didn’t develop fast enough.

Wisdom teeth are the most common impacted teeth—followed by canine teeth. Wisdom teeth are often removed surgically, but this usually isn’t a good option for the more visible canine teeth. In these cases, an orthodontist may need to help move the impacted tooth to the correct position, especially if the impacted tooth is harming the roots of an adjacent permanent tooth.

Depending on the severity and location of the impaction, simple removal of a baby tooth might do the trick. However, some cases may call for creating more space with an expander device or with braces. In extreme cases and when an impacted tooth is threatening the safety of another tooth root, a more complex intervention called a chain and bracket procedure is used. This procedure involves having an oral surgeon place an attachment to the impacted tooth so it can be brought safely into place by the orthodontist with braces. In these cases, Dr. Burke and Dr. Redford work with an oral surgeon.

Early Loss of Baby Teeth

Although losing baby teeth is a common and expected childhood occurrence, children can sometimes lose their baby teeth too early as a result of accidents or tooth decay. When this happens, it is important to keep the empty space open so that the child’s permanent teeth erupt properly. If this isn’t done, it may lead to impacted teeth, crowding, and misaligned teeth.

Orthodontists use appliances called space maintainers to keep the empty space open so that the permanent teeth can erupt in the proper place. Two commonly used space maintainers are the lower lingual holding arch and the Nance arch. Both of these appliances are used to keep molars from moving forward and blocking the natural eruption of permanent teeth.

Oral Habits

When it comes to oral habits, there are good ones (such as proper brushing and flossing) and bad ones (such as teeth grinding, thumb sucking, or tongue thrusting). Luckily, Dr. Burke and Dr. Redford can help stop bad oral habits before they permanently damage teeth.

For teeth grinding (also known as bruxism), our orthodontists can create a custom dental guard to be worn at night. Left untreated, long-term teeth grinding can seriously damage teeth and lead to the need for extensive restoration of teeth.

For thumb sucking or tongue thrusting—habits that usually occur in younger patients—the doctors can prescribe a habit appliance that interrupts the habit. This type of appliance is successful about 90% of the time. If left untreated, these habits can lead to changes in tooth position and the way the upper and lower teeth fit together.

Open Bites Can Occur from Oral Habits Like Thumb Sucking. Bringing Your Child in Prior to the Age of 7 is Important for Our Orthodontists to Get a Baseline of Whether the Teeth and Jaw are Growing in Correctly. Earlier Treatment Can Save Money Before a Child Becomes a Teenager. See Image Below. In the case below, treatment was implemented in this case after the child was older. Each case is different. Scheduling a Free Orthodontic Consultation with No Obligation Can Help Our Orthodontists Determine the Proper Course of Treatment. Check Out Our Orthodontist Reviews.

open bites before and after picture

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