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What is a palatal expander?

January 16th, 2019

Orthodontists like Dr. Gill 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 Fargo, Wahpeton, ND 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. Gill 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.

Safety of Dental X-Ray Radiation

January 9th, 2019

We all want to live our healthiest lives. We know that part of keeping ourselves healthy is regular visits to our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office for checkups and necessary dental work. And that dental work might require an X-ray. Should the amount of radiation in an X-ray concern us?

First, it is helpful to know that the radiation you are exposed to from a dental X-ray is very small. A set of most bitewing X-rays, for example, produces an amount of exposure about equal to the amount of background radiation we get from our normal surroundings in a typical day. We also take care to minimize your exposure even further by using specially designed equipment and protective shielding, and taking only necessary X-rays. If your child is very young, if you are pregnant, or if you have other health concerns, talk to us about the advisability of X-rays and whether they are essential to treatment.

Second, much of our careful general examination will be done visually. Dr. Gill can check for cavities and other problems and assess tooth and gum health. But sometimes, there are conditions which can’t be detected without an X-ray.

  • Decay that isn’t visible in an oral exam—if a small cavity develops between teeth, or is hidden underneath a filling, an X-ray will catch it before more damage can take place.
  • Infection—An X-ray will reveal infections such as abscesses that can damage both bone and tooth, and gum disease that has harmed bone and connective tissue.
  • Orthodontic and periodontal issues—We might need an X-ray to determine the spacing and development of your child’s incoming teeth and maturing jaw structure, to properly create braces for adults or children, or to place an implant within the jawbone.
  • If you are a new patient, it is helpful to have complete X-rays taken as a baseline of your current dental health and previous dental work. This baseline allows us to track tooth and jaw development, if necessary, and to evaluate any future changes that might be a concern. (If you have had X-rays taken in another office, we can help you have them transferred so we have a background of your dental history.)

Even though the radiation from a dental X-ray is minimal, be assured that we will never request any unnecessary procedure. When we recommend an X-ray, we do so to make sure there is no decay or infection threatening the health of your gums and teeth, and that we have the essential knowledge we need to treat any dental, periodontal, or orthodontic condition. Because we all want to live our healthiest lives—and part of that healthy life is both active and proactive dental care.

Tooth Protection and Winter Sports

January 2nd, 2019

Just because it’s cold out there doesn’t mean you’ll give up keeping fit and active! Winter is the season for some of our favorite team sporting activities, and when you’re donning your protective gear, don’t forget to protect your teeth as well.

  • Basketball

This sport actually tallies one of the highest counts of dental injuries. Running, jumping, and diving for the ball on an unforgiving court can lead to tooth and jaw injuries.  And for every ten men on the floor, it seems like there at least 50 flailing elbows in the paint.

  • Hockey

Notorious for the toll it takes on teeth, hockey is a game of sticks, ice, and whizzing pucks. And when your sport’s penalties include the terms hooking, slashing, and tripping, the more protection, the better.

  • Skiing

When you are flying down the slopes, combining powdery snow and speed, mouth protection is a good idea. This also applies to snowboarding and other snow sports.

  • Wrestling

Grappling and pinning in close quarters can lead to unintended injuries after accidental contact with the mat or your opponent.

Different uniforms, different equipment, and different playing fields, but all these sports have one thing in common—the easiest way to protect your teeth while playing them is with a mouth guard.

Mouthguards generally come in three forms:

  • Over the counter, ready-made appliances. These are available in drugstores and sporting goods stores, but might not be a comfortable fit as they are pre-formed sizes.
  • The “boil-and-bite” option is a mouthguard form placed in hot water. You then bite down to shape it to your mouth and teeth.
  • Custom mouthguards can be fabricated just for you through our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office. These appliances are designed to fit your individual mouth and teeth, so provide a better fit and better protection. They are also usually more durable and more comfortable. If you wear braces, you definitely need a custom mouthguard to prevent an injury to your mouth or braces caused by an ill-fitting appliance.

Whether you play on a team or pursue individual athletic activities, keeping safe as you keep fit is your first priority. We would be happy to discuss your mouthguard options for any sport, any time of year.

Things You Probably Didn’t Know About New Year's Eve

December 26th, 2018

It’s no secret that New Year’s Eve is one of the most widely celebrated holidays in the world. Dr. Gill and our team love it too. It’s a fresh start, another year of surviving the crazy world we live in, a time to refocus on the things we want for ourselves, a celebration with those we love … the list goes on.

Dozens of countries welcome the New Year with over-the-top parties and celebrations. Because it’s a public holiday, many offices, businesses, and schools close for the day. As you think about your plans for this holiday, here are some fun facts about New Year’s that might surprise you!

Can you guess what the most common New Year’s resolutions are? You may already have one or two of these on your own personal list. The top five New Year’s resolutions are: to quit smoking, get a new job, lose weight, increase personal savings, and return to school. Just remember that coming up with a concrete plan to reach your goals is the surest way to achieve your resolutions!

About one million people brave the cold to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York City’s Times Square in person. Yes, that’s one million! This event is one of the most iconic celebrations in the world. People travel from all over just to experience it, but you can watch from the warmth and comfort of your living room.

If you’re not a fan of cabbage, collard greens, black-eyed peas, or ham hocks, you might want to revise your tastes. All these foods are all regarded as lucky fare on New Year’s Day. Unless you’re allergic, of course!

For many people in Mexico and Latin America, eating 12 grapes at midnight is a tradition that brings good luck in the 12 coming months. Most people even make a wish per grape!

Whether you’re celebrating in Fargo, Wahpeton, ND or traveling elsewhere to observe the holiday, New Year’s Eve is a time to enjoy the company of your friends and family. Don’t forget to send warm wishes to your loved ones, and snag a midnight kiss with that special someone if you can!

Snacks that are Healthy for Your Body and Your Braces

December 19th, 2018

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. Gill 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 Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office!

Braces-Friendly School Lunches

December 12th, 2018

If your pre-teen or teenager is home for the summer, it’s easy to provide braces-friendly lunch options. The school lunchroom, though, presents another challenge altogether. What menu selections are most compatible with braces? And what can you put in that lunch box or brown bag to provide a tempting, healthy lunch during school hours? Let’s look at some options!

From the Cafeteria

Encourage your student to stick with soft foods that don’t require biting into. Some good choices include:

  • Soup, either creamy or with soft vegetables
  • Salads without crunchy vegetables or croutons
  • Soft, shredded chicken or beef
  • Egg or tuna salad
  • Tofu
  • Pasta
  • Meatloaf
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Soft casseroles
  • Steamed vegetables
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Soft breads or tortillas

Bringing a Lunch?

There are many great options for packing a lunch bag! Just remember to keep foods at the proper temperature, with insulated containers for hot foods and two cold sources, such as two frozen gel packs, for cold foods.

  • Sandwiches with soft filling (no chunky peanut butter!) on soft bread. Thinly sliced, easy to chew cold cuts will work, but cold cuts like salami are too chewy. Cut the crusts off if necessary. Cutting sandwich wedges into smaller portions will also make them easier to eat.
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Hummus and soft pita wedges
  • String cheese and soft crackers
  • Applesauce
  • Yogurt
  • Soft fruits such as berries or bananas
  • Jell-O or other gelatin dessert cups
  • Pudding cups

When to Say “No, Thank You”

If you have to bite into it, if it’s chewy, or if it’s crunchy, it’s best to choose something else! Here are some common culprits when it comes to broken brackets and wires:

  • Caramel
  • Hard candy
  • Popcorn
  • Whole carrots
  • Whole apples
  • Hard rolls
  • Pizza
  • Corn on the cob

And remember to send your child to school with a brush and floss to clean teeth and braces after lunch. Dental hygiene is very important now, because brackets and wires can both trap food particles and make brushing them away more difficult. This can lead to increased plaque, cavities, and staining around the area of the braces. If it’s impossible to brush, be sure to remind your student to rinse thoroughly with water after eating.

Lunch hour should be a time to relax, get together with friends, and recharge for the rest of the school day. Talk to us about the most (and least) braces-friendly foods and recipes. By learning what foods to avoid and adjusting some old favorites, your school-age child can continue to enjoy healthy, tasty lunches. Most important, visiting Dr. Gill at our Fargo, Wahpeton, ND office for an emergency repair will not be on anyone’s list of afterschool activities!