Early Treatment, Airway & Expanders

Boy Sleeping.

At Lunsford McCaffrey Orthodontics, we believe everyone deserves a beautiful, healthy smile they're proud to show off, and our mission is to help our patients achieve one through quality orthodontic treatment. While most of our patients are teenagers getting braces for the first time or adults receiving orthodontic treatment, we're proud to treat patients of all ages at our West Palm Beach orthodontic practice, and sometimes that means starting treatment early. There are a number of orthodontic conditions and problems that can benefit from interceptive orthodontics, and if your child needs early treatment, we can help.

Sleep Apnea & Children

Diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have been on the rise for at least a decade. But according to a recent study, attention problems like these often aren't caused by an underlying disorder: in many cases, they're caused by a sleep-related breathing disorder (SRBD), like sleep apnea. 

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics in 2012, and it followed more than 11,000 children from the time they were six months old to 6 and a half years old. Compared to children without sleep problems, children with an SRBD were 40% to 100% to develop behavioral problems that resembled ADHD. This means that often, even if your child exhibits the symptoms of ADHD, the problem may not be a mental disorder: it may simply be that your child isn't getting healthy sleep. 

This is because lack of sleep can affect children differently than it affects adults. While sleep deprivation usually makes adults tired and sluggish, it can make children more hyperactive and unable to focus, similar to the symptoms of ADHD. Thankfully, we can provide convenient orthodontic treatments to correct SRBDs and help your child get back to their normal self.

Open Airway

About Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a sleep condition where the soft tissues at the back of the throat, including the tonsils, tongue, or soft palate, collapse during sleep, blocking the airway and interrupting breathing. An individual episode of interrupted breathing is called an apnea, and it will normally cause the brain to wake up the body enough to reopen the airway and resume breathing. The tricky part is that often, the brain doesn't wake up enough for someone to remember the incident, so they have no knowledge of the apnea – but it does interrupt healthy sleep. Extreme cases of sleep apnea can cause apneas to occur up to 60 times per hour, which can rob the sufferer of restful sleep.

Sleep apnea can have a number of common symptoms including snoring, tossing and turning, and behavioral changes during the day. Here are a few of the biggest signs to look for to determine if your child has sleep apnea:

  • Snoring
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Chronic mouth breathing
  • Constant tossing and turning
  • Night panics
  • Bed-wetting

Sleep Apnea Treatment for Children in West Palm Beach

Thankfully, we can offer a variety of treatment options for kids suffering from sleep apnea. The exact treatment that's right for your child depends on their condition, but common treatments include:

  • CPAP: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machines use a mask to deliver mild air pressure during sleep, helping to prop the airway open.
  • Surgery: In some cases, we may opt to surgically remove enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
  • Palatal Expansion: Sometimes using a palatal expander, which can painlessly widen the jaw, can provide relief from sleep apnea.
  • OSA Mouthguards: We can also fit your child with a mouthguard that repositions the lower jaw to prevent the airway from closing.

Every child is different, and our West Palm Beach orthodontist will work with your child to decide on the best treatment for their unique case. But no matter which treatment we recommend, the most important step is to start the process as soon as possible – so if you feel your child may suffer from sleep apnea, reach out to us today.

Treating Childhood Orthodontic Problems

While sleep apnea can be a serious problem, it's not the only reason a child may need early orthodontic treatment. For certain orthodontic malocclusions, the best options for achieving a healthy smile is to start with early orthodontic treatment. And more often than not, our West Palm Beach orthodontists will recommend treatment with a palatal expander in these cases.

Palatal expanders are designed to take advantage of a child's natural growth processes to alleviate orthodontic conditions, helping us provide convenient treatment for conditions that would otherwise require extensive treatment like surgery to treat later in life. Expanders work by creating more space for teeth by widening the upper jaw – a process that, while it may sound unsettling, is remarkably easy and convenient.

During childhood, the left and right halves of the upper jaw are still separate bones and won't join together until adolescence. An expander works by applying a light outward force to each half, influencing them to slowly drift apart and stimulate more bone growth in the middle. Over time, this literally widens the upper jaw, creating more space in the dental arch and solving a number of orthodontic problems.

Palatal expansion can help with a number of childhood orthodontic problems, but the most common conditions it's used to treat include the following:

  • Crowding: Crowding occurs when there isn't enough space in the dental arch to accommodate all the teeth. Palatal expansion creates more room in the jaw and dental arch, giving teeth space to grow in correctly.
  • Impacted Teeth: Tooth impaction occurs when a tooth can't erupt correctly because it's blocked by other teeth. Expansion lets us create enough space for the teeth to grow in straight and free any impacted teeth.
  • Crossbite: Crossbite occurs when the lower back teeth close outside of the upper teeth, but by widening the upper jaw through expansion, we can solve this issue.

Expanding the upper jaw has other benefits: It can broaden the smile in an aesthetically pleasing way, it can limit the number of teeth that need to be removed to create space and can also improve breathing. And it can shorten overall orthodontic treatment time (the amount of time your child will need to wear braces).

How Palatal Expanders Work

How palatal expanders work. Palatal expanders are essentially a mouthpiece that's custom-made to fit over several of the top teeth in the back of the mouth. The expander has two separate halves with a special screw-activated mechanism in the middle. Using a specially-designed key, you'll turn the screw a small amount each day, which will gradually apply pressure to the two halves to the jaw, influencing them to grow outwards and widening the jaw. After we reach the desired amount of expansion, we'll leave the expander in for a few more months to let the bones fill in the gap in the jaw, solidifying the expansion and cementing your child's new smile in place. While treatment varies based on your child's specific condition, the expansion process usually takes 3-6 months in total.

Do Palatal Expanders Hurt?

As with all orthodontic appliances, your child will likely experience some soreness for the first few minutes after turning the key and increasing the expansion – but this is usually mild and doesn't last long. Speaking and eating may be slightly difficult immediately after getting the expander, but as the tongue adjusts over the course of the next week, these problems should fade away. It's also normal for a gap to form between the front teeth as the expansion process unfolds, but have no fear: this merely tells us that the treatment is working, and when all is said and done, your child will have a beautiful smile thanks to the expansion treatment. All in all, palatal expansion is a simple, effective treatment that causes almost no discomfort and helps to prevent costly and uncomfortable treatments later on. 

Schedule a Consultation for Early Orthodontic Treatment in West Palm Beach

While not all children need early or interceptive orthodontics, they can make a dramatic difference on your child's smile and quality of life if they're needed. Contact us today to learn more about our early orthodontic treatments and schedule a consultation to see if they're right for your child. We can't wait to hear from you, and we look forward to helping your child achieve a beautiful, healthy smile in the long run!

Related Articles

Snoring and Sleep Apnea - Dear Doctor Magazine

Sleep Disorders & Dentistry If my partner snores loudly, should I be concerned and what can be done to alleviate the problem? Why does my sleeping partner have lapses in breathing while sleeping and is it dangerous? Why do I wake up exhausted even though I get up to 10 hours of sleep at night? The answers to these and other questions — and how dentistry can help — are all revealed within... Read Article

Narrow palate.A major benefit of receiving orthodontic treatment in childhood is that it's possible to take full advantage of a youngster's own natural growth process to treat or even prevent malocclusions (“bad bites”). A palatal expander is a device designed to help us do that.

Palatal expanders create more space in a child's mouth by gradually widening the upper jaw. Although this may sound scary, it's really quite easy — both to do and to tolerate. That's because the upper jaw (maxilla) actually develops as two separate halves that don't completely fuse together until sometime after puberty. Before that happens, the two bones can gently be separated and stabilized over a period of several months.

The three situations that most commonly call for maxillary expansion are:

Crossbite — When a child's upper jaw is too narrow to fit correctly with the lower jaw, the back top teeth will bite inside of the lower teeth instead of outside. This can be corrected by expanding the upper jaw.

Crowding — Even before all of a child's permanent (adult) teeth come in, we can tell when there will not be enough room to accommodate them. Widening the upper jaw can create the necessary space without the need for tooth extractions.

Impacted Teeth — When a tooth that hasn't come in (erupted) yet because it is blocked by other teeth, widening the upper jaw can allow it to erupt into proper position on its own. This most often happens with canine or eye teeth — the pointier ones located directly under the eyes.

Expanding the upper jaw has other benefits: It can broaden the smile in an aesthetically pleasing way, it can limit the number of teeth that need to be removed to create space and can also improve breathing. And it can shorten overall orthodontic treatment time (the amount of time your child will need to wear braces).

How Expanders Work

How palatal expanders work.

An expander is custom-made for each individual and fits over several top teeth in the back of the mouth. The appliance has two halves that are connected in the middle with a screw. To activate the device, you simply turn the screw a very small amount each day with a special key. This induces tension at the junction of the two palatal bones, causing them to gradually move apart. Once the desired expansion is achieved, we will leave the appliance in for a few more months to allow new bone to form in the gap and stabilize the expansion. Generally, expanders are worn for 3-6 months altogether.

What to Expect

There can be some soreness or a feeling of pressure for a few minutes after the key is turned, but activating an expander actually causes less discomfort than having braces tightened. Your child may find that speaking and eating feels different at first as the tongue adjusts to the presence of the appliance. It is also completely normal to see a gap develop between the front teeth. This shows that the expander is having the desired effect. When all is said and done, your child's permanent teeth will be beautifully aligned with neither too much nor too little space between them.

Related Articles

Palatal Expanders - Dear Doctor Magazine

Palatal Expanders Orthodontics is more than just moving teeth. Orthodontists, with their advanced training in growth and development, have a variety of techniques and appliances besides braces at their disposal to correct bite problems. One of these is the palatal expander, which is used to create more room for an adolescent's permanent teeth. It does so by gently and gradually spreading apart the bones of the palate (roof of the mouth), which don't permanently fuse together until shortly after puberty... Read Article

Early Orthodontic Evaluation - Dear Doctor Magazine

Early Orthodontic Evaluation Early detection of orthodontic problems in young children may make it easier to correct those problems in the long run. Waiting until all of the permanent (adult) teeth have come in, or until facial growth is nearly complete, may make correction of some problems more difficult or even impossible. An early childhood orthodontic evaluation can yield excellent results... Read Article

Orthodontics - Dear Doctor Magazine

The Magic of Orthodontics Proper alignment of the teeth is basic to “Smile Design.” Their position dictates how they work together and affects the way you look and smile. Only orthodontic treatment can move teeth into the right position. Simply put, when things look right, they probably are right. Learn the basics of smile analysis and design and whether the magic of orthodontics will work for you... Read Article

complimentary consultations

Contact Us Today