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At what age should my child have an orthodontic evaluation?

March 20th, 2019

You may have noticed that kids seem to be getting braces and other orthodontic care a lot earlier these days. There was a time, only a decade or two ago, when braces were mainly seen on teenagers, but that is beginning to change. If you’re wondering when to bring your child to our McAllen office for an orthodontic evaluation, the answer actually has several parts.

The Telltale Signs

If your child has a very crowded set of adult teeth coming in, or if the permanent front teeth came in very early, these are signs that your child should see Dr. Joel Martinez, Dr. Christopher Martinez, and Dr. Vanessa Martinez, regardless of age.

The Dental Age

Barring signs of trouble or early adult teeth as mentioned above, the time that your child needs to be seen for initial orthodontic evaluation depends not so much upon your child’s actual age, but on what is known as a “dental age.”

The dental age of the patient might be entirely different from his or her actual chronological age; for example, an eight-year-old could have a dental age of 13. It is part of Dr. Joel Martinez, Dr. Christopher Martinez, and Dr. Vanessa Martinez and our staff’s job to determine the dental age and then make appropriate recommendations for the resolution of orthodontic issues if they are emerging.

The Official Recommended Age

The American Association of Orthodontists officially recommends that kids should see an orthodontist for the first time between the ages of seven and nine. Even if the child does not have all his or her permanent teeth, the teeth growth pattern can usually be predicted quite effectively by an orthodontist.

This allows for a proactive response to emerging problems, and this is the reason that some younger children are now getting orthodontic devices earlier in life. If a young child has serious orthodontic issues emerging, Dr. Joel Martinez, Dr. Christopher Martinez, and Dr. Vanessa Martinez can usually address the problems immediately and then follow up with another round of treatment when the child has all the adult teeth.

What is a palatal expander?

March 13th, 2019

Orthodontists like Dr. Joel Martinez, Dr. Christopher Martinez, and Dr. Vanessa Martinez 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 McAllen 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. Joel Martinez, Dr. Christopher Martinez, and Dr. Vanessa Martinez 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.

Five Reasons for Your Bad Breath

March 6th, 2019

Bad breath, or halitosis, is probably not a matter of life or death. But it can make you feel self-conscious and have a negative impact on your life. The majority of people suffering from bad breath are dealing with oral bacterial. However, there are other causes of this embarrassing problem. Learning more can help you fight this solvable problem.

Five Causes of Embarrassingly Bad Breath

  1. Dry Mouth. A decrease in saliva flow can be caused by several things. Most often, medication or mouth breathing are the culprits. As saliva helps wash away food particles from your mouth, it prevents bad breath. Dry mouth can be dealt with by stimulating salivation.
  2. Gum Disease and Poor Oral Hygiene. Not brushing and flossing well enough or with enough frequency can lead to gum disease, which leads to bad breath. Halitosis can be a sign that plaque is present on your teeth.
  3. Food-Related Bad Breath. Food particles that aren't brushed or flossed away attract bacteria that leads to bad breath. It's especially important to brush after eating strong-smelling foods, such as garlic or onions.
  4. Smoking and Tobacco. Tobacco is bad for your health, and that includes your oral health. Smoking or chewing tobacco can contribute toward the development of gum disease, as well as oral cancer.
  5. Mouth Infections and Other Medical Problems. A mouth infection, sinus infection or even the common cold can cause you to temporarily have bad breath. Even conditions such as diabetes and reflux can cause halitosis. It's always wise to see Dr. Joel Martinez, Dr. Christopher Martinez, and Dr. Vanessa Martinez to help determine the cause.

We are Your Ally

Even if you maintain good oral hygiene, it's important to see Dr. Joel Martinez, Dr. Christopher Martinez, and Dr. Vanessa Martinez at our McAllen office to deal with or avoid problems with bad breath. We can help you uncover the cause of halitosis, while also providing solutions that allow you to enjoy fresh breath without relying on mints and breath fresheners. As is the case with all things related to oral health, we are your number-one ally when it comes to eliminating the problem of bad breath.

Dangers of DIY Orthodontics on the Internet

February 27th, 2019

All over the Internet you'll find videos and articles showing how you can close the gap between teeth or space them out. There is a plethora of DIY orthodontic techniques out there — you can even mail order your own impressions to get clear aligners, without even seeing a dentist or orthodontist. Following the instructions laid out in these videos and articles (by people who have zero training in orthodontics) is about the worst decision you can make for your overall oral health.

Performing DIY or at-home orthodontia can lead to or cause:

  • Loss of teeth
  • Infection
  • Cavities or infections that are missed or undiagnosed
  • Gum damage

Dr. Christina Carter, president of the Northeastern Society of Orthodontists, says that DIY orthodontics can have terrible consequences. She spoke to TODAY about closing gaps between teeth using rubber bands or elastics:

"The teeth are connected to the gums and the blood supply and there is a risk of infection, of tearing the gums which might not heal properly, and a risk of damaging the attachment between the tooth and gums so the tooth no longer gets the support it needs." She also noted, "A simple rubber band can actually slide up the tooth and cut all the attachments to it and you can actually lose a tooth."

One of the worst parts about DIY orthodontics is that you never consult with a trained orthodontist, so you're really operating on a dangerous lack of information. It's best not to risk damage to your teeth or infection. Let Dr. Joel Martinez, Dr. Christopher Martinez, and Dr. Vanessa Martinez know what you want to accomplish with your teeth and we will help you find the safest and most cost-effective way to achieve it.

Dr. Joel Martinez, Dr. Christopher Martinez, and Dr. Vanessa Martinez want you to be informed and practical about your oral health. Should you have any questions about orthodontic treatment options, please do not hesitate to give us a call at our convenient McAllen office.

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