Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Orthodontic Journey Begins

I'm the mother of an almost-teenager.

I know, Lily's only 11 (for 6 more weeks), but I think when you start seeing the orthodontist that means you're pretty dang close to being a teenager!

I've always been of the philosophy that you should not get braces early, that starting too young just sets you up for having to wear braces twice. I didn't get braces until I was in 10th grade. A year earlier would have been nice, then I could've had my junior and senior years braces free. But no big deal. High school is the time for braces.

About a year ago, when Lily's dentist began suggesting we have a consultation with an orthodontist, I was like, "Maybe in a couple of years." But he continued to suggest it and the hygienist said that sometimes you can prevent further complications by finding out if there are other non-braces treatments that need to be done first to get the jaw ready for braces. I conceded to have a consultation just see what the orthodontist said, fully expecting to wait a couple of years before braces.

The orthodontist said that Lily's upper jaw is too narrow, which surprised me because she has all those gaps. But she has two peg laterals (the ones adjacent to the top front teeth are small) and that is what's giving her the extra space. She has a crossbite where one side of her top teeth align properly with the bottom teeth, but the other top side sits inside of the bottom teeth.

{San Diego, July 2013}

In order to correct this crossbite, the roof of her mouth needs to be widened with a palate expander.

She would need to wear the expander for 3-6 months, then get braces on.

Lily was so excited by the news. She has been wanting braces for awhile because her jaw hurts sometimes and she is always biting her cheek because of the crossbite. But mom wanted a second opinion. ;)

My friend Karla highly recommended her orthodontist, Dr. Johnson, as one who is adamant about not putting braces on too early. He is most interested in correcting the jaw, not just aligning the teeth. So we went to see him and his suggested the same treatment plan as the first orthodontist. When I asked him about Lily's age, he explained that girls' palates fuse together earlier than boys' do, so it's best not to wait. The palate bone has a suture down the middle which is not fused together until approx. age 13 in girls and 15 in boys.

The bones have a finger-like structure and if you begin early enough, the bones can be spread apart and the "fingers" grow back together at a surprisingly rapid rate. But once the bones fuse together permanently, you have to do jaw surgery.

Lily has one baby tooth, a molar, left on the top that will need to fall out before she gets her braces on, but she will need to wear the palate expander for at least 3 months. The tooth should come out by then and if not, they will pull it. The opposite molar on the other side of her mouth as been in for a year, so it's possible this one might have some sort of problem that is keeping it from descending, so it might need to be pulled anyway.

We went into Dr. Johnson's office last Friday to have the palate expander put in. Two weeks earlier Dr. Johnson inserted some rubber bands on either side of the teeth where the expander would go. This was to create a little space around the teeth. All the rubber bands fell out by the time we went back. The expander was inserted around the teeth and pushed in with a little tool that Lily bit down on.

Then it was glued in.

Groovy, no?

See the little straight hook looking thing with the rubber string attached? That's the key/tool Lily uses to turn the screw inside of the expander twice a day.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I looked in Lily's mouth the day after she had the expander put in. Her teeth had already moved! I meant to take a good before picture of her smile, but I forgot and figured I could do it the next day. Too late!

Here's what her front gap looked like the day of installation:

And the next morning it looked like this:

It had opened up to a bigger triangle.


Many kids with palate expanders have their front two teeth spread into a huge gap and as the palate bones grow back together, the gap closes again. I have the feeling that Lily is going to have some serious Bubba teeth in a couple of weeks! She goes back in two weeks and depending on how things are progressing she may need to continue turning the key twice a day, or Dr. Johnson may have her leave it where it is for the next 3ish months.

The first couple of days were no big deal, but now Lily's mouth is starting to hurt and we're keeping her on regular doses of ibuprofen. Unfortunately, Lily (and everyone else except me) has had a nasty chest cold for several days and has been grossing us all out when she coughs and gets phlegm stuck in the appliance. Gross.

It's been amusing listening to her figure out how to talk with that thing in her mouth.

Good times!


The Dragonfly said...

I can really tell her top arch is too narrow in that last picture! Chris Lee had the same thing done. Hannah gets her braces off in two weeks! Totally worth it for their self esteem and to prevent jaw/ bite issues down the road!

Manina said...

Megan went through this exact procedure last year. She is expected to get her braces late this and expensive times! :)

Merle Wells said...

Wow! It’s nice that you were able to start Lily's orthodontic journey quite early, so as to fix and avoid any unwanted dental growth in the future. Most especially since she is approaching puberty anytime soon, I think fixing her teeth will give her confidence a positive boost. I'm wishing her all the best! :D
Merle Wells @ Gillum Dentistry