At McCaffrey Orthodontics - West Palm Beach, we believe everyone deserves a beautiful, healthy smile that they are 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 are proud to treat patients of all ages at our orthodontic practice, and sometimes that means starting treatment early. There are several 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. However, according to a recent study, attention problems like these often are not caused by an underlying disorder. In many cases, they are 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 six and a half years old. Compared to children without sleep problems, children with an SRBD were 40% to 100% more likely 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 is not 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, like the symptoms of ADHD. Thankfully, we can provide convenient orthodontic treatments to correct SRBDs and help your child get back to their normal self.

About Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) 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 does not 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 is 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 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 is 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, we 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. This helps 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 will not join 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 several orthodontic problems.

Palatal expansion can help with multiple childhood orthodontic problems, but the most common conditions it is used to treat include the following:

  • Crowding: Crowding occurs when there is not 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 cannot erupt correctly because it is 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. It can shorten overall orthodontic treatment time (the amount of time your child will need to wear braces).

How Palatal Expanders Work?

Palatal expanders are essentially a mouthpiece that are 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 will 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 will 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 three to six 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. However, this is usually mild and does not 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 is 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 in life.

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 treatment is needed. Contact us today at 561-363-0324 to learn more about our early orthodontic treatments and schedule a consultation with Dr. Kevin McCaffrey to see if they are right for your child. We cannot wait to hear from you, and we look forward to helping your child achieve a beautiful, healthy smile in the long run with early treatment in West Palm Beach, Florida!

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A major benefit of receiving orthodontic treatment in childhood is that it is 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 is quite easy — both to do and to tolerate. That is because the upper jaw (maxilla) develops as two separate halves that do not 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 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 has not 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. It can also shorten overall orthodontic treatment time (the amount of time your child will need to wear braces).

How 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 three to six 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 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.