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Straight Teeth Talk: Orthodontics moves bone instead of teeth

By Mac Lee
April 30, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 29, 2013 at 11:30 p.m.

Expanders fit in the roof of the mouth or sometimes on the lower jaw and can be "cranked," which puts more pressure on the bone, and the bone actually moves.

Crooked teeth in adults and children may be because of the jaws being too small. Imagine taking a room in your house where all of the walls were neatly lined with chairs and small sofas that were touching.

If you were to change the square footage of the room, making it smaller, all of the furniture would be bunched up and crooked instead of straight.

It is the same situation with jaws and teeth. If there is no room for the teeth, they will be bunched up and crooked. No one really knows why jaws don't develop correctly, but the current thought is improper breathing, diet and pollution as a child grows and develops. If a child only breathes through their mouth, the tongue lays low so air can come through.

This is not good because the tongue is needed to form the roof of the mouth and make it a U shape instead of a V shape. The U shape is developed by the tongue pushing on it during normal swallowing.

With today's dental technology, bone can actually be moved and expanded in a way that places the jaws into the right position and the correct size. The key to success is the age of the person who needs the procedure.

If you wanted to have a unique bend or curvature of a tree in your backyard, you would need to start when the tree was a sapling and the same holds true for people.

My granddaughter is 7, and she fits this category. For example, lots of teeth but not much room to put them. She, like most kids her age, think braces are cool. She was all excited when I took her to see Dr. Bob Westbrook, our area board-certified orthodontist.

I do not do orthodontics because I think it is too complicated. Moving teeth and moving bone incorrectly can mess up a bite for a lifetime, as many of you know, so I leave it to the experts like Dr. Westbrook.

What children of this age and condition need is not braces but expanders. These contraptions fit in the roof of the mouth and sometimes on the lower jaw. Once they are in place, they can be "cranked," which puts more pressure on the bone, and the bone actually moves.

My granddaughter loves her expander. Kids are tough and adaptable. After the first week, she got totally used to it and knows how to eat, talk and keep everything clean.

I feel great about it because I know Dr. Westbrook will put everything in its right place and that she will develop the right jaw-to-jaw relationship for the rest of her life.

Here is another reason early intervention is important and downright essential. Symmetry is beauty. The jaws and teeth make up one-third of the face, and if they don't develop correctly, the face will not be symmetrical.

Getting an evaluation for your child earlier can lead to minimal treatment. Most do not have crooked teeth, they just have limited room. We all like big, beautiful smiles - especially at an early age.

Dr. Mac Lee practices in Edna. He is a international speaker to dentists and is an adviser to Dr. Mehmet Oz. To learn more, visit or call 361-782-7191.



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