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At What Age Should My Child First See an Orthodontist?

August 26th, 2014

When my wife and I started having children, I became more aware of the value of well checks for growing children. Our first daughter was born five weeks before I started dental school and our second daughter was born during my second year, so I was very engaged in my study of basic and applied health sciences when they were born. Even though I had excelled in courses like organic chemistry, gross anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, immunology, physiology, pharmacology at the same level as my medical colleagues, I was shocked at how much I didn’t know about the growth and development, and care of my infant children.

As all parents know (and lament), children don’t come with a specific training guide or owner’s manual despite their individual uniqueness. Thanks to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines for “well child visits” (1) we felt much more educated about our childrens’ developmental stages and how to keep them healthy.

Likewise, as an orthodontist, I am frequently asked “at what age should I be taking my child to see the orthodontist for the first time?” Applying the same principle of preventative care, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) recommends that all children have a check-up with an orthodontic specialist no later than age 7. (2) Most children don’t require any kind of active treatment at this young age, so what is so magical about being 7 years old?

By age 7, most children have four permanent molars and between four and eight permanent front teeth (incisors) establishing their adult biting and chewing relationships. By seeing patients at this early age, an orthodontist like me can catch and help correct poor oral habits that may result in long-term jaw problems. It is also a good age to identify skeletal mismatches between the jaws, allowing problems that could only be corrected surgically later to be corrected orthopedically instead.

Most often at McAllister Orthodontics, these complimentary growth and development exams simply educate parents and their kids about the growth of their teeth and jaws and what to expect from future development. They also provide a fun and positive experience in a doctor’s office for kids who frequently associate the doctor or the dentist with shots. One of the greatest benefits from these check-ups is the peace of mind that parents feel, knowing that a specialist is monitoring their child’s individual growth to help them know the precise time to begin active treatment, and creating an individualized treatment plan that will provide the very best smile for their child.

So, don’t delay! If you have a child who has started to get permanent teeth in the front and back, call our Omaha (402-392-1516) or Fremont (402-721-5257) offices and schedule a complimentary consultation today, and join our 7&Up Club! No referral is necessary. As a parent of young children myself, there is nothing that brings me more peace of mind than knowing a specialist is helping me monitor their growth and health. Let me help you have that same peace of mind with my individualized orthodontic well-checks!

1) http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/health-management/Pages/Well-Child-Care-A-Check-Up-for-Success.aspx

2) http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/when-to-see-orthodontist?page=2

Ice Buckets and Braces

August 15th, 2014

Although it has been the coolest summer in recent memory for a large portion of the U.S., the internet has been flooded (pun intended) the last few weeks with videos of people pouring buckets of ice-cold water on themselves. The Wall Street Journal reports the origin of this viral internet phenomenon:

“The so-called ice-bucket challenge—dump ice water on yourself, post and tag yourself on social media and challenge others to do the same—got its start among golfers as a way to support pet charities.

In just a few weeks, it has become a major fundraising coup for patients and organizations with ALS, a neurodegenerative disorder. It is commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease, after the baseball player who had it.” (1)

The article goes on to explain how social media transformed a dare between golfers into an incredible campaign to raise awareness for a terrible disease.

This viral phenomenon and the Wall Street Journal article got me thinking about my personal connection to ALS. In my first year of dental school, my parents dropped a bombshell on my siblings and me. My father had noticed that one of his feet wasn’t functioning properly when he walked and he thought it was a result of a tumble he took while on a hike with the scouts, so he went to see the doctor to make sure he hadn’t broken anything. After extensive testing, he was told that the fall hadn’t caused his foot problem, but rather his foot problem had likely caused the fall. He was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), an as yet incurable neurodegenerative disease that at the time was almost universally fatal in an average of two years from diagnosis.

What is horrific about this disease isn’t just that it is fatal, but that it steadily destroys coordination and muscular function, paralyzing its victims in stages until they can no longer perform even the most basic functions, including swallowing and breathing. In its excellent explanation of the degenerative stages of ALS, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) explains that

“The vast majority of deaths in ALS are the result of respiratory failure, a process that progresses slowly over months. Medications can relieve discomfort, anxiety and fear caused by respiratory insufficiency.” (2)

I don’t know about you, but the idea of slowly, involuntarily suffocating while maintaining full mental acuity and consciousness, while also being completely powerless to improve is terrifying to me! And I clearly remember the absolute anguish and horror I felt at the prospect of watching someone I love so much suffer so horrifically. My heart goes out to those who struggle to live with ALS and the care givers who love them and sacrifice so much for them. Ultimately, through miracles performed by a merciful God, my father is still with us. His diagnosis has been changed by baffled doctors, although he has experienced some of the same symptoms over a longer period of time.

So, what do “Ice Bucket Challenges” and ALS have to do with braces? Excellent question. The answer is “perspective.” Every day I am blessed to help people overcome challenges like dysfunctional bites, poorly positioned teeth and jaw problems to improve the appearance and function of their smiles. However, when we take a moment to consider the suffering and challenges faced by others, frequently our challenges seem small. This is an orthodontic blog, but because of my personal brush with ALS, I couldn’t let the chance pass to remind myself how blessed I am to still have my dad. I couldn’t let the chance pass to express my gratitude that I have a body that functions properly; that I can choose to smile, and my facial muscles will perform as directed. I also couldn’t let the chance pass to put the Ice Bucket Challenge to its greatest use, to draw attention to and educate about the plight of approximately 30,000 Americans every year, of whom 80% will die in less than 5 years from a terrible disease. (3)

Today, I invite all my patients to join me in taking a moment to count their blessings. Then, join me in using the time, effort and money you could have spent performing your own social media “Ice Bucket Challenge” to advocate, participate, volunteer or donate to help those who suffer from ALS in our own community. I invite you to stay warm and dry, and check out ALS in the Heartland’s website (http://www.alsintheheartland.org/support-us/) for more information about what you and I can do to help our suffering neighbors smile a little brighter today.

1. Reddy, Sumathi “How the Ice-Bucket Challenge Got Its Start” The Wall Street Journal, Aug 14, 2014 (accessed online at http://online.wsj.com/articles/how-the-ice-bucket-challenge-got-its-start-1408049557)
2. (http://mda.org/disease/amyotrophic-lateral-sclerosis/signs-and-symptoms/stages-of-als)
3. http://www.alsa.org/about-als/facts-you-should-know.html

What is an Orthodontist anyway?

August 8th, 2014

When the time comes to decide where to go for a consultation about improving your smile in the greater Omaha metropolitan area, a quick Google search will reveal you have lots of options. As you scroll through the possibilities you will see that some of the doctors offering braces or Invisalign ® mention they are specialists or orthodontists and some do not.   So what is the difference, and what difference does it make?


My Life. My Smile. My Orthodontist.

Orthodontists complete 10 or more years of education after high school in order to be adequately prepared and qualified to diagnose and effectively manage tooth movement and facial development. After completing the same university classes that are prerequisite to attend medical school, future orthodontists first become dentists, completing the same rigorous four years of dental school that your primary care dentist completed. After dental school, acceptance in an orthodontic residency is very competitive. Out of every 100 graduating dentists, only six have the privilege of acceptance in an orthodontic residency program. Then, only after successfully completing 2-3 years of focused post-graduate residency and the attendant testing and licensing processes required by individual states can a dentist qualify to become an orthodontist.


Although orthodontists have successfully completed training in the broad scope of general dental care including (but not limited to) identifying and removing decay, restoring teeth with fillings, veneers, crowns and bridges, performing root canals, extracting teeth and providing deep cleaning for periodontally compromised teeth, they choose to limit the scope of their practice to orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. The American Association of Orthodontists recently published a document that succinctly describes an orthodontist.

"Orthodontists are uniquely qualified in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of orthodontic problems. They dedicate their professional lives to creating healthy, beautiful smiles in children, teens and adults. Well-aligned teeth are more than attractive: they make it possible to bite, chew and speak effectively. Orthodontic care is often part of a comprehensive oral health plan.

Orthodontists use a variety of “appliances,” including braces, clear aligner trays and retainers, to move teeth or hold them in their new positions. Because of orthodontists’ advanced education and clinical experience, they have the knowledge and skills necessary to recommend the best kind of appliance to meet every individual patient’s treatment goals."


Dr. Paul McAllister completed 12 years of formal education after high school, earning a bachelor's degree at Brigham Young University and completing post-graduate work at Arizona State University prior to earning his doctorate of medical dentistry (DMD) at Oregon Health and Science University. He then completed a 30 month orthodontic residency at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. McAllister is dedicated to constant improvement through perpetual formal continuing education and active participation in local and national study clubs. He even uses some of his vacation time to travel to the offices of outstanding orthodontists around the country to observe and learn from them so he can improve his skills and offer the very best to his patients in Nebraska.

Braces and clear aligners are tools that can legally be used by anyone with a dental license. However, just like not everyone who uses a hammer or a saw is an accomplished finish carpenter, it is important to find a specialist with the training, skill, experience and sincere interest in helping you achieve your goals.

At McAllister Orthodontics, with locations in Omaha and Fremont, Nebraska, Dr. McAllister and his compassionate and well-trained staff are excited to meet you and help you achieve the beautiful smile you have always wanted. Learn more about the McAllister Ortho team at www.mcallisterortho.com, and call 402-392-1516 today to schedule your complimentary consultation with Dr. McAllister. We love to see you smile!

A Helpful Site on Orthodontics

July 31st, 2014

As you are undergoing orthodontic treatment, our team at McAllister Orthodontics would like to point you to a helpful website. Our friends at the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) have lots of important information about everything relating to braces, including myths and facts of orthodontics, tips for a better orthodontic experience, and cool webisodes about orthodontics.

Check out AAO today and feel free to contact us at our Omaha or Fremont, NE office if you have any questions.

Dr. Paul McAllister and our team at McAllister Orthodontics hope this information helps you!

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