One of the significant benefits of availing orthodontic treatments in childhood is that it helps prevent and treat malocclusions (bad bites). A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance that helps in correcting an improper bite. They slowly widen the upper jaw and open up more space in a child's mouth. It becomes possible to make space because the upper jaw develops as two separate halves that don’t entirely fuse until sometime after adolescence. Until then, the two bones can be separated gradually and stabilized over several months.
What Conditions Can Palatal Expanders Treat?
There are several conditions that a palatal expander can correct including:
When a child's upper jaw does not sit correctly with the lower jaw, the back top teeth will bite inside the lower teeth. This can be fixed by expanding the upper jaw.
Overcrowding of teeth in a child's mouth will not leave space to accommodate the adult teeth. Widening the upper jaw will help create the required space and eliminate the need for tooth extractions.
Sometimes a tooth will not have erupted and is still blocked by other teeth. This condition can be corrected by widening the upper jaw to allow for the proper eruption of teeth.
How Do Expanders Work?
An expander is a device that can be customized for specific requirements and fitted over several upper teeth in the back of the mouth. The device has two halves that are joined in the middle with a screw. To activate the device, you have to turn the screw each day with a unique key. This stimulates tension at the point where the two palatal bones are separated, causing them to move apart increasingly. Once the desired expansion is attained, the device still has to be worn for a few more months to encourage the growth of new bone in the gap and stabilize the development. Mostly, expanders are worn for three to six months altogether.
What to Expect During the Procedure?
The child might feel some sensations of pressure or some tenderness for a few minutes after the key is turned, but no more than that. A child may take some time to adjust to speaking and eating with the expanders. It is also entirely normal to see a gap develop between the front teeth. This shows that the expander is doing its function. At the end of the treatment, your child's permanent teeth will be perfectly aligned with appropriate spacing between them.
If you are interested in learning more about palatal expanders, visit our office, Full Smile Orthodontics in 6965 El Camino Real #201, Carlsbad, CA 92009, or call us at (760) 804-0080 and schedule an appointment.