Palatal Expanders

Narrow palate.The main benefit of orthodontic treatment in childhood is that your Youngsville orthodontists can take full advantage of your child's natural growth process to treat or even prevent bad bites, also known as malocclusions. A palatal expander is a device designed to help with correcting bite issues.

Palatal expanders create more space in a child's mouth by gradually widening the upper jaw. Although this may sound scary, it's relatively easy — both to do and to tolerate. That's because the upper jaw (maxilla) develops as two separate halves that don't completely fuse until sometime after puberty. Before that happens, the two bones can be gently separated and stabilized over several months to expand the upper jaw.

Conditions Requiring a Palatal Expander

The three situations that most commonly call for jaw expansion are when:

  • Crossbite — A child's upper jaw is too narrow to fit correctly with the lower jaw causing the back top teeth to bite inside the lower teeth instead of outside.
  • Crowding — There is not enough room to accommodate the child's incoming permanent teeth. The expander can widen the upper jaw to create the necessary space without the need for tooth extractions.
  • Impacted Teeth — A tooth won't come in (erupt) because it is blocked by other teeth. Widening the upper jaw will allow the tooth to erupt into the proper position on its own. This typically happens with canine or eye teeth — the pointy teeth located directly under the eyes.

Expanding the upper jaw also has other benefits. It can broaden the smile in an aesthetically pleasing way, limit the number of teeth that need to be removed to create space, improve breathing, and, it can shorten orthodontic treatment time, such as the amount of time your child will need to wear braces.

How Palatal Expanders Work

How palatal 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, the screw is turned a small amount each day with a special key. By doing this, tension is created at the junction of the two palatal bones, causing them to move apart gradually. Once the desired expansion is achieved, the appliance is worn for a few more months to allow new bone to form in the gap and stabilize the expansion. Generally, expanders are worn for 3-6 months altogether.

What to Expect with a Palatal Expander

There can be some soreness or a feeling of pressure for a few minutes after turning the key, 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 working to achieve the desired effect. After treatment, your child's permanent teeth will be beautifully aligned.

Contact Your Youngsville Orthodontists Today!

If you have any questions about palatal expanders or you'd like to make an appointment, contact us. We are happy to help in any way we can. At Oubre Orthodontics, we specialize in a variety of orthodontic services. From metal braces to Invisalign to orthognathic surgery, our expert treatments have helped countless patients achieve beautiful smiles. Let our leading orthodontist help you achieve a beautiful and healthy smile.

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