Palatal Expanders

Narrow palate.The reason it’s recommended that you schedule your child’s first orthodontic appointment by the age of 7, is because at that point, their body is in a state on consistent growth. From growth spurts in their height, to the eruption of their permanent teeth, this age is a key stage in their development, and at Lindsey Orthodontics, we can use that development to help pave the way for a future for your child that’s filled with good health and bright smiles.

One of the ways that we use this stage of natural development is by creating an ideal place for your child’s new, adult teeth to develop. It’s extremely common for the jaw to not have enough space initially to comfortably fit all of the permanent teeth, which results in the development of various bite issues called “malocclusions”, such as teeth crowding or an overbite.  With a palatal expander, we can help guide the growth of the jaw, and create the space that those teeth need to erupt naturally and comfortably.

Why Is A Palatal Expander Necessary?

The main use of a palatal expander is create enough space in the jaw and prevent the development of bite issues, which can lead to more serious dental health issues down the road. The most common bite issues that we work to treat and prevent with palatal expanders 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. 
  • Crowding — Even before all of a child's permanent (adult) teeth come in, we can tell when there will not be enough room to accommodate them. When this happens, the teeth will push up against each other as they erupt, forcing them to come in at varying angles and creating a misaligned smile. 
  • Impacted Teeth — When a tooth that hasn't 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.

Beyond preventing these bite problems, there are other benefits to using palatal expanders to shape the upper jaw.  Broadening the jaw will creating a more natural-looking, aesthetically pleasing smile, can limit the amount of teeth that may need to be removed to make extra space, and can also help improve breathing.  Also, by preventing the development of bite issues, the length of orthodontic treatment that you child receives when they get older will be shorter, meaning less time in braces! 

How Do Palatal Expanders Work?

How palatal expanders work.

When your child’s jaw is still developing, the jaw bone is actually separated into two parts to begin with, and fuses together at a later point sometime after puberty. During this time, we use the palatal expander to expand the jaw bone as much as necessary, to create ideal jaw structure for your child’s development.
The expander itself is a simple orthodontic appliance that is composed of four “bars” that are attached to several of the teeth in the back of the mouth, with the bars meeting in the middle to be connected by a special screw.  To start the expansion, we activate the device by turning the screw with a key, which induces tension at the junction where the two palatal bones meet.  This tension pushes the two halves of the bone apart until the desired expansion is reached.  After that, we leave the appliance in until the new gap in the bone is filled and fuses together.  This process of expansion typically takes about 3 to 6 months.

What to Expect During Treatment

After we turn the key to apply the tension to the jawbone, it is common for your child to feel some soreness or pressure for a few minutes after, but it should fade relatively quickly. Its possible that you child may have some slight difficulty speaking or eating once the appliance is placed, since their tongue needs to adjust to the presence of the appliance.  If you notice that during treatment, a gap is starting to develop in between your child’s front teeth, know that this is completely normal and is a sign that the expander is working as it should.

Schedule An Appointment For Your Child Today!

Early orthodontic treatment using a palatal expander will help prevent your child from developing bite issues, making future treatment easier, and building a better foundation for a healthy smile for the rest of their life. If you have any questions about early orthodontic treatment and palatal expanders, or would like to schedule an appointment with us, just contact us and you’ll be connected to member of our orthodontic staff. We will provide you with all of the information you need, and set up your appointment at either of our Locust Grove or Griffen offices.  We look forward to helping you give your child a healthy, beautiful smile!