Sometimes a person’s jaw is not big enough to allow the teeth to come in properly, which can create problems such as incorrect bites. If the jaw size isn’t corrected in time, it can require serious orthodontic treatment in the future. Palatal expanders provide a way to correct children’s jaws while they are still growing.
What is a palatal expander?
An orthodontist attaches a palatal expender in the roof of the patient’s mouth to widen the palate so that the jaws fit together correctly. The expander works over time to separate the two halves of the upper jaw to create a wider distance between them. To be effective, the palatal expander must be worn before the median suture of the jaws close together.
Why is it necessary?
A typical result of an untreated jaw formation is a cross bite, which often leads to problems with the temperomandibular joint, abnormal wear on teeth, and receding gums. Wearing a palatal expander prepares the mouth for additional orthodontic correction like braces, and makes room for permanent teeth and less crowding within jaws that are too small.
What is the process like?
To activate the expander, a small key-like device must be turned in the appliance. A parent or other adult should turn the key as instructed by the orthodontist, usually once a day until the desired expansion has occurred. Most patients wear the expander for three to six months. Although it works by putting pressure on the teeth, it is usually not painful. During wear, patients should avoid sticky or hard foods and brush their teeth carefully.
When is it effective?
Remember, palatal expanders only work while the jaw is still growing. Parents should monitor their child’s mouth for growth, and maintain regular dental checkups to identify problems early. If this problem isn’t treated during youth, it can mean painful and extensive procedures as an adult.