Modern orthodontists often try to take advantage of a child’s growth processes in order to correct or prevent bite problems which are more properly known as malocclusions. In some cases, they will give the child a palatal expander.
What is a palatal expander?
A palatal expander is a device designed to widen the upper jaw in order to make more space in a child’s mouth for their adult teeth.
This is less painful than it sounds, for the upper jaw actually develops as two separate halves.
Since the halves don’t fuse until sometime after puberty, the upper jawbones can be gently manipulated until then.
Palatal expanders are most commonly prescribed in cases of crossbite, crowding or impacted teeth, which are all caused by an unduly small or narrow upper jaw.
In a crossbite, the upper molars bite inside the lower molars rather than outside the lower molar molars. In crowding, the jaw simply isn’t big enough to accommodate all of the teeth. In the old days, the only way to correct this problem was to pull some teeth.
An impacted tooth is one that can’t erupt or grow into its proper place because other teeth are blocking it. A narrow upper jaw can also make it hard to breathe through the nose which forces the child to breathe through their mouth.
Mouth-breathing can cause dry mouth and halitosis, and it exposes the child to unfiltered bacteria.
Expansion of the upper jaw is most successful if the patient is no older than 16. Crossbites, which can damage the lower jaw, need to be dealt with as soon as possible, but even these should not be treated until the patient is at least five years old.
How does the palatal expander work?
Palatal expanders are custom-made, and they fit over some of the back teeth in the upper jaw. They have two halves that are connected. The expander gradually forces the two halves of the jawbone to move apart.
The expander will be left in place after the desired width has been reached to let new bone grow into the gap and make the expansion permanent.
Contact Us Today
It’s possible for anyone to develop bite problems. Don’t wait until it’s too late to help your child. Contact Ragan Orthodontics today to schedule an appointment and see if palatal expanders will be beneficial for your child’s needs.
Our practice is dedicated to helping patients get the smile they deserve and we offer braces, Invisalign®, and other services and products to accomplish this goal.