Childhood is an ideal time for having playdates, going for bike rides, enjoying snow days and–surprise–getting a palatal expander! By widening your child’s upper jaw, this device corrects overcrowding, improves breathing, reduces the need for extractions and treats many other issues. At Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX, we help many kids get better orthodontic health with the use of palatal expanders.
The best time for a person to get this device is during childhood when the bones and tissue are still developing. At this stage, the jaw is malleable and responds well to treatment. Read on, and we’ll explain how palatal expanders are used and why having one is a good idea.
What Are Palatal Expanders?
These orthodontic devices are used to widen the upper jaw in patients who need more space in their mouths and for their teeth. There are several issues that can improve with the use of one of these devices, including:
- Crooked teeth
- Impacted teeth
- Breathing problems
How Do They Work?
When we fit your child with one of these devices, we attach it to the back molars on each side. A bar in the middle joins the two parts with a screw. You will receive a special orthodontic key that you should use to turn the screw periodically. This will widen the device, which in turn expands the jaw. Once the two parts of the jaw are in their new positions, more bone develops to fill the space in between. This new bone keeps them in place after the device is removed.
This process is relatively straightforward in children for two reasons. First, the jaw develops in two separate halves, making it possible to create space without significant discomfort. Second, these halves are not set until puberty.
The Benefits of Getting Your Child a Palatal Expander
It Prepares Your Child for Braces
Most children who have this device get braces later on. Braces are among the most effective, time-tested ways to treat crooked teeth. However, they only work if there is space for the teeth to move. If your child’s jaw is too small to accommodate correct alignment, we can use this device to create more space. Doing so will allow the braces to do their job, paving the way for orthodontic success in the teen years.
It Can Reduce the Duration and Cost of Braces
Not only are braces more effective after your child has this device, but they can also work faster. This means fewer appointments and less overall cost.
It Reduces the Need for Extractions
Another way to make room for braces to work is with extractions. However, no one looks forward to getting a tooth pulled. This device can help your child’s jaw accommodate all of his or her teeth. In many cases, it eliminates the need for extractions entirely.
It Helps Adult Teeth Erupt Correctly
When used in children who do not have all of their adult teeth, this device can solve the problem of misalignment before it starts. When your child’s teeth have enough space to line up correctly, they are less likely to be crooked when they emerge.
It Relieves Impacted Teeth
Sometimes, overcrowding in the jaw prevents some adult teeth from coming to the surface. When they become trapped in the gums, they are referred to as impacted teeth. This device can give them the space to erupt freely.
It Can Help Your Child Avoid Other Treatments
Left untreated, overcrowding, misalignment, and impacted teeth can require extensive orthodontic procedures and even surgery. Getting your child a palatal expander can eliminate or reduce the need for such measures. This will save money, time, and discomfort.
It Can Treat Crossbites of the Back Teeth
Crossbites occur when the top teeth and the bottom teeth do not match up. As a result, the problematic bite can force your child to choose one side for chewing, which sometimes causes the jaw to become permanently asymmetrical. By creating space for the upper and lower parts of the jaw to fit together, this device can help correct the bite. It is especially effective in situations where the lower jaw is too wide for the upper jaw.
It Prevents Wear of the Tooth Enamel
Crossbites and improper alignment can cause certain teeth to rub against each other when your child is talking or chewing. This can cause damage to the tooth enamel, which serves as a protective coating. By promoting straighter teeth and correcting the bite, this device can eliminate enamel damage.
It Improves Hygiene
One consequence of overcrowding is that certain teeth start to overlap one another. When this happens, plaque can build up. Removing it is difficult because the overlapping areas are difficult to access with a toothbrush. By relieving overcrowding, this device can make it easier for your child to brush all of his or her teeth. Having good hygiene will help prevent chronic conditions like gum disease and bad breath. The benefits last a lifetime.
It Can Help Your Child Breathe
Does your child breathe heavily through his or her mouth? This could be a sign that the nasal passages are not wide enough. If left untreated, mouth-breathing can cause dry mouth, chronic bad breath, and frequent infections.
A palatal expander can help release obstructed nasal passages by making more space in the jaw, which in turn expands the airways. This allows your child to breathe more easily through his or her nose. In addition to making your child more comfortable during the day, nose-breathing can improve snoring, teeth grinding and sleep apnea at night.
It Can Widen Your Child’s Smile
Children who have small jaws often have narrow profiles that affect their appearance. In addition to having health benefits, this device can improve the aesthetics of your child’s smile by widening it.
It Improves Confidence
By paving the way for straight teeth, this device can have a positive impact on your child’s self-esteem with benefits that last a lifetime. Your child should never feel embarrassed about his or her teeth when smiling for photographs or meeting people for the first time. A beautiful smile will help him or her feel attractive on special occasions, during job interviews, and on an everyday basis. It’s a wonderful gift to give.
It Treats Your Child’s Unique Needs
Palatal expanders are customized for each patient. We will fit the device according to the shape of your child’s mouth and remove it once the desired improvements are achieved.
Frequently Asked Questions About Palatal Expanders
How Old Should a Person Be to Have This Device?
This device is most effective in patients under the age of 16. Generally, the earlier we start the better, although we cannot treat children younger than 5. This device usually falls into the category of Early Orthodontics, otherwise known as Early Treatment. The purpose of Early Treatment is to:
- Correct existing orthodontic problems
- Reduce the need for extensive treatment in the teen years
- Address development problems while the jaw is still mailable
- Encourage adult teeth to erupt in a healthy way
We recommend that you schedule a screening for your child at the age of 5. Not all children need Early Orthodontics, but running an examination will let us know how and when to best treat your child.
How Long Will My Child Have a Palatal Expander?
Compared to other orthodontic treatments, this one is pretty fast. The amount of time needed varies from patient to patient, but most children have the device for 3-9 months. There are two parts to this treatment: an active phase and a passive phase. In the active phase, you will use a key we provide to turn the screw and create pressure on the molars. This pressure gradually widens the jaw.
Once enough space has been created, we move to the passive phase that encompasses the last few months of the treatment. During this time, the device does not need to be widened. It merely stays in your child’s mouth to ensure that the jaw does not return to its original width.
What Is the Best Way to Clean Palatal Expanders?
When your child has this device, you should help him or her brush thoroughly with a fluoride toothpaste. As with any form of Early Treatment, it helps to rinse the mouth with water before brushing. After, apply the toothbrush directly to the device. Doing so will prevent the accumulation of plaque and keep your child’s mouth healthy. Be sure to help your child floss every day. Anti-bacterial fluoride mouthwash can also be used.
Does My Child Need to Avoid Any Foods During This Treatment?
It’s a good idea to stay away from foods that are hard or chewy because they might dislodge the device. Taffy, chewing gum, uncooked carrots, and apples are best to avoid. We will give you detailed care instructions including food choices when you come in for a consultation.
How Can I Help My Child Prepare for This Treatment?
Help your child understand the importance of this device by having a conversation. Let him or her know that healthy teeth are a source of pride. Orthodontic treatments like this one are an excellent opportunity to teach your child about the importance of caring for one’s dental health.
Some parents help their children see the process in a positive way by selecting a reward to be earned at the end of the treatment. Smaller rewards can be given on a weekly basis for proper brushing.
Schedule a Consultation
For more information about this treatment, schedule a consultation with us. We will examine the current condition of your child’s teeth, including doing some X-rays. The best time to bring your child in for an initial examination is when he or she is around 5 years of age. From there, we can make a plan that will promote healthy teeth for life.
The consultation is a great time for you to check out our practice and ask any questions you might have. We encourage your child to ask questions also so that everyone is comfortable. We look forward to meeting your family in person. Together, we will begin the journey towards a beautiful smile.
Make Room for Orthodontic Health
Early orthodontic treatments like the palatal expander can help your child develop healthy, properly aligned teeth. If overcrowding is an issue, the expander can make more space without the need for extractions. Straight teeth and a healthy bite mean fewer dental issues and relief from many chronic conditions. Best of all, orthodontic treatments today are faster, more effective, and more comfortable than ever before.
For more information about this treatment, contact us at Ragan Orthodontics in Dallas, TX. Our goal is to give you and your family the best possible orthodontic care.