Palatal Expander – What You Need To Know About Upper Jaw Expansion
Through a preventative approach known as interceptive orthodontics, the dental and oral outlook for young children can benefit from orthodontic treatment. At the age of 6 or 7, your child’s teeth are still in the development stages and their jaw isn’t fully matured. So, issues like bad bites and teeth crowding can be addressed easily. This is where a palatal expander (an orthodontic appliance also called an orthodontic expander) can help.
What is a Palatal Expander?
The roof of the mouth is also called the palate. So, a palate expander is used to expand the upper part of the mouth. This device is designed in a way that can benefit children who are still in their growing stages to remedy orthodontic or dental problems.
With the help of the dental expander, the doctor will gradually widen the upper jaw to create more space in the mouth of your child. You don’t have to be scared of the process because the experience is not as painful as you think. The process is gradual to make the experience tolerable.
Orthodontists recommend the upper jaw expander to help young people who are still growing so they do not end up with dental conditions like a malocclusion when they become fully grown. These mouth expanders can also make orthodontic and braces much easier later on.
Did you know that the palate grows as two halves and will only become fused when the child gets past puberty? That’s why it’s possible to create more room while the child is still developing with the help of a palatal expander.
How does the upper jaw expander work?
Your child’s orthodontist will put together a custom-made expander that goes into the back of the mouth and fits over some of the top teeth. The expander has two halves and a screw is what connects them in the middle. Turning the screw little by little will activate the device and this is done with a special key.
When you activate the device, the junction of both palatal bones will experience some tension, causing them to separate slowly. As soon as the necessary expansion is reached, your child may have to keep using the appliance for some time to keep the expansion stable and make room for the formation of new bone in the gap.
How long to wear a palatal expander?
In all, your child may have to wear the palatal ortho expander anywhere from a couple of weeks to 6 months. Your child’s orthodontist will decide.
Why should you consider a mouth expander?
If you’re wondering if a palatal expander is really worth a try, here are some reasons to consider one for your child –
- The dental expander can correct a cross-bite. People with a narrow plate usually have upper teeth that do not close appropriately around the lower teeth. When the upper teeth keep on biting inside the lower teeth, the lower jaw grows asymmetrically and needs to be corrected.
- The mouth expander enhances the ability to breathe. Your child can experience difficulty breathing through their nose if they have a deep or narrow upper jaw. This means they will have to keep breathing with their mouth, causing them to inhale bacteria that could lead to dental conditions.
- The orthodontic palatal expander reduces or gets rid of overcrowding by making room in your child’s upper mouth and helping the teeth erupt correctly.
- The orthodontic expander helps to manage impacted teeth usually caused by other teeth blocking the eruption of a tooth. Getting that blocked tooth to erupt in its right position may require that the upper jaw be widened.
- The jaw benefits from an expander in other ways like gaining a more aesthetically pleasing smile, ruling out the need to remove some teeth to create room, and shortening the time spent wearing dental braces.
Is there an age limit for the upper jaw expander?
The best time to use a palate expander is within the small age window. The device is best for pre-pubescent kids prior to the maturation and closure of their sutures. Boys and girls have an age limit of 13-14 years and 12-13 years, respectively. Older kids who still have to use an expander may not experience very great results.
Failure to detect dental issues like impacted teeth, crowded teeth, or a cross-bite and correct them early enough could result in lifelong oral problems.
How painful is the palate expander? Any side effects?
Using an upper jaw expander for the first time may be bulky and uncomfortable. Your child may experience some pressure around their eyes, nose, tongue, and the roof of their mouth. After a while, the pressure fades. So, a palate expander will probably cause some slight discomfort and pain which will eventually subside.
There may be some other side effects added to the discomfort and pain such as a gap in the front teeth, difficulty speaking, headaches, food debris caught between the upper jaw and palatal expander, and extra saliva.
Diet restrictions when using a dental expander
Ensure that your child does not eat candies, sticky foods, and hard foods. So, they have to stay away from things like crunchy chips, ice, popcorn, candy, etc.
Palatal Expanders Cost – How much do you have to pay?
Your location and orthodontist will determine how much you have to spend to get a palatal expander but expect to incur around $2,000-$3,000 worth in fees. Since this is a necessity, you may be able to get help with insurance coverage.
Maintaining oral hygiene when using an orthodontic expander
You stand a higher risk of building up bacteria in your mouth whenever you use an orthodontic device. So, this is when you need to maintain the most vigilance regarding your oral hygiene, especially during upper jaw expansion.
Always clean the device when your child brushes with a fluoride toothpaste by brushing underneath and around the expander as much as you can.
We also recommend that you get a water flosser because it can help to shoot water streams to get rid of particles and food that are lodged in the mouth. You can as well get your child to use an antibacterial rinse to keep the teeth strong and prevent tooth decay.
Kelly Hancock, RDH
Kelly is a registered dental hygienist and oral health care provider. She is passionate about oral hygiene and encourages people to achieve optimal oral health. She has been working in the dental profession for 16 years and worked in many different roles in the dental industry. Kelly is currently a pediatric dental hygienist specializing in children’s dentistry. She is committed to helping others with their oral health care issues and helping others achieve a smile they love.