For the uninitiated patient, an orthodontic expander can look like one seriously daunting piece of equipment. Wearers quickly discover, though, once they’ve adjusted to the appliance, that it is relatively subtle, extremely effective, and can eventually simplify their full orthodontic treatment with braces or Invisalign.
What Does an Expander Do?
A palatal expander is used to widen a narrow upper jaw. Some kids have a narrow palate because of thumbsucking, tongue posture, or simple genetics. The expander gets in there and stops any bad behaviors and undesirable growth patterns and force the jaw to grow to the appropriate width.
Slowly, the suture on the roof of the mouth is widened, allowing permanent teeth to erupt safely and relieving crowding. This creates a wide, beautiful smile and – especially important for kids with an overbite – matches the upper teeth to the lower teeth.
Is an Orthodontic Expander Uncomfortable?
An expander certainly makes its presence known, and there will be an adjustment period for the wearer – this is the case for any orthodontic treatment. There may be temporary side effects like irritation of the tongue, a lisp or change in speech, excess saliva, and difficulty chewing or swallowing. These issues should clear up within a week or so. While there will be mild pressure on the teeth and roof of the mouth when you adjust the position of the expander at home, the appliance simply becomes part of a child’s daily life.
Are Expanders Only for Kids?
It is easy to use expanders in childhood because there is a space between the two halves of the bone in the roof of a young person’s mouth. Before these bones fuse together, the upper jaw expander widens the jaw, making movement faster and easier to accomplish.
Palatal expanders can also be used for adults as an alternative to upper jaw surgery and to widen a narrow jaw, but this may be a more difficult treatment to accomplish.
How Long Is the Orthodontic Expander Worn?
Expanders usually get the job done in about six weeks – you’ll known it’s working when you see a space opening between the upper front teeth – but the orthodontic appliance is left in place for around six months to allow healing time and prevent relapse. Your orthodontist may even place some interceptive orthodontics – early braces – to begin alignment of the teeth and capitalize on the new position your jaw is in.
Are There Different Kinds of Expanders?
An upper jaw expander is the most common type of this appliance. It is anchored to the back upper molars and contains screws that must be turned daily using a special key. This effort widens the expander by a fraction of a millimeter. It’s a movement that is tiny but significant.
Lower jaw expanders are also available and they do just as important a job and upper expanders. Instead of moving the jawbone like an upper jaw appliance, the lower jaw expander pushes and straightens teeth that are leaning inward.
Does Your Child Need an Expander?
Expanders aren’t anyone’s dream, but they do important, effective work that leads to an aligned, aesthetically pleasing smile. Find out if your child is a candidate for orthodontic treatment. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Soleil Roberts or a member of her team at Soleil Orthodontics in Woodinville, WA.