There is a lot going on in a child’s mouth. Teeth are coming and going and the jaw is growing, making this the ideal time to alter the development of the shape and position of their mouth. Many kids, as part of early orthodontic treatment, qualify for a palatal expander, an appliance that expands the shape of the bones that form the palate.
Problems Fixed by a Palatal Expander
A palatal expander is a common appliance used to address several major issues that, when handled early, can minimize the need for extensive orthodontics in adolescence and prevent certain oral health problems such as:
- Overcrowding: Some kids have such a narrow upper jaw their teeth simply don’t have room to erupt. This can lead to poor alignment because of a lack of space and can even cause some teeth to become impacted.
- Crossbite: When the upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth instead of just outside the lower teeth, this results in a crossbite. This is caused by a narrow bone structure in the upper jaw and wider bone structure below.
- TMD: Temporomandibular disorder can develop from misalignment of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), which can lead to headaches, joint damage, and other issues. The root cause of this issue can sometimes be a poorly shaped palate.
Have Your Child Evaluated by an Orthodontist
Whether your child’s narrow palate is the result of thumb sucking, tongue posture, an airway problem, or simply genetics, an expander will help the upper jaw grow to the appropriate width by:
- Slowly widening a narrow upper jaw
- Allowing permanent teeth to erupt safely
- Relieving crowding
- Matching upper to lower teeth
- Creating a wider, more beautiful smile
The palatal bones do not stop growing until puberty, so kids who are just getting their permanent teeth should get an orthodontic evaluation to see if they have a narrow palate around age 7 or 8. If an expander is recommended, this process can move quickly and be very effective at a young age. Through an evaluation and x-rays, an orthodontist can determine if palatal expansion is an appropriate treatment.
Avoid Orthognathic Jaw Surgery with an Expander
Everyone wants to avoid surgery if absolutely possible, especially in the mouth, and the wearing of an expander can often help a person with a narrow palate avoid the need for orthognathic jaw surgery. While an expander may seem like a hassle to both child and parent, wearing it for several months can improve jaw growth problems without the need for invasive surgery, and the accompanying lengthy recovery time.
For most kids, the expander is a metal device fixed to the back teeth on either side of the upper arch. The middle expandable joint comes with a key that must be turned to expand the joint a tiny amount every day, pushing the two parts of the palatal bone apart and stretching the joint.
Orthodontic treatment is still often necessary with traditional braces or Invisalign following the wearing of a palatal expander. Some spaces may develop between teeth during treatment, and there may still be teeth that are twisted and need to be straightened. Remember that an expander allows for a major improvement in your child’s smile over what it would have been without the appliance. Widening the palate simply makes it easier to shift teeth into their proper positions when the time comes.
Have your child evaluated at Soleil Orthodontics in Woodinville, WA. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.