A palatal expander is the first step of orthodontic treatment for many young patients. This appliance allows for the alteration of a child’s jaw growth, so it is in the right place, comfortable, and creates enough room for erupting permanent teeth to be guided into proper alignment. After a year or two – a time during which the mouth continues to develop on its own – it will be time to talk about full braces.
The Necessity of Palatal Expanders
A palate expander is attached to the back upper molars and adjusted daily for a predetermined number of days to slowly widen the palate. This effort creates more mouth space and is the first step in correcting problems like crossbites, crowding, and narrow bites.
Not everyone needs a palatal expander, but many orthodontic patients do, and having your child evaluated for this appliance by age 7 or 8 is critical to getting the work started at the right time and while their mouth is still malleable.
Not addressing bite problems can eventually lead to painful and unsightly malocclusions, difficulty speaking and chewing, and the need for advanced dental work. Wearing an expander for six to nine months to fix a major growth issue is a far easier option.
Phase 1 Braces
Once the work of a palatal expander is done and the key has been turned twice a day for about two weeks (maybe longer, depending on the patient), the expander stays in place to allow the roof of the mouth to settle into its new position.
This is when the first round of braces begin, also included in the category of interceptive orthodontics, or phase 1. Brackets are attached to four front teeth to close the gap between the front teeth that was created by the expander. At the end of the nine or so months, all this hardware is removed, including the expander, and a retainer is put in place permanently behind the teeth or issued for daily wear.
Phase 2 Braces
In phase 2 braces, former wearers of palatal expanders are ready for full braces. The efforts of wearing the expander make it easier and faster to straighten a smile. Your orthodontist will monitor your child’s orthodontic health during regular visits after phase 1 has ended, looking for the loss of baby teeth and the eruption of most adult teeth and any changes to the bite. When this oral health development begins in force, it will be time to determine phase two of orthodontic treatment – full braces, Invisalign, or just some tweaks.
Start the Orthodontic Journey Early
Every patient is different. Some mouths need more attention than others. Some patients require palatal expanders and several other appliances to finally get their bite and smile into good working order. It’s important to remember that orthodontic treatment is not just about getting a great-looking, straight smile – it’s about developing exceptional oral health and a smile that is easy to care for and maintain for a lifetime.
Get your child on the path to a great smile. Contact Soleil Orthodontics in Woodinville, WA, to schedule a consultation.