The palatal expander journey is brief, but it can be inconvenient for the patient at first, as is the case with most orthodontic interventions. The appliance, though, is a common treatment and used when it’s necessary to widen a child’s upper jaw and create room for crowded teeth. While every patient is different and their treatment trajectory will vary, there are typical steps that occur for most expander wearers, including what happens after wear time is complete.
How a Palatal Expander Works
When a palatal expander is put in place, it stays in the mouth for at least six months. It is custom-made for the patient and gradually widens the jaw and palate. This effort is intended to allow adult teeth to erupt normally or correct jaw misalignment.
- In the first few weeks of wearing the expander, a “key” is used to turn the appliance and open the palate. This effort will eventually leave a gap between the front teeth – a sign that everything is moving correctly.
- The next step is to add braces to the equation. Usually, four brackets are attached to the front four teeth and wires are used over the next several months to shift the newly opened palate into better alignment.
- The expander remains in place through all these changes so the newly shifted mouth will mature into its permanent position.
- It’s far easier to adjust the palate in childhood when all permanent teeth have not yet erupted and the connective tissue and muscle fibers are more pliable.
After the Palatal Expander Is Removed
Once the six or so months of expander wear are up – a countdown that most kids pay close attention to – your orthodontist will remove the expander. As eager as most patients are to have this element disappear, there could be a few days of irritation but immediately there will be a grateful feeling of freedom!
The braces, however, will stay in place for a few more months. Once the braces are taken off, a retainer is necessary to, of course, retain all the work that was done until the time comes for complete braces treatment. Keeping the shifted teeth in order ensures that all the hard work done with the palatal expander does not go to waste and makes sure your mouth is ready for newly erupting teeth.
One of the following steps is likely to occur.
- The mouth is fitted for a customized removable acrylic retainer.
- A fixed retainer wire is fitted behind the front teeth.
Remember, an expander is part of what’s known as stage one or interceptive braces. There is still likely to be another round of orthodontics in the early teen years once all baby teeth have been lost and adult teeth have begun to erupt. Ideally, this will be a straightforward effort that takes only 12 to 18 months to complete.
Learn more about braces for kids, palatal expanders, and braces at Soleil Orthodontics. Schedule an orthodontic evaluation with Dr. Soleil and her team in Woodinville, WA.