Life With an Expander

If you’re anything like most of our Monroe and El Dorado patients, when you think of treatment with Williams Orthodontics, the first thing that comes to mind is braces or maybe clear aligners. Basically, you’re thinking about a primary course of orthodontic care. But there’s much more to a great smile than that! For instance, your child may sometimes be born with a naturally narrow upper jaw, also known as the palate. This narrow palate can make it difficult for their developing smile to have all the room it needs to be as healthy and straight as can be. Luckily, we have a tool for that – a palatal expander. Read on to learn more about life with an expander below! 

What’s a Palatal Expander? 

It’s normal for this to be the first time you’ve heard about a palatal expander. After all, palatal expanders are specialized tools in an orthodontist’s toolkit that most kids simply won’t need. However, plenty of children are born without enough space in the upper jaw for permanent teeth to erupt correctly. Luckily, this upper jaw area, known as the palate, is still relatively pliable during the earlier years of life. That means a skilled orthodontist like Dr. Williams can make more space for those permanent teeth to develop happily and healthily. 

We know that may sound intimidating, but there’s nothing to worry about! This tool is a perfectly standard, painless process that takes place over time. The device gently and comfortably applies gradual pressure to the palate, which widens the area over time. 

Early childhood is the ideal time for this process since not only do their permanent teeth not yet come in, but the upper jaw also exists as two unfused halves. After your child finishes puberty, these two halves will join and fuse. That means any work that involves creating space is much more challenging without surgery. What this comes down to is that this treatment benefits significantly from taking advantage of these pre-pubescent years. 

How’s That Work? 

Palatal expanders comprise two halves connected in the center by a special screw. Dr. Williams will customize your child’s expander to fit snugly over their back teeth. Then, we’ll activate the device with a unique key, which can then be used to apply a little bit more pressure to the palate each day. This method is the perfect recipe to ensure your child has plenty of space for their budding permanent teeth. 

After the palate has reached the perfect level of expansion, Dr. Williams will usually leave the device in place for another few months. This gives the newly-expanded palate plenty of time to develop new bone in the gap created by the device. That makes the expansion permanent, which is essential for your child’s long-term orthodontic success. 

The entire process typically takes nine to 12 months to finish. Once that’s over, your child has everything they need to set them up for a healthy and happy smile with plenty of space to grow! 

Do you have a child born with a narrow upper jaw? Worried about how their smile will develop? Well, learn more about life with an expander!

What Does It Treat?

Now that we’ve discussed how palatal expanders work and what they do (shockingly, they expand the palate!), a natural question to ask is, why is this procedure necessary in the first place? What orthodontic issues can arise when a child has a narrow jaw that remains uncorrected? 

To understand that, let’s take a look at how the jaw and teeth develop. Your child’s teeth and jaws develop from about six to 13 years old. Since some kids (around 10%, according to the American Association of Orthodontists) have narrow jaws naturally, they’ll develop one or several orthodontic issues. What are these problems, and how do palatal expanders reduce the risk of developing them? Palatal expanders can work wonders for your child’s smile by: 

  • Lessening or eliminating overcrowding— your child’s expanders can make space for all their upper teeth to grow into the perfect spot. 
  • Avoiding the danger of impacted teeth — by widening the upper jaw, we can effectively minimize the likelihood of developing impacted teeth, which occurs when other teeth obstruct a tooth and fails to erupt. This process lets create enough space for the impacted tooth to emerge.
  • Correcting a crossbite—A narrow palate can mean that the upper teeth will bite inside the lower teeth, preventing the ideal alignment where the upper teeth should close around the outside of the lower teeth. However, an expander can fix this before it leads to significant asymmetrical jaw growth. This restores symmetry to your child’s bite. 

How to Take Care of My Child’s Expander

Caring for your child’s palatal expander is a cinch, but there are a few things to remember. Keep these tips in mind to make living with a palatal expander a breeze: 

  • Ensure your child brushes their teeth twice daily, paying attention to cleaning around the expander area. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or interdental brush.
  • Avoid sticky, hard foods to prevent damage or getting food stuck. Opt for softer, easier-to-chew options.
  • Follow Dr. Williams’ instructions for expander adjustments, avoiding over-tightening.
  • Contact Dr. Williams if your child experiences any pain or prolonged discomfort associated with their expander.
  • Don’t let them touch, pull, or push the expander! This prevents damage or misalignment.
  • Attend regular orthodontic appointments for monitoring and adjustments.
  • Come to Dr. Williams with any additional questions. 

And that’s it! Nothing could be simpler! 

Do you have a child born with a narrow upper jaw? Worried about how their smile will develop? Well, learn more about life with an expander!

Call Us Today for Your Free Consultation! 

Williams Orthodontics is proud to be your go-to answer for orthodontic care in Monroe and El Dorado. A big part of how we’ve developed that reputation is offering 100% free consultations, so there’s no commitment to get started! You and your family deserve a happy, healthy smile, and that’s just what you’ll get with Williams Orthodontics. Call us today, or just fill out this convenient online form, and you’re on your way!