What Parents Should Know About  Upper Jaw Expansion

Sometimes there’s not enough space in the upper jaw for permanent teeth to come in correctly. That’s where palatal expansion comes in. A palatal expander placed on the roof of your child’s mouth (referred to as the palate) can widen the jaw and create more room for new teeth.

This procedure works best in children and preteens because the bone sutures in the middle of their growing palates are not fully fused, hence they are able  to be widened more easily. Keep reading to find out a little more about your child’s palatal expander experience.

How does a palatal expander work?

Palatal expanders consist of two separate pieces joined together by a screw in the middle. Once the device is in your child’s mouth, you will use a special key to turn the screw as instructed by your pediatric dentist. This tightening is what creates the gentle pressure that shifts the bones and eventually leads to more space in your child’s jaw. You’ll need to leave the palate in place for a few months to allow the jaw to stabilize and grow accustomed to its new position.

Does your child need upper jaw expansion?

Your pediatric dentist may recommend upper jaw expansion for a variety of reasons, but in most cases, it’s to correct a dental condition known as a crossbite. Normally the teeth in the upper jaw should slightly overlap the ones in the lower jaw when the mouth is closed. A crossbite occurs when the top teeth fit inside the bottom teeth instead.

As already mentioned, a palatal expander widens the upper jaw so this problem is resolved. Widening the jaw also creates more space, allowing teeth to come in correctly and solving any overcrowding issues your child may have. Sometimes pediatric dentists use expanders to create more room for teeth that are stuck or impacted.

What are the advantages of a palatal expander?

While palate expansion may sound like an intimidating procedure, when planned and executed at an early age, it can be an effective way to widen the jaw with minimal discomfort for your child. Unlike tooth extraction, palatal expansion is a much easier and more comfortable way to rectify a crowded palate.

Some experts also claim that upper jaw expansion can make breathing through the nose easier as it expands the nasal airway. A timely expansion of the upper jaw also allows the lower jaw to “center” itself correctly for an aesthetically pleasing, broad smile.

What does my child need to do to care for their palatal expander?

Taking care of a palatal expander is fairly straightforward. Remind your child to brush their teeth after every meal, especially the roof of the mouth where the expander is. It will help remove stuck food from the device, which can cause bad breath and other oral health issues if it’s left there. You may want to invest in a water flosser to clear any additional food particles if brushing and rinsing don’t do the trick.

Your orthodontist may also recommend that your child uses an antimicrobial rinse to reduce the number of plaque-producing oral bacteria that live in the mouth. While the expander is in place, your child should try to avoid eating sticky and hard foods or any treats that can easily get stuck in the expander and cause problems.

Discourage your child from chewing on pencils or putting foreign objects in their mouth, as this can also damage their oral appliance.

What should I expect afterward?

After the expander is put in place, there may be some initial discomfort, but that’s only because there hasn’t been anything like it attached to the teeth before. Most children get used to the device after a couple of days. The process of expanding the upper jaw itself is relatively painless.

Your child may feel a gentle pressure on the teeth, in the roof of the mouth, behind the nose, or even between the eyes when the screw on the expander turns, but the sensation should fade away within minutes. You may also notice a gap forming between your child’s front teeth. This is completely normal and is evidence that the process is working to create more space in their jaw.

Catch orthodontic issues early with the help of the We Make Kids Smile team.

While palatal expansion may sound like an intimidating procedure, it’s a gradual process that is quite tolerable and easy to achieve. However, this treatment is more effective in the early years of your child’s life. That’s why, at We Make Kids Smile, we encourage parents to schedule orthodontic evaluations as soon as their child turns seven.

During these early orthodontic appointments, early intervention treatments like upper jaw expansion may help prevent future orthodontic problems. Our dental team has a lot of experience working with kids, and we look forward to putting this experience to good use and providing your child with the best treatment possible.

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