Seabreeze Orthodontics is your local solution for all things tooth and jaw, and that goes for the smallest of smiles! Did you know that around 10% of all children will benefit from orthodontic intervention as early as seven years of age? It’s true! This “two-phase” treatment often involves the use of a specialized orthodontic appliance known as a palatal expander. So let’s dive into it and learn all about life with expanders right here!
All About Palatal Expanders
Don’t feel bad if this is the first time you’ve heard of a palatal expander. They’re technical tools in an orthodontist’s toolkit that most kids won’t need. However, plenty of children are born without enough space in the upper jaw for permanent teeth to erupt properly. 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. Juan can make more space for those permanent teeth to develop happily and healthily.
That may sound intimidating, but don’t worry! This 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.
Young childhood is the perfect time for this procedure since not only have the permanent teeth not come in yet, but their upper jaw also consists of two unfused halves. Once they’ve finished puberty, these two separate halves will join and fuse, making any work that involves creating space much more difficult. That means that this treatment benefits significantly from taking advantage of these pre-pubescent years.
What Kinds of Problems Do Palatal Expanders Correct?
We’ve discussed how palatal expanders work and their purpose in expanding the palate, but it’s essential to understand why this expansion is necessary. When a child has a narrow jaw that remains uncorrected, several potential issues can arise.
To gain a better understanding, let’s explore the development of your child’s jaw and teeth. Typically occurring between the ages of six and thirteen, this crucial phase plays out differently for every child. This narrowness can lead to various orthodontic issues. 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 exactly are these problems, and how can palatal expanders help reduce the risk of their development? Palatal expanders can play a significant role in enhancing your child’s smile by:
- Lessening or entirely eliminating overcrowding— your child’s expanders can make space for all of 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 Do They Work?
We customize your child’s expander to fit snugly over the back teeth. This unique customization makes for the perfect recipe to ensure your child has plenty of space for those budding permanent teeth.
After the palate has reached the perfect level of expansion, your child’s doctor will generally 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 important for your child’s long-term orthodontic success.
The entire process will usually take anywhere from nine to twelve months to complete. Once that’s over, your kiddo has everything they need to set them up for a fantastic smile!
Life with Expanders
Living with a palatal expander might seem challenging at first, but it quickly becomes routine. Dr. Juan will work hard to guide your child through this process. Here’s what daily life with an expander might look like:
Speech Adaptation: Your child may initially have trouble with speech due to the expander. Encourage speech practice, and it will improve.
Eating Adjustments: While using the expander, your child should avoid sticky, hard, or crunchy foods. Stick to soft foods and be cautious while eating.
Oral Care: Maintain excellent oral hygiene, including cleaning around the expander’s screws to prevent plaque buildup.
Discomfort: Some discomfort is normal when the expander widens the palate. It usually subsides within a day or two, and pain relievers can help.
Screw Adjustments: Follow Dr. Juan’’s instructions for turning the screw, as it may need regular adjustments.
Appointments: Keep scheduled check-up appointments with Dr. Juan for adjustments and progress monitoring.
Support: Be supportive during moments of frustration or self-consciousness. Remind your child that this treatment leads to a healthier, more beautiful smile.
Let’s Get Started Today!
If your child needs orthodontic care of any kind, Seabreeze Orthodontics is your one-stop smile shop! Dr. Juan is passionate about service to our amazing patients, and they want every child to know what it means to have a happy, healthy smile.
If you’re in or around Myrtle Beach, SC, you’re right where you need to be for the best orthodontic care around. Consultations are always free, and we love what we do. Come and see!