Palatal Expanders

Narrow palate.

Children's Orthodontics in Glenview, IL

At Yummy Dental, we believe every child deserves to grow up with a healthy smile, and our mission is to make that happen for our patients. As a leading children's dentist and orthodontist serving Glenview, IL and the greater Chicago area, we're proud to offer a comprehensive array of services ranging from pediatric dentistry to orthodontics for teenagers and adults. Sometimes, though, the best way to achieve a healthy smile is to intervene early on with orthodontic treatment, and palatal expanders are often an important part of that process.

What Is A Palatal Expander?

A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance used in early orthodontic treatment that helps us create the best possible smile in the long-term. Expanders allow us to, quite literally, widen a child's upper jaw and create more room in the dental arch – but don't worry, it's not nearly as invasive as it sounds.

Expanders work by taking advantage of a child's natural growth processes to design a healthy smile. The upper jaw actually develops as two separate halves, and these halves don't fuse together into one bone until puberty. This means that during childhood, we can apply a gentle outward force to push the two halves apart, making the entire mouth wider. Over time, the two halves grow new bone to fill the space, solidifying the space and allowing us to literally make more room for teeth.

Why Would My Child Need Palatal Expansion?

Crossbite.Not all children benefit from palatal expansion (also called maxillary expansion), but there are some orthodontic conditions that can be greatly reduced with an expander. The most common conditions for palatal expansion are:

  • Crossbite: This condition is characterized by lower back teeth that sit outside of the upper back teeth when the mouth is closed, instead of the other way around. An expander widens the jaw and creates more normal bite alignment.
  • Crowding: Crowding occurs when there isn't enough room in the dental arch to accommodate all the teeth. An expander creates more room in the arch, allowing the teeth to grow in normally.
  • Impacted Teeth: Impacted teeth are teeth that can't erupt properly because another tooth fully or partially blocks their path. By widening the jaw through expansion, we can create space for the unerupted teeth to come in straight.

These conditions are among the most common reasons for palatal expansion, but we may recommend the treatment for other reasons, as well. Expansion can broaden the smile in a way that's aesthetically appealing, improve breathing, and limit the need for tooth extraction.

How Do Palatal Expanders Work?

 How palatal expanders work.

Every patient gets a custom-made palatal expander designed to fit onto several of the top teeth towards the back of the mouth. The appliance is made with two halves connected together by a screw mechanism. Each day, you'll use a special key to turn the screw a very small amount, slightly widening the device and putting gentle outward pressure on the two halves of the jawbone. This pressure causes the halves to slowly drift apart, widening the mouth. Once we reach the desired level of expansion, we'll leave the device in place for a few more months to keep the halves separated and allow for new bone to grow in between them. Expansion treatment usually takes 3-6 months depending on the complexity of your child's orthodontic condition.

What to Expect with Palatal Expanders

Expanders are a surprisingly gentle treatment method, but most children will experience a feeling of mild pressure or soreness for a few minutes after adjusting the screw. Speaking and eating may feel strange when your child first gets the device, but the tongue will adjust within a week or so. It's also normal to see a gap form between the two front teeth – in fact, that means it's working!

Schedule a Consultation with Your Kid's Orthodontist

Palatal expansion can help us guide the development of your child's jaw to achieve the ideal smile, allowing us to avoid the need for far more extensive and invasive orthodontic treatment later in life. However, almost all children who have an expander will still need to wear braces during adolescence. Wondering if a palatal expander may be right for your child? We can help: schedule a consultation today!

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