What Parents Should Know About Palatal Expanders

Orthodontists typically prescribe palatal expanders when there is a crossbite between 2 arches or there is no enough space for the permanent teeth to grow. The palatal expander is proven effective when used on children and pre-teens because the bone sutures in the middle of the palate have not fully fused. When pressure is applied, it allows changes in the growth of the palate.

Palate expansion is usually the treatment that a child needs or it can be the first phase of the treatment before conventional braces are prescribed. The palatal expander is customized for every individual and is bonded to several of the upper molar teeth. The appliance has two sides which are connected in the middle by a screw. The screw can be turned through a special key once or twice a day for a specific period of time.

Gentle pressure will be applied by the expander at the junction of the two palatal bones so that they will move apart. When the desired expansion has been completed, turning of the screw stops; however, the expander has to remain in place for several months to allow for more bone to grow at the gap and stabilize the expansion. According to the British Orthodontic Society, total treatment time is from 3 to 9 months to achieve a healthy and functional bite and a beautiful smile.

Although gentle pressure is applied by the palatal expander, a child can feel some pressure below the eyes or at the top of the nose when the screw is turned. The discomfort can be alleviated by over-the-counter painkillers. The child may also feel some awkwardness in eating and speaking after the appliance has been placed inside the mouth. Some children experience drooling or lisping. However, this will soon pass as the child gets used to appliance.

Widening the mouth through palatal expanders will make a big difference in the final results. The orthodontist will take advantage of the child’s natural growth process to prevent teeth alignment problems. It is important for parents to bring their children to the dentist when their bones are still growing so that necessary treatment can be provided to achieve straight teeth and a beautiful smile.

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