Braces are great for resolving overcrowding or misalignment of your teeth, but sometimes an orthodontic issue is caused by the size of your jaw. This is when an orthodontic expander comes to the rescue! Our experienced orthodontic specialist, Dr. Norman, can answer your questions about orthodontic expanders and help you achieve the healthy, straight smile you’ve been dreaming about.
What is an Orthodontic Expander?
An orthodontic expander, or palatal expander, expands or widens your upper jaw by putting gentle pressure on your upper molars each time an adjustment is made. Your orthodontist will instruct you on when and how to adjust your expander. When you achieve the desired expansion, you will continue to wear the appliance for several months to solidify the results and to prevent regression.
There are two main reasons Dr. Norman may recommend orthodontic expanders. The first reason is to create more space in the upper arch so there’s room for your child’s adult teeth to erupt without overcrowding. Secondly, it may be used to prevent a crossbite — an alignment problem that causes some of the upper teeth to “bite” inside the lower teeth when the mouth is closed. Through this expansion of the upper palate, the alignment between the upper and lower teeth is optimized, helping resolve problems with your child’s bite that could lead to dental issues down the road.
How Does it Work?
Orthodontic expanders consist of a metal framework that attaches to the back molars with metal rings and is slightly curved to fit in the roof of your mouth. There’s an “expansion area” in the center of the frame that is adjusted by your orthodontist.
Your orthodontist will adjust your orthodontic expander to carefully apply pressure to the upper palate. This gentle force will slowly widen your upper arch of teeth to resolve overcrowding or a bite issue. Over your treatment time, your palate will be moved in tiny increments to open up space and ensure your best smile is achieved.
Why Does a Child Need an Orthodontic Expander?
Expanders are used as an “interventional” treatment during childhood or the early teen years, while the upper jaw is still growing. Before puberty, the upper jaw is composed of two plates of cartilage that meet in the middle. After puberty, these two plates fuse together and solidify. Expanders gently move the two plates apart before fusing. As the upper jaw continues to grow and develop, new tissue grows to fill in the space and widen the palate, before the two plates fuse together in young adulthood.
How Long Does an Orthodontic Expander Stay In?
On average, orthodontic expanders are maintained for three to six months. Your length of treatment time will be determined by your orthodontist. Depending on your needs, the expansion may take up to several weeks, but Dr. Norman will have you wear the expander longer to make sure your expansion does not relapse, and your newly broadened palate stays put.
Maintaining Your Orthodontic Expander
Having an orthodontic expander is an exciting step in your journey to a straighter smile, but it’s important to keep it clean for your oral health. Simply brush them regularly to keep them fresh. Dr. Norman may also suggest other tools, such as a water jet, to help make cleaning easier for you.
Call Today to Schedule Your Complimentary Consultation!
If you have questions about your orthodontic expander or would like to schedule a complimentary consultation, contact our office today! Dr. Norman and her talented Simpsonville team are standing by to help you start your journey to straighter smiles.