Braces can help improve your smile by straightening your teeth and bringing them into ideal alignment. But what happens when your jaw is too small to accommodate all your teeth? Or when your upper jaw is substantially smaller than your lower jaw? That’s where an orthodontic expander can help.
Our experienced orthodontic specialist, Dr. Norman, can answer your questions about orthodontic expanders or other orthodontic treatments. Request your appointment online or call our conveniently located orthodontist office in Simpsonville, SC.
About Orthodontic Expanders
The 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 about when and how to adjust your expander. When you achieve the desired expansion, you will wear the appliance for several months to solidify the expansion and to prevent regression.
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 plates fuse together and harden. Expanders work by gently moving the two plates apart before they fuse. As the upper jaw continues to develop, new tissue grows to “fill in” the space (and widen the palate) before the two plates join together.
How Expanders Help
Expanders typically are used for two reasons:
- To create more space in the upper arch so there’s room for your child’s adult teeth to erupt without overcrowding
- 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
By widening the upper arch, expanders optimize the alignment between the upper and lower teeth, helping to prevent bite problems that can cause uneven tooth wear, bite shifting, and asymmetric facial growth.
How Expanders Work
Orthodontic expanders may look complex, but the way they work is quite simple. The device itself comprises a metal framework that’s slightly curved to fit inside the palate. The framework is attached to the back molars using metal rings. At the center of the frame, there’s an expansion area that’s adjusted on a regular basis. With each adjustment, the two plates that make up the palate are gently moved apart just in tiny increments.
Expanders can feel a little bulky at first, but it doesn’t take long to get used to them. Just like braces, expanders need to be brushed regularly to keep them clean and fresh. Dr. Norman might suggest other methods or tools, like a water jet, to make cleaning easier. Depending on the shape and size of the upper arch, expansion can take several weeks to complete, and the appliance must be maintained for 3-6 months to allow for bone fill into the palatal expansion and prevent relapse.
Orthodontic treatment is about more than having a great-looking smile. Straight teeth and an aligned bite can reduce your risks for tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss in your future.
To learn more about orthodontic treatment options at River Falls Orthodontics or to schedule an office visit, click here to request an appointment online or call our conveniently located orthodontist office in Simpsonville, SC.