If your child has a narrow palate it can lead to dental issues such as crowding, impacted teeth, or a crossbite. To help correct (or prevent) these issues and more, your orthodontist in the Greater Vancouver area may recommend treatment with a palatal expander. Here's how they work...
What is a palatal expander?
Palatal expanders are orthodontic appliances that are used to help increase the width of your child's upper jaw (the maxilla). By widening the upper jaw these common treatment devices help correct orthodontic issues such as a crossbite, crowded teeth, or impacted teeth. In fact, palatal expanders are so effective that they are among the most commonly prescribed orthodontic treatments for children.
Our orthodontists understand that palatal expanders can be a little intimidating at first. Parents often feel unnerved at the idea of turning a key to widen the expander but have no fear! Expanders are easy to use, and after you've done it a few times you and your child will get used to it and feel more relaxed about the process.
What Palatal Expanders Do
Palatal expanders do exactly what the name suggests, they gradually expand the child's palate (or arch), to help create room for the adult teeth to grow in correctly without causing crowding issues. Expanders are recommended for children whose jaw growth simply isn't able to keep up with the space needed for the incoming adult teeth.
How Palatal Expanders Work
First your child will be fitted with either a fixed palatal expander or one that is removable to help treat their orthodontic issues. The expander will be attached to your child's upper arch, and held in place either with bands around the teeth or attached with a plastic material that is bonded over your child's teeth. Once the expander has been fitted in place, your child's orthodontist will instruct you on how often and how much you should turn the key. Each time you turn the key the expander will slightly widen your child's dental arch.
How Palatal Expanders Feel
Most orthodontic devices cause some discomfort but generally not pain. You should expect it to take a few days for your child's mouth to adjust to the expander, and during that time they may experience some mild discomfort. That said, any discomfort they experience should be mild and fade quickly. Most kids report that they only feel occasional discomfort or a feeling of pressure on their teeth or the roof of their mouth.