How Orthodontic Expanders Benefit a Child’s Narrow Jaw

Orthodontic expanders for a narrow jaw

Set your child up for oral health success using early orthodontics.

As parents, it’s natural to want to set your children up for the best possible start in life. When it comes to dentistry, one of the best ways you can do this is with early orthodontics. When you take your child for their early orthodontics consultation at around age seven, the dentist examines their teeth and X-rays to predict if orthodontic issues will be prevalent as their teeth develop and whether early orthodontic treatments might benefit your child.

Early orthodontic treatments can set your child up for success, making permanent changes to their teeth, jaws, and smile that can play a role in improving their oral health for a lifetime. Palatal expanders are one of the early orthodontic treatments that can make a huge difference for your child. If you’ve never heard of them before, you may be wondering what you’re signing your child up for. Thankfully, you don’t have to figure this out alone! We’ve put together a guide to help you understand more about palate expansion and how it could benefit your child. 

What is a palatal expander?

A palatal expander, sometimes called a palate expander, is a device that’s often used in early orthodontics to widen a narrow jaw, creating more room in your child’s mouth. This device sits on the roof of your child’s mouth and works similarly to braces, gently and gradually pushing the halves of your child’s palate apart. As these plates are spread apart, new bone begins to grow between them to fill the new space. This permanently widens the upper jaw, and the lower jaw then grows to match it. 

What are signs your child needs a palatal expander?

Palatal expanders are used to treat a range of issues that can be improved by creating more space along a narrow jaw. The most common of these is overcrowding, which you may see evidence of if your child’s teeth appear crooked or overlap. Palatal expanders are also used to create more room for impacted teeth to erupt properly or to help resolve a misaligned bite like a crossbite, overbite, underbite, or open bite.

Depending on the type and severity of your child’s misaligned bite, it can either be easy to spot on your own at home or a little more subtle. You might still notice other signs, though, such as they have difficulty or pain when they chew or they get frequent headaches.

The best way to know for sure whether your child needs a palatal expander is to schedule an early orthodontic consultation with their dentist by the time your child reaches 7 years old. At this age, enough of their adult teeth have erupted that Dr. King can perform a thorough oral exam and take X-rays to predict how the rest of their adult teeth will develop. As a result, he’ll be able to tell you if your child would benefit from early orthodontics like upper jaw expansion using a palatal expander. 

Does my child really need a palatal expander?  

Many children don’t need early orthodontic treatments; but, for those who do, treatments like palatal expanders can make all the difference for their future oral health, including reducing the length, number, and severity of dental and orthodontic treatments they may need in the future. By creating more room in your child’s mouth, a palatal expander can reduce or even eliminate the need for costly or invasive treatments in the future, like tooth extractions, which may otherwise need to be done to create more room in their mouth. 

Does a palate expander break their bones?

Although this is a concern for some parents, don’t worry! A palatal expander doesn’t do anything like that! The palate, or the roof of the mouth, has two halves that don’t fuse together until you’re an adult. When your child is fitted with a palate expander, the space between these sections is slowly widened and the two halves of the palate grow more bone to fill the new space until they touch again, making the jaw wider. When your child is old enough for their palate to fuse naturally, it fuses just like it would have before your child had a palate expander. 

What does my child need to do to care for a palatal expander?

Thankfully, caring for palatal expanders is pretty simple. Plaque can build up on your child’s palatal expander, so they need to brush their teeth and clean their expander after every meal, totaling up to three times a day. They should also floss and use mouthwash at least once a day to help keep their teeth and gums healthy throughout the treatment process.

You should also discourage your child from eating gummy or sticky candy during the treatment process, as this can damage the device or block the keyhole that adjusts the expander. When your child first gets their palatal expander, Dr. King will explain how to care for it. He will answer all your questions and send you home with thorough care instructions. 

What benefits will we see with a palatal expander?

Resolving issues like overcrowding and misalignment can also improve several other aspects of your child’s daily life, including making it easier to clean their teeth. This helps your child do a better job brushing and flossing their teeth, which in turn reduces their chances of developing cavities or gum disease. Having a palatal expander can also reduce symptoms like frequent headaches and make it easier and more comfortable to chew, which can help them eat a wider variety of food, and in turn, may even improve their digestion. 

Will my child still need to get braces later?

While palatal expanders can reduce or eliminate the need for future dental and orthodontic treatments, your child may still need to get braces at Kings Dental later. That doesn’t mean that your child’s palatal expander had no effect, though! Even if your child still needs braces, they’ll likely need a less involved treatment for a shorter time. This can be a major benefit for both you and your child!

Although not every child needs to undergo palate expansion or other early orthodontics treatments, getting this type of care if they need it can transform the path your child’s orthodontic care takes—and as a result, can benefit your child’s oral and overall health for a lifetime! If you’d like to learn more about palate expansion or orthodontics in Virginia Beach, feel free to schedule a consultation with Dr. King at any time!

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