What to Expect with Your Child's Orthodontic Expander

Could your child benefit from an orthodontic expander? If your dentist or orthodontist suggested one, you’re probably wondering what to expect. Maybe you’re wondering what exactly one is?

An orthodontic expander, also called a jaw expander or palate expander is a device placed in your child’s upper or lower jaw to help make their mouth bigger. This expansion helps create more room for your child’s incoming permanent teeth. 

Benefits of an orthodontic expander

While your child is young, his palate, which is the arch or roof at the top of the mouth, is soft and flexible. This is because the palate is two halves that will eventually fuse after puberty. An expander takes advantage of the time before these halves fuse to gradually expand your mouth to accommodate all your teeth so that they fit together for a healthy bite. 

Specifically, an expander can help prevent overcrowding, a crossbite, mouth breathing, or impacted teeth. A crossbite is when the upper jaw is narrow, and the child’s upper teeth fit inside the lower teeth. This type of bite creates problems and jaw malformation if not corrected. An impacted tooth is a tooth that’s ready to come in but is blocked by another tooth.

Usually, an expander is a precursor to braces. But sometimes an expander is all your child will need to set the stage for a healthy bite and smile. 

How to care for your child’s orthodontic expander

An expander is custom-made to fit your child’s upper or lower jaw. It’s not usually removable, but it is adjustable. Two sides are connected in the middle with a turnkey, which the parent or child needs to adjust or turn regularly, per your orthodontist’s instructions.

As with any new dental appliance, your child will have to get used to eating and drinking with it. They may feel slight pressure below their eyes and above their nose. Tension or awkwardness should subside as your child gets used to their new device. Eating soft foods until your child gets comfortable will help.

Cleaning your expander is important. Extra brushing time and also a water pick will help. Avoiding sticking foods and hard candies that can get stuck in the expander will help make keeping it clean easier. Most children wear their expander for about three to six months.  

Want to find out more about orthodontic expanders? Call Georgetown Orthodontics or make an appointment online. 

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