Pediatric Dentistry in Old Bridge

What is palatal expansion?

A palatal expansion is a very common orthodontic treatment which uses a dental appliance called an expander to widen the upper jaw so that the bottom and upper teeth will fit together better with proper alignment. Palate expanders are used to correct narrow upper arches and to help reposition teeth that are in cross bite. The upper teeth are always supposed to sit on the outside of the lower teeth. When the top teeth are behind the bottom teeth when you bite, this is called a cross bite.

Palatal expanders are designed to create more space in a child’s mouth by gradually widening the upper jaw preventing malocclusion and correcting cross bites. It is very important to correct these improper bites as soon as possible. Cross bites can cause the jaw bones to grow asymmetrically giving the face and jaws an uneven appearance. Early correction of the upper jaw will allow the bottom jaw to correct as well and also helps to create more room for the permanent teeth to erupt.

What are the Benefits of a Palatal Expansion?

During childhood or potentially even early adolescents, the major benefit of receiving this type of orthodontic solution is to take advantage of the child’s natural growth process as they develop. Using the expanders to shift the jaw and/or teeth seems like it requires a lot of work or can cause discomfort, but for the most part it is fairly easy and extremely tolerable, despite initial reaction. Use of an expander during the early mixed dentition allows the use of the primary teeth to serve as anchors for the expansion appliance. This has important benefits to the permanent dentition that eliminates the potential negative effects that can include gingival recession and root resorption.

Many individuals do not know this but the upper jaw develops as two separate bones that don’t completely fuse together until sometime after puberty. Prior to that happening, the two bones can gently be separated and stabilized over a period of several months using palatal expanders.

A Closer Look:

Typically, an expander is customized for a perfect individual fit to mold over the top teeth in the back of the mouth. There are two distinct haves to the appliance which are connected with a screw in the middle.

The activation process is simple. By turning the screw a very tiny amount each and every day with a key, the junction of the two palatal bones will be encouraged to grow wider, causing one’s jaw/teeth to gradually shift apart, resulting in the desired level of expansion. When the appropriate measure of expansion has been achieved, the appliance will be left in for a few months to allow the new bone to form and preserve the expansion. In most cases, the time frame that the expanders are worn range from 6-9 months altogether.

Situations that traditionally call for maxillary expansion include:

  • Cross-bite
  • Crowding
  • Impacted teeth

Additional Advantages of Palatal Expansion are:

  • Broaden one’s smile for a more aesthetically pleasing result
  • Limiting the need for extraction of permanent teeth and improving breathing by creating a broad upper arch increasing nasal airway size and improved respiratory function. Airway evaluation is an important part of our dental exams because the benefit of early expansion can include the improvements in airway and sleep.
  • Reduce the time that your child needs to wear braces or undergo other orthodontic treatment

What to Expect During Palatal Expansion Treatment

  • Slight soreness or a feeling of pressure for a few minutes after the key is turned (however less discomfort than tightening braces)
  • Speaking & eating will require adjustment with the presence of the expanders because it will feel a bit different
  • Normal for a tiny gap to appear or develop between the front teeth… (shows that the expander is having the desired effect)

When the full palatal expansion has taken place and is complete, your child’s permanent teeth will be beautifully aligned with neither too much nor too little space between them.

Have questions or need any help from our team? Reach out to us below and one of our team members will get in touch with you as soon as we see your request.