Does My Child Need an Expander?

Does My Child Need an Expander?

Did you know that some orthodontic treatment involves preventive care when the patient still has baby teeth? This is called early phase treatment

One useful orthodontic appliance for children is called an expander, which addresses specific problems we’ll get into later in the post. 

Dr. Wayne Hickory offers these advanced devices as another highly customized treatment for his patients at Embassy Row Orthodontics

Because every patient’s needs are unique, so are the treatment plans Dr. Hickory develops for them. Fortunately, he and his stellar team are ready to give your child precisely the treatment they need for the beautiful smile reveal that’s to come. 

What’s an expander’s purpose?

Before we address what an expander is, it’s important to learn some anatomy. Everyone has a midpalatal suture, which is the center line where the two sides of your palate (the roof of your mouth) meet. It doesn’t fuse permanently until a person is about 14 years old. 

An expander is an ingenious appliance designed to expand the upper jaw before the fusion of the midpalatal suture. It’s a versatile tool, and depending on the specific treatment your child needs, Dr. Hickory may recommend that it either be removable — similar to a retainer — or more permanently placed and bonded to your child’s teeth. 

What problems can an expander help to solve?

Dr. Hickory may advise that your child get fitted with an expander if the narrowness of their jaw prevents their teeth from aligning properly. Misalignment sets them up for crooked or crowded teeth that might also overlap, and impacted teeth can result from having a narrow jaw.

Once the expander is in your child’s mouth, it starts widening their jaw so their permanent teeth can erupt into the correct positions. 

Expanders are also useful if your child has a crossbite, a kind of malocclusion, or bite problem, which leads to their upper teeth sitting right within their lower teeth. Untreated crossbites can lead to tooth decay, discomfort, and sleep apnea. 

What’s involved in getting an expander? 

Removable plate expanders are custom-made for your child to fit the roof of their mouth precisely and should be worn 24 hours per day, except when your child is eating, playing sports, or brushing their teeth. 

These expanders are equipped with a screw and need adjusting periodically with a key to expand the jaw gently. Dr. Hickory determines how often adjustment should occur.

Expanders that children wear for a few months at a time are bonded to a child’s back molars, are worn constantly, and not removed throughout treatment. 

Similar to braces, expanders require an adjustment period but don’t cause pain. Your child might have slight discomfort or a temporary rawness on the roof of their mouth at first, but they’re more likely to notice that they need to get used to chewing, swallowing, and speaking while their expander is in. It takes about a week to get fully used to an expander.

When an expander is adjusted, it can put temporary pressure on the roof of the mouth and cause a tingling sensation that may move toward your child’s nose and eyes, but this is short-lived — usually five minutes or less. 

Fortunately, the average expander treatment time is less than a year for children. 

Take special care of the teeth with an expander

When your child wears their expander, they must practice excellent oral hygiene habits. It’s also essential to care for their expander and keep it clean. 

They should continue to brush and floss, and mouth rinse squirted in the small pockets of the expander helps keep it clean, as does either brushing or water flossing. Brushing the expander after each meal is ideal. 

It’s also advised that your child stay away from hard, sticky, and chewy foods and foods that break down into tiny pieces, like carrots and nuts. 

If we can change your child’s jaw structure now, this may lessen or eliminate the need for phase two treatment. 

Call our conveniently located office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Hickory for your child, or book one online. Let’s do what we can now to treat them!

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