Orthodontic treatment not only helps you get a straight, beautiful smile, it also provides advantages to your overall dental health. A straighter smile can reduce your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and future tooth loss. An orthodontic expander can help your jaw accommodate all of your teeth and improve your smile.
What is an Orthodontic Expander?
An orthodontic expander, also known as a palatal expander, is an orthodontic appliance that gently expands your upper jaw to create more space for your teeth to straighten out and line up with your lower jaw. Expanders are often the first step in orthodontic treatment, typically used during childhood or early teen years.
Before your child hits puberty, their upper jaw is made up of two palates. Once they hit puberty and continue to grow, these two palates fuse into one. An orthodontic expander is designed to gently move the two palates into a position that can accommodate all of your child’s teeth before the two palates become one. This is why orthodontic expanders are more commonly used on younger patients.
How Does an Orthodontic Expander Work?
Although orthodontic expanders may appear complex, the appliance is actually pretty simple. What you see is a slightly curved metal device that fits just inside the upper palate. The appliance is attached using metal rings on the back molars, with an expansion area in the center of the device that sits in the middle of your palate.
The expansion area in the center is what gets adjusted at each orthodontic appointment. The orthodontist will adjust your orthodontic expander, so it gently moves apart the two upper plates of your jaw. At first, your expander may feel a little bulky, but you’ll quickly get used to it. Be sure to maintain great oral hygiene to keep it clean and talk to our orthodontist about the best dental tools to use while wearing your orthodontic expander.
Why Does My Child Need an Orthodontic Expander?
Parents may wonder if an orthodontic expander is necessary, and we are here to help you navigate the best option for your child. A straight smile provides more than just a confidence boost; it provides overall health benefits for your child.
Orthodontists typically use expanders to create more space in the upper arch. This helps avoid overcrowding as teeth come in or to prevent a misalignment called a crossbite, where the upper teeth rest inside the lower teeth when you close your mouth. When the orthodontic expander is successful in widening your upper jaw, your lower and upper teeth will be properly aligned, preventing future jaw growth and bite problems.
How Long Does an Orthodontic Expander Stay In?
Depending on your individual needs, orthodontic expanders may need to be maintained for 3 to 6 months. While the process may only take several weeks, the appliance must stay in place to ensure your jaw grows into the proper position and prevent relapse. At Ashby Park Family Orthodontics, our talented smile experts will evaluate your individual needs and prescribe the right process for you.
Maintaining Your Orthodontic Expander
When it comes to wearing an orthodontic expander, remember to keep it clean and continue proper oral health practices. Orthodontists encourage you to brush your expander several times a day to make sure food particles do not get stuck in your appliance. Your orthodontist may also recommend tools such as a water flosser to provide extra help for keeping your expander clean.
It is also recommended to avoid sticky, crunchy, and hard foods when wearing an orthodontic expander. These types of foods can get stuck in your expander and break, loosen, or dislodge your appliance from your upper palate. It is important to take great care of your orthodontic expander so you can continue on your path to healthy smiles for life!
If you would like to talk with an experienced orthodontist about orthodontic expanders or other orthodontic treatments, please request your appointment online or call one of our conveniently located orthodontist offices in Greenville or Easley, SC.