A palatal expander is an orthodontic appliance that widens the upper jaw and placed on the roof of the mouth. This is usually done to help make room for further orthodontic treatment, such as braces or Invisalign treatment. After widening the arch with one of these appliances, we can straighten the teeth more easily with braces or Invisalign aligners.
It’s important to have an experienced dentist who is trained to place this dental appliance on your child’s teeth and to monitor their progress throughout their treatment.
A palatal expander gradually widens the arch of your child's palate, providing more space for permanent teeth to erupt properly wihout crowding each other or overlapping. Most palatal expanders consist of two halves connected by a screw in the centre. The halves are designed to fit around the upper molars in the mouth. The screw can be turned either with the child's own power or by a dentist. Turning the screw will expand two palates that apply gentle pressure to the molars, which causes the pressure to be transferred to the bones of the jaw and the palate. This process will slowly move the jawbones and the palate apart. Once the expansion process is complete, the jaw bone will be larger and the molars will have enough room to fit correctly around the newly expanded arch of the palate.
There are two kinds of palatal expanders—fixed and removable. Fixed expanders are cemented to the teeth, whereas removable ones can be removed when eating, drinking, brushing, and flossing. Some patients choose traditional metal palatal expanders, which can be temporary or permanent fixtures in the mouth. These work by slowly widening the jaw by placing pressure on the teeth and encouraging bone growth. However, some patients may find these uncomfortable and prefer other options.
Some patients with smaller mouths may not need orthodontic appliances such as braces to widen their jaws. Instead, they may need a smaller, mini expansion appliance that can fit comfortably into their mouths without as much force as larger devices. These devices work to achieve the same results as the traditional varieties but tend to be more comfortable and less visible.
If a patient has severely narrow jaws, a dentist may recommend full maxillary expansion. Full mouth expansion involves designing an appliance that combines several different types of treatments into one device. For example, this can include the use of a traditional palatal expander as well as a surgically placed screw that can help widen the upper palate. This is usually reserved for patients with severe underbites or other severe malocclusion issues that require this type of drastic treatment.
If your child is having trouble with space issues in his mouth, talk to your dentist about getting a palatal expander to help encourage the rest of the baby teeth to fall out naturally.
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