A palatal expander is used by orthodontists to widen the upper jaw of a child’s mouth. This widening of the upper jaw can help to ensure that there is enough room in the child’s mouth when their permanent teeth come in. When determining whether or not you’d like to use a palatal expander for your child, it is important that you are well informed about them, have all of your questions answered and your concerns addressed. Dr. Barakat of Barakat Orthodontics believes that educating patients and their families will ensure that the proper steps are taken to maximize the abilities of a palatal expander in your child. Here is everything that you need to know about the use of palatal expanders in children.
Why Are They Used In Children?
Palatal expanders are used in children because their jaws are still growing and the sutures of the jaw have not yet fused together. This helps to stretch both the bones and cartilage and essentially reshapes and enlarges the jaw before it can fuse permanently. Since a child’s jaw generally fuses into place around 14-16 years old, it is often well before this age range that your child’s orthodontist will recommend the use of a palatal expander. Some orthodontists even begin as early as age 6.
What Can They Correct?
Palatal expanders can correct a few different issues with teeth and bite. If your child suffers from a cross bite, this means that their upper jaw is more narrow than their lower jaw. This causes the bottom teeth to protrude forward and come in front of their top teeth. The palatal expander can be used on the upper jaw in this case to widen it and allow it to match up correctly with the bottom jaw.
Crowding of teeth is another issue that a palatal expander can fix. It does this by lengthening and widening the upper jaw and creating more space for the permanent teeth to come in. An impacted tooth is a tooth that never rises above the surface of your gums because it is stuck underneath another tooth and has nowhere else to go. In this case, the palatal expander can shift the placement of the teeth in the mouth and create more room for the impacted tooth to come out.
How Do They Work?
A palatal expander works by inserting a metal instrument in your child’s mouth that has two or four arms. These arms then go around the upper teeth on either side of their mouth. There is then a key that is inserted into a small socket in the middle of the device and is used to increase the tension of the device overtime. You will be told by your child’s orthodontist how often to use the key to increase the tension against the jaw. This allows your child’s jaw to gradually shift and become wider. If Dr. Barakat recommends a palatal expander, it can be inserted during a regular appointment with minimal schedule disruption.
How Long Will My Child Wear The Palatal Expander?
It is important that your child wears the palatal expander long enough for it to be effective. This means that the expander needs enough time to not only create the widening effect that is needed to correct whatever teeth or bite issue they have, but it also means that there needs to be enough time for their bones to grow into these new spaces. In general, most children wear a palatal expander for about 3-6 months.
If your child has been told by an orthodontist that he or she requires a palatal expander and you’d like another opinion, or if Dr. Barakat has recommended the device and you’re ready to schedule, please contact Barakat Orthodontics at (703) 433-9330 for an appointment.