Orthodontic treatment is all about getting a straighter, healthier smile that boosts your confidence and reduces your risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss in the future. Sometimes, before the brackets go on, your orthodontist needs to make room for your teeth to fit into their new straight position. This is when orthodontic expanders come in handy!
Orthodontic expanders gently expand your upper palate prior to your braces being put on your teeth. At Coastal Family Orthodontics, our talented orthodontic team is here to make sure your orthodontic treatment is tailored to your needs and results in the smile of your dreams.
What is an Orthodontic Expander?
An orthodontic expander works to gently open the palate of the upper jaw to create room for your teeth to perfectly align, or for a child’s permanent teeth to grow in without overcrowding. The widening of your upper jaw creates more space and lines up your upper and lower jaw.
Orthodontic expanders are the first step in treatment when they are needed. They are used as an “interventional” tool for early orthodontic treatment in children or young teens whose jaws are still growing. Before puberty, the two plates that make up the upper palate have not yet fused together. The expander guides the two plates into proper alignment and a wider position to allow your teeth to grow in with the right amount of space.
Why Does My Child Need an Orthodontic Expander?
Your child’s orthodontist may recommend an orthodontic expander if they notice a crossbite occurring or the potential of overcrowding adult teeth. The orthodontic expander, or palatal expander, will create more room in the upper arch of the mouth so that your child’s teeth can come in correctly without overcrowding.
It also allows your child’s jaw to grow into place without a bite issue that could lead to asymmetrical facial growth or uneven tooth wear. These are just a couple of reasons that your orthodontist may recommend an orthodontic expander, and with each of these reasons, your orthodontic expander becomes an important part of your journey to a brand-new smile.
How Does it Work?
An orthodontic expander may appear to be a complex appliance, but it is actually quite simple! The appliance itself is made up of a metal frame that is curved to fit into your mouth’s upper palate. Using metal bands, the appliance is attached to your back molars to keep it in place.
Orthodontic expanders have an expansion area located in the center of the appliance. Your orthodontist will adjust your expander at each appointment using the expansion area, which gently moves the two plates that make up your upper palate. These adjustments carefully move the plates in tiny increments, create space for your upper jaw to develop, and encourages growth of new tissue to fill in the space as your palate widens.
Your orthodontist will determine the necessary movement needed for your individual smile needs and adjust accordingly at each appointment. Before you know it, your smile will be growing into its straight, new state!
How Long Does It Stay In?
Your orthodontist will evaluate the needs of your smile and prescribe your length of treatment based on the shape and size of your upper arch. Completion of the expansion can take several weeks, but your expander must stay in place for 3 to 6 months to ensure the expansion is maintained and prevent relapse. Although the appliance may feel bulky at first, patients easily get used to it and the treatment time goes by quickly!
Maintaining Your Orthodontic Expander
It is important to keep your orthodontic expander fresh and clean to keep your smile healthy during treatment! Brush your expander twice daily when you brush your teeth to make sure food particles don’t get lodged in the appliance. Your orthodontist may also suggest other tools, such as a water flosser, to make cleaning even easier.
If you have questions about your orthodontic expander or would like to schedule a complimentary consultation with us today. Any of our 9 convenient, Charleston-area locations are ready to help you achieve the smile of your dreams!