An Effective Orthodontic Treatment for Various Conditions
Have you started to notice your child’s teeth are misaligned or crowded? Without treatment, it can become difficult for your child to do basic functions such as speaking and eating. At DeQuattro Orthodontics, Dr. Frank DeQuattro and our team are here to help your child get the care they need. We’re proud to offer palatal expansion to help prevent your child’s teeth from crowding and misaligning more.
What Is Palatal Expansion?
Palatal expansion is an orthodontic treatment that involves using a device called a palatal expander to gradually widen the upper jaw. The expander is attached to the roof of the mouth and works by pushing against the teeth and palatal tissue. This pressure stretches the growth plate or suture in the middle of the palate, causing the two halves to move apart and new bone to form in the center of the palate.
While there may be some minor tooth movement during this process, the main goal of palatal expansion is to broaden the upper jaw. We typically recommend this treatment for patients with narrow arches, crowded teeth, crossbites, or other orthodontic issues. The expander may need to be in place for several months to more than a year to achieve the desired results.
Benefits of Palatal Expansion
Palatal expansion is a valuable orthodontic treatment that offers a range of benefits for patients. Here are some of the benefits of palatal expansion:
- Improves breathing and reduces symptoms of sleep apnea by creating more space in the nasal cavity
- Corrects crossbites and helps to align the teeth properly
- Reduces the risk of developing temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
- Helps to create a more aesthetically pleasing smile and facial profile
- Improves the function of the bite by creating more space for the teeth to fit together properly
- Enhances overall oral health and reduces the risk of tooth decay and gum disease
Who Qualifies for an Expansion?
Expansions are recommended for children whose jawbones are still growing and developing. The average age during this growing period is seven to 10 years old. This is the ideal time to start the process as the jawbone is still developing and would be receptive to the treatment. This treatment can fix:
- Misaligned bites (over, under, open, or crossbites)
- Difficulty in chewing, speaking, sleeping, or breathing
- Impacted teeth
Patients who have already had their jawbone grown and developed may require temporary anchorage devices (TADS) or surgery in addition to expanders.
Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
To determine if a patient needs palatal expansion, schedule an appointment at our Wakefield or Westerly office. During the initial consultation, an orthodontist will conduct a thorough examination, which may include X-rays, photographs, and impressions of the teeth. Based on the diagnosis, the orthodontist will develop a customized treatment plan that may include palatal expansion in addition to other orthodontic appliances such as braces or clear aligners.
The Palatal Expansion Process
The expanders are placed on the upper jaw by attaching them to the back molars. This appliance has a screw mechanism in the center that’ll expand with a special key. Each turn widens the expander very slightly, gradually stretching the growth plate in the roof of your mouth.
Your child may feel pressure against their teeth and behind their nose. Some patients may experience temporary headaches. You may notice a temporary increase in the amount of saliva and may make slurping sounds. This can take a few days to get used to.
After a few days or a week, you should begin to notice a space developing between your child’s front teeth. This is a good sign that means the expander is working. This space will close a bit on its own after you stop the turns and will be fully closed by braces. After the palatal expansion process is complete, the patient will be required to wear a retainer to maintain the new position of the upper jaw.
Caring for Your Expanders
To ensure your child gets the care they need, Dr. DeQuattro recommends following the instructions:
- Perform the turns as prescribed
- Brush your expander when you brush your teeth
- Swish or use a small brush to remove food from above the expander
- If you have a removable expander, brush and rinse it each time it’s removed
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the risks or side effects of palatal expanders?
While palatal expansion is generally a safe and effective orthodontic treatment, there are some risks and side effects to be aware of. These may include discomfort, speech difficulties, and changes to the bite. However, these side effects are usually temporary and can be managed with the help of an orthodontist.
What food should I avoid while on expanders?
Your diet will be similar to when you have braces. Orthodontists recommend avoiding these foods as they can break your expanders:
- Sticky and chewy foods like candies and chewing gums
- Hard and crunchy foods like popcorn and nuts
As an alternative, we recommend switching to soft foods and snacks such as yogurt and pancakes. To satisfy your child’s sweet tooth, we recommend ice creams and soft cookies (without nuts and caramels).
What happens if the expander breaks?
If the expander breaks, immediately call your orthodontist’s office to schedule an appointment to have the appliance remade. In the meantime, completely remove the expanders from the mouth as they can cut your child’s mouth.
Can adults undergo palatal expansion?
Yes, adults can undergo palatal expansion treatment, but the success of the treatment may depend on several factors such as the amount of bone growth, the health of the gums and teeth, and the severity of the orthodontic issues being addressed. It’s best to consult with an orthodontist to determine if palatal expansion is a suitable treatment option for an adult patient.
Get Your Child The Care They Need
Palatal expansion can help prevent your child from getting poor oral health. If you believe your child requires this treatment, contact us at our Wakefield office at (401) 783-9890 or our Westerly office at (401) 596-2264 to schedule an appointment today. You can also fill out our online contact form and our staff will get back to you as soon as possible. We’re proud to provide services to Narragansett, South Kingstown, Charlestown, and Weekapaug, RI.