Just when you think you’ve got all the basics of orthodontics figured out, something like a palatal expander comes along and throws you for a loop. Imagine being a parent and getting told your child needs one of these. Although it may sound strange and be tongue-tying to say, palatal expanders are actually pretty common and have been around for a long time. They are an amazing tool when it comes to orthodontics.
Many of us are used to braces and the idea behind them and what they do. However, one of the jobs braces can’t normally do is provide more space in the mouth when crowding is occurring. Many times crowding can be fixed by removing teeth however, if a dental professional finds that unnecessary or not the right call, they may suggest a palatal expander.
As adults, there are certain treatments that might not be available to us because part of the treatment may utilize the processes a child goes through naturally. In other words, if a child is on the path to a bad bite (over, under, cross, etc.), a palatal expander can use their natural growth to avoid that. This means a child could potentially avoid future issues if caught early enough. Palatal expanders are one of those tools that utilizes a child’s natural growth and development to correct issues before they fully set into place.
A palatal expander’s main job is to make room for a child’s adult teeth to come in smoothly, with less crowding. This means the teeth should come in straighter and less inhibited if this issue is foreseen. Often times, as a child gains their adult teeth, their mouth hasn’t quite gotten big enough to maintain enough room for those new teeth. This is when the issue of misalignment, crooked teeth, and other issues arise for people. However, if a child has a palatal expander, it will slowly make room for their adult teeth as they come in, causing less issues to be confronted later on down the road.
A palatal expander is usually a metal piece placed in the roof of the mouth against both sides of teeth. It slowly widens the upper jaw, effectively fixing a narrowed palate which causes the crowding and bite issues that can occur when adult teeth are erupting. This is also referred to as maxillary expansion. The three main issues commonly calling for this type of treatment are crossbites, impacted teeth, and crowding.
It has been said that there is some pressure felt when a palate expander is slightly adjusted, as it is slowly adjusted over time. However, more times than not, it is said to relieve more pain and discomfort than it may cause. This is because crooked teeth can cause pressure and pain and the expander will often relieve some of this as soon as it is put in place. Overall, it’s a great tool that can ultimately fix issues before they occur and cause more problems to arise.