May 21st, 2018
In Dr. Daniels’ previous post, he talked about some of the benefits of early treatment. You’ll hear us mention “expanders” a lot in the office. Most early treatment in our office involves the use of an expander.
What is an expander?
An expander is an appliance used to gently widen the upper jaw to help the top teeth fit properly together over the bottom teeth. After careful measurements in our office, we send the components to a lab so it can be custom-made for each patient. Our expander is nicknamed a “hygienic expander” because it’s easy to clean and will not accumulate food around it.
What should you expect with an expander?
The way an expander works is by turning the screw—every turn of the screw is actually 1/4mm, gently widening the upper jaw by opening the mid-palatal suture. It’s very common to have a space between the two front teeth as this happens—don’t fret! The stretchy fibers in the gums between the teeth will bring them back together and we will help close the rest of the space with braces.
Most kids feel very little discomfort with the expander and easily adjust to eating, swallowing, and talking with it after a few days. If they feel anything at all, it’s usually described as “pressure” or “tightness.” I actually had an expander when I was younger and remember feeling this. Since we turn the expander only once per day, it is a very gentle pressure and if there is any tightness, it goes away a few minutes after the turn is finished.
We will usually leave the expander in for 6 months after stopping the turns. This allows the new bone to fill in where the suture was opened in the palate. Basically, it needs some time to set in its new position and by holding the expander in there for that length of time, it prevents relapse.
Why not wait until all of the adult teeth are in and start everything all at once?
A common misconception is to wait until all adult teeth are in to start any orthodontic treatment (Please see Dr. Daniels’ first post to see why). In actuality, we usually recommend doing an expander when young (after age 7). The expansion we achieve at a young age is more impactful and will not relapse. The reason is that as our bodies mature, the sutures fuse and the two halves of the upper jaw fuse into one piece—when that happens after maturity, the only way to fix a narrow upper jaw is by doing surgery.
It’s important to be proactive and set the foundation for a more successful outcome when the rest of the adult teeth do come in!
Dr. Rola Alkhatib
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.