A palate expander is a device designed to make the upper jaw wider. Sometimes, it’s called an orthodontic expander. At Central Texas Orthodontics in Austin, TX, Dr. Brian St. Louis proudly offers treatment with this palate expander because many children can benefit significantly from having their upper jaw widened. If you’re worried that your child won’t have enough room for their adult teeth to grow in properly, read on to learn more about this treatment.
How Long Do You Need to Use a Palate Expander?
Most people need to keep a palate expander in their mouth for five to six months. However, most of this time is only to allow for the maturation of the recently expanded jaw bone. Typically, the palate expansion process itself takes only 21 to 42 days to be completed.
Several factors affect how long the palate expansion process will actually take, including how much the upper jaw needs to widen and how consistently your child turns their key as required. If your child only needs to turn their key once daily, it’s a good idea to incorporate it into their morning routine. Children eat breakfast regardless of whether it’s a school day or not, for example, so have them turn in their key every morning after breakfast.
What If My Child’s Key Needs to Be Turned in Twice Daily?
Consistency can be a little tricker if your child needs to turn their key twice daily. Sports, music lessons, and other extracurriculars can cause evening routines to vary. If your child goes to bed at the same time every night, you may want to set an alarm for an hour before bedtime and have them tighten their key then.
What Problems Can Occur During This Treatment?
The most common problem that can occur during this treatment is the child forgetting to turn their key. This won’t reduce the efficacy of the treatment, but it will reduce its efficiency. The other problem that you need to bear in mind is that, sometimes, the child does not turn their key completely. If the key is only turned partially, the next time they try to make a turn, the key will not go into the new hole.
If this occurs, your child will need to go back to the prior hole. This hole will be located near the back of the mouth. Once the previous hole is found, they will need to insert the key and finish the turn.
How Does the Orthodontic Expander Need to Be Cared for?
Caring for a palate expander is fairly simple. It needs to be brushed at least twice per day. Ideally, though, it should be brushed thoroughly after every meal. While it may not be feasible for your child to brush their palatal expander after lunch at school, you should strongly encourage them to brush their palatal expander after every meal they eat at home. If your child can’t brush their expander after a meal or snack, they need to rinse it thoroughly.
The palatal expander can be rinsed with water. However, it is better if they can be rinsed with mouthwash. If you want your child to use mouthwash to keep their orthodontic expander clean, the mouthwash should be antimicrobial. Using a water flosser is another option you can consider. Water flossers are highly effective at the removal of food particles and plaque.
Should I Buy My Child a Special Toothbrush?
Whether you need to buy a special toothbrush for their palate expansion treatment depends on the kind of toothbrush they are currently using. Your child must brush their teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Sometimes, children brush their teeth very aggressively. If teeth are brushed very aggressively with a medium- or hard-bristled toothbrush, gum damage can occur. Note that the toothpaste used is also important. Throughout the entire treatment process, your child should use a minimally-abrasive toothpaste.
What Should My Child Eat While Their Expander Is In?
There are several dietary restrictions your child will need to adhere to while their orthodontic expander is in. They mustn’t eat or chew on anything sticky, like bubble gum, caramels, or taffy. Furthermore, the consumption of hard foods must be very limited. Nuts and popcorn should not be consumed during the five to six months that the orthodontic expander is in.
Some hard foods are okay in some situations. For example, you can pack raw carrots, apples, or celery sticks in their lunch if they are cut into bite-size pieces. Some of the best foods to include in your child’s diet include eggs and other dairy products for protein, nut butter or seed butter, whole grain bread for carbs, meat, and soft fruits and vegetables.
Will This Treatment Hurt My Child?
No, this treatment will not hurt your child. Each orthodontic expander is custom-made based on each child’s unique upper jaw. If it is determined that your child is a good fit for this treatment, a mouth impression will be made using bands on the upper molars. It generally takes around ten business days for the expander to be made based on this impression.
Once the custom appliance has been made, your child will come in for a follow-up appointment. Dental cement will be used to affix it to the upper denticles. Keep in mind that your child may need time to adjust to the new appliance. It may feel a little funny for them to talk or eat at first. Furthermore, they may feel a bit of sinus pressure and salivate a lot more than normal. They will get used to the appliance very quickly.
Who Is the Ideal Candidate for an Orthodontic Expander?
The ideal candidate for an orthodontic expander has not yet hit puberty. This is because the treatment is most effective for individuals with maturing palatal sutures. Typically, we treat females who are no older than 12 or 13. Similarly, we typically treat males who are no older than 13 or 14. Around 14 or 15, the palatal suture amalgamates. Once the amalgamation has taken place, this treatment won’t be effective.
What Are the Most Common Indications for This Treatment?
Some of the most common indications for this treatment are crowding impacted teeth and a crossbite. If your child has a crossbite because their palate is too narrow, when they bite, their upper teeth will sit inside their lower teeth.
If they suffer from crowding, there are several problems they may experience, including pain while biting. Crowding happens when the mouth is too small for all of the permanent teeth. In cases of severe crowding, some of the teeth can become impacted. An impacted tooth is a tooth that has developed fully below the jaw, but there is no room in the mouth for it to penetrate the gumline.
What If an Adult Needs to Expand Their Palate?
If you or a loved one has a narrow palate and a fully mature jawbone, there are a couple of options. Palate expansion surgery is one such option. If you don’t think surgery is right for you or your older child, braces may be a better option to correct an overbite or crowding.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Braces?
Typically, a good candidate for braces is an older teen or adult with concerns about the appearance of crooked teeth. However, braces can correct a lot more orthodontic problems than crooked teeth. For example, they can be used to correct an open bite, overjet, or large gaps between the teeth.
It can also correct a moderate or severe overbite due to a narrow upper jaw that was not widened before puberty. If you have an overbite that you’d like to correct, schedule an appointment with an orthodontist to discuss your health, concerns, and goals to verify your candidacy.
Schedule an Appointment Today
As a general rule, you can expect your child to need a palate expander in their mouth for five to six months. However, it will only take roughly three to six weeks for the widening process to be complete. If you think your child could benefit from having their palate expanded, contact us now at Central Texas Orthodontics in Austin, TX to schedule an appointment with Dr. Brian St. Louis. If you have a narrow palate, braces or surgery may be right for you.