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Have you heard of palatal expanders? If your child needs orthodontic work, then you ought to hear about them! These small appliances offer plenty of advantages to kids whose smiles, due to a variety of problems, may need some help. Here are five things you should know:
1. Palatal expanders are small orthodontic appliances that fit inside the mouth.
Custom-fabricated for each child, these devices are placed near the roof of the mouth, in between the two rows of upper teeth. They consist of two small metal brackets with a tensioning system that can be adjusted by a tiny key. Not everyone needs one, but they can really benefit kids with certain orthodontic conditions.
2. Palatal expanders take advantage of a child's natural growth processes.
That's part of the reason they work so well. Since the bones of a child's upper jaw don't fuse together until sometime after puberty, it's relatively easy to move them apart before that time. The palatal expander applies gentle pressure to gradually move the left and right halves of the upper jaw apart, over a period of a few months. Then it's left on several weeks longer, allowing new bone to fill in and stabilize the expansion.
3. Palatal expanders are helpful in treating a variety of orthodontic problems.
Crowding — that is, not having enough space in the jaw to accommodate all of the teeth — is one major issue. A related issue is impacted teeth: These are teeth that are blocked from coming in (erupting) by other teeth or jaw structures. A third issue is crossbite: That's when the back top teeth come down to bite inside, rather than outside, the bottom teeth. Gaining additional space in the upper jaw can help relieve all of these problems.
4. Palatal expanders can eliminate the need for tooth extraction.
Once upon a time, extraction was the only way to solve these problems. However it's an invasive (and potentially complex) procedure. A palatal expander can often provide the same — or better — results, via a noninvasive method.
5. Palatal expanders typically shorten overall orthodontic treatment time.
They're generally worn for a total of three to six months, but they can considerably shorten a child's overall orthodontic treatment time. Plus, they're invisible — a big plus to image-conscious teens. Could they benefit your child?
If you have questions about palatal expanders, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Palatal Expanders” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”