Here at Veil & Wild Orthodontics we use expanders to help expand, or widen, your child’s jaw or palate. At young ages, developing growth sutures allow for orthopedic modification of the size and shape of the jaws.

There are a few reasons that your child may benefit from an expander. Crossbites: The first is a crossbite. The upper teeth should close around the outside of the lower teeth. In a patient with a narrow palate, in can be the other way around, with the upper teeth biting inside the lower teeth. This can result in asymmetrical growth of the lower jaw, which can cause facial asymmetry, if it isn’t corrected in time. Overcrowding: Expanders can eliminate or reduce overcrowding, by making space for all of your child’s upper (and lower) teeth to erupt in their correct positions. Breathing/airway: Expanders can improve breathing ability and reduce snoring in young children. An undersized or restricted upper jaw can make it difficult for a child to breathe properly though his or her nose. This can result in continuous mouth breathing, which causes the unhealthy inhalation of unfiltered bacteria, dry mouth, and potential halitosis (bad breath). Getting started with orthopedic skeletal expansion early can bring significant benefits down the road in all of these areas listed above.

How does an expander work?

While palate expansion may sound like an intimidating procedure, it is a gradual process that is quite tolerable and easy to achieve between the ages of 7-13 years old. The upper jaw is divided into two upper halves during childhood which fuse together after puberty. Before the two halves fuse together, it is quite an easy and gentle process to separate and stabilize them over a period of about 6 months.

At Veil & Wild Orthodontics, each expander is custom-made for every patient and is designed to fit over several of the top teeth situated towards the back of the mouth. The device is activated by a simple turn of a screw each day using the provided special key. This activation is done over the first 8-12 weeks. When the appropirate level of expansion have been achieved the device is left in for about 3 months to allow enough time for new bone to grow inside the gap and stabilize the procedure.

Does an expander hurt?

Most patients experience little to no pressure or soreness after turning or activating the expander. Palatal expansion produces less discomfort than what is experienced when braces are tightened. Gaps developing between the front teeth is also to be expected and talking and eating may feel different while the tongue adjusts to the device.

Required appointments with an expander?

At Veil and Wild Orthodontics the first appointment is a 3D digital scan of the teeth will be done to custom make the expander. No goupy or gaggy impressions! We may need to place spacers or separators to help create room for the metal bands that go around the teeth. The second appointment, 1 week following, the expander will be cemented into place with special tooth glue. We will show the parent or guardian present at this appointment how to activate the expander and go over care instructions.

Different types of Expanders?

There are two different types of expanders that we use in our office. An Upper palatal expander and a Lower expander. Your child might benefit from one or both of them, depending on the specifics of their teeth and jaws.

Upper expanders are intended to provide patients with orthopedic skeletal expansion. This is possible because the upper jaw or maxilla has a midpalatal suture linking the two developing halves of the roof of their mouth during development. The midpalatal suture more permanently fuses together in the adolescent or teenage years. Prior to this predictable palatal expansion can be achieved without minimal to no discomfort to the patient. It is important to see children early enough to asses their need for an orthodontic expander.

The second type of expander is a lower expander. The lower jaw is one continuous bone with no growth sutures to be expanded. A lower expanders instead achieves expansion through dental-alveolar widening. Which means slowly widening the teeth and the supporting alveolar bone that surrounds them.

Caring for expanders:

Your child should brush their orthodontic expander(s) several times a day, ideally in the morning, after meals, and before bed. When they brush, they can also use a syringe to clear away any lingering debris. Don’t hesitate to help your child with this cleaning process. Encouragement to care for the devices can also go far.

To prevent loosening or distorting expanders, your child will need to stay away from sticky foods, nuts, ice, and candy. It’s a good idea to keep alternative snacks and foods on-hand. You also want to keep your child from chomping on hard objects, such as pens/pencils, either.

Do you want to learn more about expanders at Veil & Wild Orthodontics? Contact us through our website and schedule an appointment today at one of our 5 convenient locations (Eden Prairie, Bloomington, Savage, Shakopee, Minneapolis).