The Benefits of Using Palatal Expanders for Children

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One of the most common orthodontic appliances used amongst young children are palate expanders or maxillary expanders.This is a fixed device used on the inside of the mouth that helps make the upper jaw wider to correct orthodontic problems such as crossbites. Here at Beach Braces in Scarborough, we will discuss the benefits of using palate expanders in children.

Expansion of the upper jaw is feasible up until the age of 14 or 15 because the midpalatal suture (the junction between the right and left halves of the upper jaw) has not fused yet. The expander will push the 2 halves of the upper jaw away from each other and new bone will be produced at the expanded suture, making the new upper jaw wider than it would have been had the device not been used. Interestingly, the lower jaw is already fused into one bone at birth, so because there is no suture, expansion of the lower jaw bone is not feasible (and certainly quite unstable when attempted.)

Palate expanders are usually activated once per day by using a special key to turn the screw mechanism at the centre of the device. The amount of expansion is very small (0.2mm per day), so turning the screw is not painful. The device is activated daily until the desired width is reached. Typically this takes 3-6 weeks of activation. During this period it is absolutely essential to see the orthodontist quite often (every two weeks, or sometimes weekly) so as to know when to stop activating the appliance. After the desired width has been reached, the appliance is maintained in the mouth for approximately 6 months while new bone fills in and matures for greater stability of the expansion.

Here are some of the benefits of using palate expanders:

Correction of a Crossbite: Expansion of the upper jaw is the most common way of correcting a posterior crossbite. Posterior crossbites happen when the upper back teeth fit on the inside of the lower back teeth when biting. Posterior crossbites can be unilateral or bilateral.

Generation of Space: A palate expander can help reduce crowding because as it widens the upper jaw it creates space for the teeth.

Easier Breathing: Expansion of the upper jaw can reportedly facilitate breathing through the nose, as it expands the nasal airway. This benefit is not predictable, and varies among individuals. For mouthbreathers with narrow upper jaw that snore at night, a palate expander is an indicated method to reduce the risk of sleep apnea in kids.

Correction of asymmetries of the lower jaw When the upper jaw is narrow, the fit between the upper and lower back teeth is affected, forcing the child to (subconsciously) pick one preferred chewing side. In so doing, the lower jaw is kept off to the opposite side (which accentuates the crossbite of the teeth). The concern is that if this dentally-mediated asymmetry of the lower jaw persists for too long it will likely become a permanent asymmetry. This is why expanding the upper jaw early can remove the dental interferences and allow the lower jaw to “center” itself below the upper jaw once the latter has adequate width.

To learn more about the benefits of using palatal expanders, please contact our orthodontic office in Scarborough.

-The Beach Braces Team