5 Reasons Your Child Needs an Expander

Mar 02, 2024
5 Reasons Your Child Needs an Expander
Preparation for braces sometimes means having teeth extracted or getting cavities filled. Patients with narrow jaws may need an expander to create more space in advance of orthodontic treatment. Read on.

Addressing teeth alignment and bite issues through orthodontic treatment often starts long before your orthodontist places braces on your teeth. If you or someone you know had their wisdom teeth removed before getting braces, you’re familiar with the fact that often advanced procedures are necessary to enhance your ultimate orthodontic treatment goals.

Patients with a narrow upper jaw, particularly children, may need to wear an expander before getting braces. In this blog, our own Dr. Jean Seibold McGill at McGill Orthodontics in Easton and Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, explains what an expander is, why your child might need one, and most importantly, the role it plays in helping your child get their best smile ever. 

Expander explained

An expander, sometimes called a palate or palatal expander is a custom-made orthodontic appliance used to widen a narrow upper jaw. Although expanders can be used on adults and teens, they’re more commonly used for pre-adolescent patients since their jaws and mouth haven’t finished growing yet.

Expander treatment begins when Dr. McGill takes a digital impression of your child’s mouth and teeth. She sends this data to a dental laboratory that fabricates the appliance — two pieces of metal framing joined together with a screw in the middle.

When the expander returns from the lab, Dr. McGill installs it by anchoring the two metal components (bands) to several of your child’s top back teeth. 

The way an expander works is a special key turns the screw, which activates treatment by applying gentle pressure on the expander. Over time this gentle, continued pressure triggers the bones of your child’s palate to move apart, thereby widening their upper jaw.

While the whole process may initially seem a little daunting, Dr. McGill will be with you and your child every step of the way, showing you how to turn the screw of their expander and guiding your child on what to expect.

Orthodontic treatment with expanders

In some cases, expander treatment may be a one-and-done, stand-alone solution to your child’s orthodontic issue. In a majority of cases, your child’s orthodontist recommends an expander as a preliminary treatment in preparation for them getting braces. 

An expander is a versatile treatment option for addressing a range of issues that contribute to poor teeth alignment as well as complications that arise due to teeth misalignment. Here are five reasons your child might need an expander:

1. Crowded teeth

If you had braces as a child, you probably know that the issue of crowded teeth is the top reason for getting orthodontic treatment. 

An expander effectively addresses this problem by accomplishing two important things — it makes room for permanent teeth to emerge properly and in many cases, eliminates the need for extractions to ensure proper bite and optimal alignment. 

2. Impacted teeth

Similarly, since an expander is a great space maker, it’s a perfect treatment option to address impacted teeth. Impacted teeth may be a function of crowding, eruption at an improper angle, or obstruction blocking the tooth from emerging. 

In the case of an impacted tooth, an expander may create the proper space for your child’s tooth to emerge without having to do an extraction.

3. Misaligned teeth

Another common reason for your child to need an expander is misaligned teeth, such as crossbites. 

Under optimal conditions, the teeth in your child’s upper arch are sized wider, so when they close their mouth, their upper teeth sit on the outside of their lower teeth. This placement creates equal pressure and force when chewing or clenching because each upper tooth touches the matching lower tooth.

In contrast, if your child has a crossbite, their upper teeth fit inside their lower teeth. This misalignment not only has aesthetic implications for your child’s smile, but also affects their bite, which can wear down enamel or result in jaw pain, headaches, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMD).

4. Problems chewing

Another impact of teeth and jaw misalignment is issues with chewing. When your child’s misaligned teeth and bite are off balance, their upper and lower jaw can’t come together properly, which throws off the mechanics of chewing. 

5. Speech problems

Similarly, a narrow palate may lead to problems speaking. Under normal conditions, the roof of your child’s mouth is sized optimally and their teeth are well aligned, allowing their lips, tongue, teeth, and the roof of their mouth to work together to form words and speak clearly. 

To learn more about expanders, book a consultation at McGill Orthodontics today. Call our office most convenient to you or request your appointment online.