It may happen that as a child develops, their upper jaw does not expand enough. A narrow upper jaw may lead to dental problems later on in their life. These include struggles with biting down on food, and issues like tooth decay and frequent cavities. A narrow jaw also drastically increases the likelihood for crooked or crowded teeth that don’t fit inside the mouth properly.
Luckily, technologies exist to expand the upper jaws of younger patients. The key is to have the treatment done before the patient’s bone structure sets. This usually happens in late puberty. Palatal expansion is a common dental treatment. The jaw of a patient is slowly expanded with the help of an appliance called an expander. Results are permanent, and can be greatly beneficial down the line.
How Does An Expander Work?
Palatal expanders can be either removable, or fixed to the patient’s jaw throughout the treatment. Fixed expanders are attached to the patients back teeth. Removable ones are similar to a retainer. Patients can easily take them out to eat and brush their teeth. They just need to make sure to be putting them right back in afterwards.
The expander itself is custom made, fitted perfectly to the roof of the patient’s mouth. In the center of the appliance, a little screw is fixed with which the width is controlled. Patients will receive a small key at the start of their treatment. With this, they must turn the screw as often as instructed by their dentist. With each turn, the expander pushes outwards to both sides a little. This, overtime, will widen the upper jaw of the patient. As puberty sets in, the bones will fuse and solidify into their final, corrected structure.
What Does The Treatment Look Like?
Daily Life With Expanders
Your dentist will explain the details of caring for, tightening, and living with your expander. As with all dental treatments, oral hygiene is the most important factor. Plaque will accumulate around the expander if it’s not kept clean. With time, this can lead to complications like gum disease or cavities. Parents should keep track of the brushing and flossing routine of younger patients.
The use of mouthwash is advisable to patients with fixed expanders. It will help swish away debris that can’t be reached with a regular toothbrush. Ofcourse, regular brushing and flossing is also needed. Removable expanders are easier to clean. Teeth can be brushed and flossed normally. The expander itself can also be swished around a glass of mouthwash.
Patients with expanders will have to avoid foods that are very hard, stick, or chewy. Common examples are toffee, caramel, or nuts. Foods that are very sticky can cause damage to the expander, and may get stuck in its tiny crevices. Apples, carrots, and similar foods may need to be sliced and eaten in small bites.
In general, life with expanders shouldn’t be very different than without them. Pain is not to be expected during the treatment. Anything above slight discomfort after tightening should be signaled to your dentist. Palatal expansion is a relatively pain free process from start to finish.
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